Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Goodbye hopeville

The things I’ve experienced in this little fifteen years of my life – most forty

year olds I’ve not seen half of it. Sometimes I wonder if really I am fifteen years

old. Even Mami, my mother seems confused about my real birth date, I was once

told I was born on the 24th of January 1996, then later I was told it was on the

21st. Grandma still argues about my age with Mami if am fifteen or sixteen. I know by

now you are wondering what kind of home I came from. This is my story.

Papi, my Father died seventeen years ago even before I was born, everything we

owned was forcefully taken from us by our uncles, my father’s brothers. Mami

faced the most inhuman of conditions; she was accused of murdering Papi. One

morning Mami and i (eight months old in her womb) ran away, we ran far away and

that was how we got here. We have nothing here, we are professional beggars now,

begging is our family business. I was born into poverty; I was born with no silver spoon in fact I was born with no

spoon, not even a wooden spoon. My siblings and I work hard day and night to get

the family as alive as possible.

We live in an old unfinished hotel building- ‘Hopeville’, the cracking brick

walls are decorated with green mosses, and the floors rugged with dry brown

overgrown mosses. Our room has just one long bench, an old painting of mother

Mary and baby Jesus and an old mattress on which we all lie, bed wet and play

on. The building is huge, a three storey building with sixty rooms housing

sixteen other families of homeless beggars like us, we are the beggar community.

Life here is hard. We fight for everything, we fight to sleep, we fight to wake

and we fight to live. Through early childhood, I was taught how to bend my hand

into my big shirt with my elbow sticking out with my forearm appearing to be cut

and amputated. I practised it over and over that sometimes I subconsciously feel


We work in shifts, my younger siblings work during the early hours and me and my

brother and I take over from mid noon, we roam the busy roads wearing the

dirtiest and the best of our rags, with our shaved hair decorated with sparkling

white ring worm and dandruff. Laughter and fun is not allowed during work hours

so we appear as convincing and pathetic as possible. Wearing the saddest of face,

i always get the biggest returns. Timi, my eleven year old brother always gets

jealous he never gets as much returns as me. Mami rewards me daily with a few

more morsels of Eba at night. Meat in our soup is only during special occasions

like Christmas or Valentine when people hypocritically decide to show love. We

eat bones and biscuit bones on Sundays, bones gathered from the abattoirs. We

are malnourished. We eat twice daily, sometimes once and it’s Eba morning and

Night. I tasted milk for the first time when I was 8.

Last week, I lost my virginity to my boyfriend Musa, It was painful. I cried all

night, though we didn’t last long like those white people in the ‘blue films’ we

watch at Mike the Electrician’s shop. Musa is eighteen, once a beggar now retired

he is a bus conductor and professional pickpocket he is very talented at it and

everyday he gives me money and gifts. He says he loves me and that he’ll marry

me. I love him too and that was why I agreed to do with him what Mami does with

his father Mr Adamu. Timi, my brother and I always peek when they do it. I feel

embarrassed when i hear Mami moan and scream. Musa’s father, Mr Adamu is my

Mami’s boyfriend and her contract husband. He is the father of my six siblings.

Mami pays him to get her pregnant because he’s a ‘strong breed’ as grandma says.

In this our begging business only ‘strong breeds’ survive and withstand the

fiercest of conditions through the sun and through the rain.

Our biggest competition remain the Arabian beggars and the white Niger Republic

beggars as they hustle harder than us and get more returns because Nigerians are

just so stupid falling for anything white be it USA, UK, China, Egypt or

even white Niger Republics!. What a pity.

Mami needs as many children as possible to increase returns Two years ago; I

lost my sister Bosa to cholera and pneumonia. Her death has left a big vacuum in

our home, I miss her so much. Just like other begging homes, eight kids make a

perfect begging ‘staff’ With Eight kids (workers) on the road, a future is sure.

The younger we are the better for us, when I was a baby, mom took me to work on

the streets and highway till I was three and ready to walk and work on my own. I

worked then with restrictions I wanted to be free just like other kids.

Well now am free and off the chain, I do whatever I like and no one cares, it’s

sad no one really cares. I can’t wait for night to come; I’ll be sleeping over

at my boyfriend’s and he promises to introduce me to some big men. He’s been

making plans for our meeting since last month. Tomorrow is our meeting day. At

last everything is set I will be travelling overseas to Italy to get a better

job. This is a big secret He said I should not tell Mami and I didn’t. I have my

little bag packed and I did not forget my condoms. I will miss home, I’ll

miss my siblings, I’ll miss begging on the streets and fighting hard.

Tomorrow I will be sold but for good. I know I’ll be back someday, to give Mami

hope, to save Timi, Dami, Sola, Taiye and Kehinde(the twins), and Sade, the baby

(Mami’s greatest assert). To give Grandma a befitting funeral.

I have no fears. I know Freedom is not free so I’m ready to pay the price.

With tears in my eyes. Goodbye yesterday...Goodbye Hopeville.

Welcome Tomorrow, Hello Italy...

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