Core Values: From My Father to my Daughters

Core values Cameroon, Nicoline Ambe PhD

Everybody has a story – everybody. And there is something to be learned from every experience, no matter what it is.” Oprah Winfrey

I was raised by my father, the principal architect of my core values. I’m pretty much the person I was raised to be. I grew up in several cities across Cameroon, traveling around with my father who was a civil engineer with contracts to build roads all over the country.

I will never forget Bamenda, Cameroon. My, oh my! Talk about hard life. I hated going up the hill in the dry, dusty harmattan cold winds to fetch water before the break of dawn. I hated fetching wood in this abrasive weather to cook food or boil water for breakfast tea. I hated huffing and puffing that wood flame until my eyes turned red and I nearly turn blue. I could not stand those latrines. Whose idea was that? Bamenda must be the only place where the sun falling on your skin comes close to being burned by real fire. Oh, thankfully I never got killed by those motor cycle taxis (AKA “ben sikin”) or those truck pushers yelling “chance! chance! chance!” as they whipped passed you to accomplish some big financial goals, for which no real results were (ever) apparent. I still don’t understand why the government is resistant to grading those pot-hole roads that run between villages. They literally turn and churn the stomach, a sitting exercise of sorts.

Barring the myriad discomforts of Bamenda’s crude realities I now look back and appreciate major life lessons from that experience, including resilience and resistance. I’m therefore grateful for my Bamenda experiences, but will never voluntarily relive them. I’m older and wiser now, for Heaven’s sake!

The best gifts dad gave me were discipline and humility. He taught me to honor my word. “Your word is your bond,” he would say. “Do what you say you would do and be where you say you would be, and on time,” he’d reiterate. This life principle has culminated in great, loyal friendships with people who know I always come through. Dad also taught me to be humble and that no matter what I have, and who I become in life, I must always put others first before myself. Not always easy in the real world, but I try.

It’s almost impossible to be married with children and still be normal. I’m not joking. In “Things Fall Apart,” Chinua Achebe (one of the greatest African writers) told the allegory of the lizard that fell off the high iroko tree and landed on his feet. The lizard looked around but saw none of the animals in the savanna applauding so he said “he would praise himself if no-one else did.” Well, as far as my family life story, this allegory begins and ends with the part where the Lizard fell from the iroko tree and landing on its feet. Period. That’s how high I fell from the career ladder on which I had worked so hard to climb before all this marriage stuff.

My ambition as a girl was to be a top-shot, high-paying United Nations Attorney or a world travel international human rights advocate. Sure, it’s possible to do these things and have a family, but life just won’t be the same without the constant nagging and whining of noisy kids on a daily basis. I wanted to be able to catch and fix every mistake my kids made. I wanted to cook warm meals for them. I wanted to hug them at every turn. I wanted to help them with their homework everyday and teach them core values that would help them cope with life. Of course, most days, these activities make me feel inhuman, but that’s the deal I made in having these kiddies. Fortunately, I’m quite happily settled into being a school teacher, and reconciled with kids who excel in school, I think I made a great deal!

Dr. Nicoline Ambe’s website is

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  • Great post!. Took be back to Bamenda….You look happy with your choices and that's what matters. Lovely family.

  • Hey Nicoline,

    Great post, it reminds me about my secondary school experience in Bamenda. I feel jealous, your father gave you the best – 'honor your word'. I think life is best when we are loyal and humble. Hope you take your daughters where you want them to reach, don't miss this opportunity.

  • Waoh, my dear sister, this is very inspiring. U are that big shot lawyer to your family. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thank you immensely, everyone! I truly appreciate your words! I would love to read your own stories as well, so if you're inclined to sharing it with Dunia, that would be fantastic! Thanks again for stopping by Dunia, and please come back again. You're appreciated!

  • Nico, brilliant story telling, I love it.
    As a father, I see in this a reminder of many things.
    Thank you for sharing.
    PS: Many more blessings for 2011!

  • You truly have the gift of writing. Thanks for sharing these lessons with us. I can attest to the fact that you embody those vaues today and I am one of those friends who is blessed to have you in my life and enjoy the fruits of your dad's hard work. As far as you career choices go, all I can say is "you are all woman". Keep being you!

  • Amazing write up, Nic and you look like your daughters’ sister, you all look so gorgeous and as far as what you do, you couldn’t have picked a better profession because I learn a lot from you and your blog. Remain blessed!

  • this is just beautiful sis nic. u seem at peace with ur life's choices and that's what matters. ur dad did a great job!

  • There's nothing like passing on time-tested values onto our children as a bequest to build character resilience –since kids don't come with a manual when born. Most of us have near similar experiences growing up; although some were spared the effort to fetch and carry water and wood a distance away from home. But teaching a child such basic chores instills in them a sense of responsibility and life's survival skills. Bringing kids up in the West would certainly be different; but having learnt as a child to do chores at home, be respectful and tolerant of others and a lesson in humility; your dad set the standard and the framework that enabls us to be decent being in whatever societies we find ourselves. It gives you a sense of confidence to face whatever situation you find yourself in, without being lazy to pass on the buck.

    Keep that keyboard busy, Nic. You're a model parent and your kids will learn great things from you. Thanks for introducing me to this site. Short and sweet. Well done.

  • Hmmmnnnnn i can sniff the aroma of your life's dish pleasantly oozing out resilience, reliability, responsibility, relevance, respectability, and reverence for your root; our root. That's why we are inspired by your story and what you stand for. That's why i adore your writings. Kudos to you.

  • Love this Nic…humility is indeed the key. Many of us tend to mistake vanity for self confidence…and the former is such a turn off. Stay humble dear and keep being you!!!

  • Nicol, Good write-up, vivid description of life in Bamenda and sacrifices one has to make in life! I totally agree with L, you draw such colorful and vivid pictures with words, keep it up!

  • Lovely Nicoline. What a beautiful peace of writing. It's very rare that we get to pay homage to our dads – I am happy that you were able to do that. Lovely picture of you and the girls!

  • I am happy you chose the teaching profession and I am a witness to the type of mom you are. You are raising beautiful, intelligent and respectful daughters. They are very blessed to have a mom like you.

  • Sis Nic, you speak for all parents, the sacrifices we make for our families. Absolutely amazing! I agree with the 'reliability' factor. U are da best at what you do … the pen is your crayon, u draw such colorful and vivid pics w words:-)

  • Your story tells us you've come a long way…..To be word perfect i reckon you have really made a great deal….Daddy did his part and you did yours also…..Congrats…..