Yesterday, Alasana told me he had the answer to lack of Internet access at the PIA just now. He has a Gamcel 3G dongle. In other words he can access the internet from anywhere with a mobile phone signal. Today I agreed to try it out.

The first surprise was that it wasn’t Alasana’s at all, but Abass’s. The next surprise was that it actually worked first time, though access is almost impossibly slow. Abass has said I can use it anytime, so I’ll need to buy some credit for it. All these new experiences!

I had 3 hours of IT this morning with Year 1 (Word). I bumped into Ms Lowe at breakfast – or at least she arrived for work as I was eating. She rapidly accepted my offer of a bite to eat, made herself a cup of “coffee” (there was no coffee powder left, so she settled for just the hot water, tinned milk and compulsory sugar) and ate half my bread. So much for chivalry. We did manage to work out how we’d divvy up the lesson, but when it came down to it my way of producing a menu in Word did not involve the table she inserted, which rather screwed up my direction. I should explain that she was operating my laptop connected to one of the two digital projectors they now have, thanks to Tosh and Roddy. We first did the menu on the projector, but her spelling and mine differed so much I ended up writing the items on the blackboard so she could type them in correctly.

Today is Friday, so most of the men, in particular, were in traditional dress for the mosque. I marvel at how they manage to keep their whites so clean in such a dusty environment. I always choose browns and greens as they don’t show the dirt, but pale mauve, light blue, white, pale yellow etc. abound over here.

I spent almost an hour this evening chatting to Abass: I helped a little with weeding his onions but most of the time we just stood, chewing the fat and putting the world to rights in the way old friends do, while we watched the hose slowly flood the bottom of a little “paddy-field” of onions. I could choose no better male companion with whom to be stranded on a desert island. Naturally, if the companion were female, I would opt for Sonia: whether she’d be willing to spend an eternity on a desert island with me is another matter.

I’ve been trying to track down a Gambian drama troupe leader, with a view to discussing a possible future project. I have managed to track down an address in the capital – not a huge distance – but a phone number has proved elusive, even after pretending to be a professional something or other to look at her Linked-In profile. However, Saikou has managed to find a second address quite near here, so that’s a task for next week.

Last year I came here full of expectations that things were going to be better, as the old management had gone. In fact there was still too much uncertainty and several senior figures in the organisation were as yet unreplaced. This year things are certainly on the move: the optimism of last year is being translated into actual change. Many of the developments are small, not all successful  – consider the too-low water tower for example – but aggregated they do amount to quite a lot of progress. The IT suite, still gutted, is really being developed and the new chap – Lamin – is obviously knowledgeable. About three days ago one more quotation for Internet access was being awaited. Today the successful bidder turned up to install equipment but quite rightly Lamin sent them away with a flea in their ear because the equipment was not up to the specification! Meals are now generally on time, or even early: I was asked at 5:45 if I’d like to come for my 6:00 meal. When people say something will happen, it does more often than before. Time-keeping is better and the whole approach strikes me as more professional.


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