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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

How time flies. It's hard to believe it's been five months already since I first stepped into Kaduna state and the NYSC.
I visited the NYSC orientation camp today. My boss asked me if I would like to go and I jumped at the offer. I'd wanted to go for a very long time (I haven't been there since my last day of orientation last year). On our way there I was assailed by different emotions, nostalgia (at going back), wonder (especially when we passed through the endurance trek route)........................
Going back, seeing the old place filled with the familiar sea of white (corpers are expected to wear white t - shirts and white shorts) just got me reminiscing about my time there, going to the mammy market seeing the same old faces and some new ones (I actually found out that I was recognized by some traders at the mammy market, too much patronage I guess) and seeing the bungalow I stayed in during orientation (I had a wonderful time in that bungalow and made some great friends too) brought back memories of my orientation camp experience. I was filled with wonder and I kept asking myself How on earth did you survive those 21 days?
The soldiers, the morning exercises, the jogging (kilometers and kilometers), the inadequate and equally tasteless meals, the stupid guys (who thought camp was some sort of orgy) the commandant, Nysc officials, registration, endurance trek ..........................
How did I survive it? I don't know, but I survived it with a smile.
Let me take you back a little

DATELINE: September 5th 2005
The first stanza of the NYSC anthem reads "youths obey the clarion call" and so the journey to nysc begins with the nysc call up letters ( at this time you're expected to have graduated from the university or polytechnic hons or not). It involves collecting the call up letter from "school"and finding out which state one has been posted to.
This is a grueling task as the said letters don't reach the schools on time. By the time they finally do arrive, a combination of inadequate staff and the sheer number of people trying to collect the letters turn it into a nightmare.
For me it was made more nightmarish by my wanting to be posted to Lagos State (I had supposedly "legged" it but one couldn't be too sure about these things. I couldn't have been more right).
I got into the school at about 8 a.m (you have to be early to beat the crowds) so that I could start the wahala on time. We had to fill out countless forms, make so many photocopies it was like doing first year registration all over again. To crown it all I realized at the last minute that I would need a new passport for the new school id (trust unilorin to come up with something like that at the last minute), I was faced with a dilemma: go take a new passport and wait till tomorrow for the letter or................................ emi ke, i simply removed the passport on my bank passbook and used it (necessity they say is the mother of invention).
After all the stress, standing in the hot sun for hours in the very long queue and the anxiety from not knowing where I would be posted to, it was my turn with my heart in my throat, knees shaking, whispering every prayer I could remember (I wanted Lagos) I searched through the long list found my name, saw KD next to my name and burst into tears.

September 5th 2005

Once I had collected my letter ( and gotten over the shock ) , i rushed back home to prepare for it . Well meaning friends who had served before me came and gave me advice on what to expect in the orientation camp, what to buy what not to buy (NYSC gives you a list of stuff to bring .. boarding school style) I have to say that the best advice I got was from my friend "y" she came to my place and really put me through the "paces" in fact she gave me a list of do's and don'ts they include;
1. Don't take anything youre not prepared to loose ( there are more thieves in camp than in the whole of kirikiri)
2. Don't overexert yourself
3. Don't do oversabi
4. Don't take too many pictures (I didn't take this one though)
5. Make 20 copies of each credential you have (it'll cost more in camp)
6. Have enough passports
7. Do buy a waist pouch (it'll be your mobile bank)
8.Keep it (waist pouch) with you at all times even in the bathroom
9.Don't participate in activities in the hope that it'll influence your primary assignment posting (you'll probably be posted to a village)

10.Take only the essentials and travel light
11.Take a pair of white shorts and some white T - shirts ( the ones issued by the nysc will most definitely be small)
And much more
After the marathon shopping, seemed that the whole of tejuosho knew that nysc camp was opening that week cos the price of white t - shirts shorts went up to almost double the price(trust Nigerians), the packing, photocopying and what nots it was finally time to go.
I'd been told that the only place i could get a bus going to the north was oyingbo so i'd bought my ticket in advance. I got to the park at about 6.30 p.m. all flustered and out of breath from rushing down thinking i would miss the bus ( when i bought the ticket i'd been told that the bus left at 6p.m. ) but alas the bus was still there and it was only half full (it didn't leave oyingbo until about 9 p.m. ) .
At probabbly 8 .15 p.m. the people in charge of the bus asked all passengers to alight from the bus for "final checking" we all did and each person was subjected to a thorough search from head to toe. The guys were patted down and we females had our bags searched with a scanner like device . Incredibly no one seemed to mind as i suppose it was for our own safety. After that we got in the bus and the bus finally pulled out of the park. As is customary with "marcopolo" buses there were "in flight announcements" ; switch off your phones , dont stand up and all that stuff.
After the announcements the resident "pastor"(each bus has one) started a service of sorts ( Ibos are the most religious people in Nigeria ) everyone joined in and we sang and prayed and even had offering time. I took part in it but at some point during his message the stress and sleeplessness of the past few days finally took its toll on me and i fell asleep. I didn't wake up until the bus stoped briefly in Abuja. I was so tired. i'd initially told the bus driver that i was going to the nysc orientation camp and he assured me that he would drop me off there, but little did i know that the man didn't know the place because he dropped me off about 18km after the camp (it's on the road down from Abuja) .
I alighted from the bus with my box not quite sure which way to go.I must have looked very lost 'cos an okada man came up to me and asked me where i was going to. I told him and he told me that i was miles from the place but he that he could take me there . I hopped on and he took off . On the way we struck up a conversation and he told me that he used to live in Lagos and that he could speak yoruba well blah blah .........
We went on and on and on until i began to suspect that he either didnt have any idea where the camp was or he was kidnapping me. On and on we went until we finally got to a settlement on the road and after a few meters, i saw the sign for the camp. I got off and asked my "friend " how much my fare was and he informed me that it was five hundred naira What!!? i screamed and he went "sorry madam this flace i very phar" in his crazy hausa English. I knew that, but as a proper omo "eko" i had to haggle and we finally agreed to two hundred and fifty naira.
I paid him picked my box and walked towards the gate. It was littered with so many banners different companies, churches, fellowships all welcoming the batch B corps "men"(In the orientation camp there are no females, only gentlemen corps members) to the black gold orientation camp kaduna. I breathed a sign of relief and walked in. I had finally made it.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Drawing first blood

Keeping a journal has always been a fantasy of mine. I say fantasy beacause i've only kept a journal once in the second semester of my first year in university. The other times i've been too engrossed in life to remember to keep one. There's always been something to do, something to finish, exams to write, endles things. This blog is my first real effort toward fufilling my fantasy of keeping a journal.

I'm not quite sure how this blog thing will work out......... hey i'm not even sure it will work out at all. But i sure will try. Right now im currently a youth corps member doing "time" in Kaduna state so a lot on this blog will reflect that. It'll be a collection of my experience so far, an honest critique of the program the good, the bad and of course the ugly.I'll try not to bore you with only NYSC stuff as i also intend for this blog to be a personal space where i can unburden my thots, vent my angers and frustrations while exploring my writing fantasies.

In a duel someone always draws first blood, so this is me welcoming you to my space and of course drawing the proverbial first blood.