As the gravelly road came to an end, I maneuvered around the two trash trucks being weighed up on the entry ramp. Somehow, my gray pickup was allowed to pass through unquestioned. My passengers directed me towards the left of the dirt ridge ahead, and suddenly the view opened up.
If I had to design a trash dump for a movie scene, it would be just like this surreal reality. A steamy haze from smoke and smells hovered over the layer of flies that covered the piles of trash. The ridge was lined with makeshift shacks where people who collected recyclables stayed for just the morning, or the day, or that week. I saw two kids using plastic sheeting as a sled down that trash-covered hill.
I stopped the truck where instructed and the men went off to find the wooden palettes they had collected. The woman I was with spotted her daughter, and told me to “come on, climb up here so you can see everything!” I scrambled up the ridge with her and she proceeded to tell me how things worked: the prices you could expect per kilo of plastic, aluminum, and cardboard. Where the trucks entered and how people start picking through the bags before they even hit the ground.
Once the truck was loaded up, we turned around and left. Perhaps the strangest part was the apparent normalcy of it all. This is their work, the woman had told me.