17 February 2018


16 February - North Bank

Success!! Wandifa and Abdoulie arrived almost on time and we made the first ferry with several minutes to spare.  It seems to leave earlier each time we go - we left Banjul at 6.05am.  We were fortunate to be travelling on the new ferry, Kunta Kinteh, which is considerably larger than the older ferries and coped with the really choppy water conditions pretty well.  Even so, it was definitely a "wet ride" for those at the front, as the spray was quite impressive.  Some of our members would have found it less than comfortable.....
We arrived at Barra while it was still dark and negotiating the roadway to the taxi was a little adventure of its own.  I was pleased I had taken my torch. I was also very pleased to find that our trusty north bank driver, Alieu, was to be driving himself - many of the drivers over there drive incredibly fast over the very rough roads, which can be quite terrifying at times.
Our first stop was at a compound in Barra itself, where we have two sponsored children.  Mary, who has only recently joined Pageant and become a sponsor, had sent a collection of very thoughtful gifts for "her" young boy and his family: two mosquito nets, a cooking pot & serving bowl, three small buckets for carrying water to the garden and a watering can.... and a football for Sherrifu himself.  To say that the family members were delighted would be an understatement.  Even though it was still so early in the morning (the sun was just rising while we were there) the two sponsored children were dressed ready for school and all the other children and adults came out into the compound, exclaiming with wonder and gratitude for their good fortune.  Thank you so much, Mary, it was a wonderful start to the day.
We then set off for the long and bumpy ride down to Albreda, where Wandifa's brother and  family live.  We picked up a sack of rice along the way, a gift for Bakary from Andrew & Kathy, and bounced off down the dusty red road.  We were early enough to see several groups of monkeys playing in the grass at the side of the road, some of them with babies - always a lovely sight.
Our first stop in Albreda was at the local primary school, at which we have done several projects.  There is a new head teacher at the school now, but we did not meet him as he was at the regional office in Kerewan.  We were greeted by the deputy, who we have known for some time, and went to inspect the new tap, sink unit and work surface in the kitchen.  It looked pretty good in general, but we spent some time peeling off the protective blue plastic layer from the stainless steel, which had been left on the draining board surface and was now ingrained with soap and sand!  We explained about the need for cleanliness and how easy the steel itself would be to clean - and that the blue plastic was only for protection during transportation.  It looked a lot better after our ministrations, as everyone agreed.
The deputy had spoken to his headmaster on the phone, who had agreed that we could go ahead and deal with him regarding the next project, already approved, which is to be a small, two cubicle toilet facility for the female staff.  We have planned to provide a small block of living quarters for the female teachers, so these toilets will be for them.  We left the money for them with the deputy and Wandifa will go back to check on them when they are completed.  If all is OK we will then proceed with funding the living quarters.
Next to see Bakary and family.  They all seemed well and were very pleased to receive the rice.  We had a discussion with Bakary about second wives.... he said that he needs a second wife to collect more water for him, but that Ida, his current wife, is not keen on the idea!  He asked me if I agreed with Ida and I replied that I certainly did. This is a very good example of  a Gambian joke, as he certainly has no intention of taking a second wife!
Having left the family still discussing wives, we went to the little cafe beside the river for a drink before returning to Barra.
So far, so good... we arrived back at the ferry port at just after 12noon.  Amazing, we said, we will be back in Banjul in time for two o'clock prayers.  But no, the ferry "had a little problem" and it was stuck over in Banjul for some considerable time.  The queue got longer, the day got hotter and the small kids were crying.  We peeled our remaining oranges, passed some round and ate some ourselves...still no ferry.  At last, after a wait of two and a half hours, it arrived, absolutely crammed with foot passengers and vehicles.  We eventually boarded and had a much calmer voyage back to Banjul, arriving just before 4pm.  The tide was by now very low and they said that it would not be able to leave the port again until after 6pm, so I guess we were lucky we got back as well as we did!
Back to the hotel, where I managed a short nap before getting ready to go out to dinner with David and Jenny to Mama's for their wonderful fish buffet - sorry you couldn't be with us, Andrew!
Posted by Dave for Pippa.

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