Culture Vulture

It’s coming up for 11am and so far the day has gone very well. I woke with the Gambian lark, if such exist, and a spring in my step, even enduring a cold showery dribble without much moaning.

The butter at breakfast had come out of the fridge, so it didn’t smell rancid, and they’ve twigged I like two cups of coffee at breakfast, so have started leaving two sachets for me (they’re a recent development – previously, there was a tin – which is not an unalloyed benefit).

As I wasn’t down to start teaching until noon, it was agreed that today would be a good time to meet the lady running a theatre troupe, with whom I wanted to discuss some possibilities. At the back of ten, Alasana and I walked the short distance to a magnificent new structure which is the troupe’s theatre. Complete with domes, lots of glass upstairs and an apparently good stage area with blackout, the building looked excellent from the outside. It is by far the most architecturally interesting modern building I’ve seen out here. Unfortunately, the lady wasn’t in but we got her phone number from a couple of guys out the back and I have since rung her and made an arrangement to meet tomorrow.

On the way back Alasana and I fell into a discussion about drama. I commented that Gambian drama – from my very limited experience – seemed to me more didactic, more concerned with addressing issues, than is the case in the UK. He was clearly of the view that this is the purpose of drama: sure, the people must be entertained, they must laugh, be involved etc., but those are only the means to an end. Drama is there to address current social issues: he referred to HIV/AIDS, early pregnancy, FGM etc.

When I got back to the PIA, I discovered from Mariama that the Year 2 class I was due to take had had an exam in the morning and could choose to go home after it, which – not unnaturally – they all had done. Currently – poor choice of word – the power is off again but as it’s still morning there is no real problem, especially as I don’t need to teach IT without computers!


The Inn / Motel being less like Fawlty Towers this year makes my job a little harder: I generally look for the whimsical, the entertaining, the farcical even, to make up a part of my blog. Last year I could always rely on the incompetent Mousa to provide some amusing anecdote but that opportunity has gone, along with the man himself. That led me to posit that: “The more effective and efficient an organisation is, the less space there is for humour.” Discuss in 2000 words approx., handed in by a week today.

The guy with the hammer and bit of metal, to whom I referred a day or two ago, is back in business and out in the backyard Abass is in charge of a group of students refurbishing the desks for the computer suite: the old ones will go back along the walls, new will be made for the central section. We are all in agreement when it comes to redoing the room: the desks will not go in until after the Inverness group have painted the room, at which time the machines, which have been configured in advance, can be plugged in and we’ll be live to go, as they say. What can possibly go wrong?

I was sitting on the balcony doing an old Private Eye crossword when I noticed a solitary vulture on the ground just a few yards from the PIA at the side of the road. Another arrived. And another… By the time I had taken the few seconds to get my camera there were about a dozen, with at least as many circling in the sky. I took a few photos which I’ll add to the gallery, but it was interesting watching them for 10 minutes or so until they were finished. I couldn’t clearly see what they had found: it looked a bit like some strands of wire from a distance but was no doubt more visceral than that. There was a lot of ill-natured pushing, posturing and occasional scrapping, the diners occasionally flying away a few yards to digest a particularly pleasant bit of “wire” and being immediately replaced by one from a holding pattern at about a hundred feet. This would lead to an argument and the process would start all over again. I would have expected a harsh grating call, but they only made a sort of chirping sound – though nonetheless aggressive for that: “Hey, you! Are you lookin at ma burd?”

Back to the matter of the electricity. When I noticed the power was on again a while back, I assumed some glitch had been fixed, but it was in fact the PIA’s own generator in action. This was donated a few years ago by a Dumfriesshire company – Skelton? – and is an emergency back up system. Unfortunately it costs about £15 a day to run for about 6 hours of electricity, so I don’t think it’ll run overnight!  It appears the local electricity company, Gamtric or something akin, has been publicising a problem with one of their generators, which they are shutting down for maintenance. Hence the problems here.

This evening I again went out and helped Abass with his onions: I weeded while he watered. We reckon that if the UK allowed bigamy the divorce rate would fall. I discovered that the local “English” name for aubergine is “garden egg” which is rather nice. Abass is growing a few garden eggs as well as his onions.

For the third night in a row, the power has gone off at about 9:00. In fact it’s been on and off all day, but I think this is it for good now. I’m running on battery power in the dark here, so I think I’ll call it a day for now.



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