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“Chris, let’s check out the pub. Perhaps, there are girls we can chat up over there,” Etienne suggested. He had knocked on my door moments earlier. When I opened the door, he was standing with hands in his pocket, grinning at me as though he had just won a lottery. “I am tired, Etienne. I just returned from playing football at the park,” I replied, resisting his lure for another evening of ‘hunting’ (as he often put it) in the student pub on the ground floor of our hall of residence, the international students house (ISH), London. Etienne was one of the first few people I met upon arrival in London. After a train ride on the Piccadilly line, from Heathrow to Great Portland Street, I hauled my luggage behind me, famished after the trip from Lagos to London. Nonetheless, I was excited; thrilled to be in London for studies. When I saw the sign on the big building on Great Portland Street – International Students House (ISH), London, I felt relieved. All my efforts in studying the London underground map had not been in vain. I did not want to get lost, so I had invested loads of time and energy into figuring out my train route from Heathrow to International Students House, right in the heart of London. I paced up, crossing the road hastily as I walked towards the lobby of the big building. “Welcome to International Students House, London,” a middle aged English lady said to me with a smile on her face. “Thank you,” I replied, returning her smile. Minutes later, I was checked into the room that would be home to me for the next one year, eat least. As I turned to make my way to the elevator, there was a big, tall black guy smiling at me. “Are you African?” he asked. His accent was heavy…unmistakably African. I tried to place his accent as quickly as I could – something I have mastered over the years, listening attentively when people from different countries talked. “Yes, I am. I am from Nigeria. I take it you are from Cameroon,” I replied. He stepped back, looked intently at me, his eyes boring holes through me. His smile had vanished, momentarily. Slowly, another wave of smiles reappeared on his face. “How did you know I was Cameroonian?” he asked. “I have been here a few days now, and you are the only person to have placed my nationality with impeccable accuracy; just by listening to me,” he said. I could tell he was surprised…delightfully. “I tend to listen to different accents and memorize them afterwards. I took a wild guess. Clearly, you are African, I could hear that from miles away, but you are not East African. Your accent is different from the East African accent. At the same time, you are not from Southern Africa. I heard a blend of English and French when you spoke, so knowing that there are French Speaking and English speaking parts of Cameroon, I took a crack at you being Cameroonian,” I explained. “You are very correct, Masa,” he said, his smile broadening. I later found out that Masa is the Cameroonian version of ‘old boy’ in Nigeria. Etienne and I became friends right away…you know, the African bond held us together in a strange land, far away from home. “Come on Chris, when I walked past the lobby a while ago, I saw some girls heading for the bar. Let’s go check them out.” Etienne was a classic womanizer. For some reason, he liked to go ‘hunting’ with someone – a backup who would distract the second girl, should his target have a sidekick with her. Following his incessant persuasion, I sluggishly dressed up, wishing he’d get tired of my delay tactics and go by himself. Not Etienne; he was a hard man to lose. He stuck it out. Eventually, we rode the elevator from the third floor to the ground floor. The bar as more quiet than normal. The usual student population; largely revelers were nowhere to be found. The bar man, a French guy sat quietly behind the bar, peering keenly at the TV monitor with no one to serve. A dry frown appeared on Etienne’s face. “Come on, where are the girls?” he asked, rhetorically as we walked to the end of the large pub. Looking to the right, we sighted two girls tucked in a corner, sipping on a cold glass of apple cider – Strongbow, to be precise. Etienne’s face lit up. Even from a short distance, you could tell that they were beautiful girls. I have to admit the dark-haired one with her back to us looked more beautiful. Well, her physique said it all even from a distance away. Etienne instantly had his sights set on the blond one. “Hello, you mind if we sit with you?” Etienne asked. “Sure,” the blond replied with a smile. Etienne dragged a seat out and balanced his weight on it. He was at least, six feet ve inches. He made sure to sit close enough to the blond. I took the last remaining seat at the table near the darkhaired girl. “So where are you from?” I asked. “Switzerland,” the blond replied. “Have you been there before?” The dark-haired one asked. “No, I have not, but I would like to someday,” I replied. “I bet they have never been anywhere else. I wonder how long it has been since they jumped off trees in the forest where they lived all their lives…deep in the heart of Africa” the blond girl said to the dark-haired one. She spoke in French, so I was completely lost…had no clue what she had said. The dark-haired girl laughed raucously, throwing her head backwards and flicking her hair. I had no idea what was amusing them both. I could not help but notice their unsullied beauty as they laughed fervidly. “What is it?” I asked naively, with no clue what they were saying. Etienne was rather quiet….unusually quiet. By now, he’d be making his move on his target like military commandoes zeroing in on their target. “Nothing,” the blond girl replied. Yet, Etienne remained quiet. “I was just telling her that your accent is sexy,” the blond said. “Thanks, I said unaware of what was truly said about me…about us. “So, how about you? Where are you from?” The dark-haired girl asked. She was still wrestling with a fervid outburst of laughter. I never knew my accent could be so sexy, yet so funny. “I am from Nigeria.” “I replied. “I am from Zambia,” Etienne lied. I could not for the love of my life fathom why he was concealing his nationality, but I kept quiet. Etienne never did anything without a reason. I was going to ask him about it later. “So, are you students? Do you live at the international students house?” Etienne asked them. “Yes, we live here in ISH. I am studying at the University of Westminster, just down the road from here. I am taking a master’s in international relations at the Regent Street Campus,” the blond girl replied. “Me too, I am studying at University of Westminster – Law,” added the dark-haired girl. She leaned over the table and said something in French to the blond, and again, they laughed their heads off, giggling like teenagers chatting about their crush. “I am sure they have no clue what international relations and Law are all about,” she had said to her friend. “Look at the big one…he really looks like a big monkey,” the blond replied. “And the small one, he looks like he is about to die of hunger. I bet those starving Africans we see on TV are his relatives.” “His hair is all scruffy, are you sure he is not suffering from some sort of nutritional deficiency?” They dissected us in French, speaking as fast as possible. I could only look and wish I spoke French. Yet, Etienne who spoke French fluently remained quiet. I looked at him, and he appeared to be staring coldly at me. I think he meant to say something with his eyes, but I could not quite make out his cryptic message. The Swiss girls laughed even harder. “Do you want beer?” The blond asked. “No, thanks!” Etienne answered before I could say a word. I knew he understood French perfectly, so from his tone, I could tell something was wrong. An offer of beer was a normal ice breaker in the ‘hunting’ game. Typically, he would have jumped at the offer, knowing it was his turn to buy the next round for the girls…which meant, there was time for another round. Usually, he’d be heading up to his room with a girl after a few rounds. “I will go get a pint of beer for my friend and I,” I said heading for the bar. When I returned with two pints of Strongbow cider, the girls were still busy yapping away. “Who knows if they have ever tasted cider,” said the dark-haired one. By the time I returned, I noticed that Etienne’s phone was lying face-down on the table. “So, do you stay in this building of international students house or the other one – Mary Travelyan Hall?” I asked. “We stay at Mary Travelyan Hall,” replied the blond. “So, where do you study?” The blond asked. University of Westminster as well,” Etienne and I echoed. “So, we all go to the same university!” The dark-haired girl exclaimed. “How dare you say we go to the same University with these apes?” The blond asked the other girl in French. Her voice was inundated with sheer contempt. “These apes are both first class graduates from their universities in Africa and they are studying here in London on scholarship!” Etienne said in French. His voice was loud. He was overly animated. The girls said nothing in reply. An eerie silence hung in the air. I stared at the girls who had been loquacious moments earlier, as they suddenly looked subdued; panic-stricken. “What is it?” I asked Etienne. “These two idiots here are racists…blind racists!” He replied, his voice dripped with anger. “No, we are not!” They both said. Then, Etienne raised his phone and began to play back their recordings to me – he explained each one to me. I wanted to leap like Bruce Lee and kick life out of both girls. “It is not true. We were only joking,” the dark-haired one replied. “It does not matter what you say, I have you two on tape. I will make sure you are rusticated and thrown out of international students house. I promise you that!” Etienne yelled at them, boiling peevishly. “Let’s leave,” the blond said to her friend. “Run…Run all you care, but there will be no hiding place for you racists!!” Etienne yelled at them as they rose to their feet and began to head for the exit They walked briskly desperate to put place for you racists!! Etienne yelled at them as they rose to their feet and began to head for the exit. They walked briskly, desperate to put the incident of the past minute behind them. I was sweating despite the air conditioner being on. A massive ball of rage bounced around ebulliently within me. I wanted to run after them and show them shege!!! I managed to calm myself down. By the next day, Etienne and I led a complaint against both girls, sending the voice recordings to the authorities. The authorities of international students house swung swiftly into action. Both girls were thrown out of the building. They did not wait for us to complete the complaint process at University of Westminster. They packed their bags and left town, abandoning their studies for good…at least in London. Hunting was over for me after that. Well, by that I mean my role as Etienne’s backup was finally over. I was saddened by that experience that it took quite some time for me to get over it and begin to get along well with white people. Etienne on the other hand was out hunting the next night. Nothing would deny him, not even racism!


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