Friday, September 16, 2005

Back to Lagos and NYSC Matters

Europe was great! At least, what we saw of it. We ended our trip in London and stayed in a very posh hotel in South Kensington which was a really great way to cap off what had been a very fun trip.

Since we arrived back in Lagos, we have been extremely busy. The day after we returned, we had to go to Abuja to pick up our NYSC call-up letters. Graduates of foreign universities have to pick up their letters personally from Abuja, to make sure that they really plan on serving out the year in the country. Personally, I'm not sure how that deters people from jetting out of the country for the entire service year, but there you have it.

Two days later, we had to go to the NYSC camp in Iyana Ipaja to register. We got there around 11am, which was later than we had planned to get there. There were so many people at the camp and I felt a bit overwhelmed. My brother, sis and I started the registration process by completing the registration forms. The forms took about 25 minutes to complete- not because they asked difficult questions, but because there were so many of them and mostly asked the same questions over and over again. Sigh! As we filled out the forms on a set of tables in a corner near the corpers living quarters, someone a few floors above threw out a dishful of dirty water out of a window. Some of this splattered on my arm and mostly showered my sister. I sighed! Was the rest of our time there to be filled with such rude surprises?

Filling out the forms, I later discovered, was the easy part. Upon completing the forms, we had no idea what to do next. We joined a line where it seemed that people were submitting their forms, only to be told by one of the "army guys" to go and join a line. I looked at the "line." It was a mass of people, with seemingly no beginning and no end. We dithered there for a while, hoping that he'd change his mind or cease to notice us. No such luck. Resigned, we went to join the line. After being there for about 25 minutes, we heard that this line was only to sign a book- the "book of life" and not to submit the form. I asked the guy in front of me what this book of life was and he had no idea. Not many people seemed to know what exactly this book of life was. Not encouraged by this, we left the line to go to the place where we heard that we could actually submit the forms. Not before reminding the guy in front of me that I was behind him and that I would return. So much I've forgotten of how things are done here. In the States, I would never had dared try this, unless the person looked pleasant enough and even then......

Mass commercialism, wherever and whenever, is the order of the day. Even though we were hassled about not having the correct ID cards when we first got to the camp, we later came across so many people who really had no legitimate business being there. For instance, as we filled out our forms, we saw several people with staplers, perforators, Tippex and other stationery. I soon realised that they were renting out the use of their implements for a small fee. Very enterprising, I have to say. A business with a very small start-up cost and infinite returns. But, of course, they must be paying someone for the right to be there.
The line for the book of life was seemingly neverending and there were people who looked like they had been there for hours. Not encouraging for any newcomer to the line, but to assuage the thirst of any unfortunate souls on the line, a drinks seller hawked his wares by inviting people to "come and enjoy their money" with him. I cracked up when I heard that.

I'm sure that over the coming year, I'll have more interesting NYSC stories to tell.

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