I’ve had the pleasure of getting at least a little more familiar with Yaoundé, Douala, Kribi, and (of course) Édéa during my time here, and especially in the course of the last month and a half or so. But finally it seems like life is winding down again. For the past two weeks I have taken almost no pictures except for the one you see as the featured image, which I just took just today. Actually, it’s a bit of a funny story. All day Blondine and I were hard at work; if I wasn’t working on my trimestriel report for Cuso and Blondine wasn’t working on her project, then the two of us were working together. Today our focus rotated between planning our first atelier and trying desperately to get a hold of Camtel in order to have them do the final step in the web migration process. In Cameroon, it’s a little weird that we were working so hard on a Friday because it is sometimes lovingly called the third day of the weekend. I suppose this isn’t all that different from Canada. I remember in university when Thursday was the night to go out. Anyway, around 5pm Blondine turned to me and asked sarcastically if there was anything else we needed to do, heavily implying that we had both already done way too much. I shot back with “yeah, Blondine, we’ll be here all night”. Although it was just a joke, a few moments later I reconsidered the work we needed to do and leaned over to Blondine. “Actually, there’s one more thing you could do for me”. Luckily for her I just wanted to freak her out and all I wanted from her was a picture for my blog. Voilà! What you see as my featured image is the result of the final task of the week.
This post will mainly be about my work here in Cameroon, so if you’d rather just read the adventure posts, it’s okay. I understand. But if you have seen the last few posts and are beginning to wonder if I just came to Cameroon to skip the Canadian winter (which I hear by the way is kicking you guys in the butt one last time), then I hope this post will give you a better picture of the official reason I’m here. For the first half of my placement I was doing a combination of things. First, I formulated a plan. This plan seems like it is always changing or getting pushed back because I have a bad habit of expecting things to move more quickly than they do. From almost the beginning of my placement, however, I knew that I wanted to move Cam-Eco’s website from WordPress to another web host/hébergeur (or, as Roland calls it, hamburger) that would be less technical. My goal was to find one that would allow my colleagues to focus on keeping the website up to date with information about their projects, rather than distracted by the need to go through complicated and frequent plugin updates. The first step was to learn more about the system that was in place when I came here. Basically the system had three components to it; our domain registrar (a company in Cameroun called Camtel that I mentioned my frustrations with earlier), our domain manager where we have access to the DNS in relation to our website as well as our business e-mail addresses (DirectAdmin), and WordPress (our hamburger). To be honest, it took me some time and research to learn exactly how these three were linked. The previous volunteer admittedly knows more about databases than me. She reasoned that the main issue for Cam-Eco was money and was brilliantly able to put a system in place that allowed them to pay for nothing directly except for the website’s domain name. In order to achieve this, she designed the website with a free theme on WordPress and took advantage of RoundCube (which is a free service with DirectAdmin if you pay for the domain name and allows you to create a seemingly unlimited number of business e-mail addresses). After I learned these specifics about the website, I was able to explain my reasoning much more clearly to Blondine and from there we were able to make a case together to present to our colleagues on why the change was necessary. After they accepted that the website migration was a good idea and I had shown that there were many possible options for other hamburgers (yes, I’m just going to keep calling it a hamburger. You need some comic relief), I put together a detailed list that compared the advantages and disadvantages of each one I was considering. After making that and presenting it to my colleagues, I made another one. And then Mme. Masso (one of the two omnipresent directors in the office) gave me a template for another one so that I could lay out the information in a way more visually intuitive for them to read. After I made this one Mme. Masso added her comments to the document and gave me a number of questions that she wanted answered. After I gave her an in-depth answer to each one of her questions (in french), Blondine and I organized a meeting with Cécile (who I have mentioned before), Mme. Masso, and Marthe (the second director). Together, Blondine and I laid out each of the things we had wanted to discuss with them for quite some time and I was elated when we finished the session and everyone had come to an unanimous decision on the hamburger. That was in early-mid February.
I think many of you know what happened next. If you don’t know, let me break it down: Evelyn came, disaster struck, we all went to Yaoundé, Fred left, and I tried Kizomba. Work was definitely looking like it was starting to advance before all of this happened but honestly I don’t think my experience here would’ve been complete without it. Last week I dug back into work where I left off, spent some time getting familiar with my work plan again, and rearranging things to fit with the unanticipated work speed and changes. It was also International Women’s Day on Wednesday so I had a chance to show off the kaba
that Blondine and I had found in the market the week before, and I went to go get a beer with Evelyn, some of our colleagues, and Pierrette.
Friday was a pretty good day because I finally got a chance to see Cécile after she had been gone on another extended trip. I don’t know how she maintains her energy so well with all these trips, but thinking about it never ceases to amaze me. Blondine and I went over to Cécile’s house that night to pay for our subscription to the hamburger that we had chosen, but the website’s servers weren’t working on my laptop for whatever reason so I proposed our second option. It turns out that the second option is actually probably better suited for Cam-Eco than the first one we were considering; it provides us with two business e-mail inboxes, is easier to update, and the customer support agents usually respond within 5 -10 mins. Customer service is especially important to my coworkers. On Monday morning Blondine and I proposed the new hamburger to Mme. Masso and Marthe, and then Mme. Masso and I bought the subscription for it. It was a big moment. I was finally able to start the migration process! I really should’ve gotten a picture of the moment. For almost the rest of the day I worked on redirecting our website’s IP address from WordPress to Site123 (our new hamburger). I hit a block a couple hours before the end of the day because I wasn’t able to change the NS records to point away from Camtel and towards Site123 as our new domain name registrar. I didn’t have the authority to do this, as only the actual hamburger can change NS records. This was exactly what I was fearing. I was optimistically hoping I could go through the whole process without having to deal with Camtel because they are notorious for not responding quickly and not knowing what they are doing. Blondine and I have been in the process of getting their attention and making them understand what we want them to do since Tuesday, and it doesn’t help that they don’t seem to know what NS records are. That day (Monday) when I got home, the power was still out as it had been since Saturday. Yes, I was in a bad mood.
Speaking of last Saturday, luckily before the power was cut for the rest of the weekend I finished my housework, replenished my water reservoir, and charged my portable battery charger. Because of the latter my phone actually lasted until Sunday evening! I count that a win even if my broom did break…into thirds. The next morning I skipped church in favor of going to the market and reading. In the afternoon two of the kids came over for a surprise visit and we played catch with a giant bag of fluff that I have lying around. Why do I have a giant bag of fluff lying around? That’s another story. Marthe had invited Evelyn and I over that afternoon to her house for lunch so I headed over there around 1pm. The power was cut at Marthe’s house too, which happens to be in the same building as Evelyn’s, so Evelyn and I were both really looking forward to going to the pool afterwards.
When we got to the pool we couldn’t go in because it was being cleaned or filled or something, so we got pizza instead. There is a restaurant beside the pool and when Evelyn and I realized we could get real pizza there with real cheese it was a pretty exciting moment. I’m not going to say it was one of the most exciting moments here, but it was definitely up there. On Monday morning the power was still out so I was starting to feel pretty gross even after my “shower” the night before. By the way, if you are wondering, when the power is out my showers consist of dumping water from a 10L jug into a bowl, and then repeatedly dumping the bowl over my head to rinse off the soap while also using as little water as possible. It’s not that bad, but it does remind me a little bit of the ice bucket challenge. To sum up; life is moving forward here, there are ups and downs (real cheese vs. Camtel), and I couldn’t be happier that my family and Roland are coming to Cameroon in a couple weeks.