Saturday, November 17, 2018
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Treasure In The Trash! 

By Azore Opio

Each day, the average Buea household tosses out more than 2 kg of solid waste. And Hysacam picks up the trash and takes it to their dumping yard somewhere in Mossaka before Ekona, on the Buea-Kumba highway. This is both a blessing and curse for a settlement that was fast growing into a rubbish town.

It is a blessing because Buea is now clean; no more unsightly litter; the air fresher; residents putting their refuse by the roadside every morning for picking. But leaving anything valuable, however momentarily, on the roadside these days in Buea is very risky. It is like inviting Hysacam to dispose it off for you.

This particular episode I am about to narrate started with a young man who put his computer, momentarily, at the roadside and entered a store. That seemed normal enough. But then it was a big mistake. Hysacam guys came and hauled the PC into their truck, and off they zoomed to their dump site. They ended up writing off the PC in the back of the garbage crusher.

Getting your valuables mistakenly picked up by Hysacam is not much fun. Mami “Coco” (not real name) of Sandpit placed her bundle of “bitter leaf” destined for Douala at the GCE Board Junction. She went back for more bitter leaf. By the time she got back, the bundle was gone! Hysacam had taken it for solid waste and hurled it into the back of their tipper.

Armed with only a description of the bag, the woman leaped into a taxi cab and gave chase. She was fortunate; she caught up with the Hysacam truck still picking up more solid waste in Molyko. The life of a garbage man isn’t glamorous, but vital. His average routine is pretty boring – stop, pick up trash, go, repeat. Stop, pick up trash, go, repeat until the garbage man himself begins to look crappy and stink like garbage.

How disgusting! And the smell of garbage must be in the top five most horrible scents on the face of God’s green earth. But the garbage man does a valuable job of being our rubbish collector. Mola Efange is a good looking garbage man. He doesn’t ride the tipper or the garbage crusher. His station is at Mossaka, his tool, a pitchfork for raking the muck, as it were, and keeping the yard clean and sparkling.

This particular morning, the world was incredibly peaceful and Efange in his reflective vest loved the stillness and being in the midst of his mega-mix of decomposing cocoyam peels, banana and plantain skins, twisted plastics and other assorted domestic waste. As he worked, a scene was unfolding, a motorcycle ride away. People in their best clothes walked past her and sneered as if she was a pile of rotten fish.

Her dress hung off her frail body like a tent. She had cried your eyes out, replayed every minute of the sad parts. She was a slave with no opinions of her own. She had been kept as part of a family as if just to have a bitch around. This morning, she was nothing more than a piece of crap. They had dumped her like yesterday’s garbage. She hopped on a bendskin.
“Mossaka,” she told the motorcyclist.

Now she looked at him in fear, worried that he would molest her, like those other people always did. She scooted away and hid behind a heap of trash. 

He knew she was scared and said kindly, “please come out, I won’t hurt you….”
She peeked at the shabby guy in greasy clothes form behind the garbage heap. He was good looking. Feeling a little more comfortable, she crawled out. Curiosity in her eyes, she stumbled towards the guy.
He reached out and gently caught her, thinking she was hurt.
 “Are you okay?”

She nodded, and started crying.
The man in the greasy clothes and reflective vest became more curious.
“Is there anything I can do to help you?”
“I’m nothing. I can’t be anything.”
“Don’t say that…”

“I don’t have a home, I don’t have anything. My only possession, Hysacam picked from the roadside…”
They rummaged in the heaps of trash.
“The Ghana-must-go bag. There! It’s mine!”

The least that he could do to help her was give her a place to stay and to give her a hand.  “Come with me,” he said as he started to walk to Mamu. Home.
“You mean you will let me stay here?”
She started crying from being happy. 
“Of course! I couldn’t leave you out there.”

“You are so kind to me, not like those horrible people who wanted to eat my flesh. Sorry, I didn’t introduce myself.”
“Not your fault.”
“You can call me Siri.”
“I am called Efange.”
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!

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