Nova Scotia Artist, Joy Laking, posts ramblings while she's travelling and painting in South America.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Home Thunder rolls in the distance. The first drops of rain fall. In the haze, the sky meets the sea. Large sandstone cliffs frame the harbor. The tide is low. The tiny cerulean pools swell And the flats gradually disappear. In a few hours, the boats at the wharf Will float again. Fight in front of me, On a long stony peninsula, The light house just sits and waits; No light, no foghorn But it is at the ready. I am home. Back where I drink two cups of coffee With longtime artist friends. Back where Burt gives me flowers When I am treating myself to ice cream. Back where Joan at the Harbourview Calls me by name when serving my dessert An African favourite; fries with ketchup. I am home; where I am loved and cherished I am home where I love and cherish.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

February 20, 2016, Bolgatanga

February 20, 2016. This afternoon at Bolgatanga Market, Ghana Saturdays, 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. February 20, 2016, Bolgatanga Market, Ghana Saturdays, 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 and 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 sghady patches, Turaned women, In jarring colourful outfits And aprons, Sell onions tomatoes,greens, Charcoal, tyvek bags, Gourd bowls and tooth paste. The animals: Goats, cos 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 purchse 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

February 15, 2016, Mole National Park, Ghana

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 13. 2016 Tomale in the north of Ghana

February 13, 2016 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.

February 9, Abetemin, Ghana

February 9, 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 8. 2016 Abetenim, Ghana

February 8 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 2, 2016, Kumasi, Ghana

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.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Friday January 22

Friday, January 22

"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
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 waste
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,


Jan 19, Ada Foah, Ghana

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?

Jim: Obruni in Ghana,
        Black man in Canada.
        Both like old beer.

Joy: The setting is safe and shady.
        There is more cold beer.
        We are sucking up courage to return to heat stroke.

Jim: Is the black man from Canada
        An Obruni
        When he drinks cold beer in Ghana?

Thursday january 21

Thursday January 21, 2016

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.

Tomorrow, we are up at 5 am to walk to the ferry up the Volta. Every day is an adventure.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

January 18

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 support
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 18

Word Picture
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.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Saturday, January 16, Accra, Ghana

Saturday, 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 a 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.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Friday January 15 Ghana

Today, Jim woke me early. Seems his biological clock is already on a Ghanaian time. For me it was 3:30 AM., toooo 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 animated chat about where the tourism office was. Eventually two of them drove us there. Definitely the tourism office doesn't often get a tourist. 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, dressed in their finest, drinking beer. A woman  asked us to join them. So of course we did. 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 interesting 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 allied 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.

Thursday, January 14, Accra, Ghana, Africa

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 wire, electric fence, 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
And our African shirts will be delivered to us on Saturday.

Ghana, Africa January 15, 2016