Today has been about getting run over and meeting people. Omar took me to the bank, the phone shop (Internet now working) the market and to his family house. I have also met the teachers at the little trees skills training school that are hosting me, and a lot of local Scout leaders. To get about I have been using public transport, an experience in itself.
Everyone I have met has greeted me with a big smile an a handshake. They are a very warm and friendly people who may not have many physical things but do tremendous things despite that. I have been inspired by their attitude based on the principals of Scouting. I have met too many wonderful people and had to many interesting conversations to mention them all but highlights include:
Omar’s sister (auntie and matchmaker) and her little boy who cried when I left.
The school head teacher who showed me where they teach children woodwork, welding, sewing, iT, and mechanics. He charges very in fees and struggles to pay the bills. Teachers salaries are very low. They need a new printer and there are other things I can help with using my IT contacts back home. I will be helping them in the future, this school is what Scouting is about.
The various commissioners and Scout leaders who have come to visit me this afternoon, some taking time away from work and borrowing bycicles to do so. We had long and interesting discussions on the way Scouting is implemented from addressing challenging behaviour to implement a programme to leadership training.
The young men, all Scouts, who live and work here. These are the ones that inspire me more than anything. They are dedicated to each other and to Scouting.
Public transport in Gambia seems to involve somebody getting hold of a vehicle, driving it around honking the horn, picking people up who stick out a hand, and paying a secret amount that all local people know. Omar tells me you pay a different amount based on the distance and type of vehicle. The cheapest and ones we have been using are beat up old taxis and mini buses that have been bashed and beaten into some sort of working order, the sliding door in one we used was held on by a bungee cord. They collect as many people on the way stopping and starting when necessary. A conductor rides along with the minibus, inside when there is space, outside when not. If it is a car, then the driver collects the money and gives change at the same time as dodging other road users and looking for more passengers. It is a master class in multi tasking.
To me as a driving instructor, the whole system should be regarded as highly dangerous and unsafe. Yet…look at the reality. .. It WORKS!! The people have a reliable and cheap form of transport. Compare this to the UK system of public transport, especially in Wales and other rural areas. As for safety, I have only been involved in TWO accidents, one where I was hit by a passing car but speeds are low so no damage, the driver was honking his horn on approach but I had becomedesensitised to the sound and choose to ignore it. The result… I was run over, or more accurately, I was clipped by a wing mirror. (I was not hurt). The other accident was when our minibus stopped but the motorcycle behind us did not. The minibus driver did not even get out and the motor cyclist picked up his bike and started honking at the minibus to get out of the way.
Tomorrow more meeting people and finding out about this wonderful country.