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.

18.3.14 Tuesday Nemasu with visitors

We had arranged to meet Carole and Ronnie this morning at 9am at their hotel to take them to Nemasu to view the school. We arrived on time and set off for the nursery, it is Ronnie’s first visit to the Gambia and we had lots to show him and explain on the short journey to the village.  We arrived as Momodou was having his sports lesson with nursery 2, and we were able to watch for a while before meeting Mr Sallah in the office.  Ronnie was interested in the history of the school and we were able to show him the photos on the wall which depict the progress from when they started in a mud hut (in the village behind where they are now.) to the new three classrooms where they are now.  Each class was visited and the teacher observed, before we walked into the village to inspect the well and reservoir which are now working again after the repair..  We then left the school and went back to our house for coffee, where we found Chris Brown, Pauline, and Olivia sorting out the boxes for the deliveries to clinics.  We had a nice cold drink with everyone and then the ladies left to go and deliver goods to Kassama, whilst we had a visit from Ousman who brought Steves driving licence which was finally ready.  Carole and Ronnie then got a lift back with Ousman whilst we relaxed round the pool this afternoon and had a swim.  Tonight is the last night for the Belle Vue trip, and so we got dressed up and went to meet them in Cabanas this evening.  They had lots of tales to tell about their visits to the crocodile pool and the craft market, photographs to show and anecdotes to share.  Whilst we were there Pauline and Marjorie arrived and sat across from us, and more stories were shared with them.  We spent more than 3 hours in the restaurant, much to Hamza’s surprise, and then left them for the night, returning home once more.

17.3.14 Monday. St. Patricks Day

Today we had arranged to meet Margaret Harkins at Ocean Bay Hotel, and so after breakfast we set off for the rendevous.  We called and dropped the can of fuel at Ousman’s house on the way as he couldn’t get to work without it.  Margaret and her husband have been helping a school near Tendaba and wanted some advice about boreholes and solar installations.  We sat and had a drink and a chat and then we returned home to relax for the afternoon. Chris contacted me to say they had moved accommodation and were now at Mansea Beach, and so I drove up to talk to them about their arrangements for the rest of the holiday.  Steve and I walked around to Neil’s bar this evening where they had cooked Irish stew and arranged a Karaoke for the evening.  We stayed for the supper, but gave the singing a miss (not our forte! As most will know)

16.3.14 Sunday. Home again

The boys were all awake and packing up their things by torchlight around 6am, we quickly dressed, and packed all our things into the truck and then helped with the mosquito nets. (there is a definite art to this)  We were all packed and ready to go just after daybreak.  Mr Jarjussey came to see everyone off, and we all set off for the journey back.  We arrived in Farafenni where we were hoping to buy fruit, but the seller had not arrived, and so we made the decision not to wait and continue to Kalagie for breakfast on the way back.  We arrived at the ferry terminal where the queue was not too long and we managed to get on the large ferry with a promise that the boys would be right behind us on the small one.  Arsalan and Atique were travelling in our truck, and they got out and sat upstairs for the short journey across.  We set off down the road to Kalagie where we ordered plates of chips for the boys.  There was no electric power and so the drinks were not very cold and the coffee was not very warm!  Still the chips were ready soon after Omar arrived with the rest of the party and we were able to have breakfast before getting back on the road home.  Mr Sallah had asked us for firewood and charcoal from the roadside on the way back and we stopped to buy both.  Ousman then rang to tell us that there was a shortage of fuel in the Banjul area; queues everywhere,  and warned us to fill up before returning.  We managed to find a service station which had fuel, we filled both the truck and a container for Ousman, and Omar managed to get some as well.  We arrived back at Holiday Beach Club before 2pm and dropped off the boys before returning home for a siesta.  Steve cooked dinner, then we had a film on when Chris Brown and Pauline arrived with a parcel from England.  They had just arrived in the country.  An early night!

15.3.14 Saturday. Official Opening of the Library

We were up and smartly dressed this morning, Channeh met us at the school and we all set off for Kaur, calling at the café for breakfast for us and the boys.  We arrived to find everyone waiting for us and as we had brought a mop and bucket from Jamwelly, after breakfast we opened the library and began the finishing off work of cleaning the windows and the floor.  The ceremony had been arranged for 11am, and to our surprise that was the time everyone arrived!  Ribbons were tied across the doors, a group of dignitaries arrived, a crowd of pupils in uniforms and we were ready.  Belle Vue Boys stood outside the library for group photos.  An inscription is going to be painted over the door by the local sign writer.  ‘Belle Vue Boys.  Proud to Care’  Several speeches were made and then the Head Boy of Kaur cut the ribbon to allow everyone to surge inside and look at the finished room.  A job well done and to celebrate, the sound of drums drew everyone outside to see a Tree Kankoran, specially invited to entertain the visitors. A large crowd surrounded the drummers and dancing began, several of the boys joined in, Arsalan joined the drumming, Mr Macateer danced with the local ladies and a good time was had by all.  Lots of  souvenir photographs were taken and happy memories made.  The celebration went on for over an hour and then lunch arrived.  Steve and I went back to Jamwelly, Omar brought some of the visitors down to see the nursery school,  and then we all rested out of the hot sun until late afternoon.  As we are setting off at 6am in the morning, we decided to spend the night at Kaur, so we packed up our things and went up to the school where a football match was planned between the visitors and the school team. We had brought some of the football kits which had been donated, teams were chosen and dressed in the new kit, photographs taken and then the match commenced.  For the first time in all our school trips the visitors actually won the match! The Head Teacher from Kaur then asked us all to return to their classroom quarters where a small crowd had gathered to say Goodbye as we are leaving so early in the morning.  The Deputy Head appeared, and gave a small speech before handing out African outfits that had been made for the guests and ourselves.  We all had to put them on and pose for photographs.  Miss Fox then gave a short speech on behalf of the visitors.  The boys were overwhelmed by the generosity of the hosts, and some of them also made speeches thanking everyone for their hospitality.  As Atique said, ‘you housed us, you fed us and now you even clothed us’  Hamza said that although he had travelled a lot, mostly 5 star, ‘he had never experienced hospitality like this, which truely came from the heart’
We then returned to the library where we set up our bed for the night, and then joined the boys for the evening meal.  Loud music was coming from the village and the boys decided to go and investigate whilst Steve and I retired for the night, although the loud music kept us awake until 1am when the power went off!  A successful and happy visit with lots of new friends and memories made.

Friday, 21 March 2014

14.3.14 Friday. Off to work we go!

Steve and I were up early and left before the pupils arrived for the day at 8am, to buy breakfast for the Belle Vue Party. The gate at Jamwelly was damaged on the hinge, and so it was loaded onto the back of the truck for us to take to Kaur to be fixed.  We stopped for breakfast and a welcome cup of coffee at the small café at the crossroads and also to buy the bread and sandwiches for the boys.  We arrived at the school and met all the party, up and raring to go.  We left them eating breakfast whilst we went into Kaur to buy the paint and rollers for today’s task.  The library was opened and work commenced, sweeping all the cement dust out before the paint was opened.  The new bookcases were brought out into the open to paint, and the old ones from the small store were emptied and also brought outside.  Arsalan opted for the long poled roller, and work started on the painting, all the boys had a roller and it was not long before the room started to take shape.  Shahid, Miss Fox and Atique went out to paint the bookcases, and it was a hive of activity all morning, Mr Macateer, being 6’4 was chosen to stand on the table and reach the parts no-one else could!  Dinner was called and a halt to all the work until later in the afternoon when it had cooled down a little.  Because Kaur is so far from the coast, about 200 kilometres, it is much hotter than the tourist area which benefits from a sea breeze.  Our new truck has a temperature gauge and the hottest temperature recorded during our visit was 47 degrees.  After a rest we all returned to the library and as all the paint had dried we were able to get out the boxes of books sent by Belle Vue and others for the new library.  Some of the Kaur pupils helped carry the boxes, the tables and the chairs across to the new room, and everyone started to clean the furniture and arrange the books onto the newly painted shelves.  Very soon the room took shape, a map was stuck on the notice board, library carousels were stocked and the books sorted into categories.  Yusef  and Bahsan were busy finishing off the painting on the outside of the building, helped by our driver, Omar.  Several elders from the village and school management committee turned up to see the new structure.  Eventually, very dirty and very tired the work was finished and we were able to lock the building for the night.  Steve and I were too tired to eat! We collected the mended gate and returned to Jamwelly for a shower and bed, leaving the boys to enjoy their specially requested Domada tonight.

13.3.14 Thursday. Belle Vue Boys to Kaur

7am was our arranged set off time today, but we had not bargained on the time it takes boys to 
get ready!  Worse than the Girls!  Atique was busy making sure his quiff was perfect for the journey; Bahsan was dressing for the North Pole I think in a quilted body warmer, Hamza was making sure his hat was at the right angle, goodness knows what the others were doing.  Omar had arrived on time and so all the transport was ready and waiting; but it was nearer to half past 7 before we set off.  Bashir and Amar were travelling in the truck with us.  We arranged to meet for breakfast at MandinaBa as the minibus was faster than our fully laden truck.  It was light almost before we got to the airport road and the shops were all open and the bread had been delivered when we arrived to buy our sandwiches.  Today is the first day for the Boys and so they are not yet used to the idea that there are no fast food outlets for breakfast and the choice is very limited depending on the season and availability of food.  However, being able to photograph banana trees was a novelty and even though some chose not to have a sandwich, snacks were available in the transport.  We set off again and reached the ferry at Soma just after 10.30am.  The traffic was busier than we have seen it for several weeks now and we had to hustle to get near the front of the queue to cross.  We waited for the larger ferry so we could cross together and managed to get into Farafenni around noon.  A quick stop to buy buckets and ladles for showers, and then onto to Kaur to end our journey.  Channeh, the head teacher at Jamwelly rang to check on our progress and arranged to meet us at the cross roads to welcome us to Kaur.  We arrived after 1pm and were met on the road by the Head Teacher, Mr Jarjussey from Kaur and Channeh, along with 4 other people from the school.  Greetings were exchanged and then we all set off for the last half mile to the school.  We drove in through the hole where the gates used to be and were met with a wall of sound; all pupils from both morning and afternoon sessions, (around 750)  were lined up down both sides of the entrance way all clapping and chanting ‘Welcome, Welcome’  Belle Vue Boys had never seen anything like it and several of them were very moved by the emotions it provoked.  We were escorted to a circle of chairs which had been arranged for us to sit down and then the Chairman of the School Management Committee, the Head Teacher, the Deputy Head and the Cluster Monitor all made speeches welcoming us all to the school.  Eventually we were allowed to rest, and after being shown the classroom where they were sleeping, the boys spent time blowing up airbeds and arranging the mosquito nets which were to be theirs for the next 3 nights.  Soon, lunch arrived, cooked by Channeh and the school cooks, plates were retrieved and spoons found.  We had decided to eat vegetarian for the duration of the trip, as it was felt unfair to ask them to cook food which they could not normally afford.  Some of the boys ate vegetables for the first time!  Although the rice was popular with everyone. After dinner we requested the keys to the library and the boys were able to see what their fundraising efforts had provided for the school. The room is just an unpainted shell at the moment, clearly showing where a door has been blocked off and windows have been created.  Tomorrow we will all paint and stock the shelves with books.  Some of the boys wanted to start work today, but as it was the hottest part of the day and their first full day in the Gambia, it was decided to wait until the relative cool of the morning.  The boys proceeded to make friends with the local pupils, Steve and I went down to Jamwelly to make up our bed for the night.  The little dog we rescued a couple of weeks ago has settled in and although her leg has been broken at some time it has healed well, just leaving a small bump on the join.  She has been named Tiger by the school children and is now a changed animal, quite happy and wagging her tail a lot.  Musa, the caretaker, is looking after her and the school cooks are providing her with dinner every day.  Steve brought a book on dog care on his last visit, and Channeh found it ‘interesting’ that animals were so well treated in Europe.  We set up our bedroom, had a rest out of the hot sun, and returned to the school in time for supper and to plan the work for tomorrow. At last time for bed, and we made our way back to Jamwelly.

12.3.14 Wednesday. Departure and Arrival

We must be familiar faces at the airport now!  Ann packed and was ready to go by 11am and so we set off once more to the airport.  Ann checked in and then we sat in the restaurant upstairs to wait for the plane to arrive.  The wind had got up again and the flight was slightly late arriving and had to land facing west instead of east as usual.  We saw Ann through to departures and then we went to Kairaba shopping centre to stock up on food and water for the Belle Vue Boys trip up country tomorrow.  Then, onto Holiday Beach Club where the boys are staying whilst in Kololi.  We waited in the meeting room out of the sun for the coach to arrive, met them to great excitement all round and then had a short meeting with them to discuss the plans for tomorrow.  Omar, the driver arrived with his minibus and we loaded most of the water into the back space, and gave the snacks to Miss Fox for the journey.  It will be hotter up country and essential to keep drinking water and eating salty snacks..  Everyone was checked in at reception and then we left them so we could do some more shopping for provisions for the next 4 days.  We arrived back home to find Sanaba waiting to see us and he and Kebba helped pack the vegetables and more salt snacks into banana boxes to make them easier to carry on the back of the truck.  Round to the storeroom once again to load the airbeds and mosquito nets necessary for the boys’ stay.  Once again Neil’s for supper before an early night.

11.3.14 Tuesday More visitors

Jean had arrived on Sunday and came to visit us this morning, we all went to the storeroom to sort out the boxes she had sent on the container this time.  Jean had managed to acquire several football kits and had sorted them into sizes for different schools.  We loaded some boxes into the truck for her to distribute and then we all set off for the tourist area where Steve Ann and I were going to meet Carole and Ronnie who had also arrived on Sunday.  We left Jean at Yashmina’s waiting for a friend; and we walked down to the corner to meet the others.  We decided on lunch at Al Rawshe and by 1pm we were sat enjoying the atmosphere and the food in the sunshine.  The cold wind has dropped in the last day and so we didn’t need a cardigan for once!  We spent a pleasant afternoon and then returned home for a rest before going out again this evening for Ann’s last night.  Cabana’s our restaurant of choice at the moment with a wonderful view of the sunset.  Ann and I had a cocktail each, Steve settled on a beer, and we shared Tapas for our last meal together.  Tonight is quiz night, and so after our meal we went to the Courtyard for the weekly event.  A team of only three tonight, and we maintained our winning streak of 6 out of the last 7 weeks.  Unfortunately tonight will be the last one as the Courtyard has decided to close down.  So not only did we win money for the Charity again, but we also came home with another kitten about to be made homeless.  CiCi, (named for Chop and Chat) is about 6 months old, tortoiseshell, with a really cute face and green eyes.  She will now join our other 4 cats at home, lets hope they all get on.

10.3.14 Monday Ladies who lunch

Doug arrived at 5.45am to help Steve with the driving to Kaur this morning.The two of them set off just after 6am with Kebba, and I went back to bed for a couple of hours.  Kebba had arranged to meet Sanaba on the way and they were going with Steve to make sure that there were ‘nice’ facilities for the boys and Miss Fox to use for their 3 night stay.  Ann and I got up and had breakfast and then we decided to go for a long walk on the beach.The wind has dropped, so maybe it will be warmer today.  The sea is still eroding the coastline of The Gambia, there are high level meetings with the Government going on about how to arrest it’s progress.  The beach at our end of the bay is not too badly affected, we still have about 75 yards of beach at high tide, however outside some of the hotels in the Kololi area the sea reaches the perimeter wall of the hotel at high tide; and large sandbags have been deployed to stop it flooding into the hotel grounds.  Ann and I walked for over an hour and then stopped at a bar with a commanding view of the ocean for lunch.  We enjoyed the rest and the lunch and then walked back for the afternoon at home.  Steve and Doug arrived home by 6pm, earlier than we had expected, having been to Jamwelly and Kaur to inspect the work done by the builders at both locations; and to deliver the next lot of books for the new library.  Doug retrieved his quad bike and went off home, Steve was understandably tired, and so we just walked round to Neil’s bar for an early supper.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

9.3.14 Sunday Lazy Day

The wind was howling all night and it is definitely colder than we have ever had it before here.  We all added blankets in the night and all slept in this morning as the sky was grey, overcast and no sun to wake us!  Eventually we rose about 10am, and all gathered in the kitchen to have breakfast as it was too cold to sit outside.  Steve, Kebba and I sorted out the funds needed for Steve’s trip tomorrow to Kaur, and then the three of us went and loaded the truck from the storeroom with the items needed for the visit of Belle Vue Boys later in the week.
The sun finally came out and we sat in the garden this afternoon before Ann and Steve went out to find somewhere to watch football (Ann’s choice as Manchester City are playing this afternoon) Apparently the driving school have started a video club in their compound and that it where they are headed.  I stayed behind as Kebba was also out watching football at a different video club.  Ann and Steve came back, Ann disappointed as City had lost!
Tonight we have decided to go to the Indian restaurant in Kololi, so after a shower and change we headed off to the tourist area for our evening meal.  The food was delicious as usual, and we left around 9.30 and returned home to have an early night as Steve is setting off to Kaur in the morning with Doug, around 6am.

8.3.14 Saturday Tanji Museum

Ann was better today and despite the cold wind we decided to visit the museum at Tanji, we wrapped up warm!!  Something I never thought we would have to do here! and set off for the museum, which is about 5 miles from our house.  We called at Batakonko clinic on the way to see the improvements which have been made since Ann’s last visit, and then arrived at the museum mid morning.  The exhibits here are of the Flora and Fauna of Gambia and then exhibition rooms devoted to local crafts, musical instruments and customs.  There is a man demonstrating weaving and opportunity to buy locally made items.  A Mandinka village has been recreated within the grounds, complete with a blacksmith and traditional artefacts.  We spent a couple of hours here and then left to go to the tourist area for lunch, where we opted to sit inside at Paradiso out of the biting wind!  We returned home for a relaxing afternoon before Steve cooked dinner for us whilst I caught up with the Blog.  Another film from our vast library this evening and then so to bed.

7.3.14 Friday Storeroom and Abuko

Ann was not well today, was it a bug or was it the prawns?  We will never know, either way she wanted to stay at home for the day.  Steve and I went to the storeroom and sorted out a delivery for Abuko school where Mr Jallow teaches in the afternoon.  We set off and arrived before lunch to be greeted by the head teacher and Mr Jallow who arranged for some bigger boys to unload all the boxes into the Principals office.  The head of the school management committee was also there and they were all very grateful for the reading books and resources which we had put together for them.  The school is one of the larger ones, with 1925 pupils on a two shift system, and classrooms 3 storeys high.  We left and made our way to visit Ibraima, the school caretaker at Naata, who has a problem with his dog at the moment.  The dog lives in the grounds of our nursery and acts as a guard in the night, she has a large infestation of mango fly worm at the moment, so armed with Vaseline, disinfectant and tweezers, Steve, Ibraima and I spent well over an hour removing as many as we could find.  This drama was watched by at least a dozen children, who were fascinated by our diligence.  Finally, we couldn’t find any more and left Ibraima with instructions and medication in case there is a recurrence.  As Ann is not eating today, we decided to stop at Neil’s bar on the way home for dinner, so we are not eating in front of her.  A new shop has opened next to the bar and I got a long sleeved T shirt to wear to keep warm, as this cold wind doesn't seem to be going at all.  We arrived home late in the afternoon, and decided to watch a film so Ann could retire early this evening and catch up on some sleep.

6.3.14 Thursday. Naata

After a leisurely breakfast we decided to take Ann to visit Naata and Mr Jallow this morning.  The weather is still unpredictable and we have high winds and chilly evenings at the moment, but it managed to stay warm and sunny for our visit.  We arrived at break-time and were greeted by lots of the pupils who like to come and shake hands, sometimes clutching their ice drinks, which makes their hands very cold.  Momodou has decided to stay at the school and seems to have settled back into teaching now.  We met with Mr Jallow, toured the school, watched some lessons taking place, and then left to go shopping in Serrekunda.  We managed to source most of our purchases and then called at Yashmina for a long lunch, before returning home for the evening, where Steve cooked prawns for dinner, before we watched another film.

5.3.14 Wednesday Airport Day

After breakfast I made a CD of all the photographs I had taken of the school trip and then Ann, Steve and I went to Holiday Beach Club to say goodbye to the girls and the teachers for this year’s visit.  Everyone was packed and ready when we arrived and after lots of hugs and handshaking they boarded the bus heading for the airport.  The three of us decided to have a coffee, and headed to Yashminas for their lovely cappuccino and then down to the Senegambia hotel for a look round the shops before returning home for the afternoon.  A walk around to Neil’s bar for dinner in the evening rounded off our day.

4.3.14 Tuesday. Belle Vue last Day

Steve, Ann and I went down to Nemasu this morning as Bev had left her glasses behind yesterday.  Momodou has his graduation ceremony next week, it has been postponed several times, but we are told it will happen on the 14th March.  Unfortunately we will not be able to attend, but we arranged for him to hire a gown for the day.  We then went shopping before calling at yashmina for a snack and returning home for the afternoon.  The Belle Vue Party return home tomorrow and we went to meet them at Cabana’s this evening to watch their last sunset and enjoy the food and cocktails in the bar.  The restaurant had arranged a large table for us all and the teachers, Ann and I had cocktails whilst the girls were on the beach watching the sunset.  Everyone has enjoyed their holiday and there was a lot of chatter and reminiscing amongst the group whilst we ate the delicious tapas and then our main course.  Many photographs were taken and then Tess had awards to give out to the girls.  These were in the form of a postcard with a slogan, such as ‘Gambia’s best swimmer’,  ‘Gambia’s best film maker’ etc, and then a wrap for each girl.  They had also bought Steve and I a present each, I got a lovely leather handbag and Steve an African shirt for being ‘Gambia’s best trip organisers’  A lovely evening and a fitting end to a memorable week for the girls.   We returned home tired and happy.

3.3.14 Monday. University of Plymouth party

Oh dear!  The night was not as planned as I was sick all night long.  Probably not enough salt yesterday!  I was too ill to go to school this morning, so Steve and Ann went to the turntable to meet both the Belle Vue and the University parties.  All arrived on time and Steve drove to Nemasu with everyone following.  First lesson of the day on Monday is sport for nursery one, so Steve was able to use Fatou’s classroom to have a meeting with the University people, whilst Belle Vue visited each classroom and then at break time, both parties played games with the pupils before they all returned to their classrooms for the next lesson. Class 2 were painting and producing prints of hands and feet, whilst class 3 were using Play Doh to cut out shapes and learn their names.  All the members of both parties visited the classrooms before everyone packed up to go back to their hotels.  We had arranged to have Belle Vue for a BBQ this afternoon, and so Ann and Steve had been shopping on their way home and both worked very hard to get everything ready for 3pm.  I was feeling a little washed out, and certainly was not eating, so sat on the sidelines whilst everyone joined in and most had a swim this afternoon.  All left around 6.30 and I went back to bed whilst Ann and Steve watched a film for the evening.

2.3.14 Sunday Boat Trip

Tess had asked me to book a boat trip for the school girls so that they could relax today.  We liaised with the animal charity and managed to arrange a trip for today and book for the 16 of us to go this morning.  Steve and I drove to Denton Bridge via the African Village hotel where we left a letter for the University of Plymouth party who have arrived and want to visit Nemasu tomorrow.  We arrived at the boat in time for departure at 10am.  The girls all looked incredibly glamorous, dressed in long skirts or palazzo pants and skimpy tops for sunbathing today.  Ayesha was making a film of all their activities, and they were all moving around the boat and posing for the camera.  We all relaxed for the day, some of us had a massage or pedicure and all the girls and Steve had a go at fishing although nothing large enough for tea was caught, the biggest item was the anchor! Caught by one of the teachers!  The boat moves down the creek through the mangroves, giving opportunity to watch the birds and other boats.
The trip includes breakfast, dinner and afternoon tea and so we returned home well rested and fed.  Steve and I then got changed and went to the airport to collect our friend Ann who will be staying for the next few days.

1.3.14 Saturday. Clean Up Day

Another early morning for us all.  We quickly got dressed and packed all our belongings into the minibus.  Salimatou, one of the teachers had arranged a taxi to collect Steve, Fiona and I and she travelled with us to Barra.  It was pitch dark and I sat with my camera on my lap hoping for another appearance by the strange un-named animal I had seen two years ago, but no such luck.  We arrived at the ferry port before the ticket office opened and sat in the dark waiting for sun-rise.  We managed to find a stall selling coffee and so kept warm until the sun came up.  Mr Secka came to see us off and discuss the mending of his book shelves at Essau.  As soon as the ticket office opened Mr Secka went and got the required tickets and stayed until we were safely through the gates into the departure area with the minibus.  We then discovered that the ferry was still in Banjul, and so we began the long wait for the first ferry.  We passed the time by shopping for breakfast and more coffee, and looking longingly at the horizon, hoping to see the ferry.  Eventually it arrived and we were allowed to board, the minibus being the last vehicle on as many of the vehicles had spent the night inside the port waiting to cross.  We arrived in Banjul before noon, but as it was clean-up day we had to leave the minibus and walk until we found a café willing to serve us.  All businesses should be closed until 1pm, but fortunately we were able to go inside a closed café and pull down the shutter while we had a welcome cold drink and a plate of chips to share!  Eventually 1pm came and our minibus came to collect us and take the girls back to their hotel for the rest of the day.  Steve, Fiona and I got a taxi and returned home, where we rested in the afternoon before taking Fiona for a last meal at Yashmina’s and then on to the airport to fly home.  We then returned home for an early night after all these early morning risings.

28.2.14 Friday Lessons and Sports

Everyone was awake with the sun and so we all congregated in the meeting room to discuss the days’ activities.  The Belle Vue Girls and teachers were anxious to go into lessons with the host school to see the differences between an English and a Gambian school lesson.  The English girls had all taken a course on ‘Reading Matters’ so that they could help the host pupils with their English reading and pronunciation.  Steve and I decided that as we were so close to Essau, one of the schools where we have provided a library, we would go on an impromptu visit this morning as they had rung to ask for help in repairing some bookcases.  We took the minibus with Mamood, the driver, and went the short distance back down the road to Essau, unannounced.  Mr Secka, the headmaster had helped us last week to obtain a Government truck to deliver all the boxes to Ndungu Kebbeh that Belle Vue had sent on the container and we had included a dozen boxes for Essau on the delivery.  We arrived with Fiona at the school and went into the library to see what was required.  This library was built in 2004 and the school here have really looked after it, we re-furbished it in 2008 and it still looks new!  We were really pleased to meet the new librarian, Mr Jallow, who was the head teacher at Kanuma before he retired, what a nice surprise for all of us.  He has rearranged the books and was busy with a catalogue of every book sent in the latest delivery before adding them to the shelves.  Unfortunately the wooden shelf supports on some of the bookcases have split and they need replacing.  We had a meeting with the deputy head and the librarian and it was decided that the wooden supports should be replaced with metal ones and then a thick plywood shelf put on top.  We were delighted with how the library is being used and looked after, with pupils from the University in Banjul also coming over the river to use the facilities.
We returned back to Ndungu Kebbeh, very pleased with what we had seen.  At the school we found that lessons had finished for the day, it being Friday, and the Belle Vue party were teaching some of the pupils ‘elastic twist’ and other games.  It was decided that the visitors should then go with some of the pupils after our lunch and visit the village.  The scouts (bless them) were still on show, wearing the new uniforms that one of our sponsors had paid for and still keeping us entertained with their marching and drilling skills.  The afternoon was spent resting until it started to get a little cooler around 4pm when a football match took place between England and Gambia on the field next to the school.  The Gambian team looked really smart in their new kit provided by Belle Vue, whilst the English team looked, shall we say ‘different’ playing with their handbags over their shoulders in the first half.  Needless to say the Gambian team won, and they then went on to repeat their success at volleyball.  Another drama was performed for us this evening before we were served with the traditional dish of Domada for our evening meal.  It was during the drama that we discovered that we had to change our travel plans for Saturday morning.  We had received a call to say that the ferry would be in Barra ready to leave at 7am, and we needed to be at the port by 6am to secure a place on board.  Also to complicate matters we have just been told that tomorrow is ‘Clean up Day’ and unless we arrive in Banjul by 8.30am we will not be allowed to travel on the roads until 1pm.  Another 4.30am wake up call for us all.!  The girls took all of this in the same good humour as the rest of the visit.  We all gathered for our evening meal and then played a game before retiring.  The girls were really excited by their visit and went on to sing for a while after getting into their beds for the night.

27.2.14 Thursday. A welcome at Ndungu Kebbeh

The minibus and our taxi were outside our gate by 4.45am and we were off to Holiday Beach Club for the girls by 5am.  Pitch dark of course, we turned down into the resort area on the monkey park road but were stopped by the military check point and had to get out and walk the rest of the way to the hotel to collect the girls as our minibus was not the official green colour.  The girls were all ready with their back packs and minimal luggage and met us outside the gates, we quickly explained and then we all walked back to the minibus to climb aboard.  Fiona, Steve and I were in the taxi and would be crossing on the ferry on foot.  We arrived in Banjul and went straight to the front of the queue at the ferry, and after showing our special letter we were allowed to wait opposite the gate until the ticket office opened around 6.30am.  The words National Assembly in bold block capitals certainly did the trick and as soon as the tickets were obtained we were shown into the ferry crossing area and were promised a place on the first ferry, which should be 7am.  As dawn broke we realised that the ferry had not spent the night in Banjul as usual, and we would have to wait for it to come back from Barra; a wait of nearly 5 hours after our arrival.  Fiona, Mary and I went to buy breakfast and then we all waited until 10.30 for the ferry, and then we were one of the first vehicles on board.  The ferry filled up with the foot passengers and then we crossed slowly and arrived about 11.30 in Barra.  We found a taxi to take us to Ndungu Kebbeh and followed our minibus on the road to the village.  What a welcome!  The school had arranged for the scouts to meet and accompany the minibus into the school and all the pupils were lining the way into the playground where we parked and disembarked from our transport.  The teachers and pupils were all chanting ‘welcome welcome’ and jumping around clapping their hands and waving at everyone.  The Belle Vue girls and teachers were thrilled to bits at this welcome.  The girls immediately joined in with all the pupils and we watched as they split them into small groups and began teaching them the hokey cokey, ring a ring roses and other group games.  We then met with the teachers and directed the girls to the staff room, a bantaba in the centre of the playground, which Belle Vue have paid to have roofed and the floor tiled.  The party will sleep in here, whilst Steve and I will sleep in a classroom and Fiona in another.  The next hour or so we were getting the sleeping accommodation ready and then we were asked to go into a classroom which had been turned into a meeting room to meet all the individual members of the School Management committee and most of the school staff.  Dinner was then brought into the room for all our party to share.  A delicious meal of rice with some of the vegetables we had brought in a spicy sauce to make Benechin.
After dinner we were asked to join the host school under a large tree where welcome speeches were made by the head teacher and school management personnel.  Then the drama group put on a play about the dangers of unmarried pregnancy which was absolutely hilarious, with the ‘bad boy’ hamming it up and playing to the crowd, the mother of the girl a large African Mama, and the boy playing the father looking about 10 years old!  Everyone fell about laughing and all the crowd regardless of language could understand the visual humour.  Meanwhile the scout troop continued to parade and march around the grounds showing off their array of marching skills.  It would soon be dark, and so everyone retired to shower and change before the evening meal.  The school had erected a temporary shower area made from wooden posts with rice sacks to enclose a private area, with linoleum on the floor so we were able to stand on a clean area whilst using the buckets and ladles as a shower.  The girls were reluctant on the first night to have a shower under the stars, but most got used to it before we left.  Everyone was ready in their sleeping clothes when the evening meal was brought and we ate once again from a communal bowl, with candles and by torchlight.  As this was the second day in a row that the school party had been up at 4.30am, everyone retired early.

26.2.14 Wednesday. Belle Vue Girls Arrive

Fiona set off to Nemasu for her last morning this year, and I went to the storeroom, Steve stayed at home this morning, waiting for the arrival of the newly booked minibus. I sorted out the last minute things for Ndungu Kebbeh for the girls, and also some of the strange items we have been given (including a chain saw!) for an auction this afternoon which Doug was chairing.  The minibus driver arrived at the house and Steve called for me to go home and inspect it – not the same standard as the one we had booked unfortunately, but the driver was very friendly, and there were 14 seats of the bench type variety.  The other was fully upholstered and all the doors and windows operated properly, but beggars cannot be choosers as they say.  Fiona came home and we all had lunch before driving to Holiday Beach club to meet our school party.  The 10 girls and 4 teachers arrived to much excitement and we all went into the hotel restaurant area so that we could get to know each other and fill in all the forms for the hotel.  There was a mild panic over ants on the floor (wait till we get to the village) but everyone settled down quickly and went off to locate their rooms.  Steve and I sat down with Tess, the group organiser, and made a quick shopping list of items required for the village, vegetables mainly and then salty snacks for the journey, so that we do not dehydrate.  Everyone chose their meal for tonight at GTS and we went and gave in the order before going off shopping.  We arrived home in time for a quick change before going back to GTS for the evening meal.  Ousman joined us and brought the special priority letter he has arranged for the minibus to cross on the first ferry each way.  Everyone enjoyed the food and the company and then we retired early as we have to be on the road by 5am in the morning.