My Family Tree..My Last Name Means Plantain

Salut tout le monde! Thanks for joining me!

This post is a bit more personal. My first weekend in Cameroon I went to visit my Grandparents, with my Uncle and my Father (who is here to spend 2 weeks with our family). They came to pick me up at school along with my host mother whom they met earlier. While I was in Eseka, I had some pretty memorable experiences. I was able to see an armadillo (a delicacy here) skinned and cooked, while I was getting my hair braided. It was prepared as a gift for my host family. You can see in the picture below how I felt about that culturally shocking moment.

I enjoyed a great conversation with my Grandfather. I was able to interview him about his perspective on life in Cameroon. Here is the conversation (translated from French by my Dad and revised by me):

Q: Good evening Grandfather. Can you please tell me a little bit about your life here in Eseka? What does your daily routine consist of?

A: I started working in ’61 as a police officer and I retired in ’91 as the chief of police for the city of Yaoundé. Now that your grandmother and I are retired, we get up, we pray, we get dressed, and we have breakfast. Your grandmother cleans up and fixes things around the house, and we have lots of meetings here and there because I am a member of five organizations within my church.

I joined the Presbyterian Church of Cameroon in 1957, after Cameroon gained its independence from France and England. Sometimes we (the church members) take a van and go on trips together. Sometimes family groups get together and discuss social issues among them. Some are ill, some people need financial help, and we fundraise to help and support each other in order to help the sick and ailing. It’s very hard to get medical help here, and many people die because they don’t have the means to seek out resources. We have a specific amount of money we give to families for funerals, and every month we go and we visit members and check in with each other.

Q: That’s great! Can you tell me about your career as an officer and a diplomat in the foreign service?

A: Before I became an officer, I attempted four exams with customs, teaching, police, and medicine. We had a member of parliament here a long time ago and he said we already have a teacher, a customs person, and people in the medical field, so try the police force. That’s how I got involved with the force, and the foreign services was a continuation of my job. It involved a lot of paperwork and the like. I belonged to different branches of the police. As a scientific police officer, my job included fingerprinting, preparing inquires/reports, apprehending culprits and searching them for stolen items.

When I became involved with the International Police Organization also known as INTERPOL, I spent some time as a diplomat in the foreign service in France with my family. I traveled a lot in France and other European countries, and I contacted those who wanted to help Cameroon grow as a country and wanted to return to Cameroon.

I shared my knowledge with Cameroonian special units. In my career I dealt with war, construction, and classified information. The job was dangerous and I found contacts difficult to establish, because when you want to learn they call it spying. What made me successful was my personality and the way I chose to conduct myself, and by networking with individuals who could help me get the information that I needed. Networking is imperative for being successful in the foreign service. Now I share advice with people who deal with various issues, and this is what I say to those who are interested in a career with the foreign service: In the secret service you need to be very careful. Be careful what information you give to people, and protect yourself and your family first. I have no regrets, and my job was very honorable.

Q: What major changes have you seen take place over the years?

A: I’m saddened to say that I have seen no major changes occur over the years here in Eseka. In African countries, since we were under British and French rule, the Europeans came here for their own interests. We have timber and forests among many other natural resources, and they (Europeans) can destroy the whole thing through exports. If they promise to build roads, schools, etc. nothing occurs. They consistently take and give nothing back to us. As for our leaders, some of them travel all over the world and see how people do things globally, but don’t bring it back to Cameroon.

Development is not well balanced. If you look at the roads we have here, every department and county has a river to produce electricity and supply it to the whole county, but some don’t even do it. Not everyone can have water inside the house, and some people dig wells which are difficult to clean, and sometimes there are issues with the power. We are blessed that we can supply power to ourselves if needed , but not everyone can afford a generator. If you have no financial means, sometimes your family can help you, but there is no other help. If I do well but my brother doesn’t, something is wrong. It is difficult for a poor country to provide free medical care for the population which is mostly poor. If everyone was trying to do something we could all succeed, but there are some people who don’t want to work. I always say that if you don’t work, you should not eat and if you help yourself first, God will help you after.

Q: Do you have any advice for young people today?

A: Grand-père/Grandfather: In 1982, I bought 20 acres of farmland. I am now sharing it at no charge with others in this area to grow crops and sell the food to survive and create a savings from. I began saving at a young age, and I advise other young people to do the same. I was putting money aside for social security, and I am now reaping the benefits. Young people need to prepare themselves for the future. Don’t go into retirement renting or leasing, and don’t have children in retirement. You won’t have the funds to put them through school and prepare them for life.

A: Grand-mère/Grandmother: Be wise, be simple, and be modest.

THE END

Interviewing my Grandfather, visiting Eseka, learning about the region’s history, and spending time on my family’s estate taught me a lot about heritage. I am very proud and grateful to be a Makondo. I look forward to sharing this story of my legacy with future generations.

X.O.X.O.,

-L.M.

3 thoughts on “My Family Tree..My Last Name Means Plantain

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