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Welcome to Drake’s home. It sits on the far edge of Mwapona Compound, down a long dirt path only wide enough for feet. It’s quiet here. In the two room, mud brick house, you’ll find his mother—a high cheeked, sparkly-eyed, smiling woman in her 40s—and his older sister, who nurses her infant son. The two rooms are connected by a small patio, what might be considered a courtyard to his neighbors. The latrine in front is disguised by tall grass walls.
As you walk off of the
orange dirt path and into
the orange dirt yard, you’ll
see tomato plants heavy
with little green globes, and
when you compliment Drake
on how nicely they are
growing, he’ll tell you that
they aren’t as good as they
could be because they haven’t
had enough water lately.
You’ll remark that the other
cluster of tomato plants a
few feet to the right look
well-watered, and he’ll say,
yes, those aren’t too bad,
but they are not tomato plants.
“Impua,” he’ll say, and you’ll
ask him to repeat the word
a few times.
“Impua, like eggplant,
but small and yellow.
Come this way,”
he’ll motion to you, and you’ll
follow him a few feet along
the side of the house.
You’ll stop to look at the ground where two rows of straw lie tidily side by side, three feet in length. “These will be potatoes,” and then he’ll explain that he buried eye-covered potato peels, and he hopes they’ll sprout.
“How many potatoes do you expect to harvest?”
you may ask, and, if you do, he’ll laugh,
“I will know how many when I dig them up!”
His hen and her eleven chicks
come scurrying over the potato
patch, pecking at the heads of straw.
“Do they sleep here?” you might ask,
pointing to a little coop made of
maize sacks, resting on a low banana
tree branch. He’ll tell you that they
hide from the sun and take little
naps there, but “at night they sleep
inside, with me, so that they’ll be safe.”
When the chicks are mature,
he’ll sell them as meat.
Just below the banana tree, you notice a raised bed lush with sweet potato leaves. “Drake, who taught you to raise the bed like this?” He’ll stare back quizzically. “How did you know to raise the bed?” you might repeat.
He grins, “It is just the knowledge,” and laughs, shaking his head.
Walking past the sweet potatoes, you’ll see a few skinny stalks of sugar cane growing behind green pepper plants. The row of squash and onions will lead you to the backyard, where a small well occupies the left corner.
Drake dug this well by himself
and uses it exclusively to water
his vegetables. A pumpkin vine
curls up against the grass fence.
“All of this, Drake,” you might ask him
just before you leave, “all of this was
done by you?” He will smile so widely
that you can count his teeth. You see
his mother’s face peek around the
corner, and she nods.
“Yes,” he’ll respond proudly,
“this is my garden.”
“And how old are you?”
Drake will reply,
“12. I am in grade six.”