Day Twenty One - Friday, February 15th, 2002 - Fajara - Safari Gardens Hotel

Well, today is the day that I finally move into my new home for the next two years. It will be nice not to be living out of a suitcase but actually in my own house. I will be able to have my privacy and be able to do what I want when I want to do it. Ah, freedom!

I was up early and packed up my few remaining items before having breakfast with the others. After we threw our stuff into the back of the pick-up truck we headed off to the various houses, dropping off things as we dropped off the various people. It was all quite exciting and I think that everyone felt the same way. Philip was shocked to see that the people that had come in to see about his rat problem had also SERIOUSLY trimmed his trees supposedly to help keep the rats out (though it is unclear how this will help) – it was good to see that his locks had been replaced (since previously it had taken a good five minutes of rattling to get them to work).

My place is very small with only four rooms: a large dining/living room, a small kitchen, a large bedroom and a “bathroom” (well, a shower room with a toilet, with the typical thing of having the shower as part of the room itself with nothing to prevent the water from going everywhere in the room). The floors are covered with linoleum and there are only curtains on two of the six windows (we shall have to see about that). VSO have provided a gas stove (with gas tank right beside it), an electric fridge, a table with two chairs (to eat at), a “coffee” table, two chairs for sitting in (with uncovered foam cushions), a bed (with new mattress, still covered in plastic) and a chest of drawers for clothing. That is it. But, all the windows are covered with mosquito netting and I also have a few pots with some withered plants in my front “patio” area (concrete floor). It is quite nice but it will need some work.

I was very happy to see that one of the previous occupants had put in a telephone which means I will not have to fight with GamTel to have one put in (I have heard of delays of up to a year to get one installed – they have few, if any, available telephone numbers in this area and no infrastructure in place to add any more).

I was able to put my meagre belongings in their appropriate locations (the kitchen looks like it has the most items already purchased…). I was introduced to the landlord's wife who came to introduce herself shortly after I arrived and I was introduced by my VSO neighbour's to the maid who I have been told will be taking care of my laundry (hurray!). The maid lives works for the compound and cleans, cooks and washes for everyone (at a very nominal charge).

Glynn and Sue are my two VSO neighbours who have been here for close to two years now and will be leaving shortly. They live in the house next to mine in the compound. They invited me in for lunch of some soup and bread (which was very nice). Their house is very nice and I have learned that they put a lot of work into it. They have a wonderful wooden parquet floor in the halls and rooms and a very spacious living room. Everything is done very nicely with patterned fabric everywhere. They are also very nice and were very welcoming. I have also learned that they have a car and for the short time that they have remaining here have offered to give me a lift into Banjul every day (otherwise I would have to take two bush taxis in each way).

They had a bit of a fright over the last night since someone climbed over the wall and took the battery out of the car. I was told that since it was close to Tobaski (the Muslim holiday commemorating the event in the bible where Isaac was going to sacrifice his son to God but God stopped him and had him sacrifice a ram instead…families now sacrifice a ram at Tobaski in remembrance of this) that people are getting desperate for money so things are more likely to go “missing”. Considering that the outside walls of the compound are a good 10 feet high and tipped with broken glass they must have been pretty desperate…I was also told they had taken some plastic lawn furniture from my house when a previous occupant lived here as well.

Glynn and Sue are off to Senegal in their car for the weekend so I consoled myself with a trip to the beach where I visited with Jane and Sam who do not leave for Bansaang until Monday or Tuesday so they have a bit of time at the hotel until then. Jane and I headed up to Bakau a short time later where I was able to pick up some vegetables, fruit, rice and a tablecloth. I haggled a little bit but the cost was so little that it was not too much of a problem.

I headed back home and had only a few minutes to myself before I was to be picked up for my delayed meeting with Chris (who stood me up earlier in the week) about work at Education. He was a bit late as I sat on the stoop in front of the compound but eventually he arrived and we picked up Philip and then headed off to a local bar (“Come Inn”) for a few drinks. It is a small bar just off of Pipeline but is quite nice with low lighting and lots of trees. No sooner than we had sat were we met by a number of other volunteers and work acquaintances (of someone or another) so we had only a few minutes to actually talk about work.

Eventually we headed out to the going away party being held for the guy (Deep) I had bought the household items from the other day. It was south near the SeneGambia hotel (the biggest hotel in the country) at an Indian restaurant (“Taste of India”) – a buffet. I had been thinking I would NOT go to it because of the cost but since Chris wanted to go…oh well, what is money but to spend (I keep having to tell myself that I am only getting paid about 100 dalasis a day, this meal was 150!). Chris was using his work's land rover as he careened down the road to find the restaurant. It is very strange near the bit hotels as it is so different than everywhere else I have been in the Gambia – the restaurants are very nice and there are NO Gambians really around. Scary.

There were quite a number of us at the restaurant as they brought a series of appetizers out for us to have (the bahji were VERY good though the fish version I could take or leave…). Deep had purchased some hard liquor for the party as well that was available in the middle of the table for whoever wanted it (I, of course, gave that a miss since I do not drink). It was a very raucous group and we had a good time chatting away the hours (though, sadly, not much about work). I met a few interesting people as well before they eventually rolled out the “buffet” dinner which was a small sampling of curries and rice. By the end of the buffet we left (before dessert was even served) and Chris gave us a terrifying drive up the road to a local bar (Salz) for a “night cap”. He tried to “ditch us” but we moaned about trying to find a taxi at that time of night (and the cost). He drives VERY fast.

Salz is a wonderfully small bar between Senegambia and Pipeline just off the road. It is run by, funnily enough, Sal who is a wonderful lady that serves drinks and chats to her customers. They have a pool table and even satellite TV (Philip was busy making arrangements to see the rugby tomorrow in the afternoon – for sports is the only time that Salz will open it's doors before 10 at night).

Chris eventually raced us (I can't say “drove us”) to our respective homes. It was a bit exciting (?) to race along the dirt roads that criss-cross the Wastelands outside of Philips house in the middle of the night with someone who has had one or two drinks…Philip and I both offered to walk from the road but Chris would have none of it and drove us both to our doors.

I need a rest.

⇒ Continue to Day Twenty Two - Saturday, February 16th, 2002 - Kanifing (Home)