Day Three - Monday, January 28, 2002 - Fajara - Safari Garden Hotel

We began the day by following breakfast with a trip to the program office which is up the back alley, turning left on Pipeline (the big paved road at the end of the alley) then right onto Atlantic (the intersection of Atlantic and Pipeline is the small dirt road that leads to the ocean; Atlantic, for obvious reasons, follows the ocean north to Bakau and quite a distance south as well – though not a continuous stretch south). The VSO office is in a small compound just a small distance north of the intersection between the two roads and is hard to miss with the VSO vehicles parked out front (white with blue writing) and the big VSO sign. We all managed to make it as we trudged along the side of the road in the sand (sometimes quite deep). Inside the compound it is quite nice with many trees and a few small buildings.

We waited a few minutes in the small waiting room (the 15 or so of us) before we made our way en-masse to the director's office (Lynne) just down the hall where we were given a bit of a talk before being shown around the office. There are only a few people actually working in the office, many of which are, of course, Gambians and they are all very nice and pleasant. There are three Program Officers – these are people who are directly responsible for the volunteers in the country (there are about 50 volunteers in the Gambia right now) – split, it seems, according to subject area the volunteer is working in, for example, Elina is my Program Officer since she deals with Health volunteers (I am going to be working for the Department of State for Health in Banjul) but David is my colleague's program officer even though my colleague is also a computer specialist and this is simply because my colleague is working for the Department of State for Education and David deals with Education.

We were shown the resource centre which is in a separate building in the corner of the compound. This also has an attached “library” – a place where volunteers can pick up reading material (fiction mostly) and, more importantly, leave reading material behind for other volunteers (it is quite a good selection). This room is also important in that it has our “cubby holes” which contain any mail we may (or may not) have received. In the resource centre room itself there is even a computer…Evidently this whole area is open most of the time even if the office is not to allow us to get a bit of a break and pick up things.

Opening the fridge in the kitchen was quite amusing since it is full of plastic bottles of water (refilled of course) as well as an ample supply of condoms as well (since it is out of the way). Mind you, I did not see them, I only know since I was told during our subsequent briefings.

We took a couple of photos in front of the office of our group before heading down the road back to just past the junction of Atlantic and Pipeline to Francisco's where we had a nice lunch with a few people from the office. I tried the Barracuda since they did not have any “butter fish” (which was recommended by Lynne earlier). It was quite pleasant. Some people had ordered the fresh orange juice but it looked a bit…dark…for my liking (but it tasted fine).

After heading back north, we past the VSO office and made our way to the British High Commission which has it's compound just a short distance north of the office (on the sea-side of the road, of course). We had to all get signed in and given visitor badges as we made our way past the not unformidable security. We were there to visit the nurse (Sheelagh) who gave us a bit of information about who she was, what she can do for us (she is essentially our local physician – at the very least she can refer us to appropriate parties) and what we can catch in the Gambia (quite scary some of it – some of the parasites are quite nasty).

After Sheelagh had talked to us, she took us as a group just down the road to the Medical Research Council (MRC) which is a massive medical facility that does a lot of different things including out and in patients, and medical training. There was quite a number of people waiting at the gate for their appointments (it seemed) – never mind someone that seemed to be selling chickens.

As we walked into the compound, there are massive trees on either side of the road and it is truly a massive site with it's own road system and many buildings. Sheelagh pointed out a few of the key areas that we might be interested in before she let us make our own way back to the hotel.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent deep in study…well, actually, no, but it was spent beside (and in) the pool where study could POSSIBLY have occurred. Oh well, nothing to study yet anyway, really, except perhaps for the mountain of material they have given us about the culture and people.

Dinner was another light one consisting of pasta and fruit cocktail for dessert. After dinner we walked to the Internet Café and e-mailed some more pictures. That was the strenuous part of the evening. Quite a tiring one – Ok, after yesterday it was positively BUSY…

⇒ Continue to Day Four - Tuesday, January 29, 2002 - Fajara - Safari Garden Hotel