As I prepared for bed last night, it dawned on me there was no mosquito net in the room. Tired, I decided to do without. I had an excellent night’s sleep and have only a couple of bites, which I may have got earlier in the evening.
The water supply may be more constant, but it’s definitely lower pressure. The tank could do with being a bit higher to provide a better head of pressure: the loo takes ages to flush and I’ve not yet tried the shower, though no doubt I’ll report back.
Breakfast was the usual – bread (better quality than before) and Soweibo? was looking for me at the appointed time, fussing about like a real waiter. He says he hasn’t worked in a hotel before, so Malain must be training him well.
Today will probably be rather boring, though a day or two’s peace will be welcome after all this jet-setting around. It being Saturday, the school is closed and most of the people here will have the day off. The Gambia has just instigated a 4 day working week: schools and private businesses are unaffected, but all Government offices etc. are now closed on Fridays and the working day in those places has been extended to cover 8am to 6pm. Although the British press did just cover it, it was of course minor news and most stress was laid on President Jammeh’s reference to Friday being the Islamic holy day. However, it seems the main reason is to allow people in the city to go back to their villages and tend their smallholdings or farms: in other words, it’s an attempt to boost the self-sufficiency of the nation’s staple food supplies and encourage small-scale farming. From what little research I’ve done in the last few hours, it seems a popular move and it sounds good to me.
Well the two mosquito bites turned out to be about 10, so it’s repellent tonight. I met two of last years’s PIA pupils today: they were just visiting the centre en passant. Both of the girls – Binta and Banna – were in high spirits and are currently out on work placement in some lowly office role at the Stadium right over the road from here. They recognised me and remembered my name, but I had to be reminded of their names: I’m always impressed with the memories of the Gambians.
The stadium and the mosque have been competing for my favours this afternoon. Over the last couple of years, there has been a mosque under construction near to the Centre. They have obviously gone for the high-end-of-the-range speakers for the call to prayer. The result is, in my imagination, what I think a Gaelic Free Kirk Psalm would sound like if tackled by a choir of Gregorian monks whose only languages were English and Latin. The football stadium was more sporadic: I wasn’t even aware there was a game on until the first massive cheer, followed by a couple more. I predict Gambia 2: the opponents, 1. Anyway by now the football crowd is beginning to make its way home. Half of them seem to be carrying djembes (the local drums), stopping from time to time for a quick jam session.
Not only was lunch ready at the appointed time, but I was called down for it. Earlier I’d been given the choice of mayonnaise or butter and I sat down to an excellent salad and something sandwich. This was followed by three local bananas – my suspicions were right! – but they were small and not starchy as some of last year’s were. Altogether a good lunch. Fish and chips for tea: I saw Cecilia breading the fish prior to frying it, so I know it was fresh and home-made.
I’ve really been very lazy: apart from a brief walk to the shop for water, I’ve been sitting – sometimes in the lounge, sometimes on the veranda and even occasionally in the front garden.