This morning, Little Flower and I took a final walk around the campus of Luzhou Vocational and Technical College before leaving for Chengdu.
Cruising by the empty dormitories, I was met by quite a sight: A huge mess of trash and left-behind articles from students who had gone home for their summer break. The workers were busy starting from the top 7th and 6th floors and sweeping everything out into the hallway, then down the stairwells toward the 1st floor exits.
I remember in the States how utterly amazed I was as a 32-year-old MA student when I saw what my university classmates were leaving behind in heaps outside of dormitory buildings: couches, sofas, beds, still operational computers, stereo sets, TVs, unwanted clothing, electrical appliances . . . the list went on.
I was stunned by the amount of waste.
As an undergraduate in the late 1980’s, I certainly didn’t remember this kind of wealth being left behind in such astronomical quantities.
I remember thinking, 10 years later, how college school life had certainly changed, maybe not for the better.
I’m sure it’s gotten worse in the States when schools dismiss for the summer, even with the current financial crisis.
In China, the student rubbish left behind is of a different variety: worn plastic thermos bottles, used toiletries, metal mugs, unwanted textbooks, notebooks, broken suitcases, old shoes and clothing.
The dorm rooms are left a disgusting mess which workers are left to thoroughly clean out by hand before the summer’s end.
It’s a tireless job and one which they certainly don’t look forward to, especially as their pay is at best 300 yuan ($40) a month, but it does come with perks.
Walking by one of the dorm buildings, I noticed several cleaning ladies had already carefully separated and packaged students’ discarded items into neat packages. The recycling man, with his hand-pulled cart, was busy on the scene, weighing each one and shouting out the number of pounds by his hand-held Chinese scale. The assistants wrote it down, later multiplying the pounds by the money each variety group was bringing in. Plastics, rubber, cardboard, metal and glass were going for a few cents per pound.
Doesn’t sound like much but these certainly added up.
By the end of his weighing session, the total recyclable materials brought the ladies 511 yuan, about $75. Split between them, that was quite a haul and this was only several floors’ worth of stuff.
I can imagine after going through all our dormitories on campus, that hard work and agony of hauling, separating and packaging unwanted belongings makes for a very profitable venture.
As the old saying goes: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
On our college campus, and I’m guessing thousands of other campuses across the country, that’s a definite given when it comes to the end of a school year.
Here’s Little Flower and me wishing you a final July Ping An (peace) from the campus of our school. We’re heading off tomorrow for Chengdu and my visit to the States with Lao-lao. More updates on that journey yet to come.