A little intro 

If you are a pharmacy student -especially in UNN, you will find out early enough that you’re a potential asset, gold mine or TBC investment. This means that your perceived ‘value’ goes up as the days go by, i.e. if you don’t fall out by fate or accident. You know this by the increasing number of friend requests you see everyday as you log in to Facebook or the number of likes your picture gets on Instagram. I don’t even want to talk about the attention you get, especially if you’re a girl, everyday as you walk from hostel to class or in the evenings when you’re out taking a “solo” stroll. But you’re smart so you don’t let all that get into your head because most times they are just distractions. When you get into final year, your friend requests are not only triple the number of Facebook friends you already have, your post and pictures start getting extra 80 – 100 likes -mostly people you’ve never met!. 

Fast forward to graduation, you post your “5 years don waka” picture then you get over 350 likes, much more friend requests, more followers on other social platforms and some congratulations via inbox and “dms”. Most of your old friends (and exes if any) start reconnecting with you -even the ones who took you for granted in the past and vice versa. You are having fun, you love the attention (well, who wouldn’t?). Soon, the initial “after exam” frenzy wears out. You face your project squarely and finish it -most times under a lot of pressure, with some sleepless nights and a few tears shed. Finally, you defend your research work honourably with a sense of pride that you’ve done something amazing which will contribute to improving the health of mankind, no matter how little or insignificant it may seem. 

A couple of days later, you pack all your bags and head home at last. You are free officially – No more lectures or academic activity of any sort. It’s just chill, hangout and read/write till Induction time! At home, you try to have as much fun as you can – You hang out till you’re tired of hanging. You watch movies till the thought of it nauseates you. If you’re smart, you start locum but if you’re like me, all you want to do is add some flesh to your thin bones, or at least, you hope you can. If you like to gamble, you try Ponzi – especially if you haven’t been duped to the point of depression or sports betting or you indulge in any hobby or activity that gives you a sense of fulfilment.

Christmas comes and you either spend it in the village like others do or you stay in the city where you’ll be bored out of your senses. In any case, time is going and that’s perfect. Soon after Christmas, the New Year creeps in on us. You realise, ‘Hey, I’m outta school. My “future” is already here!’ You start making serious plans: plans for the year, realistic goals for life. You make time, if you’re working, to start/or complete your clearance for convocation and collection of your degree certificate. You also get referees and you start considering if you will attend your convocation. Convocation comes finally; you go late -if you go at all and find out that some classmates actually turned up for the event. Awesome! Well, you borrow graduation gown, cap and that plastic thingamajig they hold on the hand and you take three cute pictures, for posterity.  You go home and it’s till Induction time. Of course you prepare: hair, clothes, catering, venue, final induction clearance and all what not.

Induction day finally arrives. Although you may think it’s overrated, you actually find yourself super excited and emotional all at the same time. It’s a moment you want to relive every day of your life. Apart from the numerous calls and texts from friends, family and loved ones, those who have never called you in their entire life miraculously discover your number and call just to check up on you -and secure an invite to your reception as well!. People all over the globe start sending heartfelt messages and your facebook inbox is so full that Mark Zuckerberg might consider warning you for server overload. The congratulations keep pouring in from different platforms -social media, emails, offline like heavy showers; some people even give you gifts! As you step out to go the venue, nearly everyone you meet wants to hug you, take a picture with you or just wave and say congratulations – It almost feels like your wedding day, if not better! And this paparazzi kind of treatment keeps happening throughout the day especially after the official ceremony. You have a simple reception: – food, drinks, cake, family and friends. At the end of the day, everyone goes home and it’s just you, your weary bones and your lovely dress. You drag your tired self to the room you’re staying and let yourself fall on the bed like a sack of potatoes. As you lie on that bed, you look up, smile and whisper softly, “I made it!” 

You drift off to a sleep and have the most beautiful dream ever. And when you wake up, it would seem your nightmares have just begun!
……………………………..……………………

#TG_SATGN_S 001 – INDUCTION AND THE WEEK AFTER

I woke up around 8:00 am to a bright and beautiful Saturday morning. Still tired from the previous day’s stress, I decided to stay indoors and just surf the net – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter basically. Although I had uploaded lots of pictures the day before, I still chose to post some more.  I got numerous friend requests and I even started chatting with many new people.  I was having so much fun when one of my new friends asked me, ‘Have you gotten a place for internship yet? What places are you interested in?’ Pause right there, I had to check my phone calendar to be sure I hadn’t slept for a week! I thought I just got inducted like “THE DAY BEFORE, hey-lloooooooow?”, how come he’s asking the ‘got’ question already? 
Usually, I’m not one to tell my plans to strangers straightaway because it’s absolutely none of their business so I just replied what came to my mind, ‘Why do you ask?’ When he didn’t give me a feedback immediately, I went through his Facebook profile. It turns out that he is the Superintendent Pharmacist of a certain popular community pharmacy I had heard about in Lagos. I also saw that he is married with two children so I thought, ‘Since He’s not a “chyker”, which is a big relief by the way for some reasons I’d rather not talk about, then he could definitely be my God-sent “connection”! As soon as I realised that, I hurried back to our chat and added, ‘Actually, I haven’t got a place yet. My induction was yesterday and many places I would have applied to require the provisional license and oath certificate so I decided to wait till after induction. And I’m interested in major cities like Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, etc. Thanks for asking.’ See my life! I had suddenly turned from my assertiveness to a free-volunteering-of-information mode. In fact, I nearly added, ‘Sorry if you feel I was a little rude earlier.’ The guy simply replied all my messages with, ‘Oh, That’s great! Congratulations once again’ and that was it! We never spoke again. The almost “conné” didn’t bother me though. I mean induction was just the day before; this was still beginning of the year so there was still plenty of time for institutions to advertise. And according to the PCN updated list of accredited centres there are a whole lot of institutions to choose from. So even with the massive turn out of graduates, I was sure to get a spot or an interview before the end of the month! 

The next day was class thanksgiving so I dressed up in a blue Ankara knee-length flay gown, tied a little blue Ankara scarf to match and put on some silver low heeled shoes – I was indeed a “slay queen”. I was too excited to eat breakfast so I practically ran out from the hostel where I was staying.  I went to church full of thanks and inexplicable joy because to be honest, five years of studying and consistent stress wasn’t easy yet we scaled through despite all odds. Church service was lengthy and although I learned a thing or two, the only thing on my mind was just our thanksgiving dance and the reception of course! The time for dancing came sooner than I expected and we danced gleefully unto God.  After presenting our offerings and thanksgiving items to the church, the chairperson of the thanksgiving committee, Adaugo, gave a short speech about how God saw us through and how we are grateful to be Pharmacists today. The Reverend blessed us then we danced our way out of the auditorium. When we were outside, I took a couple of selfies and tried catching up with my classmates. Then, we were arranged according to our heights on the church building side stairs for the group photographs. It was quite memorable and fun. 
Afterwards, we headed towards the reception venue. I wanted to walk to the venue but I was tired a little bit so I joined a friend in his car. I didn’t talk much on our way to the venue; I was just smiling, texting and posting pictures online. We got to the reception venue in a few minutes because it’s a very short distance from the church. As we arrived, it turned out that most of my classmates were not there yet so we had to wait a little bit. The DJ delighted us with some hot jam meanwhile. I’m not much of a dancer (except in the shower or in my bedroom) so I just secured a seat for my best friend and continued pressing my phone. About thirty minutes later, nearly everyone was present so the reception kicked off fully. The reception was straight to the point – a few introductory jokes by the MC’s, Item 1- opening prayer and item 7 -refreshments. After that, we picked our yearbook and left. It was short because a lot of us were already exhausted and some were travelling that same day but it was totally worth it. 
As soon as I left the reception, I went to visit a family. I was supposed to see them since February last year but I wasn’t available. My excuses were: my tight schedules; forgetfulness and the fact that I couldn’t always have enough money to buy something substantial especially whenever I was free prevented me from going. Well, that Sunday afternoon I had to, even though I couldn’t even afford a packet of cabin biscuit at the moment. When I got to their house, they welcomed me and talked to me with so much excitement. They treated me like I had dropped from Mars. It felt really good. They didn’t even ask if I bought anything, I was overwhelmed. I guess kids just love you like that – no expectations, nothing fancy, just you and your lovely company. I had the best time of my life there; I also learned a big lesson that day.
After seeing the kids, I called my cousin Obinna – who lives on campus to pick me up and drive me to the hostel I was staying, I couldn’t walk about any longer – I was exhausted. When I got to the room, I said hello to my friend’s roommates. Then, I pulled a bucket from under the eight-spring bed at the right corner of the room, took my clothes off, wrapped a towel around my tiny self and went to take my bath. After showering, I put on my cotton blue flowery night gown and curled up to a beautiful movie. I slept off when I was done.
The rays of sunlight streaming into the room from the windows pierced through my shut eyes sending my brain some “wakeup” signals. I got up slowly as though hypnotized then I stretched like a lazy child. I opened my eyes and saw that all the occupants of the room were out already. It was just me and my friend, Onyinye – the person I was staying with. ‘Morning fishhead Pharmacist’, she said. I smiled. ‘What’s for breakfast?’ I asked. She just tossed me a packet of cornflakes, a tin of milk and 2 small sachets of Milo (a brand of cocoa beverage). I shook my head. ‘How could I take this sort of break fast?’, I asked myself. ‘I’m no longer a student’! But I didn’t have a choice; I was still in the hostel so I helped myself to it. And finally, it wasn’t so bad (hehehehe). 
After that, I mapped out a little plan for the day, I was going to see some friends as well as help my cousin round up his final clearance. I decided to start with clearance because offices have a closing time. 
Around 4:30 pm, I was done with all the official paper work for Obinna’s clearance so I called five of my friends who were available and we went to an eatery, “Chills and Hot Sauce”, to hang out. We ordered some chicken and chips, sharwama, pop corn, ice cream and drinks. Then, we joined three tables together and sat round them. We started eating, chatting and laughing at the top of our voices. The management of Chills and Hot Sauce pleaded with us more than once to calm down, but we were overexcited. It was really difficult to hide so even when we would lower our voices soon after we would be roaring in laughter again!  As soon as we were done with the snacks, the management literally chased us out of their restaurant in the nicest way possible! Although we knew we deserved it, we didn’t care; we just kept chuckling even on our way out. We were not in the least offended because we actually constituted a nuisance although some people kept staring as though they wanted to join in our fun. 

The rest of the evening was beautiful, calm and uplifting for me. I took a lone stroll when it was sundown and listened to Jamie Grace’s “Do Life Big”. Then, I walked back to the hostel and allowed my body to land on the bed like a felled tree. I slept with a broad smile and “Chills and Hot Sauce” on my mind. 

The morning came sooner than I anticipated and the only thought that filled my mind when I opened my eyes was “I need to go home!” So my plan was to go home, post some applications, get a feedback immediately and relocate to Lagos before the end of the month. I started packing my belongings. As I was packing, Obinna called. His best friend Makuochukwu just came into town. Now, Makuochukwu is a cute, tall, lanky and dark -sorry black guy who has been “eyeing” me since Obinna introduced us. He’s two years older than me and graduated last year from Theatre Arts in UNN. He was about rounding up his service year but came into Nsukka for a brief visit. We’ve known each other for 3 years now and have had some good times together. To be honest, he’s not really my kind of guy, because of his complexion and body build – I’m slim too so I don’t want kids that would be carried away by the wind!. Asides that, he’s everything a girl would want in a guy. He’s thoughtful, kind, loving and soft-hearted and it’s been great knowing him. I was already looking forward to seeing him, even though I really wanted to go home, but I told Obinna that I had made up my mind to travel so he pleaded with me to stay. I did on the condition that he would drive me home the next day. The truth is, I know that Obinna hates driving out of town because it’s stressful for him but I also know that he would do anything for Makuo (including selling me; just kidding). So, we had a deal, transport money saved!  I still continued packing and just left my nightie in the wardrobe, my sponge, soap, hair net and brushes on the rack.

I started seeing the movie “Beyond the Lights” with Onyinye’s laptop while waiting for Makuo’s call. He called around 2:30pm and showed up in front of the hostel in Obinna’s car. ‘Your plan will not work o’, I teased as soon as I got to the car; ‘You want to finish the fuel in Obinna’s car so he won’t take me home, abi? It will not work for you; I said it will not work for you. All the plans of the enemy to hinder my free ride to Enugu tomorrow: Holy Ghoooooooost, FIRE!’ Makuo was just looking at me, shaking his head and laughing uncontrollably. I always intrigued him, I know. He is amazing too. ‘Get into the car joor, Azu ndu!’, was all he could say. I smiled broadly and took a step back. He opened the car door for me, I slid into the car seat, shut the door and we drove off. He asked if we could go to Chills and Hot sauce, I declined. I suggested we go hit a joint. I wanted to taste palm wine and Nkwobi. 

He drove us outside campus to TransAfrican garden located a few kilometres to the right of the school gate. They were playing some old school hip-hop by P-Square, Slow dog, Nigger Raw, Desperate Chicks etc in quick succession. It brought back lots of childhood memories. We settled into the hut closest to the entrance and a beautiful shapely lady in a red top and a tight fitted jeans trouser came to take our order. The lady stared at him and asked in a sultry voice, ‘what would you have sir?’ Makuo’s gaze met hers and he froze. It was though he had lost his tongue because for that moment he wasn’t really sure what he wanted anymore. Well, I was so I cleared my throat and said, ‘Two plates of Nkwobi and a keg of freshly tapped palm wine, please’. The lady turned her attention to me while Makuo’s face fell. She smiled and said (in her REAL voice this time), ‘you can only get fresh palm wine early in the morning, in the villages. As for Nkwobi, we don’t make it on Tuesdays.’ Then, she left. Makuo made to apologise, I stopped him. ‘It’s a guy thing and she was super cute,’ was all I said. 

He felt better, or at least I hoped he did because I was just amused and slightly jealous but definitely not angry -.  He asked, ‘What do we do, dearie? There’s no Nkwobi or fresh wine, do we go somewhere else?’ I smiled sadly, ‘I dunno. I really wanted both.’ He thought for a while and said, ‘alright, let’s go somewhere else?’ ‘I dunno; where do we go?’I answered nonchalantly. I had begun to regret coming out in the first place. I was about to start complaining when he said, ‘Ojiugo, please don’t. I know what you’re about to say and I understand but we haven’t seen each other in a long while so let’s just have fun no matter what happens, alright?’ I rolled my eyes and nodded. He always knew what to say and when. If there was one thing I hated about him, it was the fact that he could predict me. But then in his defence, I think everyone else could too to a reasonable accuracy because I wasn’t very good at hiding my feelings. 

  
Suddenly, I had a brain wave. And I voiced my idea immediately, ‘Let’s get Chicken Suya (Barbecue) and Fayrouz (a brand of pineapple flavoured soft drink)!’ Makuo’s face lit up. I could tell he was elated that I had found my enthusiasm back! He rubbed his palms together and signalled for a waiter. The same woman in a red top made to come but he said, ‘Not you, the guy.’ You should have seen her face; the expression on it was so epic that I nearly took a photo of her! He didn’t have to do that though but I think he wanted to avoid a repeat performance and also to humour me a little bit. Whatever his reason was, I was impressed and it was a perfect comic relief! The rest of the evening was pleasant. We ate our suya, talked animatedly and sipped our drinks. It was exciting. He dropped me off at exactly 8:30pm and we parted with a good bear hug. 

Wednesday morning, I woke up around 8:00 am to the sound of my alarm. I got up, showered, put on a sleeveless chiffon top and jean trousers. Then, I packed the rest of my personal effects. I surfed the net for two hours or so. Then, I thanked Onyinye for accommodating me. I said my goodbyes to her and everyone else who was around then I called Obinna. At first, I was hoping he would come with Makuo but on second thoughts I wanted the family time with Obinna. Obinna arrived in thirty minutes and we sped off. As we journeyed, we listened to rap music by NF, Lecrae, Andy Mineo from the car stereo. I dozed off at some point. Some minutes later, we were home.

Obinna helped me with my bags. Mum and dad greeted us at the door with warm hugs. Mum kept giving me this “See-how-thing-you’re-looking” stare. I just pretended not to notice and escaped to my room. Obinna brought my bags to the room and started laughing. ‘Ojiugo, so you’ve finally tricked me into coming to your house’. ‘Ehee na, when last did you come kwanu? Now you’re here, you know mum won’t let you go till tomorrow’, I replied. ‘That’s the problem; I’m supposed to chill with Makuo this evening. Don’t worry, I’ll come some other time, I promise.’ ‘Ojiugo, Obinna,’ mama called from the parlour. ‘Yes mum,’ we answered in unison. ‘Come and eat’, she continued, ‘Especially you, Ojiugo. See you competing for size with broom stick!’ Chai! I just weak! This woman just finished my “laive”. I mean, I know I’m thin but I’m way better than broom! 
Anyways, I just came to the dining table to see that she had heaped a very big bowl of jollof rice, Beans and fish for me. Obinna’s was just slightly bigger than mine but then Obinna is on the big side and has always been an avid eater! My cousin finished his food in less than two minutes just like I thought he would. Meanwhile, I was still struggling with the fifth spoon of food mainly because the size of the food discouraged me and I was eating and texting at the same time though. After eating, he drank water and then apologised to my parents because he had to get going. A little while later, I brought my laptop to the dining table so I could watch a movie while eating because mum insisted I finish my food. In an hour thirty minutes or thereabouts, I had completed what seemed like Mission Impossible!
Obinna arrived Nsukka almost around the same time I finished my everlasting lunch. I did the dishes and went to unpack my bag. Then, I lay on my bed. It was really good to be home. Dad came to my room a little while later with some papers; he had printed the updated Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) list and said I would start posting my applications from the next day. I took the papers with a smile and nodded acknowledging all he said. ‘This would be fun’, I thought to myself. Soon after, nightfall came and it was dinner time. Mum prepared garri with egusi soup but I was too full so I took three balls of garri and dipped them in soup, swallowed them and left with many thanks. I picked up a novel but I slept off almost immediately. 

The next day, I started surfing the net for advertisements for internships. I saw a few and typed application letters in that regard. Then I asked my classmates for information. To my greatest surprise, some were already going for interviews. The shock of my life was discovering that some had even gotten a place already. The effect of this on me was devastating; I was discouraged. I started asking myself, ‘Did I fall off the galaxy? What rock have I been living under? I mean, like what in the freaking world is wrong with me?’ It wasn’t funny for me. I didn’t know what to do or say. I knew that it wouldn’t change anything anyway. I wanted to tell my parents exactly how I felt but I knew they’d rebuke me for feeling bad and remind me that everything would work out. I knew it was going to (or at least I hoped it would soon) but I couldn’t help but feel like I had been left behind (like some centuries ago or so). 

A few minutes later, I washed plates and pots that we used to for breakfast. Then, I went out of the house to print my application letter, my CV and photocopy my other documents. From there, I went to the post office to post my letters to the respective institutions. The rest of the day was just movies, cartoons and a little house work. 

I spent my Friday watching movies and blogging. I wrote two lengthy articles and a short story that I shared with my friends online. After that, I just watched some movies, ate and slept off. 

Saturday was uneventful. I didn’t go out and I didn’t do any major writing. I did a little clean up at home – tidied my room, mopped the parlours, did the dishes and fetched some water. At about 11 O’clock, we had a family bible study which lasted till 1pm. When it was over, I started chatting online and reading interesting posts on facebook. I got bored almost immediately and resorted to watching cartoons. I paused after the second cartoon and cooked noodles. I resumed my personal entertainment this time with noodles at accompaniment. Before I knew it, it was night already so I had to retire. We had our family prayers and I crept into my mosquito net covered bed. I whispered some words of prayer and closed my eyes. As my mind wandered off to dreamland, all I could think of was, ‘One week is gone; how many more left?’ 

WATCH OUT FOR #TG_SATGN_S 002

Hand drawn design by Uchechi Uchenyi, picture design by Michael Onwusoro and Uchechi Uchenyi.. 

The Got’s and the Got not’s (#TG_SATGN_S) are ™ of and © of Uchenyi, Uzoamaka Uchechi Sohana  (@sohana_uche) and warizit.wordpress.com 

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