13 November 2018
Day 7, back to Brikama... and bees...
Much cooler today, just 30C, which was very welcome as Brikama is always hotter than anywhere else in the Kombo region.
On the way towards Brikama, our first stop was a visit to one of our sponsored students. Her family has moved since I last visited them and their present house is down a very long and bumpy sandy track... imagine our surprise to find that their little village is called something so appropriate!
sign for the village of Farato Perseverance
This family is one of the poorer ones that we visit, but always so welcoming. They have a small garden in which they grow kassava (for home consumption) and pumpkins that they sell in the market.
lady with a pumpkin
When we left, one of the older girls was pounding a mixture of onions and chillies to make a sauce for their lunch - very traditional.
making the sauce
As we left we were discussing our ethical gifts and to whom we might give them...Wandifa in particular thought that this was a very deserving family so we bought a 50Kg sack of rice while we were in the town and delivered in on our way home. The mum of the house was taking a shower when we got back to them...she was so thrilled with the gift that she dressed in her very best outfit for her photo with the rice.
ethical gift - a sack of rice
Our next stop, in Brikama itself, was Gambia College where we needed to discuss the February 2019 Practical Science workshops. Nakulang, head of science, had returned from his trip to upcountry schools and was in his office when we arrived. The decisions re dates, numbers of students were all going well until we called in James, the chief technician, to talk about room allocation. The rooms we wanted were probably going to be available but James told us that the really solid classroom tables that have been there in the past have now been exchanged for some chairs, each with their own small 'book rest', to enable more students to fit into the room.
new chairs at Gambia College
Nakulang had not been aware of this change and he was not happy about it, to say the least!! He says that they will be able to get the tables back in there in time for our workshop...we will have to check up early in our February visit.
Then, a discussion with a senior student about his travel expenses and some more family visits... a day of cute baby goats, the first one a few weeks old, the other just a few hours old!
baby goat - a few weeks old
baby goat - a few hours old
Last but not least, back to the beekeepers, where Seyaka, the senior man, was back from his trip. We had some lengthy discussions about training and introducing beekeeping to different people. He was very much in favour of school training and outlined a possible schedule and associated list of materials that would be required. To set one school up with ten hives, protective clothing and the other items needed to look after the hives, collect the honey and wax, bottle the honey and utilise the wax (in body cream, soap and candles) will cost in the region of £400.
Seyaka is going to present our proposal of a partnership, whereby the materials are provided by Pageant and the training expenses by the beekeepers association plus school community, to his board and will come back to us with their thoughts on the matter. A step forward, we felt, but we will have to wait and see.
A slightly later return to the hotel today as it was cooler, but not too late as we have a very early start tomorrow for an upcountry trip. We will probably be late back, so there may be a slight delay before the next blog posting....
12 November 2018
Day 6: Monday in Banjul
Carole, Regina and I set off for Banjul this morning with our trusty trio... Regina was very keen to come as Ebrima, one of her sponsored children, lives there and is attending Albion LBS. One thing became very apparent as we drove into the city - the roads are still terrible, in places even worse than last year.
road in Banjul
Rumour has it that there are some improvements happening somewhere, but we didn't see any!!!
We found Ebrima in school and he arrived in the headteacher's office looking slightly nervous...he was relieved to hear that he was not in trouble but was being invited to come swimming at our hotel on Friday.
We then went round several other schools, seeing and photographing the Pageant students and checking they were all in the right places and classes. At one school we found a group of students enthusiastically painting their names onto their T-shirts. They had cut their own stencils and were now applying the paint... obviously a popular class!
students personalising T-shirts
Next, on to the big hospital, which is still called the Royal Victoria by most people, even though it is officially called something far less colonial. We found our way up to the maternity wards, but were not permitted to present our gifts to the mothers in person. As at MRC, a senior nurse accepted them on their behalf.
hats and blankets for babies at Royal Victoria Hospital
We then went for a cold drink to Timeless, which used to be Billy's in the 'old days'. We made use of the large table there to spread out some drawings and discuss a new project, currently called the Pageant Power Hut (a solar energy project for students in a poor community, of which more details later) and to estimate the cost of the materials needed to build the first structure. The local knowledge of our three guys proves invaluable on this sort of occasion, I feel we now have a good idea of the outlay that will be needed.
Our last call was to the industrial area in Kanifing, where we bought some tools as a start of the equipment for our new woodwork, metalwork and home science building at Misera BCS. Some excellent haggling by Abdoulie in particular got the cost down considerably!!
Back at the hotel now...the electricity has just gone off as I am writing this, so no WiFi and no Aircon. I think I will go out and sit in the shade by the pool...
11 November 2018
Day 5 Remembrance Sunday
Carole and I were collected by our three guys at 9.15am and were at the Fajara Cemetery about ten minutes later. Very early for the service but worth it to be able to wander past all the headstones in peace and quiet and then get a good seat in the shade. (Essential today as it has been around 36C... the hottest I can remember it in all the years I have been coming here.)
general view of Fajara Cemetary
Not only Gambian headstones, but several other Commonwealth countries as well, Canada and Australia in particular. However, the most poignant one we found was Yankuba's namesake... amazing.
headstone for Yankuba Cessay
The service was very moving, all the armed services, police, scouts and so on being represented plus several war veterans from WW 2, one of whom was assisted to the memorial to enable him to lay the last wreath. It was organised by the staff of the British High Commission, but the great majority of participants and congregation were Gambians.
Our three guys were so pleased to have been able to come.. they said they would not have ventured to go on their own. We got them each a poppy to wear... they were really delighted with them.
Pageant's Gambian agents
After the ceremony we dropped Carole back to the hotel and then went on to do some family visiting. We finished quite early again as it is still SO hot...36C, feels like 46C according to the weather men!!!!!
10 November 2018
Day 4... I think!!
Time is starting to take on that rather haphazard effect that it does in The Gambia...however, it is certainly Saturday as we have been doing a lot of family visiting today.
I do have a couple of photos for you all: the first one is the somewhat unusual lawn mower that has appeared at the hotel!
mowing the hotel lawn
The second is a mystery fruit brought to us by Abdoulie... it grows on a climbing vine-type thing rather than on a tree and is about the size of an orange and a more yellowy colour when fully ripe. You eat the central part containing the seeds...any suggestions?
mystery fruit (inside)
Abdoulie would really like to know the English name for this, as he is often asked what it is.... I have added a third photo to show you the outer surface.
mystery fruit (outside)
09 November 2018
Day 3: Banking, Kotukala and some senior students
We started the day by going to 'pick' Linda so that she could come with me to the bank to complete the form-filling required by their new regulations. That all went very smoothly and we were out of the (blissfully cool) branch much sooner than I had anticipated.
On to Kotukala school to check on the chairs we had sent them in our shipment. They are all in good use, so much so that we had to retrieve some of them that had been taken outside for an impromptu dance and drumming show for a group of UK visitors who arrived just after we did - they were taken back outside as soon as we had taken our photo.
Chairs at Kotukala school
Impromptu dance and drumming show
Yankuba took a short video of the dancing, which we have uploaded to YouTube.
The school had very good results during the past academic year, of which they are justifiably proud.
We then dropped Linda back home and went on to the maternity unit at the MRC clinic in Fajara. What a wonderful facility that is....bright, clean, spacious, really impressive. We left some baby hats, blankets and bootees with the senior nurse - no photos of the mums and babies allowed there, but the nurse obligingly posed for one instead!
Pippa and a nurse at the MRC Clinic
Next, some visits to some senior students to try to sort out a few problems, with varying degrees of success...
While we were in that area we also called in to check the time of the Fajara Cemetery Remembrance Day service on Sunday, as Carole and I think we might go to that in this rather special year. Abdoulie is keen to drive us as he has never been himself.
By this time it was EXTREMELY hot, so we were rather pleased to have the excuse of 2pm Friday prayers to have an early finish!! The air conditioning in my room has never been more welcome....
08 November 2018
Day 2 - Bees, babies and Brikama
Our first stop today was at the bee keepers' area in the forest between the airport and Brikama. We were there, not just to buy honey as we have often done in the past, but to start the ball rolling on a proposed new project concerning training and education about bee keeping. One of our members keeps bees as a hobby and has kindly donated the considerable sum raised by his own honey sales to help the bee keepers of The Gambia.
hives in the forest
We drove into the small area beside the 'honey shop' and were greeted by Isa and Bakary, both of whom were extremely knowledgeable and kind enough to spend some considerable time showing us around the area in which their hives are situated.
Bakary and Isa
They also showed us some empty hives, described how they bait them with wax to entice the bees into them, explained the difference between the two types of hive used and told us about the training courses they offer when funds allow. They also told us about visits made by school children to see the bees.... altogether a very useful visit that made us feel we could do something really helpful with our 'honey money'.
Their boss is away on a trip at the moment, expected back on Monday, so we will go back next week to discuss finances with him and how best to help them.
Next, to Brikama hospital, to the maternity unit with some beautiful baby hats and blankets donated by various kind groups of ladies. These were very gratefully received by the nursing staff, who took us to meet some of the new mums and their tiny babies. We gave out several items ourselves and left the rest to be distributed by the nurses.
baby with hat & blanket
On through Brikama to do some family visiting, buying a couple of sacks of rice along the way - gifts from sponsors. One such family had a new member of the compound to show us...a baby goat, just 4 days old! So cute.....
On to Jambanjelly, more family visiting and catching up with old friends, always such a pleasure sitting under the trees, with loads of small children coming rather shyly (at first!) to see these strange visitors. Regina and I were both 'adopted' by a little girl and boy respectively, who were delighted to play 'Round and round the garden's and 'Insy winsy spider'... MANY times!!
We returned to the hotel using a new road that has been made from Jambanjelly to Sukuta. A really good road, with loads of roundabouts - however, the roads leading to the villages either side of the new road are still the usual sandy tracks, with just a few yards of tarmac leading from each exit!! Very Gambian...but the new road is excellent and made our journey home a lot shorter.
Back at the hotel, sorted out some payments to children who have suddenly produced their reports! Word gets round really quickly that we have arrived....
07 November 2018
Day 1 – Admin & Yundum Barracks
This morning was largely spent doing the admin at the hotel.... checking reports, seeing who had not given theirs in, seeing what payments had been made and so on. Our Gambian guys have done a wonderful job, my list shows far more payments than spaces!!!
We then went off for a quick visit to the supermarket (at Westfield, for our Gambia-aware readers). We stocked up on water, a few stationery items, biscuits and soft drinks for some and a large pair of scissors - my nail scissors are not up to the task of removing our packing cling film! I suggested to our guys that they should each choose something for themselves... Wandifa and Abdoulie both chose milk powder, because fresh milk will not keep well in their climate, and Yankuba chose cornflakes.
Then, off to Yundum Barracks schools to deliver the Worldclass letters...very well received and the replies are promised to be done in time for me to bring them back to UK.
Pippa delivering 'Worldclass' letters
The headmaster also showed us the tables and chairs from our summer shipment, well in use by large numbers of children.
Children at Yundum Barracks School
He was also excited to show us an initiative from the Education Ministry.... the foundations have been dug and materials have arrived for a new two storey classroom block, to be completed in time for next September.
Foundations for new classroom block
We have found this sort of thing happening before...we start to help a school and then the Ministry seems to see this improvement and comes along with further assistance... wonderful!!
Back to the hotel...dinner at Samba's Kitchen this evening....
Hurray, we've arrived safely...a good trip with no hassle re luggage at either end. One slight hiccup...no smiling agents waiting for us when we emerged from the baggage claim!!! I phoned Wandifa, to find that he was expecting us tomorrow!!! Linda had told him the wrong day..... So, we sat in the little cafe, with our heavily overloaded trolley beside us... and our two lovely guys arrived with the minibus in about twenty minutes.
We are now safely ensconced in our hotel, have had a very good dinner and have now retired to bed...at least, I'll be able to go to my bed when I can see it!!!
David, Carole and Regina at the airport cafe