Day Twenty Five - Tuesday, February 19th, 2002 - First Day of Work - Kanifing

Today was my first day (proper) at work. I was out of bed early again (it is hard NOT to get up early when the sun is coming through the windows without any curtains at 7:00 every morning) and I was off to the Bitiko for some bread and soft drinks for breakfast.

It was nice to have Glynn drive me into the city. He dropped Sue off at Westfield (she works in the south in Brikama) and we headed north into Banjul. The Banjul road is very good and was not that busy today because of the impending “Tabaski” holiday when people are out visiting relatives. We passed through the police check-point at the bridge leading into the city only just slowing down a bit.

Glynn works just north of where I work though I have to walk around a series of buildings to get to where I am, about 10 minutes away. The presidential palace is in between his and my workplace. I walked down the street feeling a bit out of place with my white shirt and tie (tie will ONLY be for the first day I have assured everyone) as I walked by people selling things on the pavement (sidewalk) as well as the occasional beggar. There is rubbish everywhere in this town and all the buildings are slowly decaying from what I am sure their once reasonable splendour.

I walked past the Quadrangle to the west (ish) of the 22nd of July park and around the north part of the park past the presidential palace (with the grim-faced guards) and then into the compound of my workplace. It was not too difficult to find my office as I took the set of wooden stairs up to the first (second) floor and knocked on the first door I came to and introduced myself. The old colonial office complex consists of two long buildings separated into small offices with an added “warehouse” area in the middle attached the buildings on the left. Only a small portion of the complex actually has a second floor.

I was shown to my desk which is actually the desk that the “server” sits (computer talk for central computer storing commonly accessed information and providing access to things such as the Internet and printers). There was a computer on my desk but I was told it would be going away to be used by someone else (sigh).

As I was introduced to various people I have been drawing a bit of a map in the faint hope that it will help me to remember their names and what they do. I have trouble with English names, never mind Gambian…

I started right in on a few things, advising them about some computer stuff that had stopped working (the Internet connection was not working because of the power surges they have been having recently in the city and area – evidently due to the new power station that the government has recently put on-line). My desk is against the wall and my window overlooks the roundabout in front of the market so is VERY noisy but I am assured that you get used to the noise. Because Tobaski is coming up it is even noisier than normal with Rams and what-not being sold in great number (never mind the sellers being very anxious to make money). The windows are glass slats that can be angled in to let in/keep out the wind though they have great big air-conditioning units above some of the windows that pour out the cold – though it has to struggle with the holes in some of the panes of glass.

Outside Window View from Office Window

The people in the office are all very friendly and we talked a bit about what was going on and who we all were.

Margaret, who is a former volunteer with the Peace Corps (US aid agency) but now working on contract to the Department of State for Health, introduced me to everyone and took me back to the Quadrangle which I had passed on my way to work to see the offices of the ministry. The Quadrangle is a series of four buildings arranged in a rectangle (hence the name) that houses the offices of the various departments of states. We went to the first (second) floor and I was shown the offices of the ministers but could not be introduced to many of them because they have left to go to Mecca (the “Haag”) though I saw their very nicely appointed offices. I was introduced to those few people that were around.

We headed back to the office then we went down the street past the market for lunch at Ali Babas (“King of Chawarma”) – I had suggested to Margaret that it would be good to get something to eat (as well as the opportunity to have a bit of a break).

The rest of my afternoon was spent reading various documents and getting familiar with the facilities available to me. I gave Glynn a call shortly before 4 and then left to meet him at his office for the trip back home. Since he has a Land Rover he often has many people in the back that he gives lifts to. We were a full load when we dropped many of them off at Westfield before returning home.

The previous occupant of my house paid me a visit today and dropped off some curtains that her movers had removed without her being aware of it. I quickly put them up and now have a bit more privacy. She is feeling a bit guilty about some other things that were taken away so she has indicated she will be dropping off some covers for the raw foam of my living room chairs as well as some bedspreads. That should save me a bit of work…The volunteers here are all very generous, passing on largely at no cost household items they have purchased when they leave. I have been told that there is a television and VCR making it's rounds of the volunteer's houses as well…

I found a butcher today which is just down the road. It is run by a nice Lebanese man who sells a number of different frozen items (including whole frozen chicken, various cuts of lamb, etc.). It was also good news as I got a letter from my mother today (Glynn visited the VSO offices and picked up my mail) that had some pictures from our trip to Europe over the Christmas holidays. It was good to hear from her.

Dinner was rice with tomato sauce (with hot peppers) as well as fresh orange juice. The evening was topped off with a bout of…reading.

⇒ Continue to Day Thirty Six - Saturday, March 2nd, 2002 - Kanifing