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.