Friday, 25 July 2014


Apparently we will not be seeing Ida, Omar and baby Haddy over Tobaski as they will be going to stay with Amadou’s parents in their village.

Sibo with Ida Lee's baby Haddy
Ida has been showing us the dress that Amadou made for her, and I have to admit it is a beautiful garment and she looks stunning in it, but Amadou hasn’t had much luck recently.
His workshop had recently been burgled and many of his clients clothes had been taken, including the one he’d made for Ida, and so he’d had to start all over again, not just on hers but everybody else’s also.
The fact that a couple of his sowing machines went along with them is causing him some serious concern.
When he lays out the facts then you immediately realise that whoever did it knows his movements and so it is more likely to be somebody he knows.
It’s a sad reflection on a society that so far, hasn’t gone down the Western road.
It’s rife in the UK.
The local newspapers are all full of stories about people stealing from people they know, and now it seems to have started here ?
How sad is that ?
I’ll tell you what…
The bankers that caused the monetary collapse back in 2008 have one hell of a lot to answer for.
Once the problem filters down into countries like The Gambia, that’s when you realise the enormity of their crime.
People here had a struggling economy to start with, and being petrol based when the price of fuel goes up then the price of everything else goes up with it.
And when people without a safety net cannot afford basic food-stuffs to live on, then some will  resort to theft.
It’s happening all over the world but still nobody wants to prosecute those who caused it.
The thieves get prosecuted when caught but those who put them in the situation where theft is their only option will always walk away scot-free.
It’s not right and it never will be.
But these are the times we live in…
Corruption and graft permeate governments throughout the world.

It’s the day before Tobaski and we’re off to Killy. (Pronounced ‘Keely’)
I’ve done the journey before, but it’s quite a long drive and this time we’ve got a small truck and Kawsu, Hassanatou, Haddy and me are squeezed into the driver’s cab along with the driver.
In the back we’ve got five boxes of clothes that Haddy has managed to blag from people over here.
Basically, if they’ve got kids and even if they haven’t, we’re on the scrounge for all their outgrown clothes.
Adults stuff too, all is welcome although it has to be said, female clothing is preferred.
All they have to do is donate it and Haddy will pay to ship them to The Gambia.
So far there are eight boxes and a bag sitting in her unoccupied shop waiting for us to get there and donate to those who actually need something.
Now it’s time to get five boxes of assorted clothing out to Killy, where Osman, the head man of the village will get it out to all the villagers in the Killy locality.
Describing Killy ?
It’s quite a poor farming village is probably the easiest way of describing it ?
I have heard that they have recently got running water instead of having to draw it all from a well, but I don’t know if it’s true ? 
Anyway, it could also be described as in the interior of the country, just a short ride from The President’s village at Kanilai, and my wife owns some land there which she lets out to Ousman to grow things on.
Which, if he’s successful, Ousman will deliver a sackload of, to the kids, who will then barter whatever it is, locally, until they have a fair old swap session going on.
Let’s put it this way, it all helps.
So now the people of Killy are getting something back for helping out our family.
So what do you call it ?
Charity, as we know it, does not apply because a charity we definitely are not.
It all started when one of Haddy’s work colleagues said that her daughter was getting rid of a load of clothes that would fit the twins.
Then another one chipped in with some more for any babies she knew of, since her Granddaughter had grown out of them.
And so it had escalated…
Pretty soon we had a complete bedroom full of boxed and bagged clothing.
But look at it this way…
To a bunch of people that have very little in the first place if you think along the lines of a Western thought process, it’s all going to a good cause, so why not ?
So that’s where we were going.
Charities from the UK in The Gambia were small fry compared to Scandinavia who seem to donate a whole load more than anybody else.
Norway is probably the largest supporter in general charitable terms.
They run Rex Nursery School which is virtually next door to our compound, and where Haddy was once headmistress.
Bakau’s fire and rescue service has had a few older fire appliances donated from the UK and my friend Mark runs the charity who keep the school at Albreda/Juffereh going.
It’s called ‘Roots Nursery School’ and you can find him here… 
and all donations will be gratefully accepted.
Roots Nursery being situated in the village that produced Kunte Kinte, the hero of Alex Haley’s book about his ancestral line, ‘Roots’.
There are probably more, but those are the ones that I definitely know of ?
As for us, we’re targeting specifics.
Killy gets five boxes assorted and the village gets the other three, but Haddy decides where they are going and who gets what.
It’s only fair because she pays the shipping charges to get them out here.
The Gambia being like any other society…
If there is something going free then everybody wants something for nothing.
At least this way she gets to decide where it goes.
And any ‘chancers’ will get short thrift from her, I can tell you that.
She KNOWS where it’s most needed, because this is HER village and that is where it’ll be going.
Do you want to know what the most sought after items are ?
Larger sized brassierrres.
There seems to be no measuring process in The Gambia for breast size, and many of the women are larger and heavier  breasted than in the UK so larger sizes are prized for their comfort in fitting properly.
I mean we can talk about 32C or 38D (that’s large-ish by the way) but over in The Gambia it seems to be small, medium and large, so getting one that fits comfortably is an absolute Godsend to the womenfolk.
As a family, daughter Sainabou being a larger sized girl in the bust department, used to have serious problems getting one to fit her, so it’s a problem we are quite familiar with.
It’s a strange world when you think about it in those terms, isn’t it ?
Something all the women over here take for granted.
But over there it’s totally different.
A pretty, or striking motif on a t-shirt for teenagers.
Something the shops here and probably most of the places where you’re reading this are full of.
They’re not here.
Yes, you can buy t-shirts, but it’s that bit of difference that makes it ‘cool’, and a talking point, usually of envy, between the youth.
Haddy herself has been told that the t-shirts that she wears are not suitable for her, and that’s by the kids in her village.
Apparently she is too old to wear them ?
That attitude is swiftly curtailed by a clout around the side of a head if she can get them…
The fact that she’s probably been given it by one of the band members of whatever shirt she’s wearing doesn’t seem to cross their minds ?
My wife likes her music, so going to the local club and watching three or four bands is quite normal for her, but it doesn’t occur in The Gambia, even for the youth, so when you wear something quite striking it becomes a serious topic of conversation.
So far, nobody has hit on me for a Grateful Dead t-shirt, probably because most of the local kids can’t get their heads around the usual skull and roses motif’s, but Haddy’s been hit on quite a lot for her ‘Music Is My Weapon’ series, and also her Cropredy Festival t-shirts, so it’s definitely the sort of thing that goes down well with teenagers.
The thing is, it all helps.

When we finally reach Killy, there is nobody there.
Not literally, the old men and women and the youngsters are there but all the able-bodied are all working on The President’s farm at Kanilai.
So it’s the old women who greet us when we arrive.

Hassanatou and Haddy with Killy local
 Ousman isn’t there, and so we store all the boxes at his place before the drive back…

Part of Ousman's family
Haddy asks one of his wives to ask him to ring her when he becomes available again and that’s basically it.

Hassanatou and Kawsu

We will have spent about four hours in sweltering heat , all crammed into a truck cab.
We are however, given a chicken by Ousman's family for our efforts

Time to leave, this time with passengers... Note the chicken...

It’s a different world out there, and most people have no idea…
And that is a fact.

When we finally return, most of the day has gone.
I know one thing for certainty.
The first thing I’m going to do when we get in is to shower and have a beer unless somebody beats me to the shower…
It might end up being the other way around.

Haddy Sonko is at the compound when we return.
She is still totally committed to her artistic endeavours.

Haddy Sonko between twins
She has also grown from that young awkward teenage look into a pretty young lady.
This year I’d managed to get her some artists ‘oils’ either to paint or silk-screen with, and she seems very pleased to get them.
It’s not the sort of thing that you see much of in The Gambia, but what the hell, she’s a talented girl and there’s no reason to thwart her ambitions if you can nurture them, so any and all ‘art’ oriented supplies that we can get hold of are being sent her way
We have always said to her that we’ll help when we can, and if she can’t use the bits we send out then to please swap them with any of her artistic colleagues who might be able to use them, and this she has been doing.
She seems very pleased with the paints however, and that is enough for me.

The twins are pretty pissed off though.
Apparently their outfits are not going to be ready for tomorrow.
The local tailors who are doing them are way behind on the completion dates, despite having had them for the last three weeks.
And it’s not just the twins.
They are just two of many…
It would seem somebody has bitten off more than they can chew in the work department ?
Oh well, Tobaski tomorrow…
And it’s crunch time for me !!!

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