The smoke plumes black and acrid, catching in the branches of the banana tree peering leisurely over my glass tipped fence. The plastic and coated paper smolder below, blue and orange flames peak and then disappear into the charred ooze that is this week’s garbage.

My compost festers in a hole at the back corner of the yard beside another cluster of banana trees on my side of the fence. The green tops of eggplants and the rind of sweet pineapple succumb to the constant rain and heat, creating the perfect habitat for flies and mice alike.

Where the compost-esque (we don’t quite tend to it properly to truly call it compost) heap returns our contributions to the earth it came from, each time I strike a match to the rest of the garbage I am taunted by the reality that it is a far cry from recycling. Never mind how much I reuse and the sheer amount of reduction my lifestyle has taken on.  Here I bake more than I buy. Sundry breads, sauces. Even my beans are likely to come from a huge reusable woven sack in the market.

But still I watch the ominous plume. Smell the unmistakable stench of burning plastic…my pasta and washing powder bag, my used deodorant container or toothbrush. It all has to go somewhere.

The glass and sturdier plastic evaporate into the landscape. Placed in a bag and set beside the front gate and it magically drifts into a new reusable life with someone else. That is after its multiple incarnations with me.

I know that the fate of my garbage is only marginally better back in America. The biggest difference is out of sight out of mind. Instead of the constant reminder that refuse has to reside someplace I had the luxury of it being whisked magically away to be burned or buried. To float unseen particle into the air I breath or to leach imperceptibly into the water I drink.

It gives little comfort even as my fruits and vegetables begin the process of turning themselves into more of themselves. Little comfort because despite my attempt to help Uganda help itself I know that I am part of a larger non-biodegradable problem.

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