GO to camp with an open mind and you will enjoy your stay.
That was the summary of the advice I received from friends and family who have been there, done that.
But for me, nothing could be farther from the truth, as every day spent at the camp was grueling and torturing. Every single day.
I received my call up letter in February, last year and although I didn’t get the Lagos I so badly wanted, I headed to camp with an open mind. Looking forward to having fun, meeting new people, and learning new things.
I did meet some amazing people (shout out to Joy, Rachael and Lola) and I learned a thing or two. But not so much of a fun.
This is not to say others didn’t have fun. They did. Some corps members told me they had the time of their lives. Some said they will gladly go back if given the chance. I was in the same camp as they but I didn’t feel the same. In fact, I wanted to get out of the camp the minute the reality set in and that was the second day of camp.
Camp life was regimented and I felt caged the whole time I was there.
There was no enough time to sleep
My biggest nightmare was sleep. I’m a terrible late sleeper. I’ve a hard time falling asleep before 12 midnight or 1 am, and since the designated wakeup time is 4 am, that leaves me with 4 or fewer hours of sleep. There were times I didn’t sleep at all.
Also, I am a very light sleeper, and with over 120 girls sleeping in a tiny room, there was always someone or something to wake me or disrupt my sleep.
P:S: Shout out to all the girls that frequented the restroom in the middle of the night, especially those who liked to dragged their feet on the floor. Shout out to the sisters that were always on the phone, making loud calls and disturbing our sleep. Shout out to the sisters that liked to gossip in the middle of the night. Shout out to all the snorers, especially those that sound like old malfunctioning cassava engine. And shout out to all the brothers at home (or in camp) who didn’t know it was wrong to call someone in the middle of the night, when you know that they are not alone and that the call will disturb others.
How would you all like your thunder? Heavy or fierce?
Aside from lack of sleep, I hated most of the camp activities. They were extremely boring and torturing. The morning devotion, announcement, and what have you; that starts by 5 am, and ends by 7:30 will have you questioning why you agreed to obey the Clarion call. If the stress was worth it. And what crime you committed to deserve such punishment.
And if standing for over 2 hours in the FREEZING COLD (yes I had to capitalize it) for three whole weeks isn’t punishment, I don’t know what is.
I never saw anyone faint in my whole life until I got to camp. That was where I saw people faint from exhaustion and stress. No fewer than 5 people pass out during every parade. I also saw firsthand how easy it was for people to lie about being ill just so they could get some rest. It was that bad.
You can’t sleep peacefully during NYSC lectures (the man-o-wars wouldn’t let you), even though it’s 5 hours of boring talks that frankly, no one would remember after the speakers stepped down from the podium. You would even be lucky to get a seat where there is no sun. Otherwise, you will be sitting under the scorching sun throughout the lectures. That’s 5 hours guys! 5 long hours for some boring-to-death lecture. And trust me, Oyo sun wasn’t smiling back in Feb/March.
Drill and man-o-war martial art
This is about the only camp activity that I liked because I am not part of it. This means I get to sit — even though it’s on the floor in the open field and under the sun — and just observe. More like, rest my tiny legs and get to think about my life and what the hell I was doing there lol.
The social activity (dance, drama, music, comedy etc) is where I had some fun, if any. Honestly, some of the participants did amazing job of entertaining our tired-and-want-to-go-home selves.
For most corps members, the skill acquisition training was the perfect time to sleep. I was one of them. I was supposed to learn makeup and gele. But I was always too groggy to stay focus. I usually doze off in the first minute or so of every training. Except on days when I am unable to get a seat.
When I was 12 or 13 years old and just started learning how to cook; I was asked to prepare palm oil (concoction) rice and I waited till the rice was fully cooked before adding all the ingredients and somehow, I added too much of everything – too much salt, too much seasoning, too much curry, too much pepper, and too much palm oil – and ended up with a food that nobody could eat and nobody could stop talking about for years. This is the kind of food you get at the camp. The only difference is that sometimes, instead of too much, the ingredients are too little or the foods are not fully cooked. Thank God for the Mami market. That’s where I ate most of the time.
The restroom, the hostel, the security personnel, the rules and regulations and everything in the camp were designed in a way to frustrate corps members and there were times I got so frustrated I almost cried.
If you are going to camp anytime soon, my advice to you would be: Go with an open mind and hope to have the time of your life but be prepared for the worst.
Thanks for reading.
P:S: to all the ex/serving corps members, I would love to read about your NYSC camp experience, please, do share with me in the comment below.