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|Amahle - Story By The Aniekan Umana by Anelkanu2: 8:27pm On Dec 09, 2019|
"Now, I'm sure almost every superheroine you've heard of possesses some sort of superpower. Well, this isn't one of those stories. No, this is a story about a woman. The bravest woman I know. She took on the responsibility of saving the world, a part of the world".
I remember the night I heard this story, December 26th, 2008. My siblings and I had gone for our annual family retreat at our village, Ibiaku Uruan in Akwa Ibom. It used to be a 10-day vacation and activities like shopping, swimming in the streams, crowded sleepovers, catching up with relatives and drinking freshly tapped palm wine always made my list of anticipated events. "Leave no second unplanned" my cousin, Akan, would say. Yes, we were very excited. Still, nobody was as enthusiastic as my Grammy, hosting her grandchildren was her favourite thing to do.
We arrived on the 23rd, kicked off the retreat with love and then assigned roles for the activities. Everything was on track, until the night of the 26th, that night, we had plans for a movie night and some homemade snacks. I was in charge of tech support, which is short for "make sure the TV and every other thing works fine". I did my job fine, in fact, I had six movies lined up just in case 'my village people' wanted to surprise me. Everything was set, my twin cousins, Akan, Bassey and I carried the generator far out just in case the power went out, we wouldn't have to waste any time getting back on track. As predicted, the power went out 54 minutes into the first movie. We rushed out to turn the generator on and to our shock, the battery was dead. It's 8:26 pm, and we don't have a spare battery, there's no light in the house, and we all rested well during the day.
You could hear the children sigh and cuss the power distribution company out. After about 20 minutes of grumbling and pretending to have a solution to the problem, we decided to sit out and enjoy the good energy in our beautiful village. Mind you, we still had a lot of snacks left for the movie night. So, we're all perambulating outside and my grammy, tired of the heat inside, walks out of the house to catch some air. Being the curious one, I walk over and ask her how they managed when there were no television sets or VCD's. "I mean, life must have been tough and boring", I said. She had a grin I didn't trust, that basically meant "Etekamba, you have no idea what your generation is missing". She explained how her parents, second uncles and third aunties would gather everyone around and tell them stories. Stories that didn't just excite but taught life lessons, life lessons that guided them as they grew up. Her passion for storytelling made me want to travel back and listen to all these amazing stories. So, I asked her if she'd be willing to tell me a story. She was a storyteller, it was in her DNA, and I guess she really missed teaching history. Anyway, I'll try to tell the story that changed my life. Here goes
"Now, I'm sure almost every superheroine you've heard of possesses some sort of superpower. Well, this isn't one of those stories. No, this is a story about a woman, a brave woman that took on the responsibility of saving the world, a part of the world. Amy was born in the year 1920 to her parents. Well, to her father basically. Her father, Jabulani, was a heavily bearded ship merchant's apprentice from the Southern part of Africa while her mother, Elna, was a beautiful seamstress from Ethiopia. They met in 1919 during one of his travels and somehow immediately connected. It was the irony of "True love survives all" as the Ethiopians didn't permit inter-tribal marriages and Elna's parents would never allow her daughter get married to a man that wasn't half as wealthy as he was. But like most true love stories, nothing was going to stop them from being together. So they snuck around as much as they could, and within two months of courting, Elna got pregnant and had to elope with her lover to Southern Africa. They were inseparable, and Amy was going to be their love child.
But then, things don't usually go the way we want them to, Elna went into labour like every normal pregnant woman, baby Amy took a lot of effort and about 26 hours to come out. She was so cute and a blessing in her parent's eyes. Her father called her Amahle, which meant The Beautiful One in his language because, in reality, she was a copy of her mother. Three days after childbirth, Elna started complaining about feeling unwell. Before the illness could be diagnosed, she died of internal bleeding. It was like a dark cloud had covered Jabulani's entire universe, he was in so much pain that he refused to eat or come out of his room. Everything changed about him and who could blame him? The pain of losing someone close to your heart can make you lose yourself, and that is what happened. Jabulani didn't openly blame baby Amy, but it was apparent that he felt some regret about her birth. Some people say he tried his best to love her, but I assume he didn't try well enough. He kept spiralling, lost weight, became bitter and filled with hate, he finally took his own life when Amy was 2 years old. Left an orphan, her mother's best friend, Annika adopted her and continued living in Southern Africa. Amy grew to be as beautiful as her mother.
They became very close as they both grew, and Annika never brought up the fact that she wasn't Amy's mother. 18 years after Amy was adopted, Annika became sick with a sporadic and terminal form of the Ganu virus. This form ravaged through Africa and slowly killed about 780,000 people in its wake, for some, it went by fast, and for others, it took some time. When Amy found out her mother had been infected and had about 7 years to live, she started asking about a cure. She would have to go through 5 years of tertiary schooling and publish a lot of papers to stand a chance to win a grant to start her own research lab. But none of that mattered because she was more than motivated to do everything for her only family. She gained admission to study Biochemistry, alongside, work as a laboratory assistant for one of the most foremost contributors to the progress of the field, at the University of Cape Town.
Taking care of her ailing mother and studying wasn't as easy as she thought and so she visited home often. Three days to her convocation and she received a letter from the sponsors of the grant, and like a dream, she was in. She now had the resources to start her own lab and try out her ideas and solutions. Unable to contain the excitement, she travelled home to inform her mother that everything was going to be alright. But life was leaving Annika, she got pale and could no longer bear the pain, she knew she had to tell Amy the truth about her birth mother, and so, she did. Amy didn't take it too well, and so she stormed out and went back to school for her graduation. The night she finally got home, she tried to patch things up with her mother. "Sleep well", she ended their 3-hour conversation with, as she tucked her in. She had no idea how well her mother would sleep. Annika died that night, at the age of 65.
The death changed Amy, like her father, she was broken, busted and disgusted at hope. She spiralled for some time and then one day she gets wind that a 9-year old girl in her village was raising money to get her mums medication for a different form of the Ganu virus that caused her mother's death. Realising she could no longer waste her knowledge, rage, abilities and gifts, she decided to reopen the lab. She put everything into making progress in the search for the cure, and after a few years, she finally did. She found a cure and saved countless lives across the globe as the disease had spread as far as China and India. Her discovery earned her several awards and accolades, and she lived a long and happy life.
My grammy ended the story by telling us that Amy migrated from Southern African to Southern Nigeria a few months after she found the cure. By the time my grammy was done, we were all gobsmacked at the story of the life of Amy. We were given time to share life lessons before going into the next story. For me, Amy's story teaches many things, and the most important lesson for me is that real success comes from solving problems.
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