Our life in Buea
In this story, we will try to describe our daily life. Each morning we are usually awakened by one of several roosters (it seems to be a different one each day - at least they sound different). We eat a simple breakfast - bread or croissants, sometimes an egg, fruit, with coffee and tea. Our regular taxi driver, whose name is Dennis, comes to pick us up and we bounce down the 5+ miles (8 kilometers) to the UB campus. As you will see by the pictures, the road, despite many promises, is still full of potholes! We pass many small shops, public buildings, and private homes. Some of the buildings look pretty crummy but inside there will be an Internet Cafe or Movie Theatre or some other business. (Looks are often deceiving!) On Tuesdays and Saturdays there is a market - which makes it a very slow trip. On the first Wednesday of each month, almost all of the taxis take the time period from 9 am to 12 noon to clear the brush from the side of the road. (One should not plan to go anywhere at that time!) We have found that in Cameroon - at least in this area - everything grows quickly and well. Right now it is the end of the month and the grass and bushes on the sides of the road are extremely tall and ready to be cut. There are also many beautiful flowers which we have never seen before.
Last week there was a two day taxi strike, which complicated everything for everybody. We heard conflicting stories about the cause but it seems that several taxi drivers were put in jail for carrying too many passengers in the front seat (we have seen 2 and sometimes 3 people sitting next to the driver in a small car). The taxi drivers claim that they need to carry extra passengers because many people do not pay the full amount of the fare, which is 150 francs (about 25 cents). In any case, the strike was settled by the governor of the province and things returned to normal. We were very lucky because Dennis took good care of us. The first afternoon of the strike he drove us home very quickly, telling everyone we had an emergency! The next morning he came to pick us up at 6:30 so that we could avoid being caught in the strike which started at 7 am. He thought it was too dangerous to drive us after 7 because the other taxi drivers would have prevented him from passing - using violence if necessary!
During the first two weeks, Tom substituted for a teacher who had just given birth, teaching her 2 sections of general chemistry (350 students each) in addition to his own classes, Chemical Kinetics and Advanced Practicals. It was pretty exhausting! The Advanced Practicals is the Chemistry lab required of all seniors majoring in Chemistry. It meets in groups of 20 students at a time, each group for three hours. We thought originally that there would be 4 sections (lasting from 7 am to 7 pm) but it turned out that there are only three sections - which means Tom is "only" in Lab from 9 am to 6 pm on Fridays! Last Friday, Janice worked with Tom to introduce the students to the TI89 calculators which we brought from the U.S. They were very excited and amazed at everything the calculators could do! Next week, he will start them on the CBL's. This is the first real equipment which they have ever had! They have never done a calorimetry experiment, for example, and now they will be able to do one! You can see a picture of the official reception of the equipment and books which we brought to the university, which took place last Tuesday (Oct 23rd) and which was followed by some very nice refreshments.
Janice is teaching a class in Linear Algebra. She has three tutorial sections, each of which meet for 2 hours a week, in addition to the 3 hours of lectures. Both of us find that there are quite good students in our classes but not all of them are at the same level. Both of us are also trying to get started on our research projects. Tom is collaborating with the P-Chem faculty member here and Janice is going to investigate how teachers are prepared to teach secondary school and high school. The system here is that students attend 7 years of elementary school, 5 years of secondary school and 2 years of high school, before going to the university - which is a 3 year program.
In any case, getting back to our daily schedule - we usually eat lunch at the Staff Canteen. You can see a picture of one of Janice's lunch dishes. They change the menu each day so we have not gotten bored yet. Tom tried "bush meat" this week which turned out to be porcupine! He is more adventurous than Janice! We bounce back home in the late afternoon - usually pretty tired. Supper is something quick and easy - leftovers from the weekend or just yogurt and fruit or crackers and cheese. Prices here vary a great deal from the U.S. Lunch, for example, may cost just $1; a large bunch of bananas would cost 50 cents. Our first month water bill was $2. However, a very small TV cost us $250 and an antenna which allows us to get CNN cost us $350. Also, the infrastructure is very primitive. The water and electricity go off frequently which is very annoying!
We will close here and start planning next week's story and pictures! Hope that you are all doing well and not being too frightened by the anthrax scare! Best wishes....