Posted in Pinches of Salt

Let’s Play Catch-up?

As I sit in the front seat on this rather rickety bus on a rather bumpy ride to Lagos State for a few days of reprieve before I start work at my PPA, my mind flashes back on a few things.

First, I really need to do a widal test. Never have I been more grateful for having an injury just before camp that made me take antibiotics till this very moment. I have eaten weird things, I have dined in even weirder places and I have drank the water of affliction. From impure borehole water with a metallic taste peddled as bottled water at camp for exorbitant prices to sachet water where I could literally taste the sand in the water even as it tasted like tortoise meat. Have I had a tortoise dinner before? Absolutely not! But I have a feeling it would taste like that water. I haven’t tasted metal either before.

Secondly, I am extremely pleased that I did not choose Lagos State as my state for national service. Now, Lagos is very posh, comfortable, and very civilised (at least some places). It will be more suited to my tastes and needs than the ancient city which I chose. But here I am thanking my stars that I didn’t pick it. For just two reasons: one being the level of human and vehicular traffic. It reminds me of my dear Oxford Road. And the other reason being the amount of “yellow” in the state. It is so blinding. If I lived in Lagos I would pray to the Almighty to make me colour blind temporarily. You turn everywhere and you will see a bright stunning shade of yellow. You see yellow is the official colour for transport buses. That wouldn’t have been much of an issue if those buses are not too numerous to count and if they had a timetable or schedule of some sorts on when to appear on the roads. But you see, they don’t. You look left, you see yellow; you look right, you see yellow, you look front or back and you get the same outcome. Even the traffic light poles are painted yellow.
Would you look at this!!! A never ending stretch of yellow fever. 

Maybe because I have never been a fan of bright colours, but I am yet to understand why the government chose yellow. Yellow as a colour signifies sunshine, hope and happiness. I don’t see anything particularly cheery or hopeful about Lagos State. I have heard it is the land where dreams are achieved. Well I hope my dreams get achieved here as well before I go.

Thirdly… okay this is more of an observation, I have drank more garri since I started this national service journey than I have done in my entire life. And that is not even slightly funny. I really need to resume my workout immediately I start work because I can feel that my “village pipo” are planning a flabby tummy for me.

Fourthly, did you know that riding on a motorbike is like having sex, cowboy style 24 hours non-stop? So, while I was house-hunting, I had to go to a location where I had to be on this bike for 45minutes straight without stopping because there was a road diversion. The bad road and impromptu bumps didn’t make it feel any better. After that journey, I could hear my inner thighs begging for mercy and my poor feet suffered from pins and needles. You would think that I will be successful after so much stress, I wasn’t. Such was my luck.

And the last prize goes to ghosts. So I never used to believe in ghosts till I came to this town. Now I believe in them. Here’s an example, in the middle of the night, all the dogs in the neighbourhood in unison will start crying. Now I know that dogs generally howl when other wolves not part of the hunting pack are howling to direct the hunting pack to their location. So here’s my question… Why should all the dogs be crying in the midnight when there’s no major forest or bushes in sight for hunting? Why should the dogs be crying when there is actually no wolf, not to talk of wolves in a residential area? Why should I be hearing strange footsteps when no actual human is outside? Why should the said dogs be running around the compound when there’s no cat in sight?

Another example, there is actually a house, where ghosts wash your clothes for you. Any clothing they find dirty. I have seen the said house. It had a “To Let” sign in front of it. And I made the mistake of asking about it…

Well, let’s just say I learned never to ask questions at least while I am still here.

Posted in Bits and Pieces


…the hustle continues

Day 1

I wanted to take a much needed one week break from writing, from the world, from responsibilities etc. But unfortunately, the environment is not letting me.

I visited my PPA today. I was posted to a resort. Apparently one of the most beautiful places in my city of national service. I have mixed feelings about today. On one hand, I am scared of rejection. On the other hand, I am stoked to start working with them and enjoy the benefits that come with working there.

As I sit in the spacious, well decorated, chilly lounge waiting to see the General Manager who is ultimately the decider of my fate, my mind flashes back on a few things. The first being how faithful God has been. I picked this state to serve in based on my own selfish interests. I didn’t even consider if it is where God wants me to be. I didn’t consider family and friends. But yet, He has made a way for me; throughout my stay in camp, my first hours after leaving camp, even up to getting transport to move around my city. I really don’t deserve this majorly because I have drifted far from Him in recent times. I was angry at Him for a long time because I was “forced” out of my preferred comfort zone into a land of utter despair. It is true what the Bible says; “all things work together for good.” It is also true what man says; “good things come to those who wait.”

Secondly, the owner of my PPA stole my idea. This is what I wanted to do when I get wealthy. Create a family friendly environment for building broken relationships. I will still go ahead with my plan. Who knows what the future will look like.

11:23am, we were asked to come back at 10am the next day. My anxiety increases as I reluctantly agree. I went on to have my lunch before I die of hunger.

8:33pm Bad news again. Two more people I know are dead. One from a car accident and another from diabetes. I am tired of sad news. I have only been away for three weeks and three people I know are dead. What is all this happening to me? I thought 2016 was terrible but this year is looking worse. 

Day 2

I woke up intermittently through the night in my usual fashion. At 6am my alarm went off and I set about my daily business.

Today is the day hopefully. The day my fate will be decided by the powers that be. The day when I will either be accepted by my dream workplace or thrown to the streets.

After waiting for four hours I finally get through to see the General Manager. And yes I was accepted there for my one year national service. Unfortunately, the pay is meagre and there is no accommodation given. And so the hustle begins. The good thing about my PPA is that I get to meet important personalities. So far I have met three contacts so high up in government, and I haven’t even resumed work. Maybe I will get to see the Vice President of Nigeria one day.

Nigeria is a mess. So chaotic, so disorderly. That is my thought as I am running around reporting myself for duty to my local government. We were not given any direction on where to go. The government literally just threw us out to the hungry lions for devouring. At least if there was an incentive in the form of money, I wouldn’t mind much. I can see my allawee draining slowly as I pay each bike rider from point A to B. I am tired. 

Posted in Memoirs

A Day At Camp (#22/22)

I do not know what I expected. Maybe a better day than swearing-in day (day 4).

But no, today was far worse. With all the jubilation, shouting and war chants of yesterday, ninety-five percent of corpers slept at 12am and above. In my own case, I lay down to sleep at 11:30pm amidst the noise and loud talks of my roommates. I was roughly woken up at 2am to have my shower because apparently we would be chased out at 5am with all our baggage. I was less than impressed.

2:23am, I got up however grudgingly to begin my morning routine only to be met with two things. One, it was heavily raining. Two, the bathrooms had been locked yesterday night after being “washed” by the cleaners. The bathroom being locked wouldn’t have been a problem for me on other days because by day nine, I had learned how to play shot-put and bathing outside but in front of the bathroom. But today it is a problem because my usual spot in front of the bathroom has a long queue of unshowered and stinking corpers waiting to use the space, so I have to go properly outside, in front of the hostel and under the rain. Imagine having a cold shower, outside, and under the rain. 

I swallowed the discomfort and took the bull by the horns; in this case, my bucket of cold water. First hurdle, where to keep my glasses? I was not used to the area, so I could not leave my glasses behind and figure out where to stand/keep things/walk etc. I opened my soapdish and used the cover as a makeshift glass case. Yes, I know I am quite smart. 

Second hurdle, where to keep the small cloth I tied to cover a bit of my modesty on the long walk of shame from my hostel to the outside world. By the corner of my eye, I saw someone tying a headwrap and inspiration came like a flash. I tied my modesty apparel as a headwrap and proceeded with my shower. 

So in conclusion, I had to stay under the f*****g rain… (I wish we were allowed to swear in professional settings). Excuse me, let me try that again.

In conclusion, after minutes of obfuscation and vexation caused by lack of foresight on the part of the powers that be, I stayed under the fracking showers bestowed upon us by the Good Lord to go through the process of an external body parts clean up.

The thing I am grateful for is that there is no light, so bathing in full glare of any “lucky” passer-by wasn’t so bad.

By 4:48am I was out of the room with my luggage. And the wait for the start of the passing out parade at 9am began. While waiting, I said soddy goodbyes, had my last breakfast on camp. 

In typical Nigerian fashion, we started fifty minutes late. How lovely. Everything went okay. I could see the tension building around fellow corps members concerning postings. They were all scared of being posted to the waterside. And I wasn’t really bothered; #whentheCCisyourfriend. I was more bothered about if my PPA will accept me or not. Well fingers crossed till tomorrow.

After receiving my posting letter, I boarded a bus to get to my local government under a religious umbrella to stay in their lodge till I get “settled”. I didn’t stay there for more than a couple of hours. There were too many rules I couldn’t keep up with. And just like that I carried myself to a friend’s house.

I entered okada. This time properly. With a heavy suitcase as well. I am proud of myself. I’m becoming a street child already.

Wow I came to camp and I survived. 

How do I feel? Relieved. 

Strange Lingua

*shot put – a game majorly played in Africa of who can take a dump in plastic bags and throw it the farthest in the bush.

*okada – a motorbike

*PPA – Place of Primary Assignment

Posted in Memoirs

A Day At Camp (#21/22)

Oops, I did it again. I went to church. I even felt worse than I felt the previous Sunday; coupled with the fact that I was so tired, I left after an hour and half. Honestly what did I expect. At 12pm I lay down and tried to fall asleep.

So the camp timetable is like this for today;

5:30am to 8:55am – Personal Administration

9am to 2pm – Religious Activities

2pm to 3:55pm – Lunch and siesta

So the beagler on camp came at 12:30pm with his beagle. I had hardly slept by this time so I decided I was not going anywhere. I was overly prepared to be stubborn. I knew if I didn’t sleep, I was going to have a physical breakdown or worse, a mental breakdown.

Soldiers came to chase out the rest of us defaulters in the hostel. And one came straight to my bunk to wake me up with a whistle at 12:52pm. You best believe I didn’t move a muscle. She whistled and whistled and whistled.

I wanted to see how long she can keep trying to blow out my eardrums and simultaneously give herself severe mouth pain for several days. I won. She eventually gave up and left.

 I am so ravenous today. So I had Nigerian “biscuit morn” before church at around 7am. By 11am I was hungry again and had bread and beans. By 1:45pm I see myself taking yet another “biscuit morn”. 

The night fell fast and I had my last supper… noodles and egg. I also had my last “party” on camp. While it was ongoing, I realised how much of Nigerian songs I do not know. I seriously need to catch up on Nigerian music. I was so dumb. I was basically dancing to music I had no idea what it was talking about. I left my party sadly at about 10:15pm because I was so tired. Only to be met with another party going on in front of the hostel. A more interesting party if I may. A party laden with war chants, talking drums, gongs, shekesheke, trumpets, and gyrating corpers who were high on overexcitement amongst other things.

11:40pm. Beagle Time.

Lights out were benevolent to us today; not that it stopped corpers from making noise and going straight to bed. It actually made their morale higher. Oh yes, I took another Orijin today. Now Orijin is a type of Nigerian beer without barley and hops that has an ABV of 6%. It is not half bad and it is considerably “softer” than the alcohol I usually take.

Jeje jeje we dey go oo 

Jeje we dey go oo jeje

Jeje jeje we dey go oo 

Jeje we dey go oo jeje

A couple of hours left till we are out of this dump. 

Strange Lingua

*ABV – Alcohol by Volume

*Biscuit Morn – A substitute for golden morn in Nigeria usually prepared with broken cabin biscuits, a little water, milk etc.

Posted in Memoirs

A Day At Camp (#20/22)

Goodmorning. It is 6am. Today is Carnival day. I am tired. I am stressed. I have sore throat. I am having a water reaction and the skin on my body is peeling off. I have had only six hours of sleep in the last 48 hours. And it is only going to get worse. In my next life, (if there was anything like that) I would never be a platoon coordinator or anything. I will just pass through camp quietly.

By 7am, we were gathered for an address from the state coordinator. It was boring.

By 8:15am, I had collected my identity card to be used for all of service year.

By 8:32am, each platoon had collected some foodstuff that we were supposedly going to use to feed our corpers. Two hundred and fifty corpers per platoon. We were given foodstuff to cook for 100 people only. A couple of corpers took exeat from camp to go to the market to buy more foodstuff for the platoon cooking.

10:23am. Preparations were underway to start the cooking.

11am. Cooking has officially started. Yes I am excited. I have never stood so close, within a touching distance of firewood cooking. I have never witnessed firewood cooking from the scratch. I have never been involved with public cooking of that size. I have never smelt like firewood and coal before. I have never been… okay I will stop now and continue with my story.

It was amazing the way the firewood was lit. It was almost spectacular. Maybe I am a bit too interested in the mundane, or maybe I pay too much attention to details, or maybe I am easily fascinated by new toys. I learned a couple of things today. I made new friends as well. It is hard to believe that there are actually people in my platoon whom I should have known before today due to their popularity but I have not interacted with. It is a strange world. 

By 5:43pm, cooking was done and I went in to prepare. Now, the real battle begins. What to wear. On my way back from my place of cooking, I notice so many female corpers looking so dressed and flashy and “costumey”. Then there was me with a plain white tshirt, long unkempt braids and a threadbare jean. I knew I had to make it work somehow. I got to work on my outift. 
If I am judging by the looks I got from people as there was no full length mirror, I would have to say I did a good job.

By the time I was done with my preparation, the carnival was well underway. I was over an hour late. Believe me when I say I did not miss a thing. This was officially the most boring social event I have ever attended. There was little or no dancing. I was so happy that I hadn’t wasted my tshirt on tie and dye, I hadn’t wasted my money on masks, I hadn’t painted my face with glitters. 

It was basically a free food sharing ceremony. 

The “carnival” finished by 7:45pm and I set out to catch fun elsewhere. I was really exhausted but it was a good night. I had orijin; the people’s booze for the first time that night. I noticed I was a little bit rusty on my dancing. Courtesy of being out of practice for five months. I have to step up my game in the future. 
Anyway, it is 11:35pm. A girl has got to sleep. Goodnight Mrs. Diary. It was lovely speaking to you today.

Posted in Memoirs

A Day At Camp (#19/22) – Up and Running

Dear Google,

I love you. You just saved me stress and heartache. iPhone tried to break my heart but you mended it back. Because of you Google, I searched and saw it is possible to undo typing on your iPhone by shaking it repeatedly. Even if I shook mine for a hundred and twenty three times to get the exact article I needed. It was worth it. Thank you.

Your faithful user,

La Deuxième Dame.

I got my certificate from my automobile repair class today. I am feeling myself. I can hear the sweet sultry voice of Beyoncè in my head singing “Feeling myself” as I walk up to collect my certificate. It is a major accomplishment for the month of June.

After twelve hours of backbreaking tie-dying job yesterday, our t-shirts are finally dried and ready for wear on the carnival night. Or so I thought. I came to pick up my shirt in anticipation for the beautiful artwork that supposedly was for the carnival night. The one day before the closure of camp for freedom and everything nice. I was excited. 

So you can imagine my disappointment when I saw a rag-looking thing that was displayed as tie-dye work. 

Luckily for me, mine was not dyed yet. So I respected myself, took my tshirt and went to do some personal creative artwork on it.

It is beauty pageant day and I am a manager to the Mr. Macho going up for my platoon. I initially thought it was going to be a walk in the park which is why I agreed to fit it into my schedule. How wrong I was. I was on my feet for seven straight hours that day. I was not only a manager; I was a make-up artist, hair stylist, masseuse, fashion designer etc.

The good things I had come out of it was that I got to watch able-bodied, macho men change outfits a good number of times and I got to drizzle baby oil over my contestant and other contestants bare body… Strictly in a professional sense of course *wink*.

My contestant did not win despite my efforts. But I learned two lessons that day; Firstly, I probably would not dabble into the modelling scene ever again. It is too stressful. Secondly, I learned the name of the Speaker of the House of Representatives for Nigeria.

At the end of a very eventful day, I danced the rest of the night away till 2am. Seeing as I am waking up in three hours. I am already thinking this is a bad idea. Well goodnight folks, let me catch some much needed sleep.

Posted in Memoirs

A Day At Camp (#18/22)

Someone paid for my breakfast today. Rice and moin-moin with beef. It felt weird. I was totally surprised by the act. You see when people do things for me especially of the male gender, I always suspect them. They almost always have an ulterior motive. Especially since it is someone I just met this morning. Anyway, let me see how this turns out.

I just realised today that at the start of camp, I made a grave error, a potentially life destroying mistake. I do not know how I am going to revert it. It started out as a game. I do not know what I was thinking. Now it is something else. I have run out of ideas on how to extricate myself from this. I may or may not keep you posted. We will see.

11am. The whistle blows. It is time for those participating in the central parade to have an inter-guard drill competition. Now there are four guards composed of members from across all platoons. If the sun wasn’t so hot, I would have probably enjoyed it better. Anyway, the guard I had a bet on to win, won it. Congratulations guard four. You were effortlessly flawless.

I got paid my “allawee” today. The evening is looking up already. For those who do not know, “allawee” is that meagre sum of money that the Nigerian government has decided will be enough for us to feed, have shelter, and get clothing per month assuming it is only the basic things of life we need. Basically they want us to survive on approximately £39 a month. Sad. Really sad.

Apparently, a friend of my sister is interested in me. He’s quite a catchy and interesting fellow. Very athletic, handsome, funny too. The only problem is, he probably has no idea about the garbage I bring along with me. Well we’ll see how it goes won’t we?
I am going for my dinner now. I need to rest properly. Tomorrow is a busy day. 
Till we meet again…

Posted in Memoirs

A Day At Camp (#17/22)

How many days oo na im remain oo?

Na only five days na im remain…

Heeee I mustu leave this camp oo

Heee I mustu leave this camp oo

Hee Heee Heee I mustu leave this camp oo

Na only five days na im remain.

Did I ever mention that I am the financial secretary/treasurer/auditor for my platoon. So I’m ill and decide to use the one day leave as a means to attend to my personal business and all hell breaks loose. I’m slightly better today thanks for asking. I still had to visit the clinic today where I was given a drug that the last time I took it, I had nightmares and hallucinations. Wish me luck as I take the first tablet. 10:03am

I have finished my automobile repair class for the duration of this camp and it was a hell of an experience. I totally enjoyed every bit of it. The jokes with the boys, the constant “yabs”, the grease stained bodies etc.

Will I miss them? Yes. I hope to at least see some of them serving with me at my PPA. As a result of being a fast learner or the only female in a class of men, I was selected to speak out on what I have learnt. I am not looking forward to it. Public speaking in a stadium full of 2,491 corpers and instructors. Eurghh!!!

It is 3:45pm. Today is inter-platoon finals of the sport competition. Fifteen minutes to football kickoff and it’s my platoon against platoon two; our archenemies. We lost. On the track events. They came first in 200m race male and female and we came second. Bollocks. Today is a bad day for platoon five. We didn’t win in the cooking competition either. Our only hope is the beauty pageant… And even that is looking a lot like wishful thinking.

Posted in Memoirs

A Day At Camp (#16/22)

I am going to skip the long entry today. 

I am not interested in writing anymore.

I am tired of complaining about the intensity of the sun.

I am just a shadow on the ground now.

I am not even sure what day today is.

I am tired of camp.

I am going to sleep now.

Posted in Memoirs

A Day At Camp (#15/22)

…and the evening and the morning were the 15th day.

It is 10:14am, and the temperature is thirty-three degree celsius. I cannot believe it is only thirty-three degrees. I feel like a chicken that is killed and thrown in hot boiling water. I can literally feel the stab of each sun ray.

If the morning is this hot, by midday I would have been spiced, grilled and roasted. Can my Monday get any worse than this.

11:36am. Today is looking boring already and I need a massage badly. My body temperature is quite high this morning and I am very tired. I think I am coming down with something. I cannot afford to get ill right now. I have already lost a lot of weight. 

12:00pm. My automobile repair class starts off for today. I do not know why I am so excited to get stained with grease and soot or get my hands washed with petrol. I have come to the conclusion that I am weird. The things that excite me are weird. Well I get my wish of learning with dirt and grease. I fixed a couple of things in the car engine that were bad. It was a bad thing to stink of petrol all the way to the hostel but it was a good class nonetheless.

I couldn’t bear it any longer so I went for a mini massage and a little back stretching session. I feel a lot better now, thanks for asking. I had an interesting conversation with someone today so it made the afternoon occupied. 

The rest of the evening however is just as monotonous as always. I am actually bored. I need some kind of spice in my life. Maybe I’ll go drink one bottle of Orijin and see where the night takes me. Today is a colleague’s birthday. I’ll probably pop in to his secret bash and say hello.

Oh here’s a spice. As I’m typing, a flying strange looking animal-like insect is dancing around me. Am I bothered? Hell yeah!!!!

Goodnight. As I run for my life.

Posted in Memoirs

A Day At Camp (#14/22)

Happy Sunday folks.

You might be wondering what is happy about today. I will tell you. One, it’s the only day we are allowed mufti on camp for a few hours. Two, we are also allowed to sleep in and do whatever you want till 4pm.

And this is how my day went;
I was sharply woken up at 5am by my sidemate for no other reason than to fetch water. I woke up however grudgingly and proceeded to fetch water and I met a queue that I had to stand in for half an hour before I succeeded in getting a bucket of water.

I finally get around to my morning routine at about a couple of minutes after seven and go for church. I do not know if uncomfortable is the right word for how I felt in church. Obviously I was very attuned to the praise and worship session, but every other thing appeared politicised. The pastor preached and sweated and spoke in tongues only to end up motivating the listeners to buy his books for a thousand naira each. Somehow I knew it was going to end that way but I didn’t just expect it to. 

The worst of it all is that I sat in the first seat and stared at him eyeball to eyeball; lacking “ginger”, not moving, not clapping. He must have noticed the lack of enthusiasm I had about his preaching that he approached me later on to see if I wanted a “miracle”. I politely told him no and that I will go for surgery.

After all the sweating, the shouting, the saying of wisecracks and disseminating “words of wisdom”, I still wasn’t moved. Maybe I am too critical or maybe I have had my heart seared with hot iron that all this preaching jamborees do not move me. I was too busy dissecting his “testimonies”.

Yes, I noticed a lot of flaws in the powerful fiction he told. I have to applaud him for his writing skills though. He is a powerful orator as well. You have to give honour to whom honour is due. 

Well, if he’s the one who’s leading the service next sunday, you best believe that I will take my bible and stand up. I was sincerely regretting waking up and going for that service today.

1:57pm. I just had a heavy lunch half an hour ago and I am very hungry again. My appetite has gone from absent to omnipresent in three days.

In other news, it’s 4pm and it’s time for evening parade/games. Some people are playing chess, some monopoly, some scrabble, some draft, some ludo and others like me playing Whot while the serious corpers are marching and playing band. My fate has decided that I can never play chess no matter how hard I try to learn. It is just confusing. I am still very hungry. It must be the heavy rainfall making me so hungry.

8:57pm, I just finished watching a cultural dance by platoon one. They were so amazing. I am actually jealous that my platoon didn’t do so good. Anyway, I always appreciate a good dance act so kudos to them.

Nothing else interesting. Goodnight folks.