Tuesday, 15 March 2011

hello and welcome...

to pupils reading from Inverness Royal Academy who will be heading out to The Gambia soon. Have a wicked time! x

final days

My final couple of weeks in The Gambia were lovely. I said goodbye to some incredible friends, to people who went out of their way to make me feel at home and deal with situations and people that weren't always easy. Time and time again I am overwhelmed by the generous and caring nature of people in this country; whatever little there is will be shared.

Our favourite cluster monitor Seedy came to say goodbye

and gave me a Gambian outfit, a traditional leaving gift.

The secretary, cleaner and cook from work.

The people I'll miss the most

I had learned a few months before the end of my stay that my Dad would be coming to visit for my final week. I left Soma to return to the Kombos 3-weeks before I left the country, so unfortunately Dad would not get to see where I had been living and working, or get a ride on my beloved motorbike! We were booked into the Kairaba Beach Hotel and I was really looking forward to a little bit of luxury.

Chaos descended on flights leaving Europe with an unusually early dump of snow, so it was with some uncertainty that I waited for him to arrive. Thankfully, with only a slight delay, and the help of out wonderful taxi driver Lamin, I was able to collect Dad from the airport safe and sound. We checked into the hotel, where I enjoyed my first hot shower in months, then headed into town for the VSO christmas party!

It is surprising how quickly you get used to things in The Gambia.... I was a little disappointed that Dad would only experience the relative luxury of the Kombos, but seeing things through a fresh pair of eyes, I realised that what had become luxury to me was still a developing country. We had a wonderful week and two of the highlights for me were the monkey park (where we managed to see Red Colobus and Green Vervet monkeys and an enormous Monitor Lizard!) and seeing the fish market in Bakau.

me relaxing on the beach!

Red Colobus Monkey

Example of how jungle-like the monkey park was, I stamped my way along to scare off snakes!

Bakau Fish Market

My Dad!

Women in traditional dress.

Mini Monitor - not lile the one in the monkey park which must have 2 metres long!

Not shy!

After plentiful delays, Dad's flight back to the UK eventually left and I checked into Hibiscus House Hotel for my final 2 nights in the country. This hotel is my most favourite place. A little oasis of calm, away from the madness of Senegambia, the hotel is set in lovely gardens in the small town of Brufut. I believe there is a lovely beach nearby, but both times I have stayed here I haven't wanted to leave the hotel!

My room at Hibiscus House - much, much nicer than any of the hotels in Senegambia.... luxury.
Small but perfectly formed.

After topping up my tan, making up for missed white wine and saying a sad goodbye to my VSO friends, I eventually got a flight (after a tearful few hours when no planes appeared to be leaving Brussels and I feared I wouldn't make it back for christmas) back home. The snow was a shock to the system as we descended into Manchester, but it was great to be back and needing a blanket!

Any views expressed are my own and are not representative of VSO.