Friday, February 20, 2009

What does hell smell like?

I came home from a walk on the lloma (hill) with Lobo yesterday and was welcomed by an upsetting odor. I began looking throughout the house because it smelled as if Lobo had peed on every wall in the entire house… for several hours straight. I began looking around and then put together the facts that it didn’t smell like this before I left and Lobo was with me the whole time on the lloma. My next guess was that some evil child thought it would be funny to take a leak on the American’s front door. I checked the front door for pee and it was all clear. I could barely breath. I started opening windows to clear the air and I noticed my back window was open and air was already coming in, then I opened the back door to the balcony and was hit by a terrible pee smoke back draft.
It turns out that the downstairs neighbor was burning her baby’s diapers for the month in a smoldering pile behind the house and my back window was open enough to let the smell of pure agony into my bedroom and the rest of the house. I sat for a few minutes pondering whether it would be appropriate to go downstairs into the back yard and pour water on the diaper burn pile. A gust of wind pushed just enough smoke into my nose to help me make the decision to go down there. I filled up a Nalgene bottle and headed down. I asked a little kid if the neighbor was there and he said she was, so I figured I would ask. “Hey, can I pour a little water on this fire outside? The smoke is making my nose hurt” I told her. “Oh yeah, of course you can” she told me, “Sorry if it was bothering you. Here, sit down and have some coffee.” I sat down for about 30 seconds and then got back up, telling her that I had to put out the fire immediamente. I poured some water on and that was the end of the stinky fire.
The neighbor was very nice and apologetic. Burning your garbage and/or throwing it in the river are the norms for my neighborhood because the trash pile (where the garbage trucks come twice a week) is a little bit of a hike. I think that to the members of the neighborhood, burning your garbage is a more environmentally friendly method of waste disposal than the river because the concept of the atmosphere and air pollution seems far-fetched. Coincidentally, on Wednesday I gave a lecture (3-times) in the High School about the atmosphere and the chemistry of the ozone to the sophomore science classes. I guess the problem is that the neighbor with the baby is only in 8th grade and her husband is a junior in High school so neither of them caught the presentation.

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