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2 months passed pretty quickly, and I had adjusted to life in Aguaba. Except for the trekking to and fro school three times a week, it wasn’t so bad. I forgot about my redeployment plans – I had come armed with a medical report – and resigned to serving the whole year in the ‘bush’. My students were a plethora of characters, from the really bright ones, to the downright dull. Some had never travelled out of the Nsukka region, talk more of out of the state, while some others had visited uncles in Abuja, Lagos and Porthacourt. The SS3 students all wanted to go to UNN, it was the best school in Nigeria, they claimed. They were shocked when I told them that it wasn’t. I urged them to at least leave the state to other parts of the eastern region, if they were scared of going to the west or Ugwu Awusa (the North). I would sometimes spend half of my period giving advices and motivational talks. Some of them were really intelligent, and the place they found themselves was limiting their growth.
My fellow corps member were also fun to be with, each of them with a quirky character. Bankz the ajebo, Jeff his direct opposite, Dennis the pastor, Amaka the relationship expert, Temi the talkative, and Zahra the introvert. On the days we didn’t go to school, we spent the day gisting about our school days, arguing over political/relationship matters, or playing Ludo. Sometimes, Bankz and Jeff would go to the bar in front of the lodge, while the rest of us sit under the mango trees on the field in front of the lodge and browse the internet or watch the village boys play football.
One time we were strolling when we stumbled upon a traditional wedding. We invited ourselves over and stood with the other guests to watch. The bride, dressed in a black lace wrapper, a red George blouse, hair and shoulders adorned with beads, went round pouring powder into guests’ hands. The groom sat on a chair, a smile on his face, as his eyes followed his bride about. The wedding was interesting to watch. We stayed for an hour or so, then left.
Life was good. We had been lulled by the peaceful, slow pace of village life. Nothing could go wrong, or so we thought.
We trudged on to the lodge from school, the scorching March sun beating on our backs. Zahra, Temi and Dennis were in front while Bankz, Jeff and I followed behind. Amaka had travelled to Benin to spend a week with her boyfriend.
“Omo, we have to talk to principal about transportation o.” I lamented. “We cannot be trekking like this every day, under this hot sun.”
“Yes o. what even happened to the school bus sef?” Bankz asked. “At least, the school bus can be used to pick and drop us for the 3 days we come to school.”
“School bus?” Jeff laughed out loud. “O boy, forget that thing. I can bet money he is using the bus for business.”
“Na wa o. Later they will be saying the government is corrupt. Abeg he should arrange something for us. This stress is too much.” I remarked. “Eh. Dennis! CLO!” I called out. “Tell your principal to find us a mode of transportation o.”
“Which type? Airplane or Ship?” We all laughed at his question.
“Noo. We don’t want to stress him. A bike or bus will do.”
Immediately I entered my room, I pulled off my top and dived into bed. Zahra had already turned on the fan to the highest and was lying half naked in bed. We both stayed in that position for about 30 minutes.
“I’m hungry o.” I said, as my stomach rumbled. I turned to Zahra to find her snoring softly. That girl sleeps off really easily.
I walked into Temi’s room to find her eating cornflakes. “How far? I’m hungry o. what are we cooking?” I asked.
“Maybe rice. Shebi the stew that is remaining is plenty small?”
“Yeah. It should be enough for us. But there’s no living thing inside o.”
“Ehm. We can buy eggs.”
I turned and head into the kitchen to start cooking. I find that there was no water upstairs, so I walked into the guys’ room.
“Guys, there’s no water upstairs o.” I said to no one in particular. “Please somebody should come and fetch so we can cook and wash plate.”
They all kept quiet for a beat, then Bankz kicked Jeff. Jeff glanced over at Dennis, who was sprawled on his bed, eyes closed.
“Dennis. You no go fetch water.” Dennis ignored him, “Dennis!”
“Chairman, abeg I don tire. You sef go fetch am.”
“You guys sort it out. Call me when you fetch the water.” I went back to my room to lay back down. My stomach rumbled again, so I went downstairs to the shop in front to buy biscuits and eggs. When I got back, I discovered the guys had still not fetched the water. Miffed, I barged into their room.
“Ahan. You people have not still fetched the water? Dennis.” I called.
“Dewunmi, please don’t call me.” He answered. “I’m really tired. Besides, I’m always the one fetching water upstairs. Let one of them fetch it today too.” He pointed to Bankz and Jeff.
“Jeff. Bankz.” I glanced in their direction.
“Abeg you too go fetch am.” Jeff snapped.
“I should go fetch it, and still cook and wash plate?” I asked, surprised at his tone. “Abi, you’ll cook and wash?”
“For where? That’s not my job.”
“Really? So what’s your job? Sleeping?”
“I dunno o. All I know is that cooking, fetching water and other kitchen things is a woman’s job.”
“Excuse me?” I was shocked, to say the least.
“Ehn na. Is it not a woman’s job?”
“Oh. Lord and master, I wasn’t aware the NYSC drafted me here to come serve you.” I was flabbergasted. Anger boiled in my veins. “Mr. Man, if you are interested in eating, better be ready to contribute somehow in the preparation. This is not your house where the women in your life worship the ground you walk on and make it their ambition to feed your ego.”
“See as she dey vex. If it’s her boyfriend, will she ask him to go and fetch water?” I heard Bankz comment as I stormed out.
“Hey! Hey! Don’t even bring my boyfriend into this.” I reared back in. “My boyfriend will never…”
“Oh. But it’s okay to drag the women in life into this, right?” Jeff interrupted.
“…I repeat, never say something as stupid as a woman belongs to the kitchen. So shut it!”
“Yes, it’s okay, cos I’m sure, they are the ones who gave you the impression that all girls should serve you.” I said to him.
He stood up in a flash, “I’ll beat this girl o.”
“Oh. Yes. You’ll beat me. Weak thing like me.” I stood my ground. “It’s a shame that you’ll have the strength to beat me but don’t have the strength to go fetch water that will be used to cook the food that we’ll both eat.”
Our voices raised a few decibels as we shouted each other down. Temi had come into the room to try to drag me out, but I resisted her attempts, while Dennis and Bankz tried to no avail to calm Jeff down.
“We both just trekked home under this scorching sun, and I’m supposed to manufacture superhuman strength to cook lunch, wash the plates and fetch water because it is a woman’s duty, while you use all that strength that you have to lie around and nap, or beat me if I don’t comply abi. You must be out of your mind.” I yanked my hands from Temi’s grip and marched out of the room. I was beyond livid. I ignored Zahra, who was just making her way to the scene and walked out of the house.
When I got back to the lodge hours later, Temi had cooked.
“Your food is in the pot.” She informed me.
I told her I wasn’t interested and proceeded to tell her and Dennis that I would like my share of the foodstuff, cos I couldn’t continue cooking with them. Dennis tried to talk me out of it, but I just wouldn’t have it. Zahra said if I was taking my share, she was taking hers too cos she didn’t want any trouble with Jeff.