Thursday, February 5, 2009

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.

1 comment:

t monioudis (steve's mom) said...

I vividly remember Dr. Steve's words when we met in November to discuss Steven joining the EWB project in Cameroon. He said it would be a life changing experience, unlike any other. His prediction has come true. By reading your posts and viewing your photos we know that your lives (and ours here at home too) have been forever changed.

We are so very proud of each and every one of you and of all you have accomplished on this trip and all you will do in the future.

We wish you a safe trip home and look forward to seeing you all in Philadelphia on Sunday.