Feeling my Age

My bed in the RPI has a scale model of the Mariana trench in the middle of it, in which I find myself shipwrecked every morning. This, combined with the general noise level and temperature (the air con circulates “non-conned” air) means I don’t sleep as well as I might. Despite hitting the hay about 9pm every evening, I have built up something of a sleep deficit and after a delayed breakfast this morning – something to do with the bread man being late – I lay back on my bed for five minutes and woke up at 1:00. After a few minutes of sleepy-eyed confusion, I felt a lot better and rose to find Mousa in a room down the corridor bleaching the floor as there had been another toilet backup. After our little pep-talk the other day, he is keen to show me how hard he is working: he has washed a few months’ dust off the tables outside as well, but I fear it won’t last.

Today is slated to be a quiet day: no beach, no walks, perhaps a little preparation for next week’s classes, certainly some reading in the shade. It’s hard to realise that this is the start of week four: just under two weeks until the IRA group arrive and then one more until Mrs M joins me, or rather until I join her as we’ll be staying in the Sunset Beach Hotel. It’ll be good not to be the only toubab in the RPI / PIA, to have a conversation in fluent English which assumes a common set of views of the world and which doesn’t require constant re-interpretation to avoid misunderstanding. It’ll also be good to see friends and family, and stay in a room with a reliable water supply, air con and a level bed. Presumably there’ll be little risk of the sewge pipe overflowing either.

Abass and his team are still working away on the voting trays: I made a half-hearted offer to help, but with a team of half a dozen Year 2 woodwork students, there’s not much I could do I’m glad to say. As he had a cashflow problem and as Abass is 100% reliable, along with this being a paying contract, I passed on a temporary cash advance (i.e. a loan) of GMD6000 – about £150, mostly Gamscot money – to let him buy wood to continue working. Mr Federa, Dr Jagne’s right hand administrator doesn’t work weekends, so there would have been an enforced hiatus leading to the late completion of the contract otherwise.

The rush is due to the National Assembly elections taking place on the 29th of this month and all 1200 of the trays are needed in time for them to be shipped to every polling station in the country. Due to past problems of late or non-payment of bills, local suppliers demanded at least 50% upfront before they’d release the materials. Abass shakes his head in wonder that, after the election, the trays will just be ditched – or used for firewood and he is glad the elections only happen every five years.

Abass has just stopped by for a minute to tell me has been officially told he is being kept on as the Board recognise his efforts. They are to provide some management training for him. The news his job is safe is great for him, removing a cloud of uncertainty, and also for the PIA as he is a real stalwart.

I’ve not been here at election time before, so that will be interesting. “Banjul Diary”, oft shown on TV, says the last three days have been Nomination Days, today is Scrutiny Day and official campaigning starts on the 14th. I quite like the idea that there is a specific period for campaigning: otherwise it could take over life for ages, rather as it does in the UK.

After polling day, there is a day of celebration and then life returns to normal on the 31st, the day Sonia arrives. It is for this reason that the IRA group’s trip to Kerewan is starting a bit late: understandably, the Gambians involved in the trip want to be in their local area so they can vote. Judging by what little I know of the country, transport would also be a greater disaster than usual on Election Day.

The very grotty-looking second-hand fridge Mousa bought yesterday for the guest area in the RPI turns out not to work so it’ll have to go back. This really comes as no surprise to me.

Mousa sat with me while I had my lunch at 3:30 and waffled on about grandiose plans for the RPI. I made the point that first he had to maintain what he’d got and I suggested a weekly inspection on a Monday, complete with notepad, and the target of sorting all problems in the following week. In fact, it turned out that a previous Scottish visitor had already intoduced him to the concept of “snagging” (which Mousa thought was “lagging”). Perhaps, second time round, it’ll sink in. Once again, I’m not hopeful.


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