Laide, my elder sister had called to inform me that she’d be needing my assistance for just a term in one of her biggest client schools in Abuja.
All my life I had lived with mom and her in our little town of Badagry, a town at the outskirt of Lagos. Badagry is the border town between Nigeria and Benin Republic and because of our close proximity to the francophone nation, it was quite easy for some of us to learn their languages. I could speak English, Yoruba, French and Ewe fluently and then started off my career as a French Language instructor immediately after my secondary school joining my sister who had already been doing it.
She however decided to move to Abuja in search of a greener pasture, while working in a few schools as a part-time French instructor, she was also studying at the National Open University of Nigeria in order to get a degree that would further propel her career in the education sector.
Being a shy and reserved person, I found it difficult leaving my comfort zone and with the spirit of contentment, I was happy teaching French language in a few schools around Badagry. My sister, due to her dexterity and impeccable prowess when it comes to speaking and teaching French language quickly got a number of schools over there and for about a zillion times she had tried to make me come over but I was reluctant and wasn’t ready to leave Badagry.
This time however, her plea was more desperate; two terms ago she had gotten a very big school in Wuse, Abuja and had been teaching French language there as a part-time instructor together with another person whom she employed to assist her because the students were much.
However, the lady just put to bed and wouldn’t be available for at least a term, knowing how competitive Abuja was and how she could easily lose the school to other French teaching firms or teachers, she had to plead with me to help her out for just the new term until her partner resumes.
‘Would I fit in’? I wondered. I had lived in this little town my entire life and presently teach in local schools with chalk on a black board carved on the walls of classrooms. How would I cope teaching ajebo children whose parents are very rich, teaching them with white board markers and projectors.
‘Don’t worry’ Laide had said, ‘You would get used to those things real quick as I did when I first moved there’. I knew she was saying that as a means just to make me accept. I empathized with her situation and then halfheartedly decided to agree to her request. ‘Afterall, there’s nothing falling from the sky that the earth can not accommodate’ I said to myself.
It was about a week to resumption that she came to pick me up. I had called the proprietors of the schools I taught in order to inform them of my being away for just a term with the promise of returning before the beginning of another term.
We got to Abuja and my sister used the whole week in teaching me how to adapt to the new school environment and system that I would soon be exposed to. She had managed to buy some modest shirts, trousers, and a jacket including a new pair of brown leather shoes with vMade in Italy’ inscribed in it. Of course, I knew it was made in Aba – the hustling hub of Nigeria.
I was already anxious, the prospect of starting in a new environment totally different from what I had known made my intestines form a knot in my stomach. ‘Would I be able to fit it’? I thought again. ‘Well, it’s just for a term and that would be all’ I reassured myself and then managed to go to bed.
Morning came rather quickly and quickly dressed up. Laide handed over to me a bottle of perfume. Fufufafafufufufafafafa, I was applying the perfume with all seriousness.
‘Haa! It’s okay o. Do you intend choking everybody with the smell’? My sister shouted. I stopped and together we headed for school. Our cab halted in front of the school and we got down. In front of me was a majestic structure, a gigantic edifice! ‘Aunty Laide’ I called to her in awe, ‘Is this a primary school or a university’? I asked with my mouth wide open. I was already intimidated by a building – a nonliving thing.
‘It’s a primary school, Segun’ she said smiling back at me. ‘Don’t be nervous, you’d get used to everything inside ‘.
My palms were already sweaty and my heart was beating fast but her words managed to put a calm in me. Parents were dropping their kids off at school in exotic cars and I could hear some of the kids bragging with their friends about where they spent the last holiday.
‘I went to Spain’
‘We stopped at California’
‘My family spent three weeks in London’
‘Have you seen the Burj Khalifa in Dubai’?
Words such as those were flying in the air from the mouths of these young lads. ‘Are these the kids I am about to teach’? I asked no one in particular.
We made our way into the school building and saw a few teachers, about six of them waiting for the bell to be jingled for the general assembly. They were all in well ironed suits and nearly polished shoes, with their appearance, one could mistaken them for top officials in a bank. Lade had told me that the dressing was important because of the calibre of parents whose kids were attending the school. She also said that quite a number of them as Masters degree holders while a few others have their BSc which was why she had to get a degree too which she did, but there was I, a local teacher with an only an SSCE result in their midst. I literally felt out of place.
‘Is this the person you told us about’? a teacher asked.
‘Yes, he is. He would be assisting me until Abigail returns’ my sister responded.
‘Bonjour tout le monde, je m’appelle Segun’ I managed to say in order to create a good first impression.
Just then a fair lady came out excitedly from one of the classes and was running towards my sister, they seemed to be close. They hugged and had a cheek kiss on both cheeks. She then came towards me, I stretched my hand for a shake but is seemed she was coming for a hug and cheek kiss too.
‘My world! Is this even okay? What would I do’? I thought to myself. I had never done that with anybody, a hug and a cheek kiss? Never. ‘Should I first go to the left or to the right’? I wondered. In a split second, I decided to go to the left but only ended up smashing my face against hers with my lips touching hers. I could hear the chuckles of the other teachers including the kids who were going into their classes. I could see the embarrassment I had caused her written all over her face. At that moment, I would have willingly bargained with the ground to open up and swallow me.
I could not imagine how I was able to survive that whole term after the incident. I’m now at home in my local town teaching the local kids in our local schools how to speak the French language but whenever I think about it that incident was actually awkwardest situation I had ever been in allthe years that I had spent on mother earth.
Humble Ogbonna, a Diction and Phonetics Instructor with a passion for writing sent in this entry from email@example.com