My Warri Chronicles 8. The Library

 

 

My favourite place in all of Warri was the local library. It was situated on Swamp road, at one end of the GRA. It was just a short stroll from my school to the library. The day I discovered that little building, my life changed forever!

I was always a bookworm, and though we had quite a rich library at home, it was never enough. I read anything that was written on a piece of paper, even the ones I did not understand.

One day, during the “Long break”, usually about 30-45 minutes, a friend told me the library was just around the corner; and off we went. As I went through those hallowed doors, I thought I had entered Heaven! How could so many books be in the same place, all waiting for me to devour? I wanted to borrow ten books at once, but the librarian, a stern-looking buxom lady, would have none of it. She said I could borrow one book and read for a week, and if I finished it then she would allow me to borrow two books per week from the children’s section.

Me? One book per week? Okay na.

I filled the form/card and was issued a temporary library card. And I went home with one book. The following day at break time I was back in the library with the book in hand. And the librarian was mad! She said she knew we were not serious! I had returned the book without even attempting to read it, bla bla bla bla..ad infinitum!

I was a very quiet girl, so I politely waited for her to finish pouring the verbal venom on me. When she finally ran out of steam, I told her I had read the book and could tell her the entire story if she wanted. Of course, she did not believe me. So I told her the story, almost word for word. She went quiet, and looked at me ‘one kind.’ Then she let me borrow another book, slightly bigger. And I returned it the next day.

After that, the library became my personal space during the break, and that lady became one of my favourite human beings. Soon she was letting me go home with five books at weekends. And on Mondays, I would return them and we would discuss books like two equals.

It was in that space, I discovered Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, and so many wonderful writers that helped to shape my brain and probably, that was when the secret desire to be a writer began. I’m not too sure, but it did contribute a lot to my all-time love for books and libraries.

 

Yes, my Warri was not all rough edges; we had the panache that exists only in bookish towns.

That was my Warri. And we will bring it all back again. Soon.

#MyWarriChronicles #Warri #HomeTowns #WarriNoDeyCarryLast #BornTWriteWell #ElsieWrite

 

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My Warri Chronicles 7. Trekking

 

Trekking in Warri was not necessarily an indication of poverty or non-ownership of a family car. At, least, not where I lived. It may seem strange to some people in this era but in the time in which I grew up, your family could own several cars, but you would walk to school, or the neighborhood shops and markets. And very often you would walk to church or fellowship too.

Case in point: I had a schoolmate in primary 5, who was from a wealthy home. They lived somewhere on/around Idama street, close to the Rerri family, I believe. I do not have their permission to write about them so I will not mention their name but they were quite well-to-do back then. But we all trekked home from school every day.

We would trek from our school, close to the Warri library, through Ginuwa road, turn into Father Healy street, pass through Nelson William street and then go down Ogboru road till we got to Idama. From there, people began to turn into their various homes.

Trekking for us was neither poverty nor punishment; it was fun, and it was an accepted mode of transportation. We would tell stories, jokes, and riddles. And we would laugh with glee. Sometimes, there would be a quarrel and two people would break into a fight. And that was another form of entertainment. But we played much more than we fought. And of course, the language of communication was pidgin, the Warri pidgin.

In those days there was no DSTV, or any form of cable Television for that matter. And we did not have the freedom of going out whenever we wanted, so the time spent walking home from school was our time of bonding and deep friendships.

In my Warri, we had no issues of kidnapping, child rape and some of the evils that make neighborhoods so dangerous today. We were kids and we had the freedom to be young and carefree. And we trekked. No shame, no pain.

Of course, there were kids who didn’t trek. I doubt if the Mabiakus, Rewanes, Edodos and such other Warri “Bill Gates” did any trekking, but no matter; some of us did, and we thought nothing of it.

It was our Warri, our way of life. And it was good.

#WarriChronicles #MyWarri #HomeTowns #IAmAWriterByChoice#BornToWriteWell #ElsieWrite

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My Warri Chronicles 2.

The economy of Warri back then rested squarely on the oil exploration companies, and on the companies that served/ serviced them. Shell was the de facto government in Warri. NNPC followed a close second. They owned beautiful housing estates that had swimming pools, well-manicured lawns, clubhouses and an otherworldly ambiance. If you had friends and family living in “Shell Estate” then you were a big man for sure.

You never went quietly to visit your relatives in those places. If you were a shy and quiet kid like me, you would whisper it in a few choice ears that you would not be around after church on Sunday because the family will be visiting that your uncle that resides in NNPC quarters. That was all. Your status went up several notches. And you were hated the more.

And then more kids would want to befriend you so they can come over to watch TV. And so on and so forth.

But there were other companies that gave you status, set you apart somewhat. I already mentioned the oil- servicing companies; they paid well and had “class.” I remember McDermott, although, for many years, I could not accept the idea of McDermott as a company; I think the street on which the company was situated was named after it, and McDermott road became more popular than McDermott company. But they were an okay company to work for.

There was NPA- Nigerian Ports Authority- they were high up there with the oil coys. My best friend, Toma, was an NPA kid so I could flex some on her account.

Lower down the ladder were companies like Kingsway stores (Kingsway Rendezvous was the first fast food company of its kind in Warri, I believe it gave birth to present day Mr. Biggs. They had the best meat pie in the entire universe!)

And then there was AG Leventis, which was where we belonged. And we were alright too, in our own way. There were many other companies that made Warri the vibrant city it was back then; long before the militancy and the nyamanyama that followed.

Soon we shall make Warri great again. Who will blow the TRUMPet?

image courtesy: http://www.nairaland.com

Warri rig

#warrichronicles #mywarri #Elsiewrite #IAmAWriterByChoice

My Warri Chronicles 1.

 

I grew up in Warri-Okumagba layout. It was neither a slum, nor a GRA. Everyone had their level, and respected it.

But there were interactions and jealousies across the divide.

Let me explain.

If you were living in a flat or bungalow that had its own toilets, kitchen etc, you were an object of envy from the neighbourhood kids.

To avoid being ‘waylayed’ and beaten up, you had to allow the neighbours watch TV in your living room. Your close friends would come in and sit on the carpet or on the arms of the chairs, (the chair itself was off limits), and the others who were neither friends nor foes would watch from the window.

Sometimes you had upwards of twenty kids between the living room floor and the window side.

And when they got very noisy you just had to say, ‘shhh!’ The message was well received.

You were hated/envied for speaking ‘simple and correct English.’ In Warri, pidgin is king. If you didn’t speak it you were suspect. Speaking your language was an offence though, pidgin was the thing. That was Okumagba layout.

That was my ‘hood for a time. Soon, I shall make a literary journey back there, but not yet.

Some holidays, we travelled to Trofani (Rivers state then, Bayelsa now). I hear there’s a bridge that links somewhere to Trofani now. Back then, we made the trip by boat. It was terrifying, and fun too.

This time I returned to Trofani. Without going there.

That’s the beauty of the written word. You can go anywhere you like and be anyone you want.

#NewBook #Elsiewrite #BornToWriteWell #IamWriting #IAmAWriterByChoicemap of Warri