029: What’s up with your house?

Chelsi was sitting out on the steps that led down from the small porch at the back of the Prov house. I can’t believe it’s been six weeks! She thought to herself. She lifted her head from between her knees and looked out over the freshly slashed grass of the walled in compound.  It really was like a separate world behind the twelve foot, cement walls.  The compound was big enough with enough space and trees that the walls did not seem intrusive, but at the same time you could see the razor wire that ran along the top of them; like a separate world? Or just a prison?
She could spend days behind the walls, almost forgetting all together that she was in Zambia.  And what purpose was there in leaving from behind the walls really? What am I going to do? Stroll around dusty Solwezi alone? With minibus drivers grabbing at me? Or wander around Shoperite buying things I don’t really need? Yet there was not much left to do inside the walls.  I planted trees, made animal feed, built and painted a giant bird house. The internet is non-operational… I guess I could read another book.
“You’re still here Chelsi?” a friend voice sounded from behind her.
“Yep, I’m still here.”
Chelsi’s friend Ginny took a seat next to her on stairs.
“You mean your house still isn’t done?” her voice was filled with disbelief.
“Wow, how long has it been now? How long have you been staying here?” she pulled a cigarette from a small box and lit it.
“We’re going on week seven now.”
“What’s going on? Why’s it taking so long?”
“I don’t know… My host father says it’s because no one else in the community has been coming to help build the house, but at the same time he told Chunda the other day that he chased away two men that said they wanted to help. When Chunda relayed this to me he was kind of laughing, so I don’t know if it really wasn’t a big deal or who these men were but, I don’t like the sound of it.”
“What did it look like when you saw it last?
“All the walls were up, which is good.”
“Right, cause they are making your house bigger.”
“Yeah I’m going from a 2.8 meters by 4.5 meters to the ‘standard’ 5×6. Which means they also had to rebuild the roof and cut new poles, which were also on the house.”
“You’re still going with the grass thatch? I heard a lot of the newest volunteers are getting iron sheeting.”
“Yeah, I probably could have, and it would have made things easier maybe and a little quicker, but I like the grass.  It’s cooler in hot season and makes a whole lot less noise when it rains. And I plan on getting a cat, so that should help with the rat problem.”
“Okay,” Ginny stood up and paced on bit on the small cement slab in front of the stairs.
“And there was grass on the roof, but when they were building the walls they didn’t have the windows. They have them now so they still have to put them in.  The floor needs cement, and roofing plastic needs to be hung…  They’re so close it’s just taking so long…” Chelsi pause to organize her thoughts, she had so many on the subject. “And I understand too, they can’t spend all day working on it.  They have the farm to take care of, and you really can’t be out working between 10 am and 2 because it’s just too hot. And I don’t think anyone from Mitukutuku is coming to help because they think if the house doesn’t get built I move closer to them…”
“Yeah, what happened with that?”
“Back in June, when I was trying to get my house fixed up no one in Kamijiji, my immediate area was coming to help, and before he left Mike mentioned that there were people in Katoka and Mitukutuku, up the road by the tarmac, that would be interested in coming to help. So I went to them to ask for help and they got the idea in their head that instead of coming to Kamijiji to fix the existing house they would just build me a new house closer to them.  I told them maybe but we would have to talk to Peace Corps, wait, don’t make any plans.  But instead they started holding community meeting about where they were going to put this new house of mine.  This is now mid-July and words about this got back to my host-father and he got upset, thinking I was trying to move without asking him. So he call Chunda and told him to send me back to America.  So Chunda came to smooth out the situation, then threatened my host father that if the house wasn’t ready to be fixed, to move me and my stuff out, by the end of August I would move to Mitukutuku.  I have since found out that they would have never move me there no matter what, but any way.  I came back from Malawi at the end of August, and was told to ‘sit tight.’ Though none, of the materials for my house were ready. And I should have pushed then, to move to a new site.  Cause I know now that there is no other place in Northwest Provence for me to go now.  It’s either I go back to my house, or maybe I go back to America.  Which sucks, It took them six weeks after the deadline of when I was supposed to be moved for them to get enough, enough that is, not all, the material together to start working on the house before I could move out and I don’t know it’s just shitty. And frustrating.”
Chelsi let out a sigh. Having finished her cigarette Ginny took back her seat next to Chelsi. “It leaves me feeling stupid for even asking for what I’m supposed to have, as housing standards are supposed to go. I know it would have been really hard, but I probably would have made it in the ka tiny house.  Though the roof wouldn’t have made it.”
“No, there is nothing wrong with asking for your house to be fixed. They told you this is what you are supposed to have so you have every right to push for it. Peace Corps, they’re the ones who put you in this situation.  If the house wasn’t done, and the community didn’t have the buy-in to fix it up appropriately then they should haven’t put a volunteer there.” Chelsi was relieved to hear the strength in her voice, because she had been searching for some.
“You know what’s funny, the agricultural extention agents that work in the village, they’re always asking me ‘but wouldn’t you rather live in town?’ No, I’d much rather live in the village. There I’m free to do what I want, when I want.  I can work on my garden, take a walk in the bush, play with Daisy.  That’s the other thing, I hate thinking of Daisy sleeping outside all alone, especially now that it’s raining.   Here, there nowhere to go. You just end up spending a lot of money and there is constantly people around. Which gets exhausting after a while.”
“I agree. I don’t even like coming here for more than a day or so at a time. I can’t imagine what it must be like after what, seven weeks?  Is there an end date? A date where a decision is going to be made about what happen with you? You can’t stay at the Prov house forever.”
“Chunda told them next Friday when we were there on Wednesday.”
“So the day after Thanksgiving.”
“Yeah. He’s supposed to go on Monday to help move sand for the floor and he’ll let me know more about how it’s looking then. But I don’t know man, I just don’t know.”

Categories: Drama, Law, Justice and Order, Mystery | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “029: What’s up with your house?

  1. Sandy

    Hi Chels. I hope you are in your 5×6 by now with Daisy by your side. Put a pic of the two of you on your next post if you can. I know it’s been hard to be away from her :(((
    Hopefully things will go more smoothly after this. Thinking of you and sending lots of love. xoxo



  2. Jean Thomas

    Dear Dear Chelsi, I hate to hear this news. I hope the 5X6 gets completed soon and you are back in the village with Daisy. It must be a sad time of year for you too. Missing family and friends for the Holidays. You are in my thoughts and prayers! Jean.


    • Jean Thomas

      Chelsi, I want to send you something. What do you need or want that I can send you? Please let me know. Jean


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