Once Upon A Corper: Part II

Once upon

There were bathrooms actually. With vertical cement slabs dividing them. The slabs weren’t very tall- you could actually see the head and shoulders of those adjacent you. It is plausible that someone quite tall could get an exclusive view of his neighbor… I wouldn’t know- I’m far from being ‘quite tall’.
I mentioned earlier that I had never stayed in a dorm before. Likewise I had never shared a bathroom before so it was really awkward when someone walked up to me while I was taking my bath- and had my body nearly fully covered with soapy foam- and asked me if I had finished bathing. Another time, someone chose to wait directly at my back for me to finish so he could clench my spot. The weirdest was when a guy came and was like “Guy shift small for me.” I didn’t look back at his face, I just shifted and had probably the fastest bath of my life.
The rest of my camp experiences, I’ll list in no particular chronological order. It was three weeks of the same faces in the same place wearing the same clothes… Wouldn’t you get suspicious if I said I could keep track?
I went to camp with the decision to not get involved in anything both emotionally or physically. I wanted to be free, didn’t want any commitment. All I wanted to do was have fun, mingle freely and study people. I should probably have joined OBS… I should probably have tried getting a camp boo… Well, you only serve once. My platoon, Platoon 6 was the perfect place for my mindset. Nearly everyone there were like minded. They were free, didn’t care about nothing. They didn’t care to participate in nearly everything- this would later reflect in the final days when we were announced as bottom last in all competitions- and I loved them for this. We were so lousy, at one point the camp commandant, Captain London, called a general assembly, singled out platoon 6 and after freeing the others, had us punished by forcefully marching for hours.
Mingle… I did. Maybe even over did it. My friend, Tiveh, would repeatedly comment much later about the camp “Dozie was everywhere.” My only constant pal in camp was Ebi. I kept switching talk groups. One day I’m with Tiveh and a bunch of Foreign exchange students and we’re using linguistics and phonetics and discussing music and hip-hop, another day I’m with Wale(Also my course mate) blasting pidgin and slangs like I had no dictionary, another day I’m in the midst of pretty girls and its phonetics and linguistics again as we discuss latest Hollywood movies, another day I’m with Igwe and Oge dialoging in Igbo over a gallon of Palm wine (I tried as much as possible to avoid Igbo talk groups cause I’m not really fluent in it).
I may not have joined any on-camp group, but I ended up participating in more things than I intended to, mostly for the fun of it. I did lead national prayer once, though hardly anyone noticed- not that I blame them, those prayers were held by 5am… hardly anyone was ever fully awake during them. I acted in my platoon’s drama- it was a crash course drama in which I was recruited on the evening of the performance. When it was our turn for sanitation, I joined in picking, but when it came to washing toilets, I bailed out with two other guys. We were eventually caught though and the man in charge swore we won’t pass out, or something like that… Story, Story. When we were on kitchen duty, I hung around during the cooking, filling my stomach with the akara and fish meant to be served. When it was time to serve, I opted to stay by the exit door to make snide but jovial comments as people left. And yes, I played ball…
During training, my performance was so astounding that I was so certain I would make first team. Even when we elected positions in the Platoon and the newly elected Sports Director, Moses appointed a new coach, I had little doubt I’ll start. And I hoped I could score. And start, I did. Even though our Coach’s game plan was quite bizarre, I still had great optimism we were going to win… Till the game commenced and I found myself marked by two guys nearly twice my size each. I am no Messi. I do not recall touching the ball more than five times the entire game. When I was substituted few minutes to the end, I couldn’t help but stare at the coach and wonder “What took you so long?” We crashed out of the competition after the final whistle.
I remember the early morning assemblies. I usually roamed around the back, where half my platoon were always situated. Sometimes I would hang around with Joy who seemed to have a specific standing point behind. Sometimes I even switched platoons and went to Ebi’s platoon, Platoon 5, where I would disturb random people-friendlily. I remember the “beagle” blowing at 6:00am when the flag was raised. On the final day in camp, everyone sang along with it and continued even when the Camp director repeatedly screamed for us to stop. That moment was epic, thousands of people singing together, connecting together in a shared joy, after having a shared experience. I remember Princess, the closest thing I had to a camp crush… I probably should have made a move. I remember Akpos, the noisiest and most popular guy in camp, who as expected was also in Platoon 6. I remember my hostel mates. They were as funny as hell and some nights we talked and laughed way pass midnight. Laughing on my bed, in the darkness, to various faceless voices talking at night was one of my best moments on camp. I remember the man-o-war drills where I had an epiphany learning that I can’t walk on a thick rope even when I’m holding another one for balance- I had seen people do it numerous times in movies and thought it was a piece of cake.
I remember the lectures. I never really listened unless they were talking of ‘Magun’. I wanted to be sure of the scope of Magun carriers seeing as I didn’t intend to be celibate all of my service year and I didn’t intend to end up throwing summersaults to my own death. I attended the skill acquisition once. It was a java course and after boringly staring at the board for thirty minutes, I asked myself. What am I doing here? And so I got up and left and from that day henceforth, I turned skill acquisition time to my personal siesta designated period.
I remember that night when I was hanging near my hostel block and I received a ping. I can’t really remember who the actual person was.
“What’s happening in your camp?”
“What do you meaning what’s happening?”
“I heard it’s under attack?”
I laughed at her, but then when I received two more calls from different people asking the same question, I decided to stroll out and investigate the rumor’s origin. People on camp weren’t really helpful.
“You no hear the gunshots?” one asked.
“Mami is under attack. They fired guns there.” said another.
“Them de rob Mami now.”
Not out of bravery but more out of curiosity, I went to Mami. I had just arrived when soldiers started chasing everyone out of the market. It wasn’t yet lights out time, hence, I began to wonder if the rumors were true. On my return to my hostel, I saw some of the soldiers holding rifles, the first time I had ever seen them with guns in the camp. I still do not know the true events that occurred that night. I do know our camp in specific wasn’t in any way attacked- a fact I had to repeatedly tell callers and bbm contacts. The generally accepted story was that robbers attacked a nearby village so the soldiers went to their rescue.
I remember those cold lonely nights when I would seat near the pavilion with my headphones on and a novel in hand. There was a man at the camp who sold novels for at first N200, then N100, and then N50. I ended up buying 15 books for him… I know, I wasn’t really thinking at the time. Anyway, back to those nights. I would seat there and read till it’s almost lights out time, 9:00pm. To get to my hostel I would have to cross the field, which at that time was usually filled with lovers and camp boos, cozied up together. At moments like that, I did feel like a failure as a Camper.
What else of importance is there to say about my camping experience? Oh yeah, a member of my platoon got slapped during our kitchen duty. It was that kinda slap that somehow happened when everyone in the hall, lining up for food, had gotten silent. It rang like a bell and all heads turned. I dunno why I’m adding this. Moving on, I remember Mami. I frequented it mostly to eat. I didn’t drink very often, I was keeping a low profile. However, a night before bonfire, I and Ebi got a bottle of Swirnoff vodka and downed it. Then I was turned on. I proceeded to another joint where Chidinma, a member of my platoon was celebrating her birthday. I drank more there and for the first time in camp, I danced. Bonfire night was fun, we danced and danced round the fire to the Band’s rhythm and then proceeded to the pavilion where real party tracks were banging. Even our Commandant, Captain London, joined in, freely dancing. I danced like crazy too and drank like crazy. The last night of camp, I did the same thing. That night I was with Tiveh, Tunde, Rani, Yimika and some other people I can’t recall. We drank and danced and made noise and had fun.
The final day came, we had to carry our beds and lineup again. Everyone was half awake, and tired, and anxious to leave. I tried at shunting, but this time I failed woefully… Boys were not smiling!
And then, after a long wait. Our posting letters came out. And again I was frightened. I had never really thought it out thoroughly. Camp was cool and all but what if I was dumped in a village? How would I survive?
When the letters came out and I looked at my designation… I was crestfallen.

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