Twice a week, I burn my trash in a small pit outside my rondavel.
Tremendous guilt sets in the minute I strike the match, realizing that I’m contributing towards global warming. Each time, I’m surprised to see how easy it is to burn plastic bags and Styrofoam packaging trays. The fact that this is a big, “No-No” in many parts of the western world, with strict recycling laws, adds to my sense of wrongdoing.
The problem is, I have more trash than the Basotho because I buy mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, and cauliflower, imported from South Africa, and packaged in Styrofoam trays. These vegetables are not part of the Basotho diet in my rural village.
When I first posted photos of my “Lack of Privacy” in my village, and how everyone is interested in what I’m burning, my author friend, Ian Mathie, mentioned letting my students figure out what the children can make from my “trash.”
I procrastinated for several reasons:
- I wanted to collect enough items of the same kind, for example, 16 Styrofoam trays or milk cartons, so everyone would be working on that same item. It would take me forever to eat 16 trays of mushrooms.
- I didn’t want to use my own data to pull up step by step ideas from the Internet, and my Principal, didn’t want to offer to pay. “There’s no money,” she would say.
- I didn’t have enough ideas to make something without the right supplies for that project.
Then, last week, I’d collected a huge plastic bag full of many recyclable items, and carried it to my Grade 5 students.
When I opened the bag, and displayed all the objects on the table, the kids went crazy. They wanted those empty yoghurt cartons, empty toothpaste boxes, and fought over them, as though I’d offered them brand new toys.
I told them to take the items home, and to bring them back the next day, with their “creations.”
Honestly, I felt relieved to get rid of my waste, and not have to burn it, but did not expect them to make anything from it.
The following morning, the children were so excited to show me their creations, and I was blown away. I did not realize the kids could be so creative with recycling trash to toys.
I had underestimated my 5th grade Basotho students ability to come up with something, but when you can’t afford toys, it’s amazing what you can make from “trash.”