"Transport is necessary in achieving a wide range of objectives including economic growth, personal welfare, governance and empowerment as well as security." ~ P. Njenga & A. Davis, Drawing the Roadmap to Rural Poverty Reduction

Friday, June 20, 2008

First Week in Village - Protocol

Finally unpacking our things in village, we came to find that the power had been out for nearly a week, expected to come back on at any day. In total, the power was out for 8 days, which made it very difficult to sleep at night (temperatures have been up in the 90's at night), and shut down the mill for the local people, not to mention making work after dark nearly impossible. It certainly highlighted the fact that we only get 12 hours of daylight here, as Jess and I spent several hours reading by candlelight until it was late enough to try and sleep each night.

Whenever I come to the village, it is customary to do what is referred to here by 'protocol'. Remember, Africans are big on introductions and welcoming visitors. Protocol involves visiting the local officials and friends, to greet them on my return to the village. Several days are spent merely greeting people, discussing how they and their families are doing, explaining the details of my project, and how it is to be carried out, etc. We visited the Sous-Prefet (the government's envoy to the village), the mayor, his family, local priests and market keepers, several other workers at the sous-prefecture, the gendarme commandant (the local commandant is actually very nice and upright) and our friends around the village. This process takes days.

We also met with three of the young men I'll be working with to construct the vehicle. They're finishing up exams this week, and we'll be ready to start going over the design and buying materials next week. They all seem excited to be a part of the project, and I'm excited to make the a part of it. When I present my results to the NGO in Maroua, these young men will have some marketable skills to offer - if anyone should want to construct such a vehicle, not only is it possible, but they've got local experts on the subject. I think this will play out nicely for all involved.

Two nights ago, there was an uproar across the village as the power came back on. It's amazing how much easier it makes life when one has access to electricity - the fridge is on! We can open the jelly! We can have COLD water! We can turn on the fan, and we can cook after dark! This is great!

All together, things are off to a nice start, after a rocky trip home. I've put in my cv for consideration by the Department of Mechanical Engineering at University of Denver for a Ph.D. position in biomechanics research - Jess is interested in an intercultural/international communications master's program there, and we may be headed there as early as Spring '09, if I get the position with them. We'll see how things turn out.

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