Susan Campbell, Stealth Composter
So, yesterday I told those of you living in apartments how to make a balcony compost bin. Today I have to tell you about our neighbors' reaction to all this. Many of our neighbors are retired Italians who, after World War II came up to Milan to work from other, less industrialized parts of Italy. It seems that they don't know much of the world other than their old villages and this neighborhood. One couple who lives on our floor has never been to Venice. For 50 years they have lived a 3.5 hour, 30 euro train ride away from Venice and they've never been. We once mentioned to another couple, the Morettis that we had gone to the Chinese restaurant around the corner for dinner and they winced and mentioned that there was a good pizzeria nearby. I don't believe they have ever eaten Chinese food before. Once when I was making Indian food, I went over to their apartment and stupidly left my door open. I could see the look on Mr. Moretti's face once the curry aroma wafted past his nose. He actually looked scared! So, there seems to be some tension between this old guard and the newer, younger, foreign inhabitants of the neighborhood. Italy has had experience with large-scale immigration for only about 10 years now . And that, after a long history of emigration to places like Canada, the U.S., and Argentina. So we foreigners are something of a shock to these old tossers. I hope they can get used to us.
Anyway, the point is, these people are not very used to people with different customs and they think Gabriel and I are from Mars. And I know it because I heard them gossiping about us.
When Gabriel was building the compost bin, he did it out on the back balcony and the friendliest of our neighbors, an Italian senior citizen, asked what he was building. He said, "una scatola" "a box" and left it at that. We were afraid what the collective group of nosey neighbors would try to do if they knew that we were building a compost bin. It might have smelled bad or attracted bugs. I was afraid of a building conference where all the neighbors would vote out compost bins or some other such reaction.
Anyway, I started to place all my coffee grounds, carrot peels and any other vegetable matter (except potato peels, they never decompose and they start sending out little potato shoots) until one morning we heard the Morettis, the nice neighbor and some unidentified voices gossiping about what we do with that "box"! They went on and on about how they've seen me put egg shells, lettuce, orange peels and you name it in there but they've never seen me take anything out! They have no idea what this compost bin is and they are certain we're Martians. So now, I put my veggie scraps in a covered bowl in the kitchen and wait for cover of darkness, then I turn off the kitchen light, sneak out onto the unlit balcony and dump my days-worth of contraband compost!