Belecca’s friend was fussing. I didn’t understand why and Belecca didn’t look upset. Instead she shook her head in agreement and smiled at me.
“What’s wrong?”
“They are making that bag into two bags instead of one big one for her to carry her market things.”
The bag in question, held lightly in her hands, was being scrutinized. Its seam was sewn with red thread. The bag itself, was nondescript. One like a thousand I’ve seen, made of a durable plastic of some sort woven together – what you might expect to find 100 pounds of flour in, or in this case, USAID food donations. After some scrutiny and a quiet discussion, a knife emerged and the woman held the bag taut between her fingers while a young man pressed the knife against the threads. I could hear the paced and deliberate snapping of the threads as the knife pressed against them. I watched for a while, mesmerized by the quiet concentration. The breeze rustled the plastic and scattered dust at our feet.
The bag will be sewn again, to the woman’s specification. Careful stitching to transform it into whatever she needs. Saved and reused. Careful careful. Bottles – plastic water and glass liquor bottles filled with palm oil or kerosene; mayonnaise jars filled with petrol. In Gbarnga there are makeshift stalls – USAID sacks graying and tattered, used as curtains against the shade -the rickety tables, strewn with rusting hinges, doorknobs, and axe heads, ready for resale. Plastic bag and discarded paper are torn and used as makeshift plates for fried plantains, yeast rolls, or shortbread.
Used clothes litter the market. Shirts announcing blood drives in small town Michigan and University of Texas pride.

Driving through the countryside the other day, I saw an older man, tall and graying, wearing a shiny satin-like pajama set- white with tiny flowers; accented, of course, by a red baseball cap.
This is where Americans could learn how to truly recycle. Not simply cans and paper into more cans and paper for use and disposal, but the saving of…the re-use of…new identities for… Here, disposable is a foreign and unheard of concept instead of an expectation.

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