MBG Volunteer Phoebe's Blog

Had a lovely relaxing day at the beach last Sunday before starting at the school. There is a lodge we like which serves a delicious buffet on Sundays, like an English barbecue! The last week has been fun but quite tough. Have spent the mornings shadowing teachers at school and learning how things work, so we are past the exciting 'holiday' way we spent the first week!

The school works very differently from ours.. The headmaster is incredibly strict. In assembly on Monday morning there was led Islamic prayer and then led Christian prayer. After that the children sung the national anthem, received a lecture on cleanliness and all the girls got kept behind to have their uniforms checked for being too tight ( the one thing which is similar to England)! Sophie, Duncan and I had to stand up and introduce ourselves to the school. This caused laughter and chatting, hopefully in a curious rather than malicious way.

Seeing the way the classes work is interesting. The English lessons seem very advanced to me! I'm definitely going to have to revise some things, because English as a foreign language is very different from our English lessons. The teaching is good, but the explanations sometimes confusing and pronunciation is often wrong. The thing which frustrates us is that the pupils spelling and spoken English is very poor, yet they know all these fancy tenses and grammar rules. It would be more useful to them to go back to basics!

The classrooms are the standard African school rooms of wooden benches, tables, and a blackboard.

The afternoons have been nice, I've spent them sat in my compound reading, chatting to people and drinking 'hatayah' - their very sweet green tea! Then often meet the others for a drink at a 'restaurant' in the village.

 Wednesday and Thursday were particularly tough, being ill with the worst stomach I can remember ever having. Far from ideal when you don't have a real toilet! But I was looked after very well and they understood that I didn't want or need food.

Have made some exciting plans for the weekends to get us through the weeks! This weekend we just went to the beach lodge for the day and relaxed, the waves were brilliant! Also beginning lesson planning for the real teaching next week. There's another wedding, this time in my compound! The ceremonies are endless, in two weeks I've been to 3 naming ceremonies and 2 weddings! When we were at the beach we saw, from a distance, a circumcision ceremony. It was quite alarming to watch. About 20 young boys ran into the sea to wash, it was the first time since being circumcised they were allowed to wash, having spent 3 weeks recovering away from home and not allowed to see their family. There were 3 men wearing full body suits in red and 1 in brown, you couldn't see their faces and the suits were covered in tassels, kind of like a red yeti! But they charged around the beach clashing massive knives together to ward off evil spirits from the boys. When we asked about it they said many of the circumcisions happen in the traditional way, not in a hospital and with no pain killers. Even for the girls. There are campaigns to stop FGM here but apparently not having an impact, it is a tribal tradition which will continue for the time being.

Did my first clothes wash yesterday with a bucket of water and soap! They offered to do it for me but thought I'd have a go. It was quite fun but took ages.

It's so noisy here, every morning I'm woken up by prayer call from the mosque around 5.30 and then the cockerels start making noise, then the goats, the babies and dogs. It's similar at night with people shouting and playing music! I'm still getting chips everyday for supper, so I'll probably come home very fat!!

Find out more about volunteering in The Gambia Work Placements in Gunjur.