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The Night of the Long Camp

Well, we started at 16:30 on Friday 25 March 2011 in the “South Fork” field to the west of the school library.

I set up my mega-tent and the kids all wanted to share it with me. I said no as usual, as they had their own equipment. It’s an eight-man tent but easy enough to erect – Ernest Mungong helped me – and we were up and functioning within a half-hour of starting.

I got the DofE “Barbie” out and lit it and a couple of kids did some “Pit Fires”, all very camping, but no actual cooking taking place, except for a late night marshmallow roast. After having got their little hotels up we went to Jarusato for tea.

By the time we came out of there at about 19:30 it was dark, the area aflame with incandescent sodium flowers. At this point we gathered together and organised a trek to the dense jungle of the Palms Mall, to hunt for wild game, KFC and multi-coloured Pizza. Some quickly established a “hide” in the Cafe Vergnano and engaged in capturing some wild victuals in an organised tribal feast. I was assured by my friend, Hakim the cafe manager, that the kids were well behaved, Grace the head waitress served them.

Kate Eboigbe was with me at the Mall and we headed for the Food Court Nature Reserve as we had not eaten earlier. I was not too hungry but Kate was ravenous, so we had chicken and fried rice (not enough salt for me but healthy enough, I suppose?) plus some liquid diet coke to slake our thirst.

We had set a target of an hour to rendezvous with the hunting party, as we did last time, and this week the group actually were punctual. After a head count, we stalked our way back through the undergrowth littered with parked and grazing wild cars; a couple of monster SUVs crossed our path but we made our way past the friendly brutes. There was one moment when our progress was barred by the long rope barrier at the west exit point, but a short retracing of our route ensured we were back on the familiar but dark path negotiating our way through an assortment of charging small cars and okadas entering the watering hole.

On reaching the Great Landbridge Avenue divide with Kate in the lead position guiding effortlessly, we managed to cross the raging river of traffic keeping to the outside bend of the torrent, then staying on the narrow ledge of precarious footpath that skirts the drainage ditch towards the school’s massive colonial-style gates, guarded by the uncompromising “Soldiers of Fortune”. Once inside we felt safe again and the hunting party were almost singing as they skipped their way back to our temporary village encampment with their trophies of left-over burger, pizzas and chicken in a basket.

By now the black night had enveloped us and as we listened to the plaintive cries of the wild cars coming from the Epe Expressway the kids at first organised themselves into tribal games of piggyback racing and chasing. Eventually the females gathered in a circle and discussed “Relationships: their pitfalls and advantages”, while most of the guys engaged in serious male bonding. Some competed in teams trying to kick a leather ball into a target, while a small group secretly began imbibing hallucinatory liquids, made from a sweet, sugary type of substance common to these frontier parts, strictly against instruction, but experimenting just the same to explore their masculinity and providing them with boundless energy. Needless to say the ringleader was apprehended and sternly admonished, after which the whole group was gathered together and lectured on the merits of “trust”.

They were allowed to then arrange for their toilet events, and get ready to rest for the night. However, the washroom had no water supply and the kids had devoured their meagre rations of two small bottles of fresh water. No more was readily available, so they had to improvise and hunt out the containers situated in A, B, C and E Block. Some returned with their prizes and others were disappointed.

By midnight they were in their canvas huts but still restless. The night was hot and the wild insects plagued the intrepid group, pursuing them to the very corners of their flimsy beds. Ernest had long vacated my tent to sleep in the relative safety of his fortress of solitude. Kate occupied the other half of my canvas cave while I tried to settle down to sleep, but I had to keep watch throughout the night and had to direct several skirmishers to their tents. At five in the morning there were still a few unsettled cherubs about and out of their cubicles. One group were playing football, which was dealt with by Kate. At one point a boy was walking about in the darkness wearing sunglasses and pyjamas – obviously too much sugary liquid taken earlier. At 05:30 I ventured out to admonish a group of boys who were whispering loudly. A pair of girls who were escaping the bites of insects were told to go back and close their door.

I then slept until the morning cries of the lonely mobile phones began their cacophony of mating calls, bursting stridently through my weary dreams and demanding to be recognised.

I rose and went to my private waterfall and refreshed myself, with tea and toast, then taking advantage of the early dawn I packed my inner tent. Soon Kate had woken and changed, then together we decamped, as did the group. By seven we were all off the field and the kids were ensconced in the New Horizons Hall; meanwhile I had my second shower of the day. I returned to the Hall after first taking my untrained golf ball for a short walk, using my sand wedge to control the little beast. At the hall the kids were departing in staggered appointments as their personal gondolas gathered them away. The few who stayed were very aggressive about needing quiet in order to sleep; these were in the main Boarders, waiting for the bus to their boarding house after the breakfast run. After feeding them I again took my now more patient golf ball back to its kennel.

And that was my night.

PG Author: Franjo Wright

Franjo Wright is the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme Co-ordinator at the British International School in Lagos.

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