I peered unbelievably through concave lens at the work my hands had wrought. On the stage, just beneath magnifying lens of 10 times 100, lay inanimately my slide that had been moistened with ethanol and treated with Smith’s starch reagent.
After our 12.00p.m class on Wednesday, I heard Ebun’s voice announce with relief, “Thank God we are done for the day.” So with gladness springing forth within me, I packed my books into my bag, and without as much as a goodbye to anyone, made for my room. Uncertainty tugged at my heart, but nothing was more welcoming than me on my neat bed, protected from the scorching sun, and stretching all my strained muscles, probably handling a coke that had ice floating in it.
No sooner had I made myself comfortable on my bed typing away than Nneka (whom I fondly refer to as my sister seeing that we bear the same surname) shouted out my name from the corridor (as she always does), “Chinazar, aren’t you going for lab?”
Instantly, my bubble burst. I made sure to use the next two minutes bemoaning my fortune.
Pharmacognosy lab used to be the undisputed most annoying lab before Pharmacology lab started vying. How could I have forgotten that it was my group’s turn for lab that day, and that it was a test?!! Taking a quick glance at my wrist watch, I realized I had twenty minutes to get to the lab. Temporarily disoriented, I picked up my manual, turned the pages and then slammed it shut for the second consecutive time. Fervently hoping that I was not the only unprepared one, I returned to my laptop and rounded off my typing in five minutes.
On my way to the lab I asked a few of my group members whom I met if they were prepared for the test. Their responding in the negative made me feel better.
Unknown samples were given to us, and we were expected to detect them. Thankfully, the test was not as I envisaged it to be. We were allowed to use our manuals for the procedures. Everyone began carrying out the tests, and I saved the worst for last- microscopy!
Despite a whole semester in 300-level being dedicated to microscopy, I was never able to accurately focus a slide at the expected magnification. I and a good number of my class mates correctly diagnosed the problem to be with the microscopes, and not us. As far as we were concerned, 95% of the microscopes were bad. Trust every thing in Nigeria to be bad!!! Anytime we were lucky to get a microscope that belonged to the good 5%, we would realize that the reagents were expired, or that we were handling the wrong plant part, or time was just up and no lecturer was going to endorse our work.
Of the about 20 times we have needed to endorse microscopy, I have managed to endorse not more than five, and sometimes, with ‘poor slide preparation’ or ‘poor focus’ as remarks written neatly after every signature. At other times and for other students, the lecturers sometimes alleged that the slide preparation and focus were good, but that what the student had drawn was only a figment of his/ her imagination.
After I had prepared my slide and focused at a magnification of times 10, I shamelessly pleaded with Tolu to help me focus at times 100, seeing that she was quite adept with hers. I watched as she turned a familiar knob; first, in a clockwise manner, and then, anticlockwisely, as though retracing her steps. She fiddled with the knob a short while… and there it was… a perfect focus. I thanked Tolu gratefully as she hurried off to her own business.
After I had drawn in my book what I viewed, Demi, who sat helplessly some inches away pleaded with me to help him focus. So, I confidently took his slide and began to do as Tolu had done, fingering all the necessary knobs in all the directions possible.
Demi looked on expectantly just as my grin widened. “Come, take a look,” I proffered, and approximately three seconds later, he was drawing rapidly into his manual. It wasn’t long before other people began soliciting my help, and even I marvelled at my proficiency. I smiled warmly as they thanked profusely.
Although the lecturer had said to many of us that we had not drawn correctly, I was sure that it was he who had not seen rightly. However, we changed our diagrams from what we saw to what we did not see, and got our endorsements without funny comments.
It was with renewed strength that I marched from the 3-hour lab to the animal house to feed my rats and mice.
P.S: This note was originally published on my facebook account, and it dates to when I was a final-year Pharmacy student.