Published: January 15th 2012January 15th 2012
I’m back in Basse after being away nearly a month. After the fiasco of not getting to Dakar I stayed in Kombos for another few days as we had our review meeting at VSO. I also helped my friend Chris, another volunteer, who has transferred her placement from Soma (a village about half way up the country) to Kombos, move into her new house. We travelled up to Soma to collect all her stuff from her two roomed ‘cattle shed’ as she called it (and it’s really not far from the truth) to an amazing house. With its three bedrooms, en suite facilities, proper kitchen with running water and even a TV, it’s a world away from where she came from. The outside has very fetching dusky pink walls so previous volunteers that have lived there have named it ‘The Pink Palace’. Lucky for me, in return for the heavy lifting Chris let me stay there for the rest my visit.
After a week with my en suite shower and Chris’s good hospitality I was getting far too used to the luxury so I set off for Basse on Wednesday. I managed to catch the first ferry at 7 o’clock but after sitting there for an hour in the cold and the dark we were all told to get off as there was a problem with the ramp on the other side meaning they wouldn’t be able to get everyone off. We were told to wait though as another ferry was going to be available. After asking several people I still couldn’t work out how another ferry was going to make a difference if the problem was with the ramp at the other side but I think the vague plan was to use one ferry as a ramp for the other with a little bit of a jump involved. It all sounded far too much like a death trap to me and by this point the terminal was in chaos and getting a space on the next ferry would have been a right mission. I decided give up and try again the next day.
It all worked out quite fortunate though as, apart from getting to stay extra nights in The Pink Palace I managed to get a meeting scheduled with Future In Our Hands, a Swedish NGO that does lots of work in schools here particularly in phonics. It looks like after 3 months of not doing much work, or ‘building relationships and settling in’ as VSO likes to put it, I seem to have found myself a project. FIOH have a really good phonics programme for ages 7-10 that is designed especially for The Gambia. I’m now trying to write a similar scheme for the ECD classes (3-7 year olds) which will basically be what I taught my little’uns back at home but adapted for ridiculously big class sizes, classrooms with no resources and teachers that have difficulty following basic instructions. Should be good I reckon! Somehow over here I seem to have become an ‘ECD specialist’ but when you compare my experience to almost every teacher here I suppose I am. There’s a scary thought. Says more about the state of the Gambian education system than my expertise I think! So that’s what I’m going to be working on over the next few weeks. The meeting also presented the opportunity of getting a lift up to Basse today instead in a nice FIOH air conditioned, 4x4 on the south road so no worries about broken ferries.
The weather is beginning to change again. The last few weeks have been lovely, like a really good summer’s day in England, fresh in the mornings and evenings and nice and warm in the afternoons. The temperature is beginning to creep up again though. When it was ridiculously hot before it was reassuring to know that come December it was going to get cooler. Now I have April to look forward to, the month when all sensible Gambians stay away from Basse because the temperature can get up to 50ͦ°C. The thought genuinely frightens me. It’s already getting back to being hot enough for the fans to be on whenever’s there’s electricity and to feel thirsty all the time. Oh man! Definitely not looking forward to sweating like I’ve just done a two hour gym session just from sweeping the floor for 2 minutes.