034: A walk to Christmas

She really didn’t have any choice.  Peace Corps has a strict policy on always wearing a helmet when riding a bike and Chelsi didn’t have hers; she had forgotten it at the Prov house when she moved back to the village.  So, for the past three weeks she hadn’t left her compound at all but now, she had made plans for the Christmas holiday with Ginny and Valerie to meet at the Wamami Lodge, just past Mitukutuku. 
“I know you won’t mind walking,” she said scratching the top of Daisy’s head.  Her puppy wiggled her tail. Daisy knew Chelsi was going somewhere because she had spent all morning packing a bag, and dah gone it if she was going to be left behind. 
It was a little before noon when Chelsi locked the door behind them, she figured it would take at least two hours to walk. They would be making the journey during the hottest part of the day but she did not want to risk getting in after dark.  She picked up her bag, slung it on her back and buckled on Daisy’s harness.  She didn’t really need a leash, but sometimes she behaved better when wearing her harness.  They waited at the road just at the end of Chelsi’s driveway.  Her host father was making his way up the path from his house.  He was dressed in his church cloths; dress pants, sport coat, button down.
“Where are you going?” like a barked order. But Chelsi resisted her usual response to that question: ‘that way,’ her polite way of saying ‘none of your business.’
“I’m going to town, to spend Christmas with other volunteers.”
“Ohhh…” the same slight sigh he made while slowly tilting his head back and glancing over his shoulder, when Chelsi answered one of his questions.  Sometimes she thought he just didn’t understand her, but most of the time she couldn’t tell, and just kept talking.
“I’ll be back the 26th. I’m taking the dog with me but the cat is staying, so you should see him wandering about.”
“Where is your bike?”
“It’s in the house.”
“You’re walking? Ahhhh, but walking is dangerous. Someone could chasing you. You are safer on your bike.”
“The people who would chase me, would probably also have bikes. I have been chased while on my bike. Plus I don’t have my helmet so I feel safer walking.” Just telling it like it is.
“Ahhh, but it’s not safe.”
“Okay, well I’m walking anyway.  My friends on the road will help me out if someone chasing me, plus I have the dog.”
He paused, before sticking out his arm and gesturing his hand in the up and down manner hitchhikers do when trying to get a lift. “If a motorcar come, stick out your hand. Get in the car…”
But Chelsi cut him off a bit, “I know, I know.” Because getting in a car with a complete stranger is so much safer than walking on the road with people familiar with me. But just as she was turning to go he started a get.”
“Ahhh, you will get Christmas for me while you are in town,” Zambians’ way of asking for Christmas presents, but she could tell this wasn’t a question. “Salt and bread.”
“Probably not, but don’t feel left out. I’m not giving Christmas to anyone.” All week people have been asking ‘give me Christmas, a cup’ or ‘give me Christmas, sugar’: mmmm, no.
“Okay,” she heard say as she turned her back.
“Tukamonaanga pa 26th.”

They past the road divot that she marked as the boundary of her village.  It had been surprising like quiet. Even the family that she was hoping to stop and chat, the compound was empty.  They must all me at church. Her host family had had lots of people around the compound for the last week and to Chelsi it sounded like they were reading scripture and holding mass.  But as soon as she thought she would be alone on her walk a Bamaama and her young son turned on to the road and started in Chelsi’s direction.
“Mwabuuka,” Chelsi greeted them.
“Twabuuka mwane,” Bamaama responded.  She was carrying something soft looking, wrapped in a chitenge and tied to her back, and nothing else.
“Wwa a pi?”
Like most of Chelsi’s local language converesations, she could asked questions but rarely understood the details of the answer.  But she gathered that this woman was headed to the house of a family member.
“Twaya ku town, ne tukamona bipaana”
“Ne, Amiwa ne ka kakabwa kyami, Ka Daisy.” Chelsi pointed to her puppy, who was just ahead with her nose in the bush.
“Kakabwa kyenu?” the woman’s face was broad with a smile. Chelsi knew ka kakabwa was the linguistic equivalent of scooping up her dog like a baby and nuzzling her neck.  Most Zambians just say kabwa.
“Eee mwane.”
They walked on, mostly in silence, but this is why Chelsi liked walking. On my bike I would just ride by. There would be no casual conversation about her programs, her dog and life in Zambia. This is why she wasn’t afraid of being ‘chased.’ If you don’t run, you can’t be chased, and how she made friends with the people on the road.   Definitely better than riding the bike.

Categories: Adventure, Drama | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “034: A walk to Christmas

  1. Sandy

    Good for you Chelsi 🙂
    Hope you and the pets are doing well.


  2. Jean thomas

    Sounds like a nice walk chelsi! Have a great 2016. Jean t.


  3. Amanda Chaput

    Oh man, getting chased on the road… Zambia is so very different from our wonderful town of Action Ridge! I am glad that you got to spend Christmas with other volunteers! Merry Christmas and Happy New year by the way!
    I creeped your facebook for a few minutes and all of the dresses that I am assuming you acquired in Africa are BEAUTIFUL! So colorful and flowy haha very Chelsi Burger 🙂
    I hope that you get your helmet back soon so you can have the option of riding your bike. Thats cool that you got to take Daisy with you on vacation!! My favorite vacations are the ones that I can bring Mav with me.

    Its weird how people ask for presents in Zambia where as in the U.S. that would be considered rude! Cultural differences I guess. I need to go back through your posts, but you got a cat as well? Whaaaat? Meow

    I was thinking about it and it has now been over a year since I last saw you and almost a year since you left. Haha remember how excited you were about cooking your duck for your going away party?

    Lets see… What is going on here…
    My family showed up in Michigan for Christmas but like a good Jew I had picked up Christmas eve and all of Christmas day at work. Can you say overtime+holiday pay? Heck yeah! My parents have a foster kid now, she is a 16 year old girl. She is very nice haha but hearing about her high school drama makes me so happy to not be in high school anymore.
    For New Years I went to Utah with my boyfriend and went snowboarding. Which of course was totally awesome. I miss living in the mountains very much!

    A huge winter storm is hitting the East Coast at the moment haha so I have been in contact with your brother which is always fun.

    Mav is a very happy husky now that snow has started falling. We had such a wonderfully mild winter until recently. He is stoked though 🙂

    This quarter I finish with my professor Voldemort which will be aaaahmazing haha and then i move up to the grad portion of the OT program. I am done with school in less than a year! FINALLY haha then I do 6 months of an internship

    Well my lovely friend I miss you dearly and hope to hear from you soon 🙂
    Happy Belated Holidays!
    Amanda Chaput


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