20 May 2010


I stayed up almost all night to upload photos and now I have a shutterfly account. You can check out lots of photos

06 May 2010

Engineering and Politics

I am certainly not an engineer and sometimes I wish that I had my dad, the engineer, with me here. but I am learning a lot of innovative ways to make something with the few materials I have. Right noz I am working on making tippy-taps for the primary schools. For those of you that don't know, tippy-taps are bottles that are filled with water to serve as a make shift faucet for those places that do not have running water. There are many different models and I am trying to work out one where you have a hanging bottle and then you pull a string to invert the bottle and allow water to come out.

The reason that I am working on this is because last time I was at the primary schools we were talking about the fecal-oral route and how to prevent these diseases. ONe main way is washing your hands after using hte latrine. Se we walked over to investigate the latrine situation. Guess what? There was no place to wash your hands. So I told them to think about what we could do and I would think too. The next time I come we are goign to figure it out.

Back to the engineering thing, though. I think Cameroonians have engineering brians - and not necessariy hypothetical or theoretical brains. Obviously this is a huge over generalisation, but nonetheless here is my logic: Cameroonians can fix anything to make it work. The just need to see it and they will figure it out. I would say that they are learners by doing things hands on. NOw they do not necessarily fix it 'properly' but it works.

Maybe I have talked about this before, but as an example, the children make these amazing toy cars. They use old sandal shoes for the foamy wheels, sardine tins for the body, and rafia limbs for everything else. The amazing part is that they attach a long limb that splits off into a steering wheel that they use to drive the toy car. I know that I could not have made something that complex as a toy for myself at the ages that these kids start constructing them.

Now on to politics: local politics are a funny thing. Every month, we, my health center, do a mobile vaccination day in several small villages that are farther away from the health center. Yesterday I went to help out for the one at Batsepou. When I got there, guess what I found? A brand new health center! It was like it magically appeared. They had new beds and chairs and tables. I have no idea where the money came from for any of this or who came up with the idea. All that I do know is that no one informed our health center (which is the main health center for the area and in charge of all the others) or even the health committee (the president of which lives almost across the street from this brand new health center)!

Then since no one was informed my health center wanted to call it quits on the vaccination day, but the new health center is private and without a fridge - aka no money for the vaccines of a way to store them.

Finally, though, we decided to do the vaccination day anyway so that it would not look like we were against this new health center. After that we went to the local cheif and told him to appoint a health delegate for the health committee so that we would not have issues like this happen again. When we went to visit the chief we chatted for a while and drank palm wine. The first batch was very strong and all the men I was with liked it a lot. I only took one glass because when it is strong like that it smells like vinegar. Then They brought out some more that was sweet and fresh. I had another glass while the men sent it back for a stronger version.

Oh Cameroon!

04 May 2010


So maybe the rainy season is finally starting. It came for one week in March and the rains have yet to return in full swing. But the other day we finally had a downpour. It was even hailing! That is the first time I saw hail in Cameroon, but I am sure it will not be the last.

As a side note to that, I used the water from the storm to shower with: very cold and I am guessing that the hail did not help that.

This morning I went for a run and I tried to make it a little bit longer by taking a slightly different path. I ended up about 2 hours from my house before I knew where I was. But now I know a few more roads near me (or rather not the near).

Now I am off to an all day meeting, my favorite kind - not.

01 May 2010

La fete de travaille

Today is Labor day. What does that mean...instead of working we get to have parades! I am in Mbouda, where my prefecture is to see the parades today. My postmate is marching with his bank and I am just going to hang out and watch everyone else. Unlike for Women's day where I marched, I have no stress about today. It is nice to come to a city every once in a while, but I think it makes me appreciate my post more. It is so quiet at my post; I can go running without getting harassed; it is cool out and there are a lot less mosquitoes.

Lately I feel like my life has been all over and so it has been hard to post a lot. Work is coming together at the primary schools. We have been talking about clean water and the oral fecal route recently, so our next step is to try and make tippy taps at the school latrines so that everyone can wash their hands with soap after going to the bathroom. I am trying to figure out a good model for the tippy taps right now with the available resources.

I am also working with a few womens groups on making soap. it is surprisingly easier than I thought to make soap. Three ingredients: caustic soda, water, and oil. I think the problem is that the soap does not smell well, but the women do not seem to think it is a problem; generally soap here is unscented (or rather smells like palm oil).

My health committee delegates have decided that water is the big problem. So we are going to work on an action plan for how to address the problem from the perspective of decreasing the water-borne diseases. I am happy that everyone is showing up for the meetings and excited to do work. Hopefully we can come up with some inexpensive ways to fix things and then eventually work up to the spending money for a project. My biggest fear is that we could get money for a project and then they would think that money just comes out of nowhere.

Well I am going to watch the parades now, shout out to my sister...Happy Birthday Mary, I love you and I miss you.