045: tana twa masabi

“Only rain could have put a damper on this day,” Chelsi said excitedly to her puppy, and mounting her bicycle. “But there are only clouds in the sky for shade.” Daisy watched her with a steady gaze, she was not going to be left behind today. “And to make things even better we are leaving just about on time!” She looked at her watch: 10:10 am. Buckling her helmet and balancing her red bucket on her handle bars she pushed off. 

“Mwaiyi Mwane!” Bamaama Kayambo, standing around her mother and daughter, greeted her waving both hands in the air, the way Chelsi usually greeted people in contrast to traditional hand over hand, quiet clapping, kneeling, double hand touch, greeting. 
Chelsi rolled her bike up the compound to a stop, “Mwane Sankyou Mwane! Mwabuuka Mwane!” Daisy came ripping on to the compound after her, the small group of women laughed.  Having parked her bicycle she walked out to the chair they set out for her.  “Lelo, Juba Jikatampe!” They all have big smiles plastered on their faces.
“Eee,” Bamaama replied.
“Tusakusinda tana twa masabi ne kubika mu kizhiba. Ne panumanya, basakowa.” The Kayambo women were not kiikaonde speakers, they were luvale speakers, but she felt they mostly knew what she was saying. I speak mostly like a child after all. “Ba Davis, baji pi?”
Bamaama Grandma made some hand motions towards the two small house off to the side of the compound.  Chelsi heard to the word for bicycle, and nodded along figuring that if Davis was just over there, there was no way he missed her entrance. She only sat in the white plastic chair with the broken arm for a few moments before Davis appeared, pushing his bicycle.  He was wearing his bright yellow shirt with smile to match. 
“Hello, hello, hello madam. “
“Good morning! It’s a beautiful day.” Chelsi stood to shake his hand. “Here I also brought the bucket, we can tie it to your bicycle.”
Davis took the bright red bucket and a rubber strap.  “Thank you madam.”
“Well, you’ll see the bucket is significantly easier than the 20 liter Gerry cans.  There’s no ridges for stuff to get stuck in.”
“Thank you madam.” Sometime Chelsi felt her conversation with Davis were very one sided. 
“And we should get going, I told Felix we would try to be at the farm by about 11.”

Chelsi guided Davis off the main road on to the path.  For reasons Chelsi did not totally understand, her bicycle rolled significantly faster that the bicycles of Zambians’.  Daisy sped up a head, knowing the way as she slowed for Davis and to easy down some steep rocks.  In the distance she could see Daisy hesitating, look back at her before darting left down the driveway.  Chelsi and Davis followed bumping down the poorly cleared driveway. At the last turn Chelsi could see a truck parked in the road, it look familiar but it was not Felix’s red hatchback. 
Walking their bikes to the lower clearing Chelsi looked at her watch, 11:05. Given that everyone else is so late I thought we might be early. “We can just park our bikes here,” she said to Davis, distractedly gesturing to a bit of shade, a small group of people gathered by the pig pens. Looks this is going to be quite the party. 
Chelsi walked down to the group, Davis following timidly after her. “Hey there, never would have dreamt I’d be the last one here.”
“Hi Chelsi,” Rory started in his ambiguous English accent.  The Zimbabwean extended a large, fair and freckled hand.  
“Ohh, that’s your truck.  I didn’t know you were coming.” Chelsi took his hand.
“Laura, said she was coming down to pick up some fingerlings and I wanted to see the farm. So I’m just tagging along.”
“I told him he wasn’t a loud to ask questions though.” A hat covered Rory’s cropped, dusty red hair and shaded his eyes so Chelsi could not see the look he was giving the slight blonde beside him. 
“Hello Chelsi, How are you?” Felix’s voice was deep. To Chelsi’s relief the group was standing to close together making it too awkward for him to go for his usual hug.
“I’m alright. Felix, Rola, Rory, this is Davis.” Davis was still standing at the top of the incline to the valley. “You can come down.”
“Thank you madam.” He started towards them.
“Davis, this is Rola, a volunteer who lives on the Chengola side of town and Rory, does something with cement and live in town and keeps bubble fish, and Felix, our fish farm owner.” Davis stood quietly softly smiling. 
From where they stood on the ridge they could see out over the Felix’s three functioning fish ponds. They were looking in pretty good order, spotting a depressed landscape of rush and tall grass.  Two men stood in the middle pond dragging a net through the water.  Daisy, whom up to that moment Chelsi had nearly forgotten about, began a series of squealy barks.  “Oh Daisy, she is wanting to play with the pigs,” Davis chuckled, watching her briefly bound up and down her side of the chain link fence.
“Oh my gosh, Daisy loves to play with pigs,” she replied hanging back to walk with Davis down to the ponds. 

The group toured the two outer ponds before settling at the center one.  All the while Rory asked impossible question about market access, demand, and the conundrum of being to supply a steady stream of fresh fish. Daisy bounded in and out of the water trying again and again to catch the fleeting fish and continuously rediscovering that she cannot sniff underwater. And Davis poked about with his smile as bright as his yellow shirt. 
Chelsi’s heart warmed with pride. He was her first fish farmer. None of this business of inheriting ponds from Mike. She could remember the day he first showed up to her house, two weeks after being dropped off by Peace Corps. He wanted her to come on a Sunday to see where he had hoped he would be able to put a pond.  Now here they were, a short ten months later buying baby bream fish, to stock his pond for the first time. 
“Are you having a good time?” Chelsi asked Davis as they approached the final pond.
“Yes madam.  Seeing this, all of this, has given me many ideas. I think I am going to have to dig one or two more ponds.”
Chelsi peeked into the buckets that the two farm workers were emptying their catch.  “Oh good,” Chelsi said with some relief. “Did you know Felix, last time I was here buying fingerings, and you weren’t here to instruct them, I got here with the Peace Corps cruzier and your guys had just fished out buckets full of minnows instead of breams?”
“Those guys, I tell you.  They were not good workers.”
“You mean,” Laura chimed in “that it was just trash fish?”
“Yeah, they were specifically excluding breams. Which I can kind of understand if they were told to catch the baby fish, minnows are small and they probably didn’t know the difference.” Chelsi started trailing off towards the end.  She was being pulled in by the buckets of fish. Her hand reached towards the surface of the water, rainbow glistened on the bodies of the baby fish.  Just one…
“Chelsi! How many fingerlings are you guys getting?” Laura asked.
“Ummm, a hundred. A hundred is good to start. Davis’s pond is on the smaller side.
“Okay, I need 400 to take back to Kibo.”
“Maybe we should take the up the hill so were under the shade,” Rory suggested.  “Count them up there.  Looks like they’ve caught more than enough.” Rory grabbed one of the buckets, the farm worker the other and they all started up the hill. 
“So we brought a bucket to transport our fish in,” Chelsi started as they situated the buckets of fish and freshwater hose. 
“You’re just going to transport them on your bikes?” Rory asked.
“Yeah, we’re only a 25, 30 minute bike ride from home they should be okay.”
“Felix!” Laura called. “Do you have anything I can transport my fingerlings in back to my village?”
“Let me see,” Felix was standing in the door way of a makeshift shelter made of plastic and iron sheets.  Rory was busily rinsing and filling Chelsi’s bucket.
“I was really hoping Rory would just drive me back to site,” Laura whispered towards Chelsi. “But it looks like he’s only going to take me as far as the weight bridge and I’m going to have to hitch from there.”
Felix reappeared with two 5 liter, clear plastic Springwater jugs. “We are having these that you can use.” Chelsi both couldn’t and could see how Rola could show up to buy fingerlings without anything to transport them in.  But regardless of their container, a trip on the Chengola road; Chelsi didn’t have a lot of hope for those fish. 
A 120 baby fish counted out in to their red bucket, Davis started snuggly securing it to the rack of his bicycle.  Around it he wrapped his purple jacket, to insulate it from the heat. And over it he strapped the lid with just enough room for air flow.  Those fish are in good hands, Chelsi thought to herself.  The rest of the group was finishing counting up Rola’s fish.  Chelsi watched them. The rule was about ten fish per liter.  The curvature of the squat clear containers magnified the individuals aimlessly floating, with no room to flap their fins.  Chelsi couldn’t even conjure a thought.
After Rory offered to buy all the dead and dying fish left at the bottom of the buckets to feed his catfish and all the money had exchanged hands, Rory and Laura climbed in the his truck with her fish and took off.
“So when will we see each other again Chelsi?” Felix asked as she started to spin her bike into gear. 
“Well, I have to go to town next week to pick another volunteer who is going to help me with some malaria work. You said you’re coming to the farm almost every day now, maybe I can meet you here on Monday and you could give me a lift in to town?”
“And perhaps before you drop me at the office we can stop somewhere and chat about turning this place into a teaching farm.  Like we talked about last September. If you want my help with that we really got to get plan of action together, I’ve got less than 14 months left.”  The number rattled in Chelsi’s ears. 
“Yeah, that’s Okay.”
“Okay, well then, tukamonaangana.”
Davis and Chelsi pushed off towards home on their bikes.  Davis rode cautiously home. Slowing over all the bumps and even stopping to push his bike over one of the rockier areas. 
Davis beat Chelsi back to his house though, after Chelsi decided to stop to wait for her puppy to catch-up, ‘I know where you stay,’ she encouraged him on.   When she met back up with him at his pond the new fish were already swimming freely.  Even Felix had explained to him that he should let the fish slowly acclimate to the new water, but Chelsi could remember the ecstatic feeling of helping release her family’s first set of fish in to their new home.  Were they goldfish or guppies? She couldn’t recall, but she did recall suggesting putting the bowl of water in the oven to heat it up faster. 
“Look at them, swimmin’ around in there.  They look great.” A gaggle of children stood around Davis giggling as Chelsi approached him to receive her extended bucket. 
“Thank you madam, I am very happy.”
“As you should be Ba Davis, you put in a lot of work and I think it’s going to really pay off.”
For some time they silently gazed at the fish exploring their new home. 

Categories: Adventure | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “045: tana twa masabi

  1. Jean Thomas

    This sounds like a great project, Chelsi. And fun! I do think about you a lot and hope all is going well. I miss you! Jean


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