Monday, February 18, 2013

One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Treasure

A boy on a mission - note the plastic bag - stopped repeatedly along Pattaya Beach one morning.

Although millions of "personals" ads seeking relationships use the tired old phrase "I enjoy long walks along the beach" - with all good intentions, probably - it's a pastime I honestly have long had high on my list of pastimes I enjoy, with or without anyone walking beside me. Not looking for a date here; I'm just stating a fact.

Small shells on the sand of North Pattaya Beach

Unless I'm somewhere that I shouldn't be doing so I tend to pick up interesting shells and items when I'm on these walks, and sometimes even bring one or two home with me to add to a large jar that sits in my home; each a reminder of a pleasant place.

While I was in Hawaii with my family one trip many, many years ago I was collecting shells along a  quiet beach when a local saw me and gave me a look to indicate I was lolo (crazy). I could imagine him saying to himself "I use that junk by the shovelful to level the stepping stones in my garden," but it didn't matter to me. A tiny jar of those shells still sits on my desk today; a memento of a happy time.

On my second trip to Thailand I was staying in a place nearer Banglamung, at the North end of Pattaya Beach (for reference, Walking Street is at the other end) so I had easy access to that lovely few miles of walkway and beach, and took frequent morning leisurely strolls along it.  I'd often walk on the sand, and, amid the junk tossed there by the inconsiderate I'd usually see a variety of shells.

Among the shells one morning were the ones pictured below.  Now, I have no idea what the beaches are like where you are, but along most of the California coast you don't often find much in the way of proper sea shells; bits and pieces, at best.  With the advent of so many beverages being in plastic now you don't even find much sea glass (called that where I live because of it's rounded edges and matte surface, caused by natural sanding while being tossed about for years - or decades).

My trash and treasures. It depends on your point of reference, I suppose. 

Marveling at my good fortune I picked up two bulging pockets-full and brought them back to my hotel room, laying them out on the table of my balcony and thinking what nice additions they'd be to the jar awaiting them back home.  Later that afternoon a Thai friend came to pick me up for an outing, and I proudly showed him my "haul".

He got an odd look on his face (which I later learned was caused by his discretely attempting to hold back a laugh) but he poked at them and then picked out a few, setting them aside.  "These are shells that washed up on the beach," he said, pointing to the few he'd pulled out "and these," he said quietly about the majority "are garbage."  He went on to explain that what I thought were specimens Nature Herself had brought to me as a gift were in fact the leftovers from snacks people had eaten on the beach and lazily tossed aside.

Seeing me smile at my naiivete he burst out laughing, which was a good thing because I think he'd have burst if he hadn't.  Still, the "refuse" shells were new to ME, so I did bring a couple of them home. When I see them I'm reminded of my morning walk... the day I did garbage detail while searching for treasure.


Was Once said...
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khunbaobao said...

That percentage may be higher than 90 for some of the tourists I've seen there!

...and you're right: mai pen rai ("it's not important, nevermind") is always a good mantra while out and about in Thailand!

Anonymous said...

When I walk along a beach, I always scan the ground for interesting stuff. In Pattaya, there is not much, but elsewhere I found large numbers of sceletons/shells of sea urchin, cuttlebone from squid, and recently a 500 Watt light bulb (filament broken, but glass still intact!).


khunbaobao said...

If you walk the less-traveled beaches in California you'll occasionally find the exoskeletons of urchins, too - and a couple of times I've seen dozens and dozens of "sand dollars" (Clypeasteroida order) at a time.

Because of the water quality on the tourist beaches most places I wear sandals to avoid hidden glass and sharp objects, myself.