A Visit To My Village

Ehiaga Benjamin Imhans

© Copyright 2020 by Ehiaga Benjamin Imhans

Photo of a Nigerian village.

This a story of one of my visits to the village, sometime in the year 1997. It was fun to get to meet loved ones who lived most, if not all their lives, in the village. Our visit to the village usually brings admiration from the villagers. We speak in English or Pidgin since we can’t speak and understand the local dialect fluently. The villagers are usually awed when they hear us speak. We would go to the river to swim and get water for drinking. We go to the farm to harvest maize, yam, or cassava. There are lots of exciting activities. In one night, I accompanied some young boys, in our early teens, to pick snails from the forest. But, as we entered deep into the forest, we saw a big snake. The outcome of that experience was one that filled me with awe.

It is said: ‘There is no place like home. Chase your dreams but always know the road that will lead you home again.’ For me, the village is a home sweet home. It takes you closer to nature. For once, you have a break from the hustle and bustle of the big cities. So when it was time for vacation as a junior high school student, I planned to visit the village and derived pleasant memories. As usual, I was not disappointed.

My father arranged for a commercial driver to take us to the village. It was a long drive of about three hours from where we stay in the city. The year was 1997. Then, my family lived in Warri, Delta State, Nigeria. My village is Ohordua, in Edo State, Nigeria. It is a beautiful village typical of red soil. We lacked electricity at the time. So, our source of water was either from rain during the rainy season or from a river called Utor River that has a bridge that links my village to the next.

When we arrived at my grandfather’s compound, my grandmother, who was alive then, rushed out to embrace us. Neighbours from nearby houses ran out to welcome us. It was not unusual for them to run out of their houses when they hear the sound of vehicles. We were very happy. We took our luggage in and my grandmother prepared a delicious meal for us. She is a good cook. Whenever we ate her meal, we ended up licking our hands and the plates with our tongues. It could be that the food cooked over firewood tastes more delicious than those prepared over a stove or a gas cooker.

We settled in so fast. I went around the compound to inspect if there were any significant changes from our last visit. I checked the fruit trees surrounding my grandfather’s compound to see if I could get some oranges or tangerines. When I found some, I used the go-to-hell farm tool to pluck them. The oranges from my village were very sweet. I guessed it was only in the village I ate good meals and a balanced diet. My grandmother prepared fresh meals and there were fresh fruits to aid digestion. I liked eating pounded yam and melon soup with smoked fish. I also enjoyed the bitter leaf soup. Though as the name implies, you might think the soup tastes bitter. But, it tastes delicious. The women in the village know how to prepare this soup. You may end up biting your finger as a result of the pleasant taste.

My grandfather’s compound is well-situated and well-built. At the front of the house is a wide area of land with sharp sand we use as our playground. He built the house in such a way that there is also a playground in the middle of the house fenced round. It was built like a bungalow but no dormer windows. The toilet was located a good distance away from the building since it is a pit toilet. It was locally made by digging a hole, placing some planks across the hole, and creating a small space in between where you can squat and answer nature calls. Usually, there was no roof to shield one from the sun or the rain. However, you have the trees to thank for providing the needed protection. But, if the rain was heavy, then you would do your thing getting wet. And that can be irritating.

The bathroom was located behind the house. It was constructed with palm fronds that act as a cover from passersby. It has an open roof. So, if it is raining, your clothes or towel you hang at the entrance to cover your nakedness would get wet. Once, I had to hurry to leave the bathroom before the rain became heavier. During the rainy season, I would play in the rain within the compound. Since the playground was enclosed in the building, no one would look at me when I roll over the ground enjoying myself in the rain.

A big plantation lay opposite my grandfather’s house. It contained many trees such as kola nut trees, guava trees, orange trees, cocoa trees, banana, pineapple, avocado pear, bush pear (dacryodes edulis), and others I do not know their names. My grandparents named some of the dacryodes edulis after their grandchildren. So, my siblings and I have trees. When they want to harvest bush pear from a particular tree, instead of calling the tree by its name, they called it by our names. They would tell us which trees they harvested a particular pear when we are eating them. When they sold them, they would tell us whose tree they sold the harvested fruit. But, we never get to touch the money. You can say, we have a fruit business managed by our parents. The food, clothes, and school fees they pay for us were the investment of our share of the business. I would run into the plantation walking the length and breadth scouting for fruits. My favourite was a cocoa pod. I liked the sweet pulp. I also enjoyed the bush pear with roasted corn or cooked corn. I am salivating already.

Farming is our main occupation in my village. As early as possible, we were on our way to the farm with my mother to harvest some yam tubers. I hate going to the farm, especially in the morning. The dew keeps the grasses wet. As we walk through the narrow path, we would get wet, causing some sort of irritation. My siblings and I would raise our arms to avoid the wet grasses. Sometimes, it was more of a game as we meander our way through the narrow path to avoid being wet. Who got to the farm with a moist seemed to win in the game.

When we get to the farm, we would carry the yam tubers to the barn constructed in the middle of the big farm. The labourers dig the yam tubers, while we take them to the yam barn. Sometimes, we take them to the house, where we also have a yam barn. After working for some time, we would roast some tubers of yam and eat them with palm oil seasoned with salt and pepper. That will serve as our lunch. It tastes very delicious.

Later in the evening, at about 4 p.m., we go to the river to get water. We would carry the keg on our head trekking home. It was a considerable distance from the river. We may go for several times before we take our bath. I enjoyed swimming in the Utor River even though I cannot swim. Usually, I am scared of water. So, when others swim in the deep, I stay in the shallow part where kids also swim. When you are in the river, you could call a fish, not too close to yourself. But, you cannot touch them. Before you can even get a chance to see them, they are gone. You have to be vigilant. If you spit into the river, the fishes would swim up to swallow your floating saliva. It was fun for me as I watch how these fishes contend for it. I would do it several times, fascinated by this act.

At night, after eating dinner, we gathered to play whot (a game played with a set of non-standard cards in five suits: circles, crosses, triangles, stars, and squares). It was fun. Sometimes, I would win in the game. If a player has exhausted the cards in his hands, the one with the highest number, after adding the cards of individuals who participated in the game, leaves the game for the others to continue. The game will start afresh and continue with the same method of elimination until it is left with two players who compete to finally get the champion.

If I am not playing whot, then, I would be playing in the sharp sand at the front of the house with other kids who usually come around. The moon sometimes shines its light making if fun for everyone. Those in the village know no fear. They could move at any time of the night. We then retire to bed when my mother or grandmother would call us in. If not, we could play all through the night.

On one occasion, the children who were in their early teens and younger decided to go for snail-hunting. It was at about 9 p.m. They came to the house to visit us and they were about to leave to get themselves ready. When I heard about it, I was excited. I got myself ready and followed them. We left with torches. As one who had lived most of his lives in the city, I feared the night and the forest. I am scared of snakes and other wild animals. Even a cockroach can frighten me. So, I had to be in the middle to avoid being a victim of anything unpleasant. But, they were not scared. They could enter anywhere and at any time.

It started fine. For me, I was catching fun. This part of the vacation was the most thrilling. That was my first time in the forest so late at the night and it could be the last. So, I wanted to enjoy every moment. While they were more concerned about getting as much snail as they could find, I was concerned about the thrill I was getting from walking in the forest, through the dark, at that time of the night. It was cold as we walked through the bushes. They were excited as they were collecting snails. They knew where to find them.

As we go deeper into the forest, we saw a big snake sleeping deeply. Fear gripped me when one of the lads alerted us to the danger. I quickly gripped the closest person and stood behind him. I made sure I stood where I felt safe from any seeming danger. But, they were not scared. One of them reached out for a cutlass and looked for the head of the snake. He cut off the head and they took his body home. They buried the head. That was the end of the snail-hunting. It was like the biggest catch for them. We went home and cooked the snake that night. They shared it among everyone including me. I could only imagine how it tastes in their mouth. The meat they got was far more than the snail we collected combined. I went home and related the incident to my siblings.

After spending three weeks, it was time to go back to the city. I never wanted the holiday to end. The village is so calm and peaceful. Even though there was no electricity then, we enjoyed the simple life. The people, the food, the activities, and even nature made going to the village so appealing, so refreshing. It is like you are living in another world, where there are no worries, where everything seemed to be free, where you don’t have money, but, it seemed you are very wealthy. To this day, I love the life in the village more than in the city.

Ehiaga Benjamin Imhans is a teacher and tutor based in Nigeria. He teaches mathematics and phonetics. He is a self-publisher with Amazon. He wrote the book ‘A Guide to Test of Orals’, ‘How to Develop Ability as a Speaker and a Teacher – Five Proven Study Guide’ and ‘Precious Tears’. He wrote ‘Precious Tears’ under a pseudonym ‘Benammi Joseph’. He had locally co-authored Mathematics Textbook for Grade 1 to Grade 6. He enjoys writing stories and poems. He is currently a phonetic teacher with one of the Federal Staff School in Benin City, Nigeria. He likes sports, especially football and table tennis. 

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