Friday, March 09, 2007

Observations, part 1

I don't know what's going on with this blog of ours these days. True, we've finished the trip, and the blog's raison d'etre may have passed, but I feel like there's still lots of stuff that needs updating, and many loose ends that need to be tied up. We need more pictures, for one thing. And there's still the fund to distribute to our worthy charities. And there's work to be done to thank all of our sponsors and contributors. And more talk about our experiences -- the distillation of our travels into small vials of wisdom, rife with the complex bouquet of morals, victories, hair-splitting nuance, and inefficient activity. And our own special ingredient: sand. Lots and lots of that deep yellowy Saharan sand.
So? Where is it, peeps? Where are the deep thoughts that our friends and family have come to expect from us on this blog? Do I have to do everything?

Here's a short list of some of the things that I noticed on the trip that gave me pause, in no particular order:

1. Driving habits of various countries and cultures: I don't even want to get into this one. It's too long and must be saved for a later day. Suffice to say that it gets worse the further South you go (is that further or farther? I always confuse the two. God bless Google, it's farther, isn't it?). I think that this might be a universal truth - that driving habits get worse the farther South one goes. I smell a Theory, and a potential dissertation topic.

2. Toilets: No, this isn't a comparative analysis between western toilets and the eastern "squat" toilets. We were blessed with western toilets for most of our trip, thank the high spirits. That was one skill I wasn't looking forward to learning.
But, there is one distinction between our toilets and "their" toilets, over there. Many of the toilets that I encountered during the trip have a top flushing device, which isn't all that noteworthy, in and of itself. What was interesting is that the flush mechanism had two pieces to it - sort of like two half circles inside a ring type thing. These toilets are designed for 2 different types of flushes, 2 different flushes for the 2 different types of, well, business that is done in the toilets themselves (and looky here, google comes to the rescue again. They're called dual flush toilets. The picture's different, but you get the idea.). What's so great about this, you may ask? Water conservation. Minimize the load on the waste management system (infrastructure). These are good things for a "developing" economy. They're good for a developed economy, too, and basically just good for dear old mama earth. Not sure why they haven't caught on in the US. They have to be better than the godforsaken low flow toilets that were thrust upon the unsuspecting public back in the bad old days.

3. Siestas. Why are the Englishmen and their colonial descendants the only people in the world that think it's a good idea to do work, or anything else for that matter, in the middle of hot days? The rest of the world has figured it out. Find shade. Move as little as possible. Doze. It is just crazy that we try to soldier ahead in the heat.

4. Vacation time. This is more Europe than Africa. Europeans get 6 or more weeks a year of vacation. Why is it that Americans settle for 2 weeks? I know it has something to do with our Puritanical roots, but I don't understand why that can't change? I don't buy that it's bad for the economy - people working fewer hours should increase employment, not decrease output. And overall individual happiness should have some positive impact on an individual's production. Just a question, more than a thought.

5. Plastic bottles. The world used to get by with glass bottles for their soda, and other fluids. That was before we started drinking our water out of bottles, by the way (or paying $3.00 for a coffee). But glass was replaced, over time, with aluminum cans, and then by plastic bottles. It made sense in the developed world, back when we thought oil would last forever, and unbreakable bottles were good for the world (little Timmy will never get cut by a piece of broken glass again. Oh. Sorry, Scott). But now we know better. Why have "they", the manufacturing companies, exported plastic bottles and aluminum cans to the rest of the world. I can't imagine that the recycling process for plastic is better than recylcing glass bottles, that just takes hot water and a bottle deposit process. Maybe I'm missing something, but I think that bottles should be brought back. You would not believe the number of plastic junk strewn along the road in Mauritania. We're about as far from anything as a person can get in theh 21st century, and there are plastic bags (don't get me started) and plastic bottles everywhere.

6. Speaking of plastic garbage, think about the waste management infrastructure of this country, and rejoice. We discard a lot of stuff - mountains of it - and it goes 'poof!' and goes away. There is a lot of planning and activity around that seemingly simple occurance. Most countries haven't figured it out. Of course, most people realize at some point in their science classes that matter doesn't simply dissapear, and then we have to wonder where those industrious garbage technicians are taking our dirty diapers, and what they're doing with them...

Wow! This is going from an observation to an eco-rant! I'd better stop before I go on some sort of diatribe about the merits of reducing. More observations will come along later, I'm sure.

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