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.