Friday, March 19, 2010
I’ve often heard that smell is the most sensitive sensory organ, evoking vivid memories with just one inhale. Like how the scent of pumpkin pie and roasting turkey brings back thoughts of Thanksgiving. Or how the smell of Water Babies sunscreen gives me flashbacks of summers spent by the Swim and Racquet poolside. Or how the distinct aroma of salt and sand reminds me of lounging on Hawaiian beaches. Well, the smell that brought back memories for me today was the specific scent of burning trash. The smell of burning plastic gave me flashbacks of the developing worlds that I have lived, worked, and travelled in. Before this moment, I hadn’t really thought there was a distinguishing characteristic that tied all of these countries together. But as I stoked my burning pile of trash this morning, I had images of rural countries flash through my mind; trekking through El Capulin in Nicaragua, or exploring the Kuna Yala Islands of Panama, or back to my first extended stay in a developing nation, La Providencia de Napoles in Mexico. While the smell of burning trash might evoke images of a deteriorating ozone layer or a grimy slum to others, the smell is nostalgic to me. When I get a whiff of smoking trash I get visions of the amazing people I’ve met through out my travels (adorable kids, my favourite Nicaraguan grandmother, Fanny, my host mom in Mexico, Charo) the unforgettable sights I’ve been lucky enough to see (the view from the top of Volcan Mombacho, the frosted peaks of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the untouched beaches of Mozambique) , the exotic foods I’ve been able to try (Zimbabwean mopane worms, South African zebra) and all the good times I had throughout. So as I stand here, watching the remains of my weeks trash smoulder in smoke and turn to ash, I breathe in (yes I know it’s carcinogenic!) and remember the memories. That’s why I, strangely, enjoy the smell of burning trash.