5 reasons why picking up garbage in the streets for recycling is the best job I had so far

“If you don’t study hard, you’ll end up picking up garbage in the streets.” was what I used to hear from my grandpa and my mom when I was a kid. So I struggled to study hard. I got a good job in risk management after graduation. I could afford a nice flat, eating out, travelling around Europe, clubbing, hapkido classes and a bunch of other stuff that, although I could afford, I didn’t think I needed. Yet, I quit that job. I went on to teach English in China, first as a volunteer, later on as a part-time job. It was also due to studying hard – after all, English is not my mother-tongue, I had to sit down, read English books, watch American and British movies without subtitles to get to a good enough level (it is still far from perfection, I’m always grateful to people who correct my mistakes – thanks, Mark!).

Yesterday, however, I’ve spent a few good hours picking up garbage in the streets of Walvis Bay while thinking…what’s up with the stigma around picking up garbage in the streets? It’s a perfectly good job, like any other. In fact, it’s maybe much better than a lot of other jobs. It is the best job I had so far, and these are just a few of the reasons:

  1. I’m useful – I don’t think it’s just me, but rather most people have the need to feel useful. No matter if it’s helping a friend, a stranger, a family member, it always comes with a good feeling. Picking up garbage in the streets makes me feel very useful – I’m directly improving the world I live in. How many people can say that about their daily job?
  2. It’s good for my health – this job comes with a lot of exercise. I’m doing it with a bike trailer from bennamibia.org, so it’s a lot of physical activity involved. You stop your trailer, you get off the bike, you move back and forth between the trailer and the place where you’re collecting, you get back on your bike and you ride off. How could all this exercise not improve my health condition?
    Trying out the trailer around the yard.
  3. I can enjoy a sunny day – granted, some days is Africa are a bit too sunny, I’m not living in Berlin anymore. And the fact that I often forget to apply sun cream doesn’t help much (I have a tomato face again). But no matter how strong the sun is, there’s something about the blue sky that just makes me happy. Being outside on a sunny day is cool.
  4. I’m my own boss – I can work for as much as I want. If I get tired, I take a break, if I’m feeling strong, I keep going. I can start late or early, no bosses around to tell me what I MUST do.
    Ritade fixing the trailer on the bike.
  5. I make new friends – I think this is especially true because I’m (for now) the only person using a bike trailer to collect garbage. It might also be a privilege: white lady picking up garbage in a township in Walvis Bay attracts a lot of attention from the people passing by. People are curious to know what the hell am I doing. Am I selling stuff? Isn’t the trailer heavy? Where am I heading? But everyone is very friendly, some are laughing, some are taking pictures…positive emotions floating everywhere.
  6. (extra reason) I get a sexy ass – biking with a heavy trailer makes my buttocks work a lot. Apart from being a gym trainer, I can’t think of a job that could help me get a nicer ass.

I won’t say that it was easy. Man, I was tired at the end of the day, I could even feel ”new” muscles in my body. After dinner, I wanted to lie in bed for just a few minutes, yet I ended up falling asleep in a few seconds with the lights on (shame on me, I know, not eco-friendly, I’m sorry…). But I was many times even more physically exhausted from doing random (one could argue useless) things like running 68km, participating to a 100km biking/hiking/roller-skating in 24 hours challenge, biking 80/90 km on very hilly terrain. And in some cases I even had to pay for doing that. How could I explain the rationality of the choice?

Bike vs. car, bike wins.

Maybe if there wasn’t all this stigma around the idea of picking up garbage in the streets, people would start doing it even as a hobby, instead of jogging or biking or playing cards. One thing is sure, at the end of the day you have the satisfaction of having done something useful.

As for the pay, I shall see at the end of the month. Start small, they say. For now, my objective is to create enough money out of garbage for organizing a nice girls’ dinner party with my new friends in Walvis Bay – Paulina and Ritade. They are both strong independent ladies to whom I am very grateful and from whom I’ve learned a lot during the past month. Maybe I’ll get to tell you more about them later on.

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