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 cafĂ© 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.