We usually have Bible Study service at church on Wednesdays. It starts at 6pm. Today, I came to church at 5pm for a brief women’s meeting. Nkaiso, who is the secretary, made me come. And now that I am here, I’m not happy that I came. They are discussing how to cater for the upcoming Harvest and Thanksgiving. The pastor asked the women’s leader to draw a budget, and she needs a few sisters to meet and deliberate.
This kind of thing isn’t my thing. I don’t do communal cooking, where everybody is a sous-chef, everybody knows a better method of making a particular food item. Some people sit back and grumble about how Sister A or Sister B is such a bad cook, no wonder her husband and kids are looking gaunt. Some people’s jobs would be to taste the food when it is done and declare which one should be for the pastoral team, and which one should be for the mere mortals. Those who happen not to be in this hallowed decision-making position also sit back and grumble and gossip about how Sister Tester is using the opportunity to rijuo afo, since she does not know the source of her next meal.
Then, the last set of people that make communal cooking undesirable for me are the ones that come with their containers or poly bags to take food and ingredient remnants home. After all, ogbu opi na-eficha imi.
So, I am sitting back in this meeting, totally bored, and amusing myself by categorizing the women here according to their enthusiasm.
“One paint bucket of crayfish will not be enough o!” Sister Stella pipes up. “It is better to err on the side of caution.”
“Yes! Sister Stella is right. We don’t want to cook food that isn’t tasty, right?” one dark-skinned sister who wears glasses speaks up in support of Sister Stella.
“Hmm! Birds of a feather…” I mutter under my breath, instantly fixing them both in the group of scavengers.
“Who knows how to make semovita very well in large quantity?” asks the women’s leader, sweeping her gaze around the small gathering.
“Ah! That’s easy now! We can wing it…” Sister Amara starts to say.
“There’s no winging in this matter o!” It’s Sister Stella again. “This needs to be perfect.”
Sister Amara glares at Sister Stella, obviously annoyed at being cut short.
“So, mama, do you have any better idea?” the women’s leader directs at Sister Stella.
Sister Amara nods vigorously, as if to say, Ehen! Juo ya! Okacha mara!
I quickly categorize Sister Amara in the group of grumblers.
Sister Stella smiles that ‘I am a pro’ smile, before saying, “Of course! I have made semo in large quantity severally. I can handle that too.”
Sister Amara rolls her eyes and whispers something to the woman close to her, gesticulating. Her fellow grumbler.
Just then, I decide to check my phone. I tune off, lost in the Blackberry world, until I hear raised singing voices.
“…Lord we have come again, Holy Ghost come and take control…”
The meeting is finally over. Everyone is standing except me. I get up instantly, feeling a tad guilty for tuning off.
We have ten minutes left before the service starts. I sit, still fiddling with my phone, every once in a while, throwing a maternal glance at Gabby, who is playing with Nkaiso’s kids, under the watchful eyes of Nkaiso’s help.
Nkaiso breaks away from the ‘inner caucus’ meeting with the women’s leader, treasurer and a few other women, and comes to seat on the chair beside me.
“Did you enjoy our meeting?” she says, drawing my attention away from my phone.
“Huh? Enjoy wetin? See, don’t ask me to cooking meeting again, mbok…” I start to protest.
She interrupts me with a laugh. “I knew you wouldn’t like it sha.”
“Then why did you decide to torture me in this manner? You can’t have become this evil nau!” I say good-naturedly.
“I’m sorry. I did not know we would start the meeting as early as we did. Normally, our women’s meeting starts like twenty minutes after the set time, because they usually do not come in time. I wanted to discuss something with you.”
“Ah! Ok. What is it?” I ask, locking my phone keypad, and popping it into my handbag.
“Our husbands have the same birthday, so, I was thinking we should jointly do something to celebrate them.”
“Hmm, I love the idea. So, what do you have in mind?”
“Nothing much sha, just a little something… Cake, small chops, food and drink, most of which we’ll make ourselves…”
“Whoa! Time out!” I say, cutting her short. “I don’t know how to make anything! Except the food sha…” Then, I remember Nneamaka. “Ehen! I have a neighbor/friend who has learnt how to make pastries and intercontinental dishes. Maybe we can ask her to give us a budget and see if it’s something we can afford. Won’t it make sense to serve Chinese cuisine?” I ask, smiling and getting into the spirit of the birthday about to be planned.
“My dear, I don’t have much money to spare o! That is why I’m considering doing most stuff by ourselves,” Nkaiso objects.
“I don’t have much either,” I admit, my countenance falling just a little bit. “Can’t we stylishly collect the money from our husbands?” I suggest with a small smile.
“Amen!” says Brother Ukandu into the microphone, cutting off whatever Nkaiso had been about to say. “Can we all be on our feet as we pray to declare this service open!”
As we shuffle to our feet, I ask, “So, what do you think?”
Again, as Nkaiso open her mouth to reply, Brother Ukandu’s voice boom from the podium. “Imeeela, imeela! Okakaa, onye kere uwa…” He is singing in a very loud voice, despite the fact that he is using a public address system.
Nkaiso signals me that we’ll talk after the service, before we promptly turn our attention to the service as it begins.
Rijuo afo – Eat till stomach is full
Ogbu opi na-eficha imi – Where a man works is where he should eat
Juo ya! Okacha mara! – Ask him/her, the I-too-know
Imeeela, imeela! Okakaa, onye kere uwa – You have done well, Almighty Who created the world.
Written by Adaku J.