Sunday, April 27, 2014
SURVIVING AMERICA...IMABONG'S TALE By ENA OFUGARA
She like a lot of calabar young girls sadly was a housegirl. Her last "oga" had raped her and gotten her pregnant. The wife of the man had given her the kind of beating that was reserved for people who stole from the market for daring to put herself in a position to be raped by her husband.
IMabong's mother had been nice. She allowed Imabong stay and deliver and before allowing her find a new family to be house-helps to while she too care of Essien, Imabong's son.
Imabong was lucky to have found this rich Yoruba family who for a pittance paid, made her a live-in help. They were both staff of Mobil Unlimited and were really well to do.
She was cook, nanny, washerman, and errand girl for the family and their four children. Yes, she was taking care of people's children while her son Essien never got to see his mother in the same Calabar as a housegirl is never allowed to go home...ever.
Imabong was the lucky kind of House girl....the type that is needed to accompany the whole family to the US.
As a smart girl, Imabong ran away while in the US. She found her passport in her madams purse and ran like the wind. She just ran into the streets and was in shelters with drug addicts et al, Imabong suffered but knew she had to be here in America as going back home meant she would remain a househelp forever.
Imabong wanted more.
Her Visa was a working Visa and as a nineteen years old, she joined the hispanics at HOME DEPOT and did all kinds of jobs.
Then she saw a Nigerian couple who now and then needed a babysitter for their 7 year old. And so once again she was a nanny as the man was a driver and wife nursing assistant.
The couple, Mr and Mrs Umukoro were quite nice to her and Mrs Umukoro told her matter-of-factly to see if she could try and be CNA/GNA too. Mr. Umukoro, hearing her story, paid for her to attend the classes by adding to the money he owed her. She was taken in by them.
The classes were quite easy as Imabong was in class with other Africans. She was always a brilliant girl and wondered right there in class why her father and mother would let her become a housegirl. Surely they weren't the poorest in the world. Why Calabar parents allowed their children to be househelp she could never fathom as she hardly ever meets other Niger Delta children becoming househelps.
And so she did become a GNA (geriatric nursing assistant) at first go.
She got a job with Manor Care, a senior living facility and Imabong had the honour of cleaning poop of frail senior citizens.
Imabong's first salary amazed her. She never knew cleaning poop was so honourable and fulfilling. She knew all the child poop she had cleaned and all the cooking she had done and all the washing. Here all she did was be nice to these old people and her salary was ....she just could not believe it. SHE COULD ACTUALLY BUY A CAR in 5 months of work and she did.
She remembered the look on Mr and Mrs Umokoro's face as she sat on the steering wheel of the Honda Bullet. It was an old car but what did Imabong care? She had taken driving lessons and was on top of the world with joy as Kevwe, her madam and friend watched as she showed off her skill in "paralel parking".
But her happiness was about to end. Her two years working Visa was about to expire. Esiri Umukoro her oga had given her options to stay in America. YOU MUST FIND SOMEONE TO MARRY OR YOU WILL LOSE YOUR JOB.
Imabong wore that worry to work everyday even as she took care of the old people. But it never stopped her from doing a good job with the residents. She knew back home in Nigeria, she would do a lot more, under worse treatment for a lot less.
Her favourite resident (as they are called) was Mr. Cuningham. It was her job to take care of him each morning and as she did, Mr. Cuningham and her always gisted and laughed as he asked her so many questions and Imabong smilingly told him everything about herself.
He was a jocular fellow and asked her about Tigers and Lions in Africa. He asked her to prepare lion soup for him one day and Imabong actually brought Idikainko soup and gave him and said there was no more Tigers so she use a leopard.
The nurses and patients playfully called IMA (the shortened form) Mr Cuninham's wife and playfully Imabong accepted and really treated Cuningham good.
For Imabong, tick tock tick tock time ticked away as her visa would expire in two months.
As Mr Cuningham ate the Edikainkong, Imabong's brain was in overdrive. She started asking Mr Cuningham very pointed questions as to his family and all.
Mr Cuningham told her he was an attorney and had been married twice. His children were grown and second wife had gotten bored with him especially after his stroke and upon needing a catheter which spelled the end of his sex life. He told her he was an attorney and has had a good life and waiting for a good death.
Imabong breathed in and out and told Mr Cuningham
"sir, marry me. I will take care of you. I need to be in this country"
Mr Cuningham looked at her and knew there and then he had his wish for a good death fulfilled. He was tired of the nursing home anyway and with a caring nurse like this by his side, that was a good way to go anyway.
It raised a few legal issues which was quickly resolved by Cuningham's old law firm.
The 75 years old Cuningham was of sound mind and so Imabong had gone to the registry and married a 75 years old wheel-chair ridden Mr Cuningham with only the Umukoros present as Mr. Cuninham did not bother to inform his kids whom he said were spoilt brats who never come to see him at the nursing home and were only waiting for him to pass.
That was 6 years ago. Mr Cuningham is still doing great and healthier than he had been for a while now. He has developed a taste for Nigerian soups, though the eba and fufu was a little too heavy for him. He found the vegetables to be nutritious and the oils made him go to the toilet without need for annoying enemas.
He can now even take a few steps without the wheelchair. Imabong was an elixir to him with how well she took care of him and building a house for her mom and dad in Nigeria was a small price to pay for such happiness.
He was expecting his son from Nigeria...well her son and now his son and for an 81 years old man, and one with an inbuilt catheter, expecting a son was not bad at all. He will be a new dad....well if only he had the ability to father one with her. But oh well, what is hers is his.
He could not go to the airport with her as he wanted a bit of rest...especially as he was sure the house would be a lot noisier soon. He just watched as the nice Nigerian couple and dear family friends the Umukoros drove off with her in her Sports Range.
Yes her Sports Range for this young girl, the minute they got married and some of his mates still alive had come to see him, she had offered to get them care at home instead of in a Nursing Home and it had been a hit. All the advert needed for her was him and how happy and well he looked.
She had gotten together loads of Africans and hispanics and a few Americans willing to put in an honest shift of truly caring for the old and infirm.
He had gotten out of retirement and you would not believe that at his age he was her manager as he handled the legal drudgery and such-like.
His primary doctor told him there is nothing better that could have happened to him an even his children an ex-wives have come to admit that he has never looked so alive.
So with a thriving business of Home Care, Imabong had bought a Sports Range and he still smiles when he remembers how she kept screaming "tear rubber, tear rubber", which he later undrstaood to mean "new"
These Nigerians like flashy things, he says to himself. But what a great people from a great country.
And so Imabong, looked at herself at the airport, her clothes her environment and the Umokoros sitting beside her.
As her son...who she could only recognize from pictures taken of the lovely clothes she sent him, walked through the security post with her mom. Imabong looked up to the skies. Yes, she could see the skies way past the beautiful , metal ceiling and lights...she looked to the heavens at ABASI, and said a huge THANK YOU GOD for then and there, as her son and mom walked towards her, IMABONG, daughter of Okon, knew without a doubt, she had SURVIVED AMERICA.