Hi Stella so finally I decided to pen down my own NYSC Boulevard. I hope you guys find it interesting enough.
I’ll try to be as brief as possible. Prior to postings I prayed and asked God to send me anywhere else in Nigeria but the North, as I wasn’t ready for their Extremism and fanaticism. Our call-up came out and I was posted to Bayelsa. Not bad I said.
Time to depart, I got my things ready, and headed down to the park, it was about three hours journey from my base, at the park, I met two other girls we journeyed together, one later became my bonkie.
Got to camp, did my registration, it took us till midnight to get registered but was not assigned kits, the queue no be here. Went back to the hostel bathed, took Golden and managed to sleep off, I was having mild headache thought it will clear up by morning. I was so uncomfortable, as I’ve never being in the same room with such number of people (over 200 girls). The hostel had about four rows of bonks, with each row having 25bonks which meant that each row had 50 girls on it with a tiny aisle separating each row. Gratefully my bonkie opted for the down bonk although she was originally assigned the top bonk, but because she was pregnant we swapped to avoid the stress of climbing up and down. So at least I could breathe a bit of fresh air from the window, it was so stuffy in there and I felt like I was suffocating.
I woke up with a terrible headache around 3am, obviously from my poor night rest, because I was so restless all through the night, one fat girl kept snoring like a whale(apologies) and I could swear my bonk was vibrating even though hers was like four bonks away from mine. I had my bath outside wore my mufti, took some drugs for the headache and went back to lie down. We all assumed that since we hadn’t been assigned kit yet, that we were exempted from morning parade. The beagle was blown and those with kits went out for parade while we stayed back. I must have dozed off, because the next thing I realized was that there were screaming and pandemonium and everyone was rushing for the exit door, I heard voices (soldiers) they were saying something like “bloody lazy civilians, you think say here na you papa house wey you go dey sleep reach 6 am c’mon double up double up’. I no remember headache again, if you see the speed of lightening I used to jump down from my bed eh, in fact we didn’t stop running till we got to the parade ground. A lot of people were taken unawares. That day was really funny, there was this girl, the only thing on her was her wrapper tied round her neck, three guys were wearing only there boxers. the mischief in the army guys was manifested, as they made the guys stand and face us, then told them to start jumping up and down, chai their junk was just everywhere men, we had no choice than to enjoy the merchandise, if they mean to slow down, the army guys we shout “higher! Higher! .One of the guys was so pleasing to the eyes eh (he later won Mr. Macho). I got my kit later that day.
The headache was a sign of me falling sick, and by the third day, I was admitted at the clinic, they said it was malaria. My temp was so high and I had breakout, especially on my upper lip. I was given some malaria drugs and pirition, asked to report every day at the clinic for observation for three days; meaning three days without parade. I knew it was just my body trying to adjust to its new environment.
After the third day, I was given a clean bill of health.
fast-forward to my second week in camp, I was beginning to adjust to the environment, was very active in camp, was part of the special parade, a Sub-guard commander, originally a guard commander, but all the shouting made me lose my voice, my platoon officer still insisted that I’ll do the part, cos I was very good. according to him, I dey match like winch, he went to maami and bought all the bitter cola there and gave me to eat, bought plenty of water and asked me to drink sadly my voice no come back anything, I had to be drafted to the role of a sub-guard commander. I also played volleyball for my platoon, we came third, joined the IT class for skills acquisition, and won one of the two slots available for scholarship to learn about IT for the duration of our service year, but the catch was that you have to be posted to Yenagoa.
Camp Boo (s)
Since our story no dey complete without this part make I add am. I had three of them; they were mostly my means to an end, as I rarely ate camp food, except on days when we are served beans. For some funny reason I find the beans without salt or pepper (for ulcer patients) tasty, I’ll collect the beans go to maami and buy plantain to eat it with. One was for breakfast, the other lunch while the third was dinner .the one for breakies was a total mama’s boy, an only son amongst five girls, his palms were very soft like that of a baby, am sure he has never done any kind off chores his whole life. He wanted a relationship that could probably lead somewhere but that for me would be like adopting a giant baby, plus his mum was always checking up on every second. The second told me his pastor had a vision for him that he will find his future wife in camp, and that am that vision come true, well I told him that God speaks to me too, and let’s wait patiently for his voice. The third was more like what I wanted, but he was a Northerner though Christian. We dated all through our service year, but ended it afterward; we are just friends now with benefits though anytime we see we collect no strings attached. The three all had one thing in common, cash lots of it.
Incidence in Camp
There was this day, I think we were on lunch break or something and was hanging out at one of the ice cream stands when one of the female soldiers passed by, now this woman was fat as in very fat but fit, she’ll jog with us for the long distance and will hardly break a sweat. Her eyes caught one girl like that, the girl was also fat, Now the solider woman stopped, called the girl “Orobo come here” naim the girl come, we knew drama was loading. Next thing she said to the girl “me and you dey compete fat abi, I dey fat you dey fat abi? The poor girl was just looking at her too confused to answer; the army woman now told the girl “Oya do as I do, sit on the air”. She sat, the girl sat, e no reach two minutes, come and see sweat, this girl was sweating from everywhere because it was so hot that day, meanwhile the army woman was just there like the statue of liberty, when the girl couldn’t take it anymore, she burst into tears, that was when the army woman started laughing and released her.
One boy tried to protest against the quantity of food served by pouring the beans served him on the floor, wrong move the army guy in charge of making sure there was orderliness on queue forced him to eat the beans from the floor, and he made sure he ate all of it before letting him go.
Two girls in my hostel found love, by our second week, they’ve damned all consequence and “moved in together”, they converted their top bonk to wardrobe and slept together in the down bonk, using their mosquito net for privacy. Na we gossip tire as they no send anybody. They did ‘everything’ together.
We had one pretty liar in our corner, that girl can lie for Africa and her forming no be here, first she said she can’t bath with the water in camp, so she’ll buy bags of pure water, first week no even finish, she started secretly to pay those small errand boys to go and fetch that same water for her, we just dey give her side eye anytime she open her mouth to misyarn.
Time for posting
Because I was very active in camp, I was very convinced without doubt that I won’t be sent anywhere but the capital, on several occasions, our details were taken, so for me PPA was just a case of where in Yenagoa. I got the shock of my life when I opened my letter and saw Ekeremor LGA, the camp official took one look at my letter and said “Go and collect your life jacket”. Jesu I froze, I find spit to swallow for my mouth I no see, suddenly there was this rumble in my tummy, hot shit hold me, the whole thing came back to me like a flashback, the day the Chairman of that LGA came to address us in camp and painted a picture of what that place looked like, after talking to us, he said “we hope to see some of these beautiful faces there” and all of us chorused “God forbid”, little did I know he was talking to me. The tears started falling I said God what have I done to deserve, me cross water, go wia nah. Everyone I know was sent to capital.my camp boo (s), the mama’s boy was sent to Yenagoa to one fancy office like that, the other redeployed to rivers state to continue with his job, my Northern boyfriend was sent to Yenagoa. The girls I met in camp, 80% went to the capital.
Because we were being sent to an island where there were no vehicles, banks or ATM, we were mandated to conclude all payment logistics there in camp.
It took us roughly five hours to get there, three hours’ drive to the jetty, and another two hours boat ride. When we got to the jetty, another drama played out, on seeing the size of the river, we started another outburst of tears, it was a free for all, we were mostly girls, it took the guys that came to pick us another hour to persuade us to board the speed boat, those boat riders where like “ahn ahn Corper you wear life jacket you still dey cry, nothing go happen nah”. I had to call my parents in case that was goodbye and we don’t get to see again! .Finally we boarded and the boat took off, if you see the way we were gripping those two guys eh, they really suffered in our hands as we never let go of them for one second, even when one was complaining that blood was not circulating in his hands anyone, we just form not hearing. The river was so big at a point we couldn’t see a single thing, not even faint houses or trees, it was all water everywhere.
It was already dark when we got there, the warm welcome from the old Corp members there, made everything a bit better, they kept calling all through our journey and when we got to the jetty, they were already waiting for , they hugged us offered to carry our luggage for the first time that day I smiled , there were food and drinks waiting for us at the lodge.
We should never judge a book by its cover; the island was beautiful, nothing like what we all expected. The Corper’s lodge was very standard, there was light our common room had a plasma TV with DSTV subscription done monthly by the LGA chairman. That night I slept so well, it was the early morning bell for devotion that even woke me
The island had no banks, ATM nor where there cars, just bike and bicycles. Their market comes once every seven days and its starts by 7pm till daybreak, weird but fun, when it’s like 8pm we’ll carry our bags and go shopping, things were a bit cheaper on those days and we get to restock, trust my Igbo brothers to explore everywhere, many of them come to sell there too mostly from Onitsha and Ebonyi state, in fact two of the standard shops that you could get most of the things like provisions and toiletries there were owned by Igbos, there was one Yoruba guy there too, he makes nice cloths there and a handful of Hausas too.
Meat comes twice every week, if you miss out on Tues, you’ll have to wait till Thurs when the next supply will come.
There were no vegetables there only bitter leaf, because the only soup they know is banga. I had to start a small garden where I planted Ugu and some other veggies. Trust Corpers nah, the Ugu died within a short while when the pressure became too much on it, everyone wanted to harvest it nobody gave it breathing space; we had to cook most of our soup without vegetable.
Before long I became an expert in flying boat, most weekends I go to Yenagoa to visit my friends.one day I was travelling to upland, I flagged down a boat and entered, I didn’t know there was a crocodile lying on the floor board next to me, the man sitting next to me captured it in the swamp and was taking it to the buyer I the next village. I didn’t notice till I’ve sat and the boat was in motion, was I saw it, see shout I told them to stop me that I want to drop, they said it’s not harmful, its mouth and legs or arm whatever was tied firmly it couldn’t move, but its eyes was just staring. I told them no way. Finally we parked and a woman offered me her sit in front and took my position. We stopped at the village, handed the croc. Over to the buyer and continued with our journey.
I was to teach junior Secondary kids, it took the grace of God to impact knowledge on those kids, they had a few bright kids who could compete with their contemporaries in the city, but there were those whose case needed Gods intervention.
Teen pregnancy was so common there, it meant nothing to them, there were no shame in it. In fact you are seen as weird and different if you are above fourteen and had never had sex or a baby.one of my student in JSS 1 got pregnant, when I found out because she was always sleeping in class, I had to tell her to stop coming to school till after the baby and her only worry was that her baby daddy, he was in SS1 was still coming to school that if she’ll have to stay back, that we should make him stay back too.
We tried our best to sensitize them about HIV, abstinence or at least use a condom (one thing they really don’t care about a guy who sells drugs told us that most times the condoms get to expire with them as they don’t patronize it). Since talking to them about abstinence was like preaching to the choir.
While I was talking to the about the use condoms on one of our CDS a boy raised his hand, and boldly told me “aunty eh you see that condom, me I no dey like am at all” stressing the all and his classmate where all hailing him. We tried our best, but theirs was a matter of culture and way of life, and there was only little we could do.
I tried out weed (Igbo) for the first time, myself, one other girl in my batch and a male Corper. They call it monkey tail. while we were busing sipping it, they rang the bell for evening bible study, and you can’t be in the lodge and not attend, so we sprayed ourselves with perfume, as me don high small I didn’t even know when I sprayed the thing inside my mouth. We joined the fellowship trying so hard to be sober, That was my very first and last time.
I made friends with one old mama like that, I’ll visit her mostly at her stall not too far from her house, where she sells pepper and banana or her house any day I don’t see her at her stall; we’ll be gisting like old buddies even though I don’t understand 90% of whatever she was saying in izon, neither does she understand my English, except I augment it with hand gestures. There was this one time she was telling me a story, and an airplane flew by, mama started talking and pointing towards the airplane, apparently she was trying to tell me a story of what happened with an airplane, and the story from her body language was very funny because she started laughing hysterically, me I no understand I follow her dey laugh. Whenever I can I buy her stuff like kopokop (hope I got the spelling right) garri with pork meat pepper soup, or edible maggot those where their delicacies there and in return she’ll give me banana those short fat ones. Anytime I want to escape the drama in our lodge I’ll just go to mama’s place and stay.
When it was time to leave finally I told mama “mama am going oh” and in our usual way and she said “go well oh see you tomorrow”. But this time I told her mama there will be no tomorrow, am not coming back, one of the women there had to interpret to her, mama started talking fast in izon I could only make out mama and papa from what she was saying. Our interpreter told me that she was blessing me, said the same way I came here without incidence that I will get back to my people without incidence, that when I get home I should greet my mama and papa. I cried a little sha mama should be in her late seventies, all her kids were all grown and in the city.
Did I tell you about my pet fish, yea I had one. We found it on one of the days we were strolling, I noticed that something was struggling in the gutter nearby, it was this fish, it was trapped, with an empty tin nearby, the guy amongst us was able to capture it. I took it home placed it in a bowl and filled it with water from the river, even went to town bought some fish feed for it, one morning I woke up and found out my fish was gone, somehow it managed to jump through the mosquito net I used to guard it and it escaped. It was a catfish sort of, was planning to bring it back with me after my service year as a souvenir.
We had one very huge drama that went down in our lodge, it not really my story to tell, though I was a character in it, but not the lead character. It was quite messy.
In all it was a very beautiful island, they had this standard mini stadium, and beautiful mausoleums (quite a number of them). The first time we saw one we were busy posing and taking pictures, not knowing it was someone’s resting place.
Fast-forward 2015 after Shiloh, God told me the real reason why I was sent to that place, and when the time is right, I’ll share the story with you guys too, so will I be going back there someday, abso-definitely!
Hope you had a great read.
BV Abamade, reporting live from the USA (United States of Aba)
*Very insteresting and short