Living La Vida Loca

Peter Fleet is in The Gambia just now. He is something significant in the Award Scheme in London and is doing a recce for bringing out a group later. I teased him about staying in a proper hotel rather than in the Rhun Palm: understandably, he prefers a place with a pool. Anyway, he can’t have taken offence at my remark because I’m invited, along with Saikou and Rohey, to dine at his hotel this coming Thursday. Only problem is I left my dinner jacket at home!

Today was easier than I had any right to expect: it being Monday, I had no class until noon and it then turned out that Mariama Lowe had set an exam so there was no teaching going on. Instead, we sat at the front as invigilators and I talked to her about the planned Powerpoint course for staff. I am going to do a quick showing of some exemplar slides for about 15mins on Friday after morning school – Fridays we finish 11:30. Those who want to can sign up for a two or three hour course while I am here. Mariama has agreed to “ride shotgun” and help my students while I do the front-of-house stuff. We went through my plan and she says she can do all of it, but the proof of the pudding…

A couple of mentions of Inverness snow have reached me: it’s hard to believe it here, when even a casual stroll up to the shop for phone credit brings me out all hot and sweaty. Anyway, I’m thinking of you all at home and I share your pain.

There is definitely a good feeling around the PIA at the moment. Things are getting done, change is happening. I tagged onto a group of staff with Sainey the CE on a site visit to the backyard as they discussed how and where to have the Graduation at the end of this month: everyone participated and many even listened. A general plan was worked out and tasks with decision-making responsibility allocated. At lunchtime, a couple of guys were swapping out the old sofa and chair from the restaurant and replacing with a new(er) smarter suite. Malain, restaurant manager, and Abass were discussing the making of new tables for the restaurant: the current ones are slatted and, particularly with a table-cloth on them, prone to cause spillages. Everywhere work is going on: it is very encouraging. Various staff members have said how good the CE is: not just saying “Yes” when the topic comes up, but listing specific good qualities Sainey has, such as being approachable, a good listener, a good delegator… This really is what we’ve been waiting for years to hear. However, I also remember Abass’s words the other night in a different context when he said: “The trouble with African leaders is that when they gain power they only want more and won’t give it up easily.” That’s the gist of his words, anyway. But we weren’t talking about PIA CEs, past or present!

Lamin (not that one! no, nor that one!. You know – the Lamin who used to run the IT Lab but not the Lamin who does so now) turned up here today, looking as jolly and well-fed as ever. He left the PIA IT lab two or three years ago to join the local petrol company, Gamoil or something. So I asked him what he’s doing with all the fuel that’s in short supply: he says the fuel arrives in the area by ship with maybe a 20m draught, so it can’t come into the River Gambia until it has offloaded at some other W. African ports first and is high enough in the water to navigate through 8.5m waters. Thus if there’s a delay earlier on, it has knock-on effects further down the pipeline, as it were. I have no idea whether that is a full explanation, but he assures me that the situation has already been eased by deliveries of aviation fuel and some heavy oils. When asked if the price would come down, he answered that it was mostly set by Government – presumably through taxation – and laughingly denied pocketing a dalasi per litre himself. It’s the first time he’s been here for a while, so I had an opportunity to introduce Lamin to Lamin (Come on! The current IT teacher! Do try to keep up.)

Lunch today was interesting – a sort of cross between a fried egg roll and a toastie. I think Cecilia fried the egg, stuck it in between two slices of UK-style white bread along with some stuff, such as a Kraft Square and so on. Then, I think, a microwave was involved: the result was more like a “steamie” than a toastie, but very welcome.

I mentioned all the work. There’s a guy quite close to the Inn, in the auto mechanic’s area who has spent almost all day hitting a piece of metal with a hammer. I think he’s panel beating or something, but I sincerely hope he goes home soon. I’m at the stage of thinking I can detect rhythms in his hammering and then realising it’s all in my head: did someone not use that as some sort of torture somewhere? Japan? China? Guantanamo Bay?

After my fish and chip tea, served with a small amount of salad – just a garnish, really – and three more slices of the cotton wool bread which I returned untouched, Abass appeared in traditional dress. This is such a rare sight that I didn’t register him at first: he is nearly always in working clothes: blue cotton overcoat, trousers and t shirt. He asked if he could get the “data card” back overnight and I readily assented of course, so no blog posted tonight.

The result of this is I can write a bit more: you may even get a paragraph typed in flagrante delicti (spelling?) from a murderer, if that bloody hammering doesn’t stop!

No sooner had I written that last paragraph than the hammering ceased. I thought my prayers had been answered, but it was just the power going off meant he couldn’t see to bang things together. I hope he hit his thumb before he stopped. We had about 90 minutes without power. Damn it, that’s the power off again, just as I was about to say that the water’s gone off as well. I was told about the water earlier, but also told I was OK as there was water in the tank. Whatever the truth of that, it certainly ain’t coming out my tap. Anyway that’s me sitting in the dark again moaning about lack of water and stalling for time hoping the power will come back on. At least my laptop battery is full and I discovered that my knock-off-Nokia even has a torch built into it, so I’ll be fine if my head-torch runs out.


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