otjituuo's trash gets burned once a month. empty detergent boxes,beer bottles, sardine cans, discarded braids of synthetic hair it all gets torched . i've gotten over the mental prick you feel when you throw away a Coke bottle. it's also a habit to hold on to things. i have a shelf of empty bottles that are awaiting uses. if i don't scrounge it myself i makes sure it gets cleaned and left apart from the rest of the garbage. after i kept seeing familiar ex-products in the possession of learners (there's someone else in the village who buys laughing cow cheese?). it's funny, even my old valentine's cards turn up in kids notebooks. this caused me to realize i had parted with things that would be prized by the kids. i'm very cognizant of anything that i toss now. afterall, my learners put their scribble books into empty 3kg bags of macaroni and pop holes in discarded motor oil containers to make water bottles.
certainly the most artistic (and ingenious) is the wire car. these sculptures are usually a little over a foot in length. the kids use cut-up cans for wheels and the thick, ever-present wire that is used for fences, wash lines, holding up the satellite dish on the boys hostel. the cars themselves are often extremely intricate (there is the wire bakkie, the wire sedan, the wire tractor trailer). the best part is the working axles which are made with a discarded spool of thread. then that is connected to a long piece of wire which serves as a lead. this is the steering column. once the wire steering wheel is attached you have yourself a car. the car's motive force is foot power like on the flintstones. there isn't a more poignant image of africa than seeing out-of-school boys in their twenties with their head down "driving" around otjituuo.
recently the kids have started making paper sunglasses out of scrap paper that they find in the various dust bins around school. it's funny because they are completely taken by fads. just like rote learning they love to copy. it's like when i taught some of the kids how to put their middle finger through their hands and make it wiggle suddenly that was the cool thing to do. there was also the time during model school when one of the other teachers taught the kids how to make fart sounds with their armpits. other past fads include home-made tattoos ("Cool boy") made with Bic pens, pictures of prize-winning bulls drawn on the back of t-shirts, cutting all but one little tuft of hair which is twirled to a point, pasting on fake hair to make scrawny moustaches, drawn-on sideburns, etc.... I recently found some kids playing with my floss. I might have to go ahead and burn that before it goes in the bin next time, just so it doesn't become a fad.