It is nearly two months since I last wrote here – my blog was initially intended to be simply an account of my year as a volunteer in the Gambia, but being a volunteer apparently doesn’t end when you leave your placement, and it seems for some people it never ends. I was at a meeting of VSO supporters recently where I met several people who had volunteered more than once and one man who described himself as a “serial volunteer” having completed four volunteer placements.
I am now wondering whether I too will become a repeat offender as ever since I came “home” I have been considering going back. I am extremely attached to the small rural area of North Yorkshire where I have spent the bulk of my life, but somehow it doesn’t quite feel the same any more. A friend of mine said to me last week “Ah but your heart is here in Ryedale” and until a year ago I would unquestionably have agreed with her. Although much of my working life has been spent away from here I have lived within a ten mile radius of my current home for nearly forty years and although I was born in a different area of North Yorkshire, my roots have gone deep into the Ryedale soil and for many years I have considered it my home. On my return after a year away however the ties seem rather weaker than before, and I expect I will soon be leaving again. My comfortable existence has been disturbed by my experiences outside the bubble and it will never be quite the same again.
I have applied for a place on a VSO Returned Volunteer weekend in London in July and if my application is successful I hope to compare notes with other returned volunteers and by doing so clarify my own thoughts and decide “What next?”. Although I have been checking the advertisements for VSO volunteer opportunities on a regular basis I have not yet seen any placements which seem to match my experience/skills, but neither have I yet said that I will soon be available to go abroad again.
I intend to stay in the UK for the next few months anyway – I will be working over harvest time on a local estate but that work will not start until probably mid July and will continue for two or three months depending on the weather. After that who knows what the future will bring?
Meanwhile however my gardening is reasonably tidy and weed free and the Gambia is calling so I will be returning there for a couple of weeks next month.
Despite the lure of my comfortable mattress here, hot shower, constant electricity, and good English beer, I am going back to the heat and chaos of Bakau and my diet of tapilapa and Marmite! Before I left I was working on a pocket manual of agricultural crops for use by Department of Agriculture Staff and when I left this project seemed to come to a stop. It was then at the stage where it needed checking and correcting by the technical experts as I had found it difficult to obtain the necessary information locally and consequently my work relied heavily on research outside the Gambia. I am hoping that my reappearance for a few days will galvanise the critics into action so that I can then re-edit my draft and move a little closer to publication.
I am also looking forward to meeting up again with friends and colleagues, seeing my former neighbours and sponsored students, and spending some time on the beautiful beaches near Kartong……..