Friday, February 27, 2009

I have a friend, Monique, who takes orders for home baked, whole wheat bread and tortillas. The last two times that I ordered from her, an elderly man delivered the bread to me. Today I asked him if he is a member of the family. “Yes,” he said, beaming proudly. “I am Monique’s father.” I shook his hand and said how happy I was to meet him, and he went on, “Yes, I am her father: the younger brother of her mother. I was the one who brought her here to Yaoundé. I signed her marriage certificate, giving her to Olivier.” I smiled to myself, thinking of how confusing that would be to someone who didn’t understand that in Cameroonian culture, the mother’s brother plays a central role in a child’s life, taking on many of the responsibilities that a father would in American culture. But just as I was commending myself for understanding, he said in parting, “Yes, I am Monique’s grandfather.”


  1. And I was about to congratulate you! That's too funny.

  2. How do you keep this straight?