Twenty Ways I Thought I Died. Chapter Nine.
I finally met my maternal grandparents when I turned eighteen. My grandmother was a very light in complexion woman, average height and robust. Grandfather was very tall, very slim and very dark in complexion. His gene was really strong as both his two daughters and granddaughter took after him. I got to learn though, that they had a son as a first child but lost him when he was just a year old. Grandma said he had her complexion and looked just like her.
Going to the village wasn’t a bad idea after all. I got to know home and meet other relatives, and finally see how Ugheli looks like. My grandparents were both very mild and loved laughing and joking with everyone. Both of them loved drinking but they never got drunk; at least while I was there. Grandma always washed her mouth every morning with dry gin, while father always drank every evening with his friends in his compound while they played draft. Aunty Ejiro catered for their needs, while grandma supported with her small scale farming.
My mother comes from Ugheli just like my father. But her precised village is Utogo and that’s where her parents now reside. It is a small house with a very big compound, where grandma does lots vegetable planting. According to her; she was fortunate to have gotten a fertile land free from petroleum pollution, which was rampant in their community.
There was hardly clean water to use. Even sachet water companies did their best, but their best wasn’t good enough. Drinking water produced still had a funny smell, and bad taste. Apart from that; Ugheli is really a place to live.
The people are so welcoming and very funny. Their social life was not built around high cost of living or luxurious trips. Right in front of their compound exists their fun! There was always a round table of drinkers taking in what they call SAPELE WATER; known as Ogogoro or Dry gin. And another group who played Draft and Cards. And Another who discussed politics. And all of them coupled together; cracked jokes that made everyone laugh silly.
There was really never a dull moment with this contented, yet hard working people. Whatever their hands find to do, they did with their every power. Both men and women worked very hard and there was this extra respect given to female children; they were treated equally as men that you couldn’t tell the difference, and that made the women excel in various fields. An Urhobo woman belongs to her family even after marriage. And even when she dies, she is returned home to be buried. I got to see my mother’s grave at the back of the house. It was well kept with flowers growing around it. It gave me a solemn feeling. All the anger I felt for her just died there. All along I never knew I was angry at her for dying and leaving I and daddy. I was also angry with myself for killing her. I was also angry with dad for getting her pregnant at an early age. I was also angry at my grandparents for allowing her give birth in a church instead of an hospital. I was angry with the world for every vile thing. The only thing that made me happy is that I am an Urhobo woman. And that was how, all the anger I felt was left by my mother’s grave side. She absorbed it all in. Even in death, its like she still kills herself, to take away my pain.
I spent two weeks with my grandparents. Those weeks were just like three days. When it elapsed, I didn’t want to leave because it came so quickly. I was loving the attention, the funfair, the culture, the people, my family, and I just didn’t want to leave. Father never took me to his own village in Ugheli because he said all his family members are in Lagos state, and there was really no one at home to meet and it would be boring. He was also brought up in Lagos and had never visited home. His father wouldn’t take him, for they felt it was dangerous as the people engaged in fetish practices.
I promised to always visit them even though father showed no sign or made any comment of visiting them. But he was kind enough to send lots of gifts for them and he spoke with them on phone. I don’t blame him though, he was never their son in-law, and will never be.
Going to the village that year was quite a relief and a distraction. Ini called me to inform me of Gideon’s wedding to Adesuwa. And that she was invited by Gid but didn’t honor the invitation. Gideon never called me again since the last time I called to inform him of how Adesuwa and her friend came to my school to embarrass me. His last response was, he would do something about it, but he never did and he never called.
That year gradually went by and the following year came. It was my final year and so was it for Ini too. We read many nights over at her place and exams finally came. We wrote and we passed. I came out with a second class upper, while Ini came out with second class. It was really a thing of joy to be through with school finally at the age of nineteen.
My convocation was on the way, and I was expecting lots of gifts from my father, grandparents and Aunty. Choosing my convocation gown was another work. It had to be the best! I didn’t see anything good in the boutiques to buy. It was just the usual, very similar to all my designer dresses. I finally agreed to Ini's offer of sewing us both an African wear. And it was a good idea.
We stunned the event with our matching African attire. It was unique and elegant. Our hairstyles were also African. I looked like the true face of Africa. For the first time I agreed that I am extremely beautiful: Black indeed is beautiful.
I had grown into a beautiful woman. I am tall, dark skin, with a slim face and figure that got curves, even though I was on the slim side. Long black shining hair, well shaped nose and white set gap teeth made me stand out. Everyone would proudly say; I know Ufoma Ogaga, don’t you know her? Oh yes I do, the other person would reply. The African queen girl with gap teeth, studying mass communication. I was famously known for a title that initially belonged to my mother, given to her by father.
Surprisingly, grandfather was at my convocation. My guess is that; he came because he heard my maternal grandparents would be coming. Am sure he just wanted to appear good too. I love challenges! Everyone should say no to monopoly. When he was the only grand dad he was never this kind, and attentive to my needs and anything personal that concerned me. He loved my father, his son; not me. Everything he did for me, was because of his son Efe.
My convocation was an awkward moment for my family because it united both families. Am sure my late mother never would have ever envisioned this when she was alive. Both grandparents were friendly to each other and put their grievances behind because of me. Well, it was not hard for my maternal grandparents because they were just friendly, forgiven and simple people. I could see they loved my dad and admired him for the love he has for me and the respect he still showed my late mother. Father spoke so highly of me to my mother’s parents, and said he was glad that he didn’t disappointed my mother even in her death. And vows to give me all the love that they would have both given me, because he is so certain that, if she were to be alive; they would be living together happily taking care of me.
Everyone had genuine smiles on their faces. I couldn’t tell if grandpa Ogaga's smile was genuine because it was so constant like a mask worn to impress.
We left school after the convocation to the house for a small party. Did I say small? Sorry it was nothing but small. Where did all these people come from? Many of them old looking with grey hairs, and the young ones looked too mature for their age with their overdressed attire. Grandpa Ogaga introduced them as his friends and friends children. What they were all doing here? I had no idea. I mean, it’s not as if I am grandpa's beloved granddaughter, so what’s all this show for? Father just whispered in my ear, to stay calm and just enjoy the evening.
I was happy to have Ini my best friend by my side, along with other of my few course mates. But I had to tolerate seeing Etoro Bassey. Up till now, there was no sign of a wedding between him and Ini and he hadn’t taken her to see his people in the village. He also hadn’t bought the engagement ring yet, and Ini still spends her money feeding him. So annoying!
Ufoma your party is great. The food and drinks are like for the whole nation. Ini said excitedly as she served her third plate of food and also looking for another plate to serve her Etoro, his hundredth plate I believe. That guy ate like a fool!
Ini have you seen Ufoma? Came a voice from behind us.
Yea! Are you blind? See Ufoma here na.
Oh sorry dear, didn’t see you. Too much food don blind my eye. Tochukwu joked.
You not serious. Where are the rest? I asked.
Esther and Ruth are trying to get sugar daddies for themselves, while Tunji and Kennedy are having their fourteenth plate of food.
And you were are you going? Ini asked as she pointed to his packed food.
I need to head home now o! My wife needs me home. You know she just had twins, I can’t be partying like you single ladies here. And I just got a take away pack for her.
You sure a pack is enough? Common take more. I urged.
No Ufoma it’s okay.
Tochukwu I insist. Common Ini help him pack some more food okay. And say me hi to your wife. Thanks so much for coming.
As he went off with Ini to get some more food, my father announced it’s time for my gifts to be given me. And almost everyone stepped up with one nice girt after another. Some gifted me expensive wristwatch, other designer perfumes, some Prada purses and the likes. Aunty Ejiro gifted me a book of poems by Jade George Anibor, entitled Do not ask me to love you if you will not change my name; alongside a set of pearls.
My maternal grandparents gifted me a portrait of my mother. It was so beautiful. She was so young and innocent looking. She just didn’t deserve to die so early at the age of fifteen giving birth to me. I will treasure this forever grandma: I said to my grandparents.
Father gifted me a car. I had seen it coming though. He told me he would, when I pass with flying colors. I had used Uber throughout school and now I finally have my dream ride. A silver colored Mercedes Benz. It was the envy of all my friends present. And grandpa Ogaga was the last to gift me. He and grandma walked up to me and gifted me a ticket to one of my most researched and fantasied countries. Morocco! Yes Morocco here I come! I could finally get a traditional henna tattoo and get to meet good looking Arab men. How grandpa knew about my dream of visiting Morocco, was no surprise with grandma leaning on him and smiling so beautifully at me.
It was a three day trip and I was told to be at my best behavior. Morocco was an Islamic country and I had to have a scarf on regularly. The tour guide welcomed me at the airport, and I was escorted to mg hotel room. Tomorrow would begin my tour and I had three solid days to experiment.
Morocco is just a beautiful country! My first tour was to the Atlas mountain, where I visited the Education for all centre. There the girls gave me a traditional henna tattoo.. The Centre provides classes for girls from rural areas whose families cannot afford their education. I also watched mixed sex teams play five-a-football. These girls to me looked like role models, and nothing like disadvantaged children. I was satisfied at the way their government too care of them, it was worth applauding.
The next day, I sampled some Moroccan cuisine. I had this idea that Moroccan food was very spicy, but it’s not. They eat lots of vegetables, such as beets, carrots and tomatoes. I also had tasty pancakes and pizza. I eat a lot because their traditional food was extremely good. From there I went to watch the Moroccan dancers perform. It was simply romantic. Very few places on planet earth evoke mystery, wanderlust and romance quite the way Morocco does. Their cities held old world charms, cultural heritage sites and traditions of artisanal cuisine, handmade goods and ancient neighborhoods in which getting lost was part of the adventure.
I bought a few handmade items like bags and slippers from the market. And their fabric, was something I got personally for myself.
My last day in Morocco came and my final tour would be climbing the Atlas mountain. As I stood in front of this great mountain wondering how I would make this tour. I heard another tourist like me say to her husband; I'm inching a steep hillside in bright sunshine, the sky is deep blue, the air so fresh of hurts. Is exhilarating to think is snowing back home in Ohio. Even so, I’m nervous. I am a passionate urban walker, but even so I like gin and carbs. Will o be able to keep up in about 11km in the foot hills of Morocco’s Atlas mountain?
The answer was not far fetched as the tour guard explained to us that we can choose between leisurely walks, or more ambitious trekking to the top of nearby mountain peaks. Our hike took us to through a patchwork of bright green fields and hill top villages. We went across streams and around peaks of burnt orange-rocks. We were advised to keep an eye for flowering cacti. When we reached the village of Agadir, I saw houses built from baked earth walls with space for animals- chicken, rabbits, sheep, cows, goats and donkeys. I spotted children on their way to primary school.
Leaving the village in the direction of the mountains, we passed a well where shepherds draw water for sheep and goats. We trekked through a small valley towards the Toubkal National park. There we encounter the eucalyptus trees growing along a seasonal stream bed. Then we entered a forest populated with juniper, pine and local small oak.
On our final leg back, hot and sweaty we gazed up at the red sandstone towers of Kasbah Angour, and rejoiced it was lunch time. We got back to our hotel where I had a quick bath, then ordered some good food with lots of vegetables. After that, I went for a swim within the hotel premises and got encountered in another visual image that made up the twenty ways I thought I died.
I came out of the swimming pool and did a quick dry. I hadn’t spoken to daddy that afternoon, so I decided to place a net call through to him. When we were done talking, I received a bunch of banana from a friend I had made in the hotel. I absentmindedly placed my iPhone 7 plus on the roof of a car I leaned on to call daddy. I received the banana with both hands and smiled at Alisha. She is a beautiful Moroccan lady, married to an old Arab man and they were at the hotel for their honeymoon. She was extremely social as she had lived outside Morocco for years and was married off to her Arab husband immediately she turned eighteen. She talked a lot with me because she sensed I had a very open mind. Her husband was always in his room drinking tea and reading the news papers, while he allowed Alisha her freedom. My guess? It was how he thought a honeymoon was best spent. Husband drinking tea and reading the papers, while wife taking a walk round. Alisha confided in me that her husband was impotent and she was his first wife. He only married her to shut up wagging tongues who questioned his manhood. Her family was well compensated for keeping his secret and she was under oath never to cheat on him, or else she would be stoned to death by law.
When we were done chatting, we decided to go into the hotel when I noticed my phone was missing. Alisha gave my phone thirteen net calls hoping whoever saw the phone, would pick up and tell his or her location. But to no avail. I was frustrated and depressed.
I reported the matter to the tour guides, who in turn alerted the hotel securities. They inquired more from me, as to when last I was with the phone. The last I remembered was placing it on the roof of a red car when I ate bananas. We all ran there to check, but the car was no longer there. It was then that one of the security men mentioned who the car owner is and where he would be.
A call was placed to Mr Dean, who admitted he had seen a phone on his car roof when he drove over to his packing space after dropping off his old lady at the pool. We pleaded with him to return the phone, but he said it was quite late for him to leave his hotel room and would return the phone the following day.
I can’t wait till the following day! I gave my line thirteen missed calls, why didnt he pick then so I can get my phone. See how long time has elapsed, and he is claiming he can’t come down now it’s late. I lamented. My flight leaves at 5 am. And I have to be at the airport by 4:30am. For God’s sake! His room is just above mine. Can’t he just come down and hand it to me by my door?
The security guards asked him on phone if he could hand over the phone to me by my door, for my room was the next floor under his. He agreed. I thanked them and said a quick goodbye to Alisha as we both promised to stay in touch.
I ran up to my room and stayed by the hallway hoping to see Mr Dean. I waited for good fifteen minutes and began to feel maybe he had come looking for me when I was busy saying goodbye to Alisha and he had no way to contact me. So with his room number in mind, I took the lift and went knocking on his room door.
An old woman opened the door and asked who I was. I told her everything and the next thing she said was: You this harlot! So you are among those stupid girls who go about with peoples’ husband’s right? What was your phone doing in his car!
It wasn’t in his car old lady but on his car. Am happy it didn’t fall off due to my strong phone pouch. Please call him out I need my phone. I demanded.
You need your phone. Useless girl, whatever you sow you reap. That is why you will never get married because you go about with people’s husbands. Dean! She called out. You better come out of that shower now and attend to your little mistress, so she can stop embarrassing me.
Already a small crowd had been drawn. The hotel was packed and those going into their rooms who were mostly all foreigners, stood by their doors watching.
At that moment Mt Dean came out and demanded who I was. I explained that he had my phone and had been waiting for him to give it to me but didn’t show up, so I decided to save him the stress by coming for it myself.
His next action surprised me. He hit his my chest with his hand, and I fell to the floor. He asked why I was embarrassing him over a phone. Immediately, other lodger’s came to my rescue as they picked me from the floor and held Mr Dean back who was coming to give me a slap. He said I embarrassed his wife by knocking and giving her the impression that he had a girlfriend.
I was so embarrassed! Me your girlfriend! Look at this old fat pig that is even older than my grandparents. He was very fat with rotten teeth in his mouth. He and his wife appeared to be in their late sixties or early seventies. Are you mad! I screamed. How dare you hit me! You this immoral dog. At your age you this two old fools are still fighting over cheating affairs and embarrassing young women. I have not finished with the hot young men back in my country, it is this white fat pig with rotten teeth I will run after?
Mrs Dean's voice was the loudest as she rained more curses and claims that I was one of her husband’s mistress. Mr Dean kept on saying: I don’t know her from anywhere! I don’t know her from anywhere! Like he was some hot dude being caught. They both went into their rooms and he later came out after a second with my iPhone 7plus.
If this man were to be hot looking and young, I would have swallowed this shame. But as it were, I asked God why I had to pass through this shameful ordeal.
The stupid Mr Dean was busy thanking everyone who came to the scene and then he walked up to me to apologize. I simply insulted him more and he again threatened to hit me. I was told to leave, and I was happy to. But the shame I felt was so deep that I cried throughout the night till 3am when I got up to pack and get ready to leave.
You may wonder what made me cry so much over the incident. Just imagine yourself in that scenario, with strange faces all judging you over an old ugly couple in a foreign land. I was assaulted and I couldn’t do anything about it. Some were busy videoing the scene and taking pictures. Am very sure it will be uploaded by them on social media. I wondered what would be the caption and how people would react to such a video. Why had my lovely Morocco trip ended this way? I wondered as I sat on the plane waiting for it to fly.
© 2020 Jade George Anibor