Proud to be Scottish

Today is Sunday and I might end up going to the beach with Joseph, but as I have some time on my hands I’ve a few bits and bobs I’ve been meaning to mention.

I’ve written of the calls to prayer before and that they have a musical sing-song quality to them. There’s one guy though, who’s quite different from the rest: I believe most of the calls are quotations from the Q’oran, but this guy sounds as though he’s commentating on a horserace. I can just imagine him doing a Peter O’Sullivan for the Grand National and he speaks at great speed with increasing excitement as though he’s put a lot of money on one of the horses and it’s shaping up well, coming into the lead during the final furlong.

Not long after I got here, I mentioned a little bird that kept pecking away at the reflective glass of the IT classroom. I’ve been meaning to say it’s still doing it: I just can’t decide if it’s locked into some ultimately self-defeating struggle with its own reflection or whether it is really finding something to eat.

The power certainly seems to have stabilised: there’s been no interruption for a few days now. The Internet access with Abass’ data card is still very unreliable. About 49% of the time the computer doesn’t recognise the device and about another 50% the connection is too slow / unreliable to use. That leaves a small number of cases where, at least for a while, I can access email etc. It is always good to get the odd comment on a blog or reply by email: I’m not lonely or bored, but it’s “nice to keep in touch.”

Next weekend, Saikou and I are planning our road trip. I’ve got my Powerpoint folk at 11:30 on Friday, so I won’t be able to get away until about 1:00. I’ve no idea how the trip will work out, but the idea is to travel as far up the North Bank as we can – hopefully as far as Basse, which is on the return journey on the South Bank. We need to be back for Monday work, so we won’t have a lot of time, though I don’t start first thing on Monday. In fact, there may not be school next week: I’m having difficulty finding out exactly what happens when.

I am glad of an excuse not to go to Bintou’s wedding which I believe is next weekend. One wedding a year is enough for anyone, especially a Gambian wedding. Rohey is something like a surrogate mother to this girl – who’s just 18,  I checked – and is responsible for organising the wedding. I hope all goes well now and in the future for the girl and her husband-to-be, but I really want to avoid having to attend, if I can. Apart from anything else, I’d be expected to give a generous present of money: I was willing to make a small contribution to the wedding feast, but that’s as far as I’m going

I’m going to have to have a word with Malain / Cecilia about this white sliced bread stuff. It’s pretty unpalatable: it would make good putty after a moment’s chewing and the rather unidentifiable vanilla-ish taste is pretty off-putting. Apart from that, the food here is not at all bad, though I don’t know whether I’m developing a tan or turning orange from all the colouring in the Fanta. I recall that a few years ago there was a small group of girls in S6 who obviously spent a lot of unsuccessful time with artificial tanning methods. We used to refer to them as “the tangerines”.

When the TV in the restaurant is not showing dire action movies, it is tuned to Al Jazeera news channel. I must say it’s pretty good. Perhaps a different angle from the good old Beeb but they seem unbiased and thorough. And they never employed Jimmy Saville, so that’s a plus straight away. If you have access to the channel at home, it’d be worth watching the news there some time, just for a bit of variety.

Later

Joseph turned up about 3:00pm and we went to the beach. After arriving at Palma Rima, we turned left and walk along the tide line, past the beach I went to last year with Rohey and carried on towards Bijilo, as far as the monkey park. Then we turned back and had a beer (Joseph is a Christian), walked back and returned to the PIA by taxi. We discussed lots of interesting topics: politics, religion, education. Altogether an interesting and enjoyable afternoon. All right: I’ll ‘fess up: two beers.

Joseph is Sierra Leonean and his father is some sort of teacher there. Joseph is very well read especially in current affairs: he seems to know quite a bit about British politics and the Scottish Independence question. It was interesting talking to him, though he spent quite a lot of time looking over his shoulder when we sat for our beer in case someone was overhearing his comments on politics. He was telling me that the opposition newspaper “Forayaa” (“Freedom” in one of the local languages) is frequently shut down on the accusation of not having paid taxes or something. I was saying that I didn’t think that would happen back in good old Blighty.

He reckons that England is not at all popular out here – or in many parts of the world – because it has lost its religious, cultural and moral values. He gave the Abu Hamza case as an example: while Britain was spending lots of money on him, they were cutting funds to other areas such as International Development. He was also critical of the offer of the UK to take Charles Taylor (Liberia), recently found guilty of war crimes, in a British jail: Joseph reckons Mr Taylor should be jailed in Africa. He pointed out that in the past Britain used to send missionaries to places like The Gambia but nowadays it’s purely NGOs. I can’t say I agree with him on all these points, but it was interesting to hear his opinion.

When I got back, there was another Gambian resident in the PIA. “Are you Italian?” he asked.

“Scottish”

“Fucking great people!” was the reply.

He seems to know the couple who are already here but I’ve not found out if he has any particular knowledge of the Scots or our country.

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