Stories

BEHIND THE NYSC HOSTEL

When I got to Damare Nysc camp gate, I was shattered. The sun was up and blazing. I couldn’t imagine the idea of spending three weeks in a movement restricted area.

The environment killed my morale. I wanted to run back if I could but I couldn’t. I peeped through the gate and saw people on white and white running around at the sound of the whistle.

Come” the military woman in charge of searching ladies bags beckoned on me. Why are you watching them from outside, don’t you wanna go in? She asked without waiting for an answer. Go and and join them.

“Hey! hey!! you, don’t step on Nigeria. The soldiers shouted on a girl walking on a green white and green painting on the floor.

I did a few more clearance at the gate and went in. Did medical clearance and I was asked to proceed for registration and kits.

I asked my way around and located the girls hostel. People were already trooping mami up and down.

The hostel mistress took us to a room almost filled and said we should occupy the remaining up bunks. My nightmare worsened.

I have never liked an up bunk. It’s not my thing. But I found a good one in a nice position, stood by it and later kept my things on the bunk and left for registrations proper.

It moved quiet fast and all the staff friendly. I opened a bank account and went for my kit.

Got size 45 of khaki trouser while I wear 36. Wahala. Old faded crested vest. Very old small cap. Size 8 jungle booth when I wear 6 or at most 7. Everything was double double.

Our platoon officer won’t hear any plea. Very aggressive that day. I later got a better cap but others remained same.

As I headed for the hostel with my kits, this awesome wind started. First time I saw such thing in my life. The wind was dragging me up and down. When I tried to walk, I staggered and stood still to avoid further embarrassment.

It was shaking me. And succeeded in carting away with my kit bag. I chased it. Caught up with it and carried my bag. The wind was flying plastic seats anyhow. People were on the run. I later made it to the hostel and felt like crying. This isn’t what I imagined. I hated camp immediately.

I decided to go hustle for a bed space in a down bunk. I got one in a nice room. Immediately I took my bag to the room one soldier woman came.

“Eeeeehh? You think you are smart abi”? We were 5 she caught. Now follow me. We did. “You take here… you stay there. I go show una say I smart pass una”. She still gave me an up bunk in a hot blazing room. I wept.

I pleaded with her to let me move back to my former room but she refused. I let her be. She was watching me and made sure I kept my bag on the bunk. She sat still. I did too.

I tied towel like I was going to bath and she left the room. I immediately ran with my bag saying in my mind “come and catch me” I was so happy. I achieved something.

The whistle for early morning drill was blown around 3:30. Like how am I supposed to stand up by 3:30 and move to the parade ground? I did. No option. I called those that told me camp was fun and asked them how?

As time went by, I adjusted and got used to it. But I prayed fervently that it ended. I counted the days and got frustrated. Then I remembered that there is a time for everything. At the right time, on its own, camp will be over and it did.

The things at mami were crazily expensive. I couldn’t imagine charging phone everyday so I resorted to my Nokia torch and it saved me. I almost died of eating noodles. Then I started eating akpu with vegetable soup, egusi and even banga stew and rice. And the days became more yum yum.

I made friends but not in a rush. I was in the best platoon. “4 platoon” as they always called us. We won in almost every competition including noise making.

I was in parade and we came first. I terribly suffered from menstrual cramp like there was no tomorrow. I was even admitted and I slept the life out of sleep that day. One of its kind.

I had a corner mate who would always come to check my meal ticket to know if I have started eating at the kitchen. She would always say “you na big girl na”… “You collect bread and egg today from kitchen….? E be like say your money don dey go down…”

I would always laugh and say “how silly”…

She once gave testimony of how she never knew she would be eating so well at mami. But God just did it and boys were asking her out anyhow. There were plenty of them. Who found themselves privileged to be bought a plate of food with meat.

I also had a corner mate who was always threatening to beat people with her manly physique and conk Igbo accent. I always laughed at such childlike display.

I was mostly quiet in camp. They thought I didn’t talk. “This one is one quiet girl” I would always laugh at them.

Few persons asked to buy me food like hunger was written on my forehead. Let’s eat at mami” was the language of the day. It’s like “let’s go on a date”

One girl a bit far from my bunk was always telling her bunk mate “alugom di oo so mind how you talk to me” (I am married ooo so mind how you talk to me) otherwise m mawashia gi anya and nothing will happen.

One girl that side too would always remove everything on her and lie stack naked even when she knew she would be out again in 15 minutes time.

We had SAED lectures and it was the best sleeping moments.

We got cows and cows from visitors including the state governor. Truth… I don’t know if we ate them.

They said people were really and always knacking in between NCCF hall and the kitchen. And at the back of OBS studio. I don’t know because I didn’t see.

The last days were fun but I still needed to leave as fast as possible. The day finally came and we returned our mattresses, did final paradise and my cab guy was already waiting at the gate.

As they were crying and hugging their mami boyfriends, I was bracing to the gate before they changed their minds about our departure. When I got out, I laughed and heaved a sigh of relief. And told my friend “now I can hear you”.

She was lamenting of how she missed camp already…. Wanted it to continue…. I laughed with dry face and deep joy knowing camp can’t continue.

That night, girls vomited all they ate at mami inside hotel rooms. The arrangements were made before we left and they went straight and paid their dues.

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Nwabueze Favour is a blogger, writer, content developer, a data analyst and a development enthusiast. A social media expert, an avid reader and a lover of books, music and movies.

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