Monday, June 13, 2011
Saturday, June 11, 2011
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!
Friday, June 10, 2011
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
I think that must be a record--getting 4 within a 24 hour span. So we took the mayor's other vehicle to the work site, but had to stop for gas on the way. And of course, the engine wouldn't even start when we tried to leave. After several more minutes of agonizing wait, a changed fuse under the hood and some more air in another (deflated, not flat) tire, we finally got to Bamendjou for the day. While Kim and I learned how to use PVC glue to fix a leaky elbow, Shannon and Amy installed a new float switch at the Balatsit pump. The working Balatsit tanks can be seen below with a happy community member getting water!
It's amazing how many new skills I seemed to have aquired in the span of a few short days--PVC connections, taping galvaized pipe, learning the names and uses of all the different fittings, understanding the solar panel error messages..the list goes on. It's all very exciting! Raul and Felix (the plumber) fixed some polypipe fittings at the top of the hill, and when we reconvened at Balatsit a tap stand base was constructed for most of the rest of the day. Amy and Dr. Steve needed some compression fittings up on the hill when they took a guy up to dig down the trench to the tap stand a bit more, so I "ran" those up. There were several girls up there, too, all of whom seemed fascinated by my long, straight hair and had fun braiding it for me. Stylish! We also compared arm muscles (and were mutually impressed) before they were hypnotized by Dr. Steve's computer. After that, we travelled down the hill again to Bakang 1 to check up on their float switch, fixed it, and bought some sugar cane. Now that is some weird stuff to try and eat. Tasty though. Tomorrow (Wednesday) we have lots to do if we want to be able to go to Market Day! More later, and see you in less than a week!
Schieu beu tsoh (water is life, in Patois)
Monday, June 6, 2011
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.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Just wanted to let everyone know that the team made it to Yaounde safely and that they made contact with us after they landed. It sounded like everything is going well so far. Hopefully the rest of the trip goes smooth and without too many obstacles. We will hear from them by phone again when they land in the U.S. Thanks for everyone's support!
Here's part of the crew waiting for things to happen in the plumbing store, "Maison du Plombier" (yes, that means "house of plums"). Raoul, Kim, Julianne, and Shannon are actually waiting for the rain to stop (Dr. Steve successfully fled to the car before the cloudburst).
Nicole, Giscard in the Maison du Plombier still remembers you. In fact, Shannon and I were negotiating on the long length of PVC pipe we'll need, and got him down to his "best price" of 500 CFA per meter, and he wouldn't budge after that. But then I asked for the "Nicole price!" He almost broke down, poor guy, then gave us another 10% off. This is going to be a $200 difference if we buy 2000 m of pipe, and we will probably buy more. So thanks for your reputation!
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Hello! All is well here in Yaounde. We did some shopping today and plan on heading out to Bamendjou tomorrow! (For anyone who has ever shopped in Yaounde, you know that get it all done in one day is pretty awesome) So far we have had a couple adventures… The car ride from the airport to our hotel was pretty interesting with all sorts of stalling and car backfires. Not to mention there were 8 of us and 9 suitcases in one car. Frank (our car) got fixed up this morning though and is up and running. Also, Julianne got locked in a bathroom with no handle. She is out now. The weather is an awesome 85 degrees. Hope you all are enjoying your extreme heat warnings! My internet time is running out so that's all for now.
We'll blog again as soon as we find internet!
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
My first priority at home was a long warm shower, and I'll bet that was the same for everybody. We take this for granted here, but what a luxury it is!
I got an e-mail this next morning that the mayor's mother had just passed away. I had seen her as she lay in bed only days ago in Bamendjou.... she had thanked me repeatedly while holding my hand. She spoke very little French and I will never know if she was thanking me specifically for our EWB work, or for being there in general. I've forwarded the e-mail to our current and past Cameroon team members.
Hopefully we will get a few more pictures posted here "for the record" but in the mean time, everybody is back home, with lots of laundry to do!
Monday, January 31, 2011
Today, after testing the system one last time this morning, we drove back to Yaoundé. Guy filled the car with pineapples once more, although this time he only bought ten. We finally got the chance to take real showers!! This was a very exciting moment for all of us after being without running water for most of the past week. Now we are awaiting dinner with Olivia and a late flight back to Paris tonight.
Thank you to everyone who commented and/or has been following the blog! We all love the support and look forward to reading what everyone has to say. The team has many more stories to share on our return. See you soon!
The end stages of our work are at hand. The new tapstand at the Bakang crossroads is nearly complete; the adjacent wet well is in its foundation, piped from the tank. The pump is installed, as are the solar panels and rack. The excavation for our pipeline to the hilltop reservoir is going well but is a formidable task: each day the digging team starts early and works hard into the afternoon, yet it still seems that a lot remains. Two gaps in the long ditch have been across the dirt roads, because we don’t want to prevent the occasional moto or (rare) car or truck from passing. These sections also need to be dug a meter below the road surface to assure that any road work will not interfere with our lines, as happened with the previous road grading incident. So that’s one task for today, which will allow us to lay the polypipe and conduit lines from our junction box continuously up the hill. The first picture below shows the digging efforts up the hill.
We complete a lot of water testing from the household water filters, which were a major effort over previous trips. We visited six families using the filters and took samples of the water being filtered, plus two samples taken as water exited the filter. Turns out that the filters—even those that are not really operated to specification—do a reasonable job of purifying the water. There are two that have fecal coliform bacteria in the incoming water that is completely removed; the other filters are removing other types of bacteria that are in the water.
Our big morale problem is lack of water at the Mayor’s house. How ironic that we are bringing in containers of water from the well in Bakang so that we can shower at night. The situation has worsened as there has been no tap water at the house even late at night or first thing in the morning. We are looking forward to showering in Yaoundé so we are not too unseemly upon arrival in Philadelphia.
Friday night update:
Today was a big day in Bakang. We worked on finishing many small parts of the project and made our last trip to Bafoussam (hopefully), so things finally seem to be coming together. Wire and polypipe were dug under both roadways today, so almost all of the polypipe is connected, and the wire is all set out, and just needs to be connected. The wet well is all connected, unfortunately we already found a problematic connection but we think it is due to a lack of pvc glue rather than a problem with the fitting. Hopefully this will be an easy fix with more pvc glue. Early tomorrow morning we are testing the system. Hopefully we don’t find anymore leaky fittings and everything runs smoothly! The picture below shows Nicole and Shannon working on putting the pump into the wet well.
This picture shows Amy and Raoul working on the tanks at Bakang.
Digging the roadway was a really exciting part of the day. While the ditch was dug the road was impassable.. or so we would think. Instead of taking a huge ditch in a road as a sign that they should drive the other way around the community, the drivers of taxis and motos decided to drive over the ditch instead. The workers set down rocks for the taxis to drive over. Guy decided our SUV was too good for the rocks so we just drove over the ditch. Now we have a flat-ish tire. When we finished our work in the ditch and filled it back in with dirt everyone was pumped. There was a lot of cheering and celebrating.. one big step done!
This picture shows the solution to cars coming down the road - large rocks! This worked surprisingly well for the couple of cars that came through while the digging was going on.
This picture shows the completed excavation across the road along with the completed pipe installation!
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Dr. Steve from the Bberry
Saturday, January 29, 2011
- From Dr.Steve's Blueberry (which has not been able to do this before). .
Monday, January 24, 2011
Yesterday (Sunday) morning we started to put together the racking system for the solar panels. We had to add another splice onto the longer legs to get them onto the plane, so we had a couple more holes to drill into the aluminum. The guys worked on drilling the holes for the splice and the solar panel connections while the girls worked on wiring the conduit. Some of the holes were a little too small so Dr. Steve was trying to make them a bit bigger by drilling a little on an angle. The drill bit bent and broke off! And that is why we are back in Baffousam for the day. No surprises, the girls fully succeeded in wiring the conduit. The picture below shows the drill bit in pieces!This picture shows Shannon and Amy rolling up some finished conduit.
The following picture shows Vince and Raoul working on drilling holes to mount the solar panels on the rack (prior to the drill bit shattering).
Sunday was also market day in Bamendjou! We went to the market to search for drill bits, fabric, baskets, and sugar cane. We left the market with a 50% success rate.
After the market we stopped by our construction site and marked out location of the wet well and control box so excavation could start bright and early this morning. Due to unforeseen circumstances (one of the tanks' supports being broken), we changed the location of the wet well to the left tank.
Then we headed to the chief's place for a water committee meeting. During the meeting we discussed all sorts of plans for this trip and future trips. The water committee seems to have been on their game lately. They elected new leaders, as is customary in Cameroon every 2 years. They gave us an overview of meetings for the past couple meetings, and their detailed budget plans for the upcoming year. We answered any questions and concerns they had about the system. Then we shared the memorandum of understanding with them and they liked the "official-ness" of the document. We took some sweet official agreement pictures of Dr. Steve and the chief of Bakang II. The first picture below shows the chief of Bakang II signing the memorandum of understanding and the second picture shows the whole team with the members of the water committee.
This morning, Nicole, Raoul and Amy worked on planning out the wet well and improved taps to the tanks in Bakang II. Shannon and Vince worked on figuring out the problems with the float switches in Bakang II and the reservoir. Dr. Steve dug a trench for the wire and pipe with the help of 21 hardworking volunteers from the community! It was fantastic to see such a great turnout. As of this afternoon, the beginnings of the wet well have been attached, the area for the foundation for the wet well and control box has been dug, the float switch in Bakang II was inspected and fixed, and the sand, gravel and cement have been delivered for foundation work tomorrow. Cement blocks will arrive tomorrow.
Currently, Nicole, Shannon and Dr. Steve are stuck in Bafoussam due to a flat tire on the SUV. However, we have found all of the parts we came for and the tire should be fixed soon.
We have a lot of work to get done over the next week, but we had pineapples with dinner last night so we are still in good spirits.
The Implementation Team
Saturday, January 22, 2011
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!
P.S. from Dr. Steve: I said that 100 meters is “about” the length of a football field!
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Our team is working *really* well together and is very positive and knowledgeable. Above, you see Shannon, Amy, and Vince in the plumbing store, where the team spent hours making sure we got exactly what we need. Sorry for the picture quality - after taking this shot I was told that photography is prohibited there! So look very closely for the top secret goods and prices....
Also everyone is dealing well with the conditions here. We enjoy the western-style restaurants we can afford, and don't notice the squalid water in the drainage ditches. Traffic may be chaotic, but Guy gets us where we need to go (he is amazingly good at finding places in a country that has no street signs or city road maps - sorry, no gps road maps either). The air is hazy but will be better tomorrow, once we are on our way to more rural Bamendjou. I am really looking forward to seeing all our friends there!
G'night - getting up early to get our pipe tomorrow....
Guy, our driver for this trip, Nicole and Amy went to SOCIMAC to pick up the materials we ordered yesterday. They had to pull off the road at one point to make room for a herd of goats! After this we made a point of looking for any and all goats. The materials along with our bags were then delivered to the bus station.
We had a delicious late breakfast at Hotel Mansel, our hotel from previous trips, after Guy, Nicole and Amy returned. It consisted of baguette, croissant and fantastic ananas! (pineapples) We had some trouble pouring the café au lait because of the high tech thermos it was served in. The breakfast ended with coffee, milk and bread crumbs everywhere.
After breakfast we took a long driving tour of Yaoundé in search of Solaire Afrique and finally found it after stopping at a police station and a hardware store. It was a little discouraging because we learned that the solar panels we ordered a while ago would not be available until the end of next week when we would be in Bamendjou (about four hours away). However, we thought ahead! We brought solar panels with us in anticipation of not receiving the panels ordered in country.
From there we returned to the city and went shopping for Cameroon jerseys! We were impressed because on the way over we saw many female police officers! Guy was a great guide and found us some great deals. We all got a lesson in bargaining on the way over and we got some jerseys at good prices.
Now we're waiting on galvanized pipe to be available later this afternoon and after we pick up that and a few more pipe fittings, we should be set to travel to Bamendjou early tomorrow. Tonight after a little more shopping, we're planning on going to Dolce Vita for dinner and an early bedtime hopefully to rest up for a long day of traveling tomorrow.
We're unsure if we'll have internet access so don't be alarmed if you don't hear from us for a while!
Shannon and Vince
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
For tonight: its pizza night. Best pizza in Yaoundé shared with my homegirl, Olivia.
Monday, January 17, 2011
Disclaimer = my blog posts will be short because dealing with typing on a French keyboard has proved to be chalenging.
Today, upon arriving at the Philadelphia airport, we learned that nearly everything we had packed was overweight, oversize, or both. This led to some (mostly) organized unpacking, cutting, resizing and repacking. With the entire teams effort and a little schmoozing of the airline, we were able to get everything on board and to Cameroon.
The arrival in Cameroon also proved to hold some hassles. Currently all four solar panels and all other supplies we brought are sitting at the airport due to some discrepancies over customs policies.
However, despite these setbacks, the team enjoyed a nice late dinner with Olivia Mukam and we are ready to make things happen tomorrow! That being said, it is well past bedtime after being awake for many many hours. More updates soon!