Saturday, 30 November 2013
We waited in for the pool men this morning which meant the the planned trip down to Nyofelleh never happened. The shippers rang and wanted some documentation stamping with the official charity stamp, fortunately one of their staff was passing the end of our road on the way to the airport, which saved us driving into Banjul. The ship has been delayed again and the latest estimated arrival is Sunday 1st December. This will probably mean that Jean Clewes will be unable to deliver the sports things to Nemasu that she had collected for them, as she goes home on Wednesday. The pool men finally turned up at 2pm, obviously Gambian morning time, and decided that it would take about 2 weeks to get the pool back to the right state, so the decision was made to empty it and start again tomorrow.
Then off to the hairdresser, an oasis of calm here in the Gambia. Cut, blow and colour, whilst Steve did some shopping and then collected me. We stopped at Maddies beach bar on the way home for dinner, a nice restaurant on the beach with a good view of the lovely sunset tonight. Back home and as we still cannot get the only Gambian channel on our tv, another film, fortunately we have a good supply from both car boot sales in England and the local sellers here.
Very hot today, we were woken up early by the sun shining through the bedroom windows. Mr Jallow wanted the lunch money for December as they have run out of supplies, so we set off with Kebba in the truck to the turntable,(that's roundabout in English) Kebba is back at Naata today to finish the cementing.. We met with Mr Jallow at the bank and I went in to the bank to withdraw the money whilst Steve and Mr Jallow waited outside. All transactions completed, we drove to the Kololi area to deposit money at Trust bank for the well contractor to buy the parts for the work at Jamwelly. Both the pump wells there have problems with worn parts and the water only coming out at a trickle, so it takes ages for the ladies to fill their containers. We then called in at Yashmina’s for a cold drink and to watch the world go by for a while. On the way back home we called at the storeroom to pick up items to deliver to Nyofelleh tomorrow morning, and essentials for Naata. Back home to make up the beds in the spare room for friends arriving on Saturday, and making sure everything is still working in the house bathroom. Steve is still trying to get the pool back to its blue colour, the green murky colour is proving stubborn and after 4 weeks of trying he finally gave in and called the pool men to come in the morning. Tea at home and then a relaxing evening.
Trying to have a lie in this morning as tired after all the travelling yesterday, but the dogs were barking and then Kebba came to tell me that there was a monkey in the garden. The first time we have seen a monkey round here, it was eating the guavas which have fruited this year, but disappeared before I got downstairs. I rang the shippers, only to be told that the container has been delayed and will not be here now until the 29th. Steve took the car into Musa today to fix the temporary repair done yesterday and also the power steering which has not been working since March. He was there all day, fetching parts with the mechanic – they need Steve’s wallet – and then waiting whilst they were fixed, and changing them when they were the wrong one! He didn’t get home until 8pm, the last of the work done by torchlight under the tree which is the garage. Kebba was down at Naata today, the original job of amendments to the oven and fixing the rain damage behind the school has expanded to include concrete seats behind the school. I spent part of the day in between power cuts, laminating the rhyme and song sheets which Faith had prepared. Steve brought a pizza from Timeless back with him and then Steve and Kebba watched one of their bang bang films whilst I went off to bed to read.
Tuesday, 26 November 2013
No night disturbances this week, so we were all up and refreshed by 7am in the morning, just as well because the keenest of pupils were already in the playground for an 8.30am start. The school bell is rung at 7.15am so that the villagers can all hear it and send the children down. We hurried to clear the classrooms and were all ready to go when the children lined up for their morning assembly. This consisted of Channeh explaining that exams would start next week, that could only go out of the classroom to the toilet if they asked, and only one at a time to the toilet. The National Anthem was then sung and the school day started.
Faith is going to help Channeh in the nursery class with the aim of introducing play into the classroom this year. Traditionally all pupils are taught by rote, but the new curriculum states that there should be creative play, singing and sport in the nursery classes.
We got into the truck to go, but unfortunately it wouldn’t start, a bump start was organised with all the staff pushing the car, but to no avail. Musa rang a mechanic in Kaur and we settled down to wait for his arrival by horse and cart. Meanwhile the school was in full swing and we were able to observe all the classes.
The nursery class did rote learning of jolly phonics and then came out into the playground for PE, where Faith had them organised into a circle for Ring a ring of roses, and then throwing and catching a bean bag. They clearly had not done anything like this before and it took a lot of organising, some of the smaller ones kept sitting down, and one of the boys had a pee in the circle!
The mechanic arrived, looked at the truck, announced that he needed a part and returned to Kaur on the horse and cart. We waited for his return and eventually he arrived with a part for a ‘temporary repair’ enough to get us back home. At long last the truck started, Jean and I jumped in and we set off for Loumen, dropping the mechanic at his workshop in Kaur on the way. We arrived 2 hours later than planned, the children were all on their way home, we called briefly at the school to speak to the head teacher about Faith and Mike visiting next week, and then made our way into the village to meet with Samba, who is the head of the school management committee. Faith and Mike are to stay with him and his extended family next week, fortunately the room allocated has access to a toilet in the yard behind! We left their supplies and then set off to Kumbija with our next delivery, including the wages for the staff.
Later than planned we arrived in Farafenni, I returned the hole punch, which although not very effective we were able to make some files up of rhymes and songs for the teachers at the 3 schools. Lunch at Sophies, which is nicer than where we had eaten yesterday and then we called at the well construction company headquarters to organise the capping of the well at Nemasu. They have branches around the Gambia and there are workers based near the airport, much nearer to Nemasu. Off to the ferry and home fortunately without incident, dropping Jean off at her hotel around 7.30pm. Home for a shower and an early night for me, although Steve, still wound up from all the driving sat up with Kebba and watched a film.
Up early to find Faith and Mike already outside with coffee. Faith is feeling much better and wanted to go, so we loaded the truck and went to collect Jean from her hotel. Off onto the road to Brikama where we started to look for a hole punch as Mike had been unable to get one yesterday. We tried many shops with no luck, most people didn’t even know what it was. The cloudy weather seems to be over now, and we had to cover arms on the sunny side of the truck to stop burning. We continued on to Soma where we found a long queue of trucks, but not many cars and so we were able to cross to Farafenni quite quickly. We had more shopping to do in Farafenni; Mike and Faith are staying with families for the next two weeks and wanted to contribute food to the family budget. I met Alagie, who has supplied cement to us in the past and he suggested that for the elusive hole punch I borrowed one from the Post Office. Being Sunday, this was closed, but the security man kindly lent me a hole punch on the promise of returning it tomorrow. We got all required items and went to a café for lunch, our usual café had been closed last week, but on seeing us the proprietress sent a message with one of the local guys to tell us that everything was back to normal and she expected us back tomorrow as ‘her customers’ We finally set off for Jamwelly, arriving around 5pm in the afternoon. Faith and Mike went off to inspect their lodgings whilst we unloaded the truck into one of the classrooms. Unfortunately the suggested lodgings had no toilet facilities, the family wander into the bush when they need to go. Faith didn't fancy that idea and so it was agreed that they stay in the school, sleeping in the office for the week. We all set up camp for the night, showered (bucket and ladle) and sat down to wait for dinner, and wait and wait, we had just about given up when Channeh arrived with the promised chicken dinner, just after 9pm. Dinner and then straight to bed.
Mr Sallah, the head at Nemasu had arranged a Jolly Phonics trainer to come in today and train both Naata and Nemasu staff. Mike is going off shopping for supplies for the next 2 weeks when he and Faith will be ‘up country’ Faith wanted to attend the course, so Steve, Kebba, Faith and I piled into the truck along with all the tools for Naata, and set off for a 9am start at Nemasu. A Gambian 9am start, we arrived at 9.15am and some of the teachers were still missing! They turned up before 10am. Faith attended the course whilst Steve, Kebba and I went off to Naata, buying cement on the way. Everything has gone up this year, cement, the majority of which is imported, has risen from 215 to 250 dalasis per bag. Anything coming from outside the country (which is most things) has risen by at least one third this year. Ibraima, the caretaker at Naata and Sanaba were waiting for us and the three of them unloaded the truck and then started mixing the cement required to make the blocks to make the new seating area behind the school. The wheelbarrow bought on Thursday was declared unfit for purpose, too flimsy, so Steve and I set off to take it back. We went via Denton Bridge as Steve wanted some peanut shells to make compost in the garden. On reaching the peanut shell area it was obvious that the plastic sacks piled up had degraded in the summer as they were all split and spilling out. So 3 of the peanut ladies, Steve and I spent an hour filling new sacks mostly with our hands, dirty work! We loaded the truck and set off to change the wheelbarrow, the shop keeper was very nice about it and found a stronger one from a colleague, but again the price has risen. Next week the container is due, and so now we start the run around with the paperwork required. The customs declaration is now done online by the shipping company, but they cannot do it without the shipping manifest, which is now due today. We then have to apply for a duty waiver, but cannot do that without the shipping documents and the customs declaration. As we are away on Monday, Ousman has offered to go to the shipping company for us, and then on to the Ministry for the duty waiver. To do this he needs papers from me showing the container number and the list of goods aboard. We had arranged to meet him at his college which he attends on Saturday mornings. We got to the college and rang him, only to find that it was break time and they had gone to the book shop to buy books. Nothing is ever simple here, we set off to the bookstore and found him and handed over the paperwork required. Then back to Naata with the wheelbarrow, then off to Nemasu to collect Faith. The training was due to finish at 2pm, but true to form they were just having a break for prayers and then going to start again. Faith decided to come back with us anyway and have a rest at the house this afternoon, as she had a tummy upset, probably brought on by breakfast at the school. We are going to wait to see how she is before travelling tomorrow. A light tea at Timeless, Faith felling better, but we will give it until 8 in the morning before we pack the truck for travelling.
Saturday, 23 November 2013
Yesterday the laminating cost for the paperwork was more expensive than buying a machine and sheets, so Faith and Mike spent the morning laminating the song and game sheets which Faith had printed yesterday. Steve was off to the garage again for more welding work, as the power had gone yesterday. I went round to the storeroom to make up boxes for Jamwelly, Loumen and Kumbija with whatever supplies we had left from last year. The container is due next week when all supplies will be replenished. I spent 3 hours in the storeroom, sorting and moving things around to make room for the new stock. When I returned home most of the laminating was still to be done as the power had gone! Faith and Mike had gone off for a walk so I caught up with the Blog. For our evening we decided to go to the new Courtyard restaurant which has opened at the turntable. Friday night is buffet night and they also have a DJ playing 60s, 70s, 80s music and then a duo playing keyboard and singing to entertain us all. It was a really enjoyable evening, definitely one to repeat.
What has happened to the weather? It rained all night so everything is fresh and wet this morning; fortunately we had not left anything outside which could be damaged by the rain. We are planning to travel this weekend, so supplies are needed, also tiles and materials for the work at Naata. The 4 of us set off to Kairaba avenue, where Faith wanted some photocopying and laminating doing, we left her and Mike sorting out the paperwork and Steve and I went off to buy tiles, a wheelbarrow, trowels, spades etc for the work at Naata. Everything always takes longer than you think here and it was after 2.30pm when we got back for Faith and Mike. We had arranged to meet them at La Parisienne, a cake shop and restaurant on Kairaba avenue, so at least they could have a coffee whilst waiting for us. Back home, via Naata to drop off the supplies, a quick change and we were out again to go to the quiz night at Neil’s bar. Jean arrived yesterday and we had arranged to meet at the bar, so there were 5 brains for the quiz. Sadly we came 4th so were out of the prize money this week. A very pleasant evening and back home.
We had a lazy morning as everyone was tired after all the travelling. Another cloudy day and more rain! After a late breakfast Steve and I went to Mansea Beach to collect Chris and Rod to take them to the airport. Mike and Faith came up with us and we dropped them in Senegambia to do some shopping. Chris was all packed and so we loaded the truck and set off to the airport. After dropping them at the airport we tried to ring Sanaba as we were supposed to be meeting him at Naata to discuss some repair work which needs doing at the school. His phone was switched off, so we returned home, only to find him waiting for us there. Steve went off to the garage to get some repair work done on the truck, apparently the last trip on the bumpy road had shaken loose the engine housing and the chassis had snapped. Some welding work was required. Kebba, Sanaba and I made a list of all the materials and tools needed for the job, and then Sanaba went off with Kebba to buy sand and gravel to be delivered to Naata. Steve got back about 7pm, no sign of Faith and Mike, so I rang them and they were in Neil’s bar, so we went round to join them for dinner.
Another cloudy day here, unusual for this time of year, 4th day in a row. We were up early as the children arrive early for school, the first 2 through the gate at 7 for a 8.30 start! Faith wanted to watch the classes for a while, so she toured the school and Chris, Steve and I met with Mr Bah to discuss their essential needs of the moment. 10.30am and off to Kumbija to meet Mr Sowe, the pupils and staff. More Jolly Phonics drifting from the classrooms as we arrived. What a change in Deja the new teacher last year, she and Lamin started their Early Child Development training in the summer, and she has really benefited from it. Much more confidence and evidence of new ideas in the classroom. The school has finally received the official registration, it took 4 years! Everyone was happy to see us and we spent some time there before heading off to Farafenni for lunch. Back home via the ferry to Soma where we were asked by the police to take one of their guys back to Serrekunda, and drove all the way back without stopping. We dropped the policeman off at the turntable and headed to Mansea Beach where we gratefully got out of the truck to stretch our legs. We called Rod and all went across to Hank's bar for a welcome beer! Home for a quick shower and change and then went to GTS for the last evening with Chris and Rod.
Friday, 22 November 2013
We got up at 5.15am and set off for Mansea beach to collect Christine. Faith, Chris and I got in the backseat of the truck, Mike and Steve in the front and we set off on the south bank to the ferry at Soma. A smooth journey for most of the way, there is only about 25 kilometres now which hasn’t had tarmac put down, also it was cloudy and so not as hot for travelling. We arrived at the ferry terminal and a small queue had formed of cars and buses, fortunately we are quite well known there now and we were ‘
helped’ to the front of the queue and crossed quite quickly. Farafenni was as busy as ever, we made our way to Sophie’s for lunch, but were very surprised when we got there that she was not cooking this time. We found an alternative venue, had lunch and then set off for Jamwelly, arriving around 12.30 in time to see all the children. Channeh was waiting for us outside the school with the nursery children all chanting ‘welcome, welcome’ as we arrived. The caretaker came and shook hands and smiled at everyone, his English his minimal, but he is trying to learn. We toured the school and then Channeh asked all the pupils to line up outside whilst they sang the new school anthem. Well, we girls were in tears and Steve was filling up. I can’t remember all the words, but basically they were thanking the charity for the school and then singing that they hoped Mr Wallace would rest in peace forever. School was then dismissed and we met with Channeh to discuss what the school needed in the way of resources. We have 3 new teachers here this year, all from outside the area. Channeh then went with us on the truck to Kaur, where we visited the Lower Basic school to inspect the work which needs doing to convert an old building into a library. Channeh was disappointed that I hadn’t ‘noticed’ that she was divorced. Apparently she had removed her earrings, a sign of a married lady in her tribe!!
We then travelled on to Loumen where we were spending the night. The nursery was closed when we arrived, but the head teacher, Mr Bah, came to meet us and Samba, the head of the school management committee was waiting for us at the school. We set the classrooms up for the night, with Chris sleeping in the head’s office and then showered before eating the meal prepared by Sambas wife for us. We all retired for the night and Steve and I slept like logs, partly assisted by my cough medicine and Steve removing his hearing aids. Chris however, heard strange noises on the roof, and was very frightened, she went outside and walked around with two torches, one in each hand out at the sides, so that anyone who was around would think there were two people! She couldn’t find anyone, but loathe to go back in the room where she also heard music; she knocked Faith and Mike up and went in with them. Next morning, the head asked her if the bats had disturbed her sleep at all, and the music turned out to be her mobile phone which was letting her know the charge had gone!
Those of you who know me well will know that that title is not me! Mike who is our current visitor is a master chef and has offered to cook dinner tonight. He and Faith went off shopping for food whilst Steve and I went to the storeroom to pack the truck up for travelling up country tomorrow. The truck was duly loaded and we returned home to pack up our bedding and water for the journey. Delicious aromas were wafting from the kitchen, my oven will never be the same again! We sat in the garden until we were summoned in for dinner, a delicious affair, pork fillet in sauce and local vegetables. After dinner we watched a film, ‘Reacher’, fans don’t bother – Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher – I don’t think so, it was a travesty. The female lead had to lean against doors or sit down so she wasn’t taller than Tom! And where they got all the small actors for the crowd scenes so that his head showed above them I don’t know.!! Early to bed for an early rise tomorrow.
Up early and we set off for the turntable to meet Chris. We went to Nemasu first and introduced Faith and Mike to Mr Sallah. The school was reasonably full considering that they had just had two days off, and all classes were working well when we arrived. The sound of the jolly phonics sounds and singing were drifting across the playground whilst we were in Mr Sallah’s office. More training is required on jolly phonics and Mr Sallah is going to organise it for next week. Monthly tests were taking place in Abdou’s class and the children were copying questions from the blackboard ready to answer them in their own exercise books. It was nice to see Fatou using some of the training she had learnt in the summer. Chris was inspecting the garden and the new vegetables which had been planted already. We looked around, got a list of essentials and then moved on to Naata. Abi has returned after her maternity leave and was happy to see us all. Again no all the children have returned yet after the break. Abi has taken over class one and has just under 50 little ones to look after when they are all there. The roll is now 164 in total. Abdoulie and Momodou greeted everyone and then we left. Mr Jallow was desperate for school fees for his son, so he followed us back to the bank to collect them. We continued on then up to Mansea Beach to see Rod, and we all went for lunch in Hanks bar opposite the hotel. We spent a pleasant afternoon and then returned home for the evening.
Many people are celebrating the new year today and so some of the schools are still closed, Naata among them. Nemasu opened but very few children arrived. We had a late breakfast and then took Faith and Mike to Senegambia to show them where most of the shops and restaurants were. We did a little shopping, and then had a late lunch before leaving to attend the wedding of Bert and Wisdom. The celebrations were being held in the compound of a friend of theirs in Kololi. We arrived around six as requested and were there in time to see the finishing touches to the trimmings in the garden. Several round tables had been set up and we were invited to join with the family who live opposite us, another Ousman, his wife Lisa and their two small boys. Ousman’s brother and his family completed the table. Not much happened for the first hour and then we had African drummers and dancers of all kinds and all costumes to keep the guests occupied whilst we waited for the bride to appear. The official ceremony had taken place in Banjul this morning, so we were attending the celebration. After the dancers we had music, and then a comedy act, two Gambians with painted white faces telling jokes and doing slapstick routines. The bride finally appeared and was escorted to the top table by her groom. Bert’s family from Holland were also in attendance and some of them had ‘official places on the high table. The MC made all the introductions to the crowd and then the comedy act took off again. Speeches followed, the groom, the bride, the bride’s father and brother and Bert’s brother Edwin. The brides father raised a laugh when he said he currently had 8 children, he was 82. (well you never know) The food finally appeared about 9pm, (we were glad we had eaten earlier) and then the dancing started. The two small boys were asleep by this time, 10pm, and we decided to leave and give them a lift home with their mum, the rest of the family stayed behind. A lovely occasion with good company.
Today is the Muslim New Year so the schools are closed today, also many of the shops are closing early. We had decided to have a Barbecue today. Faith and Mike are arriving this afternoon, so Steve was off to the airport and I was getting ready for the BBQ. The plane was early and they were lucky to be straight out, so they arrived at 1.30pm, just enough time to get freshened up before everyone else arrived. Chris and Rod came, and we had invited Sue and her daughter, Hannah, from the other charity so they could meet Madi. Ousman also called in, so it was a busy afternoon. Everyone got on well and we sat chatting and eating (some drinking too of course) until it was getting dark and everyone left for home.
Much better today, so up early and getting the spare room ready for Faith and Mike who arrive tomorrow. We were in the garden when our neighbour from opposite came over with his girlfriend and gave us an invitation to his wedding on Thursday evening.
How lovely, although we didn’t know he had a girlfriend! There are boys everywhere in the garden, painting, digging, planting and sweeping. Anyone would think the Queen was coming.
Bit better today, we had a visit from Sue from a similar charity to ours who was asking advice. We were able to sit in the garden and swap ideas and plans. Throat still bad, so Steve doing most of the talking for a change. The pool has been neglected with all the other work going on, so is still green from the rainy season, lots of work to do there. Kebba busy filtering and cleaning the pool. We went to Timeless in the evening, same menu but all the prices have gone up.
Slept most of the morning and then we went to the storeroom just to check that all is in order for the container arriving at the end of the month. We still have some boxes left as we were unable to deliver across the river last season because of the unreliable ferry. Good news – the Taiwanese have donated new engines for the ferries, so they should be up and running by xmas. Let’s hope so as good as the south bank road is now it is still further to travel by about 80 kilometres to Farafenni, and we would have to travel back down the north bank road some considerable distance to reach some of the twin schools. We sorted out what was left and swept the store before returning home. That wiped me out for the rest of the day and so went back to bed!! Hammy had recommended black soap for getting rid of the white fly, so Kebba was off shopping and then spraying the garden again. Surprise – my sister Gill has booked to come in January for the first time! Hope she enjoys it.
Definitely the flu! Slept all day and lost my voice. Steve having a quiet time! He was at the garage again today having the brake pipe replaced. Hammy turned up in the evening with a Gambian meal to welcome us back properly! Fish domada, delicious.
There were many people on our flight who were suffering with colds, sure enough 4 days later I am infected! Really sore throat and woozy head etc this morning. Back to bed for a while, and then off to do yet more shopping; replacing the chairs and table which have not survived the rainy season. Everything plastic here degrades, goes brittle and then snaps, we have bought better quality this year, hopefully it will survive. We had arranged to meet Chris and Rod at Neil’s bar tonight to take part in the fortnightly quiz. We managed joint first! which paid for the evening out.
Steve took the truck to the garage this morning only to find that Musa was not there, he is at home with malaria, fortunately he has the medicine and should be back soon. I spent the morning unpacking all the bedding, towels and curtains which had been put away for the summer. Everything smells musty this year, so all items were spread out or hung outside to air. The house painting continues, Kebba and Malik are painting the garden walls prior to replanting some of the trees. We waited to hear from Chris and Rod that they had arrived safely and then went to La Romantica in Kololi to meet them for dinner and the evening.
Woken by the sun and so up early and off to buy supplies. First call to the bank where the exchange rate is a whopping 61 to the £1. The highest it has ever been. We shopped for food supplies and then called at the garden centre were we had to buy some replacement trees for the garden. There has been a plague of white fly which has killed some of our plants and trees, so the garden is looking sparse this year. Everyone in the area has been affected, mostly it is the bougainvillea which has died. The evening was spent watching Kebba, Malik and Alagie spray all the affected plants and cut down those too far gone to be saved. Hammy, our neighbour and lawyer visited to welcome us back. We then went round to Neil’s bar for the first visit of the year.
Up early and a taxi to the airport. We are flying with Gambia Bird so more legroom, and cheaper than our usual route. We quickly identified the check in desk by the number of Gambians waiting to check in. A man was busy coming up and down the queue trying to get someone to take a suitcase for him to Gambia. We declined of course. The flight was uneventful, lunch was paella – so twice in 2 days. We were met at the airport by Musa with our old truck, most of the repairs have been done, but still waiting for a part to mend the 4 wheel drive.
Back home to be met by Kebba with a big grin on his face as usual. The rainy season has caused lots of damage this year it has been particularly humid so there is mould on all the walls surrounding the property, and there was mould inside the house, but Kebba has brushed it down and repainted the affected rooms so all looks good. Outside however needs a coat of paint and so Bas will be coming to paint it all. Kebba has suggested that we paint with oil paint (gloss) on the side of the house that gets the most rain to try and stop the mould growing. We unpacked and then had a small meal before Ousman called round to welcome us back to the Gambia. Early night.
How civilised, an early start with a lift to the airport and before lunch we are in Barcelona. From the airport, a bus straight into the centre of the city and we quickly find our hotel as recommended by Karen Jamieson. They greeted us with a glass of champagne or orange juice and were shown our room. A quick change into something cooler and we were off to explore the city. We walked into a nearby plaza and spent a relaxing hour or so having a beer and watching the world go by. We then took the city tour and saw Barcelona from the top deck of a bus. Back to the hotel and up to the roof, the sunset bar for cocktails, and a fantastic view of the city with the sun going down. Lastly we walked down to the seafront and found a restaurant with seafood paella for dinner. Back to the hotel for our last night in Europe.
Saturday, 2 November 2013
Welcome to the new blog for the Gambian Schools Trust. Through out the rest of year there will be regular posts and updates following the hard work of our volunteers and all those involved in the Gambian Schools Trust's work out here in Gambia, and back in the UK.
Please check back, or bookmark and share this page, for news and updates.
Please check back, or bookmark and share this page, for news and updates.