The hurricane lamp was burning slowly on top of mother’s wooden stool that was adjacent my bed. I couldn’t sleep but was turning from side to side, chuckling softly like a baby being tickled by his mother.
The thought of travelling to Lagos for the first time filled me with ecstasy that I could not feel the biting cold of the harmattan in mid-December which makes our bodies hypothermic at night.
Uncle Chibuzor, mother’s brother had promised to come take me to spend the first term vacation with his family in Lagos. The prospect of travelling by air was so appealing that I unconsciously let out a big laugh which nearly woke mother as I heard her grunt in her sleep before going silent again.
None of my school mates at Ezekoli Comprehensive High School had ever been to an airport let alone travel in an airplane. This vacation would definitely prove to be a bragging right for me. He had also told me that we would be visiting the ancient city of Abeokuta in Ogun State to see the Olumo Rock.
I had borrowed our kind neighbour Donatus’ phone to check what Abeokuta and Olumo looked like as an appetizer before our planned visit to the places. Therefore, the night before uncle came to pick me seemed to be the longest night of my life.
It wasn’t long before morning came and I had only managed to sleep for just two hours. I got out of bed, did my chores and ate my breakfast of rice and ofe akwu and then waited for uncle to arrive. Just then, a taxi drove into our compound with Bright Chimezie’s Alabeke thundering from its stereos.
Uncle Chibuzor greeted mother and had a chat with her for a few minutes before I placed my Ghana-must-go bag in the car’s boot. I hugged mother, got into the car with uncle and bade her farewell as the car zoomed off. We got to the airport and before long I had found myself sitting by the window of an airplane in mid-heaven on my maiden visit to Lagos. What a dream come true!
We got home around 4pm to the warm embrace of his wife, Nkiru, a dark skinned voluptuous woman and his 8 year old son, Felix. I had only seen and spoken to them on uncle’s phone so this was my first time of meeting them physically.
‘Hey Felix, you are now a big boy o’ I said with a smile.
‘Thank you ‘, he responded, smiling back at me which revealed his clean set of perfectly arranged white teeth. ‘Although, you didn’t pronounce my name correctly’ he added.
I was taken aback. How else should I have pronounced it? ‘Is it not “Fe-liks” again?’ I asked.
‘No, it’s not. It is actually pronounced “Fee-liks” ‘ he responded.
I was surprised, but uncle Chibuzor explained that he was right and even showed me in the dictionary on his phone which also pronounces words. That was amazing!
‘Can we go inside now? Uncle asked. ‘We’ve had such a long day’.
The next day was fun as we played Ludo and watched television even though I spent most of the day listening to Felix educating me on how to pronounce many other words. He’d spell the words and then pronounce them.
‘CROCHET is pronounced “crow-shay” while CUCUMBER is pronounced “Q-come-buh” ‘ he explained excitedly.
The fact that he was teaching a 17 year old girl like me was making him joyful and it was lovely seeing him in such a jolly mood.
‘Ehen? You don’t mean it. No one would understand if I say ‘Q-come-buh’ at the market’ I said.
‘Maybe you can then pronounce it the way they would understand but without failing to remind them of their right pronunciation. That’s what my teacher said’ he replied.
I had learnt a lot already and couldn’t wait for second term’s resumption to show my eloquence to my school mates.
‘Dinner is ready’ Nkiru called. ‘Everyone please come to the dinning table’. Her voice was like a happy bird singing on the branch of an olive tree. After dinner, I had my bath and went to sleep because the next day would be our visit to Olumo Rock in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
Morning came and we did the chores and had our baths and we left home for the excursion. There were traders displaying their wares beside the road and some hawking in the traffic. There were others who would offer to wash your vehicles in traffic for a price. It was incredible. I learnt that lagosians affectionately call their state lasgisi the same way Enugu residents call theirs 042. Before long, we had zoomed past the Lagos/Ogun Toll Gate and were heading towards the ancient city of Abeokuta. Uncle Chibuzor was playing his favourite ‘Uwa wu pawpaw’ by Teddy Obinna and Felix was trying hard to sing along with the rest of us.
‘Miss Chioma, I love Igbo songs’ he said.
I had actually told him to call me aunty but he had objected saying that it won’t be correct since we are cousins and I was not his aunt, and that he wouldn’t call me by my first name alone as that might be seen as disrespectful, so he prefers to call me Miss Chioma.
‘You do?’ I asked.
‘Of course! Ibo songs are pleasant to the ears, even though I do not understand what is being said’.
The table was now turned, it was time for him to be lectured.
‘Felix dear, it is not called “Ibo” but “Igbo” ‘, I said.
‘But everyone calls it Ibo including my teachers, he responded rather surprised.
‘Well, the whites who colonized Nigeria could not pronounce the “gb” so they preferably called it Ibo which is incorrect’ I explained.
Nkiru who had been listening to our conversation decided to join in. ‘That’s true, we are Igbos and not Ibos’ she said.
‘Wow! I never knew this mom. Thanks Miss Chioma, I have learnt something new today. Yippee!’ His excitement could be clearly seen.
We had now gotten to the entrance of the tourist centre, uncle Chibuzor had to pay the entrance and parking fee to the staff before we drove in. In front of us stood a gigantic rock of about 137metres above sea level. Beside it was a dongoyaro with almost the same height as the rock.
There are three ways to reach the top of the rock; a lift which was no longer functioning, a tower with over a thousand steps by the side of the rock and iron ladders placed in the rock for easy navigation. Our tour guide, Kunle explained that the rock served as a protection for the Egba people during times of war ascension we could see different rooms and grinding stones beneath the rock.
He further explained that the top of the rock provided a vintage position for the Egba warriors to monitor the advance of their enemies which further gave them added warfare advantages. We saw an old woman who was said to be the priestess of the rock. We were also told that the city name Abeokuta means ‘Under the Rock’ which I felt was fitting due to the vast amount of rocks we had seen as we drove through the city although Olumo was the biggest of them all.
It was time to climb the rock, so we decided to use the steps in the tower since it would be dangerous for young Felix to climb using the iron ladders. At the top of the rock, we could see the River Ogun from which the state got its name, most parts of the ancient city and a serene view of vegetation. It was a majestic view.
We took a lot of pictures, climbed down and had lunch. It was now time to go home, it had been such a memorable occasion as this was the highlight of my vacation. As we drove back home, I fell asleep out of exhaustion, then I felt a gentle tap urging me to wake up.
My eyes opened rather slowly and to my surprise, it was mother, her hurricane lamp had been put out since it was already morning and the chickens were feeding outside. She had come to tell me that uncle Chibuzor had called that he won’t be able to come pick me up for the vacation at his place because he was informed to fly to Kenya the next day for an emergency business meeting.
I was broken. So, it had all been a dream. Mother arranged for me to go spend the vacation at her sister’s place in the neighbouring village. Needless to say, it was gloriously boring. It was a routine of going to the farm in the morning and pounding akpu in the evening. Oh! If only uncle Chibuzor had come, my vacation would have been ideal.
Humble Ogbonna, a Diction and Phonetics Instructor with a passion for writing sent in this entry from email@example.com