Clean and unclean

1 02 2009

sweeping the yard There are two related things I want to write about, the profusion of litter (especially black polythene bags) that are strewn across the public spaces and countryside and the pride that the women have here in keeping their homes and compounds immaculate. Almost before dawn everyday the sound of women bent double sweeping their compounds with traditional brooms is heard across the length of Ghana. The brooms are bundles of thin sticks about 18 inches (30cm) in length tidied about two thirds of the way up. European brooms with long handles are scorned as “lazy men’s brooms” which clearly aren’t up to the job. Schoolchildren are expected to clean their classrooms daily and each year there are “cleaning days” when children are organised into cohorts that scourge the streets of rubbish. Actually as I type this a contingent of local children are sweeping up the dead leaves in my garden (in thanks for the nuts they’ve collected and the rubbish we’ve given them for recycling).

Yet despite this home pride the countryside is littered with plastic detritus and the streets have piles of rubbish in the open drains (which have to be cleared when the rains start). Black plastic bags fly around like demented crows, catching on trees and bushes hang like ragged black leaves. Whenever you buy anything here it’s invariably wrapped in layers of black polythene bags all which are carelessly discarded and the “water sachets” sold by young girls in the street (“ize wadder, yez pure ized wadder”) are screwed up and blithely dropped when emptied of their life sustaining contents. Other, lets just describe it as more organic, rubbish also accumulates pungently.




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