The gathering took place on Friday, July 29th through Saturday, July 30th, 2016, at De Vere Venues, Staverton Park, Staverton, Northamptonshire, United Kingdom.
Days before the event, a final list of who would attend was sent out. Everyone wanted to look their best coming into the reunion to impress their colleagues, many of whom they had not seen for thirty years, since medical school graduation.
In Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Nigeria, and the United States of America, colleagues packed their bags. Anticipation reached a crescendo. The women purchased glittering dresses, and the men shaved and dyed their hair. Only Moses left his gray to run amok, for which he earned the Wisdom Hair award.
When we arrived at De Vere venues, matching all the names on the list to all the faces on the ground proved a task. Unless friends revealed themselves, they were strangers.
In the mid-afternoon of Saturday, Salako, Provost of the College of Medicine, on the speech podium, glanced at a man who had entered the auditorium. The man wore a brown-colored, dome-shaped hat. ‘The hat,’ the stranger confessed, ‘is hiding badly-dyed gray hair.’ Sympathy and laughter welcomed him.
Following the ‘Remember to give back to Alma Mata’ speech, people zigzagged across the hotel vestibule to search for classmates.
‘Have you seen Fred Akpochafo?’ asked a sharp-eyed, toothily smiling fellow of a bespectacled man with an easy smile and pumped-up speech. ‘I am Fred,’ the guy in glasses responded.
Upon mutual recognition, Chinwe Nwokoma and Fred mobbed each other in fifteen-minute bear hugs and handshakes, following which both men suffered elbow dislocation.
‘Did you see Ntekim Bassey?’ the guy with the badly-dyed hair asked Barry. A croaky voice answered, ‘I saw him half a second ago.’
The longer people conversed, the more certain they were that a particular voice belonged to a particular colleague.
Ayo and I had exchanged many e-mails but not until Saturday was I able to match the person to the name. Yet he remained fuzzy in my memory. We continued to trade jabs of handshakes and hugs throughout the evening, waiting for a complete memory download.
Each handshake tugged on the memory. Each hug recruited more sleeping neurons. Yes! He is Ayo, his voice never left. It was just hiding, somewhere in the nuggets of the hippocampus. The same experience happened with Benjamin Oke, I think.
More mind authentication lazily occurred when I saw Ajibola and Osahon, Mase and Mojisola, Adebayo, Prof. Musa, Pal Loolo, Man Jaji and Evelyn, Kehinde and Sammy Best, Chuks, Essein, Tony N. and Taiwo. Peter Olukowi almost slipped away. ‘My father is Henry Akpabio,’ said a boy to me.
People such as President Yemi, Obi, Abolade, Emeka, Bolo, Onome, Peter Eweje, Ngozi, and Vero, I will never forget.
By the evening of Saturday, seventy percent of the class had been identified. More discoveries continued during dinner. Sunday morning and afternoon saw new revelations.
If Leslie owned Friday night by his picture-perfect poses, then Goze held the Saturday night by his dancing. Austin, Bhardwaj, Yinka, Titi George, Dayo, Ifeoma, and Adanna tried so hard to match him. Had Roro or Olaopa been there they would have given him a run for his moves.
Nobody could get enough of one another. The fellow with the poorly-dyed hair hugged Emma Nnopu thirty times to make up for the thirty years they hadn’t seen each other.
During dinner time, more surprises snuck up like forgotten bills. Awards exchanged hands. A shower of money rained on a baby. Members of the Adanta dance group soar through the air like teenage eagles. An entertainer who transferred two fast-spinning aluminum basins from his pinky fingers to broomsticks kept us on our toes for seven hours.
Except for a cashew nut-colored mustache, Peter Olumese remained the same in physique and character and was rewarded. And for adulating Professor Cole, Leex and his party won a group contest.
‘There you are’ the man with the poorly-dyed hair said when he finally spotted Ntekim Bassey.
‘Anselm, you have been looking for me, I understand’, Bassey said.
‘Yes, I have not seen you in thirty years.’
Suddenly, torsos, hands, and shoulders came together multiple times. Except for ten, maybe fifteen pounds’ weight gain Ntekim had not changed a speck. Later, in an unchanging, even, confident tone he conversed with the ever-graceful Moji, O.
How Olamide and her team were able to stretch the funds to the level of fun we had is mind-boggling. Kudos!
Before the trip, I made name tags for each person on the list, not knowing the faces who would occupy so many labels. Not anymore. Every face is in my consciousness.
For two reasons, the event in London would be hard to beat. Dancing legs are yet to reach a breaking point, but will be there soon. Secondly, almost everybody has been discovered within fifteen years since the reunion began in Memphis, Tennessee. If colleagues yet to attend show up in the next event, then all bets are off.
Thanks to prayers, led by Morafa and Dave, all the heavenly stars aligned together in harmony.
Please donate a small amount at website, http://www.eldershelpinghands.org, to help elders in my hometown
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