Kebouh, the cultural festival for my village of Bangou was also, in a way, my going away party. Even though I still have over three months left, the chief of the village told me I would be receiving a village ‘notable’ title, so I asked my colleagues to come support me and check out the traditional Bangou culture.

So immediately after our COS conference, a small delegation of my friends came to Bangou with me to help me celebrate my title and show their support. I have to give a special thanks to Tara from Bare, a volunteer a few hours from me who was there a day before and stayed 2 days later to help me clean. In Cameroon language she’s my “plus proche” and someone that will remain a friend even when I get back to the US.

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So, the first night Tara, Takayaki who is a Japanese volunteer 25 minutes from me, a traditional dance group and I put on a performance Friday night right before the Miss Kebouh (Miss Bangou) contest. We performed three songs, and although the acoustics were not the best, and I had to play with a guy physically putting the microphone on my guitar, it was great being in front of people I’ve considered brothers in the African sense for the last two years and at least try to perform something. The big hit was probably no woman no cry, which they even asked Tara to do an encore. By the way, do you know encore means again in French?

Ms Kebouh performance

After the performance we went back to my place and partied until about 4. I had rented 6 hotel rooms to try and host everyone, but there were so many people that most had to sleep on the floor at my house. Casualties include one sick volunteer and a bidet.

The next day was the biggest day of the festival, and the biggest day personally because it is when the Chief would be presenting the titles to his new notables. So, after at most, two hours sleep, I got up and went to the festival.

One interesting thing I had to pick up on the way there was a notable chair. This is a simple traditional bamboo chair made in a special way to signify that you’re a notable. I brought this chair to the secret meeting, where it will stay. Even when I’m no longer here, my chair will remain there, so that whenever they have a meeting, they will be keeping my place in the meeting.

The actual installation was simple, during the festival, the Chief calls the future notables over, says a few words about you and gives you your title. Then you walk around the festival and wave at people while they cheer you. Afterwards, I went back into the secret meeting where we eat together the way people have been eating for hundreds of years, no utensils, nothing modern – except for beer of course.

on the road to notability

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The remains of the food we stick in our bags, which we use to feed our families.

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After the festivities, we went back to my place and had lunch and tried to rest a bit. For dinner, some village elites were having a development meeting, and they sent a bus for us so we could eat and hang out with them for a while. Throughout, my friends from village were now calling me by my new title, SOP.

SOP means prince in their patois or local language. A few days later, I met with the Chief again and he explained my full title, SOP MBIEGUENGO, although I’m sure the spelling of the last part is wrong, it means “He who sustains the planet” literally.

It’s quite a way to leave my adopted village of Bangou, the honor and respect they have given me has been for the most part undeserved and unmerited in that even though I’ve been here for almost two years and have tried my best to integrate and live like a Bangou and try to develop the village, I’m going back to the United States soon. But although I will not be there physically, AADB will remain and continue to work to help Bangou reach its potential.

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