A few days ago, I experienced something new for me. As I was driving down the street, it was as if I was driving through a smoke screen. All around me, on both sides of the street, there were small fires burning. Every hundred meters or so I saw another one. What was burning and who was responsible you ask? I’ll tell you.
It’s fall. No big surprise there. What happens in fall? The leaves fall off the trees of course. When I lived in the states, perhaps I’d rake them into piles, bag them, and dispose of them. Maybe some of you put them into your compost pile. Or you may even run over them with your lawn mower to mulch your yard. I’m sure no one would ever just leave them right? Certainly not here in Kyrgyzstan.
Here, leaves must be disposed of promptly. Now, you generally do not mow grass at any time. Okay, some do but it is exceedingly rare. But you do get rid of leaves. When the leaves fall, students from elementary through university venture out of the classrooms for a fall cleanup day. Up and down the streets students sweep, gather, rake, and burn leaves. Driving down our street was somewhat hazardous to our health due to smoke and visibility. I have to admit, it is a good way to teach kids to care for their environment, though I’m not sure that burning is the ideal way to teach that lesson. Just imagine 8 year old boys lighting piles of leaves on fire on the roadside in your neighborhood. I want to know how you get picked for that job! It ignites the pyro within me.