Writing 101, Day Eleven: Size Matters
Tell us about the home where you lived when you were twelve. Which town, city, or country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you?
Twelve years of age? That was a very long time ago and I think I was in-between houses. Not being too sure of which of the houses, I will just talk about one of the three homes and these are – my dormitory, our house in Amadi Flat and Uncle Sam’s place.
(Government Secondary School, Afaha Eket, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria)
Having just entered secondary school a year earlier, I was fresh from home and not so keen about going away to the boarding house. I have always been a family person so ‘dragging’ me away from home to some hostel was not my idea of fun.
My school had a boarding house which was built on history; you could literally feel the stories from each brick. It wasn’t your modern building (not in material or design), it had this churchy cathedral feeling about it…like a Catholic school but it wasn’t! We had plenty vacant areas of green lawns, flower shrubs and large trees that gave shelter on a sunny day. Except you saw a student hurrying from the chapel to his/her hostel you would label it a ghost town; and this was due to the way it was built which enabled us to go from one building to the next without being seen by visitors. We lived a regimented lifestyle so you would hardly see a student just loafing around except it was visiting day. Then the fun began…colours and more colours (both from student and visitors) not just our normally blue and white outfit.
My hostel was not your usual cosy room with fluffy pillows and colourful wall papers everywhere. They were wall papers no doubt but the few we had was always someone’s attempt at interior décor and the outcome – sombre colours. Our beds (double bunks) made of steel felt like those in a hospital or military cantonment. The joys you felt were the ones you could conjure up for yourself/corner. Each student had a locker filled with goodies or stolen goods…yes, we had cases of students who broke into other students lockers and transferred your property to their area of jurisdiction. Those were the illegal thieves (not that thieves are legal though) but we had legal ones – these were the senior students who would request for breakfast, lunch or dinner and whatever they requested you had to provide from your locker 😦
Enough about the environment, the students were a mix of fun and craze. I had a few friends I could relate with, and coming from the city had its own perks and disadvantages. For one, I was viewed as some kind of stranger, as I maintained a certain way of speaking and dressing which made me stood out like a sore finger. One incident I always remember was whenever my school-mother (sort of a caretaker you had to choose or who chose you be their ward, these were senior students. God help you if you had a mean school-mother) spoke vernacular to me I would reply in English Language and this was frustrating for her. On another occasion, she noticed I loved standing every time I came to her corner so she sent me on an errand to get “Eto-Idaha” (meaning standing stick). Back then I didn’t understand what that meant; I thought it was some important item for her. By the time I got to the person she sent me to, that senior sent me elsewhere and after roaming back and forth for about 15/20mins, my school-mother asked me to sit and explained that they had just had fun at my expense!
Coming from a home were we had rich family values I couldn’t be caught faulting any law – besides my Uncle (a pastor) was a teacher in the school and a disciplinarian at that. After enduring a few years of harsh treatment at the hostel in form of compound –work, mass punishment and Eleven-Eleven (some designated day for unnecessary show of seniority power and harshness). I ‘ran away’ to Uncle Sam’s house. I got permission to visit him and while there, made a deal with him to let me stay with him and not return to the Hostel…as I couldn’t take the pain anymore. He obliged me. If you must know, the Hostel ‘called’ me back after a while and I returned of my own accord. *wink*