It’s Sunday, and I went to Swap-o-Rama again. This time, it was the real Swap-o-Rama: “Weekends Average Over 25,000 Visitors” as their website says. It was packed with people. You pay $2 entry fee at the entrance of the building, and I figured out quickly that we’re supposed to go out from the building into the outside space.
I started very systematically inside the building. It was rows after rows of anything you can imagine. Jewellery, clothing, cheese, bags, tiles and building materials, chips, leggings, electronic, perfume, shoes, medicines, nopales, herbal medicines, boots, sweets, haircut, electric skateboard, churros, you name it. Eventually, I went outside.
It was harder to go systematic outside. I was lost at times, and when I eventually exited in the end, from the outside I saw a whole section I hadn’t been in at all. I was trying to find the woman who said I should keep looking for the globe, but it was so difficult to find her.
The sun, which was at its extreme position on the horizon, made it even more disorientating – people’s shadows fell long on one side, and looking to the opposite side pierced my eyes. At a gate, I saw bales of cardboard waste. Their height was almost twice the bales I see in Hong Kong.
I wondered where they were going, and who collected them. So I decided to follow people around, until I saw a mini truck, with a head almost the size of a golf cart. Instead of golf equipment, though, its very long body carried a large but shallow metal box, containing piles of small cardboard boxes. I stopped following people and followed this truck instead. Inside it, there were two men, the older one driving and the younger sat with one of his leg out on the side of the truck.
At points I thought they would stop and the younger man would jump out the cart and start collecting cardboard boxes. But nothing like this happened. Instead, they went on driving, as slowly as many of the other cars, and I began to realise they were going into some kind of a post. I looked at where they were heading, and as they entered the opening, I realised that was where they keep their bale compression machines.
On-site bale compression machines are one of the reasons the skeleton of the city is much less visible than Hong Kong’s. While in Hong Kong the nodes of the recycling routes are often times on the streets, here apparently each market would have their own baling machines, and there are no reason for the waste collectors to walk around the city to get to the baling machine.
As I was walking out the market, I remembered seeing the bales behind Treasure Island in Hyde Park. It was such a lovely, sunny day, and my jacket was too long. Windy Chicago blew all kinds of garbage at me and the seagulls flying around above me reminded me of Preston Market, Melbourne. As I hit the street, I saw plastic bags dancing out of the market into the footpath. For a moment I thought of going to the deserted buildings closeby (Michelle mentioned that they were burnt out factories), but I made up my mind.