Since I last posted, I have been told that I am to be based in The Kombos so will have reasonable access to facilities like electricity and water, and may even have the luxury of a western style wc. As a result I’m told I will be able to use a laptop, and have been advised to take it with me. However I arrived home late last night after a cold snowy auction in Barnsley, Yorkshire (of which more later) to find a card through the letterbox telling me a well known parcel delivery firm had left a package with my neighbours. This morning Rob called over the fence to give me something which I wasn’t expecting for 3 or 4 days – my new Google Nexus 7 tablet! I had ordered it on Thursday afternoon with a quoted delivery of 3 – 5 business days, but despite the dreadful conditions (we’ve been hit by heavy snow here in Yorkshire) it was delivered less than 48 hours later. Top marks to Google Play store and TNT!
I am now waiting for it to finish charging while I catch up on household chores and then will have to get to grips with the Android operating system, but at first glance – I had a quick play as soon as the box came off – it seems quite intuitive and easy to use, with a good clear screen and reasonable sized keyboard. I now intend to download a couple of apps – Skype and an office programme first – and see if I can expand the storage with a flash drive. I’ve been reviewing what are the essentials to take with me and think if I can edit Word and Excel on this device and watch films stored on a USB drive I’ll probably manage without anything larger and leave the laptop at home.
If you’ve visited this blog before, you will notice I’ve changed the layout so that recent posts are the first thing you see – I’ve been advised that if you always see the same “Welcome” page when you arrive, you’ll find it boring, and that comment sounds good sense to me so I’ve updated the site to reflect that advice. As always I’m grateful for your comments and any advice on ways I could improve, so I’ll leave you with this thought for the day.
“Wise men don’t need advice. Fools won’t take it.” (Benjanim Franklin)
A few days ago when my appointment had been confirmed by the Gambian Ministry of Agriculture I asked where exactly I will be based as although the initial placement description suggested Bakau which is on the developed urban coastal strip, there was also talk of another post “up country” somewhere and I thought that sounded a more interesting place to live despite the lack of facilities. (The coastal conurbation known as The Kombos has the advantage that there are shops, restaurants and bars to cater for the tourists who visit, – and piped water and mains electricity on a full time basis, but living there might not give a true picture of life in the Gambia). It appears however that at present my position is still undecided, as I’m told I may be moving around so perhaps I may soon be living out of a suitcase! Until I know where I’m going however there are one or two questions I can’t really answer. I hope to have access to the internet for information, entertainment, and communication (including the ability to publish this blog), but until I know what facilities exist near my accommodation I don’t know what to take with me. I had intended packing my old laptop (which with Windows XP feels like an old friend) as it holds all my music and photos along with some films I’ve downloaded for the trip, and various programs that I use on a regular basis for work and play. However it’s a bulky, heavy old thing and if I have no access to a regular power source to charge it up it’ll be pretty much useless so I’m in a bit of a quandary. Should I buy a tablet instead? or a smartphone? Both of these are far more portable than what I’ve got, and in the absence of electricity either can be charged by a small solar powered charger whereas my laptop can’t. On the other hand a tablet has far less memory than my laptop and I can do things with my laptop that a tablet can’t. At the moment I’m reading lots of articles and reviews about the possible options, hoping to find out a little more about my placement, and will then have to make a decision. I’ll keep you posted in due course, but as usual I welcome suggestions so if you have advice or suggestions to give, please email me or use the comment facility.
I’ve recently been on two short courses to help prepare me for volunteering, and I’ve learned a lot in a short space of time. One of the subjects we talked about two weeks ago was what qualities were desirable in a volunteer. These included amongst other things flexibility and adaptability, and I hope I can show both. One example of the need for flexibility occurred last Friday afternoon. I was in Birmingham on a VSO training course, secure in the knowledge that my placement had 36 hours previously been given the stamp of approval by the Gambian Ministry of Agriculture and that in just over three weeks time, on February 6th, I would be boarding a flight at Heathrow bound first for Brussels, and then on to the Gambia.
Only now, I’m not. Last Friday, Joe, another volunteer who is also going to the Gambia to work in a hospital in Banjul, received a phone call informing him that his Gambia departure had been put back a month. Shortly afterwards I received the same information, as did Helen, who is also heading out there as a fund raiser. No reason has been given, but we now expect that along with two other volunteers whom I’ve not yet met, we’ll be leaving on 6th March instead. From my own point of view it’s only a mild annoyance as I’ve not yet signed up a tenant for my house, but for others it might have been a problem. Two weeks ago I met a volunteer who had already let her flat and is now living out of a suitcase, and sofa surfing with friends as her departure has been delayed until April. I can’t imagine what that must be like but I may find I need to be more flexible yet.