Michael & Patience | Appleton, WI
By providence, I sat next to a gentleman from Neenah, Wisconsin. I didn’t know anything about Wisconsin, I hadn’t ever heard of Neenah. Over the next three days of the event we became good friends and shared pictures of our families, exchanged addresses, then left. At the end of my Fulbright year I went back home to Cameroon.
Then, a few years later, we had the opportunity to return to the United States as immigrants and we decided to move to the Midwest. We arrived in Chicago and I wrote a letter to my friend in Neenah. We talked. He said, “Michael, you’re here now?” I said, “Yeah! With my entire family now.” He said, “I don’t believe you.” I said, “Well, that is the truth.”
Michael: On December 15, we saw two vans pull up with a trailer on the back. They brought us everything from furniture to lamps to pots. Everything. They did a fundraising thing for us in Wisconsin. There was an older lady in a nursing home, they said about 90 years old—when she heard about us, she donated all of her chinaware. They brought it all to us and helped us to settle in Chicago.
Become part of the Love Wisconsin
Michael: In January we came to visit my friend in Neenah. When we got here, oh my goodness! We were driving around, it was so calm and quiet in the Fox Valley. It was so different compared to Chicago.
When we expressed to our new friends that, “Wow, this is a nice place,” they encouraged us to move. They said, “Come, come!”
Our situation was a little difficult because we were working in Chicago. My wife was a teacher trainer, I was in the diplomatic service. So it was kind of tough on our psyche to have to begin again, but everyone here was so encouraging.
We moved here with a family of eight children, a big family by any standards. We were impressed with how people received us and helped us to settle in. We are first-generation immigrants, so when we look at family to turn to, they are the people around us, our friends. We always say it’s cold in Wisconsin, but the people are warm.
Patience: Before we moved to the United States I was a teacher. When we moved to the Fox Valley, I began substitute teaching.
Around that same time we discovered that our daughter, who was a year old, was going through some developmental problems. It was hard for me to continue to teach because I was trying to find out what was wrong with her. I decided to go back to school to really understand learning disabilities.
Now I teach at Neenah High School and also part time at UW-Oshkosh. I work with special ed students with learning disabilities and emotional and behavior issues. I go into the job not just as a teacher, but as a parent, too. I understand what parents go through and I really appreciate working with the students.
My daughter is now a senior at Neenah High School. She can’t do anything on her own. She is like a six-month-old. But she is very healthy. She has really taught me a lot of lessons so far: endurance, perseverance, and she has helped me to build my faith in a greater power.
Michael: We have about one of the most educated families in North America. It’s a feat for being a first generation immigrant, for being here for only 16 years.
We have a daughter who is training to be a nurse and another daughter who is becoming a nurse practitioner. We have a son who’s a brain surgeon from Harvard Medical School. A second son who is practicing law in a Green Bay firm. Two of our kids are in college now. Then we have two at home and this young one who is with us is very talented. Our other daughter is a senior in high school and she’s very healthy. So, Appleton has been very kind to us, so we’re thankful to God for choosing Appleton for us.
Ndemazea: I want to be a writer. I wrote my first story when I was three. I really loved Sponge Bob and my sister loved watching anime like Naruto. We would always get in fights about which one was better. So, I wrote a 12-page illustrated book about why Sponge Bob was better. It was all drawn in crayon. I thought it was pretty good.
-Michael, Patience, and Ndemazea | Appleton, WI