Grand Opening Ceremony

On July 30th we had the official opening of the new vocational unit building that I mentioned in the previous post. Here are a few of the students:

The crowd gathered for the event:

George showed the chiefs the puzzles made by students in woodworking class to sell:

Rosemarie and Bram, the two Dutch volunteers who led the fundraising effort for the vocational unit, were of course the guests of honour at the ceremony and went through a little ritual cleansing before the ribbon was cut from across the main doors to the building.

Students watching from the other set of stairs:

Henry, who played a huge role in coordinating the builders and keeping close tabs on the budget and work schedule:

Rosemarie and Bram again:

Touring the new building:

Everyone went home happy (and full, after a big meal)

A new school building

The vocational students undergoing training and some basic education have been without a proper school for many months now, after the landlord refused to renew the rental contract on the workshop they had been using. As a result, the students were forced to do only theory classes and English, Math, and French (which I helped teach). Through the effort of a few volunteers, enough money was raised to build a new building for the vocational unit on the new school site. The new school site is a half hour walk from the current school, on donated land in a much more peaceful setting, closer to many of the students’ homes. While I was there, 4 normal school rooms were already in use by the primary school, and at the moment work is continuing on increasing the capacity of the new site so that the entire school can eventually move there.

I spent a few weeks working on the construction site for the new vocational unit, which I really enjoyed! There were plenty of bugs, as you can tell by the photos from the August 18 post in which you can see the several-dozen bites I had at one point.

This is the classroom for the vocational students in the town, which is clearly not suitable:

This is the new vocational unit as it appeared when I began helping:

The students chiseled holes for the electrical wiring and put the wiring in protective plastic hosing:

We began our work with the windows. The iron bars had to be hammered on to the wood frames, then placed in the window spaces, which was not at all easy. Those things weigh a tonne!

Kristin worked especially hard

Once all the windows were in place, with wooden wedges to hold them there, the chiselling began. Several of us spent many hours chiselling away at the cinder blocks and reinforced concrete beams to make these little holes to put nails in for anchoring the windows with cement:

The next big job was the flooring – this meant days and days of carrying sand, cement, gravel, and water up and down, back and forth, in wheelbarrows and buckets, in hot sun and blasting rain, and through the mud. I also did some cement mixing. I don’t know how those guys work at this for so many hours with so little food and so few breaks, I was downing a litre of water every 3 hours on the site even when it was pouring rain!

Plastering the walls had to be done with cement mixed from a finer sand and without gravel:

The wood ceiling boards were put in by specialists, as well as iron doors on the room which will house expensive equipment, and the vocational students helped put the wooden doors in.

Barbeques and random shots

One nice treat every so often in Buea was a barbeque at Pavel’s house. Pavel is a Czech volunteer with a different organization in Buea, and he is staying in a house up the hill which is quite conducive to building a small fire and cooking our own food.

Pavel and I usually took on the duty of building the fire, a task at which we excelled:

Mirte was an excellent garlic-bread maker:

And everyone seemed to be good at cooking. The only problem with this particular barbeque is that there was no chicken at the store so we had fish, which I hate. And they cooked all the stuff on the same grill so all my corn and bread tasted both fishy and kerosene-y because we had not let the kerosene burn off for long enough (kerosene was needed as it was raining).

It rains a lot in Buea, especially as it was rainy season while I was there. When it rains, activities often come to a stop or at least slow down. It rained really hard one day so I decided to take a few photos around the house while I waited it out:

On one of our better-weather days, we got to watch a friendly practice match between local football players. One of them is a friend of ours named Japhet (used to play for Sparta Rotterdam and has just headed to Cyprus to restart his career), and he invited Javi to play with them, which was neat to watch.


On the 14th of July a few of us went on a little informal tour of the local banana plantation, owned by CDC / Del Monte, a company with a less-than-sparkling record when it comes to treatment of employees / the environment / etc. We had a friend whose brother works there, so he showed us around.

An older employee plants young banana trees:

Banana bunches are protected to some extent from bugs and foul weather by these plastic covers:

They have these tracks about 7 feet up in the air, on which they can put a little wheel thing for transporting the loads from place to place:

Here you can see the way it works. The wheel thingies have hooks to which short boards are attached, and from those are suspended the bunches of bananas.


Hooking it up:

They put these divider things between the levels of bananas as they put them on the track rail, though I forget what the reasoning behind this is.

A plantation worker, paid $3 a day for a long and difficult job, looks for the next bunch of bananas to cut.