FRANQUE’S FRIDAY: Homecomin’

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“Driver, o ga apu na Afor-Oghe.” I said to alert the bus driver of my desire to alight at Afor-Oghe.

I could see that some level of development had reached this place, yet it still looked very familiar – at least I did not need an orange or mango tree landmark to know where I was.

I took an Okada home since I knew exactly where I was going, and the scenery flew by in a blur: tall grasses on either side of the road covered in red dust, and even taller bamboo stalks interspersed with orange and udala trees the leaves of which were coated in a thin film of the same red dust; old houses of red bricks with rusted corrugated zinc roofs, and modern houses with colourful aluminium roofing sat side by side dotting the landscape; the people we passed as they strode purposefully, trudged wearily or skipped happily along (usually the children) had more than the shiny and sometimes threadbare clothes on their backs in common, they had their smile. No matter in what direction they faced, they turned, waved, smiled and called out a greeting and I responded in kind.

Nothing so far prepared me for the next few hours; nothing prepared me for the next couple of days.

Ahead in the distance I saw the big white and black house the sat smack in the middle of the road with paths veering off to left and right of it. Built in the early 1900s, it was, in its own way, a feat of architecture. It stood as high as a storey building with wide steps running up the front and down the back. It was without a ground floor, just the long flight of steps leading to the verandah and past that to a passage lined with rooms on either side. Around the outside walls just under each window protrudes a cement bulb like a water pot lying on its side. These seemed to grow from the walls and added to the overall beauty of house, like jigida beads round the waist of a fair maiden.

At the sight of this house, the memories came crashing in, flooding my head and threatening to drown me.

I remembered misty mornings walking single file with my cousins Ugo, Chika, Okey and Ferdi (memories of his mother yelling “Nandi! Nandi ooo!!” still makes me chuckle because for a long time I thought his name was Nnamdi. It was years later I realised it was her shortened version of Ferdinand).  We would walk single file through bush paths till we got to Ife-agu, a bush clearing, where we would then take up posts to do our morning toilets or ‘bush attack’ as we called it. The smell of foliage and shit strong in the air, assailing the nostrils;

I remembered mornings spent up on the verandah of that building playing any number of games, from racing udala seeds to racing bottle tops; cracking walnuts to twirling cassava leaves on the index finger to see who could do so the longest.  Every game had more than pride riding on it. I guess I was a gambler even before I knew what gambling was;

I remembered breakfast of big cups of Ovaltine or Bournvita with Carnco milk and Unicorn sugar, thick slices of bread spread with Planta margarine. I would dunk chunks of bread in hot beverage, the drink running down my hand, and when I attempted to lick the drink off my arm, I would lose the soggy bread in the process. With a spoon I  fished bread out of my cup with the oil of the margarine floating and swirling in the drink;

I remembered the horror of bathing in the morning with the cold gnawing on my bones. My aunt always had a kettle of water on the fire, but even with the steam rising out of the pail of water, the water was never hot enough – plus I have always hated bathing.  Standing on the slab of rock behind the house, I would hold my breath just before the water hit and usually would run a few feet before returning to the slab, that was till the day I slipped on the wet red earth and fell. After that I just stood on the slab and hopped from foot to foot. Rafia sponge would scrub from head to feet covering me in a thick lather and leaving only my eyes and mouth free, and sometimes even that got soap as I would not stop talking;

I remembered drinking the coldest water out of water pots lining the sides of the house. The pots were usually covered with trays on which usually sat an aluminium who-send-you cup. A cup so big your face was easily swallowed by the rim when you drank. There was a format to drawing water out of these pots: the bottom of the cup is gently dragged across the face of the water to draw any floating debris to one side as if to part a curtain or veil before the lip of the cup is gently dipped in to draw water and, as gently lifted out with a palm under the cup to catch any drips or drops, these are first sucked off the fingers before taking lips to the cup itself. No matter how low the level of water, you never strike the bottom of the pot lest you disturb what lay there: a mire poix of larvae and algae;

I remembered sitting in the kitchen in front of the fire, a fire started with firewood and akwu kindling, these palm fruit husks were very flammable and very precious stuff. Then there was a sprinkling of kerosine (krezin), a matchstick and blowing, either with the mouth or akupe, the hand fan of woven palm fronds;

I remembered squatting in front of the fire roasting corn, not the freshly plucked off the stalk kind, no. These were last season’s hanging from the kitchen rafters, the husks yellowed with age and the maize grains hard. One of my sisters, usually Flesh, would either roast groundnuts in the earthen bowl, or crack palm kernels with a huge rock on the upturned mortar, a mortar the bottom of which became dimpled – my first dimpled backside;

I remembered the bowl of abacha and azu fridge or ice fish with small green añala adding colour to the platter. The crunching when you bit into these tiny garden eggs, their slightly bitter taste in contrast with the savoury one of the abacha, the aroma of freshly plucked peppers or the flavour of crushed, roast dried peppers, the smell and taste of palmwine as it coursed it’s way down my throat and trickled out my mouth…;

I remembered nightfall coming early to the village. The lanterns and bush lamps were lit around 6pm when the fowls made their way home to the cage in the kitchen that was more to protect them from wild cats than imprison them. With the wooden shutters closed, the house is engulfed in a darkness so thick, it almost has a texture. And once the door was locked, nobody went out before the cock crew the next morning – not even to pee. There was a po, or potty as I hear it is called now, for that purpose;

I remembered lying on the mattress of the top bunk of the double decker and played back the day’s activities, while tingling with anticipation of what the next day would bring. I remembered the cock’s crowing announcing daybreak. I remembered things from my childhood that seemed to just lie before my eyes. I almost reached out to touch these memories so vivid, but the okada bouncing off a pothole brought me back to the present.

I remembered Heath Ledger’s character in the movie “A knight’s tale” asking his father what if he didn’t remember his way home, and his father saying “Follow your feet.” Back then I thought it an odd reply. Not anymore.

“Driver, o ga apu na Afor-Oghe” I said, looking out the window.

I could see that some level of development had reached my corner of the world, yet it still looked very familiar – at least I did not need an orange or mango tree landmark to know where I was. I do not go home to the village often, I had not been here in years, and yet here I was at the bus stop by myself!

PS: Lest I make this about myself, it really is about my sister who got married recently. She was the reason for my return home.

Let’s just say she has successfully changed her name and home address, but I do not consider it a loss, no. For in her doing so, I gained a brother.

I pray God blesses their union and may they make each other happier together than anyone else can make them apart.

Guys get to work and make me an uncle o. You know I love you, but I must come for omugwo soon UTUNU.

Franque

Franque

"Franque is in aviation, which by the way is not his job, just a lifestyle. If he ever kept a diary it would read like his articles will. Unfortunately he doesn't. Scratch that. He didn't.AIRtiquette is a walk in his shoes. Since regular isn't in his vocabulary, brace yourself for a bit of airwalking!" Follow @franque_521 on twitter.

35 comments

  1. Awwww Franque!!!! Such vivid descriptions mehn. I could feel and see everything u described soooo clearly! Thumbs Up!! Great Read I must say!!!! Choi!

    Here’s wishing your sister the best of the best in her marriage, and wishing u the cutest niece or nephew soonest!:*

  2. Ahn ahn, matelly, how did you beat me to it???
    I wish I had village tales to tell. My memories are so faint as it was my great grand ma that often took us to the village. She died when I was 5, and her mother the next year. As my grandma lived and worked in the city, there was no ‘homecoming’ till much later. Now when we go, everyone’s a ‘big girl/boy’ too much formings. But I have fun tho. Infact, I just may go christmas…
    Congrats to your sis… I like how u decided (just at the end) not to make this about you, lol…
    iv decided to have bread and tea, just how you’ve described it, for breakfast :).

  3. Wow I actually could smell the dust and harmattan(villa associated smells) great great writing skills n congrats n HML to flesh!! Na u we dey look o! Hurry up and do ur own

  4. Farouk! Thanks for doing this piece for our lovely sister flesh, I know herself and nnama are made for each other…as for making u an uncle soon? Hehehehehe, sooner than u think(wink) I love you bro and happy birthday, since you were in senegal and unreachable. God bless the clan.

  5. Hey family, it’s d Friday after my birthday and iReally must thank all of you for the birthday wishes on BB twitter n facebook. iWas laughin lyk a hyena n grinnin lyk a cat @ d same tym. iSpent the day in Dakar surrounded by plenty love. The high point for me was not the cake, or the presents. It was the absence of all those annoyin acronyms in ur wishes. Thanx guys for comin correct.
    On to today:
    @ Mateelly n Jazz: joint 1st place;
    @ Mateelly: The problem with villages now is dat we don’t have enough of them anymore. They’ve become urbanised, which is good. But then again…
    @ Jazz: here’s to ur not gettin me…
    @ Nena: methinks only one hu lived it can tell it. Thanx for ur kind words;
    @ BumbleBee: Sexual? iDon’t think so o… In my head iSee ur name n iThink Yellow n black, n no, not the Molue variety;
    @ Nengie: iDo hope u enjoy ur tea dat way, tho bein in camp u may get committed to the sick bay for observation. As for villa tinz, we have too many children willin to stone dia fadas, the rest r just transFORMERS without oil wells o. Such a weiste! Axe Eva, Basketmouth, Chigurl
    @ Everyone_else: Next week we will do an exercise 2geda. But only if u want to

  6. *sighs* I miss my village (my mom’s that is). Too bad we aren’t going this year.

    Congratulations to your sis. God will bless her & her husband with a joyous & a fruitful marriage.

    Erm *scratches head* Franque, it’s you we’re waiting for sha.

  7. I said I must read this one before my usual morning runs and I’m glad I did. You had me almost falling down at “kresin”. Your knack for being so descriptive that a person who has never been there could imagine being there is astounding. Since I have ACTUALLY been to that village, I am even more floored at how aptly you described everything. The rounded pots like jigida beads on a maiden’s waist? Dude, I bow! #BriefMomentOfBeef# See this is why I get discouraged, because there are people like you who write stuff like this that make mine seem like a two-year old wrote it #MomentOfBeefOver#
    Beautiful work as usual coz and don’t worry, your sis will give you even more adorable nieces and nephews. ISEEEEEEEEE!

  8. @ Schatz: U still dey look me? Did u not read my newyear resolution post? Abeg o;
    @ Kay: Dunno how it works, but that cup with the design runnin round d middle always seemed to make the water cooler n sweeter;
    @ ibetapssmynebo: yes o. iRemembered when iWoulda become a local champion if iHad not been presented with a different fork in the path that’s my life;
    @ lolly: Maybe very soon iWill do sum’n for us city slickers;
    @ Big mama: iShould come and visit soon.

  9. Dis sure brings up some memories,I miss my village,my grandparents and cousins. I wish I can turn d hands of time. Thanks Franque for this,twas worth every bit of my time.

  10. I can see myself right in the middle of everything you described in this piece…..there’s no word for now to describe your work Franque…you are just out of this world! May your sister’s new home be her home forever. x

  11. Congrats to your sis.
    Lovely write up. I remember the water pots too, my grandma still uses it. But too much city girl forming won’t let me enjoy village life anymore 🙁

  12. I can relate! Esp the part about Abacha! Its still one of my favourites 😀 i miss those days, climbing trees, going round d village to greet ‘uncles’ on chrismas day in our best clothes, sleeping outside in the Iba with my cousins…n even taking off my clothes to play cos the other children didn’t wear proper clothes *sigh*

  13. Dis,’I would lose the soggy bread in the process. With a spoon I  fished bread out of my cup with the oil of the margarine floating and swirling in the drink’ was just 2 hilarious cos I cld really relate wit it.
    Wonderful write up, 2 vivid 4 words..

  14. I can practically relate with almost all of this. *sighs with eyes closed* u make d words just leap off the pages. Congrats to your sister

  15. Wow! This is the very life I knew as I was growing,nothing less. Pls write a book,Franque,maybe short stories. It’ll be a bestseller and I’ll buy loads for my friends and family.
    Congrats to your sister,I love the fact that you realise you gained a brother,not lost a sister. Great one.

  16. This brought back plentttyyy memories of Christmas spent in my mum’s village. Wonderful memories of days gone by. Your telling of it was very vivid too. I coulda sworn I was there :).
    Congrats to your sis too. I saw the dps and wondered.

  17. @ M.E: Hey coz, u kno iDoff my hat to ur writin EVERY single time. Thanx for ur really cool words;
    @ alibaba: Thank u sah;
    @ sara_taffy: iSee u. Bless ur heart;
    @ Lorlah: She will hear;
    @ amaka: we will think back to our past while livin our present in the hope that we will hav an equally memorable future to hand our children, abi?
    @ HRS_cindy: but u read where iDescribed u nau. We sure did live those days;
    @ MaBijo: no formin dey for here o. Whyl iDidn’t drink from the water pot this tym, iBathed from the tin tank and iron pail;
    @ Kay: we will pretend dat we don’t know dat ur current address is a village;
    @ Tobi!!!: u really did live the life. Doin d Christmas rounds was our version of trick or treatin;
    @ nengie: Hope u r feelin better now;
    @ temmie: glad for how many of us still remember;
    @ Uk: but ofcos. Howzit goin, this NYSC?
    @ Village Maiden: iKno that there r words for those. Hopefully one day it will become clear to me;
    @ Passerby: Thank you more for readin n postin ur comment too;
    @ engy phyxa: Pls pray for me to be serious about writin this book o. It’s draggin due laziness and indiscipline;
    @ Olaedo: We kno what we kno, ryt? *wink*
    @ Kk: You r welcome. Just do n visit again. That there is the life.

  18. We really need peepz like u to always point us to d fact that a lot has changed from childhood to present… *kresin got me… *po, I miss that word n if not for u, not sure I will mention in public(since people pretend they don’t know the meaning anyway)… There is nothing like villages again joor… All na upcoming urban area…

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