Week one – Learning the Ropes

 

Youths Obey the Clarion Call,

Let us lift our nation high,

Under the sun or in the rain,

With dedication and selflessness,

Nigeria’s ours, Nigeria we serve.

I remember when we learnt the NYSC anthem. It was in the morning around 6am. We dispersed the parade ground at 7:30am, got back together at 10am and couldn’t remember the tune to the song. The Soldiers were close to pulling their hair from its root. It was a funny sight to behold. Graduates as such looking elsewhere but themselves to get the tune of the song.

Rewind time back to when we first arrived camp. My first morning was very discouraging. Like I said in the previous post, we arrived camp around 9:00am. The children helped me in carrying my bag for which is paid a token, we were searched at the gate. Other campers were already in, though not many yet. We were to carry our bags from the gate to the registration and room collection point ourselves. Thank God we got there early – later, the soldiers were pleasuring themselves telling campers to carry their bags and boxes on their head, while jogging to the registration office.

On getting to the registration and room collection point, I literally broke a leg. I was weak beyond your imagination – I had not slept in two days and to top it up, been eating the wayfarers’ food (minimize, hobnobs, Choco milo, gala), my internal organs and bones had shifted base. I fell while taking my last step up a three step stairs. Everyone I didn’t know was saying but I cared less, as far as their compassion was going to get me fast from the queue, which it did! I was given Rm12, main hostel.

Pulling myself and my bag down to the hostel which was situated at the other end of the camp, I witnessed and tasted my first share of tribalism. Witnessed because I was practically overseeing my body, I was my own guardian angel! My body was too weak to move but my soul was strong and kept pushing on. Tasted! Because it was directed at me.

You know that feeling when you are too weak to care about your looks and just want to get something done and over with? Yeah, I left my friends that were letting their tiredness overwhelm them. I had already gotten to the gate of the female hostel, another lady was pilling her box a step ahead of me while one of the so called ‘welcomer’ from one of the fellowships was standing on a spot. I was closest to her, she ignored me and called to her ‘sister’ in Igbo, thinking I was a learner. Welcomed her and told her what she would be needing. I tried smiling at her – maybe she didn’t approach me because of my determination – but gave up when she didn’t.

Getting to the given room, I disliked it. It would contain 24 ladies and from what I could see, 18 were igbo ladies, no way. Some bunks were bad and so many excuses. This noted, I left my bags, picked my purse, headed to the registration point and laid complaints. From there, I went for the main registration in the hall. So many things happened in there. But the most fascinating was the amount of hausa-fulani/hausa ladies that were also registering. If I were down south, I would have said they were cheating but, here? This beautiful ladies, some covered in hijab others scarves, had babies, children and some pregnant.  They were given special treatment (fast track, lol) and no guy was to get close to them.

I concluded that part three hours later, I wasn’t smiling. Dirt of two days was still on me. I got my kits, made a friend while at it – she was also assigned to Rm12. She helped pick my bed – I had to pick two because they were to flat to cushion my wrecked body. Saw Queen Pee on my way back to the hostel and she said they hadn’t changed any room, but she did.

“The new number is 30. I placed your bag on a bunk, if you don’t like it, you can change, that was the best I could find.”

I thanked her, moved on with my soon to be best camp friend to the hostel. I actually checked Rm12 for my bag and didn’t find it there. I progressed to the said Rm30 and lo and behold, my bag. My spirit knelt down and wept. You would not understand, for Queen Pee did I would not have done for anyone, I say anyone! In the state we were in. she carried my bags up, up the stairs. I was touched, I liked her before, that made me love her. The little things in life. I tired fixing in my new friend, but she didn’t fight for the space in Rm30.

We in Rm 30 started settling in around few minutes to three. We still had not eaten, bathed or rested. I called a friend who was in the previous stream and she said,

“They would soon blow the burgle, be fast, dress up.” We said goodbyes and I hung up.

It was like a joke. 3:30pm on the dot, they blew the burgle. Next we knew, people were running around. Soldiers – men and women – came into the hostel and were shouting phrases like this;

“Put on your white on white and move to the parade ground!”

“If you are bathing you are wrong!”

“If you are sleeping you are wrong!”

“To the parade ground!”

“Double up, double up!”

They began banging the doors. Girls as usual were screaming. Running around like ants that their pathway had been breached. That was when we in Rm30, decided in our hearts that we were not going for parade on our first day in camp. We ran with our buckets to the bathroom. Through all the banging, screaming and shouting, five of us from Rm30 held ourselves until they were gone. Had our bath, changed in the room, not to white and white, but any form of mufti. We then headed out for food.

What followed for the next one week were series of morning, noon and evening drills. The sun in Kano is specially for Kano. At 5:30am, you could see the sun rising. The nights were cold and there was a sandstorm one evening. When it rained, it rained. Kano has soul. She gives it all – everything to the extreme. Very cold mornings and very hot and sunny days.

We had not been segmented to platoons until after the swearing in day which was on the 15th. By then, I had sworn off the kitchen and kept to the camp market called ‘Maami market’. I don’t know whose food was worse, but I could swallow that from the market. For the swearing in; we had to look for boots that fit (exchange with someone else), mine was and is still like a boat and slim fit our camos.

After the swearing, I contested and won the post of the assistant platoon leader (that was on a Wednesday). Our first official task as a team was to present a drama on Friday night. I ended up writing the script and rounding up the drama. I was elated. I want to believe ours was the best for the support and the love that was bestowed upon our platoon that night was extraordinary. Hence, I got the nickname, Nigeria. The dance and theatre group that was on camp scouting for talent approached me later and invited me to join their team officially! It was a dream come true.

Honestly, my phone let me down. Thank God for the friends and people I had met that help me store my memories on their phones.

My eyes were something else by the third day. There was constant sand in the air and my fragile eyes were picking it up. I was constantly tearing up, it was painful. My pee was colored like Fanta. Along the line (on Thursday), my new friend from the first day had a serious muscle pull one morning parade and I also had infection from using the toilet without care. We immediately went to the clinic, were given drugs to be used immediately. For my pee, it was due to dehydration, more water consumption. The downside was that we had not eaten and lectures had started. We then decided to eat in the market but the soldiers didn’t let us go through. I disliked them that day. We were in pains and they chose to ignore us.

Friends and families kept calling and caring from afar. Things were working out fine and along my plans for camp.

The water in camp was constant but was not the best. Others had reactions, but, I love my external body, its tooough. During the first week, we were feeling so clean and primp. We had our baths in the cold morning and later at night. I was still a novice.

As the assistant platoon leader, I was practically the leader. My superior was always stirring the water and I was there to always calm the waters. I took it upon myself to hear everyone out – know their weakness, strength, and dislikes. With this, I channeled the spirit of positivity and teamwork. While on this, I met my Platoon Crush.

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