Knock-Off Nokia

Remember Knock-Off Nigel of the public information adverts? Always buying dodgy goods for his girlfriend? Pilloried in the pub for his poor quality presents? Well, I bought a so-called Nokia today: it seems to work all right as I got a couple of “welcome” texts from the phone service provider, but I suspect the only connection this mobile has to the Finnish stationery-turned-telecoms company is the fake label on the front. Despite its branding, all other signs – packaging, battery-make etc. seem to suggest it’s masquerading under false colours and was actually knocked up by an outfit called “SQ”. Anyway, I’ve now got a charged phone and a sim card: all I now need is to find someone selling phone credit for the Comium network and all will be as well as can be expected.

It’s been a bit busier today than yesterday. First thing the morning (8:30am ish) I sat in on a Year 2 class doing business studies and I learned a bit about balance sheets, profit and loss etc. After break (11:30 – 12:00) it was the turn of the Year 1s (12:00 – 2:00) in the IT room. “Aunty” Cole doesn’t seem to want me in her English classes, so she took good care only to allocate me to IT classes. The IT teacher is a young woman – no more than a girl really – with no qualification in IT and no teaching certificate or previous experience. She’s only been in the job for a few months, so perhaps “Aunty” thought I might be useful in there. Either that or she didn’t like my efforts last year. The young IT teacher, Miss Lowe, is not doing badly to judge by her efforts with the nine girls of Year 2 – all of whom I had for both subjects last year. She’ll need to be a little more assertive, but that’ll come with experience and an increasing age gap between her and her flock. I was very impressed by the male Accounting teacher: he was clearly well cut out for the job and knew his stuff as far as I could tell (though not a patch on Ian Stewart, for those of you who know him!) Plenty of recapping, pupil involvement, humour and a sense that he knew where he was heading. ‘Nuff teaching.

This afternoon was taken up with getting the phone. Alasana chummed me along to Serrekunda market and although I’ve been there many a time, there is always a shock as the assault on the senses overwhelms me for a moment. It’s a big market, the size of a small town, and I thought I’d seen it all, but today we wove between fish stalls, pot and pan sellers, fruitmongers, traffic, ghetto blasters, calls to prayer, chickens and shoes eventually to follow a flight of steps up to an area full of mobile phone sellers and Alasana steered me through the crowds to the shop of a previous PIA student. You know the result.

I meant to mention the other day that Sonia had sent me out with a bag of freshly-baked homemade “Granny’s Cookies” – you’ll find the recipe in the IRA’s Gambia Cookbook, I think, assuming you can find one of these much sought-after books sadly now out of print! Knowing the Gambian sweet tooth, I was absolutely positive these would go down well with my friends out here. And they certainly are, so we all thank you from the bottom of our hearts, Aunty Sonia!

I have always wanted to travel a bit more up-country than I have done so far, and with the embryonic beginning of a tentative possibility of a nascent plan for 2014, I have a bit more stimulus still. I mentioned my thoughts to Saikou and he and I are looking at the week after next for a journey into the heart of Africa, or at least the duodenum of The Gambia (look at the map and see if the country’s shape reminds you of anything other than a section of gut). Well into the country, the slow-running river eventually becomes salt-free and, if I’m to believe what I’m told, hippos gambol gaily on the muddy shores, whilst baboons swing carefree from bough to bough. That may be something of a romanticisation, but I’m keen to go anyway. I think we’ll make a weekend of it: he doesn’t work Fridays and I can skive school.

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