Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day 7 - Partners and Friends

Today's focus was connections.

First to William's family home—a lovely 2-story building within a walled complex. Buea is perched on the eastern slope of Mt Cameroon (the highest peak in West Africa), and is an active volcano (with recent explosions in 1999 and 2000). The streets and alleys in the William's neighborhood highlight this fact, and are littered with black volcanic rock.

William’s family prepared a feast for us—fish and chicken, fresh fruit, beans, bread, fufu eru, rice, etc.—a major undertaking, and an extremely gracious gesture to our large traveling party. Sadly, we couldn't stay too long as a portion of our group was to meet with a potential architecture and engineering partner in Doula. It's been said before, but worth mentioning again, that Cameroonian roads and driving styles are completely and totally terrifying—unlike anything I've ever seen. Rules of the road seem non-existent, and passing on the right at 95 miles an hour as you are headed uphill with limited (or non-existent) site lines is perfectly acceptable. If you think it's faster to travel up the down ramp on the shoulder, go ahead! On top of all that, you'll find many pedestrians—including very small children—walking on or right next to the road itself, an occasional herd of cows blocking travel, and (of course) randomly spaced speed bumps everywhere (including the middle of a seemingly empty highway). The drive between Buea and Doula is only 1.5 hours (nothing considering the driving we have been doing), but I am a complete wreck when we travel by car anywhere.

Upon reaching Doula safely, however, we felt right at home. It was a Sunday afternoon and the young architects were all at their desks, working on a deadline—made me kind of homesick!

The firm—AMA Consultants—is relatively small with about 12 professionals, but they had engineers, draftsmen, and architects, as well as a familiarity with education work. Interestingly, they have been in business since 1983, and have many completed projects, but they have almost no pictures of their work. Drawing and specifications absolutely. Building tours too, if we wanted to get back in the car; but no photos. They said that to photograph your own work would be egotistical. What an unexpected mindset! We could never get hired for anything without photos. We left feeling positive. AMA could be the local partners that we need to move this project forward.

All in all it was a good day. Finished with wine and Spaghetti (I know SPAGHETTI!) on the Chariot Hotel veranda and a good night’s sleep. Off bright and early tomorrow to meet the ambassador!

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