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Pippa's Gambian trip, 15-29 November 2005

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28 November - Our last day >>

Sunday 27 November - Another trip to the North bank

We had been invited to Bakary Gitteh's home compound in the village of Sika, which is a few Km past Juffreh, the village that is the centre of the Roots trip.

So, third time lucky, surely... up at 5.15am, early breakfast, taxi arrived, down to the ferry, very short queue, we must have got it right this time.... BUT no ferry! It just did not arrive at all – so we had to wait until the (slower) ferry arrived from Barra. Late again to meet Ousman at the café, but he was getting the hang of it all by now and he was there to meet us.

An hour late again – never mind, we were now en route for the café at Juffreh. We arrived and were met with rapturous enthusiasm by Abdou, who (we think) runs the café. Sandra was also in raptures – mainly about the goats who were obligingly posing along the café wall.

goats on the café wall

goats on the café wall

After a cold Sprite (too early for Julbrew) we discussed Ousman's paintings and how they could be displayed for sale to the many tourists who visit the café – on a commission basis, of course. Both Abdou and Ousman were pleased with the idea, so we ruled up a book for Abdou to keep the Ousman accounts and gave him a calculator to help with the arithmetic. Ousman then produced 3 drawings he had done since Thursday with his new charcoal and graphite pencils – very striking, Abdou said he would keep them all for displaying to sell and when could Ousman bring some more? So that was fine... we'll see how they are doing in February.

Off to Sika and Bakary's compound, where we were shown round the part of the compound that Bakary has been building since 1998. At present he and his immediate family are living there themselves, but as soon as it is finished his parents will move into it as it will be the best part of the greater family compound. It is really very nice – much larger than most Gambian compound living areas and very well finished. We could see how good it will look once it is decorated.

the new building in Bakary Gitteh's compound at Sika 1

the new building in Bakary Gitteh's compound at Sika

the new building in Bakary Gitteh's compound at Sika 2

the new building in Bakary Gitteh's compound at Sika 3


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Then, we found we were to be treated to the most fantastic breakfast. Mariama, Bakary's wife, is the Home Science teacher at Bakalarr School and it is easy to see why her pupils all get such high marks in their exams. She had produced two huge bowls of prawns, cooked in two different ways, both equally delicious – AND, because she wanted us to be able to sample as many Gambian dishes as possible, two sorts of porridge – WOW, as Kemo would say (and did say, come to think of it). And this was breakfast.... I have to say, we did it justice and it was the most delightful meal I have eaten in The Gambia.

After breakfast, we were greeted by many of the people who had gathered in the compound, most of them ladies. Even for The Gambia, this seemed to be an unusually large gathering. All the ladies were coming in and saying the same thing to us, to which we smiled and nodded – eventually we had to ask what they were saying and what we should say in reply. And so, Kemo wrote us a small dictionary of greetings, which we practised on the ladies, much to their amusement and satisfaction. We met Bakary's father, a delightful elderly gentleman, who is obviously very proud of his son's achievements and various other family members including Bakary's two daughters, Fatoumatta and Nyimi – the latter was born while Bakary was staying with us in the summer.

The gathering at Sika 1

The gathering at Sika 2

The gathering at Sika

Kemo & Bakary's daughter Fatoumatta

Pippa & Bakary's daughter Nyimi

Kemo & Bakary's daughter Fatoumatta

Pippa & Bakary's daughter Nyimi


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Then, far too quickly, it was lunchtime! And we had only just had this enormous breakfast.... Now Mariama really pulled out all the stops – she had obviously only been toying with us earlier! I think we had five dishes for lunch, but I may have missed one.. we had benechin, domada, a meat stew, a chicken dish served with millet and another chicken dish served with maize. It was all delicious – I particularly like the domada – and the beef stew – and the... but we were truly defeated this time, even Kemo. Lunch, of course, was served to everyone...

And, during lunch it became apparent why there were quite so many ladies present at the gathering. Mariama had organised a micro-loan scheme for the village. This had all come about after Bakary had watched a video about a similar scheme in South Africa, when he visited the UK in summer 2005. These schemes involve lending small amounts of money to enable people to start small businesses, with the money being paid back over six months or so. The surprise event of the day was thus the launch of the first Pageant Loan. This is an important new way in which Pageant can help Gambian people. We have created a new Pageant Loan Page which contains the background to micro-loans, an account of this launch and will be updated to report progress at Bakalarr, and wherever else Pageant Loans are started.

Having got the serious business over, it was time to present the family gifts we had brought with us. Bakary suggested that we did this inside his living area, as there would obviously not be a gift for everyone present in the compound – I estimated about 120 were there by now! This made things easier in terms of presenting the gifts, but more difficult for photographing the occasion, particularly as my camera battery was running down by now. We had decided to give Ben's second solar lighting system to this compound. Read more about how Ben from Warnham School raised the money for these lanterns. Many school children live in and around it and there is no mains electricity or even a generator in the village, so it seemed that it would be of great benefit here. They were just as thrilled as the Siffoe villagers had been and Bakary was most impressed by the size of the solar panel and the light output of the lantern.

presentation of the lantern 1

presentation of the lantern 2

presentation of the lantern

Now it really was time to leave – but first, we had to have a ride on the donkey cart! Just a short ride down the track from the compound to the 'road' and the waiting taxi, as Sandra and I were really rather concerned about the donkey.

Pippa and Sandra on the donkey cart >>

(Bakary's youngest brother Alieu is driving)

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Pippa and Sandra on the donkey cart - Bakary's youngest brother Alieu is driving

Then back in the taxi and off to Barra to catch the ferry – but on the way we had to call in to Bakalarr village to visit Ousman's latest endeavour. He has made a small studio to house his paintings and art materials and has named it the 'Joan Dobie Art Studio', after Pippa's Mum – and he has printed a T-shirt as well! We were taken to the tiny building, which is at the side of his mother's compound, and he rather diffidently showed us some of his latest paintings. I really loved the 'blue' series of four paintings he had on one wall and bought one from him to bring home – for the first time ever I had to bargain a Gambian UP, as the price he was asking was really too ridiculously small! We had a little discussion about prices he must charge at the café... specially as he had told me earlier in the day that he is now paying the fees for his brother to attend school, all from his paintings. Ousman really is a little success story all on his own...

Ousman's 'Joan Dobie Art Studio'

Ousman with some of his latest paintings

Ousman's studio

Ousman with some of his latest paintings

Find out more about Ousman's paintings

Then we were off again - would we be in time for the 7pm crossing? When we arrived in Barra we found to our horror that the car queue for the ferry stretched right along the main road through the town, presumably because one of the ferries had not been working. The ferry was just docking when we arrived, so we decided that Sandra, Kemo and I would take all the bags with us and go across as foot passengers, leaving the taxi driver to follow as soon as he could. I paid the driver and (fortunately) gave him a good tip, as he had been very long suffering all day. (Mind you, he had been fed extremely well!) It was as well that he did get some extra cash, as he did not manage to cross over to Banjul until noon the next day!
We were so pleased that we had decided to cross on foot – we were pretty late back as it was. Another evening spent in the pool bar, where it was dark enough to sit without calling attention to our hot and dusty state – grilled ladyfish and a Julbrew or two were becoming a habit! Then, a blissful shower and so to bed...

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28 November - Our last day >>


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