For the Kinmen Daily Newspaper
At my home in Massachusetts, recyclables are housed in an enormous green barrel with a heavy lid and large black wheels that we keep in the garage.
I am used to throwing out trash and recyclables in this barrel. It was my chore to take the barrel out to the street every Wednesday night.
The music the trash truck plays here in Kinmen was interesting to me when I arrived because in America trash trucks are silent. I wonder how often they change the song here. The driver must get bored.
You also do not have to meet the trash trucks by the roadside. In America you can just leave your trash and recyclables on the curb and the trash collectors pick them up and empty the barrels.
They leave the barrels along the curb, and you can bring them back to your house when you return home from work or school.
Because trash pick-up is done quite differently here than in America, I confess I do not totally understand how it works. The importance of recycling in Taiwan, though, was told to me as soon as I arrived.
I was shown the recycling logo on all recyclable containers, and it was explained that I must be careful not to throw recyclables into the trash.
I wish it were that way in America, but unfortunately, much less can be recycled there than here in Taiwan.
The problem I had in the beginning was that I did not understand when or where to throw out trash and recyclables, so they all stayed in my apartment.
Last Tuesday, I left a small apple core on my desk before going to work, and to my surprise, a plump, black and red cockroach rested beside it when I returned.
The cockroach gave me a look like, "What do you want?" It scurried off the table and headed for the door. I grabbed a large hiking boot and crushed it.
I lifted the shoe up and saw its small wings twitch on top of some apricot marmalade goo.
The next day, I looked at all the piles of trash and recyclables and thought, "There must be a better way to deal with this."
So I tried to throw out the trash and recyclables at my school where I work, but the security guard turned me away.
Next, I tried to hide a few bags of recyclables in the public recycling bins at the center of town. An elderly man told me with a wave of his cane that I could not do that either. "No, no, no!" he said.
As he said this, I heard the music from the trash truck and set off running with bags of trash and recyclables at my waist.
I turned down an alley and sprinted past a row of bicycles and red lanterns stacked in a pile. My feet splashed through puddles gathering from where a woman washed and chopped cabbage.
The sound of the truck grew louder with each turn I made. I shouted, "Wait, wait!" and the truck slowed. I caught up to it and wiped the sweat from my face.
The trash collector that night was a slender woman wearing a pink tutu with yellow gloves on her hands. I was so relieved, thinking that I had finally figured out how the trash system worked in Kinmen.
I handed her my bags of trash and she threw them into the truck. "And you take these, too, right?" I said, referring to the three bags of recyclables.
"No, no you have it wrong," she said. "Tomorrow. Come back tomorrow."