“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 www.nicolineambe.com
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