Week 5 - Work Hard?... Play Hard!

So I started work this week, kind of! I’m used to working… well, quite hard, quite often. It seems it is unlikely to be the case here!

My office hours are 08.30 – 16.00 M-T with a half day on Friday
Twice this week people in the office have gone home in the afternoon for family events
Most people are late in the morning due to transport problems
Last year there were apparently 42 bank holidays
Some people bring children to work
And it is a regular sight to see our secretaries asleep at their desks for hours at a time
…I’m certainly not going to come home suffering from exhaustion!!

That said, just getting into work is a challenge! I have some sympathy regarding getting in late. It is total guess work how long it will take you as local transport arrives when it arrives. I walk about 15 mins to a pick up point and then wait for the local geli geli (minivan). There is a usually a total scramble/fight to get on and many of the locals hold on to the side of the van whilst it is still moving so that they can make sure they get a seat…It’s each man (or woman) for him/herself! This morning I almost hit a girl that was just pushing me out of the way to get on. I did hold my own and managed to bundle past her but it is quite exhausting! Once on board (with battered arms and bruised legs and toes), people start politely greeting each other as if nothing has just happened! Getting home is even worse and twice this week we have resorted to getting taxis to avoid the fights…trouble is they are much more expensive (about 50-80p rather than 14p!), I guess I’ll just have to toughen up!

On my first day at work I met the HR team. All very nice people and all can speak English (a relief but my Wollof is not getting any better). Unfortunately I had no desk, chair or computer though so they just sat me on a small coffee table facing a wall! It appears there is little for me to do but I am hoping that by working with the Director (she is back next week) I can create a meaningful role for me….Things here happen very slowly so I’m doing best to be patient, but it is not easy. This week I have read a few files, created a tiny database of the casual staff and managed to get myself a desk and chair. I doubt I’ll ever get a computer so my laptop comes with me to and from work each day. It will be a good test of is durability.

There is no water at all in the office so you have to bring your own to work. That is fine for drinking etc but I certainly cant carry enough to then use in the toilet so you have to be careful not to drink too much as using the loo is a little tricky!!

Work aside, the life of a Gambian volunteer isn’t even close to being as tough as I had expected…I’ve been to three parties this week:

40th Wedding Anniversary – A fellow volunteer had her parents to stay and it was their Ruby Wedding (same day as my parents Ruby wedding by a weird coincidence!)

A great do with lots of dancing. I had the chance to show off my ‘Mandinka’ tribal dancing (fuelled it has to be said, by homemade sangria!) – I was delighted when the locals recognised it. Much to my amusement the locals made Tracy’s parents a cake which read ‘Happy 40th Weeding’

Andrews B Day (which then turned into Adamas B Day as his was the day after!). At a volunteers house. Fairly tame but good fun never the less. Andrew is going out with another volunteer (it’s very incestuous here!) and she is a great cook so there was good food on offer.

Pizza night at my neighbours, Helen and Cian. Helen is a doctor working at the main hospital in Banjul and Cian is a journalist/editor working for one of the only independent papers here (a slightly risky role as the last Editor of that paper was killed in an ‘accident’ having printed some anti government pieces!)
Food is a big thing as a volunteer here as living on a budget tends to mean boring food. A night with homemade pizza and salad etc causes some great excitement! I made some peanut cookies to take with me so my status as popular volunteer has been confirmed; I think bribery is best in these circumstances! (Making them was an interesting exercise with no recipe, no scales, no mixer and no idea what the temperature of the stove is….a miracle they worked at all!)

Sunday night I did feel a bit more volunteer like though…I sat at home with no electricity eating dry cornflakes as I had nothing else in the house…Poor me eh?! The electricity goes off about 4 times per week, last night it was off all evening so it’s best to keep candles and torches at the ready. I was expecting to have no power in my house at all though, so I’m certainly not complaining!!

I’m just about getting used to life here…the good, the bad and the ugly


Lisa Turner said...

You are indeed a woman of many talents, a blog and peanut cookies! Very impressed.

Dan Ayling said...

Having stayed in Banjul myself for a couple of weeks your comments about getting on the bus made me laugh. Do the taxis still stop and pick up extra passengers and livestock? I seem to remember sharing a cab with some chickens and a goat :)

Good luck with what sounds like a cushy number and look forward to hearing all the stories.

May I suggest a visit to the friendly Crocodile at the Crocodile park.

Dannyboy x

Adamskiuk said...

Hi Jackie wow good blog! glad you are enjoying the adventure! i am laughing about you being "baron". keep us posted on your antics :-)

Adamskiuk said...

Hi Jackie wow good blog! glad you are enjoying the adventure! i am laughing about you being "baron". keep us posted on your antics :-)