Monday, 13 December 2010
Tuesday, 7 December 2010
- There are those that studied in Africa or other developing countries, e.g. Ghana, Benin Republic, etc. For these people it’s not really a big deal adjusting to Nigerian life, because, luckily for them, their universities are closer home, geographically and culturally.
The next two kinds are those I want to focus on.
- There are those that travel abroad to the Western countries for undergraduate and in some cases, postgraduate studies. Usually they tend to spend an average of 4 years abroad and once they are done, they’re back to Nigeria. Most visit Nigeria fairly often during holidays like Christmas.
- The final kind are those that are also in Western countries but not primarily because they had to go do university education there. They are probably there because they moved there with family. In this category you find those that moved when they were probably 8 or 13 yrs old. Majority of them probably don’t visit Nigeria often. Most also usually have plans to go back to where they are based after the service year.
So on the accents issue, I beg, if you have a posh accent as your normal accent, keep it, it’s not your fault that someone else doesn’t . Or maybe they do but don't feel the need to use it. It's their issue, not yours. Let them beef you until they’re red in the eye. On the other hand, if you can do the naija accent, you may want to use that too. It’s your call. I do know some friends who are considering NYSC that do not even know how to do Naija accent well. Some people will think they are fronting. But is it their fault that they left Naij when they were young and just didn’t take interest in the accent even while abroad? Anyways, in my opinion, best thing is to bring both your posh and Naija accent, so you can switch as occasion demands. Actually times will come when your ‘abroad’ accent (lol) will just come out without you knowing it. Don’t worry, just switch immediately as you notice. If you want.
Wednesday, 1 December 2010
This may be my favourite part of the blog so far.
I expect you’d like to know what you would be doing for the 3weeks in camp. I will try as much as possible to give you details of daily activities and possibly something like “A day in the life of a Corper at camp”.
The first week is usually very different from the second and third weeks. It’s usually the most stressful, for the following reasons:
- You are just starting the camp and you’re not yet used to it. So, this is the week in which you try to get used to waking times and baking your skin in the hot sun.
- On the 4th or 5th day of the first week, you will be sworn in officially as a Corp member. This is a thoroughly military event with Government dignitaries in attendance, so for about 3 days you will be trained hard on how to do parades. You would be on the parade ground in the sun for at least 3- 4hours at a stretch twice a day. Even on the swearing in day, the dignitaries will take their sweet time and come fashionably late, resulting in you standing for like 1 extra hour in the sun sweating and frowning. In my camp, the General Camp Commandant was kind enough to let us sit on the grass while we awaited the arrival of our ‘beloved’ government officials.
Monday and Tuesday – Registration
- 4.30am – you are woken up around 4.30am. There is something about camp life which I haven’t mentioned so far. It’s military life, so everything is regimented. So, for example, you are woken up by the sound of a bugle, something like a war cry tune, played by a soldier. A bugle is an instrument that looks like a hybrid of a trumpet and a horn. See picture below. On hearing this you are expected to jump from bed and put on your whites and tennis, and run to the parade ground for morning drills. 10 minutes after the bugle has sounded, the man-o-war peeps (about 15 of them) come singing with their konga drums and gongs to wake you up with songs such as:
Ole o le gbelu wa,
Aago merin lawa ji,
Aago Mefa loleji
(Translation: a lazy person cannot live in our town; we wake up at 4am, a lazy person wakes up at 6am).
Few minutes after that, soldiers come screaming, blowing deafening whistles and banging doors, “If you’re sleeping you are wrrrrroooooong”... “Get Ouuuutttt”....“If you’re inside you’re wrrrrooooooong”, etc. The female soldiers enter the female rooms and male ones go into the male rooms. They chase you out screaming on the top of their lungs. At this point you want to make sure you are running out. If you are late to the parade ground (even if just for 5mins), you would be punished by the soldiers (e.g.do a frog jump to the field to join your mates). It’s horrible. But they do develop your butt, gluts and leg muscles. I came back from camp toned. ;)
Actually you probably wouldn’t be waking up at 4.30am. Many people wake up as early as 3am to fetch water and have their bath, and they get very noisy as they bathe by your window. So their noise wakes you up early anyway. I personally preferred sleeping till I heard the bugle, after which I brushed my teeth (with Eva bottled water or pure water!), rinsed my face, then changed into the whites and ran off to the field (all in about 10mins). Bathing can always be done after exercise.
- 5am-6am – By now you are on the field. You will line up according to your platoons (see 2nd post for the meaning of platoon). Basically this period of the morning is to give you details of the day’s activities. You start by praying (platoons do it in turns). So on first day, No 1 Platoon sends 3 representatives to lead the whole camp in short prayer – 1 Muslim, 1 Christian, and 1 more person to recite a meditation (could be an inspiring poem or something). The next day, it would be No 2 Platoon’s turn, and it’s rotated like that till you leave. I remember when it was my Platoon’s turn, the girl that did the Christian prayer went on and on until she was tapped by officials to stop. Some serious fire-fall-down-on-enemies prayer. Serious early morning comedy.
Anyways, after that, you sing the National Anthem and the NYSC Anthem (they teach you this). They read out announcements, such as “It has been observed that those in the female hostels are bathing outside...if you are caught, blah blah blah; it has been observed that, people are poo-ing on the grasses...etc”.
Then they read out the schedule for the day. By 6am everyday, everyone is called to attention and all stand still for the bugle man to play some tune, which signifies that Nigeria is about to wake up. The flag is lifted up gradually on a pole as they play the tune. This same bugle tune is played at 6pm every evening, apparently for Nigeria to sleep. This time the flag is gradually brought down. At 6pm, wherever you are, you stop anything you are doing, standing still until soldier bugle man is done with his blasting (which lasts about 60 seconds or so). Even hawkers all stop. If the soldiers catch you not standing still, ah, it’s trouble. It’s supposed to be a time when you remember those that laid down their lives for Nigeria in wars etc.
- 6am to 7.30am-ish – You do morning exercises such as “I do like this, I do like this, I balance well”. LOL. You will enjoy it. I loved the way the soldiers turned everything into music: “Small belle, nothing dey inside, big belle, something dey inside”. We used to chant/sing that when doing this exercise where we have to bend slightly, hold the belly and do quick jumps at intervals. Each platoon will have about 3 platoon commanders (soldiers). Each platoon does different exercises. How interesting your exercises will be will depend on how interesting your platoon commanders are. In my camp, we were all allowed to jog out of the camp premises a few times. We went out in troops by platoon basis, guarded by soldiers and man-o-war and stormed the little village. You see the little village kids running out, just to see you. LOL. They think Corpers are like the best things ever. Even the adults abandon their work and come out to look at ‘Corpers’ jogging. Imagine 2,000 of you on the streets of a village/small town. We caused mad hold up. The jogs were great and interesting because you’re not just jogging; you’re also singing as you jog. The soldiers and man-o-wars led the songs, while we responded:
See how den dey look us,
See how den dey look us like Otondo.
Eeeeee Corpers go fight, Eeeee Corpers go fight,
If allowee no dey Corpers go fight,
If allowee no dey Corpers go fight.
Chop Akara dey go, moinmoin no dey,
Chop Akara dey go, moinmoin no dey
Soldier: We keep on movin’
Soldier: We keep on movin’
Soldier: Are you tired
All: Noooooooo, No!
Dem go born wor-wor,
Dem go born mumu,
If corper marry soldier
Dem go born wor-wor
This is the way I wanted to be oooo
This is the way I wanted to be
Eeeeee I want to be a corper
Eeeeee I want to be a corper
Eeeeee I want to be a corper
This is the way I wanted to be
TIP: try stay with people you get on well with in your platoon. You will laugh together, gist, etc while jogging and this will make it more interesting for you. Some of the guys in my platoon were simply awesome- they helped and tucked my arms in theirs, left and right, when I got too tired and out of breath. We all tried to help each other. There was also an ambulance around, with Red Cross people, just in case of any emergencies.
- 7.30am - 8.55am – What you do during this time in the first week differs from the final 2weeks.
First Week - During the given time, you are to have your bath and breakfast. You don’t have the time to queue for water, so if you’ve made adequate arrangements with your hostel attendant, she would have brought your bucket of water by 7.30ish so you can bathe yourself. Alternatively you could bathe before they wake you....like 3am.
Breakfast-wise, best thing to do is to go straight to mammy market after exercises, eat there or get your breakfast to take away, then head to your room to get ready. For those that prefer to eat camp food, the bugle sounds when food is ready (usually around 8ish or earlier) and you go join the queue.
By 8.55am, the bugle sounds again repeatedly and this time it’s for you to get on the field for parade. Few minutes after the bugle sounds, soldiers are back with screaming and whistles, asking you to getttttt out. One particular soldier used to curse with a fake American accent using the f word, s, mf, etc. LOL. So again, try avoid all that stress by leaving your room immediately you hear the bugle. Even if you are sick you are expected to go to the camp clinic, not stay in the room. They want absolutely no one in the rooms, to avoid theft. See a video below I filmed from my phone one day when I was getting chased by a soldier to the parade ground!
Still on the first week: you spend most of your days on the parade ground, learning how to understand and obey military commands, how you salute the governor and dignitaries when they come for your swearing in, how to remove ‘head dress’ and give 3 hearty cheers, etc. You rehearse and rehearse in the sun for those days - morning, afternoon, evening. This is the part where you get so black beyond recognition, you sweat like mad, you see people faint in the sun, either faked or real. Please DO NOT skip breakfast.
Me I just went to the back, told a soldier I wanted to faint and sat on the grass jejely. He screamed and screamed but I lied on my back and faked a serious exhaustion. Actually I was very exhausted! But maybe I exaggerated it. I can’t come and kill myself.
Later after the whole parade I complained to the soldier that it’s not fair to be spread in the sun like this now ...Ah-an! He was kind enough to explain to me that it’s always like that in the first week. And he was right. Things got lighter from the 2nd week.
2nd & 3rd Weeks
By now your body is getting used to the regimen. The soldiers are nicer. Your early mornings are freer. Exercises now end by around 7am, and you are left till 9 or 9.30am before you are called out again. Basically these last two weeks are mainly for social activities, such as football, volleyball, drama, music, cultural dance, cooking, quiz and beauty pageant competitions. Platoons compete against one another. So, the mornings immediately after exercises are the times you have for rehearsals. Actually, your platoon commanders will exempt you from the exercises if you have to go rehearse for your drama, dance or anything you need rehearsals for. After you’ve had your bath and breakfast, you get ready for lectures. Lectures typically start in the last 2 weeks from around 10ish (am) till 1ish (pm). As usual when it’s time for lectures, Mr Bugle man blows his stuff and soldiers hustle you to the field for lectures. Same as morning routine, the same way they scream.
My camp had no halls so we had lectures while sat in white plastic chairs under huge trees which served as shades.
The lectures are not that bad to be honest, especially if you sit with your new friends or camp booboo wannabe. I don’t want to give any advice that will be anti-NYSC lectures... but in order to avoid sleeping or boredom, take playing cards with you, or even paper ludo. There are over 2,000 of you; they can’t keep an eye on all of you. I was at the lectures most times when I wasn’t running to the toilet but I don’t remember a thing. All I know is that some EFCC guys came over to tell us about their work, the King of the town came with dancers, charity groups came to give presentations, etc. There were also Yoruba lectures for those that didn’t understand Yoruba, because a lot of non-Yoruba Corpers were posted to the Yoruba town where I camped. If I had camped in an Igbo land for example, we would have Igbo lectures.
Some of the lectures are very, very important though. NYSC officials will address you and explain the steps you need to take after camp when you receive your posting letter to your Place of Primary Assignment (PPA). They will explain all the secretariat journeys you need to make, etc. I forgot to mention that you are addressed by a Public Address System right from the morning assembly– in case you were wondering how 2,000+ Corpers would hear whatever they were talking about. They speak into microphones, you have speakers around you so you hear everything clearly. This could differ from camp to camp though.
In the 2nd and 3rd weeks, after lectures, you go for lunch and chillax till about 4. You don’t even have to come out at 4, it’s your choice. From 4, sports competitions begin, so you come out to support your platoon if you wish. Girls do volleyball, guys do football. Then in the evening around 7ish /8ish, you have the drama and dance competitions by platoon. You need a lot of time for rehearsal so most of your afternoons would also be spent rehearsing. It’s good to get involved in these things if you can be bothered. You meet new people and make friends this way.
If you’re chosen as one of the Corpers that would march or bear the flag at the final parade on the last day of camp (with dignitaries in attendance again), most of your free time will be spent rehearsing with the soldiers.
Also from 6.30ish till 8ish (pm) everyday, they have NCCF (Nigerian Christian Corpers’ Fellowship), in case you prefer that. That’s where most people go for Sunday service. On Fridays Muslims have times set aside for mosque. Saturday evenings were mostly for parties sponsored by companies like MTN. You are still required to wear your otondo whites, not mufti.
On Sundays you are allowed to wear mufti but only until 6pm, after which you will be harassed to change back into your prisoner whites.
So as you can see, 2nd and 3rd weeks are the most relaxed. In summary, here’s a schedule for a typical 2nd and 3rd week day at camp:
4.30ish : Wake up
4.45ish – 6am : Devotion and Announcements
6am-7.30amish : Exercises / Drama or Dance Rehearsals / March Rehearsals for those chosen to
march on final day
7.30am-9amish : Breakfast, Bath, etc
10am-1.30pm : Lectures
1.30pm till 4ish : Lunch, Rehearsals, etc
4pm-6.30pm : Sports competitions
6.30pm : Dinner
8pm-10ish : Social activities such as drama and dance competitions
10.30pm : Lights-out!! (Uncle Bugle blows for you to go to bed and soldiers make sure you are all in bed by screaming as usual. By this time most of them are drunk, high and extra crazy. Lights are switched off and you MUST sleep or lie in your bed or else they keep blowing whistles until you do so. Then you sleep with headaches)
Most people stay in Mammy market socialising from around 6pm till lights out time. It all depends on your preference. Social activities are not compulsory, but they are very interesting and a good base for room gists.
This is what a BUGLE looks like
Lectures under the tree. See people concentrating - NOT!
Video below: afternoon parade call. Listen to the soldiers screaming "Go go go!". See how you must run.
COMING UP NEXT: CAMP ‘BEEF’ FOR FOREIGN STUDENTS (you think all fellow Corpers are happy that you studied abroad?)
Wednesday, 24 November 2010
I did promise in my last post to share my list of things to bring to camp. Let’s start on these first:
- Mosquito net- it’s cheaper and easier to get them here in Nigeria. If you’re getting a treated net, listen to these pearls of wisdom. Make sure you SPREAD IT OUT for about 2 days before you leave for camp. A lot of us didn’t read the instructions that came with the nets and we didn’t spread outside before using at camp. People had face rashes, itchy eyes, etc. As for me I was feeling dizzy inside the net so I had to remove it and wash the next day to reduce the strength of the chemicals. Treated nets are always better because they are like sort of repellents, and should repel bed bugs (in case there are bugs around, LOL, I know!).
- Insect repellent cream or spray (you can get from Boots if you’re in the UK). If your camp is like mine where you sit under trees for lectures, activities, etc, organisms will love your ‘abroad’ blood and suck it well. Repellents will keep them away, even mosquitoes. Buy ones that will last for hours so you can use from start of day.
- Baygon spray or any equivalent insect sprays will also come in handy.
- DRUGS – not illegal stuff oh. I’m referring to Paracetamol, Ibuprofen etc. Then IMODIUM. Trust me. Using that latrine 3-5 times a day is not cool. You’re changing environments so there’s a good chance you might purge after feasting on camp or mammy market food. Please, please, please don’t go to camp without Imodium especially if you have sensitive tummy. Imodium was like gold after flagil wasn’t working for me. I had to pay like 1k at the camp clinic for a staff member to buy a pack for me from a pharmacy outside the camp. You might not even need it in the end but it’s better to be prepared for eventualities.
- Bath pack, personal hygiene pack, bath slippers and DETTOL, the big family-size bottle. Talking about bath packs, I advise that you use soaps, and not these liquid, moisturising ones like DOVE. This is just a personal preference though! The reason for this is, those liquid bath wash things we use in colder climates are meant to moisturise your skin. In hotter climates like Nigeria, you don’t need your bath things to moisturise you. You need something to keep you dry and prevent sweating. At camp you will be doing physical activities, getting punished by soldiers by squatting (lol), etc. You will be in the sun most of the time. You will sweat and sweat. So I discovered using soaps kept me drier than my good old DOVE body wash. Sometimes you won’t even need to use body cream. Most times I just sprayed my insect repellent on my hands and legs after bath. Body creams will make you sweat a lot. Don’t forget the deodorants too, they’ll keep you dry.
- Bucket – you can always get this from the camp market from around 400 naira.
- Bed Pack – pillows (if you must use one), pillow case, blanket, bed sheet and cover cloth. This is my advice: buy a blanket and wrap it around your mattress. After this then spread your bed sheet over it. I advise this because you don’t know where that mattress has been. Seriously. Don’t take chances. Maybe I’m being extra...but prevention is better than cure.
- Food Flask and Cutlery – if you prefer camp food to mammy market food. Very unlikely though.
- ‘Provision’ – maybe just cereal and milk...but you most probably wouldn’t even need to bring them from home. Mammy market has it all.
- Your White Shorts, T-shirts and white tennis– people brought their whites from home and you’ll be glad you did! The NYSC ones are not the best. I got my shorts from Sports World (Umbro ladies’ white shorts) and white ladies’ fitting t-shirts from Primark (like £2/£3 each). White Tennis is around £2 at Primark
- Waist Pouch – this is where you will put all your important stuff such as money, phone, etc. Your pouch will become your BFF in those 3weeks. You will eat and sleep together, go to the bathroom together, etc.
- Torch / Flash light – another Best Friend. You will go to the 2am latrine rounds together. Also when your camp booboo sees you off to your hostel, your torchlight will guide your way.
- Passport Pictures – you will need these in camp so take 12 with you to be on the safe side. You can take passport pictures at the photographers’ shops in mammy market in case you forget. But you will pay more because they know you need it desperately.
- Important Documents – such as your call up letter, international passport, school results, etc. Basically all the documents you took with you when you went to register at Abuja. Most people made sure they gave these back to their drivers or parents to take back home after they finished registration. You don’t want to risk keeping them in your room. If you go to camp in public transport and have no one to take the docs home for you, then keep them well in your waist pouch, never in your box.
- CV – I didn’t need to take this with me but some people did. Sometimes employers go into camps and recruit a few lucky ones. You could have one or two copies of your CV folded into your pouch so that if you see an employer you can hand it to them.
- 2 mufti clothes and shoes or sandals for Sunday. You can bring more clothes if you want to contest in the beauty pageants.
- Hangers – to hang your underwear or little garments by your bunk when you wash them.
- LADIES: try as much as possible to bring black underwear so as to avoid any unwanted transparencies. Your white tees and shorts are like a see-through. Not everyone wants to see your pink victoria secret bra and pants combo on parade ground.
- Money – the amount you need depends largely on your lifestyle. Just make sure you go with more than enough, just in case of anything. I would advise a minimum of N25k for the 3weeks. Apart from feeding, you will need money to adjust your oversized khakis or buy new ones in camp market, and for a host of other things. On camp you will be given money by the government three times. First is given around the first week and it’s N1,500 for transport reimbursement or something. Then in the second week you get another N1,000. Then in the final week, a day or two before you leave camp, you get your “alawi” (allowee, i.e., monthly allowance as a corper), which for now is about N9,750 or so. That will be your monthly salary from NYSC for the next one year. No, it’s not a joke.
To this day I don’t know why NYSC camp markets are popularly referred to as ‘mammy market’.
Mammy market has ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING you need to survive in camp. They sell food (rice, indomie made in front of you, yam, eggs, bread, jollof, real pounded yam, eba, amala, egusi, ogbono, affang, suya, peppersoup, etc). They also have tailors, shoemakers, hairdressers/nails stands, phone chargers, photographers, videographers, etc.
Prices will depend on which state you camp in – for example, Lagos rates will be higher compared to Osun or Kano. 2 pounded yam wraps and egusi with serious meats cost only 300naira at my camp (yup... an equivalent of £1.50ish)!
Then there was this area my friends and I used to call “Sodom and Gomorrah” in the market. LOL. It was the beer, cigarette, palmy (palm wine) and everything-you-can-imagine joint, usually intentionally poorly-lit with banging loud music. We gave that area of the market the name because it sometimes got too rough at night, so much so that we tried to stay away. One night we saw lap-dancing! People that didn’t like that side of the market got their Smirnoffs from other more reasonable drinks kiosks.
The market is usually in the camp compound, in a separate area. It's not like it's outside or anything. Once you are in that huge camp compound, that's your confinement for the next 3weeks.
In case I have left out anything from that list, you can get it at mammy market.
Before ending this post, I need to talk about the rooms. There are different kinds of rooms – e.g. some rooms are like corridors, with over 150 people crammed into them, while some are small like a snail shell with 20 people packed in there like sardines. The latter was my type of room. Small room with 10 bunks for 20 people expected to breathe into each other’s nostrils for 3weeks. Look below at pictures of my room. The second picture was taken when my bunk collapsed one morning! Thank God no one was under when it happened. Seriously, it's a lovely, funny experience. At first I was mad and started ranting about health and safety. But now my ex-roomies and I just laugh about it every time we remember how it happened. It was like slow motion. LOL!
TOP or LOWER BUNK?
You’ve probably heard a lot of people arguing which is best. A lot of people say the top bunk is the best, especially if you are extra finicky and don’t like people sitting on your bed anyhow. But again you will have more challenges setting up your mosquito net, and dressing up. In my room there was practically no space for anything. We used to move between bunks by walking sideways and squeezing through. Yeah.
If you choose a lower bunk, it’s easier for you to tie your mosquito net. You’re also freer than the person on the top bunk and dress up more easily. But all and sundry will arrive on your bed during gist time.
So, verdict is, choose whichever one you want based on your preferences. I started off sleeping on the lower bunk but I had to move to an empty top bunk later because I was too close to the window and was inhaling all the cobweb and dust. I was also tired of strong wee-wee smells that greeted me by the window every morning.
Coming up in next post: Daily Schedule
The window I moved from!
after bunk collapsed!
before bunk collapsed....see how crammed the room is...
Night view of the entrance of mammy market.