September 18

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How I learnt to be resourceful in Africa!!

Reduce, reuse and recycle- a mantra I’ve always believed in and to that effect, I started “collecting” or “hoarding” as my mother likes to call it nick-nacks of varied nature-old wrapping papers, diaries from past years, watch tins and jewelry boxes, beads and strings, cardboard tubes of toilet papers, pieces of cloth and even the pizza box stacks (the little plastic white table that you find in pizza boxes to prevent the cheese from sticking to the box) to name a few.  To nobody’s surprise, all of it still remains in its virgin state, threatening to burst out of my already full closet. Mind you, I am not really the artsy, D-I-Y type of person, although I “collect” everything in the hope that one day I will be. I recently had an epiphany of sorts, the reason for my inaction towards these items seems not to be in my laziness (okay, maybe a percentage of it), but rather the fact that I didn’t  need substitutes when the real thing was easily available. Why would I want to go through the trouble of converting a used coffee can into a pen stand when I could just as easily buy a pen stand?
But being in Africa, I’ve learnt how to be resourceful and transform everyday objects or things usually dismissed as junk into objects of practical use. Two main reasons for this grand transformation- One, things are not easy to procure in Africa and two, even if they are available, they are expensive and I did not want to waste money on things I would use only for a short while (here for six months only). I collected old unused things from the office, from my colleagues, from my friends and neighbors who did not see any use for it. I got innovative and creative and started seeing possibilities in otherwise insignificant things. This experience has taught me that we can all be resourceful if we put our mind to it, either at work or otherwise. Here’s to early spring cleaning once I return home, I know my mother is already happy reading this.

An old pen stand I found at work converted into a toothbrush holder.

Extra food items which could not be fit into containers have been sealed using cloth pins

Extra food items which could not be fit into containers have been sealed using cloth pins.

At Amref TZ, Two of these milk powder containers are used everyday for Tea time. They are sturdy tins which were being thrown away after being emptied. I recycled them as storage containers for my lentils

At Amref TZ, Two of these milk powder containers are used everyday for tea time. They are sturdy tins which were being thrown away after being emptied. I rescued some of them and use them to store lentils.

Old jam and pickle jars sourced from friends and neighbors to store spices. The little yellow spoon inside each of them is actually tasting spoons from a frozen yogurt store nearby.

Old jam and pickle jars sourced from friends and neighbors to store spices. The little yellow spoon inside each of them is actually tasting spoons from a frozen yogurt store nearby.

Done with tea box, use it to store other things

Done with the tea box, now using it to store other things.

Cardboard tube of toilet roll used as a temporary pen stand at home.

Chocolate box and take away containers used to store rice and flour

Chocolate box and take away containers used to store rice and flour.

I stay in a semi-furnished apartment which did not have a clothes drying rack. New one costs around $150 dollars. Instead, I bought hangers for $5 and hung it on the AC unit. Does the same job, for a fraction of the cost.

I stay in a semi-furnished apartment which did not have a clothes drying rack. New one costs around $150 dollars. Instead, I bought hangers for $5 and hung it on the AC unit. Does the same job, for a fraction of the cost.

Again, no dish wash rack. Buy a new one for $50 or use a $4 towel for the same purpose? Guess what I chose..

Again, no dish wash rack in the apartment. Buy a new one for $50 or use a $4 towel for the same purpose? Guess what I chose..