We had grown to accept the roaring engine of the truck as the music that accompanied us on what seemed the journey to the end of the world. We were too nervous to hold a conversation but instead listened to the history of delta state as supplied by our driver.
“Those going to Onicha Olona will enjoy themselves. The Villagers are very nice and the hospital is just moderately busy. In three months, you will be so in love with the place, you will not want to leave”,
I saw a wide grin adorn the face of the female corper that was going to Onicha Olona. She turned her head and announced to me in a triumphant voice.
“I prayed to God to give me a place of comfort! Jesus, you are faithful!”
She turned back and continued an endless chatter with the driver. The conversation switched from vernacular to Igbo to English to vernacular to Igbo to English to Igbo to vernacular
… I could almost swear I heard her speak Zulu
The male corper going to Onicha Olona also joined in, when the driver mentioned something about beautiful girls in the village with palm wine flowing on the streets, he took over the conversation, narrating how his house job had been in a ‘dead’ place, this year of service was his year of enjoyment.
I put on my permanent fake smile, one I had perfected growing up around old people that pulled your cheeks and told a thousand tales, as long as you were smiling, they were content. It was working wonders here too but I think I held it for too long because the driver looked at me from his rearview and he turned.
“Corper, you wan shit?”
Oh goodness, I had over done the fake smile.
“Not at all sir, I am alright”.
His eyes were back on the road but he didn’t look convinced. The sound of my phone ringing broke the awkward silence. I had almost forgotten I carried it, because it had no service etched on it like a screen saver. Onicha Olona must be close….The Caller ID said it was my friend Tinapa.
“Hello Hafeez, how your PPA?”
“Oh boy, we still dey road o!”
“Na so e far?”
“we tey for management board. The entire building no get light or photocopying machine. We had to line up somewhere to make it….How your side?”
“Guy na Ezi dem post me, I hear it’s not far from Ebu”
“How the place be?”
“It’s a primary health centre, the man said 30 000, no accommodation. I no fit stay! I say make e reject me! I dey reason say I go crash for your side”
“Guy, I don’t even know what the place looks like yet”.
“Alright, sha holla me when you get there!”
“safe, man’, I said and hung up.
“Onicha Olona”, the driver announced.
The corpers were no longer smiling. I certainly didn’t see any palm wine on the road, and if the two girls walking on the side of the road was anything to go by, the male corper would have to lower his standards of beautiful.
There were huts, like the ones you see in Nigerian home video depicting Sango’s era. Men tied wrappers, women walked bare….okay no, the male corper wasn’t so lucky.
The girl had begun to shed tears. “Jesus, why, Jesus, why? “
The male corper had suddenly gone silent…. And now my smile was very genuine.
The girl raised her head in defiance. “I am going to redeploy”.
The driver smiled.
“The town is still ahead”.
Her smile reappeared. “Jesus, you are faithful!”
Onicha Olona wasn’t so bad after all. The hospital was in the town, which was bursting with activities. It nearly met the definition of town but failed.
The Nurse on duty wrapped the corpers in a tight embrace and led them inside.
Soon, the truck was empty. We were on our way to Ebu.
After a while of driving in silence, we came upon the village of Ezi. I was just thinking that was where Tinapa was, when I sighted him beside a very busty female corper. The driver saw him too in his uniform and parked beside him.
“Hafeez”! He shook my hand through the open window.
“You don see where you go sleep?”
He looked towards the busty girl and grinned widely. “Yes o”!
I smiled too. “Make I dey go my Ebu”
He waved to me, as he receded into the distance. I saw him put his hand over the shoulder of the busty corper.
Tinapa was a sure boy.
We drove for a short while through what seemed a road through the forest of Eledumare till we got to a town.
“Ebu”, the driver said.
I smiled. It wasn’t so bad, all the fuss was for nothing. It was slightly less developed than Onicha Olona but it wasn’t naked savages like I had been expecting.
The truck did not stop. It just kept on going…. Fast.
“I thought you said we are in Ebu”, I reminded the driver. He looked too young to have Alzheimer’s.
“We are… but the hospital isn’t in the town of Ebu, it’s on the outskirts”.
And so it was, we left civilization behind and right in the middle of an assembly of mango and cashew trees, cassava and yam farms, dancing squirrels and blue lizards was the sign board that read
‘Government Hospital Ebu’
My new home.
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