Everywhere we’ve traveled we’ve educated ourselves about the sanitation vehicles within the town or city. We look for color, for size, for different mechanisms to pick up the trash. Is it a back-loading truck? Do they sort the trash? How many people work the truck? We stand by the curbs watching for whom Cal has deemed “the stander,” the man whose job it is to ride standing up on the back of the truck and hop off over and over again to snatch up bags of refuse.
The garbage trucks in Otavalo have bested all the rest we’ve seen in Ecuador, and Carbondale too for that matter. Not only are they gleaming white with two standers working the back of the truck, but the truck plays a beautiful Andean tinkle of bells as it makes its rounds. You can hear it for blocks and it was this tinkling that captured our attention tonight.
As we walked back to our hostel after dinner, we heard the happy chimes a block away. Never in my plans and preparations for this trip would I have imagined running down the cobblestone streets of some small city in Ecuador hoping to get a glimpse. But tonight there we were. We caught it just as it chugged past. We stood there, this funny gringo family gaping in the darkening night, and we watched the standers scoop up bags of trash. We commented about how they tore the bags open and dumped the contents into the hopper. We wondered if maybe they recycled the plastic bags or maybe the plastic bags got caught up in the compacting mechanism and it was easier just to take them out ahead of time. Either way we stood there while two men, bandanas wrapped across their faces, furiously ran to jump back upon the truck and jingle their way down the street and out of our view.
As the truck continued on, Cal let out a contented sigh. “Oh my god,” he murmured (his new favorite phrase.) “Good.”
As Cal sleeps in his bed I am left with the Andean bells ringing in my ears. I hope I can conjure up their tune for days ahead, a sweet reminder that traveling with kids is better than I ever imagined.