The Price of Progress

16th April 2019

These are photos of peaceful country lanes and sandy shortcuts that lead from our house to Marina school. They are now being dug up by huge excavators under a recent government road construction project.

Once a quiet lane with a ‘bantaba’ we passed on our walk to and from school

A ‘bantaba’ is a place under a spreading tree where local people sit on battered chairs or benches and sip their ‘attaya’ (plain tea with lots of sugar boiled on small open fires and poured from one tiny glass to another repeatedly until frothy and then sipped slowly with a glazed look of bliss on the face!) while catching up with the neighbourhood gossip, the latest football scores and Gambian politics.

Both Paul and I loved the Wolof name ‘bantaba’ from the moment we heard it because it relates so closely to the English spelling ‘banter bar’ – which is actually what a Gambian ‘bantaba’ is….!

When we first got here, Paul would laugh and say ‘There seems to be a lot of sitting around under trees and doing nothing here…’ It is delightful to see people doing that actually – such a relaxed way of life! When I mentioned that to my (mainly Sierra Leonean, Ghanaian and Nigerian) colleagues, they all chuckled and said that there was one thing for sure: no Gambian was ever going to die of high blood pressure!

Marina Junior School has a lovely ‘bantaba’ too (right in front of Paul’s office) with colourful picnic benches under a huge shady tree in front of the canteen where the kids sit and chat while having their snacks and drinks.

A sandy lane along which school kids dawdled on their way to school – now dug up!

Being an incurable romantic, I am sad that the atmosphere of a serene neighbourhood of sandy lanes will change with the introduction of tarred roads. Although there is still very little motor traffic here and the tarred roads will only have cars on them bringing kids to Marina in the morning and picking them up in the afternoons, it is still the end of an era and I am already nostalgic for the peaceful past.

The new tarred road will also pass in front of Marina International School…..

I have been teasing Paul that he and William would get (undeserved) recognition for having got the road in front of the school tarred after more than fifty years of it being in existence. Neither of them of course had anything to do with it – it was simply a coincidence that the government decided to tar these particular roads – but nevertheless they will both get the kudos for the new road construction.

In fact, a couple of parents came in to see Paul a few days ago to thank him for getting the road done – and in spite of his protests that it wasn’t actually he who had got it done, they still thanked him profusely and went on their way!

So you see, ‘greatness has been thrust upon him’!!

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