Although this is an Islamic country, as is the Gambian way, we actually had 5 days off work…..
Thursday because Wednesday was Mohammed’s (the prophet) birthday and people were up all night praying so too tired to work. Then Good Friday and Easter Monday just to keep the few Christians in the country happy. Both Thursday and Monday were only announced as bank holidays the night before …It's chaos but nobody seems to mind. The jungle drums work brilliantly over here so news travels at lighting speed and everyone seems to find out!
Julie (our great Aussie organiser) booked a group of us a tree house for the weekend in Kartong so off we went….
Usually it takes between 2 and 4 or 5 hours to get there. You need to get 3 connecting Gelis which involves waiting while each one fills up as they wont go without all spaces being taken. However, as luck would have it Paul, a guy that works for the British High Commission was driving down and gave Jodie, Marney and I a lift! 1 hours drive and no police stops as his car has diplomatic immunity …Oh for the life of an Ex Pat!
Katong is a nice small spot right on the coast. Mainly it is quiet and the beach is almost deserted. This week was a little busier as there was a festival on but still there was plenty of space on the beach (there were about 20 of us on a mile stretch). If anyone comes to visit me we will certainly visit Kartong as you can wear a bikini without risk of offending anyone – My tan has improved (well joined up really, so I’m bit browner all over)
Back to the Tree house….It wasn’t really one as there was no tree! It was a hut with no sides on huge stilts so it was the height of a tree. It was literally over-looking the beach so the view was fab. However…it was blowing a gale at night so it was absolutely freezing! We all ended up huddled together on the same mattress for warmth, we looked like penguins as we kept swapping places to get a warm spot!! Facilities were basic but clean (bucket showers, so you never feel quite clean but the water is warm as it is out in the sun most of the day).
Days were spent on the beach or in the tree house playing ‘Speed Scrabble’ (thank you Oli for teaching me…I love it!! Now I just need to get hold of a set of scrabble tiles!) In the evening the festival took place so we all wandered into the village. A good mixture of dancing, music, magic (sort of!) and wrestling (which we missed as we thought it would start late as almost everything in Gambia does…and then it was on time!). The 2nd night was spoiled as we were just hassled from start to finish by drunk/stoned bumsters, honestly it drives you mad. We actually went home after about 45mins and continued with the cheap (shite!) wine and games…much better fun!
Generally this week has been good. My neighbour Sana came over one night to try and teach me some more Gambian cooking. We made ‘Chuoclo’ which is a bit like porridge but made with ground nuts and rice to which you add evaporated milk and masses of sugar…not really my thing but it was nice of him to bother.
I’ve been cooking quite a bit and on Monday night I made a picnic to take to the beach, much to the delight of the people I made it for. It is nice cooking for volunteers as they are always so grateful for anything, (especially those that live up country on rice!) We had cous cous with shrimps and chilli, coleslaw (a bit chunky as I have no grater), home made hommous, vegetable rice salad, fresh bread and then a cake…doesn’t sound like we will starve does it?
The nights when the electricity goes off I now just go to bed and read for ages rather than pacing about wondering when/if it will comeback on again.…I’m on book 11 already!
Work is still very slow …. but I’m working on it though