Chelsi sat on the easy chair inside her house and looked up at the sky through the fresh bamboo reeds of her new roof. Small miracles, she thought. Though this was no small miracle. The roof on her house was worse that she thought. As her two Zambian friends removed the old grass on the roof the day before it had near collapsed; even though their frames were slight. The old roof had always sloped awkwardly over her common room, it had simply been made that way. The poles on that side just weren’t long enough she knew. What the grass had hidden though was how much shorter they actually were and how poorly than had been roped together to make a semblance of a standing structure.
No amount of black plastic would have kept it from raining on me. Now she would have a properly made roof. With so much grass. She had the 30 bundles she had purchased a few weeks before, plus what looked like 30 more bundles off the old roof. Originally Chelsi had been worried that the old grass would become too damaged upon its removal that it couldn’t be reused. ‘The pulling and tugging’ she was told ‘that would be needed, because it’s tied down, might make it unusable.’ Only to find out it wasn’t tied down at all.
The new roof was balanced perfectly, peaking over the center of her house. ‘With proper pole placement and river grass, it will be a five year roof,’ she had been promised. Roofing in Zambia was described by the length of time it should last. A roof with made of marsh grass was a one year roof. A roof of broom grass, thatched in the Luvale style, could keep you sheltered for 25 years. The roof Chelsi had moved under last December was two month roof. ‘Good’ Chelsi had replied to the promise, ‘because if you have any hope of getting a volunteer to replace me next year, we have to make the house nice.’ It was just the threat it sounded. If the house wasn’t improved, she wouldn’t recommend a replacement. She couldn’t, in good conscious, lead another volunteer in to the circumstances that she had been placed. But, now that the work was being done, she only hoped that whomever it was that came to replace her would appreciate her efforts. It wouldn’t be perfect, but it would be an immense upgrade to the dilapidated shack I had been presented with, more than a year ago now.
Sitting in the easy chair Chelsi felt luminous; with the sunlight reflected off the white, limed plastered walls of her house and the sky a glittering blue. This week was the most continuous time she had spent under the Zambian sun. Her skin was showing it too; red, despite the sunscreen. But Chelsi was smiling, imagining the thatch on her new roof.
A few of her doves flew up and perched on the reeds of the roof. The black and white mottled birds preened themselves contently. Above them small jobies sang in the tall tree that shaded the house.