Remember the first time that you were starting University? Your parents may have given you some advice on how to be a successful, trouble-free student so as to graduate with flying colours. My parents definitely gave me their fair share of advice – study hard, always go to church and join the choir if possible (even if you did not have a singing voice), do not date any boy in his first year (as it most likely would not last), avoid going for parties (that is how most students get kidnapped) and do not borrow money from anyone (because begging is not a good habit). I nodded all through the conversations and even wrote down tips on male and money management. I was looking forward to the University especially after spending six years in a boarding school. I was to start a pre-science program at Nnamdi Azikwe University (NAU) and eventually transfer to the medical school. My aunt took me to my new school; it was not in Awka as I had initially thought but instead, it was located in a remote village called Mbaukwu.
The first thing I noticed in the school compound, besides the unpainted buildings, was the rich presence of mango trees. I was a mango lover and so I quickly became friends with some guys plucking some since I was bad at throwing sticks or anything else. We completed my registration and after securing a bed space in the girls’ hostel, my aunt left back for Awka.
I got myself acquainted with my new roommates and had barely begun unpacking when we had some visitors in the room. They were “church recruiters” as I eventually named them. They had come to invite me for a fellowship on Sunday. I barely looked at their pamphlet as I rejected their offer and told them that I was an Anglican. That was when the preaching began; they told me that I needed to go to a more Bible-based church, their church was closer to campus and good for students; I needed to stop wearing trousers as it was ungodly (I was wearing one at that moment) and there was no need for a pretty girl like me to wear makeup or earrings.
I did not mean to be rude but I had to send them away from my room so that I could finish tidying up. And that was how I made my first set of ‘enemies’ on the first day of school. I also made a few female friends, most of them were like me – we wore trousers, spoke to boys in our class, listened to secular music, and never joined the campus fellowships. Of course we were not ‘bad’ people, but we must have appeared so compared to some others. One of my friends, Ruth, shared a room with one of my ‘enemies’, Joy. Joy had never spoken to me again after our first encounter in my room and even though we lived next door to each other, she would act like I was invisible whenever we crossed paths. Ruth, who was also family friends with her, told me that Joy was not very “churchy” at home but had “repented” ever since she started school. She also said that Joy had told her to stay away from me because I would lead her astray. I considered some of Ruth’s stories ludicrous and did not care much about what anyone thought of me.
It was the middle of the semester and I left school one weekend for my aunt’s place in Awka. The day I returned, Joy said hello to me on the corridor, for the first time! It felt like a miracle. I did not bother to ask why; I just assumed that she had become more tolerant of ‘sinners’. It wasn’t until the following week that I found out the reason. After saying hello to me and exchanging unusual conversations for a week, Joy finally asked me to lend her some money. Her birthday was coming soon and she had invited a few church members for dinner (of course, I was not invited). Her uncle was bringing her money but he was delayed because of an accident but she would return it by Monday (it was a Thursday). I did not think there was anything wrong with me lending money; my parents’ advice was not to borrow so I went to get her the money; all the while, Ruth was winking behind her but I was too slow to catch up. It was when Joy had left that Ruth told me that I may never get my money back but I thought she was being funny again.
The next Monday came, Joy did not return my money; so did the next Wednesday and she had not even come to explain why. So I went to her room but she said she was praying and will see me immediately after. The next day, she was in a fellowship; and by Friday, her uncle had died, with the money! With tears in her eyes, she told me that the accident had been more severe than expected and that was why she had been praying fervently. I was not sure of how to react. I tried to be sympathetic but I made it clear to her that I needed my money regardless because I had given her almost my entire cash and could not go home to ask for money again barely 2 weeks after returning. My money would come by Monday, she assured me.
On Monday, I did not find her in the hostel but I was lucky to see her in the Canteen on Tuesday morning eating bread and egg. I was infuriated because by that time, I could barely afford a meal not to talk of exotic meals such as eggs. I was beginning to feed on the compound mangoes. Hunger had incredibly improved my plucking skills and I no longer needed help; in fact the guys had started begging me to help them pluck mangoes. So it was with anger that I went to ask her to pay me what she owed me and her reaction left me in shock. After screaming at me and threatening to slap me, she packed up her meal and walked away. Slowly, Ruth’s words began to ring in my ears but I was determined to prove her wrong.
I waited patiently for the right time and it came during one of her church fellowships in her room at the weekend. I came in after knocking and asked her for my money. She said she was busy; I said that I did not care. I was not leaving her room until I got my money and neither was she leaving nor their fellowship proceeding. Eventually, they sent one of their members to gather some money from their brethren. I sat there and waited until she came back with 80% of it. They said they would bring the remaining which never came but the one I had collected was good enough for me. As I counted the money, they tried to preach to me once again; I smiled and reminded them that I was an Anglican before I walked out.
By the end of the semester, I was skinny, known as ‘the evil girl who had no respect for fellowship’, and many other rumours with my name swung around. Regardless, I stayed trouble-free; I had no serious boyfriend and I had learned much more about life on campus. In addition to my parents’ advice, I had also noted another important tip – Do not lend money that you cannot live without.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Antonio Guillem