In my house, Sunday is a hectic something.
You’ll be woken up at 6 o’clock to the sound of men and women wailing worship songs on the radio, and after that it’s a blur of rushed activity; fighting to use the bathroom first, fighting to use the iron first, dressing up at top speed. And there’s all this hustle, because my mother does not tolerate lateness.
The first time my mother told us, “If you people are late, I’ll leave o,” she said it like a joke, so we thought we were just having a fun moment.
The next Sunday my siblings and I were late; we walked to church.
So you can imagine that I’d gotten used to that system of things and I’d taken that attitude to school. Saturday evening, I used Abdul’s iron to get my clothes ready, laid out my things, hunted for my bible and went to sleep, peaceful and expectant of a glorious Sunday morning.
I was woken up by Shatta Wale the next morning.
I jerked awake, and I looked around me, confused. I was almost sure it was still a dream, because which kind of demon was playing “Enter the Net” on a Sunday morning? And the sad part was that my leg was already twitching to the beat. I slapped it to stop, and I jumped down and looked outside to see what was going on.
The music was coming from a room two doors down the corridor. Boys were walking around in their boxer shorts, and about 4 boys were sitting with buckets in front of them, washing. I came back into my room and looked about. Abdul was a Muslim, so I didn’t expect him to show any reverence, but Jeff was still passed out. I was very confused.
I think it’s the moment I came to appreciate just what my freedom in university meant; there was no adult to ask me to do anything. In the coming months, I’d come to realize that people went to church when they wanted to, went to lectures when they wanted to (not me, though. Missing one anatomy lecture was like willingly killing yourself), and generally did whatever they wanted to.
It was confusing, but it also brought things to light pretty quickly; there were boys who had been fronting “holy squad” in Botwe because church was by force, but in the university, it didn’t take long for their newfound freedom to display their real choices.
I’d just put on my shirt, and was looking about for my shoes, when I heard noises of panic; hurried feet, chairs knocked over in haste. I opened the door and looked outside. There was almost nobody on the corridor. The buckets were abandoned.
Ah. What was going on?
Out of the corner of my eye I saw a figure at the end of the top of the stairs. I turned to face a very pretty, very fair girl with a bible under her arm, smiling at me.
She walked towards me and introduced herself as Melanie, from some off-campus church, and after exchanging pleasantries, she began knocking on the door of the room next to mine. Nobody was answering; it appeared they were all asleep. I could hear one guy snoring in there, all the way from where I was standing. Ah, didn’t I just see two of the people from this room washing here, a minute ago?
I would come to be very familiar with this routine in the coming months. You could wake up in the morning and decide not to go to church, but the churches had decided to use the one weakness of (most) boys against them; they couldn’t rudely say no to fine girls.
So come Sunday morning, you’d think you were free to do your “abeyisem” and play worldly music in peace, until a fine girl turned up in your room to convince you to go to church. The conversation would be something like this:
“Hi. My name is Adelaide, and I’m from (insert church).”
“Oh, hello. I’m Otu.”
“Please, have you been to church today?”
This question at 8 o’clock when obviously you hadn’t. At this point the guilty conscience would’ve arrived and sat on your neck like goitre.
“O-oh no. I didn’t go today. I’m….”
This is when you’d try and give some excuse when you’d not even been asked.
And I really think church committees have meetings to discuss how to give nice rebuttals to excuses, because they’re experts o. What excuse could you give that they won’t find reply?
“..Oh I’m not feeling well today.”
They’ll come back with, “But there is healing in the presence of the Lord!”
“..Oh I’m tired today, I’ll go next week.”
They’ll supply, “Oh but my church is right here. I’ll even walk with you, don’t worry.”
“I haven’t ironed my shir-“
“Oh you go and bath. I’ll iron it for you.”
“My girlfriend broke up with me yesterday, I’m still recovering.”
Chale, please. “There are nice Christian girls in the church, you can recover there.”
Boys had realised there was no way to get out of it, so they’d used the only other option left to them: acting.
Somebody would hear some particular girl coming up the stairs and all the boys would disappear into their rooms and lock the doors and start sleeping by force. Some would add snoring for special effect.
It was quite alarming, the talents that these boys were wasting away: The way a guy could fake-snore for 9 minutes straight without breaking, as the girl was knocking, it left me amazed.
I also felt a bit sorry for the girls sometimes, walking all the way up here to an all-boys wing of the hall only to be faced with disappointments. They were almost always lucky, though. There was always someone who would feel bad and go with them.
Then return to snoring next week.
Anyway, I would know all this later. That first Sunday, I left for church full of high spirits, and the entire campus seemed to reflect my mood. There were churches everywhere – masses of moving, singing bodies.
My church is a pretty active place even at home, so I was prepared for the vigorous dancing and familiar calls and responses. It was on another level here, though. People danced like they weren’t paying for the shoes they were wearing. It was comforting, in the midst of all the newness and confusion of a strange school, to be shouting out familiar slogans like I’d been doing at home. I think it’s the quality I’ve most appreciated about church on campus; the almost offhand sense of being at home.
The pastor was a young short guy who was almost bouncing with energy, one of the shouty types.
“Do we have any first years in the house?”
A cheer went up. There were quite a lot of first years.
Just when I was beginning to relax and enjoy, this man proceeded to guilt trip me.
“I know that some of you have not been exposed to this kind of freedom before! You’ve come here and you’ve seen beautiful girls and you’ve seen attractive boys and your minds have done like 3D Pipe!”
Loud, raucous laughter.
“But look, let me tell you! This university life is not just about gymming and getting body and meeting fine girls!”
Ei Bra. Stop stop. Those were almost all my goals o.
“No, look, let me tell you! You think this life is a joke? You have gotten an amazing opportunity to be here! Don’t squander it!” He was already sweating from the shouting.
He went on like this for a while, attacking my goals in uni. This guy ehn. Early morning, coming to spoil somebody’s mood. Hoh.
I resumed looking around the church. Everyone was animated, the way teenagers are when sex is mentioned anywhere. The boys, even the seniors from my SHS looked crif and focused here, but I knew it was almost very likely not so. Regardless, what was a better place to make sensible friends than in church? I resolved to start ahoshing people next week.
The service rounded up by 10: 30 thereabouts, and I hung around a bit, talking to familiar faces from Botwe. I was back in my room by 11, drained.
Just before I went to sleep, I remembered I’d written my contact details on a sheet of paper being passed round. Apparently I wouldn’t be allowed to miss church next week, even if I wanted to.