Hello, my name is Doug

Last night’s end-of-term disco was every bit as dire as I predicted. A group of our folk sat on one side of the hall, a couple of enclaves of Gambian students sat on the other side and one local lad was doing the manic contortions and St Vitus actions that pass for dancing out here (not that I can criticise, as my family will attest). The music came out of massive speakers that were straining under the volume. The IRA staff and I looked in for at least 10 seconds and beat a quick retreat upstairs to the sitting area and relaxed. Well, I did warn them!

The IRA students didn’t stay late downstairs and, if they’re anything like me, had a good night’s sleep.

This morning breakfast was at 8:00 as usual and then we got started on work. It was good to see one group starting to redecorate the IT lab, another lot cleaning out a classroom and a few hardy lads breaking up soil to make flowerbeds whilst Tosh took two more off to bodyguard him as he changed sterling into GmD430,00.

Lunch was soon after 2:00 and after the usual Gambian delays we arrived at the beach. This is always a popular venue and today was no exception, but it was the first time I’ve see a herd of cattle being driven along the shore. The waves were not huge, but we had lots of fun jumping through them and no one was swept out to sea.

I met Ibrahim Doug Drammeh – aged 5 months – today. For some reason, Alasana and his wife chose to name their baby boy after me and this was my opportunity to see the wee lad. The IRA girls were particularly taken with Ibrahim and if the Drammeh family aren’t careful, I expect the little Gambian to be smuggled back via Thomas Cook.

Our Gambian counterparts have started arriving. Due to the Gambian insistence on two cooked meals a day, the number of counterparts is limited to five, because the Scottish group have to bear the cost of feeding them. This is quite an experience for them too: they come from various parts of the country and haven’t met each other before, let alone the toubabs. If it’s anything like previous years, though, there will be tears on both sides when departures are made in a fortnight’s time.

My good friend Saikou has been unwell for a couple of days. He told me he had a “boil on the bum” but seemed to want to rely on his antibiotics rather than my offer to provide surgery with my trusty Swiss Army knife.

Tonight’s meal was meat, onions, salad and bread: very tasty. Our vegetarian opted to have a cheesy pasta dish she had brought with her. The Gambians know about vegetarianism, but have little real experience of cooking for them.

This evening we are going to have an “orientation”: a get-to-know-you session to break down any barriers between “us and them”. I’m likely to end up doing “Hello, my name is Doug and I work in the button factory”, much to the disgust of Tosh who has heard it so many times before.

A few photos on the Gallery page.


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