week 9 Making a few 'boobs'

In the last few days this has started to feel almost like normal living (almost!). No trips or training anymore, simply getting on with day to day life.

I’ve got more ‘company’ at home because in the past week I have removed over 50 cockroaches from my bathroom and it’s not even close to the rainy season yet. Fortunately I’m not that bothered by them or I would have gone mad by now.

My first ‘boob’ was my attempt at plumbing. The sink in my kitchen keeps getting blocked and as Mr Muscle sink unblocker does not exist, I decided to just clear the pipes myself. I managed to do that very successfully.... Now everything just flows out of the sink and onto the floor. Serves me right for trying to be Little Miss Independent

Second ‘boob’ was at work and another cultural lesson for me.
As most of you will know, I have been finding the pace of work enormously frustrating. I don’t have nearly enough to do and as I only really came here to work, (rather than as an experience), I’m doing all I can to change that. Over the past couple of weeks I have been putting together a report for the Director about the HR department and to try and suggest areas where they might make some changes and where I could help. I was INCREDIBLY diplomatic with the wording and content to be as sensitive as possible. Having re-read it about 5 times, I left it for the Director to review and suggested we discuss it at some stage later in the week.

The following day I was called to a meeting with the Director and the 2 senior HR team members. The Director had read my report and was horrified that I had put such things in writing. She read aloud, word for word, my entire 9 page report. It was excruciating, especially as she did it in a slow, sad tone, as if reading a eulogy! In the Gambia putting that type of thing in writing is really serious and they had taken every single word literally. I had written that I was ‘disappointed’ not to be on a certain project, disappointed here means devastated and therefore she was convinced I was going to leave. Things did improve by the end of the meeting when I simply discussed the cultural difference between UK and Gambia and tried to put the report into perspective. Not sure the incident has made a great deal of difference in terms of my work load but certainly I wont be writing any more reports in the next few weeks......

My third and forth boob of the week were a pair! Fellow volunteer, Jodie, had this great idea to bake a birthday cake for a friend of ours who was having a party on Friday night. In her great wisdom she decided we should make the cake a pair of breast!! We hatched this plan forgetting the usual constraints of a volunteer house (no scales, no cake tins, no oven temperature, no mixer, no caster sugar, no baking sheets…………)

Anyway, what follows is our attempt and results!!

1) Jodie guesses weights/amounts of various ingredients and the recipe - Shes poses as 1950's housewife!

2)Jackie is upset when she realises the eggs she has bought are hard boiled and not fresh!

3) Jackie realises shops are shut for Friday prayers so replacement eggs are at least an hour away, she makes cocktails instead.

4) Trying the cake tins (metal petfood bowls) for size!

5) The finished article. Under the circumstances I think it is a miracle that we achieved anything!…incidentally the lace around the edge of the bra was trimmed from a pair of (brand new, I promise!) knickers of mine, what a sacrifice!

(By the way, Paul loved the cake. He is a complete lad so it was a great idea by Jodie. She carried the cake in wearing a very low cut dress and he said that it was like a perfect mirror image!!)

Week 7/8 - Paradise and troubles...

A little bit of Paradise in a few weeks of problems…

YOK. An African/Lebanese restaurant and arts centre, owned by the most amazing man, (if slightly eccentric!) Suelle is an older man who has had an amazing life, (knows the Dalai Lama, worked for Vidal Sassoon, friend of the Gambian president….you know the type of thing!?) He has a huge number of interests, has lived all over the world, speaks 7 languages fluently, owns this amazing place and is a spiritualist/homeopath/astrologer…

Anyway, I have to thank my lucky stars that during our first week here my friends Julie, Marney and Jodie all found Yok by chance (whilst lost in the Kombos). They popped in for a coffee and happened to meet the infamous Suelle. The three of them all came back to the hotel that night in an almost delirious state, saying they had found this most wonderful place owned by an amazing man….. To cut a long story short, Suelle has sort of taken them (and me by default!) under his wing and last week invited us to his place for dinner.

Without doubt it is the nicest place I have been to in the Gambia so far. But as Suelle is such an interesting character it is much more than just a lovely place for dinner. He totally enchants visitors and even if you don’t believe the things that he does you can’t help but be drawn to him. We arrived and had Kir Royale on the garden terrace, met some friends of his and then with the restaurant closed to the public he served us a brilliant Lebanese style meal…Fabulous.

Of course someone like Suelle was never going to have boring friends so we spent the evening helping a professor from the London School of Economics to pick a cover for her new book and then had our numerology characters and futures told. (For anyone that knows or cares, I’m a 10 or a 1 and this year is a 9 for me, which is apparently great news!!)

And, being shameless volunteers we even took doggie bags home with us - All in all, a totally surreal but wonderful evening – Thank you Suelle x

Other than that there has been a few unsettling moments in the past 2 weeks but I have come out of it totally unscathed.

There have been 4 separate break-ins at various friends houses. Nobody was hurt but it is horrible as it makes you feel so targeted. The assumption is that because you are white you will have money and therefore things to steal. The truth is, many of the richer locals have far more than we do but it is still difficult to have things like your computer, music or phone stolen. And it does nothing to make you feel integrated into the community and often causes volunteers and ex-pats to simply spend less time with the local people and more time within their own community.

Julie, the Australian volunteer that stays with me in Kombos, has had a nasty motorcycle accident. She is okay but had some horrible bumps and bruises and her arm is now in plaster and a sling. She has suffered some panic attacks since and has been ordered to take things easy. She is worse than me though and finds it hard to relax so is struggling with that advice

Marney, another friend, mistakenly flooded her flat. The mains water here goes on and off so she left her tap on without realising. Later, when the water came back on and she was away for the night, it flooded her entire house. She is in good spirits though and despite having an abundance of purple clothes (they all were dyed as she left a pile on the floor!), she says “at least the whole place has had a really good clean!”

Lastly on problems, 2 friends have been mugged in separate incidents. Neither were hurt but both a bit shaken.

Crime rates here are low and it is generally safe but theft from white people is high and is something nobody warned us about. It is a horrible situation as it makes you feel so vulnerable. Of course most Gambians are nice but many often just want to try and get money from you. They either ask outright for money, con you by telling you a story about sick children, new births etc (which I, of course, have fallen for) or a small minority just steal.

On a final lighter, but more gross note…my feet. The Nurse says it is possible that I have a worm thing in them….The thought of that is much worse than the sore itchy feet, I feel weird even typing about it. I have been given stuff to put on them and sort of toe bandages and hopefully the worm will die and then pop out…Normally you can actually see them moving about but mine are motionless thank god!! Oh well at least I can claim I got some African disease whilst here for my troubles…


Papa Lei, almost 4 years old, son of my landlord and lives above me. Was very proud to be wearing my sunglasses and having his photo taken!

The boys that play in the compound and outside my house, they run after me when I get home from work shouting "Auntie Bintu, Minty..(aka -sweet!)"

Mustaffa, Papa Lei's best freind and impossibly cute. We are friends now but he was a bit wary of me at first

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