Sunday, 9 November 2014

9.11.2014  A Delay
Hello readers, bad news I am afraid.  Steve has broken his foot and delayed our return to Gambia.  We should have been travelling this week, but we are on hold indefinitely until he is fully recovered from the break.  In the meantime please Like us on Facebook to get all the latest news. Gambian Schools Trust

Saturday, 26 April 2014

26.4.14 Saturday. Last Day of the Season

Always a sad time, and a time to reflect on the last 6 months.  We have been delighted that all 5 of our schools have been granted a Government Licence to operate and have been inspected regularly with good results and comments.  Jamwelly and Loumen are operating as Lower Basic Schools as well as a nursery and have Grades one (loumen) and one and two (Jamwelly) already operating.
I stripped the bed and covered it for the summer.  Breakfast with Steve and Kebba and then last minute jobs, the Blog, the accounts, and the CD of all our photographs over the winter to take back to the UK
This year we have had barely a week go by without friends, supporters or trustees of the charity (Christine B, Christine S and Linda) visiting the Gambia.  Some highlights this year:- student visits by both the girls and boys of Belle Vue School in England.  Delightful company and such hard workers, we had so much fun with you all.  Amy’s wedding – a first for the charity – I felt a bit like Cilla Black and should really have got a big hat!  Many many people who arrived as strangers, who contacted us through the website, but I hope went home as friends!  Thank you for all your presents for the schools.  Thank you to both Faith and Fiona who spent time in our schools imparting their considerable knowledge and introducing new techniques.  A treat for us was the visit of our friends James and Mel from Canada, thanks guys, never thought you would make it!  Also my sister, Gill, first time for everything.
Sorry I cannot mention everyone by name, but you know who you are.  Thank you to all supporters of the charity; large or small,  without whom the work here could not continue. A big thank you to the donor of the new truck, saved us hours at the roadside! and the garage!
Look out for the newsletter next month.
The Blog will be back in November, please feel free to add comments.

25.4.14 Friday. Our last meal with Kebba

Kebba went with Steve first thing to load all the remaining furniture into the truck to deliver to Ousman.  They then came back and I climbed in the front with the cat basket with CiCi on my knee.  Steve and I went into the vet and were astonished (as was Micha) to find that she had managed to remove all her stitches! They were certainly there first thing this morning, and must have been irritating her, but we now have to stop her climbing or jumping for the next few days.
On to Ousmans’ rented house in Fajara to unload the furniture, then to the shops for last minute supplies for the house, then the bank for the third time this week, then home for the afternoon. All of these small jobs take longer than you think!  the bank for example counts every note through a machine, the largest note here is worth less than £2 so a bundle is time consuming!
As our last farewell to Gambia we decided to do a last bird walk this afternoon, at Tanji, where a new visitor centre opened earlier in the year.  We drove down and paid our 35 dalasis fee and set off on foot; camera and binoculars at the ready.  The trees are almost bare now as we approach the rainy season, and despite being very quiet we saw only a squirrel and a handful of birds before making our way back to the centre.  Two red Colobus monkeys put in an appearance by the gate, but overall we see more birds in our garden!  November should be the time to come when everything is green again.
Tonight, our last this year, we took Kebba to Jewel of India for a curry, one of his favourite meals during his visit to England last year.

24.4.14 Thursday. Brikama College

After breakfast we set off to Brikama, via the bank, to pay for the college fees for our sponsored students on this years’ Early Child Development Course.  This year we have 6 students, 3 in their second year and 3 new ones.  We met Mr Korita, who is head of ECD and were pleased to hear that he personally had been to Kumbija to observe Deja and Lamin and was very pleased with their performance.  Fatou at Nemasu had been marked and observed by another lecturer but had also scored highly.  He came with us to the registrar where we enrolled this years’ batch and got receipts for them all.  We delivered some teaching resources for use by the whole college and then left for our next visit, Naata nursery to deliver summer essentials. Awa the wife of the caretaker opened the school for us, Ibraima is still recovering from his hernia operation.  We delivered the boxes into the classroom and then set off to visit Mr Sallah at home to deliver the receipts for the students for this summer.  We spent some time with Mr Sallah and then returned home for the rest of the afternoon.  The house is looking quite bare now with all the curtains down, the pictures off the walls and everything non essential packed away.  We checked on CiCi who is recovering slowly, still sleeping a lot, and then relaxed for the afternoon.
Neil’s bar tonight for the last quiz of the season, not many regulars today as most people have already left, but we were still in the money, albeit not first tonight!

23.4.14 Wednesday. Last day in Storeroom

We are still having problems getting our residents permit this year, they have run out of the material to make them!  This could be a problem at the airport when we leave on Saturday, so Steve went to see Ousman this morning who is arranging for our passport to be stamped to avoid problems.  Steve dropped me at the vet with CiCi who is still sleepy and has been sick a few times.  We called at the bank on the way home and then continued to pack away the unwanted items for the summer.  The humidity is 100% in the rainy season and spoils anything and everything which is not packed into plastic bags out of the way, so all curtains, towels and bedding have to be stored.  We are having a student visitor in July this year, so an exception has been made with the downstairs bedroom.  Kebba will meet James and bring him home for a few days until he joins Ousman for the rest of his stay.  James is studying politics and so spending time with Ousman is ideal for him to learn about the system here.
Then into the storeroom to meet the landlord, pay him the rent and then sort out any remaining items.  We always try and keep some of the essential items to give out before the container arrives, and this year is no exception, pens, exercise books, paper, chalk and pencils will be left handy to give out when we return.  Everything else has now gone except for a delivery tomorrow and some furniture which is going on Friday.  Sait came to help us and we swept out all the rubbish, pulled the remaining items away from the walls to avoid the termites, and made a pile of boxes with airbeds and mosquito nets in, ready for future visitors.  All this took the rest of the morning and some of the afternoon and left us thirsty and hungry, so we drove along to Neils’ bar for lunch and a cold beer.
Back home for the rest of the day, where we discovered that Sanaba had been and taken the dog back to Jamwelly already.

22.4.14 Tuesday. Vets, bank, Nemasu

Our Vet, Micha, opens at 8am and we were there first thing with Tiger and also CiCi our latest kitten, both for spaying, a routine operation.  Then off to the bank to meet Mr Jallow to hand over the wages cheques for the summer.  Our next call was Nemasu Senior Secondary School where we delivered the computers which Steve had prepared at the weekend.  This school has recently had a new block built for science and technology so was in desperate need of more computers.
Our last call today was Nemasu nursery to deliver the summer wages and 2 boxes of supplies needed to keep them going until our return.  Yunis met us at the gate and helped us unload a cupboard which we had brought for Abdou in classroom 3.  Mr Sallah arrived and we went through all the paperwork before leaving to return home.
We actually managed an afternoon off, and Steve got into the pool for a change!  A pleasant afternoon, before returning to the Vet to collect our animals.  Tiger was sleepy but fine, but unfortunately CiCi was quite poorly.  It would seem she was older than we thought and had been caught by one of the local tomcats.  Instead of being pregnant she had been given an infection and Micha had had to give her a complete hysterectomy.  He had kept all her ‘bits’ to show us how bad they were and they were laid out on the table, not something we expected!  He lent us a proper carrying basket to take her home with instructions to keep her quiet and bring her back tomorrow. 
This evening a new Quiz night at a different bar has been started to replace the one at the Courtyard which closed a few weeks ago, we decided to go along for the first night and were pleased to see all the regular faces.  Lots of banter as usual, a different quiz master, but we still won!! 

21.4.14 Monday Time running out

We always arrive and think we have plenty of time to do everything and then suddenly it is the end of April and time to return home.  So much more to sort out before we leave on Saturday.  Steve went to deliver some charcoal to Mr Jallow at home, whilst I sat and worked out the cheques for the summer for Naata and Nemasu.  Mr Sowe at Kumbija was given his last week.  Whilst we were in Jamwelly we arranged for Sanaba to bring Tiger down to be spayed this week before we leave, and so late in the evening he arrived with the pup.  We had to keep her locked in the downstairs bathroom as Buki really doesn’t like intruders and as he has already killed 5 goats and several chickens we didn’t want another incident!  She was as good as gold all night and very friendly considering she had spent all day travelling.  We watched TV with Kebba this evening before retiring.

20.4.14 Sunday. The last visitors leave

First thing this morning we went to Kotu to say goodbye to Rachel and Tanya, and then went to Senegambia to collect Anne and Steve and take them to the airport.  We arrived before check in opened and sat and had a drink in the foyer bar.  Tess and party arrived and so we were able to say goodbye to all our last visitors of the season.  Eventually they all checked in and we waved everyone off before returning home to relax for the rest of the day.

19.4.14 Saturday. Last night for Anne and Steve

Almost the end of the season, and the last night for Anne and Steve.  I spent the day catching up with the accounts after our trip, and packing more things up in the house. Steve finished sorting some of the computers we had been given to wipe the information from and then packing them into boxes ready for delivery next week.  Kebbas’ brother Alieu had arrived to visit last night and the two of them went off to visit a cousin in Brikama.  We spent the afternoon relaxing round the pool before changing and going to meet Anne and Steve for a meal at La Scala in Kololi.  This was our first visit to this restaurant and we were not disappointed.  Whilst there we met Rachel and Tanya who were also on their last night and they joined us after the meal for a drink and a chat. 

18.4.14 Friday. Birds and more birds

Our boat trip had been booked for 7.30am and after a quick breakfast our guide met us and escorted us to the boat for the crossing into the National Park Wetlands.  This area is teeming with birds and we were all able to take photographs and see many different kinds of birds diving for fish, a small crocodile and hundreds of the fiddler crabs. The trip lasted about 2 hours before we returned to the camp to pack up and leave to return to the tourist area of Kololi.
A 3 hour hot drive and then we dropped Anne and Steve at their hotel and went home where we were able to have a swim to cool down after the journey.  Tonight is the last night for Ellie and Rhona and we met them as arranged with Tess and the others at Cabanas for dinner and cocktails.  A pleasant evening and our last at this bar for this year. 

17.4.14 Thursday Jamwelly, Sinchu Njabo and Tendaba bird camp

We had some shopping to do this morning in Kaur, Sanaba is coming on Sunday to start some modifications to the kitchen, building a verandah/porch to enable the cooks to prepare the food outside in the rainy season.  They have a very large cooking pot here which will not fit onto the oven inside and so a small fire is built outside, and the cooks prepare the rice here.  We had breakfast in the local café (a corrugate shack with wooden benches) and then organised a donkey cart to take Channeh, the cement, wood, corrugate and other purchases back to the school whilst we got on the road to Sinchu Njabo our next stop.
2 years ago Beechdale Solar Energy installed a system here to power a computer room in the school.  There is a problem with it at the moment, so Steve was going to try and get it started again.  Anne and I sat in the shade whilst both Steves worked in the small classroom where the solar batteries are kept.  Mr Sowe came to meet us and to collect all the wages cheques for the summer, along with paperwork and other items which had been requested.  The first attempt at getting the system started failed and so we moved into the shade of the mango tree as the sun had reached our original position.  We said goodbye to Mr Sowe until November, and then eventually the solar system restarted and we were able to get on the road once more, passing through Loumen with a small delivery and then onto the main road where our holiday started! Through Farafenni and onto the ferry terminal where fortunately we had our priority letter to hand; from no traffic on Tuesday, the Senegalese drivers had once more decided to drive through Gambia and use the ferry and a queue of about a kilometre had formed.  We were able to drive to the front of the queue and board on the first ferry to arrive, a wait of about an hour in the searing heat.
Once across the river we had a drive of around an hour before reaching Tendaba camp where after checking in our first thought was a swim and a cold beer!  We met up with Tess, Alan, Vlad, Paul, Ellie and Rhona who had arrived earlier today, had a nice cold drink before dinner and an early night ready for another boat trip tomorrow.

16.4.14 Wednesday Janjanbureh and Jamwelly

We were all awake early, the donkey, chickens and dogs saw to that!  We got up and arranged with Sanaba to go to Janjanbureh (Georgetown) for breakfast and a tour round the old slave market and to see where Annes’ father was stationed in WW11.  Steve drove us to the ferry crossing and we all had breakfast in a local café before leaving the car and crossing by small boat to the island of Janjanbureh.  Sanaba went to organise a local guide, when he arrived we knew him from various programs we have attended where he was the local drummer and griot.  The island was used during the slave trade for keeping slaves in a large house with an underground prison, and from there they were taken to the market for sale.  There are still chains in the walls showing where they shackled the more troublesome slaves.  We listened to the history, visited the Governor’s house, and then the freedom tree in the centre of the town.  It was nearly time for our boat trip, so we returned to the river and once again crossed in a small boat, this time landing back on the mainland and then driving back to Kuntaur where we found our boatman waiting for us.  We climbed into the boat which fortunately had a roof, and set off to see the local wildlife.  We had only been going about 10 minutes when Sanaba spotted a hippopotamus in the water.  We could only see his ears and the top of his head, but we were all excited and taking lots of photographs.  Of course these animals are very dangerous and the boatman would not take us any nearer, so we kept at a safe distance before moving off into the National Park area where we collected our guide for the rest of the trip.  There are several islands in the middle of the river Gambia, some of which have been made into a Chimpanzee sanctuary.  Visitors are not allowed on these islands, but the guide was able to make the sound of the animal and the largest and oldest of these Chimps came down to the riverbank long enough for us to see him and take more photographs.  More hippos appeared at a distance and lots of birds and other monkeys were seen on our journey back.  Just before reaching the landing point we saw our original hippo, and as the tide had gone down we were able to see more of him this time.  Back on dry land we made our way back to Sanabas’ compound for lunch before loading the truck and setting off back down to Jamwelly for our second night.  The weather is still incredibly hot in this area and we were all glad to reach Kaur and get a cold drink.  We called in at the Lower Basic School to see the library which now has a sign painted over the door. “Belle Vue Boys Proud to Care”  On to Jamwelly to be met once more by Channeh, Musa and Tiger the dog.  We got our sleeping things ready for the night and were able to open some windows so we all got a breeze to help us sleep.

15.4.14 Tuesday. Off to Kuntaur!

An early start this morning, we collected Anne and Steve from their hotel and set off through Brikama to the south bank road and the trip up to visit Sanaba and his family at home.  The road was clear, and no queue at the ferry, a short wait during which time we bought material for Gill to make into things to sell for the charity.  The ferry arrived and we got straight on and had to wait for the ferry to fill up! A real novelty.!  We arrived in Farafenni and went to buy two mosquito nets for Sanaba and uniform material for Jamwelly.  Fully laden we set off east on the road to Jamwelly to collect Channeh to take her home for the holidays, she had rung for a lift as she has large bags of rice and cous to take home to the family.  We arrived at the school and pulled into the playground to be met by Musa, the caretaker, and Tiger, the small dog we rescued a few weeks ago.  She is growing fast and is very friendly, the pupils are learning to look after her.  Channeh met us and then informed us that she had been asked to stay at the school until Saturday as the President is visiting the area sometime this week and all the pupils have to go to Kaur to line the road when he passes.  We left Channeh there and got back on the road to Wassu to buy rice and then on to Kuntaur to stay with Sanaba.  The weather was incredibly hot, 46 degrees and we were all struggling with the heat, so when we arrived Anne and I went to lie down for a while, leaving both Steves to meet and chat with the family.  Muhammed, Sanaba’s son (who has grown about a foot since we last saw him) entertained them until his father arrived home.  We had asked Sanaba to arrange a boat trip on the river for us on Wednesday morning, and so when it cooled down slightly for the evening we drove on the road through the rice fields down to the river to negotiate a price for the trip.  This area benefits from an irrigation project to keep the rice fields wet all year round, enabling them to grow more than one crop of rice per year, so it was all still very green and many people were out planting out the newly grown shoots.  We were met at the river by lots of the local children and the boatman, who showed us his boat and gave us his price for a trip at low tide tomorrow. Having successfully arranged the fee for the boat we returned to Sanaba’s compound to shower and get ready for the evening meal.  Halima, Sanaba’s wife had cooked fish and rice for us and we sat and ate with Sanaba before retiring for the night.  The house we were staying in is a guest house in the compound, and belongs to Sanaba’s brother, it has a sitting room and 3 bedrooms, separated by curtains and is built from red fire bricks, which maintain the heat, not such a good thing in 46 degree heat!  None of us slept very well, Steve managed 4 straight hours, being tired after the driving, but the rest of us were restless and hot!!  Still it spared the others from my snoring.

Monday, 14 April 2014

14.4.14 Monday. Busy day

Lots still to do before we leave in just under a fortnight.  First job today was to go to the bank to draw out the money needed to transfer to the other bank for Mr Sowe.  Unfortunately we arrived before the money from head office and so we needed to go to the other branch at Kairaba avenue.  Second job was to take the dogs to the vet for their annual injections.  Our vet, Micha, has a practice on the road to Kololi and is also involved in the animal charity who organises the boat trips; so it was no surprise to arrive and find cages outside with 3 local stray dogs waiting to be neutered. There was also a very cute kitten waiting to be adopted, but we decided that 5 cats in the house was enough.  From the vets we then went to finish the banking chores, do some shopping and call at the craft market to collect something for Christine.  Home for a quick sandwich and then on to the storeroom to load up the truck for our last visit up country starting tomorrow early. All loaded up, the truck was roped down and we returned home to relax for the afternoon.

13.4.14 Sunday. Wrestling for the visitors

Every Sunday there is a wrestling match organised at Sangyang beach for the tourists.  Gill, Shaun and family with Anne and Steve went there for the day.  I spent the morning sorting out all the wages and other payments to be made over the summer in our absence.  Meanwhile Steve was checking the last few computers from the storeroom to ensure that they are working and 'wiped' of all personal information.  The accounts get more complicated by the banking system here.  Banks for some reason cannot do standing orders to other banks; Mr Sowe from Kumbija cannot cash Access bank cheques at any other bank and so we have had to sort out a second bank account just for him, with a branch in Farafenni to save him travelling 100 miles to cash the cheques.  Everything organised, all cheques written, payslips arranged in envelopes and the accounts up to date. We got changed and went to meet Tess, Alan and party who arrived at the airport at 2.30pm and so we went up to their apartment to discuss arrangements for this week with them.  Everything sorted, we enjoyed a nice cold drink and then returned home to get changed for dinner.  We met Tess and party at GTS and whilst we waited for our meal we watched a very entertaining video put together by Belle Vue Girls about their visit in February.  During our meal our other visitors arrived and sat behind us, regaling us with tales of the wrestling and their visit to Sangyang this afternoon. Stephanie had apparently managed to beat the largest wrestler by putting him on the floor.  (her mum thinks it was fixed! - there's a surprise)  A pleasant evening and then home.

12.4.14 Saturday. Charity boat trip

Omar came for us just before 9 this morning and we set off to Kololi to collect Ellie and Rhona and Anne and Steve to go on the charity boat trip from Denton Bridge.  Every few weeks the charity books a boat and arranges a 'lazy day' cruise.  The weather this morning was very cold, and we dressed for the occasion with wraps and a fleece jacket.  We arrived at the boat and went upstairs to get settled for the day except  my Steve who opted to stay downstairs with his book to relax for the day.  The boat got underway, some of us booked massages or pedicures, part of the entertainment on board.  Breakfast was served and we warmed up with a nice cup of coffee.  The sun obliged by coming out later in the morning and then it was hot for the rest of the day.  I had a pedicure, as did Ellie, Steve W had a massage and before we knew it dinner was served.  A lazy day all round we returned to Denton Bridge to find Omar waiting for us at 5.30pm.  A quick trip home to change before driving up to Yashmina to meet everyone for our evening meal.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

11.4.14 Friday. A full house BBQ

As there are several visitors here this week we had decided to have a BBQ this afternoon, so after breakfast Steve went off to buy some fresh items, leaving me to prepare the meat. Kebba was hard at work cleaning the outside furniture of all the dust which accumulates here.  Steve returned, dropped off the salad items and then went to take Ibraima to the clinic once again to have another check up after his operation.  I prepared all the salad items and then got changed to wait for the guests.  Steve returned and set up the BBQ just before Anne, Steve, Shaun, Stephanie, Gill and Shaun arrived in Omar's minibus along with Rachel and Tanya; a little earlier than the half two agreed time. Omar had brought the metal boxes last night, Anne and Steve were amused to see that the red boxes we had ordered had arrived as green ones with red crosses on all sides!  Still they will do the job, we are taking them to all our nursery schools except Naata as they have a box from a medical charity which tops it up every year for them.  The minibus was unloaded, lots of drinks appeared, Shaun had brought me a box of chocolates, a rare treat, everyone got settled with drinks and a seat in sun or shade just as Pat and Brian arrived with their friends Graham and Yvonne.  Kebba came back from his friends and was asked to show his photographs from England to everyone, before he disappeared to watch football.  Everyone got to know each other, Steve and Pat braved the pool, alcohol was consumed, and eventually the food was ready.  Wed all enjoyed the food and then Steve W suggested grilled bananas with honey as dessert which went down very well.  We all mingled and chatted until the sun started to go down and the temperature dropped, we moved inside for hot drinks and listened to Shauns' tales from school before everyone went home around 9pm.  A very pleasant and friendly afternoon.

10.4.14 Thursday Serekunda Market

We are keeping Omar busy this week, once again he called at the house at 9 this morning.  Steve was going to Kotu to collect Rachel and Tanya who wanted to visit a school, he took them to Nemasu nursery and Senior Secondary school, we loaded the truck with uniform material for the nursery and some sports equipment requested by the senior school.  Omar and I met everyone else at Yashmina and set off for Serrekunda for the market. The first stop was at the Batik factory where Shaun's famous negotiating came into play and several souvenirs were bought and also some tie dye trousers for 3 of us for our up country trip. Anne had brought some money from England to pay for something useful for the schools and so we asked Omar to find us some metal boxes to use for First Aid items for the nursery schools, we followed him through the streets past shops of all kinds eventually finding a welder man who made that kind of box. All the ones he had in the shop were at least double the size we wanted, but he agreed to make 4 for us this afternoon and to paint them red with a large white cross on the top. A deposit was left and arrangements made for Omar to collect them later.  We then went into the market where more of Shaun's negotiating came in very handy for buying jewellery for resale and souvenirs for everyone.  A busy morning and we returned to the minibus with all our purchases.  Next stop a pharmacy for Anne and I to buy the items to fill the boxes.  We had a list of requests from Loumen and tried to buy several of each requested item, we cleared the shop of iodine (they only had 5 small bottles) took most of their bandages and dressing pads and cleared out their small plasters.  (they only had 4 packets with 3 in each)  Everything totted up and receipted, they filled a cardboard box for us and we returned to the minibus before driving a short distance to another pharmacy and repeated the exercise for the items we were unable to get enough of the first time.  Omar then dropped me at Neils bar to meet Steve and to check that they were having a quiz this evening, we loaded the medical items into our truck and then waved the others off till later.  After lunch we returned home for the afternoon.  Neils bar this evening, Anne and Steve joined us for the quiz, it was quieter than normal as many of the ex-pat community have returned home already, so just 3 teams tonight.  This week we came first and when we announced that our winnings would go to the charity, one of the other teams donated their winnings as well, so another 1000 dalasis for the pot. 

9.4.14 Wednesday. Nemasu

Once again we had Omar collect us from the house this morning.  We headed to the storeroom and loaded up with some things for both the nursery and the Senior Secondary school at Nemasu.  We arrived at the meeting point at Yashmina where everyone was waiting for us, and then set off to visit the nursery.  We arrived and unloaded the boxes  and delivered them to Mr Sallah.  As this is the last week of term the pupils were all playing in the playground, skipping and playing ball.  They had end of term tests last week and so are having more sport this week.  We left Anne, Steve, Gill, Shaun, Stephanie and Shaun to organise some sport exercises and we went to the Senior Secondary School a short way away.  When we arrived the head teacher was in the playground waiting for an exam adjudicator and didn't realise it was us as we were in the minibus.  We had brought some reading books, graph paper and art materials for them.  He wanted to show us that they were using the computers which Steve had delivered on a previous visit and we went to the room which they have changed into a computer room to meet some of the pupils and the IT teacher.  They are having exams this afternoon and so were busy preparing for them.  They were very proud to show us that they are using everything donated, including a game of scrabble to improve their spelling.  After taking some photographs we left and returned to Nemasu nursery to collect the others.  We got Omar to drop us off at home as we had to go into Banjul this afternoon.  In February we had been into the immigration office in Banjul to obtain our residents permits where we found that they had run out of the plastic material to make them, we have been waiting ever since, but we are assured that they are now ready.  We arrived at the office, found the right section, only to be told to come back next week!  Determined not to waste the trip into the capital we went to the material store and bought the uniform material for all 5 nursery schools for their September intake of students.  Back home we relaxed for a sort time before going to Kololi where we had arranged to meet them all again to enjoy a curry at Jewel of India.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

8.4.14 Tuesday. A new project for next year

Omar arrived with the minibus at 9 this morning and we went to the storeroom to collect some more of the boxes that Gill and Shaun had sent, this time for the prospective site for the new library.  We arrived at Yashmina where we had arranged to meet everyone and were met by Shaun and Steve, we had to go to the hotel for the others as yet more things needed to be put in the minibus.  All loaded up we squeezed in between all the boxes with Steve W stood between boxes in the back. We drove the few miles to Naata nursery to visit with Mr Jallow and look around the school.  There have been a few changes since their last visit as we have added new toilets and a storeroom and made some improvements to the kitchen.  The pupils were all hard at work in the classrooms and we watched for a while as Steve was having a meeting with Mr Jallow.  We unloaded some gifts and stayed until the end of breaktime, then went the short distance to Kunkajang Basic Cycle School just along the road where most of the pupils from Naata graduate to.  This is a large school, 1200 pupils in the Upper section alone and has very few facilities, including no library.  We introduced Gill and Shaun to the senior teachers and the deputy head and let them explain what they would like to donate next year.  The staff were delighted and took them on a tour round the school to enable them to take photographs; including one of the football team newly kitted out in Newcastle United strip this morning. We stayed for about an hour and then as it was lunchtime we all got back in the minibus, plenty of space this time without the boxes, and went to Poco Loco for a relaxing lunch.  After lunch they all decided to walk back to their hotels on the beach, and so we walked up to the main road and caught a taxi back home for the rest of the day.  No power at all this afternoon and evening, and so we had to have the generator on once again to watch the tv.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

7.4.14. Monday Fantastic news from Walbottle

Anne and Steve had decided on a relaxing day today and so we were at home getting ready to travel up country tomorrow when Gill contacted me.  We had been saving some of their boxes for them in the storeroom and they wanted them at the hotel so 'Santa' Shaun could give some things away.  We arranged to meet them at Yashmina for lunch and quickly went to the storeroom to load up the truck.  We arrived at the restaurant, greeted our friends and then sat down for lunch, Anne and Steve joined us so the 6 of us caught up on all our news.  Shaun junior and Stephanie had decided to stay round the pool at the hotel.
Fantastic news from Walbottle Campus, the school where Gill and Shaun work in Newcastle, Mr Sampson the head teacher has pledged to raise money again this year and would like to fund a second library here in the Gambia!   So change of plan for tomorrow, we will visit a local school who we know need a library.
We all lunched together and then we drove down to their hotel and unloaded all the boxes into one of their rooms.  Steve had to go to take Ibraima to the clinic for his stitches out this afternoon, so we made arrangements for tomorrow and then left them for the rest of the day.
Steve dropped me at home to continue sorting the house out and went off to collect Ibraima for the clinic. He returned home a couple of hours later and explained that the nurses were delighted to see Ibraima fit and well as it was a close run thing with the operation, his intestines had started to be strangulated, if we had left it any longer he may have died.  He was a lucky man.
We spent the rest of the evening at home.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

6.4.14 Sunday. New Arrivals

Only 3 weeks to go until we return to the UK, so lots to do in the house to get ready for the rainy season.  The humidity causes many things to go mouldy if they are not packed away in plastic bags, so today I started the job of putting away all curtains from the bedrooms not being used again before we leave.  All the spare towels, sheets and blankets also need packing in plastic and putting away in our big bedding chest out of the harmful atmosphere.  Steve was busy doing maintenance on some of the taps which have come loose over the last months and making sure that his vegetable plots in the garden were weeded and cleared of the last produce.  Our Avocado tree has blossom on this year for the first time, so hopefully we will get fruit next year.  Anne and Steve were due to arrive at 2.30 and so we got changed and went down to the airport to meet them, arriving just after the plane landed.  The luggage stowed in the back of the truck we drove them to their hotel and waited on the terrace whilst they checked in and had a quick change in their room.  We enjoyed a couple of drinks whilst we caught up on the news from home and collected our post which they had kindly brought out.  We arranged to meet for dinner and returned home for a short rest and change before collecting them at their hotel.  We walked next door to their hotel to try and contact Gill and Shaun who also arrived today, but had no luck, we must have missed them.  We decided to take Anne and Steve to Cabanas,  it was already dark when we arrived, so no seaview tonight, but we still enjoyed a drink and a meal before returning home.

5.4.14 Saturday. Garage and Store.

Steve took the truck to Musa today for a full service, I went back to the storeroom yet again to tidy the last few things.  I was busy sweeping up when Madi Jatta arrived, he had seen the door open when passing and so decided to call and see us.  Steve was still at the garage, so Madi and I chatted and he took some books for his children.  Kebba came and helped me move some of the heavy tables and we made a stack for Sanaba for us to take towards the end of the month.  I made up a small bag of things for our neghbours’ children and returned home for the rest of the day.  Steve arrived home with prawns for dinner, so he cooked tonight.  Tonight no power cut! So we were able to watch both the news and a film.  Gambia has closed its’ borders to people from Guinea, as has Senegal, so to put your minds at rest the chance of the virus reaching here are very slim, and yes we would come back early!

4.4.14 Friday Storeroom again

We are determined to get to the bottom of the stuff in the store, lots of things which are unsuitable for schools are left now, so we are busy trying to find homes for individual items. We spent over 3 hours moving and packing things, and then went to Neils’ bar for a late lunch, taking with us several board games and lots of adult reading books, murder etc more suited to the ex-pat community than the pupils at school.  We have run out of pencils this year, so must try and bring more next time.  Lunch over we returned home to relax.  Another power cut tonight, just after 7pm.  This time we decided to put the generator on to watch the rest of the film, which had become more of a serial!

3.4.14 Thursday. Storeroom

The storeroom stills needs some things sorting and removing, so Steve and I went round first thing this morning.  We had a few boxes of books left so we packed them into the truck and Steve took them down to Brufut Lower Basic School for their library.  I stayed in the store until Steve came back and we sorted some furniture out for Sanaba as promised.  There are still a few boxes to sort, and lots to condense so we will be back tomorrow.  We returned home for the afternoon to relax, I think old age is creeping up as we need to relax more!  Ousman arrived around 3pm and took the rest of the boxes for the hospital and clinic which Chris and the others had left in our bantaba. He is going to Farato early in the morning and taking his prospective second wife to meet the rest of the family.  Tradition here, but still alien to us, Ousman tells us that everyone is happy about it, but we know different. 
My turn to cook tonight, and then the end of the film we started to watch last night.  After watching the news, especially about the progress of the Ebola virus that many of our family and friends are worried about, and would like us to return home early, we put the film on just as the power went again!  We are told that the Gambia is waiting for a shipment of oil to power the electricity, and so it is being rationed at the moment, it had been on all day today, I would prefer it on in the evening, so off to bed early again, we are getting a lot of sleep! Fortunately we have lots of torches!

2.4.14 Wednesday. Roscoe family last day.

Everyone was up and packing this morning for the flight home.  Omar arrived about 10am, Steve and I followed in the truck and we made our way to Naata for a visit on the way to the airport.  We all went into the school, except Steve who went to visit Ibraima to see how he was after his operation.  Mr Jallow had gone to visit one of the parents of a child who was ill, Abi was at the clinic, so we met with Abdoulie and Momodou who were teaching.  Just as we were leaving Mr Jallow returned and was able to meet everyone before we left for the airport.  Steve stayed behind to get the wheelbarrow mended and we all went with Omar to Yundum.  Omar parked up and helped with the luggage, before saying his goodbyes to the family. Just as we arrived at the door to check in, Steve caught us up, the Roscoes checked in and then we all went upstairs to the restaurant to have a last meal together before the flight arrived. Once they had all gone through to passport control, Steve and I went to do some shopping before returning home for the evening.  Kebba had gone out to watch some football and so we decided to watch a film for the evening, it had just started when the power went off, and so it was an early night for us.

1.4.14 Tuesday. April Fools Day

I noticed on the Internet this morning that according to reports a large hole had developed on the set of Coronation St outside the Rovers’ return.  It hadn’t occurred to me that this might be a joke, and hadn’t realised the date until Gordon was also caught out in a family joke.  He was relaxing by the pool when Alice ran out to tell him that Tess’s boyfriend had sent a photograph of an engagement ring and a proposal of marriage on her phone. Gordon was delighted and ran in to congratulate her only to be told it was an April fool.  Still, maybe next time?
As it is the Roscoes’ last day they have decided to go to the market in Serrekunda today and do some shopping to take back to the UK.  Omar called for them and they set off for the day.  Steve and I spent some time sorting things in the storeroom before returning home for the afternoon. Everyone came back late afternoon after completing their purchases and having lunch, albeit without Ousman who didn't turn up.
We all got showered and changed for the evening and went to the ‘village’ where we had cocktails at Reos’ and sat outside (despite the very cold wind that had sprung up) as football was on the TV inside the bar with lots of noisy viewers.  Drinks over, we made our way to the Morrocan restaurant for dinner where Ousman joined us for the evening.

31.3.14 Monday. Oh what a circus!

Gordon and family were spending the morning in the school, meeting the pupils and teachers, some of whom were not there on their last visit.  We had promised to take Sambas wife to the hospital in Farafenni this morning.  When we visited Ousman’s family yesterday Fatou also needed to go to the hospital and so we set off with Omar driving to Farato to collect Fatou.  On arrival she was almost ready changing into her best outfit, and I asked her sister in law to come with us to translate, but she explained that the other sister in law and the baby were coming with us as she was not feeling well.  We set off for Loumen and then collected another lady waiting for us on the road who was also going to the hospital in Farafenni.  By the time we reached Loumen to collect Mrs Samba, we had 3 ladies and a baby in the back of the minibus.  Mrs Samba was ready, also in her best outfit, Samba came along to translate and so it was with a full minibus that we made our way to the large hospital in Farafenni.  On arrival at the hospital Mr Cham, a friend of ours, was waiting for us and escorted Fatou, Samba and Mrs Samba to the correct area for their examinations.  We didn’t have long to wait for the doctor who was completing his ward rounds.  There are several doctors here from Cuba who have come to offer technical assistance and training at the hospital.  The rooms were very clean and both Fatou and Mrs Samba were examined by a Cuban gentleman.  Fatou was sent for tests, whilst Samba’s wife was sent back out to us with a letter and instructions to return after she has had her baby, not the outcome we wanted as she really could do with an operation. We made our way to the pharmacy for the prescriptions to be filled and then waited for Fatou and her sister in law so we could return to Kumbija.  Everything takes time here and so it was later in the morning when they returned, in the meantime we had gathered 3 more ladies and 2 more babies to travel back to the village.  This meant that there was no room in the minibus for Steve and I and so we decided to wait in Farafenni and get some breakfast whilst we waited for Omar to deliver all the ladies to their respective villages and then collect Sharon, Gordon and the family for our journey back to the Kombos.  We waited with Samba who had also decided he had business in Farafenni, and had breakfast together at one of the roadside stalls.  We had arranged to meet Omar at Eddie’s hotel and so we took our leave from Samba and made our way to the hotel for a cold drink and to use the facilities before Omar arrived.  We didn’t have long to wait before everyone arrived and we could join them in the minibus for our journey home.  The ferry was very very busy and we had to find someone we knew to help us board one of the earlier boats, to enable us to cross.  We had decided to stop at Kalagie for a cold drink and something to eat.  Last time we stopped here they took ages to cook chips, and so I rang ahead as instructed and ordered omelettes and chips.  There must be a happy medium somewhere as despite telling them how long we would be the meal was ready for us when we arrived, but totally cold!  Still it was tasty and we managed to eat and drink before setting off on the rest of the journey.  By the time we got back it was late in the afternoon, we were all tired and very dusty, so after a shower we had a take-away pizza and spent the evening playing the dice game.

30.3.14 Sunday. Kumbija

Breakfast at 7am, and on the road for 8am.  The journey to Soma took just over an hour and then we had to wait at the ferry for nearly 2 hours.  The Senegalese traffic has started to build up again and there was quite a queue.  We arrived in Farafenni and bought buckets for the school, and then Tess, Alice, Jack and I went shopping in the market for vegetables for dinner tonight.  Steve and the others went along to the supermarket to buy rice.  All purchases made, we met with Mr Sowe who followed us back to Kumbija to the school.  This is Gordon and Sharon’s first visit since we put the wall around the rest of the playground, so it was a different view for them today. The wall is good for security, but it means that we can no longer see the villagers about their daily business of fetching water and leading the animals out to graze.  The weather is getting hotter now and so after a meeting with Mr Sowe about the progress of the school we all relaxed in the shade for the afternoon until it cooled down about 4.30pm.  Into the minibus with Steve driving we went  round to Farato to visit Ousman’s family.  We had taken bubbles and balls and so all the children played for an hour or so before we went outside to look at the new machine. Sharon had raised money last year for a milling machine which has been installed in a shed outside Ousman’s compound and is used every afternoon for milling millet, maize and cous.  Alagie from Kumbija operates the machine and ladies from the surrounding villages bring their cereals to be ground into flour.  The ladies from Farato are running this as a business and are hoping to save enough money to pay for some of the children to go on to further education.  Alagie arrived and started the machine, which was very noisy, ladies and young adults started to arrive with bags and bowls of cereal and the work began.  Lots of photographs were taken as the flour was produced and the customers made their way home.  We then said our goodbyes to the family and made our way back to the school for the evening where we all had a shower before Alagie arrived with the dinner.  The ladies of Farato had donated chicken for our evening meal and two bowls of food arrived as Tess is vegetarian and she got her own dinner.  Dinner over, we sat and chatted before retiring for the night.

29.3.14 Saturday. Set Settal

Change of plan again today.  We were going to set off early but then discovered it was ‘clean up day’ which means of course that we cannot drive until after 1pm.  The time of the journey to Kumbija depends entirely on the queue at the ferry and so we decided to break the journey and stop at Tendaba Bird camp tonight for a change.  We all spent the morning relaxing after packing for the trip.  Omar arrived just after 1pm and we loaded the minibus and then set off, with a quick stop at the builders’ merchants for 5 padlocks for Loumen as requested.  The journey was quite uneventful apart from the usual animals wandering across the road.  We arrived at Tendaba about 4pm and just had time to check in, a quick dip in the pool, and then met at the jetty for a boat trip through the mangroves on the far side of the river.  The river was lower than normal and so we had to walk through the village to the other jetty which is further out in the river.  We all climbed down a ladder and into one of the large dug out canoes and got settled for the trip, the motor started and we crossed the wide river with our guide and captain.  The mangroves here are 100 feet tall, the tallest in the world and are full of birdlife.  We saw pelicans, herons of all kinds, kingfishers and the elusive osprey along with a myriad of smaller birds.  The trip lasted over an hour and a half before we returned to the camp for our evening meal.  As there were several other guests tonight, including a party of  American peace corps workers, the evening meal was a buffet.  We plan to leave just after the 7am breakfast tomorrow so retired before half past 10, leaving the peace corps in the bar, some of them are returning to America and so a party was called for.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

28.3.14 Friday. Lunch with Ousman and Hospital

Everyone was up early and a visit to the beach was planned this morning, however Sharon wasn't too well and needed to be near the bathroom.  I went to the storeroom to sort out the airbeds and things we need for our journey to Kumbija tomorrow and also some boxes for Steve to deliver.  The Roscoe family relaxed around the pool for the morning.  Steve joined me at the store and we loaded today's delivery of boxes for the Catholic Secretariat; he went to deliver those and collect some shopping before returning home to join us all.  I locked the store and went home to change as Ousman had invited us all for lunch.  As there are 5 visitors we cannot all get into the truck, so Ousman came and collected some of the party and we all set off for Sukuta, which is about 2 miles from home.  We arrived at the house of his prospective second wife, who was cooking lunch for us today and were greeted by her and her friends.  The house is not far from the main road, nice with a large compound.  The lunch was delicious, a large plate of rice with prawns, meatballs in sauce, or fish with a choice of vegetables; we were also offered frozen baobob juice flavoured with fruit as dessert.  We were all enjoying the company and the food but Steve had promised to collect Ibraima for his operation at 4pm and so the two of us and Alice left to go to his house.  Poor Ibraima, he was terrified, he was sat outside with his wife when we arrived having just returned from Friday prayers where he had asked the community to pray for him this evening.  Ousman had suggested that he needed a family member with him so he went to ask for his cousin to accompany him.  We arrived at the hospital about 4.45 and met the doctor at 5pm who took him through to theatre preparation.  By 5.15 he was beginning the operation, they opted to give him an epidural injection.
We returned home and just had time for a quick freshen up before going to meet Chris Brown and Olivia for dinner at Cabanas on the beach.  As we are travelling to Kumbija tomorrow Chris will have gone home before we return on Monday.
Just after we had finished eating we got a call from Ibraima, a little dozy, but ready to go home, so Steve and I left to take him home, the others went on for a drink at Hanks bar with Chris and Olivia.  We arrived at the hospital and were shown into the recovery ward where Ibraima was laid in bed, his cousin and uncle at his bedside.  The operation had gone well and he just wanted to go home and rest.  We went through all the instructions with the nurse and then backed the car up to the door whilst Ibraima was brought out in a wheelchair as his legs are a bit wobbly still.  We took him home and made sure he was settled before returning home for the night.  Gordon and Sharon were home and we settled into the lounge to chat with Gordon when the power went, so we all went to bed a little earlier than planned; the younger visitors were still out, so will have to go to bed in the dark when they return.
So a busy day, meeting new people and helping Ibraima return to full health, thanks to the doctor but also Marjorie for paying for the operation.

Friday, 28 March 2014

27.3.14 Thursday. Holiday and Hospital

7 of us for breakfast this morning.  Gordon and family have asked to go visit Nemasu, Jack did some work there 7 years ago when he visited us as a student;  so Omar and his minibus arrived just before 9am to take us.  Steve set off to Naata to collect Ibraima, the caretaker, to take him to the hospital as he has a hernia which needs attention.  Steve arrived at the hospital around 10.30am and was there all day waiting with Ibraima, first to see the doctor and then waiting for the surgeon.  Finally, after a consultation he is booked in for the operation on Friday at 5pm.  Meanwhile we had a lovely day, we visited Nemasu where Jack was really surprised to see the changes, when he was working there they were in a mud hut in the village and we had just started building the first 2 classroom block.  Of course now they have grown to 3 classrooms in 2 blocks, with a kitchen, toilet block and walled playground.  From Nemasu we went into Senegambia, Omar dropped us off and left us to go and watch the vulture feeding in the hotel and then we went to Yashmina for a leisurely lunch, followed by an ice cream in the parlour at the bottom of the 'strip'.  We all decided to walk back along the beach to the house, so via the tourist shop we went through the Senegambia hotel onto the beach and spent over an hour walking home.  We arrived back late afternoon and we all sat in the garden relaxing for a while before changing for dinner at Neil's bar.  Steve eventually joined us around 8.15pm having dropped a very frightened Ibraima off at home.  For the first time in weeks we did the quiz at Neil's bar and came a disappointing 4th, so no prize money tonight!  A different quiz master and a dispute over some of the answers!  Never mind there's always next time.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

26.3.14 Wednesday. BBQ

Gordon, Sharon and family arrive today.  Steve had some shopping to do as we had decided to have a BBQ this afternoon and invited Chris, Pauline, Marjorie and Olivia as well.  Kebba, Steve and I went to the storeroom first with the boxes of airbeds and nets we had used this weekend and other charity things we wanted out of the house.  We unloaded the truck at the store, then Steve set off to do the shopping and to drop off the cous for Mr Jallow we had collected at Pallen.  Kebba went back home and I stayed at the store for a while to sort out some boxes of nursery items for Chris.  Last week they had broken down in a taxi and got a tow from some guys who were telling her about a nursery school which needed things.  I packed 3 boxes and then returned home where Kebba was washing down the garden furniture to get rid of all the dust which accumulates very quickly here.  Together we got everything ready for the guests arriving before Omar, the minibus driver arrived to take me to the airport to meet the new arrivals.  The plane was on time and the luggage was out straight away so we were not waiting for long.  We piled into the minibus and set off for home, it is more than 2 years since the girls have been, and 7 years since Jack came to us as a student, so there have been a lot of changes for them to see.  We arrived home to find Steve waiting for us, got everything unloaded and then I helped Steve prepare the food for the BBQ.  The others arrived, without Marjorie who is having a bread making lesson at the hotel, and everyone was introduced, drinks distributed and the socialising began.  A very pleasant afternoon round the pool for everyone, we sat outside until the sun was going down and it started to get a little chilly, Chris and the others left and we went inside for a hot drink.  Ousman called to see everyone after his night class and then we all had an early night, the travellers wanting to catch up with some sleep.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

25.3.14 Tuesday. Back home

Another early rise with the sun, the sound of the donkeys braying and the pump on the well already going continually as the ladies fetch the water for their daily chores.  We packed everything away before the pupils started to arrive, and then watched as they all started to come in through the gates.  Mr Sowe arrived on his motorbike, Steve, Chris and I had a meeting with him and delivered the box we had brought.  Before 9.30 we were ready to leave and return to Loumen to collect a lady to take to the hospital in Farafenni.  We said our goodbyes and set off with 2 people on the back to take to Loumen.  We had a short meeting with the head teacher and the SMC head, and then went with Samba to fetch his wife.  This lady has been waiting for an operation for 2 years, when we arrived at his compound she was out in the fields working, he went to fetch her, but in the meantime her mother arrived and told him that his wife was pregnant.  He had no idea.  This seems to be standard practise here, the ladies do not tend to tell the husbands that they are expecting until it is too obvious to deny.  The men are always surprised!  as if they didn't have an input!  We think that this will stop her having the operation, and as she was still in the fields, it was decided to check at the hospital first before we take her.  We set off again, calling at Pallen to collect cous for Mr Jallow from his family here, and then on to Dibba Kunda Lower Basic School to deliver some books, at last arriving in Farafenni with 2 passengers we had collected from Loumen.  First we had breakfast and then drove to the hospital where I met Mr Cham the administrator who will check with the doctors about Samba's wife.  Eventually all errands done we set off for the ferry, we stopped at the army checkpoint where we added two more passengers on the back, and then joined the ferry queue for about an hour before crossing.  Whilst we were waiting we gained another soldier, so travelled back with 5 passengers on the back, 2 bags of cous and all our luggage.  The journey was uneventful, but very hot, the highest temperature on the way back was 46 degrees.  The wind direction changes when you reach Brikama, and by the time we had delivered our passengers and arrived back in Kololi it was a more pleasant 29 degrees.  We stopped at Hanks bar for cold beer and a meal where we met Pauline and Marjorie, and then Steve and I headed back home for the night.

24.3.14 4 schools in a day!

As usual at Jamwelly we were awake with the sunrise.  The pupils here start to arrive before 7.30am and so we were quick to pack away our things and get the classroom back to normal before lessons began.  Channeh arrived and the children lined up for their Monday morning assembly.  We had brought a box full of toothbrushes and toothpaste, one for each child, and after prayers, a song and a short lecture about forthcoming exams, the children passed into the classrooms one at a time and collected a brush and the paste.  The teachers had to explain how to use the toothpaste, only a little at a time as some of the children had started eating it because of the nice taste.  Lessons began and Chris and Olivia went into class to observe, Steve took Channeh and Sago (head of the School Management committee) into Kaur for a meeting and then returned for the three of us.  We left and went to the cafe in Kaur for breakfast before visiting the Lower Basic School where we were pleased to see the new library was open for the pupils to use.  We delivered two more tables for them and then set off for Loumen for our next visit.  We arrived in Loumen just before breaktime and delivered the boxes we had brought for them.  The garden here has been fenced and 68 plots have all been pegged out ready for planting the new seeds.  We watched the classes for a while and then it was break time when all the pupils line up, first to wash their hands, then to eat, then to wash their hands again.  After a short meeting with the head teacher, Mr Bah, we set off again to reach Kumbija, just after 1pm when the children had finished for the day.  It is very very hot today and so we spent the afternoon just trying to keep cool.  We set up our beds for the night, I had a lie down, Chris sat with her feet in a bucket of cold water, Olivia kept having her head in cold water and Steve said he wouldn't move!  The temperature was around 45 degrees.   Eventually it started to cool down and we were able to sit and chat on the verandah before our evening meal arrived.  We sat under the stars and ate dinner and then retired for the night.

23.3.14 Sunday. Jamwelly

As it is Sunday we don't have to rush to arrive at the schools before they finish for the day, so we met Christine and Olivia just after 9 for a leisurely drive up to Jamwelly.  It is so much better now that the road is tarmac all the way to Soma, just before the ferry terminal.  The drive took 3 hours and then we jumped the queue into the priority lane for the big ferry.  Olivia has never been to Gambia before and she was fascinated with all the sights and sounds at the terminal.  There are sellers of everything you can think of, towels, shoes, hats, material, torches, even viagra!  One of the regular sellers is a man with a bicycle selling the local juju, to attract a crowd he has two pythons, one 3 metres long which he puts on the floor, and a small one about 2 metres which he drapes around his neck.  He plays music through a loudspeaker and puts the snakes head into his mouth.  Most Gambians are frightened of all snakes, and gather round in amazement at his 'brave feat' with this snake. He then sells them juju to protect them against snake bites, knives, and other dangers.  The python of course is harmless, but most people don't realise that.  Finally we crossed over to Farafenni and went to buy vegetables for our evening meal before stopping at one of the local cafes for coffee and a sandwich.  At last we set off on the final leg of the journey to Jamwelly and the nursery school, arriving around 2pm.  We were met at the school by Musa the caretaker and the little dog we had rescued which has grown to almost double in size over the last 3 weeks.  Tiger is now happy and healthy and made a big fuss of us all before settling back down.  We got our bedding arranged for the night and then sat down in the shade, it is much hotter than Kololi in this part of Gambia, so we sat and chatted and drank the last cold drinks we had brought, we will be on warm water now!  Channeh and Oumie came into school to see us, they were attending a naming ceremony in the next village, and wanted us to walk back over with them.  We decided to wait until 5pm when it would be cooler.  We set off for the short walk to the next village and joined in the celebration for a while with the villagers, each of us being introduced to the new baby.  Back at the school we sat and talked with Channeh, Oumie and Tunko, (teachers from the school) later Musa's daughter in law arrived with our dinner, and then it was a shower and an early night!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

22.3.14 Saturday. Dinner with the Ladies

Another beautiful sunny day, the wind has definitely changed now and we are getting warm breezes instead of cold winds.  After breakfast we decided to load the truck ready for our trip up country tomorrow, whilst Kebba was with us this morning.  Usually on Saturday Kebba goes off to either play or watch football and Chelsea are playing Arsenal this afternoon!  We sorted out which boxes and tables are to go and got everything loaded and tied down.  Steve then went off to do some shopping whilst Kebba and I walked home.  We are going away for 2 nights and then Gordon and family arrive on Wednesday so I decided to get all the bedrooms ready this morning.  5 people all arriving at once, so 5 beds to prepare.  It is like running a guest house!  After all the rooms were ready Steve arrived back with bread for lunch so we sat in the garden for a while relaxing.  Kebba arrived home very happy as Chelsea had won convincingly.  In the early evening we got washed and changed and drove to Kololi  to meet Pauline, Marjorie and Christine for dinner at the new Lebanese restaurant, Olivia.  Ousman also came to join us.  We found this new place a bit noisy and not as nice as our usual place, so doubt we will go again.   Home for a reasonable early night as we are up early tomorrow.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

21.3.14 Friday More deliveries

Steve, Kebba and I went to the storeroom early this morning to load the boxes I had prepared yesterday.  We have been given some teaching resources this year, and instead of taking them to one school we have decided to give them to the Teacher Training College at Brikama so the ideas can be shared across the country.  We loaded the truck, and then Steve and Kebba set off whilst I locked up and returned home where I spent the morning updating the Blog.  They arrived back in time for lunch, and then we spent the afternoon reading and relaxing.  We decided to watch a film this evening and had just settled down to view when the power went off.  We are now connected to the mains supply after 5 years with a solar installation.  The power normally goes off during the day, which is no problem as we have a generator should we need to run the water pump or clean the pool, however we cannot run a freezer.  Tonight however it went off and stayed off so we had an early night.

20.3.14 Thursday. Nemasu and Naata for the Ladies

Steve set off in good time to meet the Ladies at Mansea and take them first to Nemasu and then to Naata this morning.  I went to the storeroom to sort out deliveries for tomorrow.  We are down to the last 50 or so boxes now, and are trying to fulfil all promises before we return to the UK at the end of April.  Steve delivered goods to Nemasu Senior Secondary School whilst the Ladies were at the nursery school; and then whilst they were at Naata he delivered boxes to Kunkachan school just opposite the nursery school.  I returned home just before Steve who arrived with bread for sandwiches.  Sanaba came to visit us, and shared our lunch, and then we relaxed round the pool this afternoon.  A film to round off the day.

19.3.14 Wednesday. Belle Vue Boys Return Home

This morning the school party is leaving, so I got up and prepared a CD of all the photographs I had taken during their visit.  We took Kebba to meet them and drove to Holiday Beach Club to say our Goodbyes.  I had done a breakdown of how we had spent their money, a list of the builders, and the total spend for their display at school. The coach arrived and everyone shook hands and hugged before climbing aboard for their journey to the airport.  We returned home via the storeroom where we loaded the truck ready for deliveries tomorrow.  On arriving back at the house we met the ladies who were once more sorting out the boxes for the clinic.  We sent out for bread and we all had sandwiches and a drink before Pauline and Marjorie set off for Kassamas once more, whilst Chris, Olivia and I relaxed in and around the pool.  Eventually Pauline returned, refilled the taxi, went to Mansea Beach and then returned for the rest of the ladies.  Steve and I got changed and walked around to Neil’s bar where we were meeting Doug and Sandra before they headed off to the airport and home for the summer.  We had a meal and a chat with them, saw them off in their friend’s car, and then walked back home for the rest of the evening.