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Boarding House Memories, Blue House Hostel A

We stand in a line just outside the entrance of Blue house. My heart is doing the thump-thump thing again. I had heard many stories about boarding house, some good, some downright scary. So far I have had two experiences of boarding school, the first did not count as it was when I was transported into the fictitious world of Enid Blyton while reading The Twins at St Claire’s series. Secretly I hoped my boarding house experience would be like theirs, never mind that I will not be brushing my hair at night till it shone or forming pigtails with it. Never mind too that I would not be needing a winter coat- ever. My 2nd boarding house experience was when I attended the school’s entrance interview. Candidates were required to stay for 3 nights in the hostel and have a taste of life without their parents. It was on that trip I met Funmi. I lay  on my side, back toward the bed where these giggling girls lay and tried to fathom what made them so happy. They were laughing? I was very homesick and every time I thought of home, which was pretty much every time, I burst into tears. I remember Funmi and her friends calling out to me to come play with them. They probably assumed I was tired since I didn’t respond. In actual fact I was crying. My brother who was a year ahead of me in another boarding school had warned me this would happen. “Toks you will cry“. “Absolutely not!” I retorted. I was certain I was such a big girl yearning for her independence that I would be doing cartwheels instead.

Back to the line. We are all dressed in exactly the same blue check  uniform. There is a general buzz of excitement in the air as people like seniors Ayo and Ronke busy themselves, walking hand in hand in twos or threes- they are the confident, very excited ones. I am to later learn that they are in the second year, seniors for the first time. New words fill my ears like kerosene lanterns, dining hall, morning piece of work, prep time and siesta. I struggle to figure out the meaning of siesta, I don’t want to come across as being too naive. I hear these seniors can take advantage of you in a heartbeat.

The soft spoken woman at the front of the door is calling out names and assigning the students to their hostels. I listen very carefully as I don’t want any attention drawn to me, you know the kind that results from everyone looking around as she calls the name a second time, wondering who Tokunbo is. I hear my name and hear hostel A. I’m not sure if that is a good thing or not, but I squeeze past the girls, most of them bigger than me and make my way to the hostel that would become my home for the next five years. I am scared, I am excited and I’m uncertain. I miss my mum and dad. I miss my brothers and our dogs and cat. I miss Benin and I want to go back. There is something comforting about Mrs Udehin. She continues to call out names and I quickly realise that she is the first likeness I have seen of my mummy. She is very soft spoken so she must be kind, like mummy. The tears well up again behind my big eyes and I force them back down. I am becoming quite good at doing that. The method I use is to think of all the times mummy and daddy smacked me when I was sure I didn’t deserve it. That brings up sufficient anger to force back the tears. It isn’t a fail-safe method, but it’ll do for now.

In the hostel I find out that my wardrobe partner is a senior called Senior Shade. She is a  real mother figure, a bit plump which makes her huggable. But I don’t hug her, I don’t know what the rules are and I don’t want to start by breaking them. She tells me to arrange me provisions (another new term) on the left side of the single shelf wardrobe and her’s will be on the right. She explains that we put non-consumables like the kerosene lamps, buckets and soap at the bottom and the rest on the top. I love to arrange things, one of my favourite games at home was to arrange mummy’s dressing table. I would start with the tall perfumes and nail varnish removers; “You stay at the back” I’ll tell them. My role was a photographer arranging people for a group picture. The tears well up again and I force them back. The thought of being independent, grown up gives me good goose bumps and I smile.

“Hurry up, it will soon be time for dinner.”. Senior Shade reminds me of aunty Titi, she has a sing-song accent like that and I find myself warming up to her even more. I wonder what dinner would be. As if she can read my thoughts, she continues; “Friday night is Rice and Fish Stew, you don’t want to miss that”. Now we have a problem. I don’t like fish, I wonder if they’ll give me beef? Of course I don’t say that out loud, but I really hope they will. Oke and Folukemi stop by to inspect my “corner” This is nice they say; “let’s go we don’t want to be late.” All this clamouring for fish is doing my head in, what is wrong with these people? Oke and Folukemi were some of my first friends along with Mubo, Ijeoma, Ifeayinwa, and Funmi, who really talks a lot! I also become friends with Folake, Kehinde, Ashenedu, Aisha and a host of wonderful girls I will never forget.

Mummy had warned me to be careful as “They steal in boarding house”, hence the three padlocks she armed me with. So I clutch my cutlery, plate and cup and go to the dining hall with my friends. Another long line. This time there are boys there too. A man who is clearly an adult in uniform is calling out our names and assigning us to tables. There are about 13-19 people on each table and a head is elected to bring order to the table. The food is brought in in the largest metal bowls I have ever seen. Someone gets up to serve the rice, our plates are pushed to the front of the table. Mine is a large shiny metal one which I don’t like.  I see some of the plates I become quite satisfied with it. I try to tell the server not to give me any stew or fish for that matter, my attempted request is met with a threatening glance by the table head, so I withdraw my raised hand. The dining hall is huge and very noisy. I nearly jump out of my skin when someone hits the table 3 times, very loudly; these people know the drill for there is a sudden hush. The man prays out loud, “For what we are about to receive, we thank thee oh Lord” The “Amen” is swallowed up as spoonfuls of rice are shoved into hungry mouths…

The senior girls do not like to take their own dirty plates back to the hostel. In fact a lot of them act as though food, plates and dining hall are terms that should not be associated with their names. So we juniors have the sad misfortune of becoming plate carriers, along with other titles like shoe polishers, laundry girl, slave. This does not happen tonight,  it is saved for later in the week.

Back at the hostel I envisage my friends and I sitting on one of our beds and chatting quietly into the night. That of course remains a fantasy, instead I spend my time with my friends, going to other hostels. We are told night prep has been cancelled so people can unpack. From time to time someone will make an announcement, “Blue house girls! The person that stole my socks should return it or else there will be trouble!” I find it fascinating and long to be able to make a bold, public announcement like that. I don’t have to wait too long as my cup disappears by the next morning.

“Blue house girls return my cup!” I shout with pride as I stroll down the middle of the hostel.

“Ehn???!!”  Someone pulls me by my collar, “what did you just say?”

“I-I….someone took my cup” I manage to splutter.

Ohhhh! You are only a junior. You have no right to make an announcement like this. You can only say it to form one girls, understood?”

Then a bell goes, people start to move quickly. Someone counts very loudly but slowly to 10, the girls now start to run. It is almost chaotic as we scramble for our beds. I make it on time, the lights go out and she shouts “Lights out!!”

I cover my head with my blue blanket and give those tears free rein.

Thank you for reading, more to come 😀

16 responses »

  1. Well said, i had an experience of Blue house myself.
    Of course it was settled in the Home Economics department and utill i left boarding house no one tried me LOL. It sure was an experience of a life time and am grateful i was a student of Command Secondary School

  2. Beautiful Toks. I look forward to reading more. Remember in form 3 when the seniors took our water and we had to share a bucket to shower – aka dry clean. oh the days of torture.

    • Thanks Kehinde, how could I forget? IT was sheer torture, but I wish I could travel back in time to go and “right some of those wrongs” that were done to me. Despite the challenges it really did shape us into who we are today. I believe I can live with any personality type because I went to Command. Then again I could be wrong!

  3. Talk about doing down memory lane!
    I almost forgot about our interview stay. I rememeber meeting Ken Ibeke and his sister. We became friends for life.

    As for you? All I remember is you and Kashim in 5D. Yea you got us in trouble everytime and leave when it comes down to punishment. That when you tell the teacher you were from another class.

    • LOL!!! I have a major issue recalling that Bayo! Are you sure you are not mixing me up with someone else? oes seem like the sort of thing I would do, I hate pain, still do!
      Thanks so much for sharing

  4. Toks, what a retentive memory you have!

    I missed all this coz I got into CSSKd in the second term (I had gone to another secondary school in the first term and hated it there), and by then things were well on their way.

    I can’t even remember how I made the friends I did (you included) in Blue House. It was like we had always been friends.

    I remember that I absolutely HATED the cold showers during the cold harmattan weather!!!

    • You are right! I was racking my brain to recall where our friendship began and I couldn’t remember you in those early days! I know that we shared a wardrobe at some point and became fast friends later.

      You were always very studious and had the tidiest handwriting. I remember Kehinde started in form 3. I am so glad for those years together, much as I hated the harmattan too and the discipline, it was well worth it to end up with friends like you!

      • …….I’m sorry to say this Toks, you’ll be surely dissappointed if you should see my handwriting now 🙂

  5. ashenedu esumobi

    My dear friend and birthday mate of i remember those days of pains and joys shared. It was a diffcult time in our lives but thank God for that. Schools these days are so different and you will see the difference between our generations and the up coming ones. It was worth the while meeting life long friends like you and so many others. I guess meeting someone i shared birthday with was quite existing and i guess the bond of sisterhood was born.
    Nice write up, i still try to remember some of such details i guess with more of your write up they will definately pick up.

  6. Thank you for reading Ashenedu, I agree with you. The kids these days live in very different times. I thank God as well for that period that shaped and formed us into who we are today. It certainly birthed resilience and so much more in us. BI am glad to have met you too and that you are a friend for life! Remember Brenda Nwaka? She also shared our birthday.

  7. Well written i remember my first day in boarding house. I was in orange house. I think i put my stuffs myself I was just confused the whole time. The person who helped me out I remember her name is my class mate. that was also the first time I bathed cold water. 6 years in boarding school has shaped my life made me a better person that I am today.

    • Wetindey2day! Thanks so much for reading and sharing. I completely agree with you that boarding house does a good job of shaping our lives. Bathing with cold water? You added to the memories, how could I forget that?
      Don’t be a stranger, do come back and apologies for the very late reply!

  8. Ah! Snr Toks! Command kaduna? I can never forget because whatever i am today,its that school that prepared me for it. The harsh weather,punishment by seniors and all. You miss dinning hall food,u drink gari or sleep hungry. Friendship that last forever. I am grateful 4 my parents that sent me to that great school. Gosh one experience i wont forget is resuming d first day of jss1 on my birthday sept 12, 1986 and they gave me cutlass to go and clear grass. I cried my eyes out.

    • Thanks so much for reading and sdahring Bimbo. I forgot about cutlass- langa-langa! You are right that the experience made us what we are today. Like you I am glad I went to boarding school but seriously, I won’t put my kids through that, how about you?


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