No change

When I left the Gambia three months ago I said I would not return there to work as I was feeling very frustrated by the apparent inertia on the part of many of the people I worked with, and I had a distinct feeling of lack of achievement, but on the other hand my work was unfinished and I had made many friends so I have now come back for a brief holiday during which I also hope to find signs that something is happening. Before I left I had been working at the Department of Agriculture on a pocket crop guide for the extension staff and although it was nearly ready to print, I was waiting for validation by experts from various agricultural disciplines.
I arrived here a few days ago as a tourist and booked into a hotel at Bijilo where I had a quiet first day relaxing by the pool then went off to meet one of my ex colleagues at the Department. There have been a number of staff movements since I left but apart from that nothing much seems to have changed. My colleague said he would be there by 9am so I arrived shortly afterwards to find the place deserted apart from the watchman and another man harvesting cashew apples from a big tree by the gate, and another colleague planting cashew nuts in plastic grow bags round the back. After a while my friend arrived and we spent the next two hours or so chatting while I resolved some problems with his computer. It seems that in my absence the handbook I was working on has come to a dead stop, and to make it worse the funding that we expected to receive for printing costs when it reaches that stage (about £1000 sterling) is unlikely to be forthcoming, even if the draft can be checked and ratified. I had also spoken to one of the field workers whom I was helping with a proposal/budget for training farmers in his area and it seems that this too has been at a standstill since my departure. In this case, if I understood him correctly it is because he has been unable to access the documents I left for him, although I had duplicated them on two departmental computers and shown two members of staff where they were! I have said that I am available to assist while I am here if there is anything I can help with, and that I will wait for a call, but I am not holding my breath!
When I arrived back at the hotel, the first person I saw was my friend Landing Sonko, the Director of Plant Protection followed shortly afterwards by several others including the Deputy Director General, and my old boss Ousman Jammeh, Director of Agriculture for West Coast Region! It seems that a two day workshop was being held for a number of senior staff from Agriculture to acquaint them with details of the Medium Term Economic Framework, a new method of budgeting, and that Baobab Resort where I had chosen to stay is a regular venue for such events.
I was joined for the weekend by a number of friends from VSO so spent most of the time sitting by the pool or on the nearby beach drinking juice and was even tempted to venture to the fleshpots of Senegambia for two nights. It is rainy season here now so there are few tourists about and many of the bars and restaurants are closed but we had a good meal the first evening and on the second congregated in a bar to watch England lose to Italy in the first round of the World Cup.
All good things come to an end however so I have now left the air conditioned comfort, bar and swimming pool behind me and moved back to my old home of Bakau. It was gratifying to find my old neighbours seemed pleased to see me and I slept much better than expected last night probably because there was no electricity so the neighbourhood was a bit quieter than usual! The power supply varies here, even more so in the rainy season, but from what I’m told the cuts have been more prolonged of late and certainly in the last twenty four hours we have only had power for three of them, from about 4am to 7am. I’m hoping we will get “light” tonight as my phone is nearly flat, but fortunately my laptop has a new battery (the old one collapsed in the heat before I left Gambia) so I can at least write this without worrying about being cut off.
My old house mate Munya has been away in South Africa for three weeks but I am expecting him to return before the weekend, although not yet sure exactly when. The compound is quiet at present and only partly inhabited, as three volunteers from my intake have now left, and when I arrived it had an air of neglect, but this morning Hassanna, one of our neighbours who is employed by the landlord to keep an eye on the compound, arrived at first light and set to sweeping and cleaning windows so by lunch time the place looked rather more like home.
A walk up to the market and a drink enjoying the breeze on the terrace overlooking the fish landing was a welcome break from the oppressive heat of Mamakoto, and an opportunity to buy a few vegetables. Sulayman, my previous fruit and vegetable supplier has apparently moved across the road to the shrimp stalls, but I would rather go there early in the day before it gets too hot so will have to wait another day to greet him.

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