We then continued to the village school. For me, this has sometimes been the most peaceful place to reflect on what we’re doing, as the mild wind blows through the eucalyptus trees. But today, it was abuzz. Hundreds of school children, three different crowds of uniformed women, a microphone system, officials directing cars where to park among the rocks, and a voter registration table. Most of the local people were in their traditional dress, including many of the area chiefs. The Ambassador was presented with flowers by a schoolgirl, another student read a poem, and we went through a long line shaking hands with folks (some of whom I’ve now known for years).
After everyone sat down, there were speeches by numerous people of import, plus me (I will add my speech at the end of this blog). The most entertaining was the lead-off, by the chief of Bakang I, but it was in patois and we never got a translation to go along with the gestures and laughter. The representative of the state’s Governor spoke, then the Mayor, then our U.S. Ambassador, then me, and then Mike, with translations into patois (and Mike’s from English to French, too). I presented Mr. Mukam with a pipe wrench that we had spray painted in gold, and Mike presented him with the maintenance manual. There was a lot of singing and dancing, and presents given to the Ambassador and to me (more on that later).
Olivia was given the headdress of a village queen—a great honor, well deserved for her work in getting our project off the ground six years ago.
We then walked up to the water reservoir. I explained the system for the Anglophones, and the Mayor explained for the (vast majority) Francophones. The VIPs peeked into the reservoir, which had a nice flow coming in, and checked out the water at the school’s tapstand. Below, you see the United States Ambassador to Cameroon, Robert P. Jackson, approving of our water!!! After that crucial test, and a few more formalities, we proceeded to the Town Hall in Bamendjou for a sumptuous lunch.
Later, one of them had thanked me personally and, looking me straight in the eye, had said that they were thinking of how their potatoes would be enjoyed by our families far away in the U.S. I told her I love potatoes, and thanked her deeply. Of course we must leave them with acquaintances here, but the gift was very memorable.