this is what adventure looks like



On the bike, your heart kept pounding. You had wanted a little bit of adventure and this was it. Everything happening looked like a pre-kidnap situation. Aunty Faith was no longer talking to you on the bike and she felt a little bigger from where she sat behind you in the little space you shared with the bike rider. You swallowed hurriedly, getting adrenaline ready just in case, while rehearsing Psalm 23 in your head as the bike jetted through the woods. The few painted buildings, large churches and schools with iron roofs gave way to the forest, and you began to see thick-trunked trees with lush green canopies. And if you looked beneath them, you would see thatch-roofed round huts.

** ** **

And on talking to the bike man in the Tiv language, Aunty Faith mentioned a mango tree, and on looking,  under a mango tree were women waiting to welcome you. One of them was a very old woman with wrinkled skin, the other looked like she was Aunty Faith’s mother. In their eyes were curiosity and a certain kindness that dispelled your thoughts of being kidnapped. 

You told your face to smile, and the necessary muscles made sure you presented a harmless demeanour to these women, as you tried to remember the proper greetings. 

“What am I going to say?” You asked Aunty Faith and the bike rider because all your Tiv vocabulary had been whipped off you by the wind as you transitioned from town to village. 

U pande vee,”

U pande vee,” You said unconvincingly while bending at the knees like a proper Yoruba girl, after an initial attempt at “U nder vee” which meant good morning. It was almost 1 pm, and it became a consistent error, as everyone who heard that Aunty Faith’s kopa friend was around wanted to say a greeting, and met with a wrong answer every time until all of you became comfortable to laugh about it. 

Aunty Faith had you sit on the big blue plastic chair that was probably her father’s. Feeling foreign like the British that came to colonize Nigeria, you sat in the peacefulness of the simple environment.

The beach-like sand had been swept in a swirl-like pattern with an unusual broom you saw outside of the houses in the family house cluster. It looked like slender branches of old tees dried up and bundled together. Even the sky was beautiful, maybe because there were not a lot of things to block your full view of the expanse. The extended family cluster was several round huts belonging to members of the extended family. And just in your line of view, was the hut belonging to Aunty Faith’s grandma.

“Doose!” the woman Aunty Faith had identified as her mother called. Aunty Faith was Doose. You watched as Aunty Faith who had changed into a comfortable house-wear walked around the large compound. When she brought a wooden table before you, you knew you were about to be served something you could eat. Scratch that, you thought you were in for a feast. But no, it was the appetizer and your first meal of the day. You were thirsty and hungry enough not to act like the typical visitor when Doose reappeared with two plates. One had diagonally cut roasted yellow yams and the other had blanched palm oil with fresh slices of onions.

In another man's land episode 5

Is it that yellow yam we saw in the market?” You asked your hostess. As you passed by the shortcuts in the market, some bumpy-shaped tuber with skin thinner than yam’s had fascinated you. She had called it “yellow yam”.

“No, it is not. That one is usually very yellow,”

Is it bitter?” You asked. There was a yam you ate at home, a bitter yam called esuru. It came in white, not yellow. 

“Yes, it is a little bit bitter, I don’t like it. She said, picking up a piece of yam, dipping it in oil and eating it with a slight grimace. She must really dislike the bitter yam.

When you had eaten the yams to your fill, Doose cleared the table and your eyes resumed their roaming the beautiful scenery. And just like the previous day, grey clouds were in the sky, refusing to pour the well-anticipated rain. Wells were drying up in Zaki Biam. The abokis who pushed kegs of borehole water on cartwheels were hardly seen outside. If you were able to catch up with one, he would sell a keg of water at 200 naira with plenty shakara. Water became a luxury and all eyes were on the skies. The dark clouds teased you mercilessly for days as they refused to pour down rain.

Bored, you tried to help with the cooking. Doose was in the kitchen—another thatch-roof hut but with its walls licked up by flames and soot. Trying to get the full experience, you really wanted to stay in the kitchen and bear the smoke coming from the firewood while Doose prepared the food, but she shooed you out, back to your high chair with ugwu leaves and a knife in a tray. You were hardly done slicing it when the clouds turned darker and the rain started to fall with pent-up fury. 

God had answered everyone’s prayer and the farmers were probably jubilating at the moment. Churches had held vigils and marathon fasts for showers of blessing. You hurriedly drop the vegetables in the kitchen and you get ushered into the hut Doose shared with her mother. It was your first time in one of the huts. But this one had two small sliding windows and inside it was a fully furnished room. A soft sitting room chair was sitting comfortably at a corner of the round huts and the bed just opposite was as high as the popular Big Brother bread. As the rain poured heavily outside, you were alone in this rich hut. Doofan was still in the kitchen, preparing the pounded yam and vegetables in the pounding rain.

After a few minutes of taking the room in, thunder started striking and the earth’s foundation seemed to be shaking. Thunder after thunder and you started thinking about how this happened to be your first experience of rain in the year. A hut you had supposed was threadbare was keeping you safe and dry from the torrents of rain. Your mind wandered for a while but when the thunder after lightning refused to cease, you closed your eyes to reduce the impact of the shakings on your mind.

You woke up to two big bowls of warm pounded yam and vegetables with a large smoked catfish curled up in it. And Aunty Faith sat in front of it, closed her eyes, saying “Let us pray”, drawing your attention from the food. If she had wanted you poisoned, it would have been a walk in the park, because you had your first morsel of the soft pounded yam in your hands. The yam being soft was either because she knew how to pound so well, or because the yam was so fresh. 

With only one battery-powered torch in the darkness, you discussed random topics over the food. It was no longer about getting you to her house, it was about plans for the future. If you were looking for proof that two people can always build a special relationship over food, this was it. Afterwards, she asked you if you wanted to bathe and you jumped at the opportunity. You hardly bathed satisfactorily before this time because of the scarcity of water. And now that the rain had poured, you wanted to feel the water on your skin. 

Doose fetched a big paint bucket full and took it to the outdoor bathroom for you. Above the rectangular bathroom, was a big mango tree. And as you pour the water over yourself, drops of rainwater tap off the mango leaves unrhythmically onto your skin. And peace washed over you like a river. At the moment, nothing else mattered. You were glad you had accepted Doose’s invite.

Before you left for home, with your stomach so full you had no thoughts for dinner, Doose had you go greet her father. The man, with his hands in his own meal in the main uncompleted red brick house, looked at you keenly.

“Doose is my son,” He started and you understood that he meant daughter instead.

He continued. “You are welcome here anytime you like. I am a traveller and I know what it is to be a stranger. So, you can come here anytime you feel stranded.”

You nodded as you listened to this man who seemed to understand some of your difficulties in another man’s land. 

“My name is Big T, anytime you come, ask for Big T. And when you are going back home after your service year, make sure you visit. Doose is my son…” His voice trailed off as he took another morsel of his food. The man loved his daughter absolutely and was very proud of her. His small speech screamed “I can do anything for you because of my daughter” Fathers are said to be very loving of their daughters, but this show topped the charts of all you’d seen in your lifetime.

“You can go.” He said, focusing on his food. And as you stepped out of the room, Doose’s mother said something and started laughing. You looked cluelessly at her and then at Doose.

“She asked if you would marry my brother” And you all laughed together. The said boy had tried to strike up a conversation with you earlier but looked disappointed when you confirmed that you were not Tiv. 

Another interpretation scenario happened when you were ready to leave and as a parting word, Doose’s mother called out something you didn’t understand.

“She said, ” See you tomorrow!” Doose said excitedly as she escorted you to get a Keke back to the family house and there was another round of laughter. Doose’s mother had an unmatched sense of humour. 

Your 3-hour visit had changed you completely. Never would you look at those round huts the same way again. Doose’s life was rich and she was surrounded by love from her family. And you berated yourself for having thoughts of being kidnapped by her. Doose unconsciously built trust between you, she had brought pictures of herself to keep you occupied and they were mostly of her in church. Her emotional intelligence was also top-notch. She wouldn’t let you eat anything at her house that she wouldn’t eat out of. As you waved Doose goodbye, you made a mental note to visit again whenever you were overwhelmed and needed to unwind. This time, you wouldn’t think twice before getting on a bike.

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