Monday, January 14, 2013

"If we had known it was illegal, we would do it again." aka "Dentel Problems"

Today was the big day!  Everything that everyone has been working on for the past six and a half years is getting commemorated today in the ceremony, and everyone's tensions are running high.  It started off on a high note during breakfast when Dr. Steve took a bite of his peanut butter sandwich, only to discover a tooth in it.  It was not his tooth.  And apparently it hurt his already aching tooth.  Dentel problems, indeed.

The mayor went out to the site early in the morning and reported that nothing was working and called us sounding very alarmed.  Because of this we went to the community in our nice clothes, and inspected everything.  It appeared that everything was in working order and would just take some time before the PE tanks were full enough to have the wet wells start pumping.  There was a big tree that was shading the solar panels at Bakang 1, and when Dr. Steve told this to the Mayor, Ramsey and I joked that the tree would be down by the time we got down the hill from the reservoir to the crossroads.  However, during the middle of Dr. Steve's phone call, we could all hear a chain saw start up, and everyone had a good laugh.  Fortunately, that tree is still standing, and hopefully will be for a while.  After we decided that the system was in working order, we headed back to the Mayor's to greet the US Ambassador to Cameroon, Robert P. Jackson.  We met the ambassador at around 10:00 and the Mayor had prepared an early morning treat for everyone.  We dined in his main dining room, which is pretty incredible as people who have seen it will remember.  Ramsey, Erica and I met the two other embassy staff members, Jon and Katy, who had some pretty cool development projects planned and sounded really interested in our projects, current and upcoming.

We eventually made it out to the school, about an hour and a half later than was planned on the ceremony program (Cameroon time I guess).  Once there, the ambassador was given a hearty greeting by all of the dignitaries there.  The ceremony went off without a hitch, with Dr. Steve and me delivering speaches.  Dr. Steve gave Mr. Mukam a golden pipe wrench, while I presented him with the (almost) final draft of the operations and maintenance manual.  After everyone had given their speeches, it was time to actually go look at the tank and see water coming out of the tap there.  Everyone was really impressed with what our chapter accomplished, as am I!  Thanks to everyone who has ever worked at all on this project!  After we visited the tank everyone started clearing out, but we hung around and took pictures.  Thanks to Ramsey's previous trip knowledge, Dr. Steve's rock is now a little less lonely.

After Dr. Steve's adventerous jump off of his rock, we went to the town hall where a celebretory lunch was being held.  Dr. Steve was seated at the table of honor, along with the ambassador, while Ramsey, Erica and I ended up sitting with a really interesting rural engineer with the Department of Energy and Water.  The lunch was fantastic with all kinds of traditional Cameroonian dishes (yes there were plantains and chicken).  Lunch went surprisingly quickly, and was over by 3:00.  After lunch was over, we headed back to the Mayor's to change clothes and head back out to Bakang 2 to see if we could find a possible leak in the distribution line.  Erica and Ramsey stayed at the Bakang 2 panels to take some measurements for this float switch issue, while Dr. Steve and I went with a couple locals to try to find where this break was.  Marcel had told some of them that the line was disconnected somewhere, but neither I nor Dr. Steve knew anything about this.  When we called Marcel, he told us the line was complete.  Because of this, there were plenty of people upset with Marcel.  Dr. Steve and I watched as there was a big argument about who to blame, which was definitely more interesting given I couldn't understand anything being said.  Marcel eventually showed up and we spent maybe an hour and a half searching for where there was water in the pipe.  After all of this time, we found a spot that did have water, but it quickly disappeared.  Felix was trying to explain that there wasn't enough pressure in the line to push the water through the pipe, but I didn't really buy that as the run out is pretty much entirely downhill.  Eventually, someone had noted that Marcel disappeared because there was a cleanout in the line upstream that everyone had forgotten about.  All of a sudden, there was water coming out of the cut pipe again.  The good news was that we had figured out the main issue with the Bakang 2 distribution line, but now we have to fix the parts that we cut testing for water and check for leaks tomorrow which shouldn't take too long.

P.S. The title of this blog is courtesy of a story Dr. Steve told us about speaking bad french. Forgot a negative, apparently.

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