Friday night plans? Not much, just burning some rubbish.

There are quite a lot of simple things that we never thought much about until they weren’t there. One of these is rubbish collection. It’s so easy – you put rubbish and recycling in bins and it gets taken away every week or two.

Here we have found that to be a bit more complicated. Tamale is strewn with litter, particularly on dusty paths behind houses or uninhabited stretches of land. Mainly it’s the empty plastic bags that everything from water to bean stew and fried yam are served in, but occasionally they’re joined by smashed up toilets or piles of filled bin bags.

When we first arrived we asked our neighbour about local rubbish collection only to hear that the company that used to collect doesn’t really come round anymore. The other options: burn it, or take it ‘over that way’ (an unofficial dumping ground between some houses and a school).

We took our time to do anything about it. Neither option felt quite right for people used to recycling bins and food waste collection. But after 3+ weeks here, we couldn’t leave it any longer. Friday evening was rubbish burning time!

Not the nicest of bonfires

Not the nicest of bonfires

Turns out when you don’t have any matches, only a stove and some old candles left by a former volunteer, it’s not so quick to get a fire to light and stay lit. And when your rubbish includes everything from onion peel to glass bottles and tuna tins, it’s not so easy to get it to burn. But we got there, pretty much – luckily without accidentally setting fire to our house or overgrown garden, only creating some strange fumes in the process.

Rubbish burning outfit

An ‘interesting’ rubbish burning outfit

We’re still trying to avoid rubbish burning being added to our weekly list of chores if we can. The hand washing, ironing and constant sweeping up of dust and dead bugs is enough to keep us busy. We’ve got a new lead on a potential rubbish collection company from a shopkeeper on our road now. It’d be considered a luxury – the company’s monthly charge costing the equivalent of a day and a half of our volunteer allowance – but with any luck we might not have to dedicate future Friday nights to this kind of fun.