Sanga Titi : The world, and then Camfoot
What most people do not know about Valentin Mbarga is that we used to call him Kazadi, the famed Zaire goalkeeper of the early 70s. Like all of us in our teens, he played football, but unlike most of us much later, he kept an incorrigible love for the game, becoming a staunch and at times notorious and annoying fan of the Lions. He defended them, travelled miles to watch them play, wrote about them.
This big and gruffly giant, mild-mannered and candid to a fault, could talk. My God, he did talk ! And he was particularly good at it. In any language. A consummate conference interpreter, he commanded respect in the booth and in international language circles. A large generation of young conference interpreters all over the world still refer to him as “coach”.
And there was Huguette. I was ordered to be best-man the day before we boarded the first flight to Paris from Tunis. He married her in a touchingly cute little ceremony, and we had a great meal afterwards. Anaïs, Lena and Engelbert, the kids he wanted so hard, came later and filled his life with great joy and pride. He was crazy about them, and they obliged with their affection.
My bonding thing with Valentin was certainly professional, to some extent, but deep down I know it was food. The man loved it, and I was the perfect side-kick. The best meals I will never forget were shared with him. At Blue Monkey Cocostin, Zurich ; Le Grand Bleu, Tunis ; Chez Alexandre, Montreal ; the IMF Cafeteria, Washington ; the pastry shops around St. Stephen Cathedral, Vienna, etc. And of course, ndomba was always, unsurprisingly, crown and seal. Valentin loved life. So much…
And then there was Ekombitié, east of Mbalmayo, route de Sangmélima, I believe. His village. He was preparing to retire there. I visited the marvellous house he was having built for his family and his many books. He never had the chance I have to enjoy comfortable retirement in your native village. It is so sad…