”Come on baby girl,” Chelsi called to her dog. “It’s alright you can do it, come on.” Daisy hesitated at the foot and a half drop out the minivans door. “Come on,” Chelsi clapped her hands in encouragement.
With an unsteady hop, Daisy stretched out her front legs and touched down on the gravel. “Good girl, see it wasn’t that bad. Thanks again,” Chelsi said waving to the minivan driver and hooking up Daisy’s leash to her harness. The minivan pulled away and Chelsi surveyed her surroundings.
She could believe it had been more than a year and half since she had been to Mshinda, as medium size village just north of the town Manyama on the tarmac of the road to Mwinilunga. It had been her introduction to Northwest Provence. Leading Daisy away from the tarmac, across the school yard, she tried to recall what that visit had been like; excited, scared, tired. At the time she was still a trainee, with just two months in country, it was days before she would be introduced to her permanent site and only three more weeks before she would be on her own in the village.
A few children gathered along the path to stare as she led her dog on to the volunteer’s house. Previously it had been the home of woman named Dick, but a new volunteer had taken over the house, Chelsi’s friend Amanda. As the house came into view it began to stir up memories from her last visit; bottles of Desert Island and London Dry, solo language lessons, grilled cheese and sauce packets, meeting her darling Daisy for the first time.
The house stood tall and strong. Well laid bricks were painted with Lunda greetings, the roof thatch was thick and the window covered with screens and glass. A few steps to the south sat the chinzanza, square with a waist high wall. Inside sat a few chairs, a table and a bag of charcoal. After setting her backpack down on one of the chairs, Chelsi walked past the chinzanza towards a woven bamboo enclosure, elevated off the ground on what looked like a dish rack. There were two chicken wire covered opening on either side. She peeked into the window. A fat white rabbit sat contently chewing on a cabbage leaf at the center of the enclosure. Chelsi smiled, when she felt Daisy tugging at her leash she turned around.
Her two friend, Amanda and Adam were walking up the path towards the house carrying a shopping bag. “Hey friends!” she said, alerting them to her presence.
“Hey Chelsi, glad to see you made it okay.” Adam walked up closer to greet her and gave Daisy a strong rub of her side. “Hi Daisy, how are you?”
Daisy, looked up at Adam and licked her nose.
“Hiii,” Amanda replied with a big smile.
“Hii eee,” Chelsi laughed. The three friends chattered briefly about their transport as they walked towards the front door of the house. The key clicked in the lock and the bolt slid back.
It had been a very nice house under ownership of Dick, but Chelsi was unprepared for the beauty that its new owner added.
Tidy shelves of teas and spices lined the walls of the front room. A table and chair Chelsi recognized were pushed up next to the window, but now a decorated in cute tea cups and glasses. When Chelsi noticed that her two friends had removed their shoes she followed suit and stepped further into the house. Daisy wiped her paws on the mat and followed, closely behind and into the house. Through the doorway into the main room Chelsi saw Amanda’s cat, Kitty, nursing her three tiny kittens on a cat bed tucked in to the corner of the wrap around couch. Soft colored fabrics covered the walls and a spread to match was laid over the bed. Above the bed was a colored glass window made of the bottoms of wine bottles and neatly organizing pens, pencils and other stationary supplies. Across from the foot of the bed sat a book shelf covered in colored candles. As Chelsi ventured further into the room she noticed the soft rugs beneath her feet. She fell back onto the couch. “This is amazing,” the words spilled out of Chelsi’s mouth as think and silky as cream.
Amanda’s face pulled back into a smile, “I know.”