Monday, June 6, 2011

Hello again!

Hey all trusty blog followers!

First, an apology for the lengthy blog. We’ve been out of touch so long and there is much to update on!

The gang, slightly delayed by an out of date sticker on Frank (the SUV) left for Bamendjou on Friday morning. After another delay en route involving an expired registration and the Cameroonian military we were on our way to one of my favorite stops – the pineapple stop! Breaking our January record of sixteen pineapples, we managed to fit seventeen pineapples in the back of Frank along with the luggage of six people plus a slightly squished Julianne. (17 pineapples cost Guy 4,000 CFA which is equivalent to about 9 USD – he’s a master bargainer) We successfully made it to Bamendjou around three pm and immediately got to work.

Julianne, Amy and Kim worked on surveying potential distribution line locations and Dr. Steve and I measured the already dug trenches with Marcel and Michel. Below you'll see a picture of Dr. Steve and Michel looking at the potential tap stand site for Bakang II.

We found that there was no water in Balatsit and consequently no water in the ferrocement tank at the school. This was disheartening. After I did a quick inspection of the control panel of the solar panels, the float switch was determined to be the problem. However, this will be replaced tomorrow (Monday) and we are working on providing the community with full instruction on how to assess and deal with these types of problems. After visiting the sites in Bakang I, Bakang II and Balatsit, we were surprised and impressed to find that the community members had dug nearly 6 kilometers of trenches for new distribution lines! Friday night, we worked on calculations based on measured slopes and distances of the distribution lines.

Saturday, we focused on visiting each site again and determining the maintenance work that needed to be done at each. Below you'll see a picture of a happy community member getting water at the Bakang I site.

We also went around and took elevation measurements of proposed tap stand sites. This was surprisingly frustrating. GPS’s are not as accurate as they should be! Luckily, we found that our two gps’s were mostly consistently inconsistent and we were still able to determine elevation differences. Saturday afternoon, we had a water committee meeting with members of the water committees from Balatsit and Bakang. We presented them with large photos of the team with the water committee from last trip which provided us with many smiles from the community. The kids from the community lined up to watch Dr. Steve speak. (Maybe if he speaks in French in his classes at UD his students will be just as engaged??)

Saturday night we worked on looking at elevation data to determine feasibility of the tap stands. Guy continued to impress me as he took apart a nonfunctioning $3 solar lawn lamp and was able to determine the source of the problem and how to fix it. In case you were wondering, the problem was one of the little thingies on the circuit board. This is why I am a mechanical engineer, not an electrical engineer.

Sunday, we again visited the sites to attempt to nail down tap stand sites. We are finding this difficult because of political issues within the community. There is much discussion of who should get the water first based on who dug the trenches and who paid the most to dig the trenches etc. We found ourselves invited to one of the chiefs complexes. There, we were brought drinks and introduced to the statue of the late chief which was artistic yet slightly creepy at the same time. There is a photo below of the current chief, Kim, me Dr. Steve and Michel with the chief statue!

At the end of the visit, which involved a lot of further discussion of tap stand locations, we were presented with a gift of two chickens! After spending about an hour car ride with the two chickens (inevitably dinner) as we collected water samples for water quality testing, I’m pretty sure I am going to become a vegetarian.

Today, we are in Bafoussam to collect the supplies we need to build the tap stands! Later, it is time to build tap stands. Frank has had yet another problem... Flat tire. However, this has been fixed by the wonderful Guy, and we should be on our way back soon.

In other news, following the trend from last trip… we have NO water. We thought this was strange because at night, the rain is so intense and noisy that it wakes most of us up. However, this morning we discovered that the problem is not because of a lack of water but from a broken filter in the complex that has shut off the water. We are hoping to find the parts and be able to fix it later today.

More later!


Anonymous said...

Merci beaucoup for such a detailed report about the first working days in Bakang and Balatsit. It looks like you have a lot of intensive work ahead of you, but I’m sure you are able to cope with it. Heureux achèvement of all of your intentions!!!

Engineers Without Borders said...

Wow, super awesome! 17 Pineapples! 6km of trenches! 1 statue!

Keep rockin the 'roon you crazy kids!