My experience living in a town in Northern Ghana was very different from life at home in rural Pennsylvania. Sometimes the best way to communicate my surroundings to friends and family back home was to draw it out. How else could I share what it felt like to fry potatoes and onions on my little gas stove in the evening, while spider eggs hatched in my kitchen and little brown baby spiders crawled to the tip of my Peace Corps water filter to take to the air?

Ink on Paper

Spider Night/Ink on Paper

One night every few months it would happen again, and my little bungalow would be filled with drifting baby spiders. Larger spiders would appear out of nowhere, running across the concrete floor and up the walls. It was Spider Night. The next morning they would all be gone, as if it had only been a grand Larium hallucination. But I knew it wasn’t. The Ashanti word for spider is Anansi, and everyone knows Anansi is a trickster.*

Outside it was sunny and calm. All of the neighbors were stopping by each other’s homes in the morning to greet or share news, perhaps a little porridge or rice for breakfast. Kids at home wrote and wondered if I had seen monkeys and lions. But the creature life I encountered in Ghana was quite a bit smaller. It was all step on or be stepped upon.


One of my favorite drawings done by one of my sixth grade students: Yams. Because of course they come in all different shapes and sizes.

Yams by Dorothy Dery P6/Pencil on paper

Yams by Dorothy Dery P6/Pencil on paper

*Anansi is the name of a West African folklore character, Anansi the trickster (known in the Southern United States as Aunt Nancy, he is also some kind of distant cousin to Br’er Rabbit). A good site by one Anansi artist, and the story of how Anansi came to America, can be found at: