“If you are not around by 5:30am, you miss the bus by 6:00am, there is no refund.” The lady at the Cross Country counter kept on saying to all that were paying for the ticket. It finally got to my turn and she said the same thing. In my head I was like this lady must be very serious about this 5:30am thing for her to keep repeating herself. I returned home, told my mom all that happened and she repeated the same thing. She even said that I was going to wake up 4:00am so as to prepare well. I took it upon myself to wake up 3:00am to ensure that I prepare breakfast which finally turned ‘brunch’ on the trip.
I woke up about twenty minutes to three on morning of 12th June, 2016 and couldn’t go back to sleep, it was a day that the Lord had made, for me to rejoice, be glad and trave4l in it. I was set by some minutes to five, food and bags. Mom and dad were ready to go drop me off and head back to church. All of a sudden, rain, the one without thunderstorms and lightening that keeps going on and on started. I would have stayed back home, but I had no other means of transport. I would have left home an hour later.
From afar the crowd was like that of Oshodi Market at night waiting for buses. My mom was awed at the number of people that booked and were waiting for the bus. I looked at the shade that was meant to serve as cover but was doing what it could – cover those that were beneath it. More of the population were being tapped by the rain which had reduced in intensity but was still dripping.
Dad looked for a spot to park, mom got down and helped with my other bag, hugged me goodbye and before I could turn from finding a perfect spot for my bag she had disappeared. No umbrella, nothing! They dropped me off at the Cross Country park in Jibowu Yaba without a bus in view. The company pleaded our indulgence in moving ourselves and bags to the other park where had parked all their buses.
Once upon a time, I placed my stuffs in a travelling box. Everything went in, save my bucket. I decided to ask a friend who was in the first stream and she advised that a bag would be better than a box and because I was following the wisdom of an elder, I moved my stuffs from the box to a bag. Now this peeps want me to drag this heavy bag without wheels to a distance unknown, with the rain all over and the ground all wet. I was beginning to feel like I wasn’t supposed to travel at all self.
The bag pulled me and I carried it, my hand bag and my bucket on the other arm. I felt like giving up at some point. Folks that were waiting for their kids and friends helped them carried their stuff and for some fortunate few, drove their stuffs to the other park. I was beginning to hate myself for listening to the advice of that friend and allowing my parents to force me leave home that early just because they wanted to make it back on time for service. I staggered forward with my luggage and finally made it to the park. I wanted to scream for joy and for not tearing up along the way.
To crown it all up, there were about fifty buses – luxurious buses coming in too – with destinations written on them. How was I supposed to leave my worldly goods which was very water soluble and go in search of a bus I didn’t even know where to begin to search from? I was wet from head to toe; I was beginning to ponder loosening my wet hair in the bus during the trip. As you all know, I love my hair and one of my pet peeve is smelly hair.
Everyone was in a state of entropy. I stood on a spot for Lord knows how long and kept my ears on the ground. Next I knew, six ladies and a mother were rushing towards me and the bus I was standing in front of.
“Is this 2448?” one of the ladies asked me.
I moved and looked back to confirm the bus number, turned and said, “Yes”
She turned and faced the rest of her crew, “It’s the Kano bus!”
I was elated. I smiled and told them I was also corps member for Kano. As usual, we all got to telling our stories of how we got to the park, the rain, and the lackadaisical attitude of the Cross Country management. It was already few minutes to eight as opposed to their 5:30am mantra and the door to bus 2448 was still locked. We called one of the drivers’ attention to the locked bus. Next we heard from him was,
“Ah, this is undertakers motor oh. Where could he be?”
Underwha-? Who is he going to undertake? We? Having no other option of choice to change drivers, we laughed and accepted the fact that ‘Undertaker’ would be the one driving.
We waited and waited. I was comforted in my misery and thanked God my mom had left me. Reason? Another girls’ mom was with her and she kept complicating the girls’ misery by listing what they should have and shouldn’t have done. You know how parents are right?
One of the ladies who had left us for greener pastures came rushing back.
“There’s a bus going to Kano with my name on it and it’s on the other side.” She said.
Nooooo, my brain screamed. I didn’t want to move from my spot. I was wet, my arms were weak and my bag was not meant for me. Till today, though I can’t remember her face, but I can remember her offering, I am very grateful to you in case you are reading this. She offered to stand with my heavy bag, while I go in search of my name. I did.
I found the name given to me written on a sheet of paper. I saw people – or say then strangers – seated on all my perfect sitting angles in the bus and I was not angry. No sitting spot could take the happiness of seeing a bus I could finally seat in.
I returned back, thanked the girl, took my bags that weighed me down and headed to the other side of the park. I got settled in and lots of drama occurred before we finally moved in a convoy by 9:15am. For every state we passed, the number of buses reduced.
For one, I came across a Queen. Funny right? We hadn’t even left the park before we all started bonding save one guy called, lets name him Kanye! Lol. He was quiet through the trip but towards the end, trust me to drag him out of the city of Quiet.
Yes, back to the Queen. This lady was pretty and all, the other version of me but believes anything anyone does that she doesn’t is weird. Who says eating fried yam and akara together is weird? (This I knew later, when we finally moved in together). We actually named her Queen Pee. I got into that bus say 7:50am and by the time we were moving, she had gone to pee three times and through the trip, she peed at every stop.
Next, I came across Ray Bon addict. Even in the dark! He was wearing shades, lol. Then the DJ, the whispering girl – who did everything whispering, praying, talking, everything. Until she finally showed herself in the room. – the Unilag Chic, the guy who believed 2016 Avengers was truly shot in Nigeria, the guy that wants a baby mama and finally the guy that vomited in my bucket due to dizziness! Take note, this guy had laughed about my taking a bucket all the way from Lagos to Kano.
Me, I was the high girl. You could add spirited to the high if you please. I and the Queen stayed awake all through the journey.
I forgot to say earlier that is was an eighteen seater Hiace bus and we were fourteen passengers. The driver was top-notch – we never got to see undertaker. I was sat on the last row, on the right, by the window.
The passengers in the bus had on bound for Kaduna Camp, two for Jigawa camp and the remaining, Kano. We actually did those strays a favor *winks* their buses were already full.
We argued on; taking twenty minutes turn with the bus charger – of which my phone was on all through in my bag and I didn’t know. By the time I pulled it out, the battery level was 4% – knowing original glasses and fake, having a baby mama, what Timaya sings, girls and make up, a pimped Olds Mobile and a Bugatti, Kogi being appealing to the eyes than Ekiti state. We played games; tinko-tinko, name of name. We told childhood stories. In short, we made a hell of a noise.
It rained all through Ekiti state. We had one stop at Lokoja around 6:30pm. The Muslims in the bus had to break their fast on the run. At 9:45pm we dropped off our Kaduna passenger with tears in our heart, we had all bonded and then moved on. Our driver made it to Kaduna Cross Country park at some minutes past 11pm.
By the time we had gotten to Kaduna for the night, I could feel all 206 bones in my body. My seating position had made all my internal organ shift position. We had to sleep in the park. Thinking back, I think I closed my eyes for twenty minutes’ maximum all through the journey, even through the night.
The number of buses in the park going to NYSC camps in the north that were also taking refuge in the park were; three luxurious buses and about seven Hiace buses.
We moved from the park around past five. The plan was to drop off Kano passengers and progress with the Jigawa Corps members.
The journey was fresh allover. We used Orbit Chewing gum as our teeth cleanser. Everyone was calm and quiet this time around. We took in the plantations of Zaria and later Kano. We got to the camp few minutes past nine that morning.
Children ran to welcome us. Some were carrying corps members bags to the camp gate. It felt like a movie or documentary in my head. We were smiling, putting on a brave face, saying to each other, “see your students come to welcome you.” – the children were practically farmers. Our driver got down and opened the door. The first thing I felt was the golden sun on my skin, my bones and innards trying to readjust themselves. Next, the stench that comes from unwashed bodies.
It was a long journey.