“Hey Girly, what are you doing here?” Chelsi’s friend Mike asked, taking a seat at the dinning room table of the basement office. Chelsi spun around in the computer chair, at a desk off to the side to face her friend.
“Didn’t you know?” Chelsi smiled. “I’m the APCVL for this week!”
“Laura’s gone again?”
“Yeah, for like a full three weeks. But I’m only here until Monday.” Chelsi swiveled back to face her open email page on the computer.
“Because we have the Animal Husbandry Workshop!” Mike added excitedly.
Chelsi laughed, “Yeah, it almost wasn’t going to happen. Oliver didn’t get the grant money till like yesterday. But I actually can’t go.”
“Oh no! Why?”
“Like, a week ago I opened my mouth to floss, and I got this super sharp pain in the left side of jaw. And it was like that for like four or five days, till I called the medical office nearly in tears to get an appointment with the dentist. So they scheduled me one for Tuesday.” She paused, then continued, “It feels fine now, but I still want to have it looked at. And it just especially sucks cause I missed animal husbandry last year, because my counterpart just couldn’t get his act together enough to go. But who knows, maybe next year, maybe third times the charm.”
“He just has his pants all in a twist,” Chelsi heard Mike say. “Admin is just very reactionary, and because everything is treated like an emergency, no one stops to think about what’s really going on.” Chelsi then heard the little bell that comes after sending a voice message on Whatsapp.
“What’s that about?” Chelsi ask with curiosity, spinning her chair back round.
Mike didn’t even take his eyes off his laptop. “You know that letter that got passed around about some of the volunteers feelings about new policy changes at the white house?”
“I might have seen it.”
“Well, apparently it got leaked to admin before the people involved got a chance to post it. And now Lusaka is acting like it’s the apocalypse. They’re saying things like, if it gets posted online, there will be a backlash against the PC Zambia post, people could lose their jobs, funding could disappear, duh di duh di duh.”
“What they really mean is that the country director could lose his job.”
“But really, among all the related letters out there, being written and posted, by all kinds of different organizations, associations, whatever, the chance of someone even pseudo-important picking up one for PC Zambia and passing it up to the administration for individualize persecution, is like what? One and…”
“Not likely at all,” Mike finished her comment. “But now they’re talking about administratively separating anyone who posts it.”
“I know that we’re not allowed to make statements regarding the politics of our host country. We’re not allowed to write or sign domestic petitions identifying ourselves as Peace Corps volunteers. But this has nothing to do with Zambia politics and is nothing close to a petition. Petitions ask for things, request a review of something, and are written in specific address to the person or office that is in charge of whatever the petition relates too. That is an open letter, addressed to no one in particular, asking for nothing specific. Or non-specific for that matter. It’s just a compilation of thoughts and opinions that happen to be mutually held by a group of people.” Heat began to pervade Chelsi voice. “I’ve found that people who wave around the ‘right of free speech’ don’t really understand what it’s intended to protect, but this is it; protection from governmental persecution when opinion are expressed publicly by persons about the government and/or its policies.” She pause to collect herself. “Maybe if we were federal employees, and the upper administration was worried that these conversations were taking place during the work day… Then, sure Lusaka would be in the right to take disciplinary actions; but they make it far too abundantly clear that we are not employees, just mere volunteers, not held to the same standard.”
“I agree,” Mike added, once she had stepped down from her soap box.
“And of course, something like this would blow up, right when I’m planning an extension.”
“WHAT?!” now Mike’s full attention was on her. “You got it?! And you didn’t tell me right away!?”
Chelsi smiled coyly, “Well, it’s pending medical and housing approval.” Mike stood up and approached her for a hug. “And you know, I didn’t really think to tell anyone; I figured the rumor mill would spread it around.”
They embraced, “Congratulations!”
“I know! Now we can be extension buddies together!”