Sunday, 9 March 2014

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.

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