Where are you from? What language do you speak?

It’s been a minute. Being away from this beloved space for a whole month has made me realize how “busy” I’ve been recently. I’ve missed writing here, but for the love of all I hold dear, I can’t seem to find the creative strength to write a new piece. #writersblock. And so I have dusted this up from my drafts. It’s a post that should have come up sometime in August, but I never got round to it. Old but gold; to me anyway. Enjoy.

When I was about to begin secondary school, father made a rule at home: We were all to speak Igbo and nothing else. We took it for one of those rules that never lasted. It took one brain-resetting knock on the head from Father to an unlucky scapegoat for us to know that this rule had come to stay. Smh #Nigerianparents

In this day and age, one might ask, “what’s the need of learning a language that won’t pay my bills, probably has no value on the global scale, won’t help the situation of the country, won’t help me progress in my career, and probably will not add anything of value to me personally”? A good question, but one which I will not even attempt to answer. I will only try to appeal to your reasoning.

I can only say my point of view, and invite you to chime in. My belief is that when the gazillion languages in the world were created, there was a purpose for it. Language is an intrinsic part  of every culture, and you cannot claim to be a member of a culture when you have no interest in the language.

I find it weird when I see children of people who live abroad speaking Yoruba and Igbo and Hausa fluently, while homegrown children cannot make a complete sentence in their language. The worst part, I have noticed, is that 80% of these “team no native language” children do not even speak English correctly. Shame. It’s a different thing if you have decided to renounce your heritage, after all, there are tons of people in the UK and the US who try everything possible to rid themselves of everything that identifies them as  Nigerian. I have nothing to say about this lot; I’m not proud of the fact but I’m sure they have their reasons.

Say, we’re in a gathering of young people from different parts of the world, and it gets to the social part where we get to introduce ourselves and tell a bit about where we come from. Jean easily introduces himself as French and can speak his language to prove it, Juanita is Spanish and very proud of the fact, easily speaks her native language , Bill is the only native Englishman, but knows a sprinkling of German, Lee is Chinese, and speaks nothing but his native language at home. Last but not the least, comes Obi, who speaks nothing but English. He says he is Nigerian, he answers an Igbo name, has Nigerian parents, but has nothing else that links him to his native land. Okay, maybe I painted that scenario but, now you see what “rootlessness” can mean.

What irks me to no end, is the fact that some parents deliberately prevent their children from learning their native language. Why, in heaven’s name? I remember someone telling me with a proud smirk “I don’t speak Igbo, you know”. I don’t know if she expected me to start jumping for joy. Ngwanu, clap for yasef! 👏👏 There is a pride of association when you belong to  a certain tribe or group of people, because regardless of the ills they are known for, there must be something good about them. My Igbo brothers are known worldwide for being very money smart, even if it means doing illegal stuff. There is almost always an Igbo name when criminals are being listed abroad for crimes like drug peddling. That’s still not enough to blind my eyes to the awesomeness of being an Igboman, knowing my history and culture, and having good background to drive positive change for the future. I remember reading what Adichie wrote on tribe and language (paraphrased) :

I am Nigerian because a white man created Nigeria and gave me that identity. I am black because the white man constructed black to be as different as possible from his white. But I was Igbo before the white man came”.

girl-175927_960_720

We have absolutely no reason to feel that our language is inferior to any other language in any way, be it Yoruba, Igbo,  Hausa, or any other Nigerian language. True, maybe the Igbo tribe is made up of little more than 30 million people as against the rest of the billions of other people in the world, but that should be more reason we would want to put the language on the map more boldly. Pride of identity, isn’t it? I am speaking for my own language, in this instance, but I’m aware that this is not an exclusive ill. What we lack is a sense of identity. I get it. Nigeria is plagued by so many problems and no one would want to be associated with such failure when away from home. But, really, when all is said and done, it’s also not cool, losing your identity in a world where people are trying hard to hold on to the shreds of theirs. Your mother tongue is a treasure that should be preserved. According to fountain magazine,

Mother tongue is one of the most powerful tools used to preserve and convey culture and cultural ties. Children who are unaware of their culture, their language and their history will lose confidence in themselves, the family, society and the nation to which they belong and will have no other option than seeking an alternate identity. A child will associate himself with the language and culture he knows best…. Parents should find ways to help their children maintain and improve their mother language without neglecting to give affirmative messages and keeping positive attitudes about other cultures. We must not also forget that we live in a multicultural society and we should teach our children to learn about other cultures and respect them as well.

Note that being fluent in our language and knowledgeable about our culture and history should not in any way affect the value of other cultures in our eyes. I, personally, have a great respect for the richness of the Yoruba traditions, and the pride with which they display them locally and globally. I am not even as fluent as I would like to be in Igbo; a couple weeks ago an elderly client of mine whom I’d come to respect a lot told me a proverb and it took me a few minutes to unscramble it. Made me appreciate the language more, I tell you. One new proverb added to my repertoire.

I also discovered that many parents are quite clueless. I mean, if you grew up never having travelled to your hometown, knowing only bits and pieces of your mother tongue, and being ignorant about the tradition of your own people, it goes without saying, that your children will be even more clueless. At the liaison office of my state here in Lagos some weeks back, I witnessed a complicated situation. A young man(very handsome if I might add)  needed his state of origin certificate, but did  not know the town he came from. I was dumbfounded, to say the least. Even after doing some research and almost trying to trace his ancestry😁, we were stuck. He was raised by a single mother, and over the phone she was almost as clueless as he was. Eventually, after like a hundred phone calls, a relative hundred times removed, arrived and helped to rectify the situation. I was pproud of one thing though. Despite never having been home, he could manageably speak his language. It’s never too late to learn, anyway. First of all, I believe the stereotypes have to be dispelled.

1. Speaking your native language fluently does not in any way make you less sophisticated. I actually find my native language, Igbo, very sexy. Ignore the weirdness, it’s just me. Doesn’t mean I find the phonological interference funny when I hear people speak Igbotic English. Contradictory, no. There’s a balance somewhere in between.

2. Speaking only English or whatever predominant world language, without knowing your own native language, is not a sign of being knowledgeable. You actually get better at other languages when you have a good grip of your own language.

That said, how do we ensure that we don’t raise a bereft generation Z?

1. Making your native language a language of love, rather than a language of strife. I remember that as kids, mother spoke Igbo to us mostly when she was mad at us and wanted to scold us. It made us respond with fear, rather than interest. But after years of travel and meeting people back east who spoke nothing but Igbo to us, we saw it as a way of life. I dream in Igbo and I think in Igbo frequently. Father also had a habit of telling us Igbo folklore, featuring “mbe”, the tortoise, and his cunning ways, and other animals like “agu” the tiger, “odum” the Lion, “enwe” the monkey, and “Enyi” the elephant. Good times😍

2. That brings me to the second point: travelling to your hometown as frequently as possible. I probably learnt more Igbo proverbs eavesdropping on my father’s conversations with his fellow kindred men than I learnt in Igbo class. Following mother to the local markets in the village also helped us learn many colloquial terms we would never have come across on our own.

3. Reading to them in your native language. In the year that father made the law about speaking only Igbo, we began a daily rotation of the Igbo Bible at morning devotion. After stumbling for months over the words, we became much more fluent in reading Igbo than most of our peers. Go dad!

4. In the case that you also do not know the language, learn with them! It’s never too late.

I realize that this article is about as inadequate to exhaust a topic as sensitive as this one, as taking a basket to the stream can be, and so I invite your contributions. I’d love to hear from you.

Nke nwere isi, enweghi okpu; nke nwere okpu, enweghi isi.  An Igbo proverb which means: The one who has a head, has no cap, and the one who has a cap, has no head. –  Author: probably one of my ancestors. 😉 

Sincerely, Chibugo.

Here’s a dose of rhetoric

I am pretty sure I am not alone in team crazy. In all honesty, the most serene and calm demeanor sometimes houses the craziest thoughts ever. Like, I sometimes think,

1. What’s the worst that would happen if I broke into a dance in the middle of the busy road? Isn’t it a free world? One should be able to dance when and where she pleases. 😏

2. Am I the only one who, after reading the news, toys with the idea of getting my stuff in a backpack and walking through countries and swimming through oceans to a saner country like, say, Canada?

3. I could pull a stunt on a random guy, walk up to him and try my toasting skills on him, just to see his reaction. 😂 😂. It would be epic! Hmmmmm. I could actually do this….. Uh, maybe not. 😰

4. A day should have 30 hours. Splendid idea.

5. Why did we have to grow up? Adulthood is a trap. There’s no fun here😢

6. I don’t understand people that use unnecessary big grammar. Y’all don’t impress me one bit. Buy still sounds better than purchase, fat still sounds better than corpulent, and beautiful sounds way better than pulchritudinous. I’m outta here.

7. Trump may actually become President of the US. 😱

Tell me your crazy thoughts.! Spill your brains in the comments section! Okay, that sounded really gross.

Till I drop in again,

Sincerely, Chibugo.

 

Another man’s meat

You probably don’t know it, but you have something someone else desires terribly.

girl-175927_960_720

A gap in the teeth is an abnormality, a defect. So is a dimple. A genetic defect caused by shortened facial muscle, that one. But this is all anatomical balderdash. Tell this to the women in Aba who go to carvers to chisel out a gap in their teeth at a very high risk, or the girls who attempt surgery to create dimples on their cheeks. The long and short of it is that people look for ways to achieve said defects as an item of beauty. The beholder calls the shots after all.

A mole on the face or body is a defect. I have two on my neck, and that one above my lip. Spent hours in my childhood trying to remove it, till I saw a very beautiful woman put the exact same dot above her lip with black liner ; the final touch in her makeup. It didn’t look so much like a defect after that.

A fart is a fart is a fart.

Kembu, my sister, had an operation and was not allowed to eat any solid food till she was able to fart. For three days she was on intravenous fluid nutrition. How long can you stay away from eating actual food? On the third day, mother came into her hospital room and met her smiling, all 32 of her teeth almost walking around the room on their own. “Mummy, I farted!”, came the announcement, in the same tone of voice you’d announce, “Dad, I got into Harvard on a full scholarship!”

What is a fart again?

Oh, it’s that thing we all do but never want to admit we do. Biology says a healthy human makes about 4 to 14 successful attempts daily. Too smelly and “messy”(pun intended) to be spoken about. But somebody prayed to be able to do it.

7:45pm. She’s on Cele overhead bridge, stuck in traffic. Amid the sound of horns and drivers cursing at each other and hawkers calling out their wares, she takes off her stilettos and puts on her handy flip flops, alights from the bus and walks the rest of the distance, passing the cause of the traffic and crossing the road to take a tricycle to her final destination. A pair of eyes follows her every move hungrily from behind her tinted window, air conditioned luxury car. If one could just park on the bridge and return later to pick up her car…. She sighs and blares her horn even louder.

Life is a well spiced pot of ironical jollof, the party type.

Sincerely, Chibugo.

What’s the best toasting punchline you’ve ever heard(or used)?

If you’ve heard Simi’s “Jamb Question” song, then you probably understand what I mean. This is the one thing that i don’t envy guys for, the fact that you have to think of something ingenuous to catch a lady’s attention. It reminds me of a sales class I once took, where we were made to try out different “elevator speeches” which had to get the attention of the prospect in about 30 seconds. People got really creative! But theory is always easier than practical, especially if you have the tendency to be tongue tied when on the spot!

So the other day when I heard Simi’s song again, the idea for this post popped into my head. What’s the best “toasting” punchline you’ve ever heard? I compiled a few I had experienced personally, so, awon boys, identify your category. I’m not looking for trouble, just being my usual cheeky self. The punchlines themselves aren’t weird per se, just laughable. To me anyway. Here goes….

  1. I’ve been watching you for some time now. I like everything about you, the way you walk, talk, your smile, your charisma, in fact, you actually seem too good to be true. Will you be the mother of my kids? Me: smilingly basking in the euphoria of being called “too good to be true”, till he gets to the “mother of my kids” part.sad scared eyes new girl surprisedNibo?! Oga how far na? I never even gree for girlfriend, we don enter labour room already! Chai! 😒 
  2. What’s your name? Okay where are you from? Really? So is your dad a titled chief?  What does he do for a living? Are you Catholic? Whats your genotype? And how old are you? Me:sunglasses dwayne johnson side eye eyebrow raise the rockEgbon, ees not that serious. We just met two hours ago. Sheesh.
  3. Has anybody ever told you how beautiful you are? You’re, honestly the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen. Me:reactions serious no way jaw drop are you serious(jaw drop) Oya, collect this award. It’s either you’ve been living under a rock all your life, or you’re definitely the biggest liar I’ve ever seen.
  4. Do you believe in love at first sight? Me:nerd tumblr dan(in full geek mode)Weeeeeeeeeell, but then, a very high percentage of people are either long or short sighted, so…..(I didn’t really say this oh)
  5. Immediately I set my eyes on you, my heart told me,”This is your wife”. Me:reactions flirting flirt eyebrows smirkReally.  Tell me more. I didn’t know hearts could talk.
  6. You look familiar. Do you attend Watchman Church at Oshodi? Me:              eye roll krysten ritter eyeroll kill me bitch pleaseReally? With this full face of makeup I’ve got on? Jeez man! You can do better than that na! Hian!
  7. There is absolutely no reason why a beautiful damsel like you should be walking under this hot sun. Care for a ride? Me:rihanna eye roll fourfivesecondsThat’s sweet. Thank you, but I’m right in front of my gate.
  8. Do you have a sister called Harmony? You don’t? But your name is Sylvia right? No? So what’s your name? Me:obama nod nodding not badWell played! Sharp guy!

Please oh my people, I’m not trying to slight anyone, this is just for us to share a few laughs. You have to love our boys for trying hard. I mean, think… What if you were in their shoes?  Chai. The great thing is, many successful relationships have emerged from these seeming “jamb questions”, so don’t be so critical abeg.

And erm, these replies, most of them were given in my head. In real life, of course I’d just give a very proper, polite reply. 😄

Please brethren and sistren, don’t laugh alone, share with your friends! And please share your own stories in the comments section, whether you were the toaster or the toastee….😉

Kisses, hugs and hot puff puff,

Chibugo.

I have just had an eye opening experience…..

I have to start by apologizing. To all mothers who earn a living. Working mothers. I couldn’t have  been more wrong about you and what you go through, and I’m sorry if I ever belittled your vocation.

piqkdl7i9

My older sister Kembu, had a baby six weeks ago. She regaled me with horror stories from the Labour room and laughingly watched me squirm. Anyway,  as custom demands, mother “packed her load” to her home to care for her and her new baby, leaving me to manage the home(siblings and dad). Now, this isn’t the first time this is happening, but there is a difference in that this time, I have a job I go out to everyday. It took me just a week to realize that this was going to be a bit difficult. My house is one of those homes where everything is eaten fresh, so no frozen soups and stews and the like. You know what that means, right? Multiple trips to the market every week, and you’re stuck in the kitchen like everyday. Now when mother was around, all I did was assist as soon as I returned from work, so I took a lot for granted.

Imagine the 180 degree turn when I realized that I would have to rush off everyday hours earlier than usual so as to beat traffic, run to the market, get home before dark, and prepare dinner. I didn’t have the luxury of leisurely going home after making my rounds with my clients for the day. No sir. Now all I thought of was “what are we having for dinner tonight? I hope the kids locked the gate like I told them to. I hope they don’t burn the house down. I hope they don’t open to strangers.” etc. As a matter of fact, on one of those days I had to prepare fresh soup, I was with my last client for the day and while he went on and on about what he wanted from me, I scribbled furiously on my notepad. Poor guy. He probably thought I was taking notes. 😂 What I was writing looked something like this :

  • Akwu (palm nuts),
  • Uziza leaves,
  • Ogiri (a local flavoring),
  • Oha leaves,
  • Stock fish,
  • Dry fish,
  • Cocoyams,

Plus a couple of other things I needed to buy at the supermarket on the way home. Thank God he didn’t ask to see what notes I had taken.

Cooking really isn’t a big  deal, but it becomes a big deal when you bring work home and you’re the type that has to cook almost daily. Stirring a pot of stew with one hand while answering an urgent call with the other hand isn’t particularly anyone’s idea of fun.

Something happened one weekend that almost made me weep. I had bought ingredients for two separate meals and after preparing one, I had to put away the ingredients for the other one for later. The perishables should have been in the fridge, but since we have not had power in a long time, I had to find an alternative. I had put everything away, or so I thought. The next day was a Saturday, and I usually have a meeting at church on Saturday mornings. While at the meeting, I was subdued because something kept niggling at my mind. It wasn’t until I got home and entered the kitchen that I realized that I hadn’t steamed the meat with which I was to prepare the second meal and it had gone bad! I was so annoyed and I stormed off to the market to buy another batch. I was to have bought vegetables as well, but lo and behold, when I returned from the market, I realized I wasn’t with any vegetables! Thinking back, I realized I had gotten an important call from a client while buying them and I had rushed off to see him, only to return home without my vegetables. Tail tucked between my legs, I returned to the market. Luckily the seller had kept them for me and I just had to come and pick them up.

Or was it the day I got home and went straight to the kitchen still wearing my work clothes because I was late? I was doing my thing until I realized I couldn’t find the vegetables for the soup. Not again! I thought. I turned the kitchen upside down searching for them, to no avail. It was already 7:45pm. Where would I get vegetables? The strain of the past few weeks suddenly fell heavy on my shoulders and I felt like crying. Suddenly it occurred to me to open my duffel bag. There it was, still fresh! Who puts vegetables inside a duffel bag though? Smh.

At some point, father had to travel as well. Well, no difference, except that his new tenant decided to move in in his absence. I happened to be around that weekend, and of all the things, the door to his apartment refused to work! He was royally pissed, and I automatically went into carpenter mode. After a lot of heaving and banging and lubricating with oil, the door finally opened. Just when I thought playing mum was tough, now I have to play dad too. 😒

One evening, while I sat typing away on my tablet, with another eye on my books scattered on the kitchen counter and my ear and nose focused on the pot on the cooker, my littlest sister, Kiisa came into the kitchen and sat quietly. That was strange, I thought. She is a restless ball of energy on any given day. I waited. I was sure she wanted to say something. Sure enough, she drew close after a few minutes and whispered to me, “Chibugo, please, before we sleep this night there’s something I want to tell you”.

Ahhhhhh! In that moment, there’s no direction my mind did not fly to. I dropped everything and tried to maintain a calm face. After a little persuasion, she revealed what was bothering her.

Kiisa: My chest is paining me

Me: (sighing from relief) but you don’t have cough or a cold.

Kiisa: No I don’t.

Me: Did you fall?

Kiisa: No

Me: (already exasperated) Take off your clothes. (she does so). Where is it paining you?( She points to the right  part of her chest and I look)

Ahhhhhh. I look at her face. I can see she knows as well. Puberty has just set in. Now what would mum have said or done? And why the heck did Puberty not wait till she came back? I look at Kiisa and smile. She smiles shyly back. It turns into a full blown laugh and I give her a hug. She’ll be alright. We will have a talk, but not tonight. This mothering thing is not a walk in the park.

It doesn’t end there. Sometimes kids behave badly and you could lose it. It got so much one day, that I sentenced Kiisi and Kiisa to kneeling down with raised hands and closed eyes for an hour. Oh blessed peace! I kept at my work, writing, making calls and sending last minute emails, enjoying the quiet until I realized that it was too quiet. I wondered where they were and found them still bearing their punishment. I had actually forgotten them. Shame on me! 😖

On a normal day, I’d go to bed and count sheep for a long time before I’m able to fall asleep. But this entire period, my head barely hits the pillow before I’m asleep and it seems the alarm wakes me up a minute later telling me it’s 5:30am already! What a life, in which all you think of all day is how soon you can get to bed because of exhaustion.

At a point, I had to sit and think. Is it like this all the time for mothers who work? How do they keep it all together? Do all the girls whose sole prayer point is “Lord let me marry this year by fire” know that it could be like this?

I then understood. All the times I had seen a mother of young children doze in church and shaken my head, all the times I had seen little children sitting outside their school gate by 5pm and wondered where their mother was, all the times I had seen them(mothers) take a quick nap on the bus; now I understood fully. And I apologize earnestly, for having ever thought it was easy. Now I totally understand. Forgive me for being young and foolish.

Mother returned yesterday. Imagine my surprise when I returned from work and met her at home! I almost shed tears of joy. Now I can go back to being young and irresponsible free.

The next time you see a working mum, remove your hat for her. The job she does is more difficult than it looks. Forget the #yummymummy and #mumwithswag photos on Instagram.

I think I’m going to get mother a ridiculously expensive gift.

In reality, all mums are working mums, and all mums are deserving of respect and support. – Katie McLaughlin

Greetings… To those who have touched my 24 years of life

Hey, it’s my birthday. My birth certificate says it is. And apparently, I’m 24. In typical fashion, I’ve spent the last few days thinking weird thoughts, like what I’d look like at 70, what kind of things I’d do between now and then, and the people that have impacted my life till now. I realized that many of these people I will never see again, and there are many more who will come, who I’m yet to see. I suddenly feel very thankful. I know I’ve seen something similar somewhere before, but nevertheless…

1. To the random people who have said a kind word here and a compliment there –  Thank you for putting a spring in my step.

2. To the unknown faces I smile at on the road, on the bus, at church, and in other random places – Thank you for returning my smile.

3. To the white bearded policeman who for four years, halted traffic on Montgomery road whenever I had to cross while going to school –  Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You made me feel special.

4. To that friend who got me my very first present – Thank you for showing me the value of friendship.

IMG_20160712_163705_watermark
Feeling a little zany with my ruby woo lip print. Awkward, kissing my book and all. Feeling my thankfulness yet?

5. To the boy who first told me “you’re beautiful”  –  Thank you. I believe you now.

6. To this great friend who is always there, ready to listen to every stupid idea that pops into my head, encouraging me when I’m up and comforting me when I’m down – Thank you for becoming more like a sister than a friend.

7. To that special friend who sheltered me in my troubled year –  Thank you, for nursing my spirit.

8. To the authors of all the books I’ve read –  You are too many to name. Thank you, for fuelling my imagination and pushing me to dream.

9. To that teacher who turned me out of his office and told me I would suffer – Thank you for the tears you wrought; and here’s my upper second class for your viewing pleasure.

10. To that other teacher who helped me when no one else could, who pushed away the barricade of religion and went out of the way to show love regardless – Thank you, for ensuring that I made it.

11. To those whose sole mission seems to be getting me hitched – Thank you, for forcing me to look deep within to see how complete I am, and how lucky another complete person will be to have me as his wife.  P.S: I’m still not ready to jump the broom. Ha!

12. To my family: what could I be without you? –  Thank you for being mine.

13. To the one whose heart I broke – I’m sorry. Truly.

14. To the many I may have disappointed – I beg your forgiveness. Thank you for bearing with my very flawed self.

15. To the ones who have said an unkind word or two to me –  Thank you, for making me value loving and kind words more.

16. To the friends who have always had my back (and hopefully always will) despite my many flaws – Thank you. You are worth more than your weight in diamonds.

17. To those who have poured out their hearts to me in times of distress – Thank you for trusting me, and I hope I left you feeling better.

18. To the “chosen” few, who are privy to the goings on in the recesses of my overactive brain, my uncertainties and fears, my insecurities and quirks; the very few people with whom I can be myself – There is a special mansion you inhabit for free in my heart. You are irreplaceable. Thank you.

19. To those who have advised me professionally and personally – Thank you, salt of the earth; Thank you.

20. To those I have worked with – Thank you for bearing with my perfectionism. Thank you.

21. To you reading this blog right now – Thank you for reading, for without readers I am no writer.

22. To my Day One Bae (before anyone else), the One who loves me unconditionally, from the kinky hair on my head to the soles of my feet, my first love, Yahweh – I love, because You first loved me. Thank you, for Everything.

Youth is the gift of nature, but age is the work of art – Garson Kanin. 

Sincerely, Chibugo.

One year after : Memoirs of an ex-corps member

wp-1460372274136.jpeg

Warning: Very Long Post Ahead. Picture heavy too. 

I still remember the trepidation with which I approached Jimbaz building in UNN when it was time to collect my call up letter. I had prayed and prayed, but at some point my prayer went from “Lord please I want to serve in Lagos or Enugu or Akwa Ibom or Rivers” to “Whatever thy will oh Lord”. Even as I knew I’d committed it all to Him, I was still afraid of the unknown. Up until then I’d thought I was adventurous but I could now see I wasn’t so much.

I wasn’t even able to go in and get it myself; I bullied a male friend into going in to get my call up letter for me. When he arrived, he wasn’t smiling. I opened the letter. BN, I saw. Even as a tear slipped out of my eye, I felt a moment of extreme alarm when I wasn’t so sure BN meant Benue or Borno. I calmed down when I saw that it was indeed Benue, the lesser evil. Resigned to fate, I repacked my bags in readiness for the journey to Wannune camp, Tarka LGA, Benue state. At 6am on the 5th of August 2014, I began my journey into the unknown.

As we moved out of the familiar terrain of Obollo afor which bounded Enugu to Kogi and Benue, I couldn’t help feeling excited even though I had been pessimistic initially. I had subconsciously made up my mind not to enjoy camp, but I was ready to do what I did best: observe. After unending hours of travel from Obollo afor to Gboko and from Gboko to Wannune, we finally arrived camp. You’d think that the fact that Enugu is a neighbor to Benue would make the journey short but no, we spent a solid 5 and a half hours on the road. I made my first mental note: Benue is large.

I cannot begin to describe the blur that was my first day in camp. From having to carry a mattress all the way from the store to the dorm, to the uncountable back and forths for buying buckets, getting kits, registration and the rest of them. I was glad for the research I did before coming though. I was better equipped than a lot of people. Many people had their bags seized too, for bringing in contraband items. I saw some bags so big I wondered if they were coming to spend the rest of their lives in camp. I have never been as tired as I was that first night. I slept like a log of wood. My alarm woke me at 4am and after almost 30 minutes of debating in my head on whether to wake up or stay put, I got out and hurriedly got prepared for the parade ground. Just when I was about to lace up my sneakers, the bugle sounded. The fracas that ensued left me a bit confused. Well, I was already in my whites so I simply sprinted to the grounds while my room(my entire dorm in fact)  was a jumble of half sleeping, half dressed girls bumping against one another trying to get out before the soldiers made it into the rooms. It was really dark on the grounds and I could scarcely make out the figures of my fellow corps members, if not for the white attire. Hearing the soldiers barking at the girls inside, I muttered a “Thank you Jesus” under my breath and made my second note: always be ready.

We had the usual welcome talk which I’m sure must have been interesting. Even as I wish I remembered what was said, I don’t. The one thing  I can never forget about that morning was the cold. Chisos. 😱I shook like a leaf in the wind that morning. Wannune camp is situated along an expressway which is flanked by vast open lands. My knowledge of geography didn’t expose me to the fact that windy weather was expected in the middle belt at August, but, my people, I was frozen solid that morning. Everyone pressed together to avoid the cold, but my jacket did nothing to prevent it. My teeth chattered noisily and I trembled all over. In my entire life, even in the days as a kid, when I would do “odieshi” and take my bath outside in the cold harmattan breeze in the village, never had I experienced such jaw locking, bone rattling, intensely cold wind. At that moment I remember chattering silently to myself “Chibugo, you gotta survive this. Please don’t fall sick. Please. Please. Please”. Let’s just say I made it through that day without mishap.

Even though I  had made up my mind not to enjoy it, camp turned out quite interesting. I wasn’t happy though, that I missed the audition for OBS. I had decided that was where I would like to work in camp but I missed the info on when the auditions took place. E pain me sha. Things were determined to be fun for me though. Standing in line for food in the first instance. Ha! What an experience! See, I didn’t go to a boarding school, so having to wait for food like that, wasn’t my style. Father had told me on leaving home, “Eat whatever everyone is served, do whatever others are doing. Don’t think you’re anything special. Don’t go there and form ajebutter because you’re not. Learn what you can and be aware of your surroundings. Keep your eyes open”.

I decided I would eat whatever was served, even if it was fried horseshit. I made a lot of friends while standing in line for food. I dunno, but my stomach had a knack for knowing when the bugle would soon sound and me and my camp bestie, Goodness aka “Goodie” would climb up the hill just in time for food. Don’t blame us. We were growing girls. We didn’t even give two hoots about the mammy market except maybe once a week. I came prepared too. I was well stocked with beverages so I never went hungry. My meal ticket was well worn by the time camp was over. Haha. A friend of mine who tried to keep up with the Joneses ran out of cash by the second week and found herself in line with us at the kitchen. “ Come on! Who beg you na? I thought you wuzz a bigz geh and the camp food is for only learners like us”? 

Those who genuinely couldn’t eat camp food, I understood, but those who ate at the mammy market just to impress or feel important, I wondered at. Did they really think we who stood in line didn’t have money? Nah. That was why whenever I saw them following one bobo or the other just so he could buy them lunch at mammy, I made sure my laughter was loud. I think it was for people like these that Olamide sang in his “shakitibobo” song : “You dey live flashy lifestyle but your mama dey soak akamu” 😂. Anyway, that’s by the way.

Goodie in the middle, Alice on the left. They made camp funnnnn
Goodie in the middle, Alice on the left. They made camp fun! I was that girl who simply refused to wear the waist pouch on my waist. If my designer pouch can’t be on my shoulder, I ain’t wearing. 😎

Every picture I took in camp, I had to be coerced into, except for a few. I was glad for some things though, I can’t lie. The masses during the week, I couldn’t afford to miss. It happened to be during the worst of the ebola outbreak and we couldn’t share the kiss of peace and receive communion by mouth anymore but I was still very glad for it.

NACC camp choir. I had great fun with my tambourine here at every mass
NACC camp choir. I had great fun with my tambourine here at every Sunday mass. That’s me in the black scarf, third left

Speaking of ebola, I was snugly in bed one Saturday morning when my roommates were talking about the salt they had bought the day before for bathing. I knew I was missing something. I groggily asked why they bought it and they replied “because of ebola now”. My sleep befuddled brain slowly processed the fact that these ladies wanted to bathe with salt water before I laughed like a mad scientist and informed them that ebola was a virus and not a salt fearing bacteria. My sleepy self expected them to understand what I had just said as I promptly went back to sleep,  as if everyone was a microbiologist. It still is funny to me that anyone would want to bathe with salt water. Chai. 😂.

Speaking of my room: it was a very interesting mix. We had eleven Igbo girls, two Hausa Muslim girls, and three Yoruba girls. It was chaotic at best. I understand a bit of Yoruba and I’m fluent in my language, Igbo, so the discussions of the automatic tribal cliques were my daily dose of comedy. They daily threw subtle and not-so-subtle shade at each other and I would usually be hidden under my mosquito net having a silent but very belly filling laugh. I remember one occasion when a girl from the Igbo clique asked for ‘leather”. By leather she meant a cellophane bag. The girl she asked was Yoruba from Lagos and she genuinely didn’t understand that “leather” was what cellophane bags were popularly called down East. When she finally understood however, she made sure she saved the story to retell her fellow clique members. And retell, she did! With a lot of flavor! She even did a good imitation of the “asker’s”  Igbo accent. I couldn’t deal. As for me, I was a kind of “Buhari” in the room. For everybody and for nobody; if you get what I mean. The one thing that annoyed me to no end though, was the noise. I couldn’t even hear my thoughts. The painful part was that these girls woke up as early as 2 am to have their bath and begin preparing for the parade ground! For people like me who woke at 4:15, this was a major turn off. I found that complaining didn’t help, so I just slept through the noise anyway. Third note: learn to sleep through noise if you want to survive here.

I didn’t do anything special in camp, except write the morning meditation for our platoon. And hey, did you know, I was in platoon six and we were well known for taking the last position in almost every activity! We became a popular joke. I learnt to laugh at myself before getting laughed at.

I watched people fall in love and lust while in camp and I felt sad for them because, not to be a prophet of doom, I knew that very few of those relationships would survive after camp. I watched girls who came into camp with engagement rings and even wedding rings “move around” with officer after officer. I heard stories about serial affairs by married corpers that I tried hard not to believe. I had my own share of “camp boyfriends” though, if you could call them that. Usually we’d be great pals until they’d see that I was “bad market” in the casual fling department. Then they would take off in the search for more available “meat”, while I laughed myself silly in the background. Still, I made pretty great friends, male and female alike. Anyway, that’s by the by.

I thoroughly enjoyed the lectures while everyone got comfortable in the lecture hall and slept to their fill. Gosh. People even snored! Maybe I’m weird, but I couldn’t understand why people felt the lectures were boring. Okay, a few were boring, I admit. I took down notes, and maybe I was so judicious about it that someone decided to relieve me of my almost full book. It got stolen before the end of camp and I almost wept. When it was time to join one SAED group or the other, I went straight to the engineering area as I was curious about the inverters and solar energy panels, but after they threw around strange words like soldering, bla bla bla, I jejely tucked my tail between my legs and tiptoed to the ICT stand. It didn’t help that I had been the only female there. So I spent the next few days in a really boring class, learning a lot of what I already knew.

Fast track to the 26th. Twenty one days after our camp experience began, it was time to end it. The tension was palpable, a great contrast to few days ago, when there was an air of jubilation as the “allowee” bugle had finally sounded. I felt it couldn’t get worse since I was already in a backwater state in the first place. No offense to my Benue people. I knew that praying for Makurdi, Gboko or Otukpo was a wishful dream, so I just prayed I would be able to bear whatever they threw at me. I got my letter, by myself this time. It read:

Emmanuel Anglican Primary School, Ugba, Logo LGA.

Where the heck was that? I was suddenly very tired. Just then, Goodie came to break the news to me that she had been posted to Makurdi, along with some friends. Eish. What did I do wrong? As I turned to go, another camp friend, Toyosi, came weeping as she had been posted to Konshisha LGA. if you ask me, na who I go ask?   I still remember sitting on the bus to Logo and looking at the brown streaks her foundation left on my crested vest with great sadness. I consoled her the best I could, and moved on before I would begin bawling myself. On the bus, I forced myself not to think but to be hopeful. I was keeping up with the whole positive pep talk until I heard someone yell from our bus in panic. Apparently we were going to cross a river called Buruku river. It was drizzling and I was cold, but this was not the reason I felt so dejected. I hadn’t been able to reach my parents all morning, and now I was about to cross a river on a crude wooden boat that was expected to carry the bus as well as the passengers, and in all my twenty something years I had never travelled on water. Someone took a picture of me while I crouched on the boat looking so worn out and dejected, but for the sake of my own integrity, I will not post that picture here. 😊

Well, we made it to the other side and moved on. It was at the other side of the river that I met Jane, who would later become my roommate. I had recovered enough from the river ride to become extremely annoyed that I would be teaching in a primary school, when she blurted “Ah, I was posted to the local government office oh. Thank God”. I glared at her. So? How did that change my plight? I disliked her from that moment until I got to know her better. We eventually arrived to meet a mini celebration in a caricature of a house called the “Mayor’s Lodge”. Every Logo corper can relate to this. This was our house for two days until we finished documentation and left to go home and get our personal effects. That was a very uncomfortable two days, I tell you. Sleeping on the floor is an exciting experience. Said no one ever. At this point, all I could describe about Ugba was: pigs and mud houses. Lots and lots of them. Not very encouraging.

On returning, I was very lucky to meet a random friend who turned out to be from my hometown. She housed me and I moved in completely when she passed out which was really close. Indeed, I was lucky. I had a gated house with running water, good electricity and a well for contingency measures. I didn’t know just how lucky I was until I saw where many other corps members had to live. One of us actually lived in a mud house! I had great well behaved neighbors and I had a playmate called Sammie. He was three years old and we played ball together a lot. Until his mother decided that these four “segzy” female corpers were planning to seduce her husband and banned poor Sammie from playing with me. Too bad. We were innocent. I missed my Sammie and it wasn’t unusual to see us making googoo eyes at each other from our imposed separation. Eventually Jane moved in with me and I had a swell time annoying her for the rest of our service year. 😈.

Me and Jane. At this point some sanity and stability had returned to our lives
Me and Jane at the LGA office in the first month of our service. At this point some sanity and stability had returned to our lives

She was the perfect roommate for me and if it wasn’t her, I may not have been able to live with anyone else during that time. She lost her dear papa during this time and I’d never seen anyone more heart broken. She even shaved her hair for him. Eeek! We had a great year together. I kept calling my sisters Jane when I returned home. Lol. We had really interesting conversations in which I delighted in being my annoying self. Couldn’t pay her back enough. I get the feeling she loved it though.

Scenario 1: it’s 6:45am Monday morning.

Jane: (wakes up and stares sleepily at me) You’re already dressed?

Me: (Finishing up my makeup) Ghen ghen! Sleeping Beauty awakes! I’m about to leave sef

Jane: (looks at me suspiciously) Bubu, did you bathe this morning?

Me: Of course. Why?

Jane: Stop lying. I’ve been awake and praying in my mind. I felt the bed move when you woke up and I know I’ve not heard the sound of water in the bathroom.

Me: (Grinning from ear to ear, With one leg in the room and the other leg outside) The last time I checked, 1:15am was morning. That was when I had my bath. It’s not my fault that I’m a late sleeper. By the way, if I bathe now, what am I washing away? The color of my skin?

Jane: Dirty girl.

Me: (Grinning wider) Technically, you’re dirtier. I had my bath like five hours ago and you had your bath almost twelve hours ago. I think we both know who is smelling.

Jane: (hurls something at my head)

Me: (ducks smartly and runs out)

Scenario 2: It’s a hot Wednesday morning. 9:40am. We’re going for CDS dressed in our khakis. In my jungle boots, my strides are long compared to her dainty steps.

Jane: Chibugo slow down now

Me: I’m a UNN graduate.

Jane: (bewildered) How does that affect the fact that I’m almost running to keep up with you?

Me: You didn’t know? Our degrees are awarded in character, learning and trekking.

Jane: (laughs uproariously) Stupid girl

Me: (Blows her a kiss while striding on)

Jane: (out of breath)  Hey! You’re still too fast!

Me: No. You’re just darn slow.

IMG-20150106-WA002_wm
My fiful my fiful. On the extreme left is John “Comrade Ugava” Iyasere. Watch out for him. Born politician. Great man. Great people!

The very next month after we began our service proper, in the reign of King Ebola, we had Tuface come down to his state, tough not his tribe, to sensitize the people on hand washing and hygienic toileting.( He’s Idoma, Ugba is a Tiv town). I took a picture of him with my pupils as the school that came third in the quiz competition.

IMG-20141022-01566_wm
Right beside him, on his left, is Suleyol 😢

Remember Suleyol from this post? That’s her on Tubaba ‘s left. May she rest in peace.

With a little bit of courage, Collins and I were able to get him to take a photo with the “Ugba corpers”.

pic 4_wm
Collins is the guy behind Tubaba to his left. I have no idea how my roommate ended up almost inside Tubaba’s armpit 😂

Every Saturday we had this compulsory sports CDS that I absolutely hated at first, but came to enjoy with time.

That's my leg on the right 😄
That’s my leg on the right 😄. Followed by Chika, Taiwo “Sugardey”, someone I can’t decipher, Justina, someone else I can’t decipher, and Vince bobo, my ghenghenstic CLO

Did I mention that to get to the bank we practically had to travel to the next LGA, Ukum? Smh. Zaki biam town was where we had the nearest bank and that was one of my biggest issues with my service year. One could get robbed on the road. Remember this post? Hahaha. Just thought  to refresh your memory.

We were just two months into service when I was made the vice president of my CDS group, NEMA. I was like “Dem never even grind beans, moimoi don dey smell”.

IMG-20150114-01794_wm
Me and my translator at the mini yam market. Talking to a crowd of market people is no mean feat. I don’t pray to ever have such a task again
The rice sellers abandoned their wares to balance well and listen to what these corpers had to say about fire outbreaks
The rice sellers abandoned their wares to balance well and listen to what these corpers had to say about fire outbreaks

January 2015, I became president. Shit just got realer. I chose something more tame. We enlightened senior secondary students on what do do to prevent and ameliorate flooding. I cannot come and go and kill myself away on top of CDS work. I was vice president of NACC, the body of Catholic corpers, I was soon to become the Welfare officer for the LGA corps members, and I coordinated the NAP fm crew. There’s only so much one person can handle without neglecting the main thing. I had almost 50 children in class to teach. That was my priority.

At NKST secondary school for our sensitization exercise
At NKST secondary school for our sensitization exercise
Nobody wanted to bell the cat so I had to
Nobody wanted to bell the cat, so I had to
Winners of our quiz competition. The big guy on the left was my able vice president, Albert. He became the CLO afterwards. Great somebori
Winners of our quiz competition. The big guy on the left was my able vice president, Albert. He became the CLO afterwards. Great somebori

Early 2015 was the hottest period I’d ever experienced. It was so hot, one would think the sun was on a punitive mission to the Benue people. I was always dreaming of ice cream. Gosh.! I remember bathing four times in one day. I mentioned this to someone and he said, “It’s because you even have abundant water to waste on bathing, that’s why you can still complain”. It was a time of acute water shortage. All wells had dried up. Benue  is a state with abundant water bodies but without readily available potable water. Fourth note: Benue, surrounded by water, but her people lack good drinking water. Very sad. You need to see the cloudy water kids brought to school.

Eventually we sent the batch before us forth, with much ado at our various fellowships. That’s us collecting divine blessings from Fada at our Parish, as we sent batch A forth into the world.

Put some respeck on that altar
Put some respeck on that altar, folks.

I co-MCed the POP party along with Mike, and even did a short choreographed dance presentation for them with my very hip three-man dance crew✌. I bet you didn’t know I could dance, huh? (we’re cool like that). We promptly began preparing for our own send off.

At the NCCF send off for the guys before us
At the NCCF send off for the guys before US. Bethel, Vincent, Blessing, Justina, Alex, Yours Truly, Uncle Ben and Vote. You read right. Her name is Vote.

The first rains came and suddenly our pupils disappeared from the classes. They had to tend to their farms as it was their main means of livelihood. Look at what my class looked like when the farm kids skipped school.

Fifty goes down to twelve. That's Suleyol pointing at the board. 😢
Fifty goes down to twelve. That’s Suleyol pointing at the board. 😢

I talked and talked till my tongue almost fell out of my mouth but the kids had to eat. And to eat, you gotta work. So I let them be. I had to put in overtime after farming season just so they would understand all I had taught. Smh. I taught primary five all subjects, but I taught math to the primary six class as well.

Even with the very simple questions I
Even with the very simple questions I had just about 50 percent success rate in my primary six class

2015 elections came and I got posted to a village deep within Logo LGA. Tser something or other, I’ve forgotten. I was the presiding officer at my polling unit, deep deep deep in the hinterlands of Logo. I was strangely excited, instead of being alarmed and close to hysterical as my parents down in Lagos were. It went fairly well, and even though one of our corps members was kidnapped but eventually released; the INEC office was razed, and there were some electoral and post electoral killings, all of us made it out alive. A lot of things went down that period, but maybe it’s better I don’t say them. Maybe it’s not my responsibility to expose what I’ve seen of the dirty underbelly of Nigerian politics.

On a lighter note though, I got me a cute elderly “toaster” who traveled down to his village for the elections. In his words, “I will take good care of you. You won’t have to worry about anything”. When I jokingly asked him, “but baba, what about your wife or wives?”, he said, “Forget them. If you agree, you won’t regret it”. Hehehe. I wonder how many girls he had pulled that line on successfully. I smiled graciously for the sake of my safety, but in my mind, I was like: Thanks hon. You’re cute, but I don’t play rough play. 👿. My worst memory of the election period was finishing up my share of the electoral work and braving the dark roads to come home to town on a stranger’s motorbike at 12:30am(brave or plain stupid?), only to find out that my roommate locked me out and was still at her location. I slept in the cold compound and I was as testy as a bear in the morning. I’ve still not forgiven her this one, as I dozed many times during palm Sunday mass which was the very next day.

Twice, we had to go to Wannune camp to bring in two streams of new corpers, myself and the CLO. It was a herculean task because of the logistics and resource management involved, but we somehow did it. I saw myself in them, some weeping loudly, others stoicly accepting their fate and trying hard not to cry. I busied myself wiping tears and answering questions, even really stupid ones. I had gotten so used to crossing Buruku river that I even took selfies on the boat. Pity  I don’t have any now. This will have to do.

 

IMG-20150402-00039_wm

Who would have thought? The time had come for us to end it. I remember mother telling me over the phone:, it’s 89 days left till you come home. I missed Lagos terribly, as I hadn’t been home in little less than a year. Suddenly it was less than two weeks left. I had come to love my kids at school, and I already missed them even though I was still in Ugba. They brought me lots of edible stuff as parting gifts and I can say I didn’t lack food stuff during my last days in Ugba. Hahaha. Gotta love them kids. They cried, and I cried too, but I had to go.

What can I say? The experience taught me a lot of things, and it definitely was not a wasted year. More pictures below

Few days left! I was feeling really cute. That's my "Jehovah witness" bag. I'm popular for it. The chick beside me was my successor in NACC and as the corps welfare officer
Few days left! I was feeling really cute. That’s my “Jehovah witness” bag. It’s reputation preceded me everywhere I went. I kinda became popular for it. The chick beside me was my successor in NACC and as the corps welfare officer

 

IMG-20150624-00284_wm
The boy on crutches is Chisom, our super smart head boy
Us and some of our shildrens. I miss those kids and I miss hearing Tiv all around me. Chai
Us and some of our shildrens. I miss those kids and I miss hearing Tiv all around me. Chai
That's my roommate in the flowered skirt. NACC was great! We had these weekly rosary prayer meetings that brought us closer together
That’s my roommate in the flowered skirt. NACC was great! We had these weekly rosary prayer meetings that brought us closer together
Me and Elizabeth with the NAP fm crew. We jointly won the corper of the week award. This was my second time winning it. ✌ #recordbreaker
Me and Elizabeth with the new NAP fm crew. We jointly won the corper of the week award. This was my second time winning it. ✌ #recordbreaker
I was a fine kopa sha
I was a fine kopa sha
Our Parish priest treated us to a feast of pounded yam one random Wednesday
Our Parish priest treated the Catholic corpers to a feast of pounded yam one random Wednesday. Yum.
Dear Jane and Enkay
Dear Jane and Enkay at our “feast”. My dear children in whom I am well pleased.
Digging right in
Digging right in

Now, I did not dig through my archives and spend six hours of my working time to type up a five thousand word post, just to entertain you. I like to think that there are always lessons to learn from my posts. Great for you if you’re yet to go for NYSC, but still not a waste of reading time for you if you’re already above that level.

My roommate, Jane in the blue skirt. Cheerful soul. We were on the way home from Sunday mass
My roommate, Jane in the blue skirt. Cheerful soul. We were on the way home from Sunday mass when someone decided to take pictures

1. Do what you should, when you should. NYSC may be one year of service, but you determine your personal strength when you’re able to work for almost nothing and still put your best into it. I was paid three thousand naira monthly at my place of primary assignment. I had rent, power bills, personal expenses and many things to consider, which may have made me and others in the same shoes lose focus of why we were there in the first place. But that did not stop me from leaving home at or before 7am every morning to get to school. If this sh*t must be done, then do it so well that you’ll be remembered when you’re gone. If you have a plan for a community development project, don’t abandon it because no one seems to be in support. Press on. Even if you do not get widespread recognition, you’ll have a sense of fulfilment at having filled a need for society.

Black guy in the middle is the NACC president, Mike my Oga at the top. Ayo to the right
Black guy in the middle is the NACC president, Mike my Oga at the top. Ayo to the right

2. Don’t get into relationships to pass time or just for the heck of it. Relationships, like every other important decision in life, should be thought through, and not just done because “everyone else is doing it”. I remember one of my neighbors wondering aloud(to my hearing) at the way I managed to avoid romantic entanglements throughout the time. I was a bit startled. Pretty much all I did was avoid people, which is quite antisocial. When I responded with “If I  went to bed with every man I’d  personally had a crush on in this life, I’d probably have a body count of like 50 or more”, I watched their jaws drop in astonishment and I could only laugh. I could tell that they had put me on some kind of pedestal: an asexual, abstemious church girl. Well, not bad, since you can’t control what people think of you. You can only hope it’s mostly good stuff.  I shook my head in amazement as people got into stupid, headless relationships, and got out of them as fast; I watched people become what they call “friends with benefits”, at least we were all aware of the realness of AIDS  and STDs(we were in Benue after all). But the best thing was that I witnessed two successful relationships emerge. To the best of my knowledge, we have two married Ugba couples right now. 👏👏. Date with sense, my people.

3. Use your Internet well. While this might sound funny, there were people who as we passed out, had not even typed up their resume, let alone begun applying for jobs. I’d thought it was a no brainer. These guys had android devices oh. Use your Internet well. Ees beg I beg you.

Patrick, Babangida, and Laura. Lovely folk
Patrick, Babangida, and Laura. Lovely folk

4. Don’t forget your faith, or your commitments back home. If you were a Christian, keep your faith. Muslim, the same. If you were engaged or married, remain faithful. One year is not so long, when you think of it. Don’t be like the proverbial silly pigeon. At this point I have to mention my two uber – cool neighbors, Bomboy and Chukwudi, who ensured that I never lacked a ride to church. Their bikes were always ready for me and my roommate as we all attended the town’s Catholic Church, All Saints, together. (In Ugba, having a bike is almost equivalent to having a car in Lagos). God bless those guys.

It’s exactly one year since we all breathed a sigh of relief at being free from khakis and jungle boots. Maybe we had thought there would be jobs waiting on us, but harsh reality showed us how far this was from the truth, and no amount of NACC and NCCF fellowships can change that. It takes grueling effort, proactiveness and of course, an element of luck( as a Christian I call it grace) to be what you want to be. It’s a journey, really. You never really arrive at a destination until you die, you just make the best of the journey. Right? Keep the faith, my dear people. Your hustle must pay, bad economy or no.

At the time of my typing this, Logo and her surrounding LGAs Ukum and Buruku, are experiencing a very bloody tribal conflict with the Fulani herdsmen. Pray for peace in Logo, my friends. Such conflict among normally peaceful people is a great pity. And thank you for reading this extremely long post. If you have read to this point, you sure deserve a hug. When next you see me, or if we ever meet, simply ask for it. Haha. I sure hope you took something away from this post. Have anything to share about your NYSC experience? Don’t be shy, add it in the comments! You know I love hearing from you!

 

Monday Humor : Who zipped me up?!

How are you guys coping with this rainy, dreary weather? Its so depressing and it doesn’t help that the streets are so muddy. Any way, I’ve got this post that I hope will brighten your day a bit. I’ll keep it short, and hopefully, sweet.

Some weeks back, we had one of those rainy, dull weekends when you don’t want to do anything but sleep. But alas, we all had to get out of bed and get busy. Father was busy watching TV in the den(busy is busy), Kiisa was just sitting and staring (her own way of trying to wake her brain up), and I was groggily digging around in the kitchen for something to put together for breakfast. At that moment, Mother passed by the kitchen door, and two seconds later, came back and stood staring at me from the doorway.

Mother: Chibugo, who just zipped me up?

Me: Zip? Who? What zip?

Mother: Wait first. The lobby is dark but I thought you were the one who I asked to zip me up, and you did so just before I passed by this kitchen door and saw you here again!

We both keep looking at each other and scratching our heads when suddenly, Father’s “boy” (his apprentice/trainee… you should understand by now) passes by on his way out. He is wearing a T shirt and shorts. Mother looks at me. I’m also putting on a  T shirt and shorts.

Mother and I share a momentary horror when we realize what had just happened.

11615503-laughing-out-loud-emoticon-stock-vector-smiley-face-cartoon1

At a point, our horror turns to laughter. Mother is so embarrassed. In the first place, of the uncountable “boys/apprentices” Father has ever had since I knew my name, she dislikes this one the most. It JUST had to be this particular one she mistook for me in the dark. As if reading my mind, she suddenly turns to me. “what kind of a day will today be? This is the stupidest thing I’ve done in a very long while”

What do you say when your mom says that to you? First of all, my pride was hurt that she mistook me for a lumbering giant of a boy. Now come and see me see jamb kweshion. ✋ Mom, talk to the hand

Have a productive week, mi amigos. It’s 3 days left until June ends. Don’t count the days, make the days count. ✌

Let the hustle pay! 😉

Kisses, hugs and kulikuli, 

Sincerely, Chibugo.

 

A Letter To My Teenage Self

What is it about approaching birthdays that make us suddenly introspective about life? It is a great idea to look back sometimes and appreciate how far you’ve come. Don’t you sometimes wish you could get in a time machine and go back to the past and change some things? I sure do. It’s exactly a month to my birthday and I’ve had these really sober moments when I reflect on anything and everything. What’s this about sometimes feeling like I’m still sixteen, and other times feeling like I’m already forty? I have a tendency to write things, and so I wrote this letter to my much younger self. This almost made it to the pile of things I write which never get published, but somehow it got here. A lot of water has passed this bridge, surely. I hope it’s worth your time.

Cheechee,

First of all, loosen up. You’re just fourteen! Why do you worry so much? You worry that you’re not going to make straight A’s in WAEC, that you won’t make it to medical school, that you may not be found worthy of the religious life. You are abashed when you have to say that your father is a bookstore owner and your mother a restaurant owner; you are worried that your parents may die and you and Kembu will be left with the task of raising all five little ones alone just like in the nollywood films, and that the world may end before you get a chance to do anything. Girl, hold up. It’s not that serious! And no, I’m not laughing at you, just rolling my eyes. I still remember how you feel, but can you quit the drama already?

First of all, guess what? In a year’s time, you’re going to write WAEC and even though you promised Father straight A’s, you’re going to come home with something more like straight B’s and Father’s going to be extremely proud of you anyway. As for medical school, well, you won’t make it then, but it won’t be the end of the world. That same bookstore you hide from people, will be your first work experience and you’re gonna love it! You think you’re some quiet, nondescript girl whom nobody knows, but you’ll find out in good time that you were quite known and admired at school. Two years from now too, you’ll realize that you were in the running for the religious life for all the wrong reasons, and change your mind about it even though it’ll also break Father’s heart. And yeah, Father and Mother are alive and strong, grandparents too! Ha!

You worry too much for someone so young. A smile once in a while wouldn’t hurt, you know. Remember, you’re just sixteen. Your life lies ahead of you like a map spread on the table. You worry that you’re not as beautiful as your sisters, you ask Father why your eyes are so big; you’re happiest playing with your siblings and wonder if you’ll be a good enough mother when the time comes; you are a bit afraid of boys, and hide your pimply face behind a different book everyday. Honey, listen. Wouldn’t beauty be boring if it was of one kind? Trust me, you ain’t so bad. And like Father responded, people pay money to get eyes like yours. Best believe him. And boys! I wish you were not so wary of them! Believe me, they’re not the evil demons Mother made you believe they were. What would you expect? She has six daughters and is trying to protect them. You will come to meet all kinds, and you will love them and they will love you right back. University will make you aggressive, for that is where you will find your voice.

You hide yourself in the pages of books, and you dream great dreams; and that’s fine. You have made awesome imaginary friends in Achebe, Dickens, Emecheta, Amadi, Ike, Nwapa, Ekwensi and a host of others. You will make more friends in Adichie, Cole and Shoneyin, and you will come to be indifferent to poetry which was your first love. That’s okay. Keep dreaming. It will inspire you to push hard in difficult times.

You’re eighteen now, and you question everything. Does God really exist? Why is the world so evil? Why do we even have to die at all if God loves us so much? Why did I have to be born a girl anyway? Things changed so much ever since my chest stopped being so flat. Why do boys look at me like I’m something edible whenever I dress nice and I’ve got makeup on, but zone out when I start a smart conversation? Why do I ignore cute boys and have huge crushes on nerds? Does that mean something’s wrong with me? Why does nobody understand me?

Well, you are one big bag of questions now. Don’t sweat it chica, you’ll come to find that indeed God exists, and most boys your age at that time, aren’t really interested in smart conversation. You wonder why God didn’t create you a boy. Being  a girl is so much work. And you’re sure Father would be pleased to have a grown son. Well, you’re here already, and you are enough. Your dreams are valid, and the earlier you began working on them, the better. Remember that resolution you wrote in your diary, that you and your sisters would make your parents prouder than parents of ten sons? You were right on track.

cartoon-round-kissing-face-emoticon-making-air-kiss-illustration-46947628

So here’s to you. You’re imperfectly perfect, and born to inspire. You took the name Theresa at confirmation because you wanted to imitate Mother Theresa. Guess what? She will be canonized this year, half a dozen years into the future. The years ahead are full of rough roads. You will have several boy crushes and recover from them all. You will survive a fatal accident too, and your outlook of life will change from then. I do not know if you will be wealthy, but you’ll survive.

You won’t suddenly become some cool and glamorous diva, nope. So crush those dreams of suddenly waking up to find that you had morphed into something like Omotola or Genevieve. You’re going to be more like the regular jeans and T-shirt girl next door 🙂  and you’ll be perfectly fine with it. Now listen and listen good: the next time you travel from school to pay a visit to aunt Fidelia, share as many jokes as possible with her, play, laugh and hug her really tight. Memorize the sound of her voice, the color of her skin, and the cadence of her laugh. She won’t survive that pregnancy, and everyone will be devastated. You will hurt terribly in places no one can see, but you, and the rest of the family, will live through it.

Go on, dear girl; grab another book and lose yourself in it. Bear the title “Bookworm” proudly. Remember that readers are leaders. Write, write, and don’t stop writing. I wish you would not try so hard to stifle your overactive imagination. Worrying about your future will get you nowhere, but I can tell you that to the best of my knowledge, it’s going to be fantastically awesome. You’re going to meet great new people and make great new friends, travel to new lands and learn new things. Remember to Whom you belong and trust in Him. He has a great masterplan. Stay strong, and remember to smile more often.

Sincerely, (and with great nostalgia and fondness),

Your future(and hopefully wiser) self.

IMG_20160612_192057
I dunno, the photo just seemed right. If pokerface were a title, I guess I’d be a chief.

I don’t know about you reading this, but writing it was especially therapeutic for me, and if you’ve read to this point, then I owe you a really big hug. It’s weird how things that felt so insurmountable years ago seem so laughable now. Haha. If you ever get to write your “letter to your much younger self”, don’t hesitate to tag me or reach out to me via any social medium.

What advice would you give your younger self? Let ’em loose in the comments!

Regret not that which is past; and trust not to thine own righteousness. –   Saint Anthony of Padua

Danfo Diaries episode 4: Shine your eyes. And your ears too!

IMG_20160503_133112

Rain. Lagos. I dislike the combination immensely, but this is our present reality. Like everyone else, I just deal with it and move on. I hope you’re not having a hard time of it. Moving around in Lagos is a chore already, the rains just compound the situation with hike in prices on some routes, and the usual “potopoto” everywhere.

My son Matt, (well, we were classmates in uni but somehow I managed to graduate with two sons. Don’t ask me how. Lol) is a Jos – bred boy. His family moved to Lagos when he was already grown. Currently he’s completing his masters degree, but decided to come down to Lagos and spend time with family and friends.

This fateful day, he had finished some business at Apapa and on leaving, asked his host for directions on how to get to Bariga. He received these instructions : “From here, take a bus to Mile 2. From Mile 2,take a bus to Oyingbo. Then from Oyingbo, you’ll get a bus to Bariga”. Instructions noted. He took a bus to Mile 2 as instructed, and when he alighted, he was going towards the big danfos called “Molue”, that plied the Oyingbo route, when he heard “Bariga! Bariga!”. What luck! He immediately hurried and got on the bus, happy that it was a small one and would fill up quickly. He couldn’t believe his luck, and, just to be sure, he asked the conductor, “Na Bariga abi?” And he vigorously answered in the affirmative. They began the journey. And what a journey it turned out to be!

As a jayjaycee, he really couldn’t tell that he was on the wrong route, until the journey got really long. When he finally registered his surroundings, he realised one thing. This could only be Lagos Island! What the heck was the relationship between Bariga and Marina? He accosted the conductor who was bewildered. “But na Marina I dey call now! Bariga keh? Who dey go Bariga? Abi you no dey hear well”? 😭😰😥.

My people, so began he the journey from the Island back to the Mainland. That is the tale of how a 2 hour journey extended to more than four hours. We had a great laugh when he told me about this incident. What a welcome party Lagos gave him!

I hope you, my dear reader learnt something from this. If you no sabi road, and you ask for directions, follow the directions to a Tee! Don’t shine your eyes alone, shine your ears too, because Lagos conductors have diverse accents. Marina could sound like Bariga to you too if you don’t take care. Lol.

Life is a journey that must be travelled no matter how bad the roads and accommodations –  Oliver Goldsmith 

For you reading this blog, I love you. And thank you. You’re the reason I still write.

Be your awesome self.

Love, Chibugo.