In the spirit of New and Small beginnings, I remembered an experience many years ago that taught me a great lesson and I had to share. It was a recruitment test I attended during the compulsory one year Youth Service program in Nigeria and the circumstances surrounding it. I posted it on my old blog but I have to share again.
The gnawing pain in my abdomen grew worse. I doubled over and winced, willing the pain to pass. My head throbbed like a sore tooth. I looked over at the plate beside my bed. The dried piece of bread left over from last night sat unperturbed. My stomach churned at the sight, bile and nausea rising in my throat.
I rose from the bed to go to the bathroom, my vision doubled at the effort. I cradled my head in my hands and sat right back, apologizing to my ailing body for the unnecessary movement.
I felt uneasy like life was draining out of me. I reached for the Amoxil tablets on the little table in my room. It was the only table I had in the sparse cubicle-type room. My landlady had graciously brought it out from her store, all dusty and old. I had no choice.
Feverishly, I pressed a tablet into my right hand and looked around for my cup. It was empty. I reached for the keg of water I always had well supplied; it was empty.
I wanted to scream!
My mind raced at the thought of going out to buy water. The closest place was five houses away. I’ll most definitely faint before I get there.
I sat back on my flat mattress, praying for sleep to claim my tired body, when I heard a knock on the door.
Two more knocks in quick succession.
“Remi, are you in there?” It was Aunty Funke. My angel in human form…
I had met her when I came to *Bukuru, posted to a school to teach biology to senior students, some of them as dull as dishwater. The whole process had angered me so, until I met this pretty Business Studies teacher; a young wife living in the neighborhood. She was Yoruba, so amidst the language confusion, I found a ready companion. I spent most Thursday evenings in her house watching Super story and gulping down bowl after bowl of Amala and ‘draw’ soup.
“Aunty, I’m here o. I’m not feeling well.” I managed to drag my bones, encased in hot, typhoid-stricken flesh, to my rickety door. Aunty Funke gasped at the sight of my haunted frame.
“Sorry dear. Haba. Why didn’t you come to the house now?” She was looking around the room, probably pitying my sorry *Ajuwaya life.
“Have you eaten?” she asked, clearly worried. My eyes flew to the plate beside the bed; the day old bread stared back at me. I shook my head, no.
We packed a few of my clothes and my medicines and headed to her place. She gave me a spare room and I lay down. Twenty minutes later, I was served a steaming plate of Pap with lots of milk. I inhaled it in a flash. I felt better almost immediately. Ha! *Akamu wonder.
I lay back again and slept like a baby. At about 7.30 pm I woke to a heavy plate of pounded yam. I over estimated my ability to keep down such a monstrous dinner and dived in, meat first. I had finished three quarters of the meal when I felt a sudden sensation in my stomach. I dropped the next morsel, already rolled in vegetable soup and halfway to my mouth.
The sensation in my abdomen moved to my chest. It was irritation plus nausea plus typhoid and a little of something else. Maybe I need water, I thought. I reached for the glass of water and gulped a mouthful. It was then I understood what the mysterious sensation was. I rushed to the bathroom, my hand over my mouth. And for the next five minutes I returned everything I had taken… and more.
I felt so drained; I could hardly stand up straight. My vision was blurred and I could not see a thing. Aunty Funke was in the kitchen still drumming up stuff. I groped for the walls trying to feel my way to the living room. It was horrible. Everything in my body system felt like it belonged somewhere else.
For a few minutes, I felt nothing. Absolutely nothing. When I came to, I was lying on the living room floor, Aunty Funke and her kids hovering over me.
I had fainted.
I was given half a cup of *Agbo to drink. The herbal mixture confused me, it was so bitter. I crawled back to bed, hoping to sleep right into the middle of next week!
It was a terrible night. I thrashed around, unable to sleep. My dreams were haunted; I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was in trouble.
I woke up to the tune of a message alert on my phone Ah! A welcome distraction from the throes of pain. I read the message and blinked. I read it again to be sure I hadn’t added hallucination to my list of illnesses.
“You are invited for the final test and interview session. Venue: 15, Industrial Avenue Iluepju, Lagos.
Time: 5pm, Saturday, 7th November.
Please be punctual.”
I looked at the time, 7am. I looked at the date 7th. Today is 7th!? Okay, calm down, I told myself. The month, yes that’s it. The month is wrong. I looked at the calendar. Oh my gosh! It’s November!
My mind raced. Jos is like 13 hours away from Lagos. How will I ever get there on time?
What if I *stab this interview? Ehn? Risk losing the job? It’s a multinational company o! After taking four different tests, for which I had to travel to Lagos at 8k per trip on my meager Corper’s Alawi? Ah! Nothing dey happen. We go rough am die!
I jumped up, about to dash to my room to get ready when I felt a headache the size of World War 2. I cradled my head in my hands again and calmed down. I shall live and not die o. Lagos here I come.
I hobbled to the living room to talk to Aunty Funke.
An hour and half later, I was in a cab on my way to the very dry Jos airport. The airport ground was so ‘dry’, I wondered if planes landed there at all. I booked my flight at twelve thousand Naira, much to my chagrin. Departure was for 12 noon. I had about three hours to kill so I stretched out on the lounge seats and caught some Zzzs.
It was my first time on a plane. Except for the very uncomfortable pain in my ears, it was a great trip, albeit too short. I even made a friend who I found was a member of my church in Lagos and a native of Bukuru where I was serving, neat huh?
I got home at about 2 pm thanks to Lagos traffic. By this time, I noticed I was feeling much better. The typhoid had probably seeped out through my ears. At 5 pm sharp I was at the venue of the interview.
The e-test was first. I tried my best but the math was difficult. I never liked math.
Everything else went well. The coordinator told us the marks will be emailed to us the very next day. I rushed to the cybercafé the next morning. The connection was poor and I was so impatient.
Could this be what I’d been waiting for? A job? Just three months into *service year? I would move back to Lagos straight up.
I was so excited I almost forgot my password.
The subject of the email caught my eye. I clicked in and read hurriedly……
Time seemed to freeze as all the excitement I had built up gradually dissipated. I swallowed noisily. My sister, who had accompanied me, was at a loss for words. She tried to encourage me.
“C’mon. It’s not the end of the world now.” Those were her words.
I nodded slowly as we made our way back home.
Jos, here I come … back!
*Bukuru – a suburb of Jos city, the capital of Plateau State, Nigeria.
*Yoruba – a large tribe in southern Nigeria.
*Akamu – a local meal make from corn, much like custard.
*Agbo – a herbal blend used to treat common illnesses like Malaria and typhoid.
*Alawi – stipend given to Youth Corper’s during service year
*Ajuwaya – a term used to describe the Service Year.
*Stab – a term used to describe boycott of an activity.
*Service Year – a compulsory one year period of National service for University graduates, usually in a different state from that of their residence.