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

Today was the first full day in what is to be my home for the next two years. I slept well despite the late night at Deep's party and got up at 8:30.

There is not really a lot to do in the house so I read after having my breakfast of fresh bread, oranges and bananas. There is a “bitiko” actually in the wall of the compound I am living in. This is a small (literally) hole in the wall that sells a lot of the basics – bread, eggs, soft drinks, beer, and anything else you should need from a well- stocked corner store. It is a small place with things stacked all over the place with a small, quiet man running it (it is hard to tell what language he speaks since he speaks so little). The shop is open basically all the time and I can see that I will be using it to pick up bread every morning (or every other morning since a single loaf the size I get will last me two days – a small loaf is 1 delasis and a bigger loaf is 2 delasis). It is very convenient.

I headed off to visit the market. I am about a five minute walk from pipeline on a road called “Mosque Road” for some reason named after the fact that a mosque is right on pipeline where this road meets it (at a right angle). From this intersection I walked another 15 minutes to the east to Westfield junction where I visited the Gamtel offices to find out how much is owing on the telephone that I have. The Gamtel offices are the only offices that actually look like such at the junction. It is a multi-story building (the only one around) with a tele-centre and “accounts department” on the main floor. When I entered, there were a number of disinterested employees behind some serious looking grating. I approached the first on my right to see a lady counting money and doing some work on a computer. She told me (using hand gestures, largely) that she had to enter a few things into the computer before she could help me so indicated that I have a seat. I was not the only one in the seats along the wall, though many people came in and out using the various phone “booths” along the corner. Tele-centres are places where you can use a telephone for as long as you like and for as many calls as you like, simply paying for what you have done to a cashier who has a computer that keeps track of all the various charges.

Eventually, I found out how much was owing on the telephone – something that the VSO who was living in my house previously will have to pay me for – then I headed south towards Serekunda. After a quick visit to the bank (there was an ENORMOUS queue for the (one) teller since the guy in the front was obviously withdrawing a LOT of money and wanted to count it – when the currency is worth so little you end up with great stacks for relatively small amounts – I have been told that some of the airlines here accept ONLY cash payments so you pretty much need a big bag to carry all of it from the bank to the travel agent) I dropped into an interesting store that sells everything you can think of for a house – from dishes, cutlery, televisions, radios to fridges, food and candles. It is not a cheap store but I was able to pick up a few essentials (can opener, cutlery and some glasses – I had purchased some things from Deep the other day so that this was a lot less that I would have been buying otherwise).

From Sun Kerr, I headed into Serekunda market itself but did not get anything. It is a very interesting market with lots of things going on. Since it is just before the holiday it was very busy with many of the roads simply clogged with people selling things.

I headed back north past the open sewers and the money lenders at Westfield Junction and caught a taxi to Harry's (a well-known supermarket on pipeline just a few minutes walk from my road). I was able to pick up a rechargeable electric light from an electronics store beside Harry's – I had been advise that due to the unreliability of the electricity this might be a good idea. Jane, since she was going to an area further in-country where electricity was even less reliable, had picked up a few of these lights one of which had a built in fan and radio! She had avoided the next model up which had a tape deck as well…I was also able to pick up a short-wave radio in the hope that I will be able to pick up BBC world service. The radio is funny as it is a “Naiwa” instead of the large electronics manufacturer “Aiwa”. It is quite common to find these cheap Chinese electronic rip-offs here (my radio was the equivalent of about £2.50), I particularly like “Sqny” or “Panasoanic” – very funny. Then of course you have the well known brand “Big Battery”.

At Harry's I was able to pick up a few things for the kitchen that I was missing including some towels and a sieve for the rice before I headed back home. I spent the afternoon catching up on some work on my computer and feeding the cats for Glynn and Sue since they are away this weekend. The evening was pretty dull as I watered the plants and made myself dinner – bread, oranges, bananas and cup-a-soup. I had picked up a “Katcha” card at the Gamtel office earlier in the day – these are the common method that people use to make phone calls both local AND international and actually the only way you can make international calls from most phones (since international phone lines are even rarer than home telephones). I made a few desperately short phone calls to my grandmother and sister (my mother is away in Mexico for the next few weeks) before my 200 delasis were all but used up. It was good to hear them albeit for only a few minutes…

I am sleeping with a single sheet that was included in Deep's household stuff he had sold me on top of the plastic that the mattress was delivered in – I have also not yet taken off the plastic that is around the pillow I purchased from Harry's today – not until I get a pillowcase or something. I am not all too bothered about getting all sorts of things for the house in a hurry – I have a long time here so I do not see the need to rush around and get everything now, only those things that I actually need to live from day to day (like food).

⇒ Continue to Day Twenty Three - Sunday, February 17th, 2002 - Kanifing