Letter from ... Taipei! Nora Lessing tells about the nerve-racking procedure of waste disposal in Taiwan
Oct 08, 2015
It sounded like it shouldn’t be a problem at all. “First of all, you need to buy pink garbage bags at a 7eleven. Once you hear the “sweet melody”, you pick up the trash, you hurry outside, and then you just watch where your neighbors are going.” That’s how Jeff, the son of my landlord in Taiwan, described the process of getting rid of one’s trash in Taipei. One of the “sweet melodies” he was talking about soon turned out to be Beethoven’s very recognizable “For Elise.” The music and I weren’t in for a rewarding get-together, though.
While I was shopping, sitting in a café, or taking a stroll somewhere in the city, the musical garbage trucks seemed to be just about everywhere. But as soon as I was home and ready to do the deed, they started to elude me. My failure in mastering the system nurtured a fly-infested and ever-growing sculpture of garbage on my porch, with the subtropical heat and humidity adding to its very unpleasant odor.
Soon, my hearing started to play tricks on me. I kept imagining I was hearing fragments of “sweet melodies” somewhere close by, amidst the notorious cacophony of the local motorcycle armada. But nothing came of it. In the end, there was but one solution: If the garbage truck doesn’t come to you, you have to get to it instead.
So I grabbed as many bags as possible and, to the amusement of numerous passersby, started patrolling the street. Every now and again, I heard some Beethoven, seemingly originating at ever different corners of my neighborhood. I ran in circles, passing market stalls, gesturing to pedestrians to guide me, but it was no use. Elise simply stayed elusive. Finally, a man took pity on me and led me to a small street which turned out to be the local dumping site. Here, I rid myself of my smelly cargo.
Covered in sweat but content at last, I walked home - only to find the yellow garbage truck parked right in front of my building. My neighbors were disposing of their trash in what appeared to be a very relaxed fashion. And the garbage truck played “For Elise” on full blast.
In our campus.leben series "Letters from ..." six students, two doctoral candidates, and an apprentice are reporting on their experiences abroad. Here we introduced the nine travelers.