Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Water for Bakang and Balatsit - update

Here are some pictures of the new wells, taken recently by Nura. The top picture is the second Bakang well after a bit of cleaning up by the community folks. Pix 2 and 3 show the storage tanks near the new well at the crossroads in Balatsit. They've installed a fence around the tanks and they also dug in some steps (more than visible here) to make it easier to get up and down the slope. There's also a fence around the well itself (not shown here).

You can see we've got some happy people there! Our next trip is planned for January, to start connecting everything with a storage system at the top of the school hill. Stay tuned!

Dr. Steve

Read Sarah's posts below!!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Well 2 drilled! Engineers with TWO WELLS!

How long does it take to drill a well?

About 5 days, without any major problems. Well 2 in Balatsit is now complete to 51 meters, cleaned and a little late.

How long does it take to install a pump and piping, and wire a solar controller?

Approximately 4.5 hours. FORAX finished cleaning the well the day I had to leave village, in fact the day of my flight out of Cameroon. I arrived at the second site at 6:30am. My flight wasn’t until 10:50pm. It started to rain. Well drilling belongs in the category of ‘Dirty Jobs’ for a reason, but I think it’s even messier in Africa because of the clay. The drilling had already saturated the land around the well. For spatial reasons, we had located the tanks and panels uphill from the well. Not only were we stepping through shoe deep mud around the well to lower the pump, but also climbing up and down this small, wet mound to get to the tanks and panels. So in order to get down this mound to get one of the million tools partially sheltered from the rain in one of the boutiques, I would plant my feet and slide down, snowboard-style...except not that graceful. To get up it, I had to have someone pull me with a length of PVC. It was mildly hilarious.

Rain. rain. rain on my parade.

We finished everything but wiring the float switch and covering the trenches by 11am, at which point I had to leave to catch a five-hour bus to Younde. Janvier will finish the wiring and cover the trenches and Nura will report on how the system is operating.

Two moto rides, one five-hour bus ride, three taxis and two planes later, I arrived at home. The last question on the airport custom’s form asks if you are bringing soil into the country. I lied. I had changed my clothes before boarding, but there was nothing I could do about my shoes. My shoes are caked in mud and when I arrived in Newark International Airport, I think it was fairly evident from my appearance that I installed a pump in Africa this morning in the rain, in spite of my efforts to clean the mud off my arms and legs with wet wipes.

It didn’t occur to me that the next time I had internet access to post this news would be after I had hugged my family, ate a cheeseburger and took a hot shower. My skin no longer has a red-orange tint, but I feel like maybe I lost something more than just the clay engrained in my skin. I already miss Bamendjou.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

1 well drillled!!!!!! woooo finally Engineers WITH a WELL

I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while. Here is a summary, in order of increasing importance:

I ate cookies for breakfast this morning because the donut (aka benyay ...sp?) place across the street was closed.

The other day, I used a machete for the first time. I cut all of the tall grasses in Nura's garden to clear the way for new plants, while alternatively cursing and talking to them. Yes, the weeds are anglophone, and yes I am going crazy. The grass grew back before we had the chance to fully pull it up and plant.

I ate meat for the first time in two weeks the other day. We killed a chicken in the yard. And by we, I mean that I took no part in it whatsoever, but I did eat it. Rather guiltily. I hope I'm not becoming a vegetarian (sorry Dr. Steve).

On Sunday, the technician from Baffoussam gave his final word that the drill rig had been fixed and left. On Monday, FORAX finished drilling at the first site. They had hit water at 28 meters, drilled to 51 meters, and cased or screen down to 46 meters. On Tuesday, they finished developing the well with the air lift compressor. After 14 days and probably about 6 broken parts, they finished the work they had promised us in the beginning would only take 3 days. 

And so, yesterday they went to move the rig to the second drill site and (I would say this should have been fairly predictable by now) it wouldn't start. It was a problem completely unrelated to the air hammer pump fiasco - the truck battery had died. I'm generally not a superstitious person, but at this point, I was wondering if perhaps we were drilling on sacred land, maybe I had done something in a past life, used up all my good luck on other ewb trips. I took out my frustration by trying to dig the trenches to lay the piping with a pick ax. Its a lot harder than it looks, and Janvier decided I was doing it wrong anyway and took over. The mason came and laid the concrete foundation around the well to set the pump base, all the while the drill group was waiting for yet another technician to fix their truck. 

Well, I like technicians. The drill rig is now set up at the second site, ready to drill this well is 3 days, as I am assured by the still-optimistic drilling team...barring any technical problems, of course. In the highly unlikely scenario that they finish drilling by Friday (oh my gosh, that's tomorrow!), I will owe Guy a drink...but I have a feeling I am going to win this bet. 

With all the piping and foundations laid, and trenches dug at the first site, today we lowered the pump and finished wiring. The sun was shining and for the first time in 2 weeks, something went absolutely and perfectly right...the pump turned on powered by the solar panels and filled the tank. I love solar power. I understand that problems are inevitable, and learning from them is invaluable. Such is engineering, such is life. But it is wonderful when something just works and you don't have to fight for it. 

I am still looking forward to tomorrow, but not because I'll be one day closer to leaving.

much love,

Friday, June 26, 2009

Public Enemy Number 1: The hill

I ran to Bakang yesterday. That's right, in case you missed the verb in that sentence, I ran. Ok, so I almost died, but it was the hill that almost killed me. The Bakang hill, me and the mile elevation do not get along at all. I swear, by the end of my stay here, I will be able to run up the Bakang hill. I might need a little more than 10 days though. Being here without a car has deepened my respect for the people from Bakang and Balatsit. They climb this hill when they want something from town, usually with 30 lbs of stuff on their head, and I have difficulty walking up it, carrying just myself. Who needs an institution like the gym when it takes so much energy just to survive?

While the drillers are still (STILL) searching for the right part in Baffoussam, I went with Nura to Baham to meet with her students about their service projects. We took a moto taxi there, which is by far my favorite mode of transportation here. I love most modes of transportation that involve the wind in face, but there is nothing like a moto ride through Cameroon. Except perhaps if I was driving it. But for all of its lax or non-existent road rules, I don't think Cameroon is ready for do not worry. However, this moto ride, I was wondering what would happen if my left flip flop got caught in the drive chain but I couldn't move my leg because the moto driver was half sitting on my lap. After the meeting, we walked to the next town, two hours away, to get a moto back. I got some donuts for the road, which are fried dough balls sprinkled with sugar, much like American donuts except better since they don't have additives or preservatives. Donuts and motos. It was a good day.

Today I'm going to camp out at the drill site in Bakang and supervise the repair of the drill rig. I will update you all on the status soon!


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ashia for well drilling and the very rainy season

The well drillers brought yet another piece from Douala to fix the rig. It didn't to work and they are sending someone back to Douala to find a new piece, but the earliest they will be able to begin again is Wednesday, which is code for Thursday. We are still at meter 35. So you have another blog devoid of engineering fun as there has been none, but believe me, I am just as disappointed as you. I learned a new word that sums up our entire Cameroonian well drilling experience and that is "Ashia." Nura says that, loosely translated, this word means "I'm sorry that your life sucks" or "I feel your pain." It can be said in conjunction with a number of things such as "ashia for stomach" if you hear someone has a stomach ache. So, "ashia for well drilling."

Nura returned and brought her wealth of knowledge of french and cooking foods that aren't rice. Did you know that you can make cheese cake without cheese? We made cheese cake the other night (and by we, I mean Nura...I'm pretty sure all I did was watch the small miracle) from a recipe found in the PVC survival cookbook "Chop Fayner" (pigeon for "Good Eating"). It was good eating. Amazing, actually.

We went to market in Baffoussam so that I could buy warm clothes. Riding four wide in the back of a bush taxi is less fun than it looks, but I am happily much warmer now and hopefully, a little less smelly. I learned that you can do pretty much all your food shopping by sitting outside at a restaurant and calling to the street vendors who walk past carrying their wares. Lemons, limes, carrots, onions all walked by and joined their place in Nura's shopping bag for dinner later.

I was caught in a downpour yesterday in Bakang with Nura and another visiting Peace Corps Volunteer. It occurs to me now that EWB has never been to Cameroon during the actual rainy season. For those of you who have been to Bakang, you know that there are two very steep slopes on the way to village. You know that they are roads simply because they lack vegetation, but their general incline, and rocky/rutted nature resists even a four-wheel drive vehicle's attempts to climb them. You know that once the rain starts the clay turns slick as ice and nearly as deadly. Well, now imagine these two slopes in a downpour, when they turn into venerable waterfalls. Imagine walking up and down them in flipflops. I can tell you, it just might be possible to get hypothermia in Cameroon.

The rain knocked down the power line to Nura's house. Perhaps it is less of a powerline and more of an extension cord running through the garden and propped up on a stick, out of the reach of the massive brussel sprout plants that are taking over. When this happens, of course you would ask your neighbor, Bernard the Metallurgist to fix it, because, as a welder, surely he would also know how to fix powerlines. Of course, he did. But as he twisted the connections together, sparks flying everywhere, and wrapped it with my spare roll of electrical tape (which apparently I carry everywhere for emergencies such as these), it struck me as perhaps not the best thing to do in the rain. Bernard is a hero.

The sun is out so I'm going to work in the garden, while avoiding the the powerline and the lurking brussel sprout plants which might eat me.



Sunday, June 21, 2009

J'aime les arachides

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!! It is father's day, right? I thought perhaps I missed it back in January when my sister Katie told me it was Father's Day and I believed her.

This is Sarah here. Alas, all the ewb kids have left for the States but me. And my team, of course, which consists of Nura the Peace Corps Volunteer and Guy, although neither of them are around at the moment. I stayed behind to oversee the well drilling here, and install the pumps in the off-chance that FORAX finishes drilling in the next two weeks. As I have surprisingly little to do and no anlgophones to bother, I suspect there will be many blog posts from me in Bamendjou. I am staying at Nura's house which has running water, electricity most of the time, and internet when I can figure out how to get it to work (apparently Africa is too techy for me).

For subsaharan Africa, it is surprisingly cold and rainy. Since we are still at an impasse with well drilling, the first thing on my agenda is to buy warm clothes. That is, once I can figure how to say "where can I find a winter parka?" in French. No one left me with a French-English dictionary, and after many failed conversations in which I may have convinced the people of Bamendjou that I am the village idiot, I have developed a prodigious phobia of Francophones. At any rate, I haven't made any progress on developing the community relationship. Hopefully, Nura will come back soon and explain to Bamendjou that I'm not stupid or mute and that if I look lost, one should just give me peanuts and try not to say anything to me involving any French verbs or nouns. Apparently, the only words I know, which incidentally are "peanuts" (les arachides) and "well" (forage), will not get me terribly far in life, especially when all I want is long pants, a winter coat and maybe some gloves. Although a cheeseburger might be nice too.

Once the rain stops, I am going to walk to the Bakang drill site to see if driller's have fixed the rig and I will let you know if they have (the status, as of my walk yesterday, was unchanged). In the meantime, I am going to make some instant coffee, watch the rain and try not to hold my breath.

much love from the 'roon,


Friday, June 19, 2009

A few pix . . .

Just a few pictures as we pack up from our hotel in Yaoundé....

This is in Balatsit. We're putting together the rack for solar panels. You can see our water tanks in the background, and the local folks mixing concrete for the tanks' support base. In the way background is the road co,ing down the hill fro, the Bakang school, where the big storage tank is to be. Kids are coming down because school just let out - it was the last say so they all had their report cars ("bulletins") saying if they passed!

Here's the rack with panels on! This was a hot day with only an occasional breeze.

And here is the well drilling operation, progressing very slowly, on the other side of the hill in Bakang. When they finally finish this, they'll drill near the setup shown in the above pictures in Balatsit.

The uploading is pretty slow, so this is all for now. I'm sure Sarah will be blogging while she waits for the well drilling to get done. Don't worry, she has a great support team with her. But I told people that she is the "Directrice!"

-Dr. Steve, Yaoundé June 16th

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Wanted: two borehole wells !

I know we’ve been derelict on posting stuff for all you folks. Things get awful busy here, and we’ve had more problems with stomach upsets and other illnesses than on any previous trip. But nonetheless we’ve succeeded in installing two complete solar panel arrays and 6,000 liters of storage tanks. We’ve also had meetings and discussions with lots of people about possible future projects as the current work is getting a lot of attention.

Our current project will get water into portions of the neighboring chiefdom of Balatsit, which is very comparable to Bakang in many respects: very high plateau with many households having no potable water. Yesterday we were shown a spring (see above) that runs year round from a cleft high on the hillside between Balatsit and Bakang. This would be a nice source of water into a distribution system if adequately protected. We took a sample and we’re running a fecal coliform analysis to see if there’s bacterial contamination, which is quite probable with the presence surroundings. Someday maybe we can put in a protected storage facility, and perhaps a solar-powered pump to feed this general area with potable water.

We’ve also worked with the local chiefs and water committees to plan out the water distribution system and tapstands. We’ll work with them next trip to get everything installed. The water storage tank needs to be planned out in more detail, and we went over some plans that the Mayor had for a different site to see the general layout that they’re used to.

ok, so you’re wondering about the WELLS that we have been waiting on. That’s our current bottleneck and there’s no good news. The company hasn’t even finished the first of the two wells – now due to a mechanical breakdown – so they’re two weeks late. Our flight leaves tomorrow, so we cannot stay to connect everything. We’ve asked for some cost reductions in view of this, and we are paying for Sarah’s flight to be rescheduled to stay an extra 10 days. She’ll work with Nura, Guy, and the local folks as our “skeleton team” to get both systems up and working before she comes back on the 30th. This is not the best situation, but it does insure that we don’t leave an unfinished project behind us. It occurs to me that it also shows what local support we’ve built up around this effort over that past years.

We'll post again from Yaounde. Gotta go.
Dr. Steve

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Belated Update

Hello friends and family! Life here in Bamenjou and Bakang has been remarkably busy, but exciting, these past couple weeks. Since arriving here from Yaounde we've faced some challenges, but nonetheless spirits are high and we've managed to accomplish a lot of our planned tasks ahead of schedule. We've also been very pleased to witness an even higher level of community involvement than ever before. In this blog I hope to run through some of the setbacks we have faced and the increasing number of accompishments which will hopefully allow us to finish everything we planned before leaving the Cameroon.

The first night we arrived in Bamenjou we had dinner with Nura, our friendly neighborhood Peace Corps volunteer. She has been an invaluable resource; acting as our eyes and ears in Bamenjou and Bakang when we're not in the country. One of the first bits of news she gave us was that the community in Bakang had installed a door on the enclosure around the crossroads water tanks. The door is locked at night and has posted hours of operation. This means that well/tank use is monitored by responsible people, and at night the tank spigots can not be left open or broken. While technically this is a small step, it is very significant with regards to demonstrating greater community responsibility.

Nura also informed us that the community has recently purchased gravel, sand and concrete to contruct more slow sand filters. The next day we drove to Bakang and were very pleased to see some of villagers mixing conrete and filling the steel molds we gave them. Meanwhile, children were streaming to and from the well water tanks to fill buckets.

After witnessing this new level of community involvement, our spirits were further bolstered by a very touching ceremony where Dr. Steve was crowned a prince in Bakang. While having a prince as our faculty advisor is certainly novel, ultimately it was the message conveyed by the chief and the water committee that really encouraged us. We were told of of decreasing levels of water borne illnesses amongst the villagers. We also witnessed monetary pledges from villagers that had emigrated to the big cities around Cameroon. These pledges will help support the water committee and its efforts to maintain the sand filters and wells in the community. All in all the community is taking an increasing level of ownership over this project, and we couldn't be more excited to see this.

However, as I alluded to, there have been setbacks. By far the most frustrating one has been the progress on drilling the two new wells. As I write this entry, the well drilling company is over 5 days late to begin drilling on the first new well. We have been assured that each well takes at most 3 days to drill. Hopefully this will give us enough time to complete both new sites before we must leave the country. Omenously, we were also assured that the well drilling team would be here last Monday. Needless to say we are a little bit nervous.

The flip side of this situation is that since we have not had to supervise the well drilling, we have had time to work on the various other tasks in front of us. As of the 13th, we have built both racking systems and mounted all the solar modules. Most of intra-module electrical wiring is complete. The racks have been set in conrete footings and the concrete slabs/foundations for the water tanks have been poured. The first rack was designed and built at home before we left. This aluminum rack was easy to assemble in country and was set in concrete with the modules mounted in less than half a day. The second rack was a much different story. In effort to use in country materials, we relied on a Cameroonian supplier for the modules and racking system for the second well. While the modules are slightly used and cost about twice as much, they work fine. Unfortunately, the rack itself was more or less a disaster. Not only did the modules not fit into the rack, but it was also made from steel that was "galvanized" with silver paint. It took us two wrecked drill bits, about $200 dollars worth of additional materials and tools, and two days worth of work, but we were able to modify the rack and it is now installed at site two. Yesterday the modules were mounted and the legs were set in concrete. Now both racks sit waiting to be connected to the well pumps.

We have also had time to assemble most of the wiring and many of the fittings for the water pipes. The hope is that this well allow us to just drop in the well pump and screw together a few fittings, bolt the well cap and wire connectors and have a significant portion of the well systems complete in a short period of time.

Today a portion of the team will be at the well sites laying the concrete blocks and placing the water tanks. The goal is to have all wiring and piping connections completed as soon as possible. If the worst case scenario occurs and both wells are not completed before we leave, we aim to leave the systems in such a state that members of the community will have a manageable level of work to do in order for the wells to be completed without our physical help.

Over the next couple days another part of the team will be evaluating elevations, possible piping routes, and spigot locations for the distribution system we hope to implement. Concurrently the assessment team will also be doing site assessments and water quality tests at existing hand-dug wells in the neighboring village of Balatsit. The goal is to evaluate underground water levels and also get an idea of where water is being used in the village. These efforts will help us monitor the water table as our wells are used more and more. This issue will become increasing important when we implement the distribution system.

As we approach the home stretch of the trip, the days ahead appear daunting. However, the team is still positive, and each day we seem to be functioning more efficiently. Moreover, despite various bouts with travel sickness and fatigue the team is now in good health and increasingly eager to work. Last night, Nura, with some help from Alyssa, prepared a wonderful trio of of red, cream, and pesto sauces along with some spaghetti for dinner. It was welcome change from the usual rice, beans, and chewy Cameroonian chicken. The heavy dose of carbohydrates should give us all the energy we need to push forward and make this implementation trip a success.

I'll end this entry with some assorted pictures of the people we're working with.

- Ramsey

Nura: a source of comfort, comic relief, delicious food, and valuable community relations.

Local children playing a game while we are working on installing the solar modules in Balatsit.

Janvier working on the concrete slabs for the water tanks.

The ever helpful Guy: our driver, part/tool finder, soccer player, and cowboy.

Little Guy, affectionately known as "El Diablito."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Quick Update

Hey everyone! I appologize for the lack of blog posts, we've been working non stop. I just wanted to give a quick shout out to Andrew for all the effort he put into organizing when helping the travel team pack all our bags. Its saved us from a lot of headaches! Edwin definitely deserves a shout out too for making sure all our funding was accounted for and in the right place (Andrew helped with that too). And Sam, we really apprecieate that lovely binder you put together for us about well drilling. We'll get to use it as soon as FORAX shows up... And I have to give a big shout out to the whole design team for all of their imput and hard work behind the scenes. We are here because of all the hard work you put forth.

I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned it yet, but the people of Bakang have managed to impress again. When we had dinner with Nura the first night in the village, she told us that the water committee installed a door and a lock on the fence that they built in January and only have it open during certain hours. This doesn't really seem like a big deal, but its actually HUGE... The community of Bakang has completely taken ownership of the pilot solar powered water pumping system. That means we are one step closer to a sustainable solution in Bakang. We didn't ask the community to put up a fence around the panels and storage tank. We didn't ask them to make a drainage system for in front tanks. We didn't ask them to mount a door and only have the tanks open during certain hours of the day. They did all of this on their own accord. AND ANOTHER THING, they're making water filters!! Isn't that awesome?!? Thanks everyone who sponsored filters!!! Okay, well there's a lot more to get done tonight before the well drillers get started tomorrow! Keep your fingers crossed!


Monday, June 8, 2009

How do you say Swage-Lock in French?

For the first time in 4 days I finally have enough time and energy to sit down and write an entry for our blog. Since arriving in Yaounde, and then Bamenjou, we have been working non-stop to assemble and organize parts for our project in Bakang. Thankfully our team has done an amazing job of planning all our daily tasks and has assembled the parts and tools we need to accomplish them. After months of discussion and debate, packing lists and designs have been put together. Never the less, no matter how much foresight (or hindsight from previous trips) we have, little things still get overlooked.

When I was working in R&D at a solar cell manufacturer we undertook numerous projects that required months of planning. Even in such a professional setting, surrounded by engineers with 20+ years of experience, details would be overlooked. The main difference from EWB was that when we were missing a part or tool, we'd just go on a web site, look up a part number and forward it to our purchasing manager. The next day after our morning cup of coffee, we'd walk to our desks, and receiving would have dropped off our missing part. Usually by the end of the day we'd have the part installed and tested. If we had the wrong part, we'd leave it on the desk of our purchasing manager with a new part number and he'd handle the exchange. That was real life in the working world.

Now I'm in Cameroon. Things are a little different here. We're lucky to have internet access every few days. Every purchase we want to make requires a translator. If we're lucky parts may be available in Baffousam which is about a 30 minute drive from where we are. In some cases parts will only be available in Yaounde (about 4 hours away). And in many cases they aren't available anywhere in the country. All this makes for some interesting adventures at local metal shops and plumbing supply stores.

On our last day in Yaounde we were fortunate enough to discover a plumbing supply store where the fittings we required for our well pumps and piping were available. Dr. Steve, Sarah, and I wandered into the “Maison Du Plombier.” Dr. Steve served as our translator, and I was the money man. Sarah was the most knowledgeable and we let her pick out all of the parts, much to the bemusement of everyone working at the store. They were very surprised to see a little white woman happily fitting together various parts to make sure they worked. They wondered if she was a plumber. We tried to explain to them that she was a mechanical engineer, but they decided she was a mechanic, and ended up even more confused. In the end though, they were very happy to help us, and we left with all the parts we needed.

After that experience, I suspect that many parts and materials are available somewhere in Cameroon (at prices that could be wildly higher or lower than in the US). However, finding the suppliers can be quite tricky if you don't speak French, or don't know who to talk to. Moreover, with only a limited amount of time, driving all over town looking for stores is not an option. It adds a new dimension to engineering, that a typical US education, or even a professional job, does not prepare you for. Ultimately, this lesson is only one of the benefits that EWB provides to its members. While parts supply issues are always frustrating, I am sure the patience and persistence that we are all acquiring will be invaluable in our future careers.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Dr. Steve: I've been named a "Prince" of Bakang

ok, I've been an Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Full Professor . . .
Did you know that the next rank is Prince? Here you see me being promoted by the chief of Bakang II in front of a gathering of Bakang villagers. The wardrobe is genuine, handmade and donated by the Water Committee President. The crowd even sang a song in patois that (I'm told) was all about the wonderful things I've done.

Thing is, I don't really deserve this. Firstly, it's the students who make this possible, and there are lots of them who have been to Bamendjou and Bakang to help, and others who provide the behind the scenes support, including tireless fundraising work. And of course there are LOTS of folks who provide the finances that underwrite our efforts. You *all* deserve this recognition.

And secondly, we are not finished. The people of Bakang are grateful already, but there's no time to rest on laurels. As I write this, Matt, Sarah, and Ramsey are stuffing cables through conduit to get ready for pump installation. We'll be rushed because the well drillers are starting a day and a half later than we thought. Taylor and Alyssa are putting together a detailed work schedule to deal with this.

So I'll try to keep my ego in check. But I did call my wife to tell her that her husband is now a prince and a village Notable. She said these titles will not apply in Delaware.

But they do send a *message* to Delaware. They really love what we do!

Dr. Steve

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Travel Team made it to Bamendjou

Sarah called and let me know that the travel team has safely made the long car ride to the village.  She mentioned something about a little car trouble (i.e. the car not turning on) that caused a bit of a delay, but they persevered and made it.  They are off to find some dinner and get ready for the work ahead.  Keep checking back for their posts!


de le debutante (Matt)

Bonjour friends/fans/members of EWB! The flight over here went well enough, everyone arrived in Yauonde with just enough energy to get to work on things right away. Besides a few questions on aspects of the project that the team has yet to decide on, the main thing that has been on my mind the past two days is culture shock. Having done a bit of traveling before, I knew to expect it, but let me illustrate the particularly stark contrast in conditions I experienced in 24 hours. One minute I'm in a an immaculately clean airport in Belgium. I buy a coffee and the cashier exchanges money with me on a little plastic mat on the counter, so our hands never touch. I learn from Dr. Steve that the country doesn't let any non-biodegradable plastic bags into the country for environmental reasons. In the restroom, I experience the Dyson Airblade, a device that uses carefully engineered nano-vortices for the simple act of drying your hands.
After another 8 hour flight, I feel kind of dirty and smelly after traveling for so long, but I'm strangly relieved when I arrive in Yaounde and there isn't an inch of the airport that doesn't smell like human body odor. I'm walking out of the airport in Yauonde with people reaching for my bags, and just saying "dollar, dollar" to me. We get in the car, our driver stops and looks both ways at a circular red sign on the way out of the airport, and I haven't seen a traffic sign since. Merging into another lane in Yaounde is just a game of chicken between the two drivers, and people pass one another pretty much whenever they feel like it. But it isn't complete disorder, there is communication between drivers by use of hand gestures, (some of which I could tell were for those not-so-friendly sentiments highways are known for). Despite all this our driver, Guy, handled everything with complete confidence, and our car was calmer than you would expect.
If the traffic situation isn't telling enough of the area's need for improved infrastructure, the train track outside of my hotel room seems to be used more by cyclists and pedestrians than trains. Things may sound chaotic here, but all the Cameroonians I've encountered have made things run smoothly. The are generally laid-back, and have been very helpful in finding my way around (and without laughing at my french!). Even the people who make a living selling things to tourists are much less annoying than other places I have been; they quickly get the picture when you are not interested, and never become aggressive. I'm thankful that everything has gone relatively well so far, and that the team is in good health and good spirits, and I am generally optimistic about the trip.


Luggage off!

Here we are (Ramsey, Saeah, Alyssa, Taylor, and our driver Guy in the background) after loading all the solar panels and mounting equipment into the SUV. Obviously we can't fit all this plus ourselves, so we ship the equipment by bus. In fact, there will be another load with our luggage then a load of plastic pipe! Then we head off to the High Plateau. The practice is to never drive at night, so we'll leave here by 1 .

In the background you can see the power lines. Yaounde has the best infrastructure in Cameroon and we'll miss it. But the rural areas have a beauty of their own.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Dr. Steve checks in

Hi everybody! EWB-UD has landed in Cameroon for the fifth time! All of our tools, equipment, and personal belongings also got here just fine. Mr. Mukam had arranged for us to be picked up, so we're now at out hotel. We were pleased to find that the bathrooms have been redone in Hotel Mansel and so the hot water appears to be functioning very nicely. Mr. Mukam stopped by to say hello, and he will also meet us in Bamendjou later this week.We have a lot to do tomorrow, and also during this entire visit. A big question is siting the new wells, which we need to decide on pretty soon. Tomorrow we also visit the College of Public Works to continue our collaboration with them; we also need to purchase equipment for the solar panel system, and a host of other tasks. I pulled an all-nighter writing a research proposal before leaving the U.S. - this is a standard practice I employ to avoid jet lag, but for some reason I'm pretty tired and it's only 9:30 here. So I'll just post this entry and we'll be getting more updates to you soon. Thanks for all the messages already - stay tuned!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

water is life. Cameroon June 2009.

The Cameroon team is leaving tomorrow to work on expanding the solar water pumping system in Bakang. Check back periodically and leave a comment/post! water is life.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Our deepest gratitude goes out to all those who made this trip possible...

The team has finally made it home tonight after a 24 hour delayed flight trying to leave Cameroon on Saturday.  Hooray!  Job well done team!  We are glad to have you home!

The travel team had a lot of people helping to make this trip possible this semester.  They were supported by a design team of about 25 students who worked extremely hard trying to create the best design for our filter mold, working on efficiency calculations, researching all aspects of sustainability, and looking into expanding our solar water pumping system.  Great job design team!

This trip also would not have been possible without the support of the College of Engineering or the Alumni Association.  Thank you to all who have donated to our chapter over the last couple of years!  In particular, thank you Murphy's Steel for providing and bending the steel for our mold, and Danny Richardson and Steve Beard for helping to troubleshoot mold construction problems.

We are holding a Benefit Dinner on Thursday March 12th at the Marriott Courtyard in Newark, DE.  To further support this organization visit our homepage at and register for the event.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

All I ever needed to know about life I learned from an engineer... Alyssa

When I told my dad I was going to Africa, he had two main concerns. One was that I would not have enough food to eat. This was a non issue as Martine daily cooked enough rice to feed a group three times our size.
The second was that I would not be coming home for six months. This is legitimate for my parents to worry about. Over the past six years, my travels have become much longer and farther from home. And to be quite honest, the two weeks I have spent here have rivaled some of my favorite trips I have taken. There is nothing about this place that does not take your breath away, whether it be the red brick houses, the kids playing the same games of tag and soccer that we did as kids, or the way that doing something as a simple gesture of kindness can get you a marriage proposal.
My dad was right to be concerned about me not coming home for awhile. Even though we get on the plane to Paris in a couple hours, I am not at all ready to leave. I have so many questions that I still want answers to and so many people and places and customs to explore. It is bittersweet to say that I have grown attatched to yet another place that is halfway around the globe, but I am happy to have seen something so incredibly awe inspiring.
Dont worry dad, Ill be on the plane with the rest of the group coming home. And there is nothing better than coming home after a trip like this.
We will see you all soon, much love.

Steve the Younger - Saturday in Yaoundé

We are back in Yaounde, and its amazing to think of all that we've seen and done in the past 2 weeks. I've been to 2 countries that I've never seen before and probably would never go to if I was not on this trip. I've learned how to construct slow sand filters, speak a little (very little) french, and see how an international enginnering project works. I played soccer in a Cameroonian pickup game, visited a king, chiefs, professors, mayors and met hundreds of people extremely far away from home. I've rode and walked down more bumpy dirt roads than I ever could have imagined. I've ate many different cameronian foods, some good (chicken, vegetables, pinapple), some bad (dried fish and spinnach, some grey mush with limestone in it?). I've worked on a project that can help save lives in Bakang, Cameroon. Its been a good 2 weeks.

Back In Yaounde

We have made it back to Yaounde after a great adventure in Bamenjou/Bakang. The bio sand filters in Bakang are finally becoming more popular. There is a long list of people that are going to be getting filters in the next few months. I think that the filters popularity is due to the test results obtained from the cheifs water filter and the evidience that Peter presented to the water committee. The water from the chiefs well had a significant amount of bacteria present. After using the filter the water was 10 times cleaner. It was great getting to see all of the hard work from the past year making a positive impact on the community. The community now realizes the benefit of the filters. The doctor at the local hospital made a good comment about the filters... He said "Its like fighting nature with nature" which is essentially what the bio sand filters do. They use bacteria to kill other bacteria. I look forward to hearing the sucess of the filters in the months to come. This trip has been such a great learning experience and I am so greatful that I had the opportunity to participate in it. I look forward to doing some more work with everyone when we get back home.


Two weeks went so fast

The past two weeks have been amazing. I`ve learned so much from being a member of this implementation team, the biggest lesson being organization. There is so much that goes into organizing a project like this. Itineraries need to be made and kept. Materials have to be ordered and delivered. Labor needs to be organized and trained. Tools have to be ready and prices need to be set. All of these things are done in the corporate world every day. Organization is necessary for producing and selling a product, which is essentially what we are doing.

The design process also required a lot of organization. Research had to be done and deadlines for the stages of design had to be met. Prototyping required working space and materials, all of which had to be set up in advance. It was a collaborative effort. Everyone had to be kept on the same page. Members had to be notified if schedules were changed, which they often did. It wasn`t an easy task, but I took so much away from the experience.

EWB offters students so much more than what they can experience in a class. The real world problems that we face add so much value to our education. We probably won`t be able to see all of the benefits from this trip until we enter the workforce and possibly after that. I know that I will return to the United States with a better idea of what it really means to be an engineer.


Souveniers and Goats- (by: Andrew)

As Dr. Steve has pointed out we are back in Yaonde. We will be heading home, in a few hours. On any trip, we want to find something to take home with us. On the last trip I found small momentos and trinkets to bring home, they were small compared to the true souveniers--The memories of the village and the villagers. I am glad I had the chance to return to Cameroon. On this trip I was able to experience and learn even more. I am certain that the memories of this trip and the last will be useful and that They will not sit on a metaphorical shelf and collect dust for a few years.

Instead they will serve as motivation. When we collected water for mixing cement treking down a steep hill to the source and back up to take the water to the work site. I will remember that is a small taste of what the villagers face everyday. As we talked to people throughout the village there were some villagers that walked many kilometers to the solar pump system. Because they understood that this water would be healthier for their young children.

During one meeting with the water comittee an analogy was thrown around comparing the filters to a goat. If someone is giving a goat away they would prefer to give it to a family that would take care of the goat, instead of one that did not care and would not take care of it. This was to explain why it was important for families to pay a portion of the filter cost.

This would apply to the solar pumping system as well. The community has shown that not only do they appreciate the system, but that they can take care of it. The placed a fence around the panels to protect them from the children and prevent them from climbing on them. As seen before they had leafy poles which would block the sun during the summer months. After explaining this to the community they removed the porturding sticks. And they placed a fence around the tanks as well. At different times the taps on the tanks broke and the community has fixed them and fastened them more securely.

They are taking good care of the goat that we have given them. And I am excited to begin the design work on a larger system with distribution and storage as well as develop the two proposed drill sites that were chosen, investigated and assesed on this trip.


We left Bakang today - Dr Steve (again)

We left Bakang today. Lots of our friends are wearing their new EWB-UD tee shirts which are VERY popular. We had a busy morning packing up, cleaning, completing construction and placement of two more filters, and saying goodbye. Warning to parents: all the students say they want to come back to Cameroon! This is in spite of constantly failing electricity, limited water, and no hot water at Mr. Mukam’s house. But house is very comfortable in many other respects, and Martine has kept us well fed. Although the house has a “modern” kitchen, she cooks most of our food over an open fire in the adjacent building.

Here are some pictures from yesterday. The rest will have to wait until we get back to the U.S. (as well as some videos!). I have strongly advised the students to post something for you before we leave Cameroon, so maybe you'll hear from them too.

Here’s one of the students that came to watch us after school let out. This also gives an idea of the of learning facilities they have available.

Back in the distance is Taylor, helping two men from the Water Committee build a sand filter. The woman in the front is getting her water supply. You can see why the filter is needed at this location.
The kids put their water containers down in front of the water tank while playing with Andrew and Alyssa. There’s a shy girl behind the barrier.

Here is the seamstress who made all the guys’ shirts and Alyssa’s skirt. She has three women who help her.

Here’s our first delivered water filter with the proud owner. His family has been getting drinking water from the Bakang solar pump, so the filter will save his family a long hike – now they can purify water from their hand dug well.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Water Committee Meeting

Here we are with the water committee after the meeting that Steve the Younger mentioned earlier (below). I was once again impressed with all of them and particularly the eloquent chief. The women were especially pleased that they are going to get filters for households. One woman stood up to say that they would like to celebrate by dancing, but it would raise too much dust (she was definitely right!). In addition to saying that we are all citizens of Bakang, the women all wished that their future children would come out just like the American students. That got a good laugh!
So today is very busy. We got up at 5:45 to go out to three water points and survey morning usage. Then we packed up a bunch of suitcases to take to Bafoussam for shipping to Yaoundé where we will get them (that's the only way we can get everybody and everything back and forth). The group going to Yaoundé will also buy some locally made crafts to auction at our appreciation dinner (mark your calendar - Thursday March 12th). Our other team is arranging for more sand, gravel, and cement purchases from the mission to make one more filter before we leave tomorrow, and more by the village folks later.
Which brings up finances. It costs about $25 to build a filter for one family that will last for many years. They cannot afford this, which is why the only filter in use since our last visit has been the chief's (which we found to be removing 90% fecal coliform even when used only occasionally). The committee said they can afford $10 and we hope the rest can be donated. So please think about donating $15 so a family can have safe drinking water!
More later. I've been invited for lunch at the mission.
Dr. Steve

We are the roots and branches of one tree

For the past week and a half I've been trying to put my second trip to Cameroon into words. I love it here so much. The scenery is amazing and the fruit is delicious, but what really sets it apart from anywhere else I've ever been is the people. I don't know how to describe them.

They have so little compared to our standards, yet they live such happy lives. The kids here don't want a Wii or an Xbox. If they want to bowl, they pile some rocks up and find a bigger rock to throw at them. They don't want games like Halo, Grand Theft Auto, or Need for Speed. The kids just want to spend time with their friends. People might rotate through three or four sets of clothes while we're here, but it doesn't bother them. They can live without having that new pair of jeans or another pair of shoes. The ones they have are just fine. Hardly anyone has a car here and people are okay with that. They walk. They walk for miles everyday, sometimes with a large bucket of water, sometimes with a book, sometimes with a bunch of plantains balanced on their head. They don't think twice about spending an hour or two walking everyday. People have walked everywhere in Bakang for as long as the village has been established, its just a part of life.

The people of Bakang have been dealing with waterborne illnesses for the same amount of time as well, but unlike walking, this is something that people are trying to change. As mentioned in previous blogs, the government drilled a well and installed a hand pump with the intention to provide cleaner water, but did not train anyone to fix it when it broke. Scanwater installed a water distribution system, but did not include the people of Bakang in the process so they did not know how to maintain it after they left. What were the people supposed to do? They keep getting let down.

That is why I am so happy about how much trust the people of Bakang have in EWB-UD. They are accepting us into their lives. They call us their brothers (Alyssa is a sister, not a brother) and they made us citizens of their village. They invite us to play soccer with them on the weekends and into their houses for meals. They dance and sing when we tell them about the plans that we have (Dr. Steve gets most of the dancing). They have so much hope that we can work together to make their village a healthier place to live. You can see it in their eyes. You can see it in their smiles when we are sieving sand for the filters. You can see it when they are filling their bottles at the storage tanks. All of the parents have hope that their children will grow up with fewer illnesses than they did. They see the Bakang of tomorrow being a much better place than the Bakang of today. But the people of Bakang trust us to help them get there. We don't want to make the same mistakes that others have. We are here to show them that we really are their brothers and sisters, united for one goal: to make this planet a better place to live for everyone.

If you ever get the chance to wake up early and watch the sun come up over the mountains in Bakang, do it...


From Steve the Younger - Wednesday evening

While Cameroon may seem at first glance to be a poor nation, upon closer examination it becomes evident that wealth is not as important to quality of life as I have been taught to believe. While large disposable incomes are few and far between, life here is more comfortable than what one might expect. Hunger appears to be a non issue here, as most people grow food, and usually have an excess to sell. Education is important, as almost every child can be found in school Monday through Friday, with the family usually footing the bill for school. Most people can’t afford a car, but that does not mean that transportation is not readily available. Many families own a motorcycle, and for those who do not, a moto-taxi or bus can take you anywhere you need to go for significantly less than what it would cost in the US. Perhaps more important is the fact that people simply walk to wherever they need to go. School, work, and the village of Bakang is for most people, a walk of only a few miles or less. The hospital, stores, restaurants, banks, and whatever else one might need is accessible by a short walk, a concept that seems lost to most Americans.

More importantly, quality of life is not based upon what people have in the material sense, but rather what they have as a community. In this case, the people of Bakang, Cameroon are wealthy as any. A place rich with tribal traditions, a reverence reserved for elders, and a general feeling of goodwill, is easily apparent to me that this is a great place to live. People here have been very friendly and generous. I have never received so many waves, smiles, and gifts from strangers as I have the past two weeks. People treat each other as family, from young children who are extremely affectionate and caring to their friends, to adults who literally referring to friends as “brother”. While this behavior makes it difficult to figure out who is related to who, I think it is the best example of this brotherhood is how people here are very caring of those around them, making Bakang a welcoming home to its inhabitants.

Today’s water meeting was a great success for us. We had scheduled a meeting with the water committee and whoever else was interested in our future implementation plans. The committee had put serious work in since our last meeting, deciding on a price of five thousand CFA (approximately ten dollars) for the filters. The committee had also selected the first three families to receive filters, and showed a lot of interest in using them in many households. This was a huge relief, as we had been working with these filters for the entire trip, but we were not sure that there would be a demand for them. Wise words from Dr. Steve, the Chief, and our guest Peter, who runs an organization that distributes these filters, explained to the audience the importance of these filters and how they work. We were received with many rounds of applause, a song from the ladies of the community, and a lady started dancing in Dr. Steve’s general direction (again). The highlight for me was when the members of the community pronounced us “citizens of Bakang”. This connection to the people here is really gratifying, and is great motivation to continue this project to bring clean water to the region.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Here's what we're up to . . .

Here's our team Alyssa, Guy, Steve, Taylor, Tyler, Andrew after removing the interior mold section successfully. This is up at the school. We have decided to move this filter because the water they get at the school is already from our solar-powered well, so no filtration is necessary.

Andrew, Tyler, and Steve at the market. Market day is an amazing chaos that happens every 8 days. Andrew has a bag with 3 large cubes of soap. We also purchased some local goods for the silent auction coming up this spring at our appreciation dinner . . . be there !

This is Steve, Taylor, and Tyler putting together the water filter at the hospital in Bamendjou. The hospital has water from SNEC (the water company but this water is unavailable, sometimes for days (like right now!). Imagine a hospital with no water....pretty bad. The filter will allow them to purify water from a hand-dug well in their courtyard when this happens.

That's it for now....they're having a celebration for us this afternoon (a "water fair") and also another meeting with the water committee. I'm off!
Dr. Steve

Alyssa - Tuesday

I bought a lot of what my mother would call junk today at the market. My purchases included a pipe, slingshot, hand-carved knife, lots of jewelry, a spice grater, and two bars of soap big enough to get me through the next eight years of my life. I’m hoping that it will encourage me to shower more, but chances are not likely.

The market itself was an interesting experience, not only because it was something new and an anthropologist’s dream site, but also because it reminded me about the concept of poverty that I was struggling with in the beginning of writing my thesis. Early last summer, I stumbled across a book called Festival Elephants, in which the author explores the meaning the word poverty and the manner in which this perception affects aid work throughout the world. Most importantly, he discusses the perceptions of western ideals of poverty imposed on the developing world, which lead to the epidemic of what development analysts call global poverty. According to the author, however, global poverty does not exist. It was an interesting idea, but one that is difficult to understand without visiting a place such as Bakang. Cameroon, by western standards, is a poor country. They lack consistent modern conveniences, such as electricity and computers, and most people live off less than twenty dollars a month.

So the Cameroonians lack money, modern appliances (with the exception of cell phones), traffic laws. They don’t trust refrigeration and they wear their clothes more than once a week. But this is not what defines their poverty. In fact, the community itself very proudly stands by who they are and the work they do. They do not consider themselves part of the endemic of global poverty; instead, they see themselves as a strong village with a problem of water access. The premise of Festival Elephants is that “global poverty” cannot exist because the concept of poverty itself is defined by the community and therefore cannot be uniform across the world. For some societies, this means a lack of family, food, money, even cows. In the case of Bakang, it is lack of access to water.

I am reminded of our mission here, which is not to save the community from their lack of monetary income or rather unique traffic laws. We are here to help problem solve and to explore different methods that can aid with a problem that cannot be solved by one group alone. This mutual relationship and understanding that has developed over that past two years has enabled the organization to approach the problems here in a way that does not encourage the fixing of “global” poverty. Instead, we get the opportunity to really explore the ways that a different community works, and learn all kinds of new and crazy things. How to walk with 20 pounds on your head. How to keep your clothes clean in this dirt. How to build a chair without nails. And ultimately, how a different way of life does not necessarily make someone worse or better off than you.

So we continue with this goal in mind: to make cleaner water more accessible to those who need it. I am also trying to convince the kids here that my hair is real, but I am thinking I will have more luck with the first goal.

We’ll see you all soon, stay warm all! Love.


“So much we take for granted” - Tyler

We have been here for just over a week and it seems like there is a list that goes on forever of things that are completely taken for granted in the United States. From the first steps out of the Yaoundé airport we have to be very careful of what we drank or ate. “Don’t drink the water”, drink only bottled water, don’t eat lettuce or other washed vegetables, brush teeth with bottled water, and stay out of streams and ponds. It may seem like a simple task until you rinse your toothbrush with dirty water out of utter tiredness. Then you have to boil water to clean your toothbrush off and by the time you are done it takes you 20 minutes to brush your teeth when it should have taken 2 minutes and you are now thinking of the sleep that you have just lost. In the US there is no need to worry about all of these things. When you turn on the water at home water comes out and you know it is clean enough to drink. In Cameroon, it is a gamble if water even comes out of the tap let alone being safe to drink.

Electricity… another technology that is taken for granted in the US. When you switch the light switch…you get light. Here in Cameroon the power supply is frequently not working. Almost every night, after having dinner, we sit down and have a meeting about what was completed during the day and what needs to be completed the following day. Frequently these meetings are done over the light from one of our flashlights. And…the lights just went out as I was writing.

Traffic laws……haha what traffic laws? In Cameroon you make your own traffic laws. Avoid people, motorcycles, chickens, goats, cows, or any other strange obstacles at all costs. Driving in reverse on a one way…not an issue here in Cameroon.

Public Transportation… The only public transportation here in Cameroon is a bus the size of a minivan that is packed like a can of sardines, has people riding on the outside, and is strikingly similar to something that you would see out of a Dr. Seuss book.

This list can go on and on (sanitation, doctors, paved roads, supermarkets, drug stores,…. etc.) I expect to find many more that I can add to this list in the coming days. I am not at all saying that Cameroon is a bad place, because it is not. It is a wonderful country with extremely friendly people and it has been one of the best learning experiences of my life. But I think that it is very important to remember how fortunate we are. So…next time you go to your sink for a drink or turn on the light to read a book remember that there are billions of people that are not as fortunate as you.


Monday, February 2, 2009

Monday February 2nd (Dr. Steve again)

Everybody wanted to see the Scanwater fiasco so here we are (except Dr. Steve) at that site, not far from Bakang. Andrew, Steve, Tyler, Taylor, Nura, and Alyssa admiring the view from up on the (empty!) water storage tank. This is the facility put in by a Scandinavian outfit in the late 80's with no community involvement and using expensive fuel to run water pumps. The people stopped using it very soon after Scanwater presented it to them. We expect to do better, needless to say. We met with the village's Water Committee and talked about what we're doing next. We want to help make the water filters more affordable for them ($10 is way too much it turns out) so we may invite families in Delaware to sponsor families in Bakang - paying a goof fraction (but not all) of the filter cost. This is under discussion.

Here's Alyssa going native. This was during one of our survey hikes.

We also brought in a hydrogeologist from Yaoundé who used Tony's map and dc conductivity to test two distant sites proposed by the chief for new wells. These will be in sites with very little water currently available, near other village areas so the water could be shared. Great job by Tony - both sites have water pretty much deeper than at our existing well (60-70m) . . . but he thinks the capacity could be four times as much (5 cubic meters per hour if you can imagine that).

Good news that we seem to have succeeded with our filter mold. The first one had to be broken apart because the interior mold section could not be removed, but we now know that a shorter drying time is essential. We'll have more pictures on our next post. A shout-out to Murphy's Steel for donating the materials and doing the heavy bending for the filter mold!

Today was market day. We bought some stuff to silent auction at our upcoming banquet. This is rather unlike any farmer's market in the U.S. so we'll post some pix, asap.

Finally, a story. I was with our hydrogeologist on his second day - the original well site had good production possibilities but was on a hill where the drilling truck might not be able to reach. So he walked up the road a ways then down a wide, hard-packed dirt path where he pointed to a spot and said it would be ideal. I looked around and saw that this was smack in the middle of a family "concession" or compound. Nobody was ho,e though I did note a hand-dug well nearby. The bucket rope was very muddy and looking down into the well I saw that it was pretty dry.

But I was getting pretty nervous. Imagine coming into your driveway in the aftrnoon and some strangers are poking around, taking measurements to put a community well in your backyard! And sure enough, here came an older woman with a basket on her head, down the path. She looked at me and all the activity and asked something in the local dialect - I said "peut-être nous pouvons avoir un forage ici" and the hydrologist said a few other words about putting a well there.

She smiled. She exclaimed something. Then she started singing and dancing. She danced with me, and with the hydrogeologist. And she danced for a long time.

I have a brief video of her I'll try to upload (although it failed yesterday). In any case, the experience made my day - and, of course, hers.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Pictures of Bakang

Above are folks getting water from the water tanks we installed last time. The system works great! The tanks are behind the inner fence you see. The Water Committee had the fences built to protect everything.

Above on the left you see Taylor taking a water sample from the location I mentioned last post (he's also apparently walking on water). This is close to where we hope to have a well drilled, far up the road from our solar panel location in rest of these pictures.

Above, you see our filter team with the mold for our next water filter. The mason mixes the concrete in the standard way, and the mold is filled already. This was two days ago and we have now removed the exterior mold section. The filter team is having problems separating the interior mold and were interrupted by the necessity of putting out a fire (not metaphorically!) in the grass by the school. After that we were distracted by a party breaking out as students finished school and the drums and ballaphone appeared - pictures next time. So we hope to get the mold apart, somehow, tomorrow, when we can concentrate.

ok, here's the solar panel installation - also protected now by an attractive barrier. Not visible in the lower right is a small opening that Andrew could barely crawl through (missed a good picture there) but he was able to remove the solar logger so we have now offloaded all the solar data since last June. Also note Nura, the fantastic Peace Corps volunteer of Bamendjou, standing next to Alyssa. The locals get the two of them mixed up, quite understandably.

Below is a better view of the panels. We need to make sure they get dusted off during nthe dry season, but even with a good layer of dust and dirt they put out enough power to keep the tanks filled (2000 liters).
Here are the filter guys surrounded by excited kids. Andrew, Tyler, Taylor, and Steve had just finished rinsing out their filter sand....obviously, school had let out! After this pic there was a rousing game of soccer in the village intersection.

And finally, here's Tyler's photo of me after taking the above picture. Everybody wants a look at themselves!

Today we are also busy with the geohydrology study - DC resistivity combined with Tony's map - we have confirmed a very nice fault along the road in upper Bakang, where the chief also agrees that a productive borehole well could serve a lot of people who are far from clean water (see picture #1 above).
We're far from done here. I'm posting this from the Piarist mission computer but we have more on today's to-do list. We'll post again soon (some of the students, j'espère). Thanks for all your support!
Dr. Steve

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A kitchen without clean water - Thursday (Dr. Steve)

While in Yaoundé we were able to arrange for a geohydrology study to assure that wherever we hava a new well drilled, we'll be sure to find a good supply of water at a reasonable depth. That visit will happen on Friday, so we've beeen revisiting some of the drier areas, way up the road from the existing well. There, we stopped at one family compound and found a man building a new outbuilding - by himself, using clay bricks that are home-made. This will be the new kitchen, he told me (this means an open fire in the center and a tall ceiling).
But there's no water. To get water for this kitchen they will hike down a steep hill to a little creek. We saw that creek. . . to put it bluntly, I wouldn't allow my dog near water that looked that muddy, buggy, and oily.
This man is also secretary of the Water Committee. So he knows what we hope to accomplish in the future. When we have the chief and the geohydrologist there on Friday, I hope we can find a good location to drill. They work so hard and deserve better than these conditions.

As we traveled to the village it became more and more evident that this was the dry season. There was a heavy haze, blocking the beautiful view of the mountains that I had been looking forward to, a clear result of the still common practice of slash-and-burn agriculture. But we soon discovered that was not the only air pollution; before we left the paved roads our driver suggested we close our windows. In front of us the previously lush green vegetation was now covered in the brownish-red dirt which provides a false hope of a tan. During the dry season the roads are kicked around, spewing a layer of dirt over everything. This presented a stark contrast to the muddy roads that we slipped on in the rain. However, some things have not changed: the people are still so wonderful and the climate is great. Regardless, some people in the outlying areas of Bakang still lack access to safe, potable water for drinking and cooking.

One thing I was excited to see was the maintenance of the solar pilot system. As we approached the system we noticed fences around the tanks and the PV array. After we left, the community erected fences around the key components of the system to protect it from children and animals. Also, each of the spouts on the tanks came off at different times through the year and the community fixed them, much sturdier than we had left them. The community clearly appreciates their new water system and the people are excited to help with any construction for future phases of installation.

This is not an assumption that we can make without hesitation. As the dirt stains our clothing, so is the landscape stained with failed projects, from Scan Water to some building projects that lacked funding, which now lay in ruin. I am certain that this project is sustainable since we are working with the community and they are taking charge. Throughout the country people have heard about our project and are abuzz about reproducing our efforts elsewhere. Public officials, technical people and people from other villages have heard about or seen the water pump in Bakang and the slow sand filters. They are all excited to talk to us and hear from us.

That’s all for now, I need a shower and to get some sleep, busy day tomorrow.


We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give. - Sir Winston Churchill

Monday, January 26, 2009

EWB Team has made it to Bakang!!

I just got a call from Dr. Steve saying that the EWB travel team has made it to Bakang!  They are sitting down to have a nice dinner at the 7-11 restaurant.  As Dr. Steve explained in a blog post from the June trip, the 7-11 in Bamendjou is not the same as a 7-11 in the U.S.  It is the only restaurant in Bamendjou, and it consists of a single room with a few wooden tables and some white plastic chairs.  They serve some very tasty Cameroonian food!

It sounds like everything is going smoothly.  I'm sure they will update on their progress in more detail in the days to come assuming they are able to access the internet.

Way to go team!


Sunday, January 25, 2009

In Yaoundé

Our crew's in the capital city now, and our new team members waking to the chaos of Yaoundé outside the hotel window. No problem getting the mold and all out tools & materials through customs because Mr. Mukam was awaiting us. And he had time to assure these things because our flight was delayed leaving Paris while they figured out what to do with an unruly passenger - evidently an illegal Cameroonian in France being returned to Douala, but shouting loudly to annoy the passengers, who then insisted he be removed. So that guy is still in Paris, and we are here! Busy day ahead.
By the way, the toilet in my hotel room has a slow leak so it wastes water. I was going to write a few paragraphs on whether toilets are a sustainable technology, and if so, under what conditions - but I'll save it for an essay question in the course next semester.

Friday, January 23, 2009

FOURTH TRIP - Here we go! - Dr. Steve

Hey, just reporting our luck with baggage check! No extra charges for the steel filter mold, which weighed in at 69 lbs (the cutoff is 70) - great design calculations! And they seemed to give us some leeway on the combined weight per passenger, too. So we're under budget and in the middle of a 3.5 hour wait for the flight (yeah, how did the group get Dr. Steve here so early? I think I was tricked somehow...)
We'll report in from Yaoundé if the internet works!