Living in the village as opposed to town life was peaceful for me as a child. My school was only a few short kilometres away from home, and I didn’t break my back washing “aso giran” that my step mother never seemed to run out of.
My grand mother Iya Elewe was the baale’s first wife and the best healer you could find that will not prescribe chalk and injections. She knew every herb for every kind of ailment, and she knew every tree bark, every leaf by name.
We were treated like royalty even though I still feel pangs of hunger. Anything away from my step mother was royalty.
Sometimes, I wondered how my siblings were doing. I was too young to care too much anyways.
Iya Elewe told me I was special. She said my fainting spells were no ordinary fits and that I was a direct descendant of a spirit.
She told me the spirit gives all of his children one gift.
“You will always faint until you discover the gift you have because the spirit will always fight to be free” She said, finishing with a dimpled smile. I was only ten years old. I couldn’t really understand. All I could think of was why had she given me tribal marks when she knew what the problem was?
“How will I get cured?” I asked eagerly
I was hoping she would send me out first thing in the morning to collect one or two leaves that were yet to shed the morning dew.
“There is no cure until you discover your gift. Look at me. I am a healer” she said, laughing at my ignorance.
“But I don’t want it. Who is the spirit that gave it to me?” I asked.
I watched her mould fufu with her wooden spatula with expertise. I wondered if that was also part of the spiritual gift. No one moulds okele like Iya elewe. It was always well rounded and with no dimples, lumps or mis shapen edges.
Fufu and water leaf was for dinner. I knew it because I plucked the leaves on my way from the market. I also saw her washing the tiny snails we dried out last week. My mouth watered. I could hear her sweet solemn voice saying something about the river that borders the whole village.
I didn’t remember what Iya Elewe told me about the river that night. I went to bed contented. I was lucky to find many bits of dried fish in my soup. I know it must have been my grand mothers doing. She favors me a lot. Well, in exchange for a lot of hardwork.
Very early the next morning while the dew still falls, and you could taste the wetness in the air, I was out alongside Iya Kudi’s last daughter Ranti. Even though Ranti was my agemate, and we attend the same school, her mother was also baales wife just like my grand mother.
You could hear our foot falls “Pata. Pata. Pata” as we hurried towards the river. They say the early bird catches the worm. But in this village, we say the early bird catches clean water.
We had our baths and played around a little downriver then filled our clay pots where the water was cleanest. There were very few people out and about at the time. It was the best time to fetch drinking water.
Do you know teak? Of course you do know teak. Its possible all the doors in your home are made out of a sound teak. But have you seen the tree?
A good teak tree grows on upward like NEPA pole with no branches close to the ground for climbers to delight in. Close to the top, you could see flimsy “pankere” looking branches sneaking out bearing a couple of leaves
I was correcting Ranti that “begin dey go” was not correct. Our English teacher would be furious if she said that in class and quite frankly I was proud of myself for being one of the few who had great aptitude for the language.
As we approached the foot path that links to the next hamlet, something caught my eye far away on a tall teak. A big burst of white light flashed brightly like brisco fireworks. It was blinding and while we tried to figure out the source, it ran all the way down like… If the sun was a foot ball and it was falling from a teak tree. Then it bounced way back up, stayed put for a few seconds and then went off like nothing happened.
Ranti read my mind immediately. We flung our clay pots at the same time, and ran all the way home without stopping for once to catch our breath.
“Oro ni. We saw Oro” ranti gasped, fought to catch her breath, fought to explain before earning one hot slap from her mother for breaking another clay pot.
“Oro nibo?” All the adults were baffled. There’s no way they would believe we saw a spirit looking like a ball of white light.
I felt it but before I could fight it, I was on the floor, a slave to another fainting spell.