another tale from the road block



This will be my last African trash post for a while, or at least the last anecdote from Malawi that I post lest you start thinking the focus of this trash blog has become way too narrow, wonky and/or new agey. Never fear. I actually didn’t return with as many trash stories as I had anticipated for two possible reasons. One, I was working the whole time in my non-trash-related capacity as a nonprofiteer and two, (to state the screamingly obvious) people don’t throw much away in Africa.

I didn’t even see a trash fire, though I looked for them. A couple of times I saw smoke in the distance, but when I asked, the people around me explained that the dry season was ending and they were burning back the fields to prepare them for the pre-rainy season planting.

Most of what I saw were stories of zero waste and recycling. While sitting in front of Ivy’s convenience shack near the road block just south of Kande Beach, I watched a tailor appear out of nowhere and set up his sewing machine on the porch. He pulled out a bag of rags and started piecing them together, remaking old shirts into patchwork swaths of fabric to become new clothing or mending smaller tears in blouses and pants to make them good as new.

The whir of the tailor’s machine lay a pleasant track of ambiant sound beneath the layered murmors of children playing in the dirt road, women chatting while shopping for maize, men gossiping with the tailor and chatting up the women and the forestry worker from the road block coming by to charge his cell phone. I was reading Garbage Land, starting it really, and had just come to the part where the author is describing her quest to produce less waste than the average American.  In this chapter, she guiltily throws away old clothes because she already has too many rags and has no other use for the battered cloth.

And then I had one of those useless Western moments that feel like epiphanies, but are really just recognizing the obvious for the first time.

Yes, I thought, we do throw too much away and that would never happen here. What I should do about this sad fact, remains a mystery. Or rather a challenge. One I hope to explore tangibly here–back amidst the excess of America–with this blog.

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31 Responses to “another tale from the road block”

  1. Anna Says:

    So glad you commented on my blog, as it lead me to yours, awesome! Just linked to you. And look forward to exploring everyday trash more…..trash talkers, unite!

  2. everydaytrash Says:

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. psychocandy Says:

    I think I linked you back to my blog, too, trying out the “trackback” function. I’m looking forward to exploring more trash as well.

  4. Zomba, Malawi « everydaytrash Says:

    […] Until then, please enjoy these vintage Malawian trash posts on elephant dung stationary and ruminations on zero waste. […]

  5. Little Shiva Says:

    TEST: work at home via the internet. Don’t buy anything except groceries, and if possible, buy stuff in bulk. Ok, if you really want some new clothes, go to a thrift shop, but be moderate. Separate your trash according to local custom. Repeat for days, weeks, months or even years on end. It’s just like withdrawal from any other drug: the less you consume and the more you re-use, the better you’ll get at it and the more you’ll like your new way of life.

    I moved from a US suburban pancake known as Charlotte NC to the center of Charleroi, Belgium a little over a year ago. When I got here, there was an already-opened and about half-used roll of tin foil in the kitchen. That same roll is still there, with some new foil still on the roll. Clipped to the fridge is a pile of washed and crinkly sheets of used tin foil, waiting to be used again and again until I can use them no more. My 96 year of Danish grandma back in Charlotte does the same with ziplock baggies.

    Cloth handkerchiefs aren’t so bad either, although if I had a baby I dunno how I’d feel about diapers. Doubt I’d want to re-wash those, and I know they must be a huge part of any landfill. See for an old but still relevant story on that subject.

  6. everydaytrash Says:

    Thanks for the story and the link!

  7. Goods for Good « everydaytrash Says:

    […] of the reasons I get all ooey gooey about Malawi is becaues I’ve spent some time there and have remained in awe of Malawians resourcefulness under the severe constraints of limited […]

  8. Goods for Good | 1800blogger Says:

    […] of the reasons I get all ooey gooey about Malawi is becaues I’ve spent some time there and have remained in awe of Malawians’ resourcefulness under the severe constraints of limited […]

  9. Goods for Good | Conservation Blog Says:

    […] of the reasons I get all ooey gooey about Malawi is becaues I’ve spent some time there and have remained in awe of Malawians’ resourcefulness under the severe constraints of limited […]

  10. Scrappy Style | everydaytrash Says:

    […] little set up with an old singer sewing machine, that reminded me of a very early dispatch from Malawi. Linda showed me the big bag of cloth scraps from which we could select […]

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