Saturday, June 11, 2011


Dear Diary,

These are the things I want to write that I would never post on our EWB blog. It would be terrible if this was mistakenly put there.

One thing I won’t put on our blog is how we fit the PVC pipe together when it won’t fit. This is actually something that the local plumbers do for us. Each section of PVC pipe had one enlarged end to give a sleeve fit to the next section, but sometimes the enlarged part is broken. Also, sometimes two PVC fittings don’t mate closely. In such cases, our EWB approach would have been to stop the show, make a one-day drive to Bafoussam for replacement parts, and recommence. However, the local approach is to build a small fire with some grass plus solvent glue, and use this to heat the problematic part until it can be stretched or otherwise reshaped. After witnessing this, we developed a detailed safety protocol requiring that the fire be built only within the excavated ditch and that no one breath from the smoke emanating from the fire. A picture is attached showing this careful process.

Another secret is that we get really filthy here. Climbing around in the dirt is sort of fun but I would never want the general public to know what we look like at the end of a workday. Parents would be truly shocked. Fortunately, the water is working at Mr. Mukam’s house, so at least we can shower off (unlike last trip!). But some dirt seems pretty permanent: please refer to the accompanying illustration of Julianne’s hands after her washing and use of a “Wet One.” She is apparently leaving her towel here when we leave.

The dirt also takes its toll on our clothes. This is such a problem that we actually need to buy new clothes while we’re here. We choose local fabric and patterns at the market, then take the material to be custom tailored by Elizabeth, a seamstress in town. We pay for these out of personal funds; my total cost for two shirts was 13,000 CFA ($28.50). Diary, I would not want this extravagance revealed to our public!
And then, there’s the local wine, made from raffia. I came upon Amy and Julianne after they had been offered this beverage by the locals in Bakang. They claim they didn’t know it was wine, and did not like the taste, but Amy said later that it was “not as bad as real wine.” They also claimed they had only had a sip. However, both of them had been working all day in the ditches so they may have been desperately thirsty. As faculty advisor, I made sure this information was not posted on our blog.

And here’s the biggest thing, Diary. We planned on a fairly limited implementation this trip, probably connecting one tap stand to a long ditch that we doubted would be finished by the time we would leave. Instead, there were ditches completely dug for the *entire* network when we arrived – going to the furthest points we had ever discussed. We did not have enough funding or pipe to complete the distribution lines in all these ditches, but yesterday we did put in over 2 km of pipeline, to connect a major portion of the system. Doing this required a major change to our workplan, because we had to do GPS measurements of the distances and elevations for the ditches where they had actually been placed, and run careful calculations to make sure the pipe will allow enough pressure at the farthest tapstands. It’s good that we included a larger 2” line on a main trunk line: this will prevent a lot of headloss problems (the 2" line is all installed, too). We did have to deny a tapstand near the house of the Water Committee president, and don’t feel bad about that – but a more distant site, 30 meters lower, is going to work using our original plan for 1” pipe, and supply even more households. We had to redo all of our water demand calculations to make sure this was reaslitic, too. More changes than I think our EWB advisory committee would have approved, but we needed to maintain the confidence and enthusiasm of the community.
In January I think we will complete everything we had ever imagined, and more. Even now, the reservoir is over half full, waiting to feed the new water taps after ditches and pipes fill two remaining gaps in the lines. People are already hiking in from the other sides of the valleys for water from our wells.
So this is not a secret. Indeed it feels miraculous. I just don’t know what we report to EWB when the villagers accelerated our project so far beyond what we had planned for this trip. We had the tools to accommodate everything, as you might expect of us. We will do it ALL on our next trip!
So now I’ll write something else for the actual blog. Bye for now!
Dr. Steve


buchadavid said...

To all the team- congratulations on all your "secret" accomplishments. You are truly amazing and hilarious, too. To our wonderful daughter Amy- Happy Birthday! We love you and are very proud! Mom and Dad

Sam said...

Fantastic job team! So proud of you! Dr. Steve - you rock socks as usual!

Gina said...

1) This was a brilliant post.
2) I'm aww'ing at the collective Bucha family comment
3) Excellent job, you wonderful humans.
4) Amy, I miss you.


Anonymous said...

I am really impressed with the project in Cameroon. Good luck with it! Great deeds cannot die!!!

Anonymous said...

Duuuuuudddeeeee! You guys rock!