The smell of burning trash

Sorry for a lack of posts of late. We all have a tendency to keep busy, and writing is one of the first things to get sacrificed…

     I recently found myself in the unfortunate state of driving by the local dump with my windows down. Unexpectedly, I felt a wave of nostalgia as the scent of burning trash invaded my nose. Waking up in Ranquitte, there are often small piles of trash being burned, since no waste management system exists in such a rural community.  I was surprised by the sudden flood of memories from time spent in Ranquitte, and wondered if my association of burning trash with the community would sound horribly offensive when written down… Would it be another failure of language to accurately express ourselves, or have I appropriately conveyed my appreciation and respect for Ranquitte through garbage-based examples? I guess that’s up to you to decide.

That being said, I started to reflect on the way we sense the world around us, and choose to remember it.  I was reminiscing about my last trip to Ranquitte, and was surprised that I was thinking of seemingly mundane details. The rough texture of the sloping stairs at the house we slept in, kept coming to mind.  The tight grip from a 10 year old’s hand, when he was being poked with a needle.  The blanket of humidity felt the day after a rainstorm, and the way my hands swelled from working out during the heat. All of these moments were personal, but not truly significant to the experience. I think I had the sense that going somewhere, seemingly so different, would feel different to all of my senses. I was wrong. It wasn’t the beauty of the mountains, or the sounds of kids playing in the afternoon that made the experience seem so unique. It was the collection of moments, interspersed with often deeply human connections to the community members. My tendency to over analyze an experience down to the details, belies the complexity of life, but I think that’s ok. It’s not the sights, sounds, and smells that make a moment significant. It’s the significance of the moment that ascribes importance and gravity to the minutiae. However indescribable these moments may be, they make us human and greatly define our lives.

So, I’m looking forward to going back to Ranquitte in September. I’ll be visiting nursing schools around the region to establish a reliable nursing scholarship program. I’m sure there will be details that stand out in my mind, but I know it will be the sum of it all that matters. A personal goal of mine is to spend less time noticing the differences, and more time appreciating the beauty, excitement, and strength of a community invested in its own improvement.

Thanks for reading,


P.S. A Secondary School (equivalent of high school) scholarship program is in the works, and photos of homes built will be posted soon! Thanks for your support!

1 comment for “The smell of burning trash

  1. Beth Smolko
    07.20.14 at 11:50

    Josh, I have thoroughly enjoyed your and Colton’s reflections from Ranquitte. I am looking forward to seeing it for myself this November (staffing the Gard Hitam clinic -can’t wait!!!). Are there any things that you feel are absolutely necessary to bring versus some nice-to-have items?

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