We Can. We Will.

To say that Guaymas and San Carlos have a little trash problem would, sadly, be a gross understatement.  For the majority of the population it is not for lack of trying.  Each morning, I see shopkeepers take to the streets and sidewalks in front of their stores, sweeping up debris and gathering trash that has accumulated overnight.  Hoses are turned on and drives and walkways are sprayed down in an attempt to keep blowing dust in its proper place.  Garbage is bagged and set in or near cans, barrels, and dumpsters.

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Photo Credit: David Pozos

Unfortunately, those cans are not always emptied in a timely fashion.  As I understand it, a former mayor decided that once he took office, garbage collection would be contracted out to a private firm.  City trucks were repurposed or sold.  And when a new mayor was elected, and money for private trash collection ran out, Guaymas experienced a bit of a crisis.  Realizing they were not going to be paid, Promotora Ambiental S.A. (PASA) stopped collecting trash.  While citizens continued to responsibly clean up their messes, the trash piled up and became an easy target for animals and nature.

Citizens persisted and found creative ways to deal with the problem.  Bags were tied to IMG_7461 2fences, out of the reach of animals, and garbage was delivered to the front steps of the municipal government building.  Neighbors worked together to keep their blocks as neat as possible, rebagging daily after dogs, cats, and strong winds did their best to undermine their efforts.  Yes, there is a landfill; however, dumping can only be paid for with a credit card.  Many families in our area do not have a car or truck for hauling, never mind a credit card.

Slowly, the mayor is rebuilding the city’s fleet of garbage trucks. In the meantime, winds continue to blow and animals continue to forage.  And the PASA strike certainly does not explain the piles of beer cans left on the beach each weekend or the snack wrappers and plastic Coke bottles floating in the Sea of Cortez.  It does not answer for the groups who leave their cookout messes on the patios of their vacation rentals.  It does not excuse the carload of kids, who drop an Oxxo bag full of trash out the window of their car, as they speed down the highway.  Fortunately, there are concerned citizens attacking these areas too.

Clean Up San Carlos, a volunteer group of Americans, Canadians, and Mexicans, meet each week and pick up trash in a designated area:  on the beach, the main thoroughfare, or in the desert.  Bandidos de Basura brings educational programs about littering, recycling, and responsibility into the local schools.  Universities, high schools, middle and elementary students join Clean Up San Carlos or sponsor their own clean ups.  Aqua y Más, an orphanage, participates in local beach cleans.  There have even been international efforts between students in Arizona and Guaymas.

IMG_7146 2This past Saturday, BAE Systems, a global aerospace company located in the Rocafuerte Industrial Park in Guaymas, was proud to contribute to the efforts to keep our community clean as well.  In a belated Earth Day celebration, our small but mighty group of employees, spouses, girlfriends, and children met at 8:00 in the morning.  After the obligatory selfies, we donned our gloves and masks and set out to clean the highway in front of the park, or as much of it as we could before a) we ran out of bags b) we ran out of dumpster space c) the heat did us in or d) all of the above. 

They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  Umm, I suppose that all depends on your definition.  Little Alonso was thrilled when he found a golfball.  I was more startled when I discovered the man sleeping in the culvert.  It also seemed odd that I found so many Q-tips.  Like is it really a thing to clean your ears while driving down the road?  And let me add  that plastic bags truly are the devil- -anywhere, but especially in the desert.  They attach themselves to the spiky, sharp trees and plants.  Trying to remove them makes an even bigger mess.  (Shameless but necessary PSA:  Please strongly consider toting your snacks, beer, soft drinks, and Q-tips in a canvas bag from here forward.)

And actually, the more we found, the more obvious it became that this was not necessarily litter.  (As in “No, Amy.  No one cleans his ears while driving down the road.”)  It was trash that had been blown from trucks or garbage receptacles.  And as gross as it was to have to touch some of it, even with gloves on, I was  happy to see that not much of it was recent.  Slowly but surely, the message of caring for the environment is spreading.

During our crawl down the main drag, our group was joined by five city employees and 409f3f74-1a55-44a9-b052-a3e683125a4aone random citizen, who just wanted to help.  We were honked at a lot by people who were happy with our efforts.  Of course, they could have been appreciating the view of 20+ people bent over along the road.  In spite of the heat, the dust, and, yes, the trash, I loved working side by side with such a great group of people.  I am a tad jealous that my husband gets to spend his days with them.

Change in behavior and attitude does not happen overnight.  BAE Systems is just a small cog in the wheel of the community service and pride taking place in our communities daily.  One chip bag, one bottle, one Q-tip, one new garbage truck at a time. 

Procrastination: An International Language

thumbnailA couple of weeks ago, I received a very panicked, last-minute text from one of my former English students.  This young man needed help with a presentation for his science class.  We made arrangements to meet the following morning to work on the assignment together.  All I knew was that he needed to make a video of a science experiment in English, and we absolutely had to get together “tomorrow”.

I started to get a bit nervous when more than 15 minutes after our agreed upon time, my young friend had not arrived.  I wondered if I had misunderstood the arrangements we made the night before.  That happens sometimes when I am texting in Spanish!  Soon after, however, I saw him walking through the gate and heading my way.

He was a sweaty, tired mess- -having walked nearly four miles to my home from his in a small fishing village outside of town.  “Why didn’t you ask me pick you up?” I asked incredulously.  After gulping down a glass of ice water, he replied that it was no big deal.  Wow!  I was thinking what dedication this kid has to his studies.  Yeah, more about that later.

My friend explained that he needed to video tape a science experiment, detailing the steps in English.  He pulled a few of the necessary items out of his backpack and then asked if I had a wine cork and a book of matches.  (Is a cork a common household item?)  Now it was my turn to go into panic mode.  How were we going to be able to finish his assignment without one of the key parts of the experiment?!  Why did I not ask for more information the night before?!  I googled substitutions for a cork and came up with nothing.  As I  contemplated driving into town to buy a bottle of wine just for the cork, he suggested we ask one of my neighbors.

I do not know very many of my neighbors well.  Most of them are seasonal and keep to themselves when they are here.  Could I really just knock on their doors and ask for a wine cork?  At 9:30 am?  What the heck.  We headed off on our mission.  The first neighbor was not home.  We moved on down the block.  I rehearsed our strange request all the way.

Fortunately, the next neighbor was home.  Unfortunately, this meant I had to ask for the cork.  She jokingly suggested that I knew just where to come for a wine cork.  (I guess I do know some of my neighbors pretty well.)  She then proceeded to open a brand new bottle of wine just so she could give us the cork.  “Hey, no worries.  We’ll just have to drink it this afternoon.” she said.  I awkwardly thanked her, and we left.  We had used about 30 precious minutes of our hour and a half just securing the needed materials.

Rather than get right to work upon our return, the scientist asked for my wi-fi password and then checked his Facebook page.  Apparently, nothing urgent was breaking on his newsfeed, so we were finally able to focus on the task at hand.  First, we reviewed his brochure and made a few vocabulary corrections.  Then, he walked me through the experiment and explained what should happen.  Finally, he practiced in English several times.  We began filming.

I think we were both holding our breath at the climax of the experiment- -and then thumbnail-1simultaneously wondering what in the world had gone so wrong.  We had three matches left by this point, exactly the number we needed.  (Obviously, I am not at all prepared for scientific emergencies.)  I did a quick internet search for the experiment, thinking we could figure out our error that way.  Like the wine gods earlier, the science gods were smiling upon us as well because lo and behold, there it was!  (Interestingly, we could have conducted the experiment without a cork.)

I explained what I had found, requiring some new vocabulary to be added to the pamphlet and a few more rounds of practice- -without lighting the matches, of course.  This time, the results were perfect, and we were both pretty amazed with the science.  We fist bumped, high-fived, and did a happy dance.  Then the mad scientist quickly sent the video to his teacher, as the due date was that afternoon, not the next day.  We hurriedly cleaned up our mess so I could drive him home.  It turned out he had more homework  to finish before heading to school that afternoon.