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.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

7th March, 2015. Saturday. Truck service

Back to the bank again this morning to get money for our journey and more cement for the plastering at the school.  Then Steve took the truck for servicing at Musa’s garage which is at least a half day job!  I went to the storeroom to get everything ready for the deliveries at our three rural schools.  I spent the rest of the morning filling boxes with essential supplies and gifts from sponsors, dividing items between all 5 of our nursery schools, and packing boxes ready for 3 of them this weekend.  Steve arrived back from servicing the car around 2pm, we loaded all the boxes on for tomorrow and then we decided to go out for a leisurely lunch at Cabanas, a very nice beach bar with the added bonus of wifi.  We were able to park where we could keep an eye on the truck and still enjoy the view of the beach.  After a very nice couple of hours we headed home for the evening.  Another power cut this evening, 9pm onwards, so another early night.

6th March, 2015 Friday. Brikama college

Off to the bank again first thing this morning, the building work continues at Nemasu, more cement for the floor needed and the plastering this weekend.  We had loaded the truck before we arrived at the bank and so we set off for Brikama to check on the progress of our students and to deliver some teaching resources.   On arrival we went to the office of Mr Korita, who oversees the ECD training and assesses the students in their own nursery schools.  He was in good spirits when we entered and was asking how Steve’s foot was.  It seems as if the whole of the Gambia know that Steve has been ill.  The college fees are not set to go up this year as far as he knows, which is good news.  We currently have 6 students on the Early Child Development course, (ECD) 3 in the first year and 3 in the second year of three.  They have all achieved the pass mark and above for the first two terms of this year and have all been attending well.  We spent some time discussing the course and listening to new ideas.  Then we unloaded the truck and set off back towards Yundum to visit Hart House school for special needs pupils where we delivered a gift from sponsors in the UK.  The gift was in a large box and we were expecting a pool table inside, however it turned out to be a compendium of games, pool, chess, skittles, football and more.  Mr Hart was very pleased and we took photographs before leaving.
We called at Wild Monkey bar on the way home for lunch and then returned to the house for the afternoon.  Kebba was at home as they had finished concreting the floor and were leaving it to dry over the weekend whilst the pupils were not around.  He called Omar for us who we are hoping will drive us to the provinces on Sunday as Steve’s foot is not yet up to driving that distance.  Omar arrived and we made our arrangements for Sunday morning.  We then settled down for the evening, shortly after 7 Ousman arrived with Agie and spent an hour or so with us.  He had managed to get us a priority letter, but instead of the usual open crossing for 3 months, we were only able to get a one off crossing for this weekend, and will have to apply again next time we go.    We had planned to watch a film this evening, but we had one of the frequent power cuts shortly after Ousman left, our generator is broken at the moment, so we went to bed early instead.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

5th March, 2015 Thursday. Delivery for Kampasa

Up early this morning as the transport for Kampasa was promised for between 9 and 10. Steve stayed at home while Kebba, Cham, Yusef and I went to the store to take out the items needed.  We spent 20 minutes loading everything onto the verandah ready for the truck before we received a call to say it had been delayed and maybe another 2-3 hours.  A few shoulder shrugs and everything was put back inside, this is Gambia and everyone is used to waiting!.  I locked the store, Kebba went to Nemasu with Cham and I went home.  Fontou was busy cleaning on my return and was very happy that the wind has ceased.  Steve and I had breakfast and waited for the call that the truck had arrived, finally at 11.30 we got a call that it was on it’s way and so we went to the store to meet Mr Touray and load the boxes onto the Gelly bus for its journey to Kampasa.  We took everything ready from the store and loaded it onto the verandah.  The driver then rang to say he had stopped for breakfast and may be another hour! Mr Touray insisted that we leave him there and get on with the rest of our day, I returned home and Steve went to do some food shopping.  He passed Mr Touray who was still there 20 minutes later and gave him a bottle of cold water to drink.  We were at home for the rest of the day.

4th March, 2015 Wednesday. Visit from an old friend

At last the wind has dropped and the sand has stopped flying around.  We can clean the house and it may stay clean for longer than a few hours!!
Another trip to the bank this morning as we need timber for the pillars, nails and of course more cement.  Kebba and I sorted out the money and then Steve took him to Nemasu with Sait and Cham part of the building team.  Large bins for water at the school which we bought yesterday were delivered and then Steve went on to Naata with the rest of the cleaning materials which I could not source in the market.  He was hoping to conclude his meeting with Mr Jallow, but unfortunately he had been called to a meeting at his afternoon school.  Momodou was back and the toothache seems to have been cured with local medicine.
Meanwhile I was in the storeroom as we have been promised a truck today to take text books and reading books to region 6, Basse, which doesn’t often get supplies. I finished sorting the boxes and returned home.  In the middle of the afternoon we got a surprise visitor, Mr Touray, an old friend who was a teacher at Minte Kunda, then deputy head; then head at Nyofelleh school and now at Kampasa, a school way up country on the south bank.  It was nice to see an old friend and we promised supplies for his school which he will collect tomorrow with a friend with a truck!  They left and shortly after we got a call to say the truck for region 6 was on its way. Kebba and two other boys came to the storeroom leaving Steve at home. The boys helped me by taking the designated goods outside the store to wait in the early evening, we didn’t have long to wait.  It arrived as we were taking the items out of the storeroom.  Everything was loaded onto the large flatback truck, roped and off just before dark.  Back home for a welcome meal.

3rd March, 2015. Tuesday. No Gambling!

Again a visit to the bank, this time for money for the ironwork.  Things are developing fast with the building and the men are already up to the top of window level and need the ironwork for the ring beam and the pillars.  We delivered the iron to Nemasu and then drove on to Naata.  Poor Abdoulie, when we arrived he had had calls from the other two teachers who were sick.  Momodou Jawo has a terrible toothache and Abi had some kind of fever.  Ever the practical one Abdoulie had put his and Momodou’s classes together and was taking them all.  Abi’s class was being taken by a young boy.  This is common practice in Gambia, a young person is called in where teachers are absent and helps in the classroom, teaching by rote letters and numbers.  Unfortunately Mr Jallow had broken down on the way to school and was getting his bike fixed.  We delivered the boxes of requested items and sorted them by class age for the teachers.  The caretaker wanted to talk to us about the water supply, the nearby well which they have been using for drinking water has ceased to work and they are having to walk a great distance to another well where they are only allowed a small amount of water as it is being rationed.  The mop and brushes used for cleaning the classrooms are broken or spoilt and they need Vim and disinfectant for the toilets.  Also the toilet being used by the small boys has a door which has gone through at the bottom and the frame is spoilt with usage and splashes of urine!  Off to the market, and there was Mr Jallow, all effusive and affable as usual, his bike fortunately fixed.  I left him and Steve having a meeting and I went into the market to buy the cleaning materials.  We also removed the toilet door and later took it to our local welder to have a new frame and plate fitted.
By this time it was mid afternoon and so we went to relax in the Wild Monkey so I could use the Wifi whilst waiting for our early dinner.  Tuesday is quiz day and so this evening we set off to Colours bar to take part in the weekly quiz.  When we arrived we were told that a new ruling from today means that there is no gambling in the Gambia, all Casinos have been closed.  The quiz master had decided that we would not pay to enter the quiz and there would therefore be no monetary prize, so we were in it for the fun of it!!  All the usual banter between the teams who are mostly ex-pats living around the area, we came a poor third!  Lots of questions about Star Trek, of which we know very little, especially the name of the bar tender in one of the episodes!  Poor Agie, Ousman’s second wife is now without work as she was working in the Casino at Brusabi, just up the road from us, everything is closed and locked.

2nd March, 2015. Monday. Progress at Nemasu

I seem to be at the bank every day at the moment, more cement needed after a weekend of block making at Nemasu.  We had breakfast at home with Kebba and then called at the bank on the way to the nursery school.  We had some boxes to deliver with extra items which Mr Sallah had requested for the teachers.  We stopped in Sukuta to collect some cement and arranged for the balance to be delivered.  On arrival we could hear the lessons in progress and went into Mr Sallah’s office with the boxes of school materials.  He is very pleased with the progress the men are making with the building, the foundations have been laid and the first two layers of blocks showing the shape of the new classroom.  I took some photos for our facebook page, checked that the men had everything they needed for the day and then Steve and I visited each classroom to watch the end of the lessons before break time.
We left just before lunch and stopped at Neils bar for an early dinner and to use the Wifi.  After lunch we went to the storeroom a very short drive away to collect items for Naata to deliver tomorrow.   Home for the afternoon. Steve’s leg tends to swell as the day goes on becoming painful; so we are trying to rest in the hottest part of the day.

1st March, 2015 Sunday. Brunch out.

First thing every morning Kebba walks the two dogs and feeds all our pets, we were woken to the sound of the metal dog bowls scraping on the ground.  The kettle was whistling and we took that to be a hint to get up!  Kebba and I sat down and worked out the money needed for the day building at Nemasu.  Karamo, a friend of Kebbas’ came to look after the compound while we went out for the morning.  We got in the truck and set off, dropping Kebba at the turntable to take a town car to Nemasu.  We went to the tourist area and the Wild Monkey bar which has Wifi and had a late breakfast.  On the way back we called at the storeroom and sorted out things to deliver to Naata and Nemasu this week as per their requests.
This afternoon we had a visit from Abdoulie Jammeh, the young student who had taken part in the competition run by Newsquest last year.  He had done exceptionally well and was awarded a laptop by the newspaper.  Abdoulie explained to us what he had had to do, which was an article every month about an aspect of life in the Gambia as chosen by the paper.  Because here most people do not have access to the Internet, Abdoulie included, he had written his article by text, sent it in parts to a friend who posted it onto a message on facebook for him.  He then copied and pasted it onto Microsoft word to edit and eventually attached it to an email to the paper.   We admired his determination and dedication to getting the job done!   As a result of his efforts he has been given a job as a reporter with an online newspaper here called Gambia Affairs.  He finishes at the high school this year and hopes to be able to study journalism at a university.  Later after Abdoulie had left us, we settled down to watch a film with Kebba.

28th February, 2015. Saturday. Resting

After the long day yesterday we were tired this morning and so decided to spend the day at home.  The whole day yesterday was interesting and informative.  Why were we invited?  Who knows, apart from the policeman who showed us where to park and where to enter, nobody spoke to us all day, we were shown to our seats and spent the afternoon enjoying the spectacle.  First thing this morning I went to the bank with Kebba to get the money to pay the builders and buy more cement.  The buildings here in Gambia are 90% cement, the blocks are made from cement, the mortar between them is cement, the space between the corrugate roofing and the walls is filled with cement.  The Gambians say ‘cement eats money’ and they are right.  The foundations are being dug today and the mango tree which is in the middle of the new classroom space is being removed and the roots dug out.  More cement needed to make the foundations with the gravel which is being delivered this morning.  Kebba and I sorted the money sat in the banking hall, and then he set off for Nemasu on his bicycle.  I went and caught one of the local ‘Gelly’ buses back home, the bus seemed to be full, but the conductor got out and hung on the outside for the couple of miles to my ‘stop’.
We spent the rest of the day in the garden, Steve is still nuturing his strawberries and as we are not going to be here long enough to grow any vegetables for us to eat we are planting maize for Kebba to eat in the rainy season.