Chelsi had not felt so tired at another time in Zambia thus far. She could feel bags under her eyes swelling up. “So, its 14:30 now, it looks like all the shops are closing up early, being Saturday. But how do you all feel about dropping what we have so far at the office then going to Shoprite and just getting our food shopping done today?” She looked in to the back seats of the cruiser. Allison, Jordon, Sid and Victoria nodded back at her.
“I don’t see why not, if we still have time.” Allison concurred. They were all newly christened volunteers; having just sworn-in two days prior. Chelsi had volunteered to help them get settled. She wasn’t regretting it now, I just wish I hadn’t been being run so ragged lately. Her roof had just been finished the previous afternoon and she had spent that week sleeping in her tent on the ground. Which wasn’t a great recovery for the three days before that she spent diligently planning her up-coming workshop.
With room having been made in the cruiser for food purchases, Chelsi led her troop into the grocery store. “Everyone grab a shopping cart. I like to start at the far end and make my way towards the perishable foods section.” Rice, flour, pasta, tomato paste, peanut butter, cheese sauce packets; together they would be buying a year’s worth of food.
“Is it inappropriate to show up to the village with like, 15 bottles of wine?” Jordon asked as they approached the back of the store.
“Umm, no. Not unless you go waving them in peoples’ faces.” Chelsi advised. “My only suggestion is that you just buy a couple of boxes instead. They’re a lot easier to transport.”
“How long does juice last in the village?” Sid asked, plucking a tetra packed guava juice from the shelf.
“I’ll keep it for like, four days after it’s been opened. So long as it’s not blazing hot. Zambia has a great selection of juice concentrates too. Just over here.” The two women walk to the other side of the aisle. “You can just mix it with water, but because it’s mostly all sugar and preservatives, it keeps really well after it’s been opened. I buy this one because it has peach pulp as its first ingredient instead of water or sugar.”
“How about this long life milk?” Allison asked from the end of the aisle. “It looks like it’s being sold in bulk.”
“Yeah! And that’s a good price too.”
“But what do you use it for? How long does it keep once it’s open?”
“Like two or three days, depending on the temperature. But I put it in my coffee, or on the rare occasion that I have cornflake in the village. But I also really love pudding, so if I open a liter container I use more than half of it right away for that.”
“Should we buy it?” Jordon asked coming up behind them.
“I would if I were posting. Because even if you don’t use it all in these next three months, it’ll keep.”
They walked up and down every aisle, and Chelsi answered questions about everything from preferred brands of floor wax to how long it takes an average volunteer to finish a kg of peanut butter. Until Chelsi looked around as the stood in the aisle with breakfast cereals, “where’s Victoria?”
Everyone else shrugged.
“Okay, if you can hold my basket,” Chelsi thrust the red plastic basket on Sid, “I’ll go look for her quick quick.” Chelsi retraced her steps through the columns of food stuffs. She has to be in here, as she stumbled on the slender, brightly decorated frame for Victoria. “Oh good, I was just looking around and noticed you hadn’t kept up with us.”
Her big, bright eyes look up at Chelsi’s, “Oh no, no, no, I think I’m managing just fine.”
Chelsi peered into her cart. It was filled with the biggest containers of rice, pasta, flour and potatoes that Shoprite had to offer. “Well, it looks like you’re doing okay. Just remember too, to buy some things that you really like eating. Maybe some chocolate bars, or tea.”
“Yeah, yeah, okay.”
“Okay, well, we’re just finishing up with the breakfast cereals. Let me know if you have any questions.” Chelsi returned to the rest of the group just in time to advice Allison and Jordon on Shoprite’s meager coffee selection. Chelsi couldn’t help but wonder at Victoria’s rouge status. She’s either, completely and utterly prepared, or… or… or what? In just a few days she would be on her own anyway. Chelsi tried to think back to her own posting experience. She subconsciously scratched her head.
The only thing she could really remember well was the morning she left for site; Kenny, her posting helper, had offered her the last bit of the tequila from his birthday party the previous night. She then wondered if she was being as helpful.
Chelsi’s eyes refocused and she snapped back into the present.
“Do you think I should buy breakfast cereal?” Sid asked, “I really like cereal.”