Time to party!
After the inauguration we had taken Augustine and his younger sister Saffie back with us to treat them to a night in our hotel, so the following morning we all had breakfast together, and the breakfast buffet proved a hit with the siblings. Today was to be a fun day for all of the kids; we had organised with “The Place” for them to spend the day with us, enjoying the beach, the swimming pool and a buffet lunch. It was also Haja’s 17th birthday, and we had arranged for the hotel chef to bake a birthday cake, and he went out of his way to oblige.
Before the others arrived, there was just time for a quick dip in the pool with Augustine and Saffie. The first of the two groups—shuttled in by our trusty driver Ibrahim—arrived at around 11am. A member of the hotel staff had driven the kids down from reception to the beach on a golf cart and as soon as they arrived they made a sprint for the pool with huge smiles on their faces. Within about ten seconds they were all in the water! The previous day Saffie Kanga had promised me that she’d be in the first group to arrive, and indeed she was; and she came and told me so!
Pretty in pink
With all the kids in the pool—including Aminata in interesting headwear, a pink plastic bag to keep her hair dry—I spent some time trying to teach Kanga to swim. One thing to know about Kanga, she is extremely bright and focused. She listened to every word, and put into practice everything I told her, and soon we were doing widths of the pool together. We were later joined by a few of the others for a race across the pool. Despite none of the kids actually knowing how to swim properly, nobody was afraid of the water. Saffie Conteh especially loved it, and we soon nick-named her the Water Rat.
Unfortunately, the heavens began to open again by lunch time. We retired to the colonial-style terrace area for the buffet lunch, but it soon became obvious that a move indoors was necessary as the rain began to lash down. A few of the girls made use of our chalet on the beach front to go and dry themselves off, but somehow they came back even wetter than they went in! It emerged that they had been having fun with the shower, claiming they needed to warm themselves up. It was a chilly 28 degrees, after all.
Once everyone was dry, we were able to celebrate Haja’s birthday and present her with her cake, complete with candle, of course. Not to leave the other kids out, we also handed out gifts to those kids with birthdays coming up in the next weeks, but essentially nobody left empty-handed. Haja later described it as one of the happiest days of her life, but everybody enjoyed themselves.
With the rain still pouring down, we played games like Mikado (pick-up sticks) and dominos. Ibrahim and Pastor Obi engaged in a very competitive game of cards, Augustine fancied himself as a Mikado expert, and Momoh proved a dab hand at dominos.
A walk into Tokeh village
The evening was already drawing in by the time the kids had to head back to MercyHome, and we decided to let Augustine and Saffie stay with us for one more night. We enjoyed dinner together, and afterwards took a stroll outside of the hotel grounds, venturing into the village of Tokeh itself. We had become friendly with one of the staff, Ibrahim, who worked in the hotel gardens (and the gardens at “The Place” are something to behold, by the way), and he soon caught us up and took us to see his grandmother in the village, leading us through the small alleyways and greeting friends as we passed by their homes. We also stopped to pay our respects to the head of Tokeh village—Chief James—but he wasn’t home, though we were able to greet his wife. It transpired that the chief had sold much of the village to the owners of “The Place”, who had developed the land for the hotel. In return, “The Place” employs a lot of local people from the village.
It was dark by this time, and although still very wet and muddy, the rain had stopped. The main street through Tokeh is lined by small residences, little more than shacks that have been cobbled together, and a couple of bars and vendors selling mostly food. There is a guy in the village who owns a large generator, and the villagers all pay him a fee to run electricity and lights. We were told there is a charge per lightbulb per day. The street was crowded, there is always plenty of action, whatever time of day. We met another guy who was keen to be our guide and take us on a boat trip to Banana Island, but unfortunately we were coming to the end of our stay and on this trip we had little time for tourism. One day we hope to explore more of this beautiful country, and a boat trip is definitely on the cards.
We eventually returned to the hotel, where to finish the day the artistic Saffie did some pencil drawings, while I went through some of Augustine’s writings to work with him on his English. Augustine is very keen to become a journalist. Make sure you read some of his blog posts here, too!
Part 7, coming soon…