Cheonan, outside of the inner city, is an odd mix of urban and rural; the modern and the primitive. Mini skylines mark the presence of numerous enormous apartment complexes each with their own parks, mini-marts, and the occasional strip of restaurants to feed the masses who live there. All the buildings look identical and the complexes themselves run into each other, only separated by their corporate sponsorship painted on their external walls.
Then right next to these complexes – I mean right next to them, inches away, older people plant gardens, tilling away at the soil by hand. Sprinkling fertilizer and compost as they walk up and down the uneven rows. Onions, corn, lettuce, and cabbage. If a piece of land is not occupied by a building, it has a vegetable garden on it. They are tended to daily.
Then right next to the gardens are piles of trash. The trash collection system here doesn’t appear to be organized, yet it’s somewhat effective (which I guess makes it organized). People just leave bags of trash out – even separate out the compost – on the side of the road and the collector comes and picks it up. There might be a small can (no dumpster) marking where exactly on the side of the road one should discard their garbage. Piles of bags previously placed by someone else show me where to put mine. Inevitably, a lot of trash blows around the area. There are also new structures being built everywhere. The workers often burn trash on site, next to the gardens and the people tending to them.
This mix of high rises, hand-tilled gardens and trash is a strange mix for me. It shows how this region is growing rapidly yet some basics functions remain antiquated, at least in my eyes. While the resulting scenery may not be beautiful, I appreciate its complexity and what it signifies.