After all the struggles in camp, we were thrown into what seemed like the real world. I remember going to my place of primary assignment with a simple intent - getting a rejection letter.
I could still do NYSC but in a more familiar place, I reassured myself severally.
When I got there, everything changed. I went with a group of others that were posted to the same place as myself and during our journey there, they made me feel like part of something I was certainly going to miss. One of the guys particularly watched out for me. While I was busy trying to construct my speech in a way that I believed was certainly going to fetch me my rejection letter, this dude looked me in the face and told me that it wasn't what I wanted. "Why don't you just give it a try?" "Do you know how many people would give an arm and a leg to be posted to a Federal Medical Centre in the state's capital?" He asked. I was moved that someone cared that much. While I felt like I was going to get the rejection letter to search for a public health role (which was obviously not going to make sense in Ogun state), in a city more promising which I believed was what I really needed, I knew right there that I wasn't in Ogun state by mistake and I immediately stopped trying. The lady told me there was no way they were going to reject me anyways "Leave her, she doesn't know she is the only one for her department. We actually needed more," she said.
By the time my uncle called again later in the day and I told him I was staying, he was shocked. "All you needed to do in Abeokuta was the camp. You do not need to stay in Abeokuta. You can relocate. The options are enormous."
And again, I told him, even more convinced than ever that I was staying.
My mum called. "How will you cope? You do not know anyone there."
"I'll be fine." I wasn't sure how tho.
"I'll be fine." My response was now automatic.
Every member of my family wanted me to relocate. They couldn't imagine why I even entertained the idea of staying. The only positive person was my boyfriend. He called all through, it felt like he was right there with me. He was optimistic, it was so contagious. I got my mind prepped, thanks to my peeps (family) who know just how to be supportive. I won them over. I decided to go prep myself physically. I decided to go out and look for a house. A place good enough to cushion some of my fears and provide something worthy enough to be called a home. My sad discovery while at it? The people of Abeokuta are not so welcoming to foreigners. Well, perhaps because I had a yardstick for measurement. I know how my people treat foreigners. It was very different from what I was faced with. However, I will revert this to a postulation that needs confirmation. And it is this "The people of Abeokuta are not warm to foreigners/corpers instantly, but they can be nice when they get to know you". The reason why I decided to rephrase that was because I met some great people at work. My colleagues, senior colleagues and the *HOD did not treat me like I was some "foreigner". They were actually very nice. Still, I will not give it to them totally because I know how corpers in my place would talk about people always offering to help them with one thing or the other. I did not have that by the way, I was strictly on my own, except for my fellow corpers who understood the need to form bonds and try to be there for each other. And I do not want to count the help offered by the guys in my compound as those with good intentions at all. Those do not count.
And my fourth lesson would be a confirmation of one of the credos I live by. There is a time to be soft and a time to be firm. And firm this time meant I needed to be armoured.
... to be continued
*HOD - Head of Department