Wednesday, 26 February 2014

25.2.14 Tuesday. Naata and Nemasu

Fiona set off for Nemasu this morning where she is helping the staff produce visual aids, and Steve went to Naata with some firewood for the kitchen.  I spent the morning doing accounts and writing up the blog.  We are getting ready for a school party from Belle Vue Girls’ school who are arriving tomorrow, and are travelling up on the north bank of the river to Ndungu Kebbeh early on Thursday morning. 
I rang Kebba and asked him to come back a day early so he can look after the house whilst we are away, Malik has had to go away for a while.  Steve came back with the bread, Fiona arrived home and we all had lunch in the garden.  Kebba arrived home later in the afternoon and rang the taxi driver for me to check on the progress of the minibus.  Unfortunately the taxi drivers father has passed away and he has gone to the provinces with the minibus for the rest of the week!   Onto Plan B another bus needed, fortunately Kebba was home because he managed to find one for us, the extra special priority letter that Ousman has got us to cross the river on Thursday has the registration of the first minibus on it, it is now too late to change it and so we will just have to hope that the ferry authorities understand our dilemma!    The new taxi man arrived to talk about arrangements and everything hopefully is sorted now!
Fiona, Steve and I went out to the quiz, and once again beat the other teams, our winnings now amount to about £100 for the charity.  Fortunately we are friendly with the other teams and a lot of banter goes on, which is why the team name is still 'The clever Bastards from Yonder'.

24.2.14 Monday Wages Day

Steve and I set off to the bank this morning, and then Steve went on to Naata to deliver the wages whilst I went and queued and queued in Trust Bank to transfer the Kumbija wages to Mr Sowe.  Monday morning, a huge queue, I was 15th in line,  and only one counter open, obviously a worldwide problem in banks.  After spending a long time in the bank Steve collected me and we drove home for lunch, stopping on the way to collect newly baked bread for our sandwiches.  Fiona arrived back from Nemasu and we had lunch before going to the storeroom to load the delivery for the nursery school in Serrekunda.  The head teacher here had found us on the internet and asked for help with school resources and furniture.  We loaded chairs and boxes onto the truck and set off for London corner to find the school.  We found the nursery here in a huge compound which is owned by a former ambassador to  the USA, and has a very large playground, the school itself is in a house and they are using the rooms as classrooms.  Resources are scarce and so she was very grateful for all the goods we delivered, books, paper, crayons and toys for the children to play with.  After looking round the school and chatting for a while we went onto Banjul to meet Ousman and try to collect our residents’ permits, no such luck as the plastic they are produced on is still out of stock.  Steve then went on with Ousman to police headquarters to get the clearance letter for the truck, but no luck there either as the power was off and they could not type the letter.  We gave up at that point and went for a cold drink before leaving Banjul for the day.  We called at Yashmina on the way home for dinner, I went down to the taxi park to finalise arrangements with the minibus for Thursday when our students are crossing the river.  I couldn't find our taxi anywhere and finally another taxi driver said he would ring him and find out where he was.  Apparently his taxi has broken down and is in the garage being fixed!  he promises me it will be ready for Thursday, lets hope so!  We had dinner and then returned home, arriving back at the house after dark, which here is around 7.15pm. 

23.2.14 Sunday. Long Journey

Doug arrived just before 7 this morning to go with Steve to Kaur.  Fiona and I managed to have a bit of a lie in before rising for breakfast.  Today we both had washing to do, so spent the morning washing before going to the storeroom to sort out a delivery to a nursery school in Serrekunda for Monday afternoon. Most of the boxes have gone from the storeroom now, except those for the clinic which Pauline and Chris B will deliver next month.  We decided to go out for Sunday lunch after our work in the storeroom and so returned home to wash and change, before getting a taxi to the tourist area for our lunch.  It was very pleasant sat in the shade outside the restaurant and eating our lunch whilst enjoying a glass of wine.  After a pleasant meal we walked part of the way home before getting a taxi back.  An afternoon relaxing, before settling down to a film for the evening, and to wait for Steve and Doug to return. The tiles had been delivered and the rest of the furniture to Jamwelly, also the lunch money for March to Loumen and Jamwelly.  The ladies garden at Loumen has been locally fenced and Steve was able to deliver seeds for the vegetables that the ladies intend to grow.  Doug had been able to help Steve out with the driving and was delighted as he had spotted 3 new birds and was able to take photos for his collection.  They arrived home around 9pm, dusty and dirty but happy that the mission was accomplished. Great for Steve to have some male company for a change!

22.2.14 Saturday. Day off!

Steve has decided to drive back to Kaur tomorrow, there and back in the day, to deliver the rest of the tiles and some furniture for Jamwelly.  So this morning he had a well deserved lie in whilst I did the accounts for the charity.  Fiona and I then went to the storeroom and sorted some things out for tomorrow to go with the furniture.  I had made an appointment at the hairdresser this afternoon, so Steve took me to the salon and then went off to do some shopping for the house.  We called at the storeroom on the way home and loaded everything for the morning, before returning home to change before the 3 of us went to GTS for the evening meal followed by an early night.

21.2.14 Friday. A dog for the school

We woke early as usual and packed everything into the truck before the pupils arrived for their morning assembly.  The puppy was still frightened, but had eaten and slept and was a little more friendly this morning.  I picked her up and stood with her in front of the school assembly whilst Channeh explained that some very bad boys had been injuring the puppy and that the charity were now giving the puppy to the school to look after.  She explained that they were to feed it and give it water and under no circumstances to harm it in any way.  The pupils were then asked to decide in their classes what to call it and a decision would be taken on the most popular name.  We later had a phone call to say they had decided on Tiger, I must say that the tiny brown and white spotted dog looks nothing like a tiger and spends most of her time hiding in her box at the moment.  Hopefully she will settle down and prove to be a good guard dog for the school.  We left Jamwelly and went into Kaur where we stopped at the corrugate café for breakfast and then went onto the school to collect Kebba and the carpenter to take them to Farafenni with us for the building materials..  We arrived at Farafenni and began to look for the timber we required for the roof of the library.  10 lengths of 3x2 are required, the first shop had only 3 lengths, the next place had none, we found another 2 lengths and the corrugate before we decided that we had wasted enough of the day and gave funds to Kebba to complete the search and transport the items himself and the carpenter back to Kaur, a distance of about 30 miles. We set off for the ferry where we were ‘helped’ to the front of the queue and crossed very quickly to Soma and the road home.  We picked up a mixture of 7 police and soldiers for a lift on the way and they all travelled on the back down to the kombos, which made our progress through the check points much easier.  We stopped at Kalagie for a refreshing drink at the bird camp before reaching back home at around 4.30pm to be greeted by Fiona.  As usual we and the truck were covered in dust from the journey and so Steve and I showered whilst Malik washed the truck and then Fiona came with Steve and I to a new bar on our main road for dinner and a welcome beer!

20.2.14 Thursday. Kaur and Jamwelly

Doug and Sandra arrived this morning to travel with Steve and I to Jamwelly.  Fiona is still at Nemasu and was staying alone for the 2 days we are away.  We loaded the personal items onto the truck and set off on the south bank for the ferry crossing at Soma.  The travelling is much easier now that the road is finished and we managed to reach the ferry without incident, there was more traffic than there has been over the last few weeks and we queued for an hour before crossing.  In Farafenni we went for our usual lunch of omelette sandwich and coffee before buying vegetables for our evening meal.  Steve and Doug shopped for rice and potatoes and we packed them on the truck and set off for Kaur.  The road is not busy in this part of the country, we just have to look out for donkeys, sheep, cattle and goats running across the road.  We arrived in Kaur and went straight to the Lower Basic School where the builders are converting the old meeting room into a library, the windows and tiles were off loaded and then Steve and I went into the town with Kebba to source timber and corrugate for the roof repairs.  This proved to be a fruitless exercise and we need to go to Farafenni tomorrow, which is a much larger town and more likely to stock what we need.  We went back to the school, inspected the work done so far by the builders and then set off to Jamwelly to spend the night in the school.  The journey takes us across the main road and onto a dirt track to the village, just as we arrived at the dirt track we found a small group of boys torturing a very small puppy, very tightly tying bands of cloth to its back legs and dragging it through the dirt on its stomach.  They said they wanted to kill it!  As you can imagine as animal lovers we stopped and rescued the tiny puppy which was squealing loudly and obviously terrified.  I picked it up and we took it in the car to the school where we were able to discover that its legs were not broken, but just badly bruised, but the puppy was traumatised and very frightened..  We found an old banana box and made it into a bed, much to the amusement of Channeh the head teacher. (dogs here sleep in the sand or wherever they can find)  Doug, Sandra and Steve went off on a bird walk whilst I stayed at the school with the puppy which is too small to be away from it’s mother, and waited for Kebba to arrive to sort the wages.  The puppy went to sleep and seemed to settle down, so we have decided to give it to the school for the pupils to look after and learn about animal welfare. Kebba arrived and we sorted out the wages and the bills for the week.  The building work should be finished by Wednesday.  The wanderers returned and we all had dinner before retiring for the night.

19.2.14 Wednesday. Sheilas last Day

Fiona went off to Nemasu this morning and then after Sheila had finished her packing we set off to the airport for Sheila to catch the early afternoon flight back to Manchester.  Steve and I then went on to Kanifing to buy tiles for the library floor at Kaur.  Then on to get copies of the Jolly Phonics CD for our nursery schools.  The CDs here get spoilt quickly because of the red iron dust in the air which corrupts all Cds and DVDs.  Back home we off loaded some of the tiles and went to the window manufacturers’ shop to collect the 7 windows required for the library..  Raymond, the shop owner helped us stand the windows up in the back of the truck and cover them with a blanket before roping them securely into place to avoid damage on the journey.  Back home we added as many boxes of tiles as the weight would allow and then roped everything into place for tomorrow.  Because the truck was loaded Steve, Fiona and I just walked around the corner to Neils bar this evening for a quick dinner.

18.2.14 Tuesday Independence Day

There are big celebrations today for the 49th Independence Day at the stadium, televised and on the radio.  Alll the schools, many businesses and Government offices are closed.  Sheila and Fiona decided to walk to Kololi on the beach whilst we went to the storeroom to sort out things for our visit to Kaur later in the week.
We all met for lunch at Paradiso, where we found that Fiona had been swept off her feet by a huge wave on the beach, had fallen into the sea and was completely covered apart from her arm which was holding her bag safe above the water!!  Sheila had waded in to help her and they had both been soaked through, Fiona totally and Sheila from the waist down!   Fortunately the hot weather helped to dry them, and Fiona had stopped at a local shop and bought some new trousers to wear.  We were all helpless laughing at the thought of this sight and were sorry we didn't have a photo!  Lunch over, we returned home and spent the afternoon in the garden before going to the quiz.  Our winning streak continues, we won again and added more money to the charity pot!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

17.2.14 Monday. Change of Plan

The original plan for today was to relax after the weekend
But tomorrow is Independence day and the schools are closed so we arranged to take Kathy and Ian to Nemasu this morning instead of tomorrow.   Fiona went to Nemasu in her taxi and then we went to Palma Rima with Sheila to collect Kathy and Ian.  Kathy had contacted us from England and wanted to bring some things out for the schools and so she had packages to deliver to Nemasu.  We visited the nursery, a PE lesson was taking place when we arrived and also Jolly Phonics.  We then went to see the well in the village which has broken already! Probably from overuse, the villagers are using this well instead of any other for all water requirements.  It has been decided by the Alkelo of the village that it should be locked for part of the day to allow the water level to recover.  I rang the repair man to visit and fix it.  We walked back through the village to the school and collected Fiona, we all squeezed into the truck and returned Kathy and Ian to Palma Rima and then went onto Kololi for lunch at the Lebanese restaurant, followed by an ice cream at the parlour opposite.  We called at the Craft Market to look for souvenirs and then headed out onto the road and back home.

Monday, 17 February 2014

16.2.14 Sunday. Completing the job?

Doug came today to help Steve put the wallboards up so they both set off in the truck around 10 with the new generator this morning.  Sheila, Fiona and I decided we were having a lazy day and so despite the wind we sat outside in the sunshine and read this morning.  When Steve arrived home in the afternoon,  they had spent the time measuring and sawing the boards and had finished only one classroom, so they will return tomorrow.  Doug went off home and then we all got changed and out we went to Yashmina for a late lunch/early dinner and returned home for another film.

15.2.14 Saturday. Wallboards for Nemasu

The new notice boards we had arranged for Naata in the Xmas holidays have been a big success and so we had decided to do the same thing at all 5 of our schools.  This weekend it is the turn of Nemasu, and so Steve, Fiona and I set off in the morning to buy the boards and the other equipment needed for the job.  We arrived and met the caretaker who opened the school for us and helped unload the wood from the truck. Before we can organise the painting we had to strip the posters off the walls.  Some of the posters have been applied with paste and are stuck like wallpaper, and so we had to send for scrapers to finish the job.  Steve went off to source a small generator so he can use an electric drill tomorrow. Fiona and I spent most of the day wetting the posters and scraping them off, hot and dirty work! We finished class 1 first and then the caretaker and his friend set about painting Fatous classroom ready for the new boards.  Steve had managed to buy a small generator to use with his power drill tomorrow, and so he returned to collect Fiona and I to take us home.  We arrived back dirty and dusty and met up with Sheila, so a shower and change and we went into Kololi for a late lunch/early dinner at the Lebanese restaurant. After a leisurely meal we called into the craft market to look for souvenirs and then went back  home, we chose a film and settled down for the evening.

14.2.14 Friday. Valentines Day

As usual we were awake early as the cockerels, donkeys and birds woke us all.The pupils started to arrive not long after it got light, ready for the school day. We cleared out our things from the classrooms and put back the furniture, then packed up the truck and the 5 of us set off for Kaur where we stopped for breakfast in the local café.  (A corrugate shack with wooden benches round a table and a calor gas stove) Then on to the school to check that the builders have everything before we leave today.  The head teacher was there this morning, so everything is better organised than yesterday.  The boys had slept well and their dinner had arrived; so all were ready for work when we arrived.  Kebba was just coming into the school with a donkey cart with the cement, and sand was on the way!  We took some measurements for book cases and then having ensured that they had everything we left and set off for Loumen.  We enjoy looking at the wide assortment of birds here in the Gambia, and Doug is very keen and on the way he spotted a whole flock of crowned cranes in a field, 24 of them, the first time we have seen these, we stopped to take photos and then continued to the school.  We arrived mid morning and met with the head teacher, Mr Bah, who is delighted that we are paying for a local fence around an area for the ladies to have a garden.  We then went on to Kumbija, just in time to meet the pupils coming out as Friday is early finish.  We looked around the school and inspected the new wall which was completed two weeks ago, and then drove on to Farafenni.  We had a delivery of books at the local police station and then drove on to the ferry port where we were able to cross quickly.  Much to our delight the road is now finished all the way into Soma and the journey was much smoother, although very hot, at one point it was 45 degrees and we stopped for a refreshing cold drink at Kalagie on the way.  We got home just after 5pm, dropped Doug off and then all got showered and changed and went to GTS for dinner.  There was a special Valentines dinner tonight and every table but one was reserved upstairs.  We sat at the centre table and expected lots of couples arriving, but the tables had been kept for a school party!  Excellent meal, we even had a pudding, just what we needed after two days away.

13.2.14 Thursday. Kaur Lumo (market)

We were all awake early and out of the classrooms, some of the pupils here arrive by 7.30am, and we had to move our belongings into the office for the day.  Doug was helping the builders lay cement floors in the temporary  classrooms and so he was called by Sanaba to start work early. The school management committee had built the temporary classrooms last year with mud blocks, but unfortunately part of the end wall had collapsed in the rainy season.  The charity are mending the building and plastering the walls to make the structure stronger. The floors have been left just as the ground, which is a problem with the tables and chairs as they sink into the sand.  We left Doug and the other builders using pickaxes and crow bars to break up the ground ready for a new concrete floor.. Fiona was helping in one of the classrooms;  Channeh, Kebba and I were going to the Lumo to collect things for the school and cement for the builders; Steve and Sheila were going to Loumen to visit the school and to take one of the ladies from the village to the clinic at Sara Kunda.  We all got into the truck and Steve dropped us in Kaur where we went looking for supplies for the school kitchen and cement for the builders.  We split up and met Kebba back at the building supplies shop; where he had sourced corrugate, timber and cement.  Our shopping was relatively light but the cement was too heavy for the donkey cart and so we had to get a tractor and trailer to take us back to Jamwelly.  That was quite an experience, Channeh and I perched in the cab with the driver, Kebba in the trailer with other passengers and our load.  We arrived back at the school and distributed the sandwiches we had bought for the builders and Fiona, whilst Kebba and the boys unloaded the cement for the floor.  We sat and had breakfast and then moved into the office out of the sun when the pupils broke for their mid morning snack.  Spelling is a problem here as most adults, even if they have been to school, have never had a book.  It was quite amusing therefore to read the handwritten notices in the office and spot the mistakes.  Some words are spelt as they sound, but the one that caused us the most laughter was the rules for teachers which stated that ‘teachers should not torch the private parts of any pupil’
We were given lunch by the school and Doug joined us to eat, he is enjoying his time with the builders, lots of banter going on there.
The afternoon got hotter, up to 45 degrees and so whilst Doug went back to work, we spent the afternoon sat in the shade.
When the heat of the day had died down and the building work was finished, the builders piled all the tools into the truck and we set off for Kaur where they are going to stay in the old teachers quarters whilst they are converting an old meeting room into a library, thanks to Belle Vue Boys School in Bradford who have raised the funds. We arrived at the school and met with the deputy head, Mr Njie, who knew we were coming and was delighted to see everyone, he fetched the key to the quarters but we were disappointed to see that they had not been cleaned out as promised, so a deputation of school girls was sent to sweep the rooms and some boys to take out the old furniture which was stored there.  Kebba and I went off to organise someone to cook dinner for the builders and to order cement and sand for the morning, whilst Steve and the builders unpacked everything from the truck. When we had ordered all the supplies needed  Fiona and I then called at the Lumo which was just packing up to buy buckets and ladles for showers.  Everyone settled in, we called at the welders to collect some metal shutters which were being repaired and returned to Jamwelly in time for dinner.  A quieter night tonight without the builders there, so everyone slept well.

12.2.14 Wednesday. Jamwelly

We were up and organised this morning with the truck as we were travelling up country to Jamwelly today.  Doug, a  new contact from our local bar,  who spends 10 weeks here each year, wanted to come and help with the building work, and so he arrived around 8.45am and we all piled into the truck and were away by 9.30am.  The travelling today was mostly uneventful, the road is almost finished now, and the Senegalese are not coming through the crossing point at Soma, so the queue was relatively small.  We waited about half an hour and then crossed to Farafenni where we stopped for our usual omelette sandwich and coffee, did some shopping and then drove on to Jamwelly, arriving around 4pm.  The builders have almost finished the plastering, so Doug was straight in to the temporary classrooms to see their handiwork and to help finish the job.  We got the beds set up for the night and met with Channeh the head teacher to discuss the progress in the school. The builders finished for the day and we all sat around waiting for dinner which was being cooked for us by the school cook and two of the teachers.  The chicken, which had been running around an hour ago, was prepared and the dinner arrived around 8.30pm, by which time everyone. including the builders had showered.  The 6 builders are sharing one of the classrooms and so Steve and I were in another, Sheila and Fiona in the third and Doug in the office.
The British contingent retired about 10pm, Steve, tired from the driving, was straight to sleep as was I, but the others were kept awake by the builders who like most Gambians retire late, sitting round a fire, talking, laughing and drinking local tea until the early hours.

11.2.14 Tuesday. Naata

Fiona was up and off to Nemasu this morning again, whilst Steve, Sheila and I went to Naata for the morning.  The school has been repainted this year and looks very smart, the pupils were on break when we arrived and so we had the usual crowd of small children wanting to shake hands and greet us as we walked in the gate.  We chatted with the teachers and asked if they needed any more resources, and then Steve and I had a meeting with Mr Jallow before leaving.  We returned home via the bread shop for loaves for sandwiches, Fiona had a problem with the taxi and so was late back for lunch.  After lunch we went around to the storeroom and loaded the truck for our journey tomorrow; another load of tables for Jamwelly and several boxes for them.  We went to our usual quiz tonight and won again! So we have been press ganged into composing a quiz for a night before we go back to the UK. We had the usual banter with the regulars in the bar, and a meal before returning home.

10.2.14 Monday. More visitors

Fiona was going into Nemasu this morning for her first visit this year to help the teachers, so the taxi was here for her about 8.45am.  We had arranged to collect Sarah and Amy who had arrived last week from their hotel at Kotu, so Steve, Sheila and I went to meet them and take them along to Nemasu to see the school. When we arrived Class 1 was in the playground for their sports lesson, so we watched until the end of the lesson and then visited each class to see what the children were learning today.  Breaktime and the sports equipment came out again, the girls played ball with the children and turned the skipping ropes for some team games.  We stayed until nearly the end of the school day and then we all got back into the truck, including Fiona, a bit of a squash in the back seat, and took the girls back to their hotel.  The 4 of us then went on to Banjul for the afternoon.  Steve and I were sorting out our residents permits and id cards; and Sheila and Fiona were shopping.  We met Ousman who was coming with Steve and I to hopefully speed up the red tape, we entered the building for the id cards, and gave our photos and papers to the lady behind the desk.  Ousman stood with us and we got the id cards straight away, but when we went into the office for the residents permits they had run out of the material to make the cards and we will have to go back in a week or so.  Steve then took Ousman back to his office, whilst I went to the new shopping precinct to meet the others and have a cold drink.  Steve joined us and we all returned home for the evening.

Monday, 10 February 2014

9.2.14 Sunday Conspiracy?

We rose this morning and asked the ladies what they wanted to do today.  Both claimed to be not bothered about doing anything, and said we deserved a rest.  We are beginning to suspect a conspiracy amongst our friends to get us to slow down.  Even so, we spent the morning reading around the pool and the afternoon on the beach, enjoying a beer and fish and chips.  Home at sunset for a shower and a film. A totally relaxing weekend.

8.2.14 Saturday. Lazy Day

An anticlimax after such a hectic two weeks, Fiona and I spent a short time in the storeroom, then the 4 of us had a lazy day at home before heading to the Indian restaurant in Kololi for our evening meal.  They were having problems with the electricity supply, a common occurrence here in the Gambia and so we had to wait a while for the meal, which was certainly worth waiting for.  Home, the news on TV and bed

7.2.14 Friday. Last Day for Mell and James

Another month gone by and more visitors leaving.  James and Mell have enjoyed their stay and James has lots of ideas for improving things here for the farming community. We needed to get small presents and some photos printed, so we headed off to the photo shop on Kairaba and spent time there before going to Yashmina’s for a last meal.  Sheila and Fiona had walked to the tourist area this morning, and even though the passed us on the other side of the road and we were shouting their names, they ignored us and carried on to get in a taxi.  Great amusement, apparently they thought we were bumsters who had overheard their names and so were purposely ignoring us.  We returned home and Mell and James did their last minute packing and sorting out before we set off to Tanji fishing village to watch the days’ catch being landed at sunset. The village here is famous for the fish, some of the catch is dried, some smoked so the smell is reminiscent of Whitby in England.  The beach must have had about 100 boats bringing in the fish, the whole place is bustling with traders, ladies with stalls, the fishermen hauling in the nets, small boys running between them to help, gulls shrieking overhead and diving for the fish which are dropped.  We spent an hour watching the scene before returning home to collect their luggage and give them chance to get changed into their travel clothes before joining Fiona and Sheila at Neil’s bar for a last meal and drink on our way to the airport.  A tearful goodbye and they were on their way.

6.2.14 Thursday. A busy day

We were all up and awake this morning. Previously Fiona and I had sorted some deliveries out in the storeroom, so Steve and Sheila went off to deliver some goods to Nemasu Senior Secondary school and then the nursery.  Fiona and I returned to the storeroom to sort out a delivery for over the river whilst Mell and James were doing last minute shopping and visits as they fly home tomorrow.  We all met up at lunch time and went to the beach for the afternoon and a meal. The sea is really warm at the moment, unusually so as it is always cold in February, Global warming!  Back home we had arranged for Ousman to come and say goodbye around 5pm, but typical Gambian style it was nearer 7pm when he arrived with a friend.  He and James spent a long time talking about farming methods and possible improvements and it looked like a long session.  Steve and I left them all to it and went around to Neil’s bar to meet Doug who was interested in what we do and may like to volunteer.   We met up and had a long chat before the bingo started, by which time  Ousman had left and the others had come round for supper.  A few drinks later we headed home.

5.2.14 Wednesday. Linda leaves and Sheila arrives.

We are certainly giving plenty of work to the lady who does the laundry this year!
Linda has had a short visit this time, only 10 days and so it was time to pack this morning and get the room ready for Sheila who arrives this afternoon.  All too soon it was time to go to the airport, Linda checked in and then we went for a coffee upstairs to see the flight arrive.  All the screens are not working at the moment and we are relying on announcements and watching and the arrivals ourselves.  The plane was early, and so we went downstairs where Linda went into departures and we stood at arrivals to meet Sheila from the plane.  Two other arrivals spotted us and recognised us from photos, so we ended up with 3 people in the car to take two of them to the hotel and Sheila back home with us.  Everyone had time to get to know each other before we all went to GTS for the evening meal.

4.2.14 Tuesday. Mr Jallow

A meeting with Mr Jallow had been arranged at our house this morning.
Steve went to pick Chris up this morning and returned with her and Alan, who wanted to use the pool whilst we had our meeting.  Mr Jallow arrived on his motorbike with Momodou, his eldest son. Alan and Momodou went into the garden whilst the four of us met with Mr Jallow to discuss the school and the wage increase which has been given.  After the meeting Chris went off with Alan to be dropped at the villa by Steve, Linda, Fiona and I went to the storeroom, hot and dusty work for a couple of hours, we decided to have a drink in Neils bar, to cool down.  Whilst we were there Mell rang to say they were on the way back from Kumibja, and had reached Banjul.  We decided to wait for them in the bar and so we all spent a pleasant afternoon in the sunshine having a beer or two, joined by Steve as well.    James has been helping the boys build the fourth wall around the playground at Kumbija, and Mell has been helping at the local clinic. 
Linda’s last day and so at teatime we all piled into Omar’s minibus to go to Cabanas to watch the sunset, unfortunately Mell was not feeling well and so as a precaution Omar took her and James to the clinic. The rest of us stayed to watch the sun-setting over the beach and had a lovely meal before going on to the quiz.  We had stiff competition tonight and Chris’s team beat us by one point!

3.2.14 Monday. Nemasu

Fiona was having a well earned lie in after her travels, Linda, Steve and I called for Christine and went on to Nemasu for a meeting with Mr Sallah.  The rest of Christine's party joined us after our meeting, and we all walked down into the village to inspect the finished reservoir at the well, one of the village b had been asked to come and thank us in English, and pass on the best wishes of the villagers who were delighted with the reservoir which is being used by the animals for drinking water, ensuring that none of the precious resource gets wasted.  The new pump well has some overspill when being used and this is being funnelled into the reservoir. Steve and I returned home with everyone else going on to the special school and lunch at Yashminas.  We spent the afternoon at home with Fiona,  Linda came home in the early evening before the four of usl went on to Neils bar for the evening.

2.2.14 Sunday. Fiona arrives

We were up early this morning and sorted out the room for Fiona's stay..  Steve went to fetch Christine for a committee meeting, and the four of us got together to discuss matters affecting the charity and the performance of each school.  The meeting went on a while and then we dropped Christine back at the villa where she was staying and we 3 went on to have Sunday lunch.  Back home late afternoon and a short time to relax before heading to the airport to collect Fiona, who is here for a while to help the teachers in the schools.  Fiona has enormous experience of teaching, and has been a great asset in the past two years.  We arrived home where the four of us had a chance to chat before bedtime.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

1.2.14 Saturday. Home again

Driving all the way to Jamwelly and back again is quite tiring, so today was a day to relax and catch up with some jobs.  Linda went to Neils bar where they have wifi, I did the accounts and typed the blog, whilst Steve helped out by doing some washing and then spent some time in his vegetable garden. Sanaba arrived in the afternoon to discuss the job at Kumbija.   Linda had kindly offered to cook dinner tonight and so a delicious prawn meal appeared at teatime.  Steve stayed up to watch a film, but both Linda and I retired early.  Just before going up to bed I sorted Kebba out with travelling money and wages for the workers at Kumbija who are going to extend the wall around the school to complete the square.

31.1.14 Friday Kumbija and home

Up early and cleared the classrooms of our beds and personal items before the pupils needed them.  The children started to come through the gates from 8am onwards and are joined by their teachers and Mr Sowe before the 9am start.  As it is Friday, school finishes early today, and some of the staff were dressed in their best clothes.  The English visitors split themselves between the classes to observe, whilst the Canadians, Steve and I talked about the practicality of walling the 4th side of the school.  The local fence which was down one side has got damaged and will not provide security from the animals when we plant more trees and vegetables here. The family at the other side of the local fence are throwing all their rubbish into the playground and it was agreed that Mr Sowe would visit the chief of the village and ask him to speak to the family. All the visits complete, Omar and his party set off to Farafenni whilst we spent some time measuring walls and completing a list of jobs to do for Jim and Mell to do whilst they are here in the next few days..  We set off for Farafenni, had breakfast, did some shopping and then met the others for the journey back.  Jim and Mell were making their own way back to the school after completing some purchases. Once again it was quiet at the ferry and there were only a few cars waiting to cross, after a short wait we were all loaded on and crossed quite quickly.  Omar is quicker than the truck when we have a full load (cous and ground nuts) and so we waved goodbye to the others as they set off for home.  At the check point we managed to collect 2 soldiers to travel on the back of the truck as we already had two ladies from Kumbija inside. We stopped and delivered books at Kalagie and visited a yoghurt plant where we met the organiser and took photos of the facility.   The 3 of us arrived back home around 5pm and had a welcome shower and change before making our way to Neils bar for a quick supper.

30.1.14 Thursday. Lumo and then Loumen

We were all awake early and cleared the classrooms in time for the pupils to start their lessons.  Steve and Jim were putting a plaque on the well which had been capped and turned into a pump well last year, thanks to a kind donation from the Hussain family in England. Everyone else split their time between the classes, whilst Channeh and I set off in the truck for the Lumo.  This was the first time Channeh had seen me drive and she was quite surprised, she said she didn’t realise I could drive and that ‘it was interesting!’  The Lumo is a travelling market which visits different towns on the same day every week, we were lucky that the day for Kaur was Thursday and we were able to buy the big pots needed for the school.  Some hard bartering was required as the price went up as soon as they saw me of course.  The pots are so heavy that we had to get a donkey cart to carry them back to the truck.  The stalls are all constructed in wooden frames and placed close together and it is an art for the small boys running the carts to get in between the stalls without knocking them down and sending all the colourful wares in all directions.  We loaded the pots and then went back to search for the food items required for school lunches.  Channeh and I ducked in between stalls selling fabrics, vegetables, pots, plastic bowls in all colours, electrical items, soap, clothes and any other household item you could possibly want here.  Our purchases complete we drove back to Jamwelly and unloaded everything before packing all our personal items into the truck and all setting off for Kaur where the 10 of us and Omar crowded into the local café for breakfast. The cafe is a corrugate shack at the side of the road, but the food is delicious.  11 coffees and 11 omelette sandwiches later we left for Loumen, arriving just in time to see the pupils lining up to wash their hands for lunch, then collect their lunch, then washing again.  Lunch is provided in large bowls, 7 or 8 children sit round a bowl and eat with their right hand, rolling the rice into small balls to eat. We had a meeting with the headteacher, Mr Bah, whilst some of the others organised singing games on the football pitch in front of the school.
The weather is much hotter in this part of the Gambia, and soon we were all much too hot to carry on with any more games.  The veranda is shelter out of the sun, and we sat in the shade before setting off on the next part of the journey.  Omar and the others went straight to Kumbija to rest in the shade, whilst we went into the village of Loumen to meet with Samba, the head of the School Management Committee.  Also one of his wives had been treated by Faith whilst she was here, and Mell was continuing the treatment today.  We met with some of the villagers and then set off to Pallen, where we collected cous and groundnuts from Mr Jallow’s brother to take back to Mr Jallow in the Kombos.  We arrived around 3pm in Kumbija and took advantage of the large mango tree to sit in the shade during the hottest part of the day.
When it cooled down Lynda, Denise and I went to Farato with Omar to visit with Fatou and deliver the food items needed to cook our evening meal.  Back to the school, where we had a meeting with Mr Sowe, and then Jim joined us with some ideas of how to improve the water supply to the school.  
All showered we sat round a table in the playground with Baatchi and waited for our evening meal, very soon Fatou arrived with two large bowls and we sat under the stars and ate our meal.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

29.1.14 Wednesday. Jamwelly

An early start for everyone this morning 6am, we were slower driving than the minibus as we had quite a lot of weight on the back of the truck.  Jamwelly continues to expand and has asked for more tables and chairs to accommodate the growing number of pupils.  The border between Senegal and Gambia is still closed in a dispute over whether the people crossing the river should pay in Senegalese or Gambian currency, and so although the others had crossed reasonably quickly at Soma, having arrived at the port at the same time as an empty ferry, we had to wait over an hour and a half whilst the ferry filled up on the Farafenni side of the river.  Finally, after some time and breakfast in the truck, we crossed over and met the others in the town centre.  I went to visit Alagie and pay for the cement we had last week, some shopping was done, and then we all set off for Jamwelly.  Channeh knew we were on the way and had arranged for the pupils to stay behind to greet us.  What a greeting!  They were all at the gate with flags of both the Gambia and Great Britain, and chanted welcome as we drove up.  We could not drive into the playground, so we disembarked from our transport and walked into the school.  Several of the local ladies had also turned out to greet us and we walked into a wall of sound as drumming, dancing and singing took place.  Having walked to the veranda in front of the school, the children lined up and then were led in a song written especially for our visit.  Lunch for the children was then served and the ladies asked us to watch a cultural display of dancing and traditions connected with a wedding ceremony.  Then a Kancoran arrived and danced around the playground to frantic drumming.  The celebrations went on for some time before everyone started to drift back to their compounds and it was then quiet enough for Channeh and the elders of the village to have a meeting with Christine, Linda, Steve and I to discuss the progress of the school.
One of the concerns was that the cooking pots we provided are too small for the number of pupils to have the lunch provided so we agreed that Channeh and I would go shopping to the ‘Lumo’ local market which takes place in Kaur on Thursdays.
When everyone had finally left, we organised our sleeping arrangements and then all took it in turns for a shower before sitting down to wait for the delicious chicken dinner cooked for us by Channeh and 2 ladies.

28.1.14 Tuesday. Naata

Omar collected Mell, Linda and I in the morning and we went to collect Christine and party to go to Naata for the morning session.  The classes were in full swing when we arrived and again we split between the classrooms to observe the teaching.  Breaktime was called and the English teachers joined in with lots of action games and rhymes for the children to learn.  After a prolonged break we all got back into the minibus and travelled to the turntable where a few food items were bought, before everyone came back to the house for lunch.  Alan was the only one to brave the pool, the wind is making it quite chilly at the moment.  We all sat around and chatted over lunch and then the others left whilst we went to the storeroom to load the truck for tomorrow as we are travelling up to Jamwelly.   Everything secured tightly onto the truck we got changed and drove to the quiz, holding on to our winning streak as ‘The Clever Bastards from Yonder!’

27.1.14 Monday. Nemasu

Omar came along with his minibus this morning to collect Linda and I.then on to meet up with Alan and the ladies to go to Nemasu.. Steve took Mell down to Batakonko to Kassimas clinic to help out today, and James went with Kebba to visit John, one of the builders he worked with last week.  We arrived at Nemasu to find Fatou having a PE lesson with her class in the playground.  We watched for the rest of the lesson, and then whilst I met with Mr Sallah, the rest of the party split up and spent the morning between the three classrooms, observing lessons.  Breaktime, the pupils are allowed to use things from the storeroom and so lots of skipping ropes, toy cars and of course footballs in particular are used every day.  After break we walked to the well and saw how the pump was being used.  A small problem has arisen as the run off from the excess water is now making the ground very boggy around the well.  A solution was discussed and the funds made available from Addingham Ceihdl, and so on our return home James, John and Kebba organised the materials to fix the problem over the next couple of days.
Mell enjoyed her visit to the clinic, arriving in time to assist with a circumcision!  The 5 of us walked around to Neil’s bar in the evening for a meal and a beer of course!

26.1.14 Sunday. Wrestling and Culture

Linda, Steve and I went to see Christine at her accommodation this morning to sort out what the visitors want to do this week, which schools to visit and other events.  We decided to travel on Wednesday and arranged transport for the week with Omar and his minibus.   Kebba had told us of an afternoon of culture today, and so after our brief meeting we returned home to meet up with Mell and James and get ready for the afternoon, transport was arranged for Christine and the others to join us for the cultural entertainment.  We all met up at the venue at Sanyang and spent a very interesting afternoon watching various tribes entertaining the tourists in many different ways, dancing, drumming, displays of knife cutting, fabrics, costumes, kancorans and many other events. A great celebration, colourful costumes, many different instruments all playing at the same time and lots of happy people. Then the big event of the day, wrestling in the nearby ring, several very strong Gambian men parading around in loin cloths, wearing jujus (protective magic charms) round and round the ring to the sound of drumming, being challenged to a wrestling bout, which would end with one of them being thrown to the sandy floor.   Dinner on the beach and then home for the rest of the evening..

25.1.14 Saturday. Clean up day

Set Settal, the local name for clean up day today, all traffic is suspended for the morning and everyone is supposed to be at home or work cleaning up the environment around their place.  Western rubbish is the biggest problem here, things introduced into the country that the local people do not know how to cope with.  There are no recycling plants here so all rubbish is left in the street, hoping that it will disappear like all natural waste.
The area in front of the storeroom had accumulated lots of rubbish, mainly plastic bags,  and we decided to set a good example to our neighbours and spend the morning clearing the area.  Mell, James, John, Steve and I; armed with rakes, shovels and a lighter, spent half the morning clearing all the rubbish and having several small fires.  Kebba and some friends joined in with their machetes and we cleared a large area of shrub where the rubbish had stuck on to the branches and so we managed to tidy up half the street.  Several passers by stopped to say what a good job we were doing, but no-one offered to help! Once the traffic curfew for clean up day was lifted, Steve and James went to do a delivery at Abuko and to collect Mr Jallow’s bike which had broken down there.  All the packing done for our travellers today we went to the beach for a last swim and to order dinner. Unfortunately the wind had really got up today and it was cold! on the beach, only John braved the sea.  The bar is part owned by a Swiss couple and we were pleased to get our dinner at 4.30pm which was the time we had booked it.  Steve and Jim were back in time to join us to eat, we left the beach and sat in the bar, huddled under our towels trying to get warm.  An excellent meal, we will be back!    Home for shower and change and then we went to the airport to drop Gill and John and collect Linda.  The 4 of us at in the Sky bar and watched the plane arrive, Gill stayed with us to greet Linda, Christine Schofield and the others, and then she and John made their way to the departure lounge.  Christine and 4 others went off in their transport whilst Linda joined us to return home and meet Mell and James.

24.1.14 Friday. Gill’s last day

This week has passed so quickly! A last opportunity for some serious sunbathing for Gill round the pool this morning, a chance to relax before returning home and work. .  John, Mell and Steve went to do a delivery at St John’s school for the deaf, and Jim and I spent the morning in the storeroom, sorting some supplies out.  We are finding that we are getting less exercise books from England as more schools are using IPads now.  If anyone out there has some we would be very grateful, please send them to Christine at the contact address.  Kebba had been in touch yesterday to say that the last ferry had gone at 7 instead of 11 last night and so he had spent the night in Barra, so he arrived later in the morning.  We decided to return to the beach this afternoon as the sea has enormous waves today and we are all good swimmers.  Great fun had by all, and our local beach bar even lent us a boogie board!
The last night, a chance to dress up and go to Cabanas our newest bar here in the tourist area, cocktails, tapas and an evening meal by sunset.

23.1.14 Thursday Makasutu

Omar came for us this morning and we set off to visit Makasutu park, calling at the bank on the way to meet Mr Jallow and give him the wages for January.  He joined us in the minibus for a lift down to the school and then we left him for Brikama and the game park.  This park was started by two English men a few years ago and has been developed into an eco lodge hotel and a forest park. We opted for the half day excursion and were joined by our guide, Ousman, for the morning.  The park is home to baboons, and we soon met a troop crossing the path in front of us.  Lots of photograph opportunities and then we went to what is called base camp for our boat ride through the mangroves.  Back from the boat we had a cold drink and then decided to have a swim in the newly constructed pool.  A very pleasant afternoon; followed by a walk through the park; an opportunity to meet a palm wine tapper; watch how he climbs the tree to collect the palm and a taste of the product. The wine is non alcoholic when collected, but very soon ferments into something quite strong!  we had the newly collected wine to taste.   We then returned to the tourist area in Kololj where we had lunch at Al Rawshe followed by ice cream at the parlour.  Whilst we were enjoying the day Kebba was in touch to say that more workers had been stung by bees and so they had now filled up the hole in the tree where the bees were living, they have almost finished the wall, so he will be back tonight. 

22.1.14 Wednesday Nemasu

Kebba was setting off back to Kumbija this morning with the wages for the workers, the wall at the back of the school should be finished tomorrow.  i needed to call at the bank for the money and so we dropped him at the turntable after sorting the wagesand and water money. We made our way to Nemasu for the rest of the morning, Omar and his minibus taking us as Steve was going to Naata today to talk to Mr Jallow about regularly servicing the bike as it has broken down. We arrived at the nursery, Gill's first chance to see what we actually do here, and spent time in the school, visiting the classrooms and interacting with the pupils.  We then decided to walk through the village to inspect the well as it is now finished and the villagers are very happy with the new pump and cover, making it safer for people to use. As usual we were like the Pied Piper with many small children following us and grabbing a finger each to hang on to.  After a busy morning we returned home and spent the rest of the day round the pool, John cooked dinner this evening and then we settled down to watch 12 years a slave, our newest purchase..

21.1.14 Tuesday Beach day

After the exertions of yesterday a lazy day on the beach was called for today.  Gill, John and Mell set off to the beach just down from our house, and we arranged to meet them a bit later.  We had an errand to run for Amy to help Francis with his English exam arrangements, we met Francis in Kotu and completed the errand before going on to Musa’s garage to check out the truck and make sure it was all running correctly.  Whilst we were there we had a call from Kebba to say that he and Jim were on their way across to Banjul from Barra, so we went to collect them as they disembarked from the small boats.  The wall at Kumbija should be finished by Thursday, a slight hiccup yesterday as the workers surprised some bees and a couple of the guys were chased by some very angry bees and got stung. We went home and dropped Kebba off and then Jim joined us on the beach to surprise Mell and stay for the afternoon.  Lunch was late coming as they had had to send someone to buy fish, and so we all had time to relax, swim and read for the rest of the afternoon.  After a relaxing afternoon we returned home in time to shower and change for quiz night.  A team of 6, we called ourselves ‘The Old Colonials’ but as we won again we were renamed the ‘Clever Bastards from Yonder’  a name we have decided to keep.  Jo at the bar insisted we spend some of our winnings on the Bingo that followed, a decision she regretted when we won that as well!   More money into the charity pot.