My first actual visit to Bangou, not counting a 30 minute stop by the bank, was during training when all trainees go off to their selected villages and stay there for a week. When I got there, the Volunteer I was replacing set up a meeting with the Chief of Bangou, along with a few other important people of the village, including Chef top.

Me, Chef top and Aladji with scholarship recipient From 2008 AR Scholarship

Chef top was a sous chief under the Chief, which meant he managed the cartier, or neighborhood, I happened to live in. He was a fun, funny older man, that worked in Douala, Cameroon’s biggest city, for most of his life and now lived his retirement back in village, and was very hands on when it came to village problems, development and tradition. It was in his cartier where I started my Peace Corps service, asking questions in my barely comprehensible French and trying to figure out a way for me to make a difference.

Out of the people I knew, he was the only one with a car in my village and he would chauffer me and Aladji around often to different areas of Bangou for some meeting or cultural event. Even though I was his junior by decades and low in the traditional hierarchy, he always made space for me at the meetings and demanded that people pay attention while the young man with bad French made his point and after trying, he would often interject to translate in the local language what I was trying to say.

This man with a kind heart, great sense of humor and so important during my time in Bangou, died a few weeks ago. I was told that one day he was fine, then overnight he started feeling really badly. He went to Douala to the hospital where he died soon after.

It was pretty unexpected and the whole community of Bangou was shocked and saddened by his passing away. Hearing it here, back in the United States, I was especially sad, knowing that when I go back to visit I won’t see him sitting on his chair at his little hardware store overseeing his cartier and solving problems for everyone. It is truly a great loss for Bangou and my condolences go out to the people of Bangou, his family and everyone who feels the loss of this great man – Chef top.

Cheftop on the far right From Other pics
From Anthony Rodriguez Scholarship 2009
From 2009 AADB/Peace Corps Business classes