Mid-Term Break

13th February 2019

It was Mufti day at the High School and Rai chose to pay D 10/= and wear jeans & T-shirt with trainers to school today. The ten dalasis went towards Operation Touch a Life Club which was collecting money for charity. They also sold flowers and sweets to raise money during the two break times and Rai had fun stuffing herself with brownies and candy floss!

In the lane outside our house about to set off to school

14th February 2019

Paul gave me the most beautiful Valentine’s Day card with a cup of tea this morning. What a wonderful way to start our five-day half-term holiday!

He later gave me two slabs of my favourite Swiss chocolate: one white and one dark – very symbolic – hehe……

15th February 2019

We had the property we rent sprayed to keep out bugs and had to vacate the premises due to the pungent smell and being advised not to breathe in the unhealthy fumes. So we had a quick breakfast and left the house with Francis our Night Watchman supervising Christopher the Maintenance man from Marina School as he sprayed the verandah and garden. 

Chris – getting ready to spray our compound with an evil-smelling anti-bug concoction that he says should last for the next six months

We went to the Junior School and I backed the pieces of work that my Form 2 class had done over the past several weeks including leaflet & newspaper report writing. Then Paul and Rai helped me mount their work on two display boards in one of the High School classrooms that I use. The result was quite amazing against the rather sterile and often quite bleak environment created by the old school buildings with damaged bits to them and graffiti from a previous era scrawled across the walls. 

Rai and I went to our favourite family restaurant – Mama’s – and she ordered chicken domoda while I had butter fish and chips. I am sitting on a cane chair at one of their outdoor tables balancing my Mac on my lap and writing this while waiting for the waitress/ chef Aisha to produce her masterpieces for lunch.

We walked back home along the gloriously empty sandy stretches of country lanes that criss cross our Fajara neighbourhood. The perennial sunshine of the Gambia and the cool breezes typical of this time of year make us feel so blessed to be here. 

Yet a couple of hours after we returned home, the daily power cut kicked in and lasted for more than an hour which is unusual and a few minutes after the electricity was restored, there was another power outage much to Rai’s annoyance who has shown a lot of patience all day waiting to watch her allotted 5 hours of TV (on weekends and holidays – and 3 hours on school nights) and had just settled down to watch a movie on Fox. 

So the joys of living here are inextricably mixed with bitter disappointments – just like in life itself – so Paul and I are not unhappy that our kids are getting to experience a slice of reality in Africa – especially because they are part of a generation of millenials who have grown up with a strong feeling of entitlement – during a time of their lives (in their early teens) in which they still sometimes act as if they are God’s gift to humankind.

A delicious coolness pervaded the country in the early mornings and at night during the middle of January (making it feel like being in Nuwara Eliya except without the gloomy grey clouds and incessant rain – in the Gambia the crisp cold is always accompanied by cloudless blue skies and brilliant sunshine!) That short spell of beautiful weather has, however, been overtaken by warm days that people tell us is really unusual for this season. Last year the near perfect weather had lasted from December/ January up until the month of May!

Although the local yokels complain, the four of us are not affected at all since we are used to Sri Lankan heat and the temperatures these days are lower than in SL.

And anyway there’s always imported ice cream (in the supermarkets) and local frozen yogurt (sold by a parent after school) as a delicious means of beating the heat!

A surprisingly clean and shiny bush taxi…….

Jordan hopping a bush taxi from the bottom of our lane to go to the gym where he trains every afternoon!

16th February 2019

We spent a quiet day at home doing decadent things like watching telly in our pyjamas and munching on unhealthy snacks all day long instead of eating proper meals. It was fun!

Jordan had spent the night at the home of one of his Marina School classmates staying up all night gaming at his place and sleeping until afternoon. He came home with a bunch of 15 year olds from another international school here (SBEC), did a quick change and left with them to play pool in a restaurant nearby. His life is one big round of socialising with a motley assortment of teenagers and Paul says he only views us as an ATM where he can get money to fund his social life!

Fortunately local life is basic here so that you can get to anywhere in the city and suburbs in a bush taxi that charges only 8 dalasi for the ride. Food is also very reasonable and you can buy a large pizza for D300; rice and chicken/ fish dish or a beef shawarma for D100 while street food is very cheap indeed: a sweet bun is D10 and a fish patty or a foot long French bread stuffed with omelette or corned beef or chocolate spread (Jordan’s favourite!) will only cost you D20-30/=

A turn at playing pool costs D50 and restaurants with high speed internet let you stay all night if you buy a D300 pizza! So our Jordan is a happy bunny having fun on Friday and Saturday nights with his friends in The Gambia.

School nights he is of course not allowed to go out with friends so he makes the most of the weekends! We are glad that the cost of living allows us to give him D300 for a week’s pocket money and he is able to manage with that amount although it doesn’t stop him from trying it on and, like Oliver Twist, asking for more.

17th February 2019

Paul and I woke up late this morning and had our usual cuppa sitting on the doorstep of the back verandah. It was a picture perfect day – all brilliant blue skies and the sun shining through the green bamboo trees. Really gorgeous weather here this time of year – cold and crisp – just like in Nuwara Eliya although without its grey skies and constant drizzle – thank goodness!

Paul cleared the back garden and set up two flower beds where he hopes to plant some vegetables. However, it all depends on the water supply!

I washed, dressed and went off to church – this time to the Nigerian charismatic fellowship called ‘Redeemed Christian Church of God’ which a couple of (Nigerian) colleagues in the English Dept attend. They attend the main church in town but I didn’t want to ride in a taxi so I went to the local branch which is just down the road from us.

On the way there I met two delightful boys – Samba (‘call me Messi because I’m going to become a footballer like Lionel Messi’) and Kemu who were yapping at a dog by the wayside and I joined them. It was fun!

Samba & Kemu who dream of becoming football stars

The notice board outside the small building that housed the church declared that the service started at 9:00 am and although I was a full hour late (thanks to my dog impersonations with my two young friends in the street), worship was still in full swing for a good 30 minutes afterwards! The singing and dancing was simply breathtaking as always.

I was the only newcomer today – and with an embarrassingly lighter skin tone than everyone else gathered there – I think I now know what Paul feels like when he says he feels like a white dot on a black domino when he walks around Nugegoda town! They sang me a welcome song and after the first verse, they all filed down the aisle and came up to me and shook my hand – even the little kids – it was so heartwarming!

Afterwards we hopped a bush taxi and went to Luigi’s Italian restaurant famous for its pizza. Rai and I shared a full English breakfast and got a ‘Gambian Feast’ pizza as a takeaway. It was the first time we had gone there and found the food to be delicious.

Luigi’s – An up market restaurant by Gambian standards

A full English breakfast
They had some entertaining captions hung around the restaurant

It was a glorious Sunday morning and afternoon but when we came home in the evening we found that our water tank was still empty (we hadn’t heard the water from the mains filling it last night) and the water we had collected in our emergency containers was running pretty low. Aaaarrrggghhh!

This is Africa – always brilliantly colourful but sometimes catastrophic!

18th February 2019

Today disaster has struck again – we woke up to find no water in the taps! We had been expecting the tank to fill up with water from the mains through the night. On closer inspection Paul realised that there was still water trickling in from the road tap but this time it is our water pump that is not working! We have running water in our kitchen and bathroom taps only when we switch the water pump on but since the pump seems to have packed up, we haven’t had any water in the taps for two days now.

Paul filled up our buckets of water from the garden tap and carried them into the bathroom and kitchen. I washed the dishes and cleaned the kitchen surfaces. We have to contact a plumber to have a look at the whole system in this house which has gone to rack and ruin since it hadn’t been inhabited for many years before the school rented it for us.

The scarcity of water is the only thing that really brings me down here in the Gambia. I’m feeling cheerful though as I look forward to tomorrow when school starts again after the mid-term break.

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