A lot of people said they would come over to chat, but rarely did, so when saw her newly made acquaintance, Eveline, walking down her path she was a little surprise and unprepared.
“Mwaiyiyi mwane,” Chelsi welcomed her guest.
“Mwane sankyu mwane,” they touched, clapped, touched each other’s hands with bend knee, in the way of a formal greeting. “Mwabuuka?”
“Twabuuka bolongo. Welcome! You have come!”
“Yes, I wanted to see you. So we can talk.” Eveline dragged her words out a bit when she spoke, but was otherwise a fine English speaker. Chelsi guided her to the built in bench on her porch.
“How is your family?”
“What brings you to the village? Are you helping with the maize harvest?”
“Me, I am waiting for school fees so I can go to school this term. I am here with my uncle, while I wait for my brother to bring the money from town.”
“Then you’ll be going to school in town, in Solwezi?”
“No, I think I will be going to school in Kitwe.”
“I’ll be starting the 10th grade.”
“Are you excited?”
Eveline smiled wide, “YES! Of course.”
“What are your favorite subjects?”
“Mmm, I like history and social science. Math’s okay.”
“Yeah, I wasn’t too excited by math either. But I like science, biology.”
“No, math is good. But science, ah, it’s too hard.” The two women laughed.
“So what do you want to do when you finish school? Do you have a career in mind?”
“Yes, I want to be a policeperson. I look around at my community and I see that there it too much alcohol use and gender-based violence and child neglect. I want to help these people.”
“What a bright and shining star you are!” Chelsi beamed at her. “Motivated and ambitious.”
Eveline giggled, “thank you.”
“You know what you should look into too, is a career as a social worker. So in the United States we have a lot of similar problems, with drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, child neglect. And what our nation is slowly finding is that locking up offenders of these kind doesn’t always fix the underlying problem. So that when these people are let out of prison they continue the same pattern of behaviors. A social worker works with these people to help fix the root of the problem so they don’t continue offending. How does that sound?”
“No, that is good. Thank you.” And they sat silently for a moment when Eveline reached out and twirled a loose lock of Chelsi’s hair around her finger. “You have such nice hair.”
Chelsi laughed, “Ah, it’s okay. It’s not as nice as most, it’s pretty thin. I really want someone to braid it for me, but all the other women are always telling me it’s too soft.”
“No, we can.” She withdrew her hand. “Do you have a comb?”
“Okay, wait here.” Eveline sprang from her seat and made a dash for the road.
“I wasn’t planning on going anywhere,” Chelsi said to herself. So, I guess maybe we’re doing this now, now? She looked at her watch, 14:30. She had heard story from other volunteers say it took five, six, seven hours to have their hair braided, not to mention it’s not uncommon to see women walking around the village with only half of their head done.
Eveline came running back down her path, “I have gone home to get my comb. Do you have a stool?”
“Yeah,” Chelsi ducked inside and brought out her brazier chard stool. She sat down and Eveline took up a place behind her. She started on her right, neatly sectioning off a strip just behind Chelsi’s ear. She pulled and twisted, and pulled and twisted, and pulled and twisted.
“It is hurting?” Eveline asked.
Chelsi held back a tear, “no…”
She sectioned of another strip, just beside the first. Pulling, twisting, pulling twisting. The worst part, Chelsi thought, is when the lose strands of hair got tangled in the ones she is trying to braid.
Pulling, twisting, pulling twist, Chelsi bit her lip. “It’s hurting?”
“No…” Chelsi lied again. Why…? Cause I don’t want to sound like the weak white girl, who can’t even stand having her hair braided.
Row three, pulling, twisting, pulling, twisting. Row four, pulling, twisting, pulling twisting. Row five… Eveline continued to ask if is hurt and Chelsi continued to lie. Row six, pulling, twisting, pulling, twisting. At the end of this row Chelsi reached up to feel the top on her head. She giggled with a smile. Her scalp between rows were smooth, in stark contrast tightly ridge braids.
“You like it?”
“Yes!” Chelsi could feel there was room for only two more rows. She looked at her watch, 15:15, so much for hours.
Eveline pulled and twisted and pulled and twisted and asked one more time if it was hurting. And one more time Chelsi lied…
When she was all done she popped up. “There! Now you are beautiful!”
Chelsi grinned a wide grin, and hugged her friend. “Thank you!”
“Now tomorrow I come back and you braid my hair.”
Chelsi laughed, “Umm, I will try, but I won’t make any promises that it will be as good as your work.”
“Okay, we will see each other then.” Eveline turned away and stepped off the porch.
“Tukamonaangana pa kesha!” Chelsi called after her.