“Wow! I am super excited. Finally, I am free like a bird. What a great coincidence! Today is Nigeria’s independence and here I am arriving another country, for the first time in my life. Thank you so much Jesus for putting all my enemies to shame, especially that my useless uncle and his never-do-well wife who have written us off, thinking nothing good can come out of our Babylon after they had forcefully collected all that belonged to my father and which was supposed to be passed on to us his issues after his demise. I am very sure mama’s prayers are not in vain. Am I not the one here now, in another country? Very soon now, I will cross over to the UK or America, Wendy told me it is easier to get Visa, here. That is why most Nigerians come here, spend some time here before heading to their desired destinations. I am so happy. I can’t wait to start making money so, I can send to my mother; that woman really suffered for us, her children since Papa died. I can see a bright future ahead. This is the beginning of a new dawn for me and my mother and siblings” Matilda soliloquised as she flung her hour glass body into the neatly tucked bed decorated with comfy pillows covered with well patterned designs on the cases.
The room looked so bright as it shone like crystals with the reflection of sun rays that made its way through the spotless window panes. She gazed at all the appliances in the room, a table lamp sitting on the bedside table. A well carved chair painted white fitly placed behind a table which she never knew what she needed it for, since she had not come here to study or write. She peered through the window as she heard the sound of seagulls at the beach, which was behind her apartment. She loved it here. A smile coupled with tear trickled down her cheek as she stared at the ocean waves making some silent sound that pierced through her soul. She grinned again and she wiped her face with the back of her palm and shook her head with the other hand sticking to the anti-burglary proof of the window. “so I could be in this kind of a place today?” she asked the image she saw on the mirror fixed to the wall of the room, touching her chest with her right palm as she turned away from the window.
She inspected the room from one corner to the other. She became awestruck as she opened the door of the bathroom, also painted white, the Water Closet looking sparkling white, and the bath tub was whiter than snow. She broke into tears as she remembered a day she nearly soiled her jean with excreta, when she waited for like forever to use the bathroom that served two purposes in her Agege residence. Mama Mufu refused to come out of the bathroom, after a hot plate of hot Ewa-Agonyin (Agonyin beans) that upset her stomach one afternoon.
Matilda: “Mama Mufu, come out now” She banged on the door violently holding her anus with her left hand as though that would stop the faeces from coming out.
Mama Mufu: “who is that one now? I should not poo-poo again ni? abi do I disturb anybody when they are inside the toilet ni?” She quizzed, with sounds like kpra-kpa-kpa-kpa-tah, coming out from the toilet that residents of almost fifty shared in the densely populated compound.
Matilda: “Mama Mufu, this is not nice o. you know sey my belle dey turn me, and I no too dey use this toilet, and you don dey inside this toilet for more than 20 minutes now. Whetin u dey shit sef? Abi you dey born all your pikin there?” this stirred Mama Mufu up, she quickly washed her anus with the little quantity of water she managed to get in the kettle and stormed out of the bathroom like a raging fire.
Mama Mufu: “so, na me you dey talk to like that abi? I no blame you, na so all ibo be, una no get respect at all. I be your mate?’ she asked, raising one leg up, loosening and tying her wrapper, ready to pick a fight. Matilda, however, was not ready for her drama this afternoon, she shoved her off to one side, and bent under Mama Mufu’s spread legs to find her way into the cubicle called bathroom.
Matilda tried to erase all these memories from her head, but they kept coming. “How could I forget all these” she thought, several times, and smiled as she shut the door of the bathroom in her Gambian flat. The room smelled nice as Matilda breathed heavily sniffing her nose as though she was perceiving some aroma from a deliciously prepared Jollof rice. The knock on her room door, brought her back to life, then she realised she was still on the third planet and not some kind of paradise.
“Hello! Anybody in?” A lady knocked on her door.
Matilda: “yes, hold on” she replied, wondering who the uninvited and unknown visitor was, it was her first day and she had hardly settled in. Her friend, Wendy was out of town. She only arranged for a taxi driver to pick her up from the Banjul International Airport (She was still looking around at the arrival wing of the airport, when she spotted a dark skinned guy, raising a yellow cardboard above his head with the inscription: MATILDA OKEKE, boldly written in block letters. She marvelled as she saw her name and waved at the guy, who also helped her with her luggage.
Matilda: “is this how they do at airport? Writing names on the cardboard? Hmmm, I am getting to know more sha” she soliloquised as the taxi driver walked up to her after she had waved at him from afar.
Taxi Driver: “Are you Matilda Okeke?’ He asked, pointing to the inscription on the cardboard, pronouncing the Igbo name with his thick Wolof accent.
Matilda: “Yes I am” she replied, smiling broadly.
Cab Man: okay, I am Bello. Bello Camara. But people call me Bell Cam” He introduced himself stretching forth his hand for a handshake.
Matilda: “okay, nice meeting you Bell Cam”. She replied, stretching her hand to shake the black skinned Mandinka guy.
Bello: “your friend, Wendy, asked me to pick you up from the airport to the guest house. She is out of town on an official assignment”
Matilda: “yes, she had told me before I left Lagos that she would not be able to come pick me from the airport. Thanks”
Bello: “okay, shall we?” He asked, pointing to the direction of the car park. In few minutes Bello zoomed out of the airport, travelling on the dusty Gambian road. Matilda did not wind the glass up even though the taxi was engulfed in a cloud of dust. She peeped through the door to have a glimpse of the ancient country of the much talked about Kinta Kinte. She opened her mouth as she saw arrays of butchered cattle, hung on sticks by the dusty roadside to dry up under the scorching sun of the smiling coast.
Bello: “hmmm, it seems you like the place?” he broke the silence after he had sensed the amazement on the face of his passenger.
Matilda: “hmmm, I am short of words now. Don’t know what to say” she replied, smiling.
Bello: “don’t worry, you will like it here, especially where I am taking you to. Gambia is a nice country, with good people, no stress, no pressure. Everybody, Christians, Muslims, we are all one” He said boastfully.
Matilda: “okay”. She replied, still looking fixedly at the dusty road.
In about two hours’ time, they arrived at the beach house at Fajara.
Bello: ‘okay, here we are, madam” he said, as he pulled over in front of a house that looked more like a palace to Matilda. She stepped out of the yellow painted taxi, held the door with one hand as she raised her jaw up, staring at the beautiful palace called house in the Fajara area of the Gambia. She looked back as a small breeze swept across her face. She quickly adjusted her flowing floral patterned mini gown raised by the wind blowing. She wondered if she was on the island as the breeze was cooler and the environment, much serener compared to Agege. No noise, no honking of vehicles. It was a perfect example of serenity. She tried to fight back the tear that trickled down her cheek as Bello broke the silence.
Bello: “okay, Madam, let’s go inside, this is the key to your room” He said, waving the key to her face.
Matilda: “okay, thank you” She replied, as she swallowed the saliva hanging between her dried throat.
She quickly forced her swollen feet into the flat leather slippers she had bought in Agege Pen Cinema market before she proceeded on her journey to the Gambia to open the door for whom she never knew.
Matilda: “yes, I am coming. Hold on”. She replied after another round of knock on the door from outside. “Yes, good afternoon” she greeted the lady in her early twenties who had come to say hello to her.
Lady: “hi, welcome”.
Matilda: “hmm, thanks”. She replied, feigning a smile, as she wondered what the lady had come to do in her flat.
Lady: “I am Bukayo”
Matilda: “oh, that’s nice” she replied, smiling broadly and feeling at home as she had seen a fellow Nigerian. She welcomed the lady into her flat.
Bukayo: “yes, thank you. Your room is nice” she said as she helped herself to the chair in front of the dressing mirror on the wall.
Matilda: “oh, thank you so much. You are Bukayo right?”
Matilda: “wow! It’s even good. I have a fellow Nigerian to move with here in Gambia”
Bukayo: “I am not a Nigerian” she replied casually, beating Matilda’s imagination.
Matilda: “you are not a Nigerian?” she asked looking startled.
Bukayo: “no, I am not. I am a Gambian”
Matilda: “but, how come you are answering a Yoruba name, which is a major ethnic group in Nigeria?”
Bukayo: “Gambians too answer such names. The Akus in Gambia” she replied, while Matilda opened her mouth widely, yet to understand what the lady was driving at. “Okay, never mind, with time you will understand. I am a student in university of the Gambia. I am studying medicine” she introduced herself further.
Matilda: ‘oh I see” she replied, still looking bewildered, as she nodded her head back and forth. “I am here, waiting for my friend, Wendy”
Bukayo: “oh, Ms Wendy?” she asked, pointing her index finger backward.
Matilda: “yes, Wendy. You know her?” she asked, looking so curious.
Bukayo: “of course, I know her very well. She is a big lady” she replied, chuckling
Matilda: “yes, she is a very close friend of mine since our secondary school days back in Nigeria before she moved to the Gambia some years ago.
Buakyo: “hmmmm, okay. I thought you are also one of the girls that work for her.
Matilda: “no, I just came in today. This is my first time here”. She replied, smiling.
Bukao: “okay, if you don’t mind, can we go on a stroll to the beach?” she requested.
Matilda jumped to the offer, and followed her to the Fajara beach which is right behind the house they stayed.
Matilda: “I like it here” She screamed on top of her voice for Bukayo to hear her well as the sound of the ocean waves consumed their voices.
Bukayo: “yes, I like seeing the beach too” She replied as they sat in the chairs in a restaurant on the beach, ordering two plates of benechin.
Matilda: “what is this?” She asked, scrutinising the plate of small grains of rice in front of her, garnished with grilled tilapia fish and boiled garden egg and lime fruit.
Bukayo: “it is benechin. It is very nice. Eat it. You will love it.
Matilda: “hmmmm, na wa o. make person no go chop whetin go run person belle” she grumbled.
Bukayo: “Matilda, there is something I would like to tell you, but after the meal” she spoke as she uncorked the bottle of chilled soft drink on the table.
Question: Could this truly be the beginning of a new dawn for Matilda and family?
SEE Episode 2 Below…(You Don’t Wanna Miss This!)… Adelove Stories… Premier Naija Inspirational Blog!
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY NIGERIA!!!