On the Road Again

Awake early this morning, but ignored the call to prayer and had a shower instead. The benefit of early waking is that Abass’s data stick is much more reliable: there is less traffic in the airwaves.

Abass and a squad of lads are painting the bedrooms as well as the cream part of the frontage today ready for the group to arrive and the cleaners are washing bed sheets, wiping floors and so on. The excitement is mounting!

Discussions are taking place about the best way of organising the road trip. I’m a bit more organised than many Gambians and I’d have done the research and details ages ago, but when in Rome… It may be that the most efficient and practical approach is to hire a car. Saikou and Alasana think that transport in some places will be very few and far between. The suggestion was that we might have to wait a day or two (!) in the more remote villages in order to get a bush taxi, a delay that is obviously out of the question. If we hire a car, the next question is whether I drive or whether we take the PIA’s driver Sainey Jarju along. I can see the benefit of having a local driver, but the more people there are, the more of a logistical problem it might be, plus it begins to be a group trip rather than a couple of friends. We’ll have to see what develops: Saikou is away doing some costings at the moment.

Late Morning

“I love it when a plan comes together” (The A-Team?) We now have a Ministry of Youth and Sports pickup truck booked – in fact I think it’s here already – plus driver. It’s costing GmD1500 per day (£30), plus fuel (estimated at GmD4000), which is cheaper than any commercial offering. Having decided I needed more cash for this, I walked 15mins or so to the Trust Bank up the road, but found they only accept their own plastic card, so I had a sweaty walk back, a taxi to “The Traffic Lights” and a visit to an ATM at Standard Chartered. Having thought I’d go for GmD10000 (£200 approx), I found the machine’s maximum was GmD3000, so I made three withdrawals of the maximum. This will more or less cover the trip and, with cash already in hand, we’re back in business. The original plan was to travel up the North Bank and travel back by the South, but we have been advised to do it the other way round, due to some problem with the ferry. Everyone I speak to tells me “Oh, it is hot in Basse…the cold water is hot…you sweat when you move…it is hot at night…” So this sounds like quite an adventure. As we have our own vehicle, I may take my hammock and Thermarest – for comfort, not insulation! Hippos, baboons and dusty heat, here we come! The plan is to leave at 8:00am tomorrow (Friday) and travel east, stopping to investigate various places that might be suitable for a possible venture in 2014.

Afternoon

God save us from teachers, Insh’Allah! Over the years, I’ve done a bit of staff training on computers in the UK and twice, now, out here. They won’t listen, they won’t do as they’re told, they seem perversely to misunderstand and then show their neighbour how to do it, getting it wrong in the process. Give me S4 Int 1s any day!

Actually, to be fair, they weren’t too bad I suppose and would have got on better if the power hadn’t gone off just as I was starting to tell them to save their work. Nothing dismayed, one ran off to fire up the emergency generator and when the computers rebooted we discovered that in most cases Powerpoint had done an autosave so not all was lost. I think they quite enjoyed the lesson, insisted on another on Tuesday and have all gone off promising to come up with a topic of their own to work on. By golly, they certainly chatter though! There were constant calls of “Sir!” and “Teacher!” when they ran into problems. Mariama was helpful in supporting me and helping the dunderheads: even so, by the time an hour and a quarter was up, I was almost reduced to a greasy spot with no voice and little energy.

The painting of the Inn is not quite finished as they ran out of paint, but will get more. As it’s “Nattionall Paints” emulsiony stuff, there’s almost no smell. I’m impressed that Sainey, the new CE, came round to check on the work, making comments about quality of painting, occasional patchiness and authorising the purchase of more materials to touch up the flags painted in the living area etc. The work is pretty neat, but I have to admit it’s not up to Mike Denmark’s standard: he was positively anal (sorry, Mike!) about the straightness of edges etc.: the result was our painting ended up very neat and I went over the windows with a Stanley scraper last year to get a tidy edge. If Mike had been here today, he’d have been either tearing his hair out or rushing round straightening edges as he went. Let’s see how the IRA group do this year in the IT lab without him: you’ll be sorely missed Mike.

It’s again very breezy, not to say windy, this evening. This is my last blog entry till I get back from the road trip.

 

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