Our house was known as the White House some time before we arrived, I think ever since our friend they all now call Obama moved in. All very fitting with everything going on in the US at the moment. Our house is almost the last house on the edge of the village as you enter, it is Bakary’s ongoing project, it has many more facilities than the average house, two flushing toilets for a start and two hot water showers and a bath, plus a gas oven, fridge and microwave. This is by normal standards extravagant, but more specifically aimed at making European guests as comfortable as possible. As I understand it, ( but might be wrong ) most standard (or maybe public?) electrical connections don’t reach this far, though we do have (I assume) a private connection.
As we walk round in the midday sun, apart from the obvious presence of litter here and there, the smaller streets are wide and are more occupied in the mornings but dark at night, unless they are part of the electrical street lighting area. Obama explained that there are a few projects, first off, to extend the street lighting, so they are adding lights to the electrical poles around the village. The funding for this so far comes from individual contributions of families living in the village. The walk from the centre to our house in the evenings is very different at night as it is mainly in darkness as is the case around most of the edge compounds, but the high street and some paths coming off them have street lighting and remain lively.
By day the compounds are pretty much open, you see the various micro industries going on here and there. A welder, a brickmaker, wood seller, fish smoker as well signs of minor tech specialists and various piles of vegetables and fruit on tables outside compounds.
A number of public water taps can be found, many are dilapidated but quite a few work and are in clearings or at junctions of the small footpaths. People come and go with their water cans. We haven’t yet tried the well water as wanted to do a little more research before we do, but the plastic bottles are piling up ! Quite often the guys will be sitting in small groups drinking green tea (they love !! green tea here!), the kids play in the dusty sand whilst the adults chat saying “hello” and “you’re welcome” to us as we pass, the kids mostly wave or say “hello tobabo”.
I wondered if another project might be to install some low level solar powered path lights on the outer limits, as bright street-lamps wouldn’t actually be so nice as you move away from the centre and maybe a few emails to lighting manufacturers might be worth a try. We met some of the guys installing the street-lights later as Amadou had been helping them with the installation, one explained that they are putting the lights on the poles first. They have had some solar lamps donated which they will look to install later, but they anyway want to extend the (I guess public or community) electrical supply to the wider village compounds. There are so many initiatives going on around the village and they slowly start to become clearer the longer we are here, I think the most use we can be is to give these initiatives as much support as best we can, if we can, whilst we are here.
The most stunning of the public spaces is the tree canopy area, slightly away from the centre and on our way. It is such a beautiful area, the kids play there and have created a football pitch, there is also a public tap and a small shop selling bread and sweets.
This area is somewhat blighted by the rubbish dumped to the rear of it and it is an ongoing theme locally, it is socially complex, sensitive but being discussed in various directions and some actions have been tried. We have spoken to a few people who have an ongoing interest and want to talk further and perhaps this might help lead towards connecting these people and forming some further concrete next steps. But we are well aware that we have only been here to weeks, so see the face of the issue and do not plan to stay longer than six months, at most we might act as a catalyst for the energy already there to find a workable and sustainable solution both in terms of environment and practical longevity.
Hi guys, nice blogs. It’s a bit that most public spaces in Africa are not properly care for, sometimes I wonder why we have government and still cannot do the basic duties of caring for the needs of the public.
fantastic hearing your news and adventures in Gambia – quite an eye opener. love to you all