As the wind blew, dispersing deposits of dust and sand on everyone in the bus, I tried to shield my eyes but still the wind persisted and my eyes burned from its hurt. The almost four hours journey from NYSC orientation camp in Obubra to Boki local government was a long sober one for most of us, me especially. I tried tirelessly to stop the tears that flowed as if it were from a broken tap. The journey was one filled with uncertainties, less joy and no expectations. Expecting the best had become a cliché.
I never saw this coming, hardly did I ever imagine it. When I received my posting letter, my eyes quickly went to the location written on it, and behold, boldly typed were four letters, “Boki”. I was struck by a sudden wind of confusion. Not until then, I realized I had never really taken other local government areas to heart asides ” Ikom” and the famous “Calabar”. Suddenly, I got overwhelmed by a pinch of sadness and when we began the journey, my heart sank even more and I silently wished camp was forever and not just three weeks.
To me, it was a nightmare and I thought within myself that if I shut my eyes, it would end but only to open them again to the stark reality. My dreams of Calabar and the civilisation I was used to were cut short and I had nothing else to look forward to, I thought.
The dusty and bumpy roads made it uneasy for one to relax but still some slept to shorten the bewildering hours. Those who couldn’t sleep, watched the swift passing of bushes, huts and villagers going about their businesses. This scenery was one I hadn’t seen in a decade. One quite backward compared to the city life I was accustomed to and I wondered what on earth I was going to be doing here for the next ten months. Nothing looked familiar.
I was so lost in my disappointment that I failed to see the natural beauties around us. From the tall palm trees, to the green grasses and even the brownish green ones, the hilly views, plantations, and mountains all spoke of the wonders of nature.
The decision to stay back and not relocate was as tough as a tug of war. I battled within myself for almost a month before finally deciding to give the place a chance which I’m glad I did.
As the months went by, I was awestruck by the people’s hospitable and welcoming spirit, by their contentment in what they had. Their kind gestures towards corps members, as they called out cheerfully “Corpo! Corpo!”, was always an epic sight.
I have come to know not just a place, but a people proud of their resources and skills which they are never ashamed to display. Their rich land filled with cocoa and banana made me fantasize about a pyramid of chocolate and a banana island. The greetings never cease; from the passing woman who yells, “ajube” to the man who responds, “ajube tor” in the morning, down to those working in the afternoon who call out, “akafo” meaning well done. The evenings are not left out as they welcome each other back home with, “afi” and ask about their welfare with the words, “nkina?” I have become accustomed to all these and more.
I see the hope in the eyes of their children, I hear it in their laughter and in their voices. I see and hear hope, crying out for a better and brighter future. In all these, I have become more grateful for the education I got on a platter of gold in conducive environments. One I didn’t have to struggle for and one I was certain of its completion. Unlike these children, who are uncertain when their education will start and if ever they’ll complete it. But still hope was never lost and most parents strived daily to give their wards the best they could afford.
Within the past eight months I’ve spent in Boki, my survival skills and adaptability have indubitably improved. I have learnt to eat different local delicacies and embrace the culture of the Boki people. One remarkable cultural event was the new yam festival that took place on the 18th of August, 2017. We also had the privilege of hosting the First Lady of Cross River State once during a women empowerment program. This made me believe Boki wasn’t totally forgotten after all.
Even though there were dark times for me; like the day I fell from a bike and I had only God to thank for my survival, and the communal crises days among the youths which were resolved thanks to the intervention of the security officials. I can’t forget the battle with sun flies and biting insects which we had to tackle by wearing long stockings and long sleeve shirts throughout the day. I never got used to the smoke from the firewood, which made me began to think of inventing smoke goggles to protect my eyes, and neither did I ever get the technique for lighting the firewood up. I tried tirelessly to learn it, but I couldn’t get the hang on it. We never had power supply so we settled for solar power banks to keep our phones on.
In all, I have learnt how to be more positive, to look on the brighter side and embrace the beauties in uncertainties. Though, I didn’t get the type of place I had wanted initially, I’m certain that this place indeed has brought out a better and tougher side of me. For this, I’m forever grateful for coming down to Cross River State and mostly for the Boki experience.
PS: This article was first published in the 2016 Batch B, NYSC Cross Rivers State, End of Service Year Magazine.
Written by: Jennifer Chioma Amadi
“IT CAN ONLY GET BETTER”