Tag Archive for 'cameroon'

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How Donations Were Used…

I’m sure those of you who contributed to this cause are wondering exactly what kind of an impact you made, and those yet to donate want to see what they can do.  As of today, $2,600 USD have been raised by the people listed here.

First of all I’d like to once again thank everyone who made a contribution, whether it was $3.00, or whether it was $300, because everything counts, especially in Cameroon.  For reference, $3.00 will buy a breakfast, lunch, and an accompanying drink, with a little to spare.  Over 50 people made a contribution – college students, teachers, friends, and people I don’t even know – pretty amazing.  Donations came in all forms as well, via internet, in the mail, hand delivered cheques, and inebriated cash donations at a bar.  So I thank you!  Let me first give you the context of how much value your donations had.

Dr. Bwelle and me: just two regular dudes

Dr. Georges Bwelle, the surgeon who leads the whole organization, is a GI surgeon at the Central Hospital in Yaounde, Cameroon, the capital and second largest city.  Yaounde has 1.43 million inhabitants, more than two Bostons, and would rank as the 7th most populous city in the U.S.  The point is that there are a lot of sick people, and that any person who works in a big city, specifically a doctor will make a substantial amount in the U.S.  It seems reasonable I suppose, there’s a lot of schooling involved, a lot of responsibility, long hours, but doctors don’t really do it for the money, especially not in Cameroon.  Doctors in Cameroon are viewed as civic servants and they are paid that way.  The average surgeon in Dr. Bwelle seniority level makes approximately $500 a month, that’s $6000 a year.  Let’s think about that for a second.

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Bidets in Cameroon, You Can’t Be Serious

Yes, I am serious, very much so.  Although I can’t say I’ve used one yet, and it’s been over a week.

Didn't expect my first bidet to be in Africa...

Upon our return from Maboye, the rural village of the first medical mission, arranged for me to stay somewhere other than at his home.  The switch certainly wasn’t per my request but I’m very happy at the new apartment.  Dr. Bwelle traded me to Monsieur Andre Orban, who is a teacher at the American School of Yaounde and was also a member of the medical volunteer team dispatched to Maboye the first weekend.  Mr. Orban is older Belgian man who speaks Flemish, French, and English all at a very high level.  He’s spent time working for Exxon Mobil all across the world, Belgium, South Africa, Nigeria, and Cameroon.  Now he’s retired and is teaching for pleasure, although at the end of the school year the teachers are as fed up with the lackadaisical students as the students are with attending class.

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Shower of the Gods

Every hearty Vermonter, or cold-weather inhabitant for that matter, knows the feeling: the desire to do nothing other than shower.  After a frigid game of pond hockey or a long day on the windy slopes, the numbness in your extremities seeps through to your core.  It’s a cold, wet sensation that only a hot shower or bath will remedy.  That’s what driving back from the jungle felt like.

Not only did I not shower during the weekend in Maboye, but the only shower I had taken since I arrive on May 27th was pouring rainwater on me using a cup.  Spending the weekend sweating through a set of scrubs and one set of street clothes, I was smelling like the damp sock you left in your high school gym locker after playing soccer in the rain, to put it politely.  A shower was all I wanted.

However, Dr. Bwelle had other plans for us, he always does.  One of Dr. Bwelle’s very close friends, a minister of commerce I believe, was hosting the celebration for his son’s baptism, a very big deal in Cameroon.  We were all apparently invited. Had they known the state that we were in, perhaps they would have retracted the invitations.  Never-the-less, Dr. Bwelle assured us that it was fine and I was later informed that part of the measure of your social status in Cameroon is how well you host a party for guests.  Sure this is partly a measure of how much money you have, but I must say that the U.S. could use a little more social measurement by how well you share with those around you.

An example of Northern Cameroonian apparel

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Jungle Travel

We left Yaounde with two vehicles, a small European Toyota Corolla and a large 20 passenger Toyota van. All of the luggage on most vans and buses in Cameroon is placed on a roof rack as you can see from the picture on the previous blog post.

Messeman, Zenge, and a little of Dr. Bwelle in the van

So much has happened in the first couple days that I will attempt to capture the few that are most interesting.

There were several reasons I ventured to Africa, one of which was for the sheer sense of adventure. My first full day provided just that, but I can’t even describe the half of it. I left you last as we left Yaounde on the road toward Douala. From that main paved road, we turned off onto a dirt road, more of a path than a road. It was the quintessential African jungle road that anyone would love to take their Land Rover on.

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Urban Africa

Our Toyota Van

After dinner on Thursday, I bathed. This is when it hit me that I was in Africa. There was no running water in Yaounde today. George and Zenge had set out buckets outside to collect the rainwater off the roof and this was the water used to bathe. Oh yeah, there are no sinks either.

So I poured cold water on myself with a small pitcher, which was actually quite refreshing. Then I did my best to lather myself up while standing. More on the bathroom: it’s actually a toilet/shower all in one. Imagine the footprint of a square shower that doesn’t have a bathtub, and that is approximately the size of the whole bathroom, maybe George’s was a little bigger. The toilet is on one side and the shower is typically on the opposite corner (it normally works) and the floor just drains. Pretty efficient use of floor space if you ask me.

Also, water that comes out of the drain can’t be used to brush your teeth, only bottled water.

I awoke several times in the middle of the night hearing the tap tap tapping of little mouse feet on the tile floor. In the morning, breakfast was awaiting me, Zenge, and Messeman; George had left early in the morning to go to the hospital where he works. We had a baguette with mayonnaise and tea with milk in it.

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Bonjour from Yaounde, Cameroon!

May 27th, 2010

This place is absolutely nuts! Crazy drivers, a different language, and hot weather.

On Wednesday at 12:55pm (EST) I left Burlington, Vermont and on Thursday I have arrived in Yaounde, Cameroon at 7:40pm (WAT). I arrived in the dark so I didn’t have much of an introduction.

I suppose the realization that I was going to Africa hit me when I was in line boarding the plane from Zurich to Douala and then Yaounde. That’s when I realize that for the first time in my life, I was going to be in the minority. At first I must admit that I was a little nervous, but eventually I got my head around it and have no problem with it. It truly was a shock though – when I think about it, the Czech Republic is more white than Vermont, and Vermont is one of the whitest in the union with something close to 98% Caucasian.

Flying from Europe across the Mediterranean Sea and then across the Sahara desert was quite amazing. The pictures are a bird’s eye view of the Algerian Sahara, Niger’s desert to grassland transition, and finally, the complete forestation of Nigeria and Cameroon. Honestly when we were landing first in Douala, Cameroon, I thought we were touching down in the middle of the Amazon. I sat on the left side of the plane so I had no view of the metropolitan city that holds several million people, just a glimpse of riverside shacks next to the runway.

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In Cameroon

Mike has arrived to Cameroon, safe and sound, on Thursday evening local time. On Friday they left for the first mission of his trip, he was only able to make a very short phone call, he should be able to get online sometime next week and keep everyone up-to-date.

Thanks for reading, stay in touch.


Ready to Go

So I took one more Vermont hike …

On the top of Mt Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak.

… graduated …

UVM graduation

… gathered me some important supplies …

No trip is complete without foot powder ...

… and underwent a beautification process.

Looking sharp is half of the success.

I am now ready to go to Cameroon.

I want to thank all of you who have contributed to the fundraising campaign for Dr. Georges medical missions. Perhaps I set the goal too high, but we have still raised a ton of money guaranteed to make a real difference in the lives of people who need it.

In a few days I hope to report right here on how your money is being spent. Stay tuned and stay in touch!

I’m Going To Africa

By virtue of the title of this post, I’m sure you’ve gathered that I’m going to Africa.  An opportunity to volunteer on a medical mission with a Cameroonian General Surgeon into the African jungle fell into my lap and I took it. The University of Vermont helped pay for the airfare, Dr. Georges Bwelle (the surgeon) will host me, and my family will be taking care of the other expenses. All of that is great but this trip is an opportunity to do a lot more, and this is where I need everyone’s help.

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