Market Forces

Another busy day: also a little warmer and no rain, though rumour has it the weather isn’t set to get back to normal until after the group are back home. That may be a blessing as Kerewan, where they go from Saturday to Wednesday, is normally very hot. Today’s tasks have been painting, painting and painting, with a little tree surgery thrown in for good measure.

The RPI restaurant walls got a quick touch-up with the orange paint, the windows and doors were painted white and only the bottom foot or so right round the walls remains to be painted black, a sort of faux-skirting board. Externally, we painted the pillars of the facade of the RPI (sorry if that makes it sound rather posh architecturally) bright yellow and if time allows the sections in between will be painted a different colour. Some garden walls were also painted and the whole place looks much jollier. The tree surgery involved a few of us chopping branches off a mango tree and cutting out masses of creepers that were both choking the tree and growing through the eaves of the building. When Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity was found also to apply in The Gambia, Malcolm was able to grimace and say “You know when you’ve been mangoed!”

The teachers and I also met up with the Interim Management Board and discussed plans for the future of the PIA. It’s fair to say that all of us are convinced that Dr Jagne and her high-powered team are getting a handle on what needs to be done to get the PIA back on track. So far they have been concentrating on the upper echelons of management, but they plan soon to turn their attention to the various units, such as the RPI and other “enterprise” departments: they have clearly decided who should be kept and who needs replaced. I think this is a subject that we Scots and our Gambian colleagues see eye to eye on and that some heads will roll in the near future.

In the afternoon, after a lunch of Domoda (beef in peanut sauce, with rice), most of the group headed off to Serrekunda market. Some of the kids loved it, but some found it a bit overwhelming: I stayed behind this time as I will probably go next week some time, but it is a real assault on the senses – all five of them. It is not a tourist market, but a real local market for local people, with everything from fish to curtains, bicycle parts to hens, baobab chunks to candles etc.

The PIA has a hall that it rents out for functions: tonight it’s a Nigerian association of some sort and blow me are they loud! There has been ear shattering Afropop playing since about 5:00pm, broken only by a half-hour of speechifying. I have a nasty feeling it’ll go on to about 2:00am: the room I’m in is right opposite the hall, separated from it by only a few feet. I hope you folk sleep well!

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