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.

Barbecues and Wrestling

This post is going to start off with some random photos with brief captions.

Children playing outside Henry’s house

Mary, one of the members of the Eyole disabled group, and Dan, the blind man who weaves baskets.

Some of the volunteers met Pavel, a Czech volunteer with a different organization here, at the internet cafe and we try to schedule barbecues at his place every once in a while. Pavel and I usually take care of the fire and then, once it’s good and going, I let the others do the cooking :-)

Before cooking

After cooking

Many of the volunteers like to buy the roasted fish from the street vendors and eat it at the bar. I don’t like fish, but apparently it’s delicious.

Bram and I took a trip to Douala to pick up two new volunteers, and the trip involved a pre-airport stopover at Henry’s wife’s brother’s wife’s parents’ house in Douala to welcome the in-law, as she was visiting from Germany (the husband, Henry’s wife’s brother, stayed in Germany). So, we were at the house of our friend’s wife’s brother’s wife’s parents, and Henry and his wife had never even met her! It was great! These are two of the children we met there:

The crowd at a special football match of the local Mt Cameroon team vs locals who have played or currently play overseas, including our friend Japhet who played for Sparta Rotterdam and has just got a new job with a team in Cyprus after recovering from an injury.

And now, not so random photos. In the villages here they have a form of traditional wrestling, called palla-palla, with rules and a committee and everything, where the people from each village stand in a particular place around the sides of the wrestling ring to cheer on the wrestlers from their own village.

You can see the drummers on their perch in the background, keeping time with a particular beat during every match:

Bram, a Dutch volunteer who you saw eating roasted fish above, decided to try his luck in the ring. One of the porters from his trip up the mountain is also a palla-palla coach, AND the official refereee at the palla-palla matches. That’s not a conflict of interest at allll…

And the winner is….


At the end-of-season awards ceremony a few weeks later, they invited Bram and gave him a special award for being the first and only white man to participate in palla-palla. His prize: an umbrella, which was very useful considering it’s the rainy season here.