Sunday, April 14, 2013


Where does your garbage go?  How much do you produce?  As I was walking to church this morning in N’gaoundéré, I was thinking about garbage!  Why?  Probably because I saw trash in piles along the road and then a little later saw the garbage truck that was going around to pick up the piles. 

Besides, writing about the Central African Republic is still depressing.  OK, it’s true that a council was named to select an interim president.  And, they picked Michel Djotodia – surprised? Probably not.  He is the man who proclaimed himself president just after the March 24 coup and he was the only candidate put forward by the council.  But, this gives him “legitimacy” in the eyes of the world, right?  (That was the goal, anyway.)  He has also agreed to hold “free and fair” elections in 18 months.  Free and fair like the last ones? Let’s hope not since reports of corruption were rampant then. 

It is also true that Baboua continues to be calm overall – Séléka rebels, turned military, did break into the mayor’s office there to destroy documents and steal his chair.  (Yeah, that made a lot of sense to me, too…)  Other towns are still experiencing looting and Séléka military (or are they profiteers who are just claiming to be Sékéka?) are stealing vehicles and/or stopping them to get what money they can. 

So, I think I’ll go back to thinking about garbage!

As in many places in the US, people here litter in the streets much more than I would like to see.  I am encouraged by some initiatives, though.  Here in N’gaoundéré, the market stalls cannot open until 10 a.m. on Thursdays because the owners and workers are to clean up the area around their space for the hour or so before then.  I know that if they open early they are fined.  I don’t know if any action is taken if they don’t clean things up.  Still, it is a good move. 

Elsewhere many shop keepers sweep the areas around their shops.  They put garbage in a pile on trash day or sweep it into the rain gutters.  (See photo.)  Periodically, then, people, usually young boys, clean those out so that rain water can flow.  I have even see some ¼ barrels along the street where people can throw their garbage.

My question is:  where does all the trash go when it is collected?  I don’t know, but suppose there is a landfill/dump somewhere not far away.

Meanwhile, on the missionary stations, we have our own private landfills.  Workers dig a very deep hole where we throw our trash.  This past week they began digging us a new hole since the one we were using was very full.  (See pictures.) 

I found it fascinating to watch the process.  First they dug normally.  Once the hole was deep, one person got inside and filled buckets with dirt.  Others were at the top pulling up the full buckets hand over hand, just as people do when they get water from a well.  (See the pictures.)  They worked for 3 full days – even through very hot parts of the day!  Right now there is a wood plank over that hole so it is not yet in use.  I wonder if they will put in the barrel and lid and, if so, how they get it to stay in place!
Most things sold in the market have no packaging – as there would be none at a farmers’ market.  Plastic bags, though, are everywhere – and very thin ones so they break easily.  They become a menace because people drop them everywhere.  I usually carry my reusable bag(s) with me and try to have some smaller ones to avoid getting more. 

Fewer people have disposable income to buy packaged goods, but, still, the resulting trash is prevalent.  What about stuff that will decompose?  In Baboua, we started a compost pile.  One of the missionaries here often buries organic stuff in his garden.  In Pittsburgh, I had worms to eat this kind of garbage.  (They are now living and eating garbage at my sister’s house in Philadelphia!)  I think most people here just throw food waste out with the trash.  Recycling is not prevalent, but people do reuse plastic and glass bottles.  Some people even collect them and sell them in the market! 

Here’s hoping that you put out little garbage for the trash collectors.  I hope you are buying products with minimal packaging, recycling as much as possible, and composting as well!  We all need to pay attention. 

This subject reminds me of a Shel Silverstein poem that was a great favorite with my fourth graders in Pittsburgh, “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout, Would not Take the Garbage Out!”  If you don’t know it, check out this link:

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