It is said that happiness is actually very simple - a cat eating fish, a dog eating meat, Ultraman fighting a monster. But at the same time, unhappiness is also very easy: for example, a clean-freak Virgo squatting beside a wastewater pipe all day and night, in order to collect variously colored samples of industrial wastewater discharged at different times of day and night.
Collecting wastewater samples at Greenpeace can be summed up as seven parts hardship and three parts danger. Working from dawn to dusk is routine. This demanding schedule has its reasons. One reason is that factories are usually fiercely protective of their discharge pipes. As a result, it is only relatively easy for us to access the pipes and collect samples when workers are not on duty. The other reason is that some factories will frequently wait until the dead of night, when no one is around, to release the full force of their discharge.
As I remember, four of us once worked 14 hours straight, from 1pm to 3am, to gather three batches of wastewater samples from a textile factory complex. To ensure that we had enough samples for laboratory testing, we required about 20 large and small bottles for each sampling session. Thus, each sample collection session required us to wallow in the sludge beside the pipe for about an hour. The temperature was not very warm, especially at night, and I had gone out of the way to buy warm clothing to help me brave the cold night wind. Nevertheless, after each sample collection, I was drenched in sweat.
While gathering samples, we must trudge through wet, muddy sludge in order to get close to the discharge pipe. At high tide, the river's water levels rose above both the pipe and its surrounding sludge. After hours of soaking in river water, the mud became extremely soggy, and our boots would sink deep into the sludge with every step. We covered the mud with fallen branches to make the going easier and speed up our wok. But I was still careless enough to sink one foot deep into the mud. The end result of this thrilling but harmless adventure was that the sludge claimed one of my socks - for eternity.
By now, I have had many such experiences during fieldwork and investigations at polluting factories. My attitude has met with a transformation: whereas formerly I would be filled with silent revulsion and complaints, now I have learned to find happiness in hardship. Moreover, I have begun to daydream of a day in the future when all factories will no longer discharge hazardous chemicals into the environment - when all will be forgiven. The sweat, all the splashing around in filthy water, my lost sock - it will all be well worth it.