A Gambian Experience
By orangedream
Published: July 23, 2008
Updated: July 24, 2008

“Right!” I announce, full of gusto,
to a sea of wide-eyed faces,
bare feet scuffing scrubby ground
as they vie for make-shift desks,
nothing more than upturned tea-chests,
pens and pencils poised at the ready.
“What I’d like you all to do, is draw
a portrait of yourselves, then write your name,
so I can start to get to know you better.”
Dimpled toes court the dust. Pencils
hover in mid-air like bees over ox-eyed daisies,
hands frantically scratch heads, except one
that seeks my attention.

“Miss, here’s my picture, but the rest would rather draw
each other, if that’s all right?” asks one little dot.
The penny drops. “Why thank you,” I say,
delve in my handbag for my mirror. “Maisha,
look, come closer, I’ve something to show you.”
Maisha giggles, smiles ear to ear, a smile I observe
like the sun coming up, like she’d never
before seen her own reflection. “It’s better
than the river, Miss, no ripples. Say, Miss,
may I keep it? I’ll swap you for a biro!”
On reflection, I found myself thinking
of all those things we take for granted …
like having the time to be children.