On their way…

It’s been all go today: incredible last minute activity. By 10:00 this morning there was a squad of Home Science students making beds with the sheets and pillow cases they worked on last week, there was an electrician fixing the dangerous sockets, a satellite tv installer was doing his unnecessary stuff, I was entering my second hour of the morning preparing walls for the group to paint and Abass had arrived and was helping with the rubbing down, hole filling etc.

Admittedly, in the process I’d lost a friend: I eventually lost my rag with Mousa and told him to stop blaming the electrician – who claimed to be ill – because he, Mousa, was the hotel manager and people had been telling him about these problems for weeks. It didn’t improve our relationship when I repeated all this to Mr Federa in Mousa’s presence. But at least the work got done after Mr F gave Mousa a dressing down. He is still in a bit of a sulk with me, but I can live with that.

The good Doctor looked in briefly to see that things were progressing and seemed pleased at all the activity.

The rooms have now been washed and the beds look really colourful with the new fabrics on them: I think it has been money well spent as the amenities are improved and the Home Science girls have practised a new skill. The electrician has just cycled off to get the parts required to repair the socket in my room, which I’m going to have to start calling “our” room for the next week as I’ll be sharing it with one of the IRA staff, presumably.

I’m still concerned about mosquito nets for the rooms. Mousa says there are nets, but I’ve seen no sign of them and even if there are I can’t see how they can be fitted over the beds when the ceiling fan is right in the way. Maybe the problem can be solved with lots of string or something, but that’s a fight for Tosh to take up – I’ve had my battles for the day.

Having spent a very busy morning, scraping paint, sanding walls, slapping on Polyfilla and so forth, I’m conserving my strength for the arrival of the group this evening. The plane is due to touch down at 8:55pm, but getting through baggage reclaim and customs can take ages, especially with a large group. Baggage reclaim is a bit of a melee everywhere, but out here it’s increased by a factor of five or so. Tourists are invariably approached by “porters” who seem to work purely for tips, so they can be quite pushy and the crowds round the baggage belt are less than restrained. After the jostling and porter-dodging at the carousel, there is a long queue at customs. Everything is scanned and relatively efficient (unless you’ve got two laptops!), but the discipline in the queue depends on the tourists / locals ratio. The tourists stand, still a little shellshocked, whilst the locals tend to barge their way to the front. Oh, and the porters are still trying to “help”.

However, from the group’s point of view – and Sonia’s – the great blessing is that they’re arriving in the evening, when the temperature has dropped and, despite the huge press of human beings, it’s relatively cool.

I am going with Alasana and one or two others to meet the group: every time before I’ve been met and it’s quite a relief after a long day’s journey to find familiar faces and willing hands  to carry your bag and greet you like long lost friends. It’s then that you feel you’ve arrived and can breathe a sigh of relief.

One of Dr Jagne’s colleagues has just arrived and expressed surprise that the painting hadn’t been done: he thought the Gambians were to do the painting before the group arrived. According to him. Mousa told him I had stopped them painting: I explained there had been a misunderstanding and Mousa got another roasting: “Why did you tell me…”, “Why didn’t you say…” and so on. Why Mousa didn’t make it clear the IRA group was going to do that, I don’t know, but I can see the RPI is definitely going to be looking for a new manager.

Cecilia the cook was muttering to me about it all being “last minute” and of course she’s right. Obviously, beds and rooms couldn’t be prepared before today until the Sierra Leoneans had been moved out, but there was nothing to stop the electrical work being done: in fact we would have benefited from that.

Anyway, must go and iron my kilt… (only joking!)


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