Today is our third wedding anniversary. I looked at Pam, my adorable husband, and I couldn’t help but chuckle when I recounted how we met; how Pam and his five friends made the three-week orientation camp before the mandatory one-year National Youth Service (NYSC) scheme a blissful experience for me.

A moment laden with love, trust, understanding, and care passed as he smiled at me. I relaxed as a collage of scenes from the bus trip that happened 5 years earlier reeled through my mind.

The 10-seater jalopy bus came to a halt abruptly and I just couldn’t wait to jump out of the bus. It was obvious that I was not the only person eager to see the exhausting trip come to an end. The door was barely opened before we all scampered to leave the stuffy bus—no thanks to the infamous Katsina heat. Our haste was partly because the trip was not a pleasant one, we were all fagged out, and it was our first time stepping our tired feet in Katsina State.

I took in sight of the place where I would be spending the next three weeks, and probably eleven months if I did not seek to be relocated out of the state. The next three weeks would greatly influence that decision. I had no idea what was waiting for me, but I know fun should top the list based on stories I have heard from my friend that had attended the three-week orientation camp.

“So you are a corps member, too?” The chubby one who looked overfed and kept chattering in the bus as if he was a talking machine asked with eyes as wide as a saucer. He was visibly shocked to discover that I was a prospective corps member like him and his friends and schoolmates who had made life miserable for me during the supposed 6-hours trip which turned out to be 9 hours for several unpleasant reasons.

“Of course, I am” I replied with a smile plastered on my tired face.

“See how you just kept quiet during the trip and we all thought you had not even gone to school, and now we know that you are a graduate too” The one with the clean-shaven pate shot at me.

“What would you have done differently?” I shot back, clearly enjoying the moment.

“We would have regarded you as one and not treat you like an unschooled person like we did back in the bus?” He chided looking remorseful.

“Okay, our apologies for the fight,” the light-complexioned one whose face was way lighter than his knuckles chipped in.

“Well, the trip is over now and we can now face what is before us,” I told them.

“I told you to leave her alone, but you guys won’t listen to me,” the strikingly handsome one who stood on 6-feet plus with a very nice haircut and sideburns said with a heart-melting smile spread on his face. Of course, he had tried several times to defend me during the trip.

It was a journey filled with adventures right from the park of Plateau Riders where we—young men and women eager to serve the nation— all boarded the vehicle to Katsina State. Expectedly, eight out of the ten passengers were prospective corps members. Except for the two other passengers who sat in front, oblivious of the drama that happened in the bus or they didn’t just care.

We were all expected to book for the trip a day before to allow the management to plan based on the number of those that had booked. I had booked too, but was late to the park, and so, I missed the first bus which got filled up before the usual time because NYSC camps across the country were opened that day. There was an unusual flurry at the park that morning. The park was not used to having two buses for long-distant trips; there was no other bus available when the first one was filled up. The management had to source for a miserable-looking jalopy to embark on the second trip.

I knew we were in trouble as soon as I set my eyes on the bus, but I consoled myself with the Nigerian parlance, “Don’t mind the body, but mind the engine”. The engine turned out to be worse than the body when we set out for the 6-hour trip. It ended up being a 9-hour trip because of the incessant stop-and-fix-the car we had on the way. The stopping started barely 30 minutes into the journey and it continued until we reached our destination.

The first incidence was when we were told to step out of the bus for few minutes so that some of our luggage would be placed under the seats since we all came with lots of bags, ready for the three-week stay. I was the first in the bus and chose a place close to the window since I usually have motion sickness on long trips and needed the breeze from the window to help in alleviating my fear.

I docilely stepped out and came back to sit down when we were told to do so but found the dark-knuckled guy on my seat.

“Please, this is my seat,” I said as calmly as I could.

He ignored me as if I was invisible. I repeated my plea trying hard to keep a tight rein on my temper that was already threatening to explode.

He looked at me slowly from my feet to my head and back again and in a condescending voice said, “You better go and get another seat because I am not leaving this seat, and nobody will make me to.”

Just then, my younger brother who had come to the park with me came by the window and told the guy to leave the seat or else have him to deal with. His five friends waded in and tried to intimidate my brother and I. The driver who heard the pandemonium came toward us menacingly and told the guy to leave the seat or he wouldn’t drive us out of the park after he was told the cause of the drama. We could all forget about travelling if the guy won’t leave the seat for me.

He sulkily left the seat and glared at me before moving to the only vacant seat in the bus. Not without reminding me that he was a corps member and it’s obvious that I have not even entered university premises before. I chuckled as I was consumed with the desire to lash out at him, to tell him that I was also a graduate and was going to the same camp he was going to. I bit my tongue and held my peace.

Okon, as I later got to know his name and his friends made the trip a nightmare for me. It felt as though I was in a boxing ring with several opponents striking at the same time. Plus, the bus added to my misery as it kept breaking down after every thirty minutes, and we had to change tire twice before we got to the camp.

The other lady who was also going to the camp like us was ill and only wanted to report to camp and return to the hospital for treatment. We had to keep stopping for her as she kept puking and looked very distressed.

In their way of pacifying me and the fact that the other lady was too weak to carry her bag, the guys chivalrously helped us pick our bags when the bus that had come to convey us to the camp from the camp finally brought us to our final destination, and as we found our way to the hall where we would have to go through the rigmarole of registration.

How do you expect me to forget such a trip?

About the Writer

Roselyn Sho – Olajide works with an Audit Firm in Jos, Plateau State. She loves reading and writing and can be reached via quest4yln@gmail.com

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