Aug 18, 2005

Trash to the left o'me, trash to the right o'me

On the way back, along the narrow old road that winds through the forest between Ifrane and Azrou, a man on a motorbike passed us. A few minutes later we rounded a bend and there he was picking up trash dumped along the side of the road. There was a lot of it, plastic water bottles, yogurt cartons, child’s drawings, and two empty wooden fruit trays buzzing with yellow jackets.

Je vous aide, I said and started picking up debris. He’d gotten most of it into a big black plastic bag. “Fais attention,” he said when I tried to pick up the fruit trays. He had no fear of the yellow jackets and slipped the trays in his bag.

When the bag was full he walked across the road and up into the forest. About 20 yards in he threw the bag behind a bush, brushed his hands, and came back.

I guess we couldn’t leave it by the side of the road, I said, and maybe a truck would pick it up.... That’s what we need, a truck, he said.

We looked down at the few bits of trash we’d missed. He bent down and picked up a child’s drawing. I know who these people are, he said, and pointed down into the valley where torrents of kids come to a nearby camp in the summer.

He shook his head in disgust and we walked up the road, he walking his bike. He wore a red baseball cap and a bemused expression. In his late forties, short and stocky. For about a quarter mile he stopped from time to time, picked up trash and threw it off the steep drop on one side of the road. He explained he was the head forest ranger in this part of the Middle Atlas.

I don’t know why people do this, he said, throwing some plastic bottles as far as he could. It’s a mystery to me. It’s these French people. They come here and throw all their stuff in the forest.

We collected some more. I had a small plastic bag filled with stuff. Finally, he jumped on his scooter and slowly disappeared in a noisy, black cloud of smoke.

The dog and I walked on.

Eventually, we came to where the forest has been cleared and the land flattens out. There was the ranger again. We reached him and this time he was putting a collection of garbage behind a bolder, pushing some other rocks into place so you couldn’t see anything from the sides. He was still shaking his head. But finally he stopped and came up close to me and said, “they just want to eat these people, they don’t want to work.”

I nodded. Goodbye, he said, threw his leg over his scooter and coasted a few yards to another trash side.

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