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June 8, 2019

“My Adventure Through ‘Time'”

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File photo: NYSC members

Adenike Balogun

It’s a new year, a new beginning, a new slate where we can begin anew and make a new story..

In the previous year, a series of events went by, sharpening my mind, detoxifying and softening my heart.

From graduating from the university to getting a short time job at my university’s ICT center. And as days flew into weeks, weeks into months, I started work on my blog fully; garnering views, followers likes and dislikes. As I read, I write. I have come to really believe a good reader becomes a better writer; sometimes a great one. From Danielle Steel’s “Kaleidoscope”, Nicholas Spark’s “A Bend in the Road” and his other works to the great mastermind Sidney Sheldon. As I took myself down the road to Sheldon’s works, I became a part of his literary journey and world. He creates characters one can relate to with all of their faults, flaws, passions, fears, strength, and good moments. I got connected strongly that I started caring and being so uptight about his characters.

So on a daily basis, these literary characters and I interact; we shared emotions of laughter, tears and would sometimes mope at each other in our predicaments. They would give anything to be me and I would them. Often times I wish I could release myself, lay myself down so a writer could bare my mind, thoughts, actions and my whole life. And perhaps maybe soon I will. I wonder how they were before being brought back to life on yellowing dog eared, crispy and neat pages of books.

Then my love for artworks rekindled and I reviewed some carefully selected art pieces which were and are still the most tasking writing I have ever done. A couple of weeks after, I dived right into Sidney Sheldon books again. Powerful, sexy, ambitious, and gorgeous characters didn’t allow me think straight, never allowed me daydream but only on them. I gave myself sleepless nights, went through the days eating once because I had books to finish…and I enjoyed every bit of it.

Then the clarion call came and I had to answer since it is all I have been anticipating. This call to some is worth calling a few friends over for a celebration. But the anxiety of waiting for a year had numb my emotions. Simply I informed my family and a couple of friends, and that was all. I am not still sure the wait is worth it though.

Traveling to the camp was rough and uneventful. Everyone in the vehicle held their tongues as though they were at a gunpoint or hostages yet those once expressionless and clueless faces were the ones I saw daily in camp till we left.

We had left the first park amidst all the commotion, the shouting and arguments of the taxi drivers, the hooting of the cars, the women and youngsters thrusting buckets and bowls into our hands and as we buy, the passers-by looked on with envy.

The road to the camp was just beyond sprawl and bustle of the park. We faced the North following the lead of the other cabs that had moved earlier. The ride went on unending as I had never travelled that long before.

In my call up letter was the location of the camp which seemed so nearby within the city. But five hours from the city had brought home the lesson that arriving the city and believing the destination is a thirty minutes drive was one thing and the location of the camp was another.

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From a cold freezing morning when the journey started to a scorching afternoon with a sultry atmosphere… It was a hot afternoon as the sun had risen in a pool of crimson and gold that morning, spilling light over the land and white clouds.

To the east, the land is lower, flattened around a rolling plain as far as one could see. The lands graduated into stone bridges, stunted trees, shrubs while small farms and mud houses with thatched roofs appeared as we journeyed on.

To me there was just something unsettling about the young driver who smiled darkly occasionally, mouth curled like sour milk. We got to a certain part of the road and he stopped the car abruptly, claiming the herdsmen a mile away might be out there to rob us. While the herdsmen and their cows made their way across the road, I kept wondering aloud how much more we have to put up with our clammy bodies glistening with sweat in the rusty cab on this trip. He assured us we will get there in the next five minutes and the next five minutes and the next.

In all of these, the memory of my loved ones and the adventures that await me warmed me on the long journey.

After four to five hours we arrived at the camp, a place which seemed like a land abandoned to fallow, a vast land used to abandonment, hilly, rocky, sandy, and sloppy in different areas. I wondered how I will survive the twenty-one days that followed.

As others arrive in twos and three the indigenes started trooping out too. Amidst the natives was a boy who had a twisted shoulder and a guttery smell, his hair matted with dirt and harbors lice, I imagined, seemed greasy. His clothing old, patched and never been washed. Seeing him at first I thought he was mentally derailed and dumb, later I found out he could pass for a normal person except for his appearance. Then I pitied him. Each time I saw him, my eyes glistened with unshed tears.

Our registration went smoothly as we were among the early birds.

Just getting a good bunk, a good bed, and a good corner topped our priority lists which we eventually did; my bunk leaned against the wall at the left side of the cubicle. I couldn’t just wait for familiarization with the other girls; I needed rest. I hurriedly opened my backpack and brought out my beddings, laid my bed and tidied up my corner. It dawned on me while unpacking that I had left the medications I was supposed to bring along at home. So now I had to deal with the three weeks without falling ill.

The other roommates had curious looks on their faces. Some snickered, while others smirked at me. I never bothered with that because the journey had all my strength sapped. I laid myself down and was asleep in a few minutes. Wondering how I could sleep with the sweat and the grimy feeling? I had used wipes to clean my face, neck and arms just so I could get a moment sleep before the horn is blown. After thirty minutes I got up, my roommates and the occupants of the cubicle opposite us were chatterboxes I noticed.

The next day came with the wake-up call at 4:00 am; the morning devotion, lectures and parade followed suit. I amongst others were already complaining but no one listened to us. It’s a military ground, we should live regimented lives.

As the first week gradually progressed, the routine of waking as early as three in the morning to freshen up became a habit but still the drills and the parades were thorns in my flesh, I cannot but hate them, so my friend and I found our escape in the Red Cross activities. Life at camp followed certain patterns, mornings for devotion and parade, afternoons for lectures and the evenings for parade.

The camp is situated close to the northern part of the country so we had the hot amber glowing sun rising as early as some minutes past 6:00 am. We had quite a number of strange insects to battle with at night, some of whose stings, bite and fluids corrode the skin, resulting in wounds which heal after few days and leave scars on their victims.

Leaving home for camp, I was already told not to eat any meal served, so the “Mami” market was the way out. Although I later learnt that those who sell food in Mami are not so hygienic too.

The girls in the room seemed friendly at first until some days after that each of us started the unclading and bringing our real selves to light. In my cubicle, we’ve got it all: the nosy and lousy, the dominant, the sub, the all shining from up to down who gets followed by the inferior, the snob, the quiet, the silent, and the onlooker. The nosy and lousy is a thin tall lady who always has advice for everyone because she has experienced any situation one can imagine while her jokes and her version of stories of the activities around camp lifts our spirits very night.

The dominant and sub are married, bunk mates, and in the same platoon, I guess. The dominant is a big woman; she is married and has a son, with a wide forehead, wide mouth and a large nose. Dressed in the khaki uniform, she looked like a cooked sausage about to burst its skin. She could have passed for an ugly person but for the fairest complexion, she has. She’s always vulgar, and bossy…snores like a train too. Except that, when she made jokes she’d use a high erry voice which reduces us all to tears of helpless laughter whenever she is in the room. The sub is an ominously quiet woman with slouched shoulder and darkened eyes that showed pain. One could notice she always wants to be left alone but can’t seem to get the dominant off her. Sometimes she looks like she has seen enemies in every shadow.

The quiet and silent: my camp twin and I. We made a great pair. Going through the activities in camp without stressing and not saying much. That was really a good way to go in a strange, crowded place for me, I think.

The snob, dark and plump, will never go out without giving her face a heavy and colorful beat, with long stiff artificial lashes she bats her eyes almost every second. When being greeted she murmurs her replies and wouldn’t talk to anyone apart from her bunk mate. I often wonder how fast they bonded.

Every day I longed for a serene spot just beyond the noise of the camp but there was none except for the forbidden river (we were told strangers get drowned if they get close) far ahead of us deep into the bush. Standing on a stump near the football field, I rather look up North and watch with excited eyes as the rippling river changes from crystal to being black as onyx. Sometimes it seems like a mirage or a tempting sight.

Night comes, the stars, the earth and the velvet night seem inviting but my subconscious snickers at me and I hurriedly walk back to the hostel craving the warmth of my bed. And when I’m on the bed staring into the darkness I want to be out under the starry night and watch the stars. And soon enough I found myself out one particular night with a friend doing what I had imagined a long time…stargazing and listening to his poems of long lines and suspicious motives.

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