Monday, January 31, 2011


We were planning on coming back to Yaoundé yesterday, however we ran into a few small issues with the system. It turns out that one of the pieces of pvc we installed had a crack in it and needed replacing. After a long day yesterday, we managed to fix the leaks and pump water all the way up to the ferrocement tank at the school! It was an exciting moment for all of us. We also had a sucessful water committee with the community of Balatsit during which they sang for us!

Today, after testing the system one last time this morning, we drove back to Yaoundé. Guy filled the car with pineapples once more, although this time he only bought ten. We finally got the chance to take real showers!! This was a very exciting moment for all of us after being without running water for most of the past week. Now we are awaiting dinner with Olivia and a late flight back to Paris tonight.

Thank you to everyone who commented and/or has been following the blog! We all love the support and look forward to reading what everyone has to say. The team has many more stories to share on our return. See you soon!


Beast Mode

Friday, January 28
The end stages of our work are at hand. The new tapstand at the Bakang crossroads is nearly complete; the adjacent wet well is in its foundation, piped from the tank. The pump is installed, as are the solar panels and rack. The excavation for our pipeline to the hilltop reservoir is going well but is a formidable task: each day the digging team starts early and works hard into the afternoon, yet it still seems that a lot remains. Two gaps in the long ditch have been across the dirt roads, because we don’t want to prevent the occasional moto or (rare) car or truck from passing. These sections also need to be dug a meter below the road surface to assure that any road work will not interfere with our lines, as happened with the previous road grading incident. So that’s one task for today, which will allow us to lay the polypipe and conduit lines from our junction box continuously up the hill. The first picture below shows the digging efforts up the hill.

We complete a lot of water testing from the household water filters, which were a major effort over previous trips. We visited six families using the filters and took samples of the water being filtered, plus two samples taken as water exited the filter. Turns out that the filters—even those that are not really operated to specification—do a reasonable job of purifying the water. There are two that have fecal coliform bacteria in the incoming water that is completely removed; the other filters are removing other types of bacteria that are in the water.
Our big morale problem is lack of water at the Mayor’s house. How ironic that we are bringing in containers of water from the well in Bakang so that we can shower at night. The situation has worsened as there has been no tap water at the house even late at night or first thing in the morning. We are looking forward to showering in Yaoundé so we are not too unseemly upon arrival in Philadelphia.

Friday night update:
Today was a big day in Bakang. We worked on finishing many small parts of the project and made our last trip to Bafoussam (hopefully), so things finally seem to be coming together. Wire and polypipe were dug under both roadways today, so almost all of the polypipe is connected, and the wire is all set out, and just needs to be connected. The wet well is all connected, unfortunately we already found a problematic connection but we think it is due to a lack of pvc glue rather than a problem with the fitting. Hopefully this will be an easy fix with more pvc glue. Early tomorrow morning we are testing the system. Hopefully we don’t find anymore leaky fittings and everything runs smoothly! The picture below shows Nicole and Shannon working on putting the pump into the wet well.
This picture shows Amy and Raoul working on the tanks at Bakang.

Digging the roadway was a really exciting part of the day. While the ditch was dug the road was impassable.. or so we would think. Instead of taking a huge ditch in a road as a sign that they should drive the other way around the community, the drivers of taxis and motos decided to drive over the ditch instead. The workers set down rocks for the taxis to drive over. Guy decided our SUV was too good for the rocks so we just drove over the ditch. Now we have a flat-ish tire. When we finished our work in the ditch and filled it back in with dirt everyone was pumped. There was a lot of cheering and celebrating.. one big step done!

This picture shows the solution to cars coming down the road - large rocks! This worked surprisingly well for the couple of cars that came through while the digging was going on.

This picture shows the completed excavation across the road along with the completed pipe installation!
The team.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Setbacks !

Oops. 24 hr delay due to leaks, which are now fixed. After enough sunshine tomorrow to check the pump and pipes, we will leave for Yaounde. There we will get a hotel room and take turns showering and finally get on our flight. You should hear from us again on the blog, too!
Dr. Steve from the Bberry

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Thanks for your patience !

Hey folks! We have been very busy and expect to leave Bamendjou tomorrow after having completed *everything* (well, almost). We'll post a complete rendition of our exploits and accomplishments from Yaounde!
- From Dr.Steve's Blueberry (which has not been able to do this before). .

Monday, January 24, 2011

Making Strides

So it turns out that all major and useful shops in Baffousam are closed on Saturdays. Remember this for future trips! We ended up getting a couple supplies (pvc, a few fittings, and some other odds and ends) from a second hand parts shop. At these kinds of shops everything is in piles and you have to sort through it all to find the pieces you want. We found most of what we wanted anyways so it worked out.

Yesterday (Sunday) morning we started to put together the racking system for the solar panels. We had to add another splice onto the longer legs to get them onto the plane, so we had a couple more holes to drill into the aluminum. The guys worked on drilling the holes for the splice and the solar panel connections while the girls worked on wiring the conduit. Some of the holes were a little too small so Dr. Steve was trying to make them a bit bigger by drilling a little on an angle. The drill bit bent and broke off! And that is why we are back in Baffousam for the day. No surprises, the girls fully succeeded in wiring the conduit. The picture below shows the drill bit in pieces!This picture shows Shannon and Amy rolling up some finished conduit.

The following picture shows Vince and Raoul working on drilling holes to mount the solar panels on the rack (prior to the drill bit shattering).
Sunday was also market day in Bamendjou! We went to the market to search for drill bits, fabric, baskets, and sugar cane. We left the market with a 50% success rate.

After the market we stopped by our construction site and marked out location of the wet well and control box so excavation could start bright and early this morning. Due to unforeseen circumstances (one of the tanks' supports being broken), we changed the location of the wet well to the left tank.

Then we headed to the chief's place for a water committee meeting. During the meeting we discussed all sorts of plans for this trip and future trips. The water committee seems to have been on their game lately. They elected new leaders, as is customary in Cameroon every 2 years. They gave us an overview of meetings for the past couple meetings, and their detailed budget plans for the upcoming year. We answered any questions and concerns they had about the system. Then we shared the memorandum of understanding with them and they liked the "official-ness" of the document. We took some sweet official agreement pictures of Dr. Steve and the chief of Bakang II. The first picture below shows the chief of Bakang II signing the memorandum of understanding and the second picture shows the whole team with the members of the water committee.

This morning, Nicole, Raoul and Amy worked on planning out the wet well and improved taps to the tanks in Bakang II. Shannon and Vince worked on figuring out the problems with the float switches in Bakang II and the reservoir. Dr. Steve dug a trench for the wire and pipe with the help of 21 hardworking volunteers from the community! It was fantastic to see such a great turnout. As of this afternoon, the beginnings of the wet well have been attached, the area for the foundation for the wet well and control box has been dug, the float switch in Bakang II was inspected and fixed, and the sand, gravel and cement have been delivered for foundation work tomorrow. Cement blocks will arrive tomorrow.

Currently, Nicole, Shannon and Dr. Steve are stuck in Bafoussam due to a flat tire on the SUV. However, we have found all of the parts we came for and the tire should be fixed soon.

We have a lot of work to get done over the next week, but we had pineapples with dinner last night so we are still in good spirits.

Love forever,

The Implementation Team

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Beginning of Bamendjou

We woke up early on the twentieth to meet Giscard, our friend from the Maison du Plombier, in hopes of finally getting the galvanized pipe we spent an extra day in Yaoundé waiting for. Much to our surprise (but not really) it was not ready at eight am… or nine am… or ten am. Then we found out that the SUV had broken down and was smoking. After forty five minutes and three different belt replacements, the faulty fan belts were replaced with new ones and we were ready to go. Below you'll see Guy and a guy from an auto repair shop working on the car. When we finally got the pipe, we found out that we’d have to take it to another place in order to get it threaded. We were annoyed but relieved we finally had the pipe.

However, when we got to the place where supposedly we could get the pipe threaded, we learned that the pipe was too big to get threaded at that location and it would cost at least 40,000 CFA (about $80) for the man with the machine to show up and an additional two hours. We decided to just get the pipe cut and leave because we were all very frustrated and many hours behind schedule.

The trip to Bamendjou is about four hours, hot, and very dusty. We had to stop and pay tolls three times along the way. Each time, the car was swarmed with people trying to peddle things like peanuts, bananas, and pineapples. At the last toll, we stopped. Guy got out and two minutes later our SUV was stuffed with about 16 pineapples. (We have not gone a day without eating pineapple. It’s delicious)

We arrived in Bamendjou around four pm on the 20th . We immediately met with Marcel, the head of Hydrosanté, to discuss our plans for this trip. After receiving encouraging reports about our project’s effect on the community’s health, we got dinner at the “Seven Eleven.” This was our first traditional Cameroonian meal. We all were a little delirious from the long day so we went to bed early.

The next day started out with a bang. After having breakfast, we went to inspect the water tanks in Bakang and Balatsit. When we got to Bakang I, we discovered that a man from Toumi was taking water without contributing the monthly fee that the rest of the local community contributes. He took about 500 liters in his truck,which is enough to provide 34 people with water for a day. After an intense argument with Marcel, Dr. Steve, and other concerned members of the community, they finally got him to pay a minimal fee and we went on to look at the Balatsit I and Bakang II sites. Below is a picture of all of us climbing the hill towards the school with all the school children watching us.

When we later got to Bakang II, we discovered the same man taking even more water. Again, heated arguments were exchanged. After this, we went to talk to the chief of Bakang. We were requested to attend the funeral of the chief’s mother on Saturday morning. After this sad news, we got some good news during our inspection of the slow sand filter at the chief’s compound. The water was crystal clear after being pulled from the local creek.

Below is a picture of Dr. Steve, Guy, the Chief of Bakang, Raoul and Vince with the fantastic water filter!

We continued our circuit around the community and checked out other water systems to get new ideas and look at how well our systems were doing. We ended up climbing an abandoned Scanwater tower which was built by the Scandinavians in 1987 and has been inactive for at least fifteen years. Most of the useful parts have been stolen. This was a system that was installed without community involvement and failed for that reason. Below is a picture of Dr. Steve, Vince, Shannon, Amy and Marcel on top of the Scanwater tower.

Next, we came back to discuss our construction plans and figure out how much material we needed to order from Jean Bernard. Amy worked on taking inventory of all the supplies we have left here from previous trips. Vince and Shannon worked on putting the racking system together until realizing that somehow our drill bits have gone missing. We’ll need to buy a 5/16” bit in Baffousam (quick quiz: what’s that in mm?).

Then for the real fun. Conduit! We spent the rest of the day attempting and failing at wiring conduit. Roll #1 was deceivingly easy. Roll #2 was rusted and broken before we even touched it. Roll #3 was a breeze because everyone helped to unroll the conduit and keep it free of kinks. This being said, we only finished two hundred meters (not yards, Dr. Steve) before dinner and before it got too dark to work. However, now we have a system and have high hopes for the rest of the conduit.

Cleaning up for dinner was difficult because we currently don’t have water. The area hasn’t had consistent SNEC (the national water system) water in two months. Thank goodness our system was still pumping enough to provide the community we’re working in with plenty of water. We also had part of our dinner by flashlight due to power outages that are frequent in this area.

Dinner was a great traditional meal. After dinner, dessert was even better. We decided to do an experiment with results following. We wanted to know what colors gobstoppers changed to. We were super scientific using flashlights to be sure of color changes and eating the gobstoppers at the same time. While experimenting, we found some faults with gobstoppers.


Purple to Red

Green to Purple

Red to Orange

Yellow to Orange

Orange to Yellow

Fault #1- There is only one color change! The pictures on the box are misleading, along with what Willy Wonka has lead us to believe. There should be many color changes!

Fault #2- Red goes to orange and yellow goes to orange?!?! What happened to green! Since three of the four of us (excluding Vince) love green, we found this to be a major fault.

Fault #3- Vince’s fault. There is no blue. Vince loves blue. Problem.

Limitations and Future Direction – Do these color changes hold true for all boxes of gobstoppers? We don’t know! Limitation – we are in Cameroon and cannot get more boxes of gobstoppers.

So you can see we are in good spirits, even by flashlight and with scant showering opportunity. That’s all for now!

The Team

P.S. from Dr. Steve: I said that 100 meters is “about” the length of a football field!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dr. Steve reporting

We are still in Yaoundé but ready to leave tomorrow - assuming our materials arrive when promised. Considering all else so far, we are prepared for delays. This is the first time we've had duty problems on equipment brought into the country but now we know to bring receipts or letters proving donation and approximate value. Still, at least we have the solar panels we brought, and a lot less expensive than the ones we are buying here. I think we have even odds that the latter will even have arrived when we are leaving the country... but, with our backup plan we are still ok, and the late panels will be used during our trip in May.

Our team is working *really* well together and is very positive and knowledgeable. Above, you see Shannon, Amy, and Vince in the plumbing store, where the team spent hours making sure we got exactly what we need. Sorry for the picture quality - after taking this shot I was told that photography is prohibited there! So look very closely for the top secret goods and prices....

Also everyone is dealing well with the conditions here. We enjoy the western-style restaurants we can afford, and don't notice the squalid water in the drainage ditches. Traffic may be chaotic, but Guy gets us where we need to go (he is amazingly good at finding places in a country that has no street signs or city road maps - sorry, no gps road maps either). The air is hazy but will be better tomorrow, once we are on our way to more rural Bamendjou. I am really looking forward to seeing all our friends there!

G'night - getting up early to get our pipe tomorrow....

Des Chèvres (Goats!)

Today was more relaxed. We needed to pick up the materials and send those along with our bags by bus to Bamendjou because our car is packed! Also, we figured out how to change the French keyboard to an English keyboard!!! We all were excited about this discovery because we were constantly writing "q" instead of "a" and searching for the "m" key.

Guy, our driver for this trip, Nicole and Amy went to SOCIMAC to pick up the materials we ordered yesterday. They had to pull off the road at one point to make room for a herd of goats! After this we made a point of looking for any and all goats. The materials along with our bags were then delivered to the bus station.

We had a delicious late breakfast at Hotel Mansel, our hotel from previous trips, after Guy, Nicole and Amy returned. It consisted of baguette, croissant and fantastic ananas! (pineapples) We had some trouble pouring the café au lait because of the high tech thermos it was served in. The breakfast ended with coffee, milk and bread crumbs everywhere.

After breakfast we took a long driving tour of Yaoundé in search of Solaire Afrique and finally found it after stopping at a police station and a hardware store. It was a little discouraging because we learned that the solar panels we ordered a while ago would not be available until the end of next week when we would be in Bamendjou (about four hours away). However, we thought ahead! We brought solar panels with us in anticipation of not receiving the panels ordered in country.

From there we returned to the city and went shopping for Cameroon jerseys! We were impressed because on the way over we saw many female police officers! Guy was a great guide and found us some great deals. We all got a lesson in bargaining on the way over and we got some jerseys at good prices.

Now we're waiting on galvanized pipe to be available later this afternoon and after we pick up that and a few more pipe fittings, we should be set to travel to Bamendjou early tomorrow. Tonight after a little more shopping, we're planning on going to Dolce Vita for dinner and an early bedtime hopefully to rest up for a long day of traveling tomorrow.

We're unsure if we'll have internet access so don't be alarmed if you don't hear from us for a while!

Bon après-midi!
Shannon and Vince

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

pumps, pipes, and pizza

Day 2 in Yaoundé... always an adventure. We started off the morning trying to find a place to eat. That was one of the things we had taken for granted on previous trips... breakfast at the hotel. We found a MakDonalds, which was a cameroon version of the McDonalds in the states. The American music was in full force at 9am. After that, we did some things around the hotel...including journal writing, supply list reviewing, and me falling up the stairs. Amy already has a list on the clumsy things I do throughout the day. Maybe we will post that at the end of the trip for a good laugh. When we ventured out, we split up into two groups. group 1: dr steve and guy. going to airport to rescue the solar panels and pump. group 2: the students. going around the city to get supplies. Success! By 6pm we were on our way back to the hotel. Airport mishap resolved, most of the supplies purchased. Its a good thing too because we are sending the supplies and solar panels on a bus to Bamendjou tomorrow. The team, however, will be leaving on Thursday because there are a few loose ends that need to be tied. I am sure you will be reading all about that another day.

For tonight: its pizza night. Best pizza in Yaoundé shared with my homegirl, Olivia.


Monday, January 17, 2011

First Day...

So after a few roadblocks, such as two delayed flights, we have arrived in Yaoundé.

Disclaimer = my blog posts will be short because dealing with typing on a French keyboard has proved to be chalenging.

Today, upon arriving at the Philadelphia airport, we learned that nearly everything we had packed was overweight, oversize, or both. This led to some (mostly) organized unpacking, cutting, resizing and repacking. With the entire teams effort and a little schmoozing of the airline, we were able to get everything on board and to Cameroon.

The arrival in Cameroon also proved to hold some hassles. Currently all four solar panels and all other supplies we brought are sitting at the airport due to some discrepancies over customs policies.

However, despite these setbacks, the team enjoyed a nice late dinner with Olivia Mukam and we are ready to make things happen tomorrow! That being said, it is well past bedtime after being awake for many many hours. More updates soon!


The Blue Hen has landed!

The January 2011 EWB-UD team has landed in Cameroon for yet another expedition to Bamendjou!

For the next two weeks EWB-UD will be working in partnership with the community of Bamendjou to continue to develop their water distribution system. Plans include the construction of a wet well, force main, and solar array. This off-grid system will be used to pump well water up a ridge to the reservoir that was constructed last June.

Keep your eyes peeled for more reports!