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.