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!


Engineers Without Borders said...

Guys, it sounds like you're doing great! I miss Club 7-11. Gobstoppers are in the mail. Keep up the posts!

The Lazor Family said...

Wow. It sounds like every day is an adventure. What will happen next? I can't wait to see your next post. Keep up the good work. You're doing great! Keep the post & photos coming...

Sarah said...

Dr. Steve is the best Dr. Steve there is.
To the team: bon courage!
Can someone tell Guy that he's awesome but he owes me a beer and a motorcycle lesson?

Sam said...

Ditto to Sarah's comment!!! Dr. Steve you continue to rock socks everywhere you go! Keep rockin' the roon' UD EWBers!!!

Anonymous said...

The Deibels check everyday for pictures and paragraphs. Great work. We are all so proud of you. We are just hoping you get to shower before you come home.

We are also considering doing a gobstoppers study. None of us being engineers, we hope you'll pay just a teeny bit of attention to our results. We'll let you know. Love to you Shannon and spread it around to the rest of your team.

Melissa said...

Wow! What an eventful few days.

You guys should make the man stealing the water do some heavy labor to begin to pay for his lack of financial distributions.

Also, great observations on the gobstoppers problem. Great pilot study in Camaroon. Now new centers for the study are opening up: Delaware, Philadelphia, and NY.

Any other places plan on opening this study?