I think I’ll apply to join the Institute of Translators. I’ve spent some time again today rendering Gamblish into English. Alasana had a 10 page newsletter that he had written and wanted me to check it, so I had fun correcting lots of small mistakes and disentangling some idiosyncratic syntax. Occasionally it was hard to know what he actually meant, so I hope I’ve not made any serious changes to what he intended to say. I’d hate to be responsible for the closure of the PIA!
What was clear though, even though the newsletter clearly showed things in a positive light, is that there are lots of Award groups doing good work. There was a lot of emphasis on leading by example. At a recent meeting seventy schools were invited to send representatives who were involved in leading the school’s award programme: over 60 turned up. There were photos of not just the projects I referred to yesterday, but one group had been clearing sewage and waste water channels near Katchikally crocodile pool, an area I had noticed before was in need of attention. This sort of work not only benefits local residents, but also raises the profile of the Award here. However, it’s not work I would recommend for a Scottish group: even I have my limitations on the grounds of Health and Safety!
One of the simple pleasures here is watching the bread men in the morning. It’s not uncommon in France to see a guy cycling along with a baguette strapped to his bike. Here they are much more adept and, as there’s a bakery not far away, there’s a constant stream of delivery men on their bikes carrying huge boxes of bread to shops and also to the PIA. In fact, bikes are often loaded beyond all tolerances acceptable to your average H&S officer. The same goes for buses, taxis, lorries, pickups etc: even though there is a tightening up of regulations, you still see things that would raise a few eyebrows in the UK.
It’s quite breezy here at night: cool, but not cold. Sonia and I were particularly conscious of it in our beach hotel last year and it also affects us here a mile or so inland. I always end up putting on a light long-sleeved top and long trousers in the evening, partly due to the breeze, but also to deter mosquitoes, which seem to be able to fly in a breeze that would ground our miniature attack planes, the Scottish midges! There aren’t really a lot of mosquitoes at this time of year and provided you’re dosed up with Malarone the bites aren’t much worse than their Scottish counterparts’. I will suggest to Malain that he sprays the “houses” in the Inn before the group arrives.
I’ve drafted Abass in to help choose paint and tools for the IT lab. He said that the paint in 5 gallon tins is much better than the plastic bucket alternative. I pointed out to him that the plastic buckets were labelled “Nattionall Paints”, whilst the good stuff spells the word correctly. Another knock-off, methinks.
My change of date for the Powerpoint lesson to staff is causing some consternation: it seems the new date – forced upon me by the forthcoming road trip – is only convenient for staff not involved in the sports, so I may end up doing it twice. Well, three times: Malain is desperate to be involved and it looks as though I’ll be working with him this afternoon. He was honest enough to admit that if I started with him, he’d constantly be coming back and asking questions and looking for help: he really is as keen as mustard. The other day, after chatting to him, I knocked up a sample continuous rolling presentation that could run on a laptop or desktop without human intervention. The idea is to put it into the Hall when there’s a function on and advertise the various services the centre provides: IT, auto-mechanics, metalwork, woodwork etc. as well as what the hospitality arm has to offer. He’s quite excited by the prospect! Mousa would have been too, but would not have had the gumption to do anything about it: I think this guy will.
Well, I now have 10 US Gallons of white emulsion, a sizeable tin of polyfilla, 8 brushes, 3 rollers and a couple of palette knives ready for the group to decorate the IT lab. Abass and I went to Jimpex (a Gambian version of the Longman industrial estate in Inverness) to get the supplies. Like many of these shops, it seemed the owner was Lebanese and drove a hard bargain, though Abass managed to get a small discount. Nevertheless the total price of about £65 was not bad, though I suspect the brushes will be bald quite quickly – it’s taken me over sixty years to reach my current follicly-challenged state.
I was amused by the bush taxi we took to get to Jimpex. It was the usual minibus format with a side door for passengers and a narrow aisle to gain access to the seats, which are in bench format. As usual, the second-back row had an extra fold down seat, which has to be vacated and raised if anyone needs access to the back row, which we did. What amused me about this particular bus was the total absence of a rear window: where the glass should have been a sheet of semi-opaque plastic had been sellotaped in place. Hanging from the driver’s now redundant rear view mirror was an Arsenal air freshener.
Malang (I’ve wrongly been spelling it Malain) came for his Powerpoint lesson and was a) pretty good and b) very enthusiastic so it went fairly well. In fact, getting a chance to try my lesson with just one “student” was quite useful practice for tomorrow. Malang was cooking my tea tonight (omelette, chips and salad), but Cecilia had made up the omelette mixture ready for him. He warned me that the omelette might be “a little bit spicy” and he was right: luckily the Coke helped.
After tea it was onion weeding time again and Abass and I blethered away as the daylight quickly turned to dusk and continued just as quickly to night. Tonight’s topics included the role of Imams as community leaders, adoption and fostering etc. I threw gay clergy into the mix: this is of course a sensitive subject out here as homosexuality is illegal and I could see that Abass, always tactful and considerate, was having difficulty remaining calm on the subject, so I steered it away to safer ground.
As we weeded, I noticed scurrying ants and I commented they’d probably be one of the few species alive if the world came to an untimely end. This led to Abass saying that they were one of the first animals on the planet and that man had come after all the other animals. He explained this by reference to Noah, who is revered even more in Islam than in Christianity. You know, there’s not a huge gap in some ways between literal Christians and Muslims, at least as far as the Old Testament goes, or so it seems to me as an outsider to both religions. I remember that last year the local paper carried an interview with an outspoken Imam who blamed the drought that was then affecting the region on homosexuals and “sexy dancing”: as I say, not a whole lot of difference between fundamentalists of the two religions.
I also learned a very rude Mandinka word which I am neither going to repeat nor translate. I’ll probably soon forget it as there’s not a lot of call for Mandinka swear words in Inverness and I wouldn’t dare use it out here, even if a suitable situation arose, which seems unlikely given its nature.
It’s coming up for half moon, but out here my method of telling whether it’s waxing or waning doesn’t work. My old physics teacher taught me that a new moon was like the initial line you draw in a fancy N (like a closing bracket) whilst an old one is like the first stroke of an O. He was obviously not thinking of this part of the world, as the new moon is lying on its back out here, like the Islamic crescent you see on mosques etc. The stars are pretty good too, especially when there is a power cut!