Saturday, 26 April 2014

26.4.14 Saturday. Last Day of the Season

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

25.4.14 Friday. Our last meal with Kebba

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

24.4.14 Thursday. Brikama College

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

23.4.14 Wednesday. Last day in Storeroom

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

22.4.14 Tuesday. Vets, bank, Nemasu

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

21.4.14 Monday Time running out

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

20.4.14 Sunday. The last visitors leave

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

19.4.14 Saturday. Last night for Anne and Steve

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

18.4.14 Friday. Birds and more birds

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

17.4.14 Thursday Jamwelly, Sinchu Njabo and Tendaba bird camp

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

16.4.14 Wednesday Janjanbureh and Jamwelly

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

15.4.14 Tuesday. Off to Kuntaur!

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

Monday, 14 April 2014

14.4.14 Monday. Busy day

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

13.4.14 Sunday. Wrestling for the visitors

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

12.4.14 Saturday. Charity boat trip

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

Saturday, 12 April 2014

11.4.14 Friday. A full house BBQ

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

10.4.14 Thursday Serekunda Market

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

9.4.14 Wednesday. Nemasu

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

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

8.4.14 Tuesday. A new project for next year

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

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

7.4.14. Monday Fantastic news from Walbottle

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

Sunday, 6 April 2014

6.4.14 Sunday. New Arrivals

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

5.4.14 Saturday. Garage and Store.

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

4.4.14 Friday Storeroom again

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

3.4.14 Thursday. Storeroom

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

2.4.14 Wednesday. Roscoe family last day.

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

1.4.14 Tuesday. April Fools Day

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

31.3.14 Monday. Oh what a circus!

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

30.3.14 Sunday. Kumbija

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

29.3.14 Saturday. Set Settal

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