Day 1


The morning of this fine August day in Moshi started at 8 am with a breakfast with all volunteers while waiting for the truck to arrive. Generally the spirtis, especially those of the project leaders, was quite similar to those awaiting a moon landing, not the arrival of an old dump truck. Gasiano, Robert and both Malage Center students Jackson and Joseph arrived at 9 am driving what would basically be our motorized home for the weeks to come, initiating the first meeting between all participants of the project. To our surprise, the Security Guards not only showed up, but they were also on time by Tanzanian standards with only an hour delay – and numerically larger than we had agreed upon. This fourth guard was to accompany us for the full length of the trip free of charge as a sign of good will from the boss of the security company. Upon inspection of the slightly modified truck, we marveled at the thought put into the alterations which would make our journey much easier such as the mounted luggage rack and the portable shower – the sheer magnificence of which solved our dilemma of hygiene in areas with little to no access to facilities. (Hanna and Felix had thought about the lack of possibilities to perform acts of bodily cleansing and decided the importance was quite trivial – until we came to the realization that maybe, just maybe, at least one of the volunteers may feel the desire to wash themselves on a more regular basis than we had been used to during previous journeys to Africa). Together, we load up the truck for the first time. At no point in time after this moment will we manage to master the Tetris of the Truck as we did this first time, artfully piling backpacks on top of each other and using every free inch of space of available cargo area. This moment, being 10 a.m., is when Robert revves the motor and maneuvers the truck gen East out of Moshi. At a gas station we fill up the 200 liter water as well as the gas tank and drive to a spontaneously chosen spot just outside the city limits. We had not inspected this area previously, rather told Robert to keep driving until we knock on the side of the truck, a tactic we maintained throughout the Walk.
Armed with metal trash skewers which were manufactured at Malage VTC, neon traffic vests and sisal sacks we had purchased the day before, we literally jump off the truck and start collecting waste on the side of the road. We are accompanied by four volunteers who are present only for this first day only. (Little do we know that one of them, a US American student named Jessica Bass, will become involved in organizing the next Waste Walk.)
This is another opportune spot to cite the fact that the Waste Walk is in every sense of the term a pilot project, also in this case synonym to: “We didn’t always know exactly what we were doing due to the fact that it had never been done before – so we did things a bit backward at first”. In this particular scenario, our inexperience resulted in the whole group running around picking up waste, though quite enthusiastically, with little to no system whatsoever. No waste was separated before landing in the sacks and the terms under which we did collect was slightly chaotic since we did not define the criteria of waste that was to be collected and many questions arose. This results in semi-burnt aluminum cans, which cannot be recycled, landing alongside pristine plastic bottles in sisal sacks.
Today we also decide to clean only one side of the road from here to Dar in order to create a sort of direct comparison between the two sides visibly, as in “clean v. dirty” so people are reminded of how beautiful the landscape can be without waste. Also, the sheer mass of waste would not allow much geographical progress if we were to clean both sides simultaneously. Last, it is much easier to communicate and promote thoroughness.
After a short break for cold soda, we conduct an interview with the shop owner to find out how, and even if, the massive waste pollution is viewed. This is one of what is supposed to become a series of interviews throughout the Walk, unfortunately it neglected and becomes a sporadic event. At a small shop nearby we are falsely recognized as garbage collectors (usually we are mistaken for inmates, the presence of our guards could be interpreted in a different way and our orange vests do not help to diminish the image either) and the owner hurries to give us his household trash. We explain the project and among other things the financial profit that can be made – “trash to cash”.
As dusk approaches and the weighing is wrapped up, we return to the same shop and bring all 24kg of aluminum as a start capitol; yet to our surprise, and later frustration, the shop owner had changed his mind and could not be convinced, that we would indeed come back on our retour route to Moshi to pick up the waste in return for cash. On multiple occasions, he told us, government garbage collectors had appeared and collected money – but not the trash of local inhabitants. Thus his distrust was larger than his willingness to harbor four sisal sacks full of aluminum. If we were not to return, he further argued, he would be stuck with all this waste himself. We tried to explain that all these cans were here before we got here, we simply piled them together and were willing to give him money for it if he keeps them on his property and maybe even adds more. Finally he agreed, though still full of skepticism.
All in all we collect 32 sacks of waste, which equals 264,5kg and makes it the most efficient day of all to come in terms of sheer weight. Robert drives the loaded truck to the nearby Mashingi Secondary School, which Gasiano had visited earlier in the day to obtain permission for us to stay the night there. Upon arrival shortly after the sun begins to set, we are greeted by two teachers and begin to pitch the tents for the first time. Meanwhile, a few designated handicrafts-men attempt their luck at assembling the water filter brought from USA; though the merciless darkness hinders both groups from succeeding flawlessly. With tents standing, we leave the water filter for tomorrow and congregate in the teachers’ room to present our project among the staff. After dinner, we hold a team conference and go through a few essential points such as the implementation of an on-site waste separation and designating alternate people per diem to write the daily protocol and others for taking pictures and videos. Another topic on the agenda is the financing of our Tanzanian volunteers, who cannot afford to participate without financial aid. We agree on a weekly budget to cover food and drinks, considering our accommodation will be free of charge thanks to camping. While most wander off yawning to sleeping bags awaiting, Felix and Hanna stay up until 3 am writing mails of thanks to donors, sorting through photo material and editing respective websites. On the way to the soccer field that functioned as everyone’s open-air bedroom, they make an unpleasant discovery: all four guards are sleeping, quite contrary to the agreement of at least one standing, well, guard during the night hours. This unacceptable behavior is set into an even worse light considering the fact that one of them had been suspected of drinking on the job earlier in the evening. All four guards were woken and we unmistakeably clarified that a recurrence of a situation to this degree of severity would not be tolerated.

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