Friday, 1 May 2015

21st April, 2015. travel back and meal out

We woke early and began the task of packing everything away but school started. All took turns in the shower area, and the airbeds were deflated and the mosquito nets packed away.  Omar arrived from his lodgings in the village, and the minibus was loaded with the luggage.  I wandered off to photograph birds, Robbie was playing with Tiger, the dog, he had brought her some toys. The pupils all began to arrive in time for school and the teachers.  We watched the beginning of the school day, briefly met with the head teacher and then took our leave.  Breakfast was taken at the same cafe as yesterday, and then we set off on the one road home. Just before Farafenni we stopped at sambalangjesse to inspect the new well being dug in memory of Maggie, a friend of Christine Schofield and a supporter of the charity for many years.  The well was about twelve feet deep, with a man at the bottom taking out the earth and sending it up to his colleagues at the top to dispose of.  Lots of photos were taken, we met with the chief of the village and his son, wished them all well and returned to the minibus.  The crossing at Farafenni was uneventful as the queues of Sunday had gone, the toilets at Kalagi had not been fixed and they had run out of soft drinks! No monkeys again on our journey, so we all dozed while Omar listened to his Bob Marley music.   We arrived back in Kololi, dropped our travellers at the same car park we had met them at and then Omar took us home.  Sheila was waiting with a cold water for us and hot water for a shower! Bliss!
Three of our travellers are returning home tomorrow, the whole party met at Smiling Coast, a restaurant in Kololi for a last meal together. We all looked much fresher and smarter than the last few days!

20th April, 2015. Monday, Loumen and a great welcome at Jamwelly

We were all awake with the sun, and began the task of dismantling our "camp" before the children arrive for school. Steve and I loaded some boxes which had been delivered by large truck, onto the minibus and went to Kataba with Omar, whilst the others stayed in Kumbija. Kataba a school which is twinned with a school in Bradford, is about 5 miles away and our delivery from their twin school didn't take too long, we were back in Kumbija just after school started. Steve and Omar began to load the truck whilst the rest of us observed lessons and met the teachers before once again piling into the minibus. A bumpy road through the scrubland, bare now of vegetation as the rainy season approaches, we bumped along to Loumen, school number two on our itinerary. Mr Bah was waiting on the verandah as we drove through the gates. Everyone was greeted and introduced, before going to look at the ladies garden which is thriving, and the classes in progress.  We unloaded our supplies for the school and arranged some photographs.  We were there in time for break, when the pupils lined up to wash their hands before sitting down at communal bowls for lunch. Then it was time to leave and make our way to Kaur, breakfast was calling! The best cafe in town is a corrugated shack at the crossroads in Kaur. Nescafé and an omelette sandwich for everyone before heading to Jamwelly.  We had alerted the headteacher to our imminent arrival and so were met on the road with pupils and teachers chanting welcome and waving to us. Steve, Denise and Julie got out and walked with the crowds whilst Omar drove on to the school.  The local ladies were dancing for us, some of us joined in, the village elders had come out to meet us, a few short speeches were made whilst we sat under the verandah out of the sun. A wedding was taking place in the village, We ladies decided to go and investigate, leaving Iain, Robbie and Steve in the school. A very young girl was having her part of the wedding ceremony today, her future husband will arrive next week. Lots more dancing to join in with before returning to the school. It is very hot here, the furthest point in our journey from the sea, on reaching the classrooms we found the airbeds had been blown up and so the other ladies had a sleep during the hottest part of the afternoon. As it cooled down more activity was possible, photos were taken and more interaction with the villagers who had come to see us at the school.  Steve had a long discussion with the head teacher, (a short one is impossible with Mr Sawaneh) I went to take photos of birds and the others played with the dog and the pupils.  Chargi one of the trainee teachers and another girl were cooking our dinner with the supplies we had brought.  Just before dark we all had our showers and sat under the stars waiting for our delicious dinner before bedtime.

19th April, 2015, Sunday. to the provinces

Omar arrived about 8.30 this morning to load the minibus for our travels.  Kebba fetched sandwiches for breakfast, Omar joined us for coffee, and we ate together before getting in the minibus and waving Sheila and Kebba goodbye.  A short drive to Kololi to find the other 6 waiting for us on the car park at Yashmina. We had asked for minimum luggage, 8 people, food, drink, bedding and school supplies all had to fitted into and on the minibus. Robbie was chosen to sit in the middle at the front as he is the thinnest of us all!  Chris, Joanne and I were on the back seat, Iain, Denise and Julie in the middle three.  All loaded we set off on our journey up the south bank, uneventful this morning, no monkeys even to see. A stop was scheduled at Kalagi where there are holiday lodges and a bar with cold drinks. About half way on our travels, we were all grateful for the opportunity to stretch our legs and admire the view.  The toilets unfortunately were out of action, but we managed and were promised that the plumber was on the way to fix them before our return on Tuesday.  We piled in the minibus again  and Omar drove to Soma for the ferry.  The queues!!!  Normally there is a long queue for trucks but not passenger vehicles, today the queue was horrendous. Not a good start for our 5 new travellers, it looked like a long wait.  Fortunately we had got a priority crossing for Omar, Steve went to find someone in charge, carrying the precious priority, and we were able to jump almost to the front!  Captain Sam was in charge today, easily spotted by the small umbrella he wears on his head, keeping his head cool and his arms free to direct the loading.  He saw Steve and I and explained that there had been a religious festival in Senegal and people were returning home, hence the queues today.  He asked which vehicle we were in and directed us to drive onto the waiting ferry as the last vehicle this crossing.  We must try and get him a replacement umbrella for next year! We crossed the short expanse of water to the other side, Robbie was fascinated with the pump taking the water from 
 boat over the side, the boats here are very old but still working, a bridge is being built, so let's hope they last that long!
Arriving in Farafenni we went through the usual routine, shopping at the supermarket for more cold drinks, filling the cool bag, rice and potatoes for dinner today and tomorrow.  I went into the market with Julie and Denise to buy vegetables, we were joined by our small friend, Abdoulie, who translates for me and carries the shopping for a few dalasis. More goods loaded onto the minibus, we lost our extra legroom in the back! Omar then began the last leg of the journey to Kumbija where we planned to stay the night.  Arriving at the school we were met by Baatchi the caretaker who had opened all the classrooms for us and filled all the water buckets.  Mr Sowe and some elders from the village were sat under a mango tree having Ataya, the sweet tea together.  The new solar borehole is finished, the tower stands tall and proud at the end of the playground. Three taps have been run from it, the first near the tower to water the new garden area, the second outside the kitchen for the cook to use and the third in the existing ladies garden. The boxes from the roof were unloaded and put into one of the classrooms and we joined Mr Sowe and the others, taking a cold drink with us. I had a short meeting with Mr Sowe, showing him the supplies we had brought and discussing the plans for the summer.  We then began the task of blowing up the airbeds and sorting out who was sleeping where tonight.  Robbie proved a big help on the pump, whilst Steve and Iain sorted the mosquito nets.  The bedding was sorted, the shower arrangements discussed and before we knew it it was time to shower before dark. Christine had brought some mosquito nets for Baatchi and his family and went with the other ladies to visit him in his home to take photos. Showering complete we sat round the table in the playground and waited for our dinner. Usually Alagie, Ousmans brother brings dinner on his motorbike, but he is one of many who have gone to Libya to try and reach Europe.  Foolish man, leaving his wife and small daughter behind, he told no one until he rang from Mali on the way.  Who knows what will happen to him. Fatou and Kaddy arrived with two lovely bowls of food prepared for us and we ate under the stars before retiring to bed.  Steve and I said our goodbyes to Fatou who had waited whilst we ate, Omar took them back in the truck as he is staying with them tonight.  And so to bed, surprisingly comfortable I slept like a log.boat over the side, the boats here are very old but still working, a bridge is being built, so let's hope they last that long!
Arriving in Farafenni we went through the usual routine, shopping at the supermarket for more cold drinks, filling the cool bag, rice and potatoes for dinner today and tomorrow.  I went into the market with Julie and Denise to buy vegetables, we were joined by our small friend, Abdoulie, who translates for me and carries the shopping for a few dalasis. More goods loaded onto the minibus, we lost our extra legroom in the back! Omar then began the last leg of the journey to Kumbija where we planned to stay the night.  Arriving at the school we were met by Baatchi the caretaker who had opened all the classrooms for us and filled all the water buckets.  Mr Sowe and some elders from the village were sat under a mango tree having Ataya, the sweet tea together.  The new solar borehole is finished, the tower stands tall and proud at the end of the playground. Three taps have been run from it, the first near the tower to water the new garden area, the second outside the kitchen for the cook to use and the third in the existing ladies garden. The boxes from the roof were unloaded and put into one of the classrooms and we joined Mr Sowe and the others, taking a cold drink with us. I had a short meeting with Mr Sowe, showing him the supplies we had brought and discussing the plans for the summer.  We then began the task of blowing up the airbeds and sorting out who was sleeping where tonight.  Robbie proved a big help on the pump, whilst Steve and Iain sorted the mosquito nets.  The bedding was sorted, the shower arrangements discussed and before we knew it it was time to shower before dark. Christine had brought some mosquito nets for Baatchi and his family and went with the other ladies to visit him in his home to take photos. Showering complete we sat round the table in the playground and waited for our dinner. Usually Alagie, Ousmans brother brings dinner on his motorbike, but he is one of many who have gone to Libya to try and reach Europe.  Foolish man, leaving his wife and small daughter behind, he told no one until he rang from Mali on the way.  Who knows what will happen to him. Fatou and Kaddy arrived with two lovely bowls of food prepared for us and we ate under the stars before retiring to bed.  Steve and I said our goodbyes to Fatou who had waited whilst we ate, Omar took them back in the truck as he is staying with them tonight.  And so to bed, surprisingly comfortable I slept like a log.

18th April, 2015 Saturday. tasks and tourism

I had to go to two banks today to sort out the wages for our nursery schools, Steve was going to get some photocopying done on Kairaba avenue.  We have been trying for three weeks to get photocopying, but with all the power cuts we had not yet succeeded; now it is urgent as we are traveling tomorrow,  Steve dropped me in Kololi with Sheila and we went to the second bank to post the money for Mr Sowe who has no branch of Access bank nearer than 100 miles. Steve was still not back so we went to Yashminas for morning coffee. Steve arrived back having found somewhere with power for the photocopying we returned home for the afternoon to get everything ready for our trip,  Sheila has decided to stay behind with Pauline and Olivia and help with the clinic deliveries.  That means that we can all get in one minibus instead of two.  Steve has spent a lot of time this week checking the airbeds to make sure that we have no leaks in them, making sure the mosquito nets are still in one piece and repairing any problems.  We have also made sure we have enough sheets, and sleeping bags in case it gets cold.  Whilst at home Mr Touray arrived to see us, we sat in the garden with a cold drink for a while, before he left us. Sheila wanted us to go out to dinner, probably our last for just the three of us as it will be home time next week.  Somewhere new to us  was chosen nearby, a hotel called Leo's on the top of the cliff facing the sea. What a lovely place, certainly this will be on our list of places to visit for a special meal. The view is lovely, the gardens a delight and the menu different.  We even had a sweet, a genuine French lemon tart.  
Returning home we discovered power! Getting to be an unusual event, so we sat and watched a film with Kebba.

17th April, 2015. Friday, Barbecue day.

One thing about living here, we can plan a barbecue weeks in advance and we know it will be a sunny day.  Kebba was up before us and had hosed down all the garden furniture and was sweeping up all the fallen leaves etc in the garden. After breakfast Sheila and I set about cutting up meat and vegetables for the salad, setting the table, cooking the rice etc.  we worked until about 1pm and then having got changed we went into the garden with a cool glass of wine.  Meanwhile Steve was having his bad leg massaged again, three times a week whilst we are here.  At half past one, Steve went to the Senegambia hotel to collect Iain, Denise and Julie to join us and meet their fellow travellers for this weekend.  Christine, Robbie and Joanne arrived by taxi, Madi joined us and also Ousman.  Pauline and Olivia rang to say they would be late as they had taken Mariama to the hospital,  Mariama is the cook at Naata and is having a baby, when we visited last week she seemed to think that the baby was due in July, but she is enormous and when Pauline, who is a nurse, saw her today she was worried.  Everyone sat round chatting and getting to know each other, the newcomers asking lots of questions about the proposed trip on Sunday.  Pauline and Olivia eventually arrived and joined us in time for the food, Mariama is staying in the hospital as she has high blood pressure. Everyone was introduced and all got on well, a very pleasant afternoon was spent chatting and swimming in the sunshine until the sun was going down and the wind brought a chilly evening in, it was time to go and transport was arranged to share back to Kololi.  We quickly cleared up and sat down for the evening, however another power cut occurred and we decided on another early night!

16th April, 2015. Thursday. Another day in the storeroom!

Our big dog, Buki, seems to have a problem with a bite received from a much smaller dog, a visit to the vet was the first item today.  An injection and some tablets and he will be fine, apparently German Shepherds are prone to blood disorders and are slow to heal wounds.  Buki is half German Shepherd and half Gambian dog so hopefully it will not be a serious problem. As we came out of the vet we got a call from Pauline who was hoping to come to the storeroom but unfortunately their taxi driver had no fuel.  We stopped at the petrol station and were told there was no fuel until maybe tomorrow.  I rang Omar to go and find some fuel for his minibus, otherwise we are not going anywhere this weekend!  We picked up Pauline and Olivia and took them to the storeroom, via the butcher to pick up the fillet steak for tomorrow. Sheila came round to help and the three of them started to sort the boxes intended for the medical clinics here which Pauline and Sheila will deliver this week.  Apart from a short break for a cold drink and lunch at Neil's, we were all in the store all day.  The first delivery for Kassama is to be taken tonight after 6, so the truck was loaded and we went home to wait 2 hours until the appointed time.  Tiring work in the store, everyone was falling asleep!  Steve drove Pauline, Olivia and Sheila down to the clinic whilst I stayed behind at home. They delivered the boxes, inspected the changes since their last visit and then Steve ran Pauline and Olivia back to the hotel, before returning home with Sheila for the rest of the evening.

15th April, Wednesday. new arrivals.

There is still some work to do in the storeroom to clear a space for Chris and Pauline to sort the clinic boxes, Steve, Sheila and I went round to the store after breakfast and spent the whole morning sorting goods into boxes, clearing space and getting out the airbeds and mosquito nets required for the weekend.  We returned home hot and sticky for a shower and change before getting in the truck to meet the new arrivals.  Steve dropped me at the Senegambia hotel to meet Iain, Denise and Julie, whilst he and Sheila went round to Mansea to meet Pauline and organise when they wanted to sort the  clinic boxes in the store. I met the new people and we talked about the trip up country which is planned for the weekend coming.  I also invited them to a Barbecue on Friday so they could get to know their travelling companions.  Steve then rang to say he was ready to pick me up and we all went to the front of the hotel to meet Steve before I got in the truck to return home.  Neil's for dinner, and then home, where we managed to watch a whole film before the power went off!  We are having an average of three hours a day with power at the moment, many rumours and explanations for this, shortage of diesel to run the generators seems to be the most obvious answer as money is tight in the country with the poor tourist season.

14th April, 2015. Tuesday. More deliveries

Steve is undergoing treatment on his leg at home, a very strong Nigerian lady is coming three times a week to do a massage on the damaged leg.  Sheila and I went to the storeroom with Kebba and loaded the truck for both Nemasu nursery school and the senior secondary school.  We drove to the senior school first and found the pupils revising for exams this afternoon.  We delivered some science equipment and books and spoke to the head teacher about the journalist assignments which some of the pupils are doing.  The idea behind this competition is that the students choose their own subject to write about and send them by email to Newsquest in England. Somewhere along the line the explanation about the email part had been lost and the students had submitted paper written copies to the head teacher.  I explained that the work was to be emailed and he promised to allow students time on the computers in the next few days.   We said our goodbyes and drove on to the nursery school, hoping to see the new toddler class in full swing.  Unfortunately Fatou was off sick today and Yunis was taking both the newcomers and class 1.  We will have to wait for next week to see the new pupils being taught by our newest trainee. Sheila and I returned home and collected Steve before driving to Kanifing to buy paint for our house maintenance and new dvd films.  Shopping is never easy here, as soon as you step out of the car you are approached by boys trying to persuade you in the direction of one shop or another, trying to convince you of the merits of one shop over another. I settled on one shop and asked for the paint we require and was assured they had it, just a short wait whilst they actually send out to another shop to fetch it.  This system works for them, commission must be paid somewhere along the line! Purchases completed we took the coast road back towards home and stopped at Yashminas for an early dinner.
Back home to relax for the rest of the day.

13th April. 2015. Monday. Naata with visitors.

Sheila and I set off just after 9am to collect Chris, Robbie and Joanne from Mansea Beach hotel.  We had loaded the truck yesterday with extra boxes for the teachers and managed to unload them all at Naata with Ibraimas help into the office.  All the work has been completed in time for the new term, the blackboards have been repainted and new cupboards delivered for the teachers to use.  Mr Jallow was taking classes 2 and 3 whilst Momodou and Abdoulie sorted the bookcase corner out in class 2.  Any book which was spoilt was taken out and new ones added from the new delivery. Joanne and Robbie were shown around by Chris as it is their first visit.  The pupils sung for us, and we organised some of the new toys to be brought out for them to play with, these were taken into class 3, such excitement as new toys appeared and eager hands reached to get them. We watched and explained how to use some of toys for a while before taking our leave late morning.  Straight to the storeroom, Chris wanted her charity boxes for the animal charities she supports. Once more our truck was loaded up, then off  to Neil's bar. We rang Steve and he walked around to join us for a cold drink and an early lunch.  After an hour or two I ran the guests back to Mansea beach, unloaded their boxes whilst Steve and Sheila walked home where I joined them for the rest of the day.

12th April, 2015. Sunday. Lunch with friends by the beach.

12th April, 2015. Sunday.  Lunch by the beach
Sheila and I spent the morning in the storeroom sorting the remaining boxes and tidying up.  We then returned to the house, a shower and change and then
Steve, Sheila and I went to Cabanas a bar overlooking the sea for lunch with Ousman and Agie.  They were on Gambian time of course and we waited over an hour for them to arrive.  No problem as we were watching the sea, having a drink and tapas whilst we waited.  This bar is lovely, but like all the tourist places this year, very quiet.  Eventually they arrived and we had lunch together before heading home for the rest of the day. A relaxing afternoon in the garden, we actually had power tonight and were able to watch a film.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

11th Aprill, 2015. Saturday. Clean Up Day

We woke to the sound of Kebba getting into a taxi to get to Naata before traffic was banned on the road until 1pm.  Sheila Steve and I had breakfast and then I decided to go and burn the rubbish on the road by the main road as I am tired of seeing it all.  I took the gas lighter and a rake and spent the next hour collecting piles of rubbish and burning it.  Several people passed and commented that I was doing a good job, and it was only after an hour that a man came and offered to help me, he also fetched me some cold water to drink as I was very hot by this time.  The man runs a shop over the road, but of course was not open this morning, he came to help and persuaded some of the other men to help and so soon there was quite a working party clearing the sides of the road.  Hopefully this has set a good example and people will try and keep the area clean now, a forlorn hope I think.  The biggest problem here apart from plastic bags is one of education, for generations rubbish has been left on the ground to disintegrate, unfortunately Western introduced goods including cans and plastic do not compost and stay on the ground.  No recycling facilities are yet fully available, although there is a man with a donkey cart who collects metal of any kind from time to time. After a shower and change Sheila and I went to Neil's bar for a quick lunch whilst Steve went off shopping.  We returned home and sat in the garden for the afternoon, later we ate dinner at home and for once we had power so were able to watch a film in the evening.

10th April, 2015. Friday. New classroom finished at Nemasu.

Yesterday the glass for the windows at Nemasu was cut and finished and we loaded the truck carefully to avoid broken glass.  We set off to collect Chris, Joanne and Robbie to go to Nemasu to prepare the classroom for the pupils on Monday.  I dropped Kebba on the highway to buy mastic and drove to the hotel for Chris and party.  I decided not to drive down the bumpy road to the hotel, and as Chris was not answering her phone Sheila walked down to meet them.  We picked Kebba and Modou up at the turntable complete with mastic, and set off through Sukuta to the school.  half way down the road to the school the way was blocked by a large group of men, there was a funeral taking place and we had to do a long detour to reach our destination.  We met Mr Sallah at the school and spent the morning cleaning the class and the furniture, setting out toys and books and arranging the furniture ready for the new pupils.  Meanwhile Kebba and Modou fitted the glass into the windows, not always getting it right first time, as at the end we were left with a pane too large and had to find the smaller window and swap the pieces.  Robbie did a good job of putting the black paper onto the new plywood boards ready for new displays.  Yunis will take the new class on Monday and we will employ a new caretaker to replace him.  Everything was finished to Mr Sallah's satisfaction, we piled back into the truck and I dropped Chris, Joanne and Robbie back at their hotel.  Sheila and I returned home with bread for a sandwich and then spent the afternoon relaxing before going out to Cabanas for our evening meal.  We returned home to no power again, and the generator decided not to work so another early night!

9th April, 2015. Thursday. Change of plan.

Mr Sowe rang this morning and told us that this Saturday is clean up day again, so our plan to put up the notice and black boards in the new classroom at Nemasu had to be brought forward.  Kebba organised a boy for the compound and we set off to the storeroom to get the spare generator for the power drill and then to the builders shop to buy the boards.  All purchases secured on the back, we travelled down to Nemasu where the keys for the new classroom had been left with the caretakers family.  We opened the school and got on with the work required, Sheila and I cleaned the classroom, whilst Steve, Kebba and Cham put up the boards.  The work took some time, and then we left and set off for Naata to drop the boys to finish the work there; unfortunately the caretaker had been called away and we couldn't get into the school, so returned home.  We had a quiet afternoon and then went to Neil's bar for our evening meal.  We had power at home and were able to catch up with the news before bedtime.

8th April, 2015. Wednesday. Naata and arrivals

The broken tiles are needed fIrst thing this morning, I took Kebba and Cham to Naata to continue the renovations, the toilet floor, the gates, and the painting.  Also the blackboards need painting so another job before Monday.  Arriving at the school we found Ebrima already there with the welder men who are fixing the supports for the gates.  We unloaded the truck and sorted out the items for each classroom, Cham sent Lamin for some water and started fixing the broken tiles onto the toilet floor.  Kebba and Ebrima got started on the mural painting, I took the gates and the welder men to their workshop.  Meanwhile Abdoulie arrived at the school to help with the sorting of the boxes.  Time was getting on, this weeks arrivals are due at half past twelve, I left the workers and set off to the airport to collect Sheila and meet Chris Brown and friends.  As I entered the airport I saw an old friend of ours from GTS and so we both went up to the restaurant for a cold drink while we waited for the arrivals.  The plane was on time, the passengers alighted and I went down to wait at the arrivals door, the man next to me, a familiar face, was remarking that we should have our own chairs there, the number of times we are at the airport!  Sheila came through with a friend from the plane, and the. Chris with her friends.  We all loaded the cars and set off to our respective destinations.  I called at the bank on the way to deposit some money brought from the Uk and got a staggering 74.5 dalasis to the pound,  Good for the charity, not so good for the locals who are struggling as tourism is down by 60% this season.  The IMF have just agreed to help The Gambia out with 10.5 million dollars.
After unpacking and settling in we went to Kololi to meet Chris and her friends for a meal and to decide an itinerary for the two weeks.  We had power when we got home and then spent some time chatting in the dark when it went off before retiring for the night.

Friday, 10 April 2015

7th April, 2015. Tuesday. Naata renovations

The painter wanted to start early this morning and planned to be at the school by 7am, Kebba, Steve and I set off around 9 as we needed to call at the bank again and also to pick up some blackboard paint which we were unable to get yesterday.  We arrived at Naata to find the painter well on with painting the wall inside the school. The gate has a problem as one of the hinges has broken and the welder was waiting for us to pay him so he could start the job.  We had returned the mended toilet door which was removed because of damage, mainly from splashes from the small boys and which has been re welded and painted.  The truck was also laden with boxes of paper, toys and books for the pupils, we unloaded everything and spent the morning tidying the classes ready for the return of the pupils on Monday.  Extra cupboards have been provided for the teachers to store the materials, the blackboards will be painted and the European toilet which is never used was removed and replaced with a Gambian toilet to cater for extra pupils.  Broken tiles were required to finish the floor in the toilet and Steve and I set off to source them so the job can be completed tomorrow.  We went to Kanifing and bought the tiles and then called at the large shopping plaza to buy new curtain rails for one of the guest rooms at home.  By this time it was 4 in the afternoon and we were extremely hungry, as we were driving through Kololi we decided to stop at .yashmina for an early tea.  Arriving home Steve decided to put up the curtain rails on his own and used a chair to stand on in the bedroom.  A shout alerted me to him falling off the chair having put his foot through the seat!  Fortunately he had not added to his list of recent injuries.  Kebba came home and helped him finish the job.  Tuesday is quiz night at Colours Bar, and we joined the usual crowd for the quiz night, the bar owners have checked and the quiz is not classed as gambling, so we played for money and won again.

6th April, 2015 Monday. Storeroom and Naata

A sorting out day today, Kebba was cleaning the pool, Steve was doing odd jobs around the house, replacing light bulbs etc, so I went to the storeroom to sort out the remaining boxes for delivery.  Kebba came round to help me lift the heaviest items and then returned home so Steve and I could go for lunch at Neils.  We spent the afternoon at home waiting for our painter to contact us about the work required at Naata.  He eventually rung at 5pm so Kebba and I set off to meet him at Yundum.  We arrived at the school and worked out how much needed freshening up with the paint.  There are also a couple of minor repairs to do including the hinge on the gate, arrangements were made to start work tomorrow and we returned home via the shop for paint.  An evening at home we had just settled down to watch a film when the power went again! And not even eight o,clock yet!

5th April, 2015 . Sunday. lazy Day Cruise

Easter Sunday and ACA animal charity had organised a lazy day on board a boat, we set off just after nine and collected a lady from Bijolo who was joining us for the day. Arriving at Denton bridge we met up with friends old and new and boarded a smaller boat than usual as there was only a dozen of us.  The day passed pleasantly with the usual activities, reading, chatting, fishing, and an optional pedicure or massage.  I took advantage of a pedicure whilst Steve had a massage on his bad leg and foot.  He was so pleased with the result that he booked another one for Wednesday morning.  We enjoyed the company and the food provided and returned home in the early evening. Another early night as the power went again!  We heard today that one of the sub stations has had a fire, so maybe that is the reason for so many cuts.

4th April, 2015. Saturday. truck collection and WIFI!!

We were up early this morning and we were just about to have breakfast when we got a call to say that we had finally got a truck on the way to take a delivery to the area east of Farafenni. Kebba fetched a boy to mind the compound and we went round to the storeroom to start getting everything out ready.  The call was as always optimistic and we ended up waiting for an hour or so.  The truck eventually arrived, along with Ousman who had arranged it for us.  Kebba and the drivers boys loaded the goods onto the flat back truck and secured everything down with ropes.  We had furniture and boxes to go, far too much for our own vehicle and not enough time to take them.  By the time we had paid the driver, given instructions and arranged for it to be met at Kumbija it was after 12 noon and we were very hungry.  So we went round to Neil's bar for "Brunch" and to use the wifi which was working and at a reasonable speed as well. Getting the Blog up to date after all our network and power problems took 3 hours, during which time Steve managed 3 beers, which as anyone who knows him will tell you is one too many.  We returned home where Steve slept for the rest of the afternoon.  We had no power again this evening, but as it was still early we put the generator on for a film, which fortunately had just finished when we ran out of fuel.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

3rd April, 2015. Friday. Power at last!

We woke to find the power on, so I spent time getting the blog up to date before it goes off, all I need now if the Internet. After breakfast we went to the store with Kebba to move the heavy cupboards ready for a delivery to Kumbija.  We have decided to hire a larger truck than ours to transport the books and furniture for the rural schools as there is more than enough for 4 loads on our pickup and we don't have the time.  After an exhausting three hours we returned home and relaxed for the rest of the day, eating at home for a change.  still we have power and so were able to catch up with the world news and watch a film before bedtime.

2nd April, 2015 Thursday. storeroom again.

Time is running out for us here, only another three weeks, and still lots to do in the storeroom, and so Steve and I went round to the store after breakfast and spent most of the day there.  We need a strong man tomorrow to move furniture!  We have some very generous donations of new books and toys this year and I am trying to split them equally between our five nursery schools.  We sorted lots of boxes out and then returned home for a short time before going to Cabanas for dinner with Sue as it is her last night.

1st April, 2015. wednesday. airport again.

A week goes past quickly, and once again it is the day for the airport.  Martin was up for
breakfast, and then packed for the airport.  The afternoon flight check in was noon, and so we got to the airport, Martin checked in and then joined us in the upstairs restaurant for some dinner before he left.  All too soon it was time to say goodbye and we watched him through passport control before heading home.  We stopped at Neil's bar to use the wifi, but it was excruciatingly slow and so we returned home to relax for the afternoon and evening.

31st March, 2015. Tuesday. Martins last day.

More Paint needed at Nemasu, so we loaded the truck with tables for the new classroom as well as the extra paint required and set off with Kebba to the school.  The tiles have been laid and all we need now is a good clean before the pupils arrive after the Easter break.  We delivered everything and then set off to Senegambia. To watch the vulture feeding, a cold drink, photo opportunities, souvenir shopping and then home. Martin was thrilled to find a recipe book of Gambian dishes available in the souvenir shop.  Sanaba was waiting for us on our return, he is setting off to Jamwelly this afternoon to do some maintenance on the damaged classrooms, the roof blew off in the rainy season and Sanaba is fitting some extra strong banding to hold the roof on and try to prevent the same thing happening again.  We spent the afternoon at home, Hassan returned my laptop which he has been upgrading for me, John one of our builders called to greet us, and a lady called Marilyn called for a box from the storeroom sent by her niece in England. Martin's last night so Kebba is joining us for dinner, his choice a curry, and so we returned to the Indian restaurant in Kololi.  A nice meal and return home to find the power off again, so the generator was put on for a last " boys film night"

30th March, 2015, Monday. Osprey and Crocodiles

We were up before light to get breakfast before our boat trip at first light.  We were joined by two Dutch guys for the trip, a bird guide, the boat captain and the resident bird guide for Tendaba.  We set off after breakfast of omelette, bread, cheese and jam, and boarded our boat at the end of the jetty.  The boats here are large wooden canoes called pirogues, lots of room for the 9 of us and we set off across the river which was quite rough today, causing Omar to sit in the centre of the boat away from the waves lapping over the edges.  Martin helped out by bailing out with a can provided for the purpose.  The boat made it's way into the mangroves on the North bank and then slowed down for us to take full advantage of the views of the wildlife, we chugged along slowly with the guides pointing out birds of interest on the way and stopping should anyone want to take photos.  They are very patient, moving the boat back and forth until everyone is happy that they have seen a particular bird, or in some cases crocodile.  There was a very large crocodile which slid into the water and disappeared before I had chance to take a photo, prompting Omar to move back into the middle of the boat and take his hand out of the water!  We were also lucky to see an osprey, a rare sight both here and in the UK. The boat trip lasted two hours before we returned to the camp to for a cold drink and check out.  We set off back home, and decided to call at Kanilai on the way back to take some photos for Gill and Shaun of the library they had sponsored.  Omar spotted a turning from the south bank highway and asked if it was a short cut to Kanilai, we were told yes, and set off on the road, reaching the back of the President's safari park quite quickly.  The guards at the gate stopped us and said as the President was in residence we had to go round the perimeter wall, so our short cut was longer than we thought, we did get to see monkeys though, climbing the walls to steal the cashew nuts.  We arrived in Kanilai, took some photos and continued on home, arriving late afternoon.  A quick shower and change and we went to Cabanas for our dinner.  Back home for the evening, and another film for the boys.

29th March, 2015. Sunday. Tendaba bird camp

To show Martin something of the country outside the tourist area, we decided to go to Tendaba camp for an overnight stay.  Steve is still having a lot of pain in his foot when driving, and so we had arranged for Omar to drive our truck.  We set off about half ten and took the south bank highway to Tendaba.  Omar's village is on the way and we stopped for him to give some money to the family.  Omar learnt that one of his very good friends had died this morning, and he asked if he could borrow the truck and return to the village for the funeral, this was agreed, and so he dropped us at the camp and then returned to his home village.  It was very hot in Tendaba, which is about 140 kilometres from our home, travelling East into the country.  They have a small swimming pool here and having checked in this was our first destination, a cold beer and a swim.  We had booked a boat trip across the river for this evening, but unfortunately the tide was too low and so it was rearranged for the morning.  We spent 3 hours by the pool, Martin then went for a sleep and Steve and I went for a walk to see the birds behind the camp.  Dinner was in the large restaurant area, open on the sides for the breeze to blow through.  Omar returned just in time for dinner, and we all enjoyed the meal and a drink before heading to our room for the night.  The rooms here are clean, but very basic, the bathrooms are old with cracked tiles, but there is a fan in the room and the electric generator is switched on every night so we have power until it gets light.

28th March, 2015. saturday, Set Settal and wrestling

Clean up day for the second time this month.  We had bought the paint for Nemasu yesterday and so  Kebba had organised a taxi for early this morning to take him and the painters down to the school before traffic was banned at nine a.m.  We were up early with the sun rise, the weather has finally started to warm up after weeks of cold wind.  Steve and I spent part of the morning clearing the rubbish which had accumulated in the road opposite our house, pity most people don't do the same. Plastic bags are still the main problem here, blowing around and catching in trees and bushes, paper and cans too.  We had a large bonfire, burning garden waste and then raking the ashes into the road potholes copying our neighbours.  All businesses have to close until 1pm, at which time we went to Neil's bar for dinner.  Kebba has promised to take Martin to the wrestling this evening and so we returned home in time for Martin to get changed and set off with Kebba and his friend in a taxi to Serrekunda. 
Wrestling is the national sport here, Steve and I have seen the matches arranged for the tourists at Sanyang, and twice at a school we were visiting, but the wrestling in Serrekunda gets rowdy and rough and Kebba has always refused to take us.  Kebba, Gibba and Martin left around six, we stayed at home and watched a film, Martin returned before midnight having spent an interesting time with the boys.  Apparently the riot police are on hand for when the rival supporters get carried away!  When the favourite very large wrestler got beaten by a small wiry chap the crowd went mad and Kebba grabbed Martin and told him it was time to leave! Now! and brought him home.

27th March, 2015. Friday. Food Glorious Food

We left Martin at home this morning as we had several errands to do.  First stop was the bank to transfer some money to Danso's the company who are doing some maintenance on the wells at Jamwelly and Kumbija.  Pump wells are worked hard here and frequently need bearings replacing as they get worn.  Then we went to visit the Jallow family with two sacks of cous which Linda and Steve had picked up from his brother whilst up at Kumbija. We were surprised to find Mr Jallow at home as it is a college day, but he explained he had permission to be off as he was attending a school meeting in the afternoon.  The shop he has built for Mrs Jallow is looking fine and is stocked with all the essentials for local shopping, rice, washing powder, matches, sardines, sugar, tea, batteries etc.  the youngest children were at home and we spent about two hours with the family before heading back home.  Martin had gone round to Neil's bar, so we joined him for lunch, before returning home for the afternoon round the pool.  Friday night is the buffet night at Al Rawshe, so we changed and headed off their for dinner.  An enormous choice awaited us, many different kinds of Lebanese starters, all you can eat, which was good news to Martin.  Followed by four choices of main course (or all if you want)
Martin is a chef by trade and is always interested in different foods to experiment and try to copy himself, so it was an interesting evening for him.
A pleasant evening, returning home to find we had power!  So the men watched a film before bedtime, and I went to read.

26th March, 2015. Thursday. Nemasu and Banjul

We had to wake Martin this morning so we could get to Nemasu whilst the pupils were still there, they are finishing today for the Easter holidays.  First job was to pick up some edging blocks for the finishing touch on the verandah.  We arrived at the school just before ten to find the pupils playing in the playground and the builders hard at work on plastering between the new roof and the wall. We unloaded the blocks with the help of several pupils and stored them in the classroom for later.  Momodou once again organised some games, Charlie over the ocean being a firm favourite.  We then set off for a day of sight seeing for Martin.  We headed off to Banjul, through Serrekunda which is the largest town in The Gambia and very busy, lots to see here, many shops, dusty side streets full of goods for sale, donkey carts fighting their way amongst the traffic laden down with goods; bicycles going the wrong way down the roads, and people everywhere.  We reached Banjul and headed for the Arch, a good place to climb up and see how the Capital is an island.  Timeless have now opened a new restaurant just in front of the Arch and we stopped for a cold drink whilst waiting for Ousman, who was dropping by with some paperwork for us.  The Arch was undergoing some renovations, all the floor tiles have been removed and are in the process of being replaced. However, unlike most places in the world where the attraction would have been closed for renovations, the Arch is still open to visitors but without the elevator.  We climbed the dusty and dark circular staircase to the top floor to admire the view, take some photos and examine the exhibits.  Unfortunately all the exhibits were stacked in a corner covered in dust whilst the work continued around them, so we were only able to look at the view.
We returned home, stopping to get bread on the way for a sandwich, and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the garden.  The Jewel of India was our restaurant of choice for the evening.

25th March, 2015. Wednesday. departure and arrival

The builders are still putting the finishing touches to
Nemasu, so after breakfast and loading the truck with some items for the new classroom we all set off for the school.  Linda wanted to say goodbye to the teachers and so she came with us.  The pupils had done exams last week and were just doing play this week.  Momodou organised some games in the playground for us to watch.  Soon it was time to make our way to the airport where Linda checked in and then joined us for a drink upstairs while we waited for our next arrival.  The flight was early surprisingly, as it had left the Uk half an hour late.  Also they had brought Linda's flight forward by half an hour.  Linda left us to check in and we waited for Martin to come through the security gates.  Martin, my nephew, is here for the first time for a weeks holiday in the sun.  He arrived with one small bag and we set off for home, via Neil's bar as he was hungry! (Permanent state of affairs).  We arrived home and made plans for the week ahead.  Martin wanted to taste the local food and so we went to GTS restaurant in the evening where the Gambian food is particularly good, He chose the Yassa and Steve the Domada, both of which went down well.  Power cut again when we returned home, so an earlier night than Martin is used to!

24th March, 2015. Tuesday. Travellers return.

Steve and Linda woke early in Jamwelly, stayed for assembly then after packing the truck up they went to Kaur for breakfast.  On the return journey they stopped off at Sambajang Besse to check out the village for a possible well. They then set off for the long journey back home.  I got up early and then spent the morning in the storeroom sorting more deliveries.  The travellers returned in the late afternoon.  We all got changed and went to Cabanas for dinner and to watch the sunset.  The air has been so full of sand with the wind lately that we have not had a red sunset since we arrived, just a hazy sky.  Back home late and time for bed.  No power again.

23rd March, 2015. Monday Day Off.

I woke with a headache this morning (too much wine) and decided to have the morning off! Steve and Linda meanwhile spent the morning at Kumbija and Loumen chatting with the teachers and looking round the schools and gardens. They went on to Jamwelly where Linda experienced the same kind of welcome that we had had two weeks ago, the pupils chanting welcome and the ladies of the village dancing and drumming for her.
After a long lie in and some black coffee I spent the afternoon in the storeroom sorting items for the lists given to me by our nursery schools.
Back home for some tea before an early night as yet another day with no power. We have had probably 4 hours electric in the last 2 days, so on a practical note we do not fill the freezer with anything other than ice cubes, so we are not wasting food.

22nd March, 2015 Sunday. Travelling and Storeroom

Omar arrived early for Steve and Linda, we all ate breakfast together and then they set off for the provinces whilst I cleared the breakfast things and then went to spend some time sorting things in the storeroom. There are still a large number of boxes to sort out, so Kebba arranged a couple of boys to help and we sorted piles of boxes for various types of school and plenty for Chris Brown for the clinic when she comes next month. After 3 hours hard work I returned home to relax for the afternoon. Shortly after making my tea, Musa, the mechanic, arrived to see how Steve was progressing with his leg and brought some ointment which he thought may help. Then the phone went and my neighbour and friend Sue invited me round for the evening.
A quick change and round to Sues' for the rest of the evening, lots of chat and white wine before returning home.
In the meantime Steve and Linda had arrived at Kumbija to meet with Mr Sowe and spend the night in the school. The solar bore hole has been started, the workmen are also sleeping in the school whilst the job is progressing.

21st March, 2015. Saturday What a success story!!

Bit better weather this morning, at least we have some sunshine and it doesn't look like rain. We have some chairs and tables left after fulfilling our nursery school needs and so Linda, Steve, Kebba and I sorted out 40 chairs and some tables for a small school in Brufut village. I rang the owner and he came straight away and got in the truck with us to show us where his school is located. Hamo nursery school is in one room of a block that he is renting. There are some tables and chairs donated by another school here, but which are in bad repair, a blackboard and nothing else. Unfortunately the school doesn't conform to any of the new regulations and will probably be closed down in the future. We helped him unload the furniture and then returned home. In the afternoon we went shopping for the trip to the provinces tomorrow, we always take salt biscuits and crisps and lots of bottled water. We also needed buckets, bowls, brushes and mops for the schools, along with blackboard paint and brushes. We returned home to find a young friend of ours waiting for us. A few years ago whilst I was in the bank a young man asked if I was one of the people who had provided Essau Lower Basic School with a library; when I confirmed I was he just wanted to shake my hand to thank me for introducing him to books. At that time his ambition was to be a lawyer, but he eventually settled on IT, originally on the hardware side, but he is now at the University of the Gambia, studying on a Gambia Port Authority scholarship, for software design. Additionally he has started a company with a friend (assutech) and has recently secured a contract with the Chamber of Commerce for the supply of custom designed software for importing and exporting documentation. A fantastic achievement on its own, but also he and a team of software designers recently entered a competition organised by the Police Force here and came first with a large cash prize. Well done Hassan!
The truck was loaded for the trip, the material we bought yesterday, boxes from the storeroom, the buckets etc. Steve and Linda are travelling with Omar in the morning, unfortunately I have sciatica today and cannot sit in the truck for that length of journey. An early night for all of us.

20th March, 2015. Friday Naata and Banjul

Steve and Linda went to Naata this morning, Kebba went to Nemasu and so I was at home alone, so caught up with some jobs around the house. At Naata,  Mr Jallow was at a promotion interview and Momodou was off sick with toothache again, so Abdoulie and Abi divided the children between them. Steve delivered some items required and chatted to the caretaker’s wife, whilst Linda sat in on each class and watched the teachers. Nemasu classroom is almost finished and so Kebba was able to get home shortly after Steve and Linda so we could go to Banjul. Linda has started with a bad cough and we stopped at Malaks chemist on the way to get some medication for her. Our three rural schools are all in need of extra uniforms and the best choice and availability for the material is Ashobee in Banjul, so that is where we headed to buy the 6 rolls of material, different colours for each school. Another trip to the bank was required, this time the Banjul branch to pay for it all. We loaded it into the car and then went for a walk around the city so Linda could see some of the many changes here. The old city with its’ crumbling buildings and many corrugate shacks is gradually being replaced with new smart buildings, including a first shopping arcade! Not all the units have been taken yet, but there is a very smart café where we stopped for lunch, part of the King Baker chain which has 3 or 4 outlets around the commercial centres. Lunch was very pleasant, we then left for home, stopping on the return journey to buy buckets, brushes and mops for the schools. When we reached home I noticed that my friend and neighbour, Sue, had arrived and so I went to spend some time with her, whilst Steve unloaded the truck and Linda, who is not feeling too good had a sleep. Ousman and Agie arrived and saw Steve, I was with Sue for a couple of hours and then the power went again! I was escorted round home by a small boy with a torch!

Friday, 3 April 2015

8th March, 2015. Sunday. Travel to Kumbija

Omar arrived early this morning and joined us for breakfast before we set off with him as the driver on the south bank highway to Soma.  Omar is a very good and safe driver and we arrived at the ferry crossing in 3 hours.  The queues of both trucks and private cars was extensive, but fortunately we had the priority crossing and were able to jump to the front of the queue, in fact we were the first car on the next available ferry.   The Senegalese and Gambian Governments have joined in beginning to build a bridge across this crossing point which is much narrower than the river mouth at Banjul.  The foundation stone was laid three weeks ago and there is evidence of work happening on both sides of the river.  We arrived in Farafenni and bought some food items for our hosts to cook for us.  I also had a special delivery for Alagie the man who sells cement here in Farafenni and often gives us credit when we are building in the area.  He had asked us for Jean Paul Gaultier after shave when we came this time, I delivered the precious item to him, he was delighted that we had remembered and said he would sleep with it under his pillow!!  We drove on to Kumbija and were met at the school by Baatchi the caretaker, who unlocked the gates and then when we had parked up gave us both big hugs as he had missed us.  It would seem that most of Gambia have been praying for Steve to recover, and many of the villagers came to inspect his foot, offering advice and directions to various medicine men or ‘maribous’ who would be able to speed his recovery.  Alieu, Mr Sowe and Deja all came to meet us and sit with us under the mango tree for a while.  Then Steve and I went in the truck to Farato to meet with Ousman’s family and take lots of photographs for George who had stayed with them 2/3 years ago and wanted to see how the children had grown.  We delivered the food items for cooking, were taken to inspect the new garden project that Alagie is over seeing, met the neighbours and then returned to the school to meet Omar who wanted to take us to a nearby wood for some bird watching.  We stayed watching the birds until nearly dark and then returned to the school for the evening, more people came to visit and eventually Alagie arrived with our dinner.  Omar shared our meal and then we retired for the night to sleep in the classroom under a mosquito net on an airbed, whilst Omar went to share the accommodation at Baatchis’ house and no doubt drink Atayer.

Friday, 20 March 2015

19th March, 2015. Thursday. A Truck at last.

We had power this morning!!  Steve decided to stay at home and check the donated computers whilst Linda, Kebba and I planned to go to Nemasu, and then buy some tiles.  We set off and stopped on the main road to get some air in a tyre, when the phone rang and we were told that the truck was on it’s way and would be at our storeroom in about 15 minutes.  Change of plan!  I dropped Linda at the turntable to take a taxi to Nemasu, Kebba gave the directions to the driver, and then Kebba and I returned home to recruit some local helpers.  We arrived at the storeroom and began to take out the large items for the truck.  Half an hour passed and no truck had arrived, I was beginning to think we would have to put everything back again!  At last the truck arrived and the boys managed to load everything required on to it.  It left us and was making the journey on the south bank as the ferries between Barra and Banjul are still erratic and slow.  Kebba and I then locked the store and set off to buy the tiles for Nemasu.  We eventually reached the school, complete with tiles just before closing time.  Linda and her taxi had got lost on the way, a local boy had joined them and they had gone to two other schools before eventually arriving at Nemasu.  So much building is going on around here that the roads look different every month!  Having found the right school, Linda then spent the morning sitting in each class in turn and observing the teachers, before doing some teaching of her own with them.  We left at school closing time and headed home, Kebba followed an hour later and Steve, Linda and I went for a late lunch at Neils’ bar.  Still no Wifi.
As we are travelling to the provinces again this weekend, we decided to spend an hour or so in the store getting some supplies ready for our 3 rural schools now we have some space to move in there!
Just before 7 Mr Jallow arrived at the store on the way to our house, so we closed up and made our way home.  Our original plan for this week was to visit Mr Jallow at his school tomorrow, but he has a promotion interview in the morning and so he visited us at home.  We spent half an hour chatting and then he left before dark, we wished him good luck for tomorrow. The power was still on! And so after he left we decided to watch a film for the rest of the evening.  The truck had taken the long road via Soma and then doubled back on the north bank, we had a call to say he had delivered the goods at 10pm.

18th March, 2015 Wednesday. Rain!

We slept in this morning as it was dark, cold, grey miserable and cloudy! Very unusual here.  We got up just before nine and then it started to rain, slowly at first and then heavy enough to join the drops together. 
I took Kebba to Nemasu this morning with some more furniture for the new classroom, also to check on supplies and the building work progress.  The carpenter is busy with the roof and should finish today, the masoners will be back tomorrow to do the plastering and the tiles should be fitted this weekend when the pupils are not around.  Kebba and I returned home and then we waited for the flight arrival time for Linda. Usually we have many visitors over the winter months, but this year so many people are frightened by Ebola being present in West Africa, although it is more than 800 miles from here.   I set off for the airport and was delayed twice on the way, the first time at a police check, although vehicles are taxed here each year from the 1st January, the tax discs are never ready on time and a period of grace is allowed when you can drive with the old disc.  Usually the discs are ready by February and then the police start checking that they are in place sometime in March, today they were checking every vehicle on the airport road, those with no tax are ‘parked’ at the side of the road until the owner brings a tax disc. (this may be several days)  This delayed me by 20 minutes and then further down the road a coach had managed to skid sideways across the road and was stuck in the mud at the back end. One side of the road was closed whilst some guys with spades were trying to dig out the back of the bus, slowing everyone down, so when I arrived at the airport the flight which was early had already landed.
Linda was one of the last through and so I was in time to see her coming through the arrivals door.  We had a porter take her luggage to the truck and then we set off home, passing the coach still stuck in the mud and through the police check again.  Eventually we arrived at the house and Linda was able to unpack and relax a bit before we went out for dinner at Cabanas.  A nice meal, but no sunset as it is still cold and cloudy although the rain stopped earlier this afternoon.  We arrived back home to no power once again, Linda was very tired after her journey,  so another early night!

17th March, 2015 Tuesday. Truck or no Truck?

We have been promised the Government Truck this morning to go to the north bank of the river.  We have some large metal cupboards for Ndungu Kebbeh and we need them out of the way so we can see what is left in the storeroom.  We decided to take all computer related boxes round to our house so that Steve can check them and make sure they are all working.  This may take some time with the state of the power supply at the moment! We then got Lynnes’ room ready for her arrival tomorrow whilst waiting for the call about the truck.  Unfortunately we waited in vain, the message came through that the truck was stuck on the north bank and the ferries were not running at all today.  Kebba returned home at lunchtime, the masoners are waiting for the roof to be finished so they can finish their plaster work.  Steve and I set off to do some shopping and I had a hair appointment at 3pm.  This is my treat here, the salon is an oasis of calm and the lady who washes your hair also gives you a head and shoulder massage whilst the conditioner is working.  Steve also went for a hair cut, those of you who know him, know that this does not take very long!  We then went for dinner at Yashminas’ and returned home to yet another power cut.  Today we had electricity for only 2 and half hours out of 24.  Fortunately I do not fill my small freezer!  So another early night!

16th March, 2015. Monday. The roof is going on already.

The carpenter has almost finished the timber on the roof at Nemasu, so corrugate is needed today.  Steve, Kebba and I set off for Nemasu, leaving Fontou cleaning the house.  We stopped to buy faceboard for the verandah and left Kebba to have it delivered by horse cart; whilst Steve and I went off to buy corrugate and look for tiles for the floor.  Shopping is relatively easy if you have transport here; shops in the main commercial area are concentrated into like kinds.  All the builders merchants are clustered around Kanifing, and so that is where we headed for corrugate and tiles.  We have built up a relationship with some of the suppliers and so we went straight to Metallum for the corrugate as they have the most choice and give the charity discount.  We loaded the corrugate and then went to look at the price of tiles this year.  The cost of living here is rising rapidly and all goods have increased this year, especially anything which is imported.  We found some tiles nearly the same colour as the existing verandah at Nemasu and ordered them for later in the week.  We managed to return to Nemasu in time for the carpenter to start on the corrugate and then returned home.  We were expecting the plumber today as the new metal tower was ready and waiting for him on our flat roof, sure enough just after the appointed time, Boto arrived to plumb the tank into position on the metal tower.  Now we need the tower cementing to the roof and some damage to the floor and wall repairing, a job for Kebba when he has finished at Nemasu later this week.
Steve and I went to Neils’ bar for dinner and tried again to get on the internet, but because of all the power cuts the back up batteries at Neils’ have not yet recharged.
We returned home to find Kebba and two helpers moving the sand which had been delivered outside our gate onto the roof.  One filling buckets, one outside the front of the house and Kebba on the roof with a rope, pulling the buckets up one by one from the second guy.  All preparation for the repairs needed later.
We spent the evening at home, again with no power, but the generator has been fixed so we can at least have a back up supply now.

15th March, 2015 Sunday 2 Dinners!

We had a late lie in and then set off for the Wild Monkey for Sunday Brunch.  Kebba wanted to visit his mother and we aimed to be back around 1pm so he could go with Omar in the truck..  The Monkey, despite claims to be open 24 hours was closed, and so we went to Cabanas and had Brunch near the beach.
We got back to the house and just as we arrived Ousman rang to find out what time we would be arriving for lunch as it would be ready at 2pm!  Obviously some miscommunication here as we understood he was just going to drop in this afternoon with some paperwork.
We had to delay Kebba’s departure and set off for Brikama, where Ousman and his second wife have a compound in a village also called Farato (same name as his home village in the provinces.)  Ousman met us on the main road and then we followed him back to his house as this was the first time we had visited and we didn’t know the route.  Most places here do not have names on the streets and roads, and certainly no numbers on the houses.  There is no postal delivery system, if you want post you have to rent a post office box in the nearest town.
The house is nearly a mile from the main road and we followed Ousman in the heat and the dust to the house, where we were met by Agie, one of Ousmans’ daughters from his first wife, Agies’ sister and Awa, daughter of Mr Sowe.  Fortunately they had some iced water for us as it was really hot by this time.
We went into the sitting room and I was given a local fan to use whilst we waited for our second large meal of the day.  We felt rather like the Vicar of Dibley as Agie kept filling our plates despite our protests of having had enough.  Eventually she believed us and having had our fill of rice, noodles, beef and prawns, we were able to sit and relax a while before taking our leave.  We managed to get back to the house in time for Kebba to still visit his mother, some 25 miles away, Omar drove him in our truck as they were taking some furniture for her.
Another power cut this evening, so it was an early night for all of us.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

14th March, 2015. Saturday Set Settal

We needed to go to the bank again this morning, for both charity and personal money and to buy corrugate for the roof.  We got up and had breakfast and just as we were setting off to the bank we were told that it was Set Settal today, in other words clean up day, which means that no-one can drive on the roads between 9am and 1pm and all businesses are to be closed.  So no money for us today!!  This is so the nation can clean up all the rubbish lying around, sadly this doesn’t always happen. Kebba, Cham and I had arranged to meet this morning to go to the storeroom and sort out a space for me to work in, fortunately the storeroom is within walking distance, but we needed to load the truck so we risked the short journey around the corner.   We spent the best part of 4 hours sorting boxes and arranging them into piles, depending on when we need them.  Chris is coming in April and so we stacked all the boxes she needs at the back of the store out of the way. All the boxes for Ndungu Kebbeh near the door because we are hoping for a truck this week, and all nursery boxes at the side for me to divide between all the schools.  Eventually we had finished, we loaded the truck with some boxes for a local school and some tables for Nemasu and drove home.
Saturday is supposed to be Kebba’s day off, so he got changed and went off to play football, leaving us to have a relaxing afternoon in the garden, despite the banging from the roof of the guys welding our new water tower.  An early dinner, the welding was finished ready for the plumber tomorrow to replumb our water supply to the roof tank, Kebba returned from a successful match, and a film chosen for our evening’s entertainment.  No power cut tonight which was good, we managed to watch a whole film before bedtime

13th March, 2015. Friday. Nemasu and storeroom

The work continues, Kebba and I sorted out the wages for the workmen and then Steve, Kebba and I went to the storeroom to load some furniture for the new classroom.  We are trying to make space in the store, so we are going to put the new items into Mr Sallah’s office until the new building is complete.  Kebba and Steve then went to Nemasu to deliver the items and I stayed to sort things in the storeroom. We have a large delivery to get ready for Ndungu Kebbeh from Belle Vue Girls school in Bradford, another Government truck is expected next week.
More timber was required today and that was also delivered before Steve rang to say the plumber was on his way and so I returned home, closely followed by Steve.
The plumbers’ men arrived and unloaded all their equipment, they are making a new metal tower for the tank on the roof as the old one has started to corrode, and there is a danger of the tank full of water crashing through our roof.  !!
They took all the metal and a generator onto the roof and spent the rest of the afternoon up there welding pieces together.  Kebba returned home earlier than expected this afternoon, the builders have done all they can until the roof is fixed, so they are having Saturday and Sunday off so the carpenter can get on with his work.
We decided to go out for dinner, so got changed and went to Cabanas on the beach, where we had dinner and I had cocktails whilst watching the sunset.
Home to find that we had yet another power cut, fortunately our generator has just been mended so we had power until we decided to go to bed.

12th March, 2015. Thursday. Old money!

Another visit to the bank this morning, this time for as they say ‘Big money’  I took a shopping bag and Kebba into the bank with me to carry the hoard.  We had to ask if the bank had the amount we needed as we are paying for the solar bore hole this morning.  After some discussion it was agreed they had the money and so we had to wait whilst they disappeared into a back room to fetch it.  The largest note here is 100 dalasis, although there is a rumour that there will soon be a 200 dalasis note.  A large pile of money was brought out and packed into the shopping bag.  Kebba and I left and returned to the truck and Steve.  We drove onto Waterpoint where Kebba and I once more left Steve with the truck whilst we went in to pay.  Some of the money was in plastic bags endorsed by the bank and so it was agreed that only the rest of the money would be counted.  Some was in 100 notes, some in 50s and 7500 in 25s.  We were taken to a cashier who enlisted the help of two others and watched as everything was counted; this took the best part of an hour, much grumbling as the 25 notes were dirty, torn and some held together by the thinnest piece imaginable.  A new 20 dalasis note is coming out soon and so the 25s are not being renewed.  At last it was all agreed and a receipt issued.  We returned to the truck and went to the timber yard for the second lot of timber required for the roof.  Red timber is very heavy and we are only taking 12 lengths at a time in order not to damage the suspension on the truck. I returned home and Kebba and Steve went with the timber to Nemasu.  We are waiting for a plumber to come and do some work at the house, so I returned home to relieve our temporary watchman and waited for the plumber.   Needless to say he did not arrive and I waited in vain.  Steve came home in the middle of the afternoon having also visited Naata for a meeting with Mr Jallow.  We decided to eat at home instead of out today and then watched a film in the evening.

11th March, 2015. Wednesday. Nemasu

Tired after our journey yesterday, we were up a little later than usual and Kebba was waiting for us.  The building at Nemasu is now up to ring beam level and they need timber for the carpenter to start work.  Back to the bank, a well trodden journey.  The three of us then went onto the timber yard to buy some of the timber needed to start.  On to Nemasu to deliver the timber and a short meeting with Mr Sallah, discussing the results of both trainee teachers who are on the course at Brikama.  We left just before lunch and went into Kololi to use the Wifi at the Wild monkey have coffee and then return home.  We are hoping to start a solar bore hole at Kumbija this week and so on the way home we called at Waterpoint, the company who will be doing the work.  Everything is set to start on Friday, providing we pay tomorrow!  Another visit to the bank in the morning.
We were just about to go out for dinner, when Hammy rang to say he had some people who were possibly interested in buying the villa behind us and would we show them around?  So half an hour later we were round the corner acting as estate agents for our friends.  Eventually after darkness had fallen we were able to go to dinner, we headed for Timeless as there was bingo on at Neils bar.

10th March 2015, Tuesday. Home again

Up with the sun and packed the truck before the first of the pupils arrived.  Jamwelly is now also a Lower Basic School on a double shift system, the nursery children arriving in the morning .  We were able to visit the classes and chat to the teachers before leaving to take the school bicycles into Kaur for repair.  The head teacher came with us and we left him in Kaur to do some other shopping whilst waiting for the bicycles.  Channeh, the former head, had asked us to collect a fridge freezer from her former home here in Kaur as she is now living in Sukuta for at least another year.  We arrived at the house and several boys carried out a very battered looking object, the motor had dropped out of the back and was being carried separately.  We rang Channeh and said that the fridge was ‘spoilt’ (a term used for anything which no longer works) and we thought it was pointless to take back.  She insisted however, so Steve gave in and we loaded the damaged item onto the back of the truck.  We went for breakfast at the same café as yesterday, and then set off home.  We had only gone about 5 miles when the door fell off the top half of the fridge and we had to stop and secure it in the back of the truck.  Much grumbling from Omar declaring the whole exercise a waste of time, I agreed with him, but Steve insisted we take it, so on we went.  The journey back after that was quite uneventful, we had a short wait for the ferry and we stopped to take photos of an eagle and other birds, but apart from that we arrived in Sukuta to deliver said fridge around 5pm.  It was unloaded and stored in the house belonging to Channeh’s sister.  Omar then delivered us and the truck back home and we had a short rest before going round to Neils’ bar for dinner.

9th March, 2015. Monday What a welcome!!

We were up with the sun and had packed all our things into the truck before the first of the pupils arrived with Deja.  Baatchi was already there, filling up the buckets for drinking water and getting the classrooms ready for the day.  Alieu, Lamin and Mr Sowe arrived to start the academic week.  We had a meeting with Mr Sowe whilst we could hear the sound of Jolly Phonics coming from Lamins’ class and singing from Dejas.  We then visited the classrooms and watched the teaching for a while before deciding to leave for Loumen.  Not so far between the two schools, 3 or 4 kilometres at most, we arrived mid morning and found everything in full swing.  Mr Bah knew we were in the country but not that we were visiting.  The classes broke for mid morning break and we were able to take photos of the pupils washing their hands before eating lunch.  This school is run by the Government and there are posters everywhere about Ebola, how to recognise the signs, what to do and what not to do if you suspect anyone of having the disease.  Posters about hand washing and the importance of keeping yourself clean not just with water but also with soap.  We were introduced to the new teacher, Mr Barry, and chatted with him before taking photos of his class.  The school is now hosting nursery and grades 1 and 2 in the building on a double shift system.  The ladies garden is looking superb and also the cashew nut tree in the school grounds has its’ first fruit.  We delivered some boxes of resources and then took our leave to continue our journey.  In the village we visited Maimoona and her family, a young promising student who is being sponsored by an English family.  When we arrived we were met by a small boy who should have been at the nursery school but had suffered a bad burn to his foot.  We were asked advice on the burn, which looked to be severe, but covered with sand and dirt as he had no shoes on.  Our advice was to take him to the clinic, so having loaded Maimoonas’ damaged bicycle on the back of the truck we squeezed Maimoona inside and the uncle and the boy on the back and set off to the clinic.  When we arrived they asked when this had happened, and were told 2 weeks ago!  We understood it was that morning.  An injection was given for tetanus and a dressing applied.  Omar then took the boy and the uncle back home, whilst Steve and I went to the bicycle repair shop with Maimoona.  We arranged the repair and then waited on the roadside for Omar with our truck, he was stopped at the police checkpoint and pulled to the side of the road.  We walked down to meet him and apparently they wanted the insurance for the car and Omar didn’t know where it was.  Steve produced it and we were allowed to travel on our way.
The new headmaster at Jamwelly had asked me what time we thought we would be arriving and I had said about 2pm.  We were still a bit early and had arranged to meet the cluster monitor at 2 at the junction of the road to Jamwelly, so we went to a café we know and had coffee.  (a tin shack at the side of the road, but he sells Nescafe!)
The cluster monitor (Mr H Sowe) rang and we met him as arranged, he was on a motorbike, and went in front of us on the road.  Halfway to Jamwelly we were met by a donkey cart full of pupils from the school and in the next minute there were dozens of children with banners all chanting Welcome, Welcome.  A tall man was waving a bundle of leafy twigs in the road and other teachers appeared all clapping and chanting, they slowed our progress to the school, but kept at the side of the truck all the way to the playground.  We were met with a beaming caretaker, and many of the mothers who performed an impromptu dance and drumming session using upturned cooking pots.  The noise was terrific, the welcome overwhelming.
Eventually the head teacher, Mr Sawaneh introduced himself and quietened the pupils and audience down.  We were asked to sit under a shady tree and a long introduction took place, the National Anthem was sung and then the song which Channeh had taught the pupils thanking the charity for all the building, food, resources etc.  The Iman said prayers and we were told that the whole village had been praying for Steve’s recovery!
At last we were able to enter the office where we had a meeting with the cluster monitor and the head teacher, who had a long list of requests for the charity, some practical and some in his dreams!
Time was getting on, it gets dark here very early, just after 7 and we were asked to accompany the head to visit the Alkelo of the village who is not well enough to walk to the school.  We walked through the village, greetings made to each and every compound as we passed and reached the Alkelo who was quite emotional at seeing us, again he has been praying for Steve………
From there we went to visit the head teachers’ wife and family.  They are being housed temporarily in a cement structure which is also part of an agricultural project which is happening in the village.  They have two rooms, Mr Sawaneh and his wife in one room with the baby, his two children and his deceased brothers’ children in the other.  The Government are building a new two classroom block within the school grounds and teachers’ quarters for all the staff, this being a rural school, none of the staff are from the immediate area.
Chargi, a teacher at the school was cooking our dinner, and so eventually we made it back to the classroom, just in time to get our bed ready for the night before it got dark.  A delicious meal was provided which again we shared with Omar, and then retired for the night, only waking when the school dog was scratching at our door in the morning.