Monday, February 9, 2009
Saturday, February 7, 2009
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here is the seamstress who made all the guys’ shirts and Alyssa’s skirt. She has three women who help her.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
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.
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...
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
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 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!
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.
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
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.
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
Electricity… another technology that is taken for granted in the
Traffic laws……haha what traffic laws? In
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
Monday, February 2, 2009
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.