At the end of last week on the Saturday we ventured out on Saturday night and went to a club in Barra! Abiboo took us on the proviso that we were back by 11.30/12 and so we went from 9-11pm – so very cool (not really!!).
This week the new volunteers arrived with another project manager, JordanaLyden Swift, on Thursday. We welcome Samba (Ben) Corr, Abdullah (Carl) Corr and Adama (Jordana) Njie Ya Musu.
We started to run workshops with children this week to start to introducethe idea of the new classrooms to them. They really enjoyed seeing the images of the new classrooms and hearing about the curtains to divide the spaces, and places to play outside. One girl in particular was grinning hugely about the idea of them having their own place to grow vegetables and herbs such as cucumbers and sorrel. The children made their own footprints which we will hang in the classrooms and discovery spaces for them to find on the opening day. They drew round their foot and then coloured them in. It was a good way to find out the level of skills and to get to know them a bit more. The teacher, Marget Njie, said she really liked the activity and that she would do it again with the children so that was great. We changed the dynamics of the teaching style by getting the children to sit on the floor and draw their own work alongside others on a long roll of lining paper.
On site we have braced and positioned the upstands on Classroom 1 ready for pouring, poured the foundations for Classroom 2 and half of Classroom 3. The massive concrete mixer finally arrived on Wednesday which has speeded things up. Many more bricks have been made under the careful tutelage of Mustafa and the help of the women on the team and despite substitutions for broken brick presses on several occasions. We also finished the form work for casting the upstands for Classroom 2 on Friday. We carried on with the design work for the furniture for the classrooms on Saturday and will be drawing that up next week for costing.
On Saturday we had a party!! We converted one of the classrooms into a dance room, hung torches from the tree outside and got some pop and watermelon and invited all the workers and their friends and families. We wore clothes that we had been made or borrowed clothes from the Effo and looked quite dashing. Everyone was happy to see us wearing African clothes especially Vicky and Tash who fashioned themselves some headdresses. Everyone had a great laugh, despite the fuse on the newly bought speaker charger blowing and numerous repairs being made. Dancing was done and a fine night had by all.
We also went fishing on Sunday – a proper day of rest and relaxation needed by all after a busy week. We caught a lady fish, some cat fish (some thrown back) and a puffer fish. We also got to swim again which was fantastic and we definitely enjoyed the sea breeze.
This week kicked off with a trip to Mbankam (which we have been calling Band Camp!). In all of our minds we were imagining a palm fringed beach with blue sea.. Mustafa organised us a taxi for 3 and 6 of us (!) piled in and sped across the bush (for one of Mustafa’s half kilometres….hmm). Anyway as we rounded the corner with glee we all went ahhh…oh! It was a dirty brown river with mangroves and loads of crabs on the shoreline. After some umming and ahing in we went and it was lovely – a salty estuary river refresher and not a crocodile (or cocktail) in sight. Om the way back Vicky H and Liv elected to travel on the taxi roof for a breath of fresh air.
We have been working on the design for the furniture in the classrooms. Key issues that are important are to keep the design flexible so that the teachers can change the shape of the space that they teach in. At the moment the classrooms are full of desks and chairs and no space to move things around. We spoke with Margot (Head of the Early Years at the school) and she liked our ideas for using boxes both for storage and as bases for large tables/desks for groups of children. The children are also really keen to try out writing the letters they are learning so we are planning that the desktops will be painted with blackboard paint so that they can write on it. The table tops will also be able to be put up on the wall to be used as conventional blackboards. We are also planning on finding ways to divide the room for different activities such as art and role play.
On site, we have started making the earth bricks and the concrete foundations for one of the classrooms has been poured (or will have been by the end of Saturday). With over 5000 ties on the rebar floors and 5000 bricks to be made we are alternating between trance like states, hysteria and singing a few musicals to keep us going through the day. All our fingers are blistered from twisting wire!
We have had an ugly bug ball this week – every creature has been coming to our suppers. Most notable of all are the earwigs, which were so bad on Sunday night we had to eat inside. And later on in the week, Nikki and Ellie had a shower of dead earwigs fall down on them after their room had been sprayed, Very kindly the chickens came to clear up, but were chased away as we didn’t want them to get ill!
Last night we managed to stay awake late enough to go to the cinema – the cinema being our friend Mustafa’s home-built pride and joy, made of earth bricks – the same as the school will be from. we could certainly feel the difference in temperature. We watched Mustafa’s choice of a Jamiacan reggae festival along with his 3 tiny boys – all under 7. Vicky and Tash fell asleep promptly as this was the coolest they have been for a long time as their room is especially hot and they have to keep the window shut to keep the cats and gigantic moths – the size of Tash’s hand – out of their bed!
So one week into the whole Gambian experience! We got here a week ago and since then we have met nearly the entire village and are trying to remember everyone’s name and whose family they belong to. Also, there are several different languages to learn – Serere and Wolof mainly and we can all say hello and see you tomorrow (Bow fet!) in Serere.
We are all obsessed with goats – they are everywhere – scampering around the village and the site. It’s not the most normal site with a cockerel, some chickens, occasional goats, footballs and children who come and watch what we are doing.
So far we have done a lot of digging – in the hot sub-Saharan sunshine. It’s been grubby and sweaty and a bit frustrating getting the levels right. However, the foundations for the three classrooms are almost done and it’s great to see the whole site coming together.
We’ve all been given Gambian names – Isha Sarr (Vicky H), Amie Sarr (Tash, Fatima Jalo (Olivia – she loves it!), Adama Jalo (Vicky C), Isha Njie (Nikki), Omar Njie (Euan) and Owa Njie (Ellie). We’ve just begun giving the Gambian workers English names and we have David (Sutra) Beckham, Freddie (Moosa) Flintoff, Daniel (Sheriffo) Radcliffe, Steve (Babuka) Gerrard, Laurence (Alieu) Oliver and Sean (Ebu) Paul
We’ve started the rebar for the upstands. It’s been really interesting getting hands-on with the making of the rebar cages – normally they turn up on site and get put in before you know it. We collected lots of palm leaves and have woven the first section of the ceiling. We didn’t know how to do the weaving but luckily someone in the village did and taught the team.
It’s been interesting to follow a schedule when deliveries are almost always late due to disputes, mechanical problems and a whole host of things that we don’t really understand properly yet!
It’s great being in the village – just walking along suddenly you have people walking with you who know you and want to have a chat. We’re really close to the bush and there’s a crocodile pool! The sea is 6km away and we are desperate to go and cool off!