Saturday, January 30, 2010

Leaks - and victory

Here's what was the bane of our existence! We worked around the problem of leaky joints eventually, and you can see the result: water filling the tank up at the school. Victory!

Off to the airport! Will update again, because we have many wonderful pictures of people and experiences - so stay tuned.

Dr. Steve

Friday, January 29, 2010

More pix!

Here Linda, Nicole, Janvier, and Dan work on wet well assembly. We changed the design quite a bit during installation.

Below: a water committee meeting in Balatsit. They sang us a rousing welcome song when we arrived!

Here's the tank on the top of the hill. With good sunlight, it takes about one hour to fill.

Dr. Steve and the chief of Bakang II look over a list of sand filter requests. We are subsidizing the cost of filters for families, at $10 apiece. See our web site under "contributions".

Dan has a lot of chigger bites. Do deal with a challenge from Nicole as to how many there were, Dan penned a number to each one. Guess how many!!??

It's now 2:30 so I better go to bed!

Dr. Steve

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Some pix to confirm our existence

Battery's dying...but here are 2 pictures!

All I could do for now. Next time I'll bring a fully charged laptop to the Piarist mission which has the only internet closer than Bafoussam - and that hasn't had a working line either.
In any case, you can see that we're immersed in dirt, pipes, wires, and so forth. Edwin thankfully gave you an update after we communicated by phone with him. We'll let you know asap about our pipe connection problems and hopefully the solution. The new pump is installed in the ¨wet well¨ - the white pipe shown in the pictures - and gets fed from the water tanks shown to the right of Nicole and Linda in the top picture. We had a lot of help digging and plumbing from the local folks.
We had two water committee meetings yesterday including (in Latsit) a greeting in song by the women in the chefferie meeting room, (at both) translations back and forth from English, French, and patois, and (in Nkang) a round of beverages including a gift of a bottle of French whiskey for me which shall remain unopened for some time.
This should be our last day in Bamendjou if all goes well. If we still have plumbing problems, our backup plan (we always try to have one) is to stay tomorrow and leave Saturday for Yaounde since our flight is not until 11:30 pm. Taking another bus since the only car we could use this trip is Mr. Mukam's based here at his place. But we'll have a lot less to carry out than we brought in.
Regardless - stay tuned for more pix since I now know how to compress them on my laptop to upload them in a reasonable amount of time.

Dr. Steve

P.S. No joy in Cameroon this week. Their national soccer team lost to Egypt in the Africa Cup quarter finals. But people still watch the rebroadcasts...

[UPDATE (from Ramsey)]: I've talked to Dr. Steve. The team thinks they have solved the leaky compression fittings issue. They will be bringing back some sample fittings and pipe so we can figure out what the problem was exactly. They ran out of time before the sun went down on Thursday to see if the water would make it to the top of the hill. This will be tested Friday morning.

Also, everyone seems to be in relatively good health, with the exception of some limited stomach issues, and a lot of insect bites (probably chiggers).

Yes, we're here in Cameroon !

Hi fans -
We really apologize for the gap in posts. Internet has been pretty limited here and even now my battery situation is a bit limiting, so we'll get some stuff up that may end precipitously...

Below is Steve M.'s entry we tried to get up a few days ago!
Dr. Steve
Who is the most popular man in Cameroon?

A) Samuel Eto’o
B) Barack Obama
C) Paul Biya
D) Taylor King
E) All of the above

The correct answer is E, all of the above. Allow me to explain…

Soccer is huge in Cameroon. We have had the good fortune of traveling to Cameroon during the Cup of African Nations, which is essentially the African version of the World Cup. Cameroon is currently in the quarterfinal round, and following the games, from a party at Olivia’s home in Yaoundé, to (interrupted) satellite coverage in Bamendjou. It has been very exciting following this team in a country full of fans with a lot of national pride, and this country is prouder of no man than their star, Eto’o. He is plastered on billboards across Cameroon advertising for many corporations. On the field, the attention on the game revolves around Eto’o’s every move.

Cameroonians are keenly aware of international current events. Thousands of miles away from Washington, it is evident that Barack Obama’s approval rating is quite high here in Cameroon. “Obama” branded clothing, watches, bumper stickers (even Mayor Mukam has an Obama air freshener hanging in his SUV) are available in any Cameroonian market. It is not clear exactly where this excitement comes from. Be it continental pride that a half African man could become the president of the United States, or a strong belief that a stark change was necessary in American politics, one thing is for sure; Barack Obama is highly regarded in Cameroon.

Paul Biya has been the president of Cameroon for over 20 years. In presidential elections he runs virtually unopposed, consistently winning in landslide victories. While Cameroon is not a nation without flaws, political unrest is much less common than most nations, and Cameroonians seem to have a positive view on where their nation is heading. Paul Biya’s Portrait can be found in many homes, stores, restaurants and hotels, a testament to this nations respect for their long time leader.

Since landing in Yaounde, the question I have been asked most frequently is “Where is Taylor King?” (other popular questions include “where is Alyssa?… Sarah?… Sam?…Andrew?….” It is truly remarkable how much of an impact previous EWB trips have had on the community of Bamendjou. EWB UD’s last trip to Cameroon ended over six months ago, yet the people of this community remember travel team members vividly, and excitedly expect their eventual returns. Although each trip brings a different group (sorry, no Taylor this time), each team continues to strengthen the bond between a group of students from Newark, Delaware to a group of villages in Bamendjou, Cameroon. Yesterday, the Mayor proposed a strong desire to join Newark and Bamendjou as “Sister Cities”. In my opinion, it is clear that they already are.

Interim Proxy-Post

Hi everyone, the internet is currently down in the I-team's area, so I'll update you on their progress. First of all, they did get the toolbag, albeit quite late. Secondly, the panels and the pump for the lift station have been installed and they are in the process of testing the whole system. While the panels and the pumping apparatus seem to be working just fine, it turns out the compression fittings for the piping is leaking, so the team is currently trying to retrofit all of the fittings.

The team is currently on track with their schedule (minus the leaking fittings setback) and hopefully they will have internet soon so that they can update themselves.

- Edwin (in-country contact)

PS - I apologize to those who have called me at my cell phone for status updates; I have a rebellious cell phone problem.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

We're rollin' now

Hey, readers! Here are some pix to show you our stuff !

Here's our bus in front of the hardware store loading up 350 meters of polyethylene pipe and a bunch of other stuff (try getting Greyhound to do that for you - there are some interesting qualities to this place!). This was BEFORE going to the bus depot and filling up with all the other people and putting their stuff on the roof, which took another three hours (the bus only leaves when it's full).

Picture by Dr. Steve.

We had the back two seats and were not as crowded as the folks in the front. Up on the right the guy was trying to sell us candy - we got a detailed explanation of various bonbons. Fortunately he got off at an early stop.

Heads of Nicole and Guy are visible.

Picture by Linda

Here are three of us in the back seat (two with licorice sticks). The very scholarly Dr. Steve is reqding a book (Fellowship of the Ring, actually). Not shown, Steve M. was to the right. Actually there should be five people in each row, but we had an empty place because Olivia couldn't come with us.

Picture by Linda (she takes thousands!!)

Here's the hand of a woman filling her water jug from the newest tank, in Latsit, finished by Sarah on the last day of the June project. Those familiar with these "citernes" will note that the outer spigot has been broken or removed. This is a real problem with these things. All three were like this, and both on the other new site.

Pic by Linda

Dan, Sean, Steve in front of the Latsit tanks (fence built by the local folks since our last trip).

Today we assembled the rack mount here for the solar panels, met a bunch of kids, had the pump and access pit dug, ordered blocks to be made, and aranged for sand, gravel, and cement to be trucked out to our site.

Forget the photo credits...unless otherwise noted, photo by Linda!

Here Nicole discusses valve options for the citerne with the hardware folks. You can only see Dr. Steve's hat to the left but he was trying to translate while this was going on.

We bought this tank and it's already back in Bamendjou for installation up at the school. Today we had the foundation area dug up where it will be. We've also walked over and eceided on the route for the pipeline connecting the tank to its pump down at the bottom of the hill. Digging on this starts tomorrow!

Here's Linda showing her strength after we bought a section of pvc pipe. I told them she was carrying it out of the storage yard partly as a joke, but then they swept all the dust off of it for her, so we followed through (she got quite dusty anyway).
This pipe will be used in short vertical sections where we have lectrical junctions, for surface access.
Obviously Linda didn't also take the picture, but Dr. Steve used her camera.

Finally, Monday was Market Day. Here's a view. We had too much to do to spend much time shopping - we'll do some souvenir shopping when we get our project done.

But we did need some towels, and there was a big selection. I even found two that match!

That's it for now. We're going to catch up to our schedule tomorrow after luggage delays and a lot of re-engineering of various details of this stuff (for example, the at-home design team members are thinking HEY - why only one storage tank???). It's different some times once you're on site.

And to keep up the suspense ---- no news yet on our tool bag. But we did realize we have tons of useful stuff stashed here from the last trip. We're pretty good to go. Wish we could find the electric drill, though.

Water is life!

Dr. Steve

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dr. Steve gets inspired as we hit the road

This is Dr. Steve. Sorry we've not yet uploaded many pictures. Ironically, everybody wants photos at the highest possible resolution, but then it's hard to upload them with our slow connection. We'll see what we can do.

First an update on the toolbag crisis: we are told it should arrive in Yaoundé Thursday evening. This is rather critical. We would be able to replace lost tools, but there was specialized glue and tape in the bag that we use to isolate the pump’s underwater wiring from the water. We can’t get it here. So hopefully the stuff will arrive… … we will have left, so Olivia’s friend Johannes (whom some our previous team members will remember) has been authorized to pick it up. He’ll send it to Bafoussam and we can drive there and pick it up.

Sean mentioned our dinner at Olivia’s house (her mother’s actually) and the people we met. As each individual arrived, Olivia introduced him or her with a description of how she knew them and what they had been doing. I had a chance to talk to many of them during the evening. Olivia has a group of amazing friends (see picture!).

These are some of Cameroon’s new generation. They are well educated at some of the finest universities of Europe and the United States. They have graduate degrees in business, law, international relations, and other leadership fields. And yes, they seem very ambitious . . . but they are ambitious for their society, and they have stayed in Cameroon to make a difference. Johannes, for example, is an intern who intends to practice as a doctor in the public sector here, not nearly as well paid as in a private clinic but helping the people who need it. Nfinyo’s education is as a jurist, but he’s working on public works projects that will improve the quality of life in Cameroon. And Olivia herself is working diligently on ways to assist local start-ups based on community skills. They’re simply inspirational, and they confirm my feeling that Cameroon is a great place for EWB to be helping out.

And then I thought about the other people who were are the party: the UD students, who are also being educated at a fine university, and in a leadership field (think of UD’s President Pat Harker). Our EWB students want to make a difference, even if it means choosing a more demanding path. So I was thinking that they’re an impressive group too.

So I left the party very upbeat (and it helped that Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions won against Zambia!). Early tomorrow we load our pump, solar panels, piping, cables, and other gear on the roof of a bus and pack in with the other folks for a our ride to Bamendjou. I’m looking forward to the local food and friends there, and hard work as we bring clean water to people who need it. You’ll hear from us when we next have internet – please be patient!


well, today started off on the wrong foot... i woke up when Dan and Sean were going down to breakfast (instead of being ready to go to breakfast with them). After the morning rush, some delicious croissants and lemon tea, we started our work day by going through the entire system and figuring out the parts that we needed to buy in Yaounde. This took a little longer than anticipated, but at approximately 12:30 pm, the four of us headed out (Dr. Steve, Dan, Linda, and me) while Sean and Steve (JR) stayed at the hotel. They were waiting to go to the airport to hopefully pick up the missing tool bag... As for the other 4 of us, we headed to Maison du Plombiers, where we got our valves, reducers, and some compression fittings! We then headed to a new store where we got a LOT (350 m) of poly pipe, wire and a protective case for the wiring. As of right now, we have all of the materials we need for Yaounde (which is a good thing, since we're heading out tomorrow morning). Some technical difficulties arose when the driver drove off a curb and his car stalled in the middle of the road... perpendicular to the traffic. Dr. Steve and Dan had to get out and push the car until it was 'safely' on the side of the road, and our driver had to get gas... he ran out. We returned back to the hotel at around 6 pm to find that the case of the missing tool bag was still unsolved. This poses quite a problem since we're leaving for Bamendjou at 8 am in the morning :( I think everything will work out ok though, because we've made alternate arrangements to get the bag into the village. (It should be arriving on Thursday) Besides this minor (major) crisis, I've been having a blast and can't tell you how handy it was that I took a picture of all of the parts that we needed from the store. We were able to get almost all of them without having to speak any French... that's all for now.

I'm off to bed so I can wake up on time tomorrow!

What a Day!

As everyone knows, we arrived in Cameroon on Saturday night and received a warm welcome at the airport. Although our tool kit was left in Paris, all of the solar panels, aluminum, and pump made it safely. When we first got to our hotel, we all saw the amazing views from our rooms. The Cameroon soccer team stadium is right outside our window!

On Sunday, we planned to take it easy as it was resting day but it ended up being an awesome day. We started the day with fresh pineapple and croissants for breakfast and then went to the Hilton Hotel to exchange our money. We did not think we were getting the best exchange rate so we went to an internet cafe to check exchange rates, post blogs, check emails, etc. We found that the exchange rate we were getting was fine and returned to the Hilton to exchange our money. After this, we ate lunch at Vita Dolce, which was very good and had great cheeseburgers.

After resting in the hotel for awhile, we went to Olivia's house for dinner. There were many people there and all were extremely nice and very intelligent. I even met a Boston Celtics fan who stays up till 4 am to watch the games because of the time difference. Dinner was excellent as we had potatoes, plantains, spicy beef, fish, rice, and koko. Dinnertime ended up being at the same time as the big Cameroon soccer match versus Zambia in the African Cup of Nations tournament. Rather than eat at the set table, we all gathered around the tv and ate while watching the game, which I enjoyed because I love soccer. The game was very exciting and everyone was into the game and reacted to every play like it was life or death. The game ended well as Cameroon won a close back-and-forth game 3-2 with a late goal. When Cameroon scored the winning goal with 5 minutes remaining, everyone went crazy. It was an amazing sight.

We returned to our hotel and discussed our plans for the next day. Today, we are going to try to find the polypipe we need and a way to ship it to Bamendjou. Then, we will hopefully get our tool kit back at the airport. So far, everything is great and we will be leaving for Bamendjou on Tuesday morning.

- Sean

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Hello all. Dan here. First off, Cameroon keyboards are different so for time sake q=a from here on out.

We qrrived in Cqmeroon qfter a long flight from Philly to Paris and then to Yaounde, Cqmzeroon. We got off on the right foot with our engineering right away in the philly qirport when we hqd to repqckqge solqr pqnels to different specificqtions thqn we were originqlly told. We pqcked extrq duct tape and cqrdboqrd and with a full crowd of fans (bystanders in the line we caused while checking our rather unique luggage) we successfully wrapped up a solar panel and were off.

I made sure to buy several of my favorite Dr. Peppers in the Airport past the security screening as a speciql treqt in county. After a long flight, losing my beloved Dr peppers at a French checkpoint, and another long flight we had arrived and packed up our stuff(short a tool bag thqt didnt make it) on a truck to head to a hotel for the night.

The roads in Cameroon seem to have absolutely no rules or regulations (maybe air france took all of the allowable regulations for one country and applied them to baggage regulations). The best way I can describe it is as a crowded game of bumper cars where each car seems to hqve about a 2 inch force feild so thqt cqrs just barely miss. Most of the taxis seem to disprove my theory though because of the dents and dings all over.

In short, we are here, we love it here and are excited to travel to the Bakang to start our work and continue our journey.

First Day in Cameroon (except the tools...)

Hello friends! !

We got here just fine but had to repackage our solar panels at the airport (2+1 instead of 3 in one pack); of course we had the cardboard and duct tape standing by for this eventuality! See figure 1!

We have to stay an extra day in Yaoundé to (hopefully) get our toolbag which missed our connection. But that's ok since our first day here is a Sunday and we can't get much done.
We were met by Olivia Mukam (Mayor Mukam's daughter) at the airport, along with Guy and other folks to help with tranporting us and all the gear. Olivia is fantastic and it's great to see her again. She will be helping us figure out how to get to Bamendjou since our previous SUV is apparently kaput. So the usual problem solving.... Dr. Steve tries to not get stressed!!!!! We also need abut a half mile of poly pipe somehow trucked to Bakang - sure, we can do all that stuff! Can do!
Running out of internet time - costs &1.50 an hour - you guys should appreciate your rapid connections on campus!
All the best -
Dr. Steve

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hey Everyone!

The Cameroon Implementation team takes off out of Philly tomorrow at 6:30pm!!

Thank you to everyone who has helped us get this far, from the College of Engineering to our private donors to all our design team members. This project would not be possible without you. We really appreciate everything you do to help us help our friends in Bamendjou.

The goals of this January's trip include:
  • installing a pilot lift station to pump water from a well that was drilled in June of 2009 (on our last trip) to a school located at the top of a nearby hill. This is the planned location for the reservoir that will serve the community in the future.
  • assessing the performance of the previously installed water filters
  • working with the Water Committee to develop population density maps to aid in the design of the distribution system
So thanks again everyone who has contributed to the project. Be on the lookout for posts about the team's progress!

And don't forget that EWB-UD has a team in Guatemala right now!! Check out their blog at