SOWECTA Conference at Kumba

    Having heard about the calculators and CBL's which we brought to the University of Buea, a local high school chemistry teacher invited Tom to be the keynote speaker at the South West Chemistry Teachers Association's annual 3-day workshop, which was held this year at Kumba - a distance of about 75 kilometers from Buea. On Sunday, December 9th, we traveled with our "regular" taxi driver, Dennis, to Kumba. Such a trip outside of town requires the driver to purchase a pass allowing us to travel. We were stopped each way by security police who wanted to make sure we had the pass and our identification documents. We arrived in Kumba after a 2 1/2 hour trip over a very dusty, bumpy road. We found an excellent bakery and bought a small picnic to eat at the lake we had read about in our guide book.

    As we approached the road to the lake we were warned by a local resident that an earthquake had damaged the road. It was indeed a challenge to attempt driving down that road - we all decided after getting stuck going up an extremely steep incline that it would be better to walk. Fortunately the distance was only about 2 kilometers. We arrived to find a very pretty lake which is still fished by local fishermen in dugout canoes. We were interested to see the fish that live there - a species of what are called "mouth breeders" that is found only in this lake in the world. We learned that this means that the mother holds the fertilized eggs in her mouth until sometime after they hatch. (Tom had other ideas about what the term meant but that is another story!) In any case, we were unable to see the fish but did hear from the fishermen that they do exist! What we did find was that Janice was very attractive to a local insect! Her arms and legs were well eaten - despite a generous spraying with OFF.

    We spent the night in a hotel which had been advertised as the best one in town! Our first surprise was in the bathroom (see the accompanying picture) and our second one was in the restaurant which announced that they were out of most items on the menu. We ended up eating some beef sold on the street which was tough but tasty! (It was barbecued and then wrapped in paper and steamed on top of the grill.) The hotel room DID have air conditioning, hot water (which arrived after several hours!), and CNN - as well as a supply of condoms for its guests!

    On Monday morning we arrived at the CASS-Kumba campus for a meeting that was to begin at 9:00 a.m. Tom's talk was to begin at 10:00 a.m. As you can see from the picture, the meeting was on "Cameroon time"! Tom did get to talk at 12:30 and introduced the teachers to CBL's and how they can be used in Chemistry labs. We think that it was a good opportunity for the participants to hear about the possibilities that technology can provide. We are hoping to convince Texas Instruments that there is a market for calculators and CBL's in Africa after we return to the States.

    We wanted to use this opportunity to introduce you to Dennis. Tom spotted him by chance during the week after we arrived in Buea. He has become a faithful friend - arriving each morning to take us to school and each afternoon to drive us home. When there was a taxi strike he arrived at 6:30 a.m. to get us to campus before the strike began - so we wouldn't get stranded. When he developed malaria he found a substitute driver to take care of us until he was well. (Such a bought with malaria is very common among locals - many of our students have been out for a week or more since we arrived.) Dennis is also our tutor in Pidgin English, and the person who explains bumper stickers and other cultural oddities (for example, "work na sense" which means "think about how you work" and "it pains you why" which means "why are you jealous about my car".) As you can see we sometimes need help in interpreting such things!

    Next week we will send you our Christmas greetings before we leave for the holidays in Washington!