February 20, 2016 Ghana

This afternoon at Bolgatanga Market, Ghana


The everyday Bulga market

Bulges at the seams.

Pools of shade, 

Cast from the market umbrellas.

Shelter the sellers,

But not the loan Canadian

Or all the African shoppers.

Motor cycles and huge lories

Attempt to navigate

Our crowded path.

Pulled or pushed wagons,

Young men struggling to carry,

Enormous sacks of grain,

And the ever present,

Bowls balanced on heads.

Attempt to move the other way.

In the shady patches,

Turbaned women, 

In jarring colourful outfits 

And aprons,

Sell onions, tomatoes, greens,

Charcoal, tyvek bags,

Gourd bowls and tooth paste.

The animals;

Goats, cows, and pigs

Wander everywhere.

The stench of dried telapia,

A small black flattened fish,

Turns my obruni stomach.

Some women spend the day, 

Bent at the waist,

Sifting grain, rice, corn and millet.

Men operate a mechanized mill 

That churns and grinds.

Babies cry.

They are slid from backs 

To fronts and nursed.

Hawkers cajole me

To purchase yams.

Often I am flashed 

A glorious white smile,

That lights up the dark face.

The occasional old women

Dances in front of me,

Blocking my way and demanding money.

Experiencing the market,

Is a huge blessing or

An enormous challenge

January 18, Ada Faoh, Ghana

Word Picture

At the Trotro Station in Accra

Sweating in a hot old van,

We wait for every seat to be filled.

Outside, amid the smell and noise of idling engines

Colours collide and swirl.

Many bare brown feet

And strong dark legs

Support bottoms that are round and prominent.

The money aprons are hung around thrust-forward bellies.

A jarring print cloth wraps around the breasts,

Like a cummerbund

And tie tiny babies securely

To their mothers arched backs.

Proud shoulders suppor

Long regal necks.

Faces are broad and dark,

With big white smiles.

Lively eyes dart everywhere,

Searching for a nod of interest.

Cloth rings on the top of heads,

Balance large metal trays, huge aluminum bowls,

And glass-sided wooden boxes.

These are the "shops" that dance around at eye level.

Almost anything you can imagine is available for sale:

Q-tips, matches, deodorant,

Mens boxer shorts, shoe laces,

Cold bags of water and bottles of pop,

Meat pies, fried tofu, 
crackers, cookies,

Chewing gum, computer cables

And smutty books.

All it takes is a wink of an eye,

And one Ghanian cedi.

January 22, 2016 Ghana

"Dawn on the Volta"

After a restless night worrying about missing our 5 AM alarm,

It is finally 5 AM.

Dressed and packed, we are out to the main door.

Only to find that we are securely locked in.

Luckily we find a back door with a key in it.

The early morning is hot and black.

The sky is filled with stars.

We head toward the occasional street lamp 

That casts an eery glow on shuttered shops and palms.

I swing my head lamp,

To help the weaving motorcycles avoid us.

Roosters crow.

They know that dawn is soon.

Our hands and backs are laden with our packs

And extra water.

By the time we arrive at the ferry dock,

We are drenched in sweat.

I use the inside of my hat

To mop up the small river running off my forehead and nose.

We depart Ada Foah

As the sky lightens.

The Volta is hazy with smoke.

Riverside, people are soaping up and washing.

Women hitch up their wraps and wade into the river.

They half-fill enormous water buckets 

And then heave them up onto their heads.

With a smaller bucket, 

They scoop water to completely fill the big bucket.

Men put tiny fish into small wooden basket traps and

Set off paddling in long narrow wooden boats.

Sometimes one man paddles from the stern

And another stands midship with a dip net.

Kids naked, or wearing underwear, school uniforms or

Occasionally a white party dress

(Are these cast offs from first communions?)

Work and play and wave.

When we wave back to them,

Huge toothy grins light up their faces.

The ferry rumbles and lumbers from one side

Of the estuary to the other,

Pulling into beaches and picking up

Loaves of bread, baskets of grain,

Plastic PCV pipe and people.

The river side is low and lush.

Narrow openings in the green,

Lead to sandy brown paths.

Clusters of houses are

Made of dried adobe blocks

With plastic-patched thatched roofs.

Fences, adobe or woven sticks,

Are usually festooned with colourful washing.

Smoke houses sit like statues of giant woven baskets.

Everywhere there are big piles of broken shells.

The community gathers In the shade,

Waiting for the ferry.

Chickens and children seem oblivious to the heat

And peck and play in the full sun.

As soon as the ferry leaves a beach,

We are surrounded by islands of
Water hyacinth,
Lush and green

With beautiful pale mauve flowers.

There are areas of lily pads

Supporting gigantic white lily flowers,

And patches of yellow flowered duck weed,

Dense enough to support the strutting 

Of small rusty orange shorebirds.

The egrets, hawks and kingfishers

Look down from the occasional majestic kapok or banban tree

That towers above the palms,

Or they perch closer to the water on 

The floating blue and red painted oil drums

That are used to contain the day's catch.

After nine hours of watching riverside,

Jim and I decide to have a game of rummy.

Immediate other passengers join us.

We modify the game to suit four players .

We play numerous single hand games and after

Everyone has won at least game.

We play the grand championship round.

It is amazing how card playing transcends language.

We watch the sun go down.

Before we are in total darkness,

We lug our stuff and ourselves

To the lower deck.

At 7 pm in total darkness

We pull into a beach.

We can see the lights of Akuse

In the far distance.

I am struggling with my bags,

When one of the boatmen

Hollers at me to put the big one

On my back. 

I protest that the straps aren't good.

I don't admit that I can't climb

The higgillypiggilly steps
(Or any steps)

With my heavy pack on.

An older woman takes pity on me

And leads the way.

Somehow I make it to top

And then I can drag my heavy bag

On the sandy path.

My headlamp and Jim's are the only lights.

Eventually, we arrive at a road.

There are motor cycles waiting to give rides.

Jim gets on behind one man

I get on behind another.

Someone lifts my heavy bag 

Onto my drivers arms.

I wrap my arms loosely 

Around his narrow waist

And prepare to clutch him

For all I am worth,

If I need to.

Eventually we arrive Akuse

And are taken to the

Volta River Authority guest house.

The man tells us we can not stay.

We do not have reservations.

I wonder what on earth I am doing

In Africa at night with no place to stay.

I plead; it is dark,

We are from Canada, we are old,
I am an artist.

Eventually he calls someone

Who calls someone else,

And we finally get a key.

By now our motorcycles have left.

Two men, Sherif and MacDavis,

Who just happen to be hanging out

Drive us to our lodging.

Sherif gives us water and beer

And refuses money.

They take us to the club house,

Where I am hopeful that they will serve food.

Instead we share beer and stories,

With our new friends.

The day ends with me thinking

How lucky I am to be in Africa.

February 13, 2016 Ghana

Tomale in the north of Ghana

A bedlam of hawkers,

All of their shops on their heads,

Lean into tro tro windows;

Hoping to catch an eye,

Hoping to make a sale.

Narrow blue styrafoam coolers

Hold packaged cold goods.

Wooden boxes with glass sides,

Hold delicious sweet deep-fried donut balls

And their look a likes;

Dry tasteless cake balls.

Huge bowls hold

Apples, grapes, chewing gum, shoelaces

Or the very essential bags of drinking water.

Large flat aluminum platters

Display eggs, onions or pot scrubbers.

Large stacks of colourful fabric

Are carried directly on the tops of heads.

The noise of the tro tro station is a cacophony.

Loud speakers proselytize or advertise.

At one point, the tro tro loaders,

Try to jam a fourth person in my row.

Fortunately, we can't be squished enough.

Jim has a seat in the back.

They did manage to squeeze four in his row.

Behind him, the back hatch is tied against the luggage

To stop it from spilling out.

The tro tro is finally declared full,

And the side door is slid shut.

All of the luggage fellows

And all available men with strong backs

Struggle to push our overloaded tro tro up hill.

When they finally succeed in moving us

Forward about 5 metres,

Our driver rolls us in reverse,

Pops the clutch and starts the engine.

We are off.

The young woman on my left reads her bible.

The muslin man on my right listens 

To something on headphones.

I too pull out my head phones,

And tune into BBC world book club

To block out the loud incessant rap music

Blaring from the sound system in the tro tro.

We join the traffic;

Open trucks crammed with people

Going to work in the bush,

Motor cycles carrying men with rifles

And several dogs.

Burnt out vehicles litter the roadside.

It would appear that wherever they breakdown or crash

They are abandoned.

Bit by bit,

They are relieved of anything saleable.

The land is parched, brown and lifeless.

Most of the trees are leafless.

Occasionally, large African trees
Loom over everything,

And demand to be admired.

Sometimes black bee hives cling to tree trunks

Or tree branches support numerous,

Little basket-like nests

Woven by the weaver birds.

On the road sides, we also see

Hugh piles of bagged charcoal

Or piles of twisted tree branches,

Ready to be made into charcoal.

Whenever we are near a village,

Bits of black plastic garbage bag litter the ground.

Tiny goats and skinny brahma cattle 

Eek out a living on what greenery they can find

And the garbage.

The villages in northern Ghana,

Have round buildings;

Unpainted adobe with thatched roofs.

Each dwelling has more than one round hut;

One for sleeping, one for animals, one for storage.

Cooking is done outside in a black iron pot 

Set on three stones over an open fire.

A waist high bamboo screen

Provides some privacy for bathing.

In only one village did we see outhouses,

Probably gifts from an NGO.

The women and kids are usually gathered

Around the community well.

Everyone takes their turn pumping 

The long heavy iron handle up and down.

A cold shop, usually with no cold facility,

Is a shaded table where meat is

Chopped up with a clever and sold.

Chickens are sold alive,

And are carried in a large woven basket

That is ironically egg shaped.

Elaborate displays of yams and occasionally cabbage

Are the available produce in this area.

Gone are the pristine colourful roadside arrangements of

Tomatoes, pears and pineapples

That we saw in Southern Ghana.

Sometimes old men play a game of draughts 

Or nap on benches in the shade.

Most villages have a school,

Always rectangular, with a tin roof

And with a flag pole.

Schools are painted a dull yellow and red.

And school uniforms are often yellow shirts

And dark shorts or skirts.

The mosques are also painted,

But in bright glorious yellows, blues, greens and pinks.

Their trim is white and elaborate.

A metal star and moon graces the minarets.

The mosques appear to be loved.

Though much of the village 

Appears brown and destitute,

The mosques radiate hope.

January 21, 2016 Ghana

Fourty years ago today since my Mom died. She would have loved to know that I made it to Africa. Jim and I toasted her with cold beer!

A couple of days ago we met Rachel Garbury, and Dyalla Popatia, fellow Canadians on a street in Ada Foah. Rachel noted Jim's Blue Jays tee shirt and before you could blink, we were invited to supper last night with Auntie Emily and Matt Howard, Rachel's partner. It was an absolute delight. We took the beer and they made a marvellous Ghanian meal. Banku is a fermented dough of casavaha and corn, dipped into a fresh fish stew and eaten communally with clean fingers on the right hand. Just what we needed was an introduction to eating Ghanian style. We also had rice and stir fried veggies, and great conversation. This morning we visited the community radio station where both Rachel and Dyalla are working. It is a marvellous project for community development and social change.

Yesterday we also had a couple of hours at the market. I love one of the sketches I did of an older broom selling women. It is loose in style and captures "her". Hopefully I have enough material to do something further with this image.

Yesterday, we also did a boat trip around the Volta Estuary and the mangrove swamps. It was hard to get our boat people to skip the crocodiles in captivity, the gin making and all the other sales gimmicks but somehow we managed. I got the great photo of the school girl in the water, showing her joy that school was out for the day.

Taxis are all shared and it is interesting to be in a full car and then fit in three more people. The high light for me was that I got to hold the beautiful sleeping black baby!

Late this afternoon, we walked in the huge heat to coco loco beach resort. It didn't look like this place had been open in a long time. Jim and I are thinking that we are the only tourists here.I tried to order something to eat, with no luck. We tried to get a ride back to Ado Foah with no luck. But we did have a beer! On the way walking back, I managed to flag down a motorcycle. As I arrived back, I was worried about leaving Jim so I gave the motorcycle driver 10 cidis and asked him to go back for Jim which he did. Jim paid him too so the motorcycle man was happy and Jim and I relived the motorcycle rides of our youth. We were happy.

March 2, 2016, Axim, Ghana

After a couple of nights at Escape Three Point Lodge where we were totally hot and totally damp and dirty and where the promised internet never actually worked, we bit the biscuit and moved to our most expensive place yet, Axim Beach Resort. We arrived yesterday and I have already had five showers! I have already changed into my second clean shirt today! Escape Three Points had a charm but also had it's drawbacks ie. the wobbly walk up three big steps made with chunks of bamboo to the smelly compost toilet being only one of them. I do feel a bit guilty that it feels so good to have a real bathroom that has a shower and is clean and a real bed and air conditioning but this pampered Canadian had reached her limits. All is not perfect here though. Although, we got internet briefly yesterday afternoon, it hasn't worked since.

After breakfast this morning, and when it was clear that we wouldn't have internet, Jim and I set out on a path to walk to the town of Axim. Right at the start, Jim told me that there had been robberies mentioned in the guide book. I figured if there were enough robberies to write about them in the guide book then perhaps our walk to the village was a horrible idea. Despite this and despite the extreme heat, we carried on and made it safely to town.

Once we arrived in town, I knew that we were experiencing the highlight of the Ghanaian trip for me; seeing real life, doing real things. I didn't carry my paints, it being just too hot, and it was not possible to sneak my camera out of my pocket to get any photos, so I will try to share this morning with you in yet another word picture.

January 19, Ada Foah, Ghana

This word picture was written by the two of us while enjoying cold beer!

Jim: In Africa, thank god for cold beer.

         I'm married to an artist.

One is important to survive the other.

Joy: The adobe huts are brown and dusty.

People mend nets, bath and cook.

I smile, say hello and soak it all in.

Jim: My mother never made it to Africa.

.My father never made it to Africa.

My mother and father never drank cold beer.

Joy: Jim: Don't wreck that map.

Why are you carrying your pack?

What are you putting on sun screen for!

Joy: I am sorry.

Jim: Walking on the dirt road by fishing huts,

Wobbly legs, heat stroke coming.

"All inclusive". - cold beer

Joy: A buzzard circles overhead.

We are old enough to be fodder

Yet we savour the miracle of here.

Jim: Kelsey, Danica and Yolande like cold beer.

Jeffrey, Alex and Bryan like cold beer.

Would any of them like Africa?

Joy: "Tempt not your god fashions"

"Wait upon The Lord beauty salon"

"Annointed Peace and love; fish and fashion"

Is death the only way to an easier life?

February 2, 2016, Kumasi, Ghana

We are checked into a rundown hotel with internet in Ghana's second largest city but haven' t actually had any success hooking into the network. My apologies to all of you who are taking this trip with us vicariously. I will post when I am able.

Kumasi is a very busy city, teeming with smog, taxis, tro-tros and people. Since sellers take up what space there is along side the roads and the roads are all edged with huge open ditches, all of the delivery people, with wares on their heads, and all of the pedestrians are on the road dodging traffic. In cases where the traffic is gridlocked, it is quite safe. Today, we had several close calls. In one case, we and a few others, dodged into a woman's used clothing display to avoid being hit. Luckily she was quite nice about it. Since I am only able to take an hour or so in this overwhelming noise, heat and confusion, Jim and I have to regularly find a place in the shade selling cold beer. At the first of this trip, we each always ordered a giant beer. Now since I seem to require so many escapes from the reality of Africa, we just share one large cold Club beer, so that we can enjoy several escapes in a day. I don't even like beer at home, but here it tastes clean, cold, safe, quiet and absolutely delicious.

In India, we noticed the huge loads of stuff on the motorcycles and trucks. Here in Ghana, I am amazed at the huge loads carried on the tops of heads. We have seen sewing machines, big barrels, loads of disposable diapers, building materials, fire wood, refridgerators,, suitcases as well as the usual loads of food, water, pot scrubbers and shoe laces. I have many many photos of people (mostly women) with babies tied onto their backs and loads on their heads.

I haven't managed to make any sense of the viability of most of the small businesses. How many pairs of second hand shoes, old towels or pot scrubbers, would a person sell in a day?
I also don't know if the proliferation of Christian churches provides enough value for the money and time invested. We were in a small villages, last Sunday, when the many many churches were literally competing with each other to see who could broadcast the most noise. All of the churches have their own schools as well and instead of building cohesive communities, I have the feeling that these churches are divisive. It appears that allot of church hype comes from outside of Ghana. We have seen bill boards offering "Nights of Bliss", or " Miracles, Healing and Salvation" put on by foreign evangelists in huge stadiums. The majority of all of the small shops have Christian names; "Our Faith in God Car Repairs", "Rosary Radiators", "Only Prayer, Furniture and Construction", Anointed Peace and Love, Fish and Fashion". I initially thought the names were a bit funny, but now I feel sad that the historic African culture has been so compromised.

The Ghanian people are certainly it's biggest asset. They are very friendly bunch of people. We have only seen a few other "obrunis" (white guys) since we arrived three weeks ago. Almost everyone greets us, welcomes us, smiles at us and tries to be helpful, even if sometimes they have no idea what we are asking or where we might want to go.

February 24, 2016. Lake Bosontwe, Ghana

Lake Bosomtwe is Ghana's largest lake and was created by a meteorite more than million years ago. It is about an eight km diameter circle and more than 90 feet deep in places. Local legend has it that no metal can touch the lake. Hence the commercial fishing that goes on in the lake is done from long low wooden boats paddled by hand.

It is hotter here than ever before and Jim and I are wilting. Although some people swim in the lake, it may have bilharzia. We aren't taking that chance. We did go wading, but the sand getting to the water was so hot it was painful. Jim is determined that we will get accommodation with air conditioning at our next stop on the west coast. Cold showers provide temporary relief and cold beer is still a restorative.

We continue to enjoy the many manly colourful lizards that strut their stuff by doing push-ups to attract us and the smaller plainer females.We also love the crows that all appear to be wearing white undershirts and the many flycatchers with their long bills and a couple of very long tail feathers.

Word Picture
February 24, 2916, Ghana

The dry season is here.
Day after day of sunshine,
Day after day of heat.
Every little stream bed becomes dry.
Trees loose their leaves.
The land is brown everywhere.
The adobe houses with 
Their thatched roofs only amplify the 
Lack of colour.
Women wrap their bodies
In swaths of bright colours.
They are the splashes of 
Reds, yellows, greens that catch your eye.
After several months of dry, hot and brown,
There is a strong wind.
The sky darkens and rumbles.
The temperature plummets.
The rain begins.

February 15, 2016. Mole National Park, Ghana

Even the air seems to be holding it's breath.

We feel soaked in the stillness. 

A low sun struggles to poke through

The hazy hot sky.

In the distance; from lighter to darker,

Are bands of gray and brown foliage.

The occasional tree stands over the rest,

Not only taller, 

These sentinels are green.

In the foreground; brown flatlands

And two large water areas
 edged in bush.

Gradually, we hear whistles and coos.

Very tiny green birds play

On the sides of tree trunks.

Small rusty coloured birds

Pop in and out of tree holes.

A colourful red throated bird might be a parrot.

Fly catchers do figure-eights.

Herons and egrets swoop over the water.

A rustle of foliage
Is caused by playing monkeys.

Some groups of monkeys have small dark faces,

Some carry black babies on their bellies and seem to wear

Red jackets and fuzzy red toupees.

Small spotted African deer and Guinean fowl

Are just dots on the brown flatlands.

A crocodile is a long dark shape

Gliding through the water.

Suddenly, we are surprised to find a deer

Standing right beside us.

Then a large baboon sneaks up

And steals someone's sandwich.

We are not only watching 
But being watched.

The arid heat is just as intense

At 6 AM the next morning.

Now five black elephants

Play and bath in the pond.

Only when the 7 AM walking tour

Gets too close,

Do they give up their frolicking,

And plod in a line up the bank and into the bush.

On their way, they scoop up dirt

And shower it on themselves.

Their glistening black bodies turn brown.

Once the elephants have disappeared,

We again delight in the birds

The African chipmunks, the tiny lizards,

The monkeys and the deer.

One distant black dot seems larger and closer 

To the ground than a deer;

A pointed snout on a huge head,

Two small tusks,

Big eyes and prominent whiskers.

We realize that we are seeing

Our first wart hog in the wild.

Later as we sit reading and writing,

Both monkeys and warthogs surprise and delight us

When they appear within a few feet of us.

In the afternoon, we join a safari tour.

As I climb up into the old decrepit landrover,

I remember our landrover, "Cranberry;

Landrovers have aluminum bodies that never rust.

Unfortunately everything else on them 

Often refuses to latch or work,

This landrover is no exception.

As we bump and grind over a rocky trail,

Our armed guide answers questions:

All of the deer we have seen

Are really one of the seven species 

Of antelope that live in Mole Park.

Mole Park is 4500 square kilometres

And was started in 1971. 

There are four species of monkeys.

Our African chipmunk is really an African squirrel.

Mongoose are smaller than I imagined.

So are the crocodiles.

Although there are lions and other large cats in the park,

It is very unlikely that we will see one.

The same goes for all the poisonous snakes.

The beautiful bright green bird,

That I keep photographing,
Is a red throated bee eater.

Eventually, we spy one lone elephant.

We climb down from our land rover

And gingerly traverse the hundreds of rough elephant footprints

From the rainy season that are now cement hard.

When I think we are about 25 meters from our elephant,

Our guide advises us to never get closer than 50 meters.

I take dozens of photos of our elephant hidden in the bush;

An ear, a trunk, a tail, a tusk.

Suddenly our elephant steps out of the bushes.

His ears flap back and forth.

His truck swings in front tasting the air.

We lock eyes.

I make sure I get one great photo,

Before I leave him be.

February 8, 2016 Abetenim, Ghana

I am writing this to a background noise of a Pentecostal crusade. My thoughts about all this energy being used to drum up religious fervour has already been alluded to.

Saturday, I spent most of the day, trying to ignore all the kids around me while I designed the mural for the women's sewing co op. Our only table and chairs are outside so there was no hiding away. The kids desperately wanted my attention and to try my paints. They blew their horns in my face, leaned into me, pushed and shoved and made their little brothers cry so I would stop and pick them up and console them.They were just being kids, but I had to get this mural design done.

I am amazed at the toys the kids have made. A six foot long stick has a home made wheel nailed to the bottom, a small stick nailed to the top and it is "driven" everywhere. The remains of an old bicycle, that still has one front wheel provides hours of fun. A bike rim is rolled with a stick. Old rubber tires are rolled. Tiny plastic tubes, that could easily be choked on, make whistles. I am reminded of the kids in South America using old balloon bits as chewing gum. Here, I saw a little kid chewing on a plastic sandal. Any old piece of cardboard can be rolled into a horn and any pot or container can be drummed on.

We had borrowed the only meter stick in town from the school to measure our ten meter mural wall so I made a tiny paper ruler to be able to scale up the drawings. By late afternoon, I had colour drawings and the gridded base drawings done. We walked into the centre of the village where the building is. The new stucco seemed dry, so I started in drawing on it. New stucco eats pencil lead. Jim and I have never sharpened so many pencils into nothingness. There is only a narrow, uneven rim around the base of our wall and then the land slopes steeply down. Drawing and painting is tough. You definitely can't step back to look at it.

Yesterday, we headed to the mural site bright and early to get a full day of work in. Jim was put to work painting as well. We were very surprised when at 9 AM people started arriving for their 9:30 church service in the co op building! I was just hoping that someone had approved our mural work while this is still a church. Once the service was in full swing, we thought it prudent to stop work until.the service was over at noon. When we resumed work, I kept throwing up, so by 2:30 we had to quit. I thought maybe it was hunger because breakfast was just cake and pineapple. I am taking lots of new pills including the malaria pills, so I had some lunch hoping I would feel better. No luck here, I continued to throw up for the next 15 hours! And then the terrible runs started and a terrific headache. We are well stocked with pills for almost everything but Jim was worried and with out asking me, a doctor was called this morning. Yes, doctors still do house calls. The doctor diagnosed food poisoning and prescribed rest and liquids.

This mural is a huge project. It is something I have never done before and it is certainly something that was not in Jim's travel plans. Our time here will no doubt be the highlight of my trip. When ever I am away and sick, I am reminded of what a great fellow I am married to. He still loves me when I am feverish, cranky, barfing and have the runs! By lunch time, I felt that I had to get some work done, so off we set. Unfortunately, this time it was Jim who had to go back and lay down. Believe me, I felt like joining him but I stuck it out until 5:45 when I quit and walked back. It suddenly gets dark here at 6 pm. I definitely am not up to eating anything yet but I did manage a half bottle of a cold beer.

It is hard enough to be in this strange environment when you are feeling well. When you are sick, everything is much harder and we have it easy compared to the locals.. We don't have to haul our own water, or cook over an open fire. We watch everyone hauling large buckets of water on their heads, morning noon and night. The school kids drop off their buckets on the way to school so when the day is over they can fill them and carry them home on their heads. The stream is somewhere down the hill in the woods. We get three buckets of water delivered to our bathroom every day. Quite often, we have power and then we have running water to our bathroom! The schools, including the new Junior High, don't have any bathrooms, just a very rustic shed with a hole in the ground. I appreciate water like I never have before. We are also the lucky ones in that we can afford to buy drinking water. We ran out today and I was so dry that I drank my first bagged drinking water, instead of a distilled bottle. It was cold and delicious but may come back to haunt me.

February 28th, Elmina, Ghana

Yesterday, we visited the Saint George's Castle in Elmina. It was a departure point for slaves for hundreds of years beginning with the Portuguese in 1480. After three battles with the Dutch it was operated for another couple of hundred years by the Dutch and eventually sold to the English when slavery was no longer so lucrative. It is a world UNESCO heritage site. We had a fabulous tour with a guide, that left me sad and horrified. Definitely black Africans were very complacent in the slave trade so nobody is blameless. The governors of the castle had their church (Roman Catholic for the Portuguese and Protestant for the Dutch. They left there wives in Europe, came to Africa where they operated the absolutely inhuman business of raping slave women, and men and then selling them. One of the governors is buried in the castle and his tomb stone reads that he was hard working and god fearing and a great man. I certainly can't make any sense of this part of history.

Then this morning, we set off for Cape Three Points. We caught a tro tro on the highway going to Takoradi. I am still not recovered from Friday's horrendous driver so as we swerved around trucks on blind crests, I determined that I really hate travelling. Eventually we were dropped off, no where near a tro tro station but there were several taxis in view. A chap asked where we were going, and we thought he was a taxi driver and we set off walking, him with our two bags. Jim asked if he would stop on the way to the west going tro tro station at an ATM. Well we walked for about eight blocks, and by this time a woman and another man had joined us. Eventually we were across the street from a bank with an ATM. Jim went across to make a withdrawal. A beautiful woman dressed in orange whispered in my ear. "You are with a thief." I got both bags from the man who was attempting to cross the street after Jim and then a large Ghanian discussion broke loose. Everyone was arguing and shouting. I dragged the two big bags to a chair and refused to let anyone touch them. Of course everyone tried to be helpful but I couldn't be sure who was on the up and up. The beautiful woman in orange did give me a thumbs up and told me that a couple of other fellows were good men. Eventually another woman put her arm around me and said that stuff like this should never happen in Ghana. She would take us to the police and we would be safe. At the police station we filed a report and they were great. Eventually, Patrick, the policeman in charge, had a friend who drives taxi and got his friend to come and pick us up. This chap drove us for hours on horrendous ( and I mean unbelievably bad) roads to get to our destination! And now we are at Cape Three Point. The only weird thing about arriving here is that we are with all obrunis (white people).

February 19, 2016 Abetemin, Ghana

One day a week the villagers of Abetemin volunteer to help work on the schools! A few years ago they finished a junior high school so the villages children now are in school three years longer. Here the villagers are helping finish the new primary 1 and 2 school. It is already being used. 79 students and one teacher who must be a saint! 
Jim and I met with the village chief when we arrived in the village and before we left. I gave his mother, also a special person, one of Danica's necklaces. There can be no photos of the chief unless he is dressed in his royal attire.
And here is one short word picture

Word picture

A half dozen,

Tiny black children with lively eyes

And large white grins,

Play, wrestle, shout and shove

For an hour

In the dirt around my feet.

Their heads are all shaved short.

But I can tell the girls from the boys

By their clothing;

Little boxy dresses, or shorts.

They call me " obruni".

And beg for my empty water bottles;

Toys to drum on, throw and kick.

One small girl, 
maybe a year and a half old,

Who has never before

Walked on a plank over a ditch

Manages this feat,

No longer will she be carried on someone's back,

She is now one of the gang.

Maybe the gang has three year old in charge

But maybe not.

February 26, 2016, Elmina, Ghana

Hurtling down the road,

With our eyes closed,

And our hands clutched,

The taxi dodges pot holes,

Speed bumps, pedestrians

And other vehicles;

All at high speed.

Our young driver has his arm

On the open window.

His attention is on his cell phone.

It is a relief when we have to 

Stop at the frequent police checks

And pay the bribes.

We pass by other wrecked vehicles

That have been left where they crashed.

Every time our taxi swerves,

My adrenalin flows.

Every muscle in my body is screaming.

Jim reassures me that

It has been a good life.

When we enter a grid lock of traffic

In Asenboso,

I can finally lift my head and look around.

Boom boxes advertise, proselytize,

Or blare strong rock beats.

We inch by coffin makers,

And all of the hawkers.

Regrettably, soon we are through town,

And we are back at top speed,

Weaving, honking,

Passing on blind crests,

Or anywhere.

A black Honda SUV pulls in front of us

Forcing us to stop.

Men jump out and berate our driver 

For being crazy and dangerous.

They politely tell Jim and I 

To make our taxi
Drive more safely.

Now I am totally petrified.

January 17, 2016 Ghana

On the Trotro to Ada Foah

The Trotro bumps and rattles along

The dusty rough gravel road,

With its' occasional patches of pavement.

Clutters of windowless adobe houses with thatched roofs

Are a run with goats, chickens and small children.

Men wield pick axes, 

Nap on benches,

Or play road side checkers

Under woven grass shades.

Women wash, and cook.

They tend children and farm.

Their skinny brahma cattle eek out a living

On the flat parched land.

Smoke from burning grass fills the air.

A billboard offers a herbal miracle cure for asthma.

Dry ploughed fields

Are brown and empty

Except for intricate ant hills the size of houses.

Suddenly there is a splash 

Of road side colour.

Baskets of

Rich burgundy onions,

Sizzling red tomatoes

And glowing yellow melons,

Are crops for sale

From a rare irrigated patch of land.

January 16, Accra, Ghana

Having had two days in Accra, I felt I was now comfortable enough to sit out and paint. Jim walked me back to the shop where I had done all the little portraits on day one. The first thing that caught my eye was a stack of large empty blue water bottles with red caps. I set to work on a sketch as they were loaded one by one onto a truck. For my next sketch, I noticed the colours and shine on the glass pop bottles and their metal caps. I can feel the influence of the recent studio silver still life's; I am looking for the little details within instead of the bigger picture.  I am loving the oh too familiar logos of Pepsi, Coke, Nestles, Fanta. Now that an entire day has been spent on a quarter sheet watercolour of these pop bottles, I am already anticipating doing a large, super realism studio oil painting when we get home.

A new game was invented while I was sitting on the street painting today. Three tiny children were wrestling very very close to me. I kept anticipating that one would land on my lap. Often they completely blocked my view. Then I would wave them aside and when they obliged I said "Thank-you". Suddenly they were jumping into my view, waving madly, jumping aside and then shouting "Thank-you" over and over and over again.    

January 14, 2016 Ghana

Today, Jim woke me early. Seems his biological clock is already on a Ghanaian time. For me it was 3:30 AM., tooooo early! After breakfast we caught a cab into the centre of the old town and the State building. The head office for tourism was supposed to be behind the State building. The security police had a long chat about where the tourism office was. Eventually two of them drove us there. Definitely this office doesn't often get a tourist. The one brochure from 2012 was marked do not take. Then Jim and walked to the national museum. It doesn't really operate either. So we each had a beer in the museums shady restaurant. Then we walked to the museum of science and technology. We paid our 10 CDs and a guide showed us a phonograph, a television, a film projector, none of which were made in Ghana. We also saw the first tire made in Ghana in 1967 and a small stone from the moon. Then more walking in huge heat and we finally found the Ghanaian cultural centre. We found that it also does not operate but there were a zillion stalls selling drums, paintings, carving. Everyone was disappointed as I refused to buy anything and have to lug it for the next two month. I did get a great drumming lesson and stuff got cheaper and cheaper as I balked at paying 200 CDs for a tiny painting that I didn't like. Finally I gave Isaac five CDs for the drumming lesson and escaped and found Jim. We did have a good lunch and more beer in the cultural restaurant. Then we started walking again. We could see the water behind a huge garbage dump and Jim asked me if I wanted to go down the alley to see it. Of course I did. In the alley was a large group of partying people, mostly women, all dressed in their finest, drinking beer. A woman named Joyce asked us to join them. So of course we did. We inquired just what we were celebrating. It was a wake for their "uncle" Daniel, aged 57 a beloved business man. I gave Joyce (her Christian name, African name is something like jobaha) the necklace of Danica,s that I was wearing and drew her picture for her. Just even seeing the food and how it was eaten was great. First of all soap and water for hand washing. Then everyone got a bowl of veggies or fish and another ball of some doughy stuff. With the fingers the doughy stuff is picked up and then it is pitched around some of the fish or veggies. The casket went paraded by and we all cheered Daniel. A day that started off sort of dismal, ended up being wonderful. I am left wondering how you raise a nation to be truly friendly instead of afraid of strangers.

January 13, 2016 Ghana

After a long deep sleep, 

I wake suddenly

Surprised that I am in Africa.

From a window,

I listen to the coos of pigeons,

The screeches of parrots, 

The trills and whistles of a dozen little nameless birds,

Against a background of yipping dogs and playing kids.

A school bus rumbles to a stop in the rough dusty street.

It inhales clean black children 

Wearing uniforms in magentas, mauve sand blues.

Jim and I slide open two big metal hasps

On the gate in our wall

And join the ruckus.

We step over the

Open sewers that runs along the road's edges.

We dodge traffic with

Hens, chicks, and tiny puppies.

The gated adobe walls, mostly white,

Are topped with sharp metal blades, barbed or electric wire, 

Shards of glass

And occasionally azaleas or bougainvillia.

Women stride to work,

Draped in flowing cotton

That is colourfully block printed or batiked.

Their posture is ramrod straight.

Their shops are carried on their heads;

Huge bowls or baskets of bananas, eggs, or plastic juice bottles.

A stool or a baby is tied

On their backs.

One of their hands occasionally steadies the load on the head,

The other carries a money bucket,

Or drags along a child.

The next street is lined with metal shops,

Some are still locked shut

Others sell water, tins of soup,

Flour, crisps, rice,

Long yellow bars of soap,

And nameless square items

Wrapped in leaves.

Other shops offer ironing, washing

Sewing , car repairs, or telephones.

One moment we are choking on the smell of burning tires. 

The next moment, 

Our noses are lured to the stalls

Where delicious spiced plantain is being deep fried.

By eleven, the temperature is very hot.

We discuss having a beer.

Immediately a shop girl sets up rusty iron chairs,

A battered table 

And brings us two sweating cold beers.

I begin sketching;

First, the two sewers,

Hand turning their machines

In the shop next door.

Then the helpful exuberant Rita,

Then Grace and Michael.

After a not too heavy wall gets blown over

And whacks me on the head, 

I insist on stopping .

Joy's Blessing is still hopeful.

With a name like that,

Of course, I paint her too.

I drain my beer, 

Pack up my paints,

And we go next door to the sewers.

We choose the fabric, get measured.

Our African shirts will be delivered to us on Saturday.