It’s exactly eleven months today since we first set foot in Africa!
We stepped off the Royal Air Moroc plane onto the tarmac of Yundum Airport in The Gambia in the wee hours of the 24th of August 2018 exhausted after a gruelling 30 plus hours of travel but filled with excitement to be on a new and unknown continent and quite some trepidation about what life would actually be like here.
It has been a wild ride with this country’s ubiquitous power cuts, lack of running water due to a variety of causes (small water tank, broken water pump, burst pipes, leaking cisterns, water cuts – you name it, we’ve gone through it!) which occurred on average about once a month and the recurrent shortage of necessary food items.
Yet we have been blessed with near perfect weather for nine of the past eleven months (cloudless blue skies and constant cool breezes!), a large rundown old house that we have come to love and appreciate, the hospitality of warm-hearted Gambians (no wonder this country is known as the ‘smiling coast of Africa’), the friendship of neighbours and colleagues hailing from different countries in west Africa (including Nigeria, Sierra Leone & Ghana) and the wonderful sense of freedom that comes from living in a safe country where the 95% of Muslims who live here enjoy a peaceful co-existence with the tiny Christian minority.
And tomorrow Jordan, Rai and I leave for a month’s holiday in Sri Lanka while Paul goes to the UK to visit his mother for two weeks……
We had barely finished the Junior School Fete on Saturday 29thJune when we had to get our costumes ready for the High School Carnival on the first Friday of July. We were all asked to dress up in our House colours of red, blue, yellow and green.
It was a very colourful procession that wound its way out of the school gates and through the neighbourhood but Red House won the first prize hands down for the best dressed as they were kitted out in the most beautiful costumes all in vibrant vermillion – some of the kids who won individual prizes for their costumes looked as gorgeous as those who annually parade the streets of Rio de Janeiro at the famous Carnival in Brazil!
Both students and teachers danced through the streets of Bakau New Town and Fajara for two hours. It was an amazing experience! There was a traditional band, a Western band with drums and trumpets and a massive sound system in a pick up truck that brought up the rear!
When we finally returned to the school field, there was a bouncy castle, popcorn, candy floss, cool drinks & ice lollies being sold at different stalls. It was lots of fun!
The day after that (Saturday 6thJuly) was the Staff Party which began at 1:00 pm at a beach hotel in Senegambia and went on until 11:00 pm where both lunch and dinner were served! Lunch was the delicious Nigerian dish called Egusi Soup (made by two of my friends and colleagues from the English Dept) and plassas (spicy okra & other veggies in fish sauce) served with foo foo (boiled cassava and pounded yam). Dinner was rice and chicken made the Gambian way. It was lovely dancing to reggae music by the seashore looking out across the Atlantic Ocean towards the Caribbean islands where Bob Marley came from.
During the first week of July I also made the momentous decision of resigning from the High School after completing a year there and accepting an English Learning Support teaching position at the Junior School from the start of the new academic year beginning in September 2019.
The catalyst for the change was that they had time tabled me for too few hours and to teach two Second Language classes – Form 4 & Form 5. I realized instantly that it was not for me so I mulled it over in my mind, discussed the matter with Paul and emailed my resignation to William. I felt a great sense of relief after I did so which confirmed to me that it was indeed the right thing to do.
I’m now looking forward to starting work at the Junior School come September with my all-time favourite age group: Key Stage 2 (i.e. – upper primary school) where I will be teaching kids in Years 5 – 6 who are aged 9 – 11 years.