Law, Justice and Order

“What’s the proper procedure?”

082: A Project Review

​Chelsi looked the man in front of her up and down one more time.  They said he was coming in from DC for this project review, Chelsi thought, but to her the only thing that seem DC-like was his smell and the crispness of clothes.  “You said you just came from doing a four week project review for Peace Corps in West Africa, right?”

The old grey haired man nodded his head.

“That’s a nice messenger bag you have too. It must be new.” Chelsi’s attention was drawn to it when she saw her cat, Tulip, climbing on it like a jungle gym.  

“Aww, naa.  I’ve had it some years now.  I just take care of it,” he said nonchalantly, scribbling a few things in his note pad.  It was a nice bag, but it clashed with is khaki safari outfit, complete with hat. 

“And how does West Africa compare to your time in Zambia so far?”

“Oh, well, southern Africa is much nicer.  Over there there’s some many people packed in such a small space you can’t eat your lunch without someone pissing on you shoes.” When the man had first sat down on her front porch, Chelsi had felt combative with him.  He wasn’t what she was expecting, having walked with an arrogant feeling air.  Though now, two hours into their conversation about her service and the Rural Aquaculture Promotion project, the funny air still lingered Chelsi was more bewildered by him then hostile towards him. “Zambia, it reminds me a lot more of my service in the DR Congo back in the late 70’s, early 80’s.”

“I know PC Congo used to have an Aquaculture program too,” rumors from the days of PC Congo.  No wonder he seems so strange to me, he’s like a mythical creature.

“Yes, that was my project,” he looked up at her through his spectacles, “and when it was finish and the time came, I wrote the Aquaculture program for Zambia.” He paused and flipped over to a new page in his notebook.  “So, we’ve talked about what a project review is, all the project particulars, training and project support for volunteers, where you’re at in your service and how the project goal are coming along here. Is there anything you want to add, that I can file with the report. Anything that we should take in to consideration when we make adjustments to the project framework?”

Chelsi sat, looking at him, turning her gaze to her scrubby looking front yard, back at him. “No, I don’t think so.  We’ve been sitting here for nearly two and a half hours.  I can’t imagine there’s something we missed.”

“Alright, then…” and he made a motion for his bag. 

“Wait, there is something.” She stopped and collected her thoughts. “There is something, something I think is really important, that I can’t imagine the other volunteers ever mentioning but something I have expressed to Donald now a couple of time.”

“Alright, then…” and he resettled himself in his chair.

“I mean, and maybe this isn’t even the proper place for this, but I think it fits, with Peace Corps’ “Do No Harm” motto. Like the box we have to fill out detailing potential environmental degradation when we write a grant.  But I think the RAP project framework needs the same thing.  Cause you know, when I look around, Zambia is a country of rivers, streams, wetlands, or at least it’s supposed to be.  And the whole purpose of this project is to basically be going out there and damming streams, and digging lots of huge holes in wetlands, and you couldn’t convince me that this isn’t seriously affecting hydrology, native, wild fish stock, etc. because I haven’t seen any peer reviewed studies on the subject.  I haven’t heard any casual conversation even. You should know, with your background in fisheries in the States, for two hundred year, early European settlers, up to the 1950’s, people in the States were damming up even the tiniest trickles of water on the landscapes, then in the 60’s and 70’s started looking around and wondering where all the fish went.  I know the Zambian government likes to blame the crashing fish stocks on overfishing, or my understanding of increased gear efficient with the introduction of mosquito nets and maybe some increasing efforts with a greater population. But it’s crazy not to consider the effects of the drastic land use changes that have been happening over the last, 25, 10, 5, even 2 years.  Even since I’ve been here the landscape looks different.  I mean, I get it kind of. It easier for the government to point its finger at that poor and/or rural people and say ‘You, you are the problem’ cause then the solution is simply to crack down on enforcement of illegal fishing. But changes in land use, that’s often the result of ‘development activities,’ the building of roads, pollution from cars, agricultural chemicals, trash, deforestation, rapid urbanization, poor sanitation, I mean I can go on and on and on, and that’s without even touching on the mining activity. But I think you get my point.  It’s impossible for a government like Zambia’s to monitor, let alone control. There’s no NGO that I’ve ever heard of even trying explore or monitor Zambia’s instream conditions, habitat connectivity, etc. And here Peace Corps volunteers are promoting the destruction of wetlands and spending grant money on the building of dams. Something we spend billions of dollars in the States trying to undo…  I don’t, if maybe the hope is that after Zambia improved is economic conditions it’ll be able to afford conservation efforts, habitat rehabilitation, ecosystem services. But that’s laughable, we can hardly do that in the States. But if of all this there is anything we know for sure it’s that prevention is better that cure, and, and, and I don’t know.  I think maybe we need Aquaculture volunteers to be working with in communities to improve the environment and take a stab at bring back wild fish stocks while there’s still a chance… if there is one.” Chelsi brought up her gaze which had drifted to the ground. “That all, I guess. I mean, I can go on longer, but I think you get what I’m trying to say.”

She watch as the project reviewer finished filling his new page with notes. “Your right. I don’t think any of the volunteers are going to mention all of that.”

When he finished, he tucked his notebook away.  They stood up and Chelsi replaced her chairs inside her house.  She locked the door, and the two started towards the road to look for her program staff, Cleopher and Frasier. 

“You’re a good volunteer Chelsi,” 

“How do you figure that?” she replied, curious as to what part of their conversation stood out to him on that matter.

“You think of this place as your home.”

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066: Funeral Pyre

Chelsi looked down at the garden bed in front of her feet.  Just yesterday it had been covered in promising little radishes; now all it was filled with was dashed hopes and dreams.  The bed coverings were strewn about, dirt was piled up at the bed edges and claw marks were clear on soft beds center. “Gorged out the by a gardens worst enemy.”

“Cock-a-doodle-doo,” the black bared rooster crowed from Chelsi’s front porch.

“If you could get my hands on you…!” she exclaimed in an empty threat.  But still, the fantasy of the bird, breast up on a roasting pan always calmed her down. Dues owed she thought.

It was the feeling of be burgled. To come home after a long day’s work and find that all your prized possessions had been stolen and the window smashed; you’re angry for a moment and then overwhelmingly sad.  Only Chelsi knew who to be angry with, her host family, the Kalulu’s. It was their chickens and goats that were always destroying her garden. “And then! When and if things do grow they’ll have the audacity to come over and tell me to give them some,” steam poured out her ears. ‘No’ she practiced over and over in her head, ‘you’re chickens already ate your portion. Go eat them!

The whole purpose was it improve child and family nutrition. The whole purpose of my garden is to improve my nutrition. Some of the mothers in Kamijiji had asked for nutrition traing, they know their first graders look like toddlers and the toddlers look like infants. Others in the village just didn’t know or seemed to care. Chelsi hating seeing some of her favorite children eating nothing but packaged cookies and nshima, the local staple of maize mush.

Ahh, but the chickens aren’t for eating’ she was told.

Then why don’t you come to the gardening workshop. We can have some small gardens, they’ll be easy to take care of all year round, improve nutrition that way.

Ah, but there are no vegetable seeds.

If you dig a garden I will give you seeds to start.

Ah, but the chickens, they will just dig up the garden.

Build a fence.

Ah, but it’s a lot of work.

So lock up the chickens in a chicken house and tie up the goats.

Ah…

‘Fine then let your children starve.

But look, they are fat!’

They’re not fat! They are swollen with fluid because their kidneys are shutting down.

Chelsi sighed. Her fence did help. The number of chickens rolling through was greatly reduced, but only one was needed to undue weeks of watering and care. Fuck it, when I go to town next I’m getting fifty meters of chicken wire. She no longer cared that it would cost her an entire pay check. She then had a thought about how well scare crow actually worked.  She took a few deep breaths, started to feel better.  “Because do you really want to be that one?” She asked herself. “The volunteer who totally loses it and acts out rashly?” She had been voted most likely to, for swear-in superlatives last year.  “Most likely to: burn a goat in a funeral pyre.” She had been downgraded, from ‘Most likely to:’ make their house sustainable, after a conversation with PC Zambia’s then CFO, from which the designation was born.

The CFO Jason, Chelsi and three other soon to be volunteers sat in a small office, more than a year ago now, discussing proper volunteer conduct. ‘Don’t take drugs, don’t steal, take only certified taxi’s unless you have no other options. Try not to travel alone, don’t burn down your house, don’t burn down anyone else’s house. Just try not to do anything that would ostracize you from your communities, like killing your neighbor’s goat and burning it in a funeral pyre.

The comment had been presented to off handedly; don’t kill your neighbor’s goat and burn it in a funeral pyre. Chelsi had to ask.

We had a volunteer, who had a garden,’ Jason had stated calmly, ‘not unlike a lot of volunteers. But there was this goat, this one goat, which I guess was always breaking down the volunteers fence and destroying their garden.  So apparently what had happened, is they came home one day, to find their garden again, completely destroyed and the goat just standing there. And the volunteer lost it, killed the goat and built a giant pyre and burn the body.

Chelsi now knew what that murderous passion must have felt like for that volunteer, but Jason had never described how that volunteer had committed that act.  In Chelsi’s imagination it was a knife, they just stabbed it over and over, until it was dead.

So we had to send that volunteer home, because there was no way to reconcile with the community.

And the proper way to handle the situation, would have been….?

You make arrangements with the owner of the offending goat, to purchase the animal. Then, you may kill the animal if you wish, and if there is too much meat for you alone, you share it with the community. You don’t burn it front of them.

That’s how the story played in Chelsi’s head every morning, when she went out to water her garden, to mentally prepare herself.  She would take Jason’s advice if she thought it would make a difference.  But if she bought all of her family’s chickens, they would just go out and buy more chickens.  And all chickens are offenders. So instead she figured she would keep buying identical copies of her family’s chickens the market, and roasting them, while secretly hoping all the chicken at home would catch New Castle Disease and die.

Categories: Drama, Food & Recipes, Gardening, Health & Fitness, Horror, Law, Justice and Order | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

065: We’re not friends

​Chelsi lay on her couch, alternately coughing and blowing her nose.  I might not have malaria, but I’m still pretty sure I’m dying. Her now week long illness had left her chest sunken in, nose raw, and vision blurred.  She couldn’t read, she couldn’t sew, and she wished with all her heart she could skip the laborious tasks of fetching watering.   But if there is one thing I know I’m absolutely supposed to be doing its drinking water. Just get up now, go, get back and you can spend the rest of the afternoon lying around in comfortable, quenched misery.  

She was shuffling around, unsticking her bike from its corner when she heard the sounds of an engine rumbling forth.  Not a motorbike, she knew, and the sound wasn’t diverting off towards her host family’s house as she was a custom.  Grabbing her hat, she poked her head out the door.  

“Good grief.” Daisy was barking and jumping around a silver minivan, one she knew all too well belonged the head master of the secondary school in Mitukutuku. A man she strove to avoid.  She stepped out of the house and started towards the car, it’s engine still rumbling.  Chelsi had stopped making regular visits to the secondary school nearly a year ago after deciding the teacher there where only interested in harassing her and not educational programs.  The few times her and the head master had run into each other since Chelsi never stopped walking away while he talked to her, and always saying that if and when he was interested in programs he could come and find her.  “And now he’s come to find me.”

“It doesn’t bit now does it?” the sheep faced man asked from behind the stirring wheel. 

“It’s vicious, you should probably stay in the car,” she didn’t want him getting comfortable. 

“No, is it,” he replied, faining disbelief.

“Well, if you’re not going to believe me than why ask?” but her question was rhetorical, and so he continued. 

“How are you?”

“I’m sick, how are you?”

“Oh, me, I am fine.  But we have not seen each other, you have not been coming down by the school.”

“No, I’ve been sick, and busy. And you all that side don’t seem all that interested in working.”

“Is that so?” 

“Yeah, I don’t have a car, going down that side it like an all-day activity and I have better things to do. You have a car, if you wanted to come see me before it’s like ten minute drive.” Chelsi voice was thick with annoyance, and grumble from the phlegm in her chest.  

“Serious!?” Chelsi coughed. “On this side, you have been working on what?”

“We’re planning an environmental education camp for October, and fixing my roof, but mostly I’ve just been sick.” She thought that maybe if he got the hint that I’m ill, he’ll leave me alone.

“You’ve been sick, seriously?”  

Chelsi coughed up some phlegm and spit it out on the ground beside her, “Yes.”

“Ahh no, no, no. A beautiful woman like you can’t be sick.”

What an idiot, if there was one thing the head master was good for it was a heavy dose of sexual harassment.  He smiled at her with an open mouthed grin, Chelsi fought the urge to reach in a shake him.  

“So woman, beautiful or otherwise can’t be ill?” She continued on quickly, “Why? Tell me, why is that?”

“Because you are young and beautiful, so you are healthy.  Ahh, maybe it is just some of the dust now that it is getting hot and dry.  It make all of us cough. But it’s just the weather. It’s just the air.”

“A plague of miasma would still leave us all consumed and dead.” As inevitable, Chelsi could feel her nature become sour and embittered. The head master continued to stare at her plain and grinning, and Chelsi craned her neck to see her comment on the other side of his head. “I’m not sick from the air, I caught a virus from my friends. You know viruses, germs. The major reason people become sick.”

“No, no, no. A pretty lady can’t get sick.” What kept Chelsi from just walking back into her house was the bafflement, that this was the person responsible the education of some 300 children.  She knew there were people dumb enough to believe this train of thought reasonable, people who refused to use condoms even after their partners disclosed their HIV positive statues because ‘she was too pretty, she couldn’t possibly be positive.’ But also what could only be blatant racial bias.  He panders to me because I’m white. Or maybe he just doesn’t have one iota of thought for the feelings of his wife. He’ll just hit on any skirt that walks past. 

Either way, you disgust me, “Look, you can’t talk to me like that,” the hoarseness of Chelsi’s voice didn’t well reflect the sentiment, but the backchat had gone on a year too long and had found her to close to home. “It’s incredible unprofessional, and quite frankly makes you sound dumb. If you have meaningful business to talk about that’s fine.” She stumble over some more coughing and phlegm, “But hanging around to make comments about how I can’t be ill because of the way I look is inappropriate.  You shouldn’t be making any comments to me about the way I look or don’t look for that matter!  And you can’t make comments about how I should love you or do love you or love between you and me of any kind. It’s not okay, and if that hasn’t been clear to you before, consider this notice and if you continue we’re not going to work together.” Chelsi noticed now that she had been looking at the ground, and when she reverted her gaze back up at the head master, his features withdrew.  He sat quietly, sullen. He’s probably never been talked back to in his adult life, Chelsi figured. “So do you have any actual business to talk about?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Oh, yes.” He fumbled for his cellphone in his pocket. “My colleague, Mrs. Ngoma. She works at the extension for the University of Zambia. She has a plot by the dam there in Mitukutuku.  She wanted information on how to build some fish ponds. I said that I knew you and that I would drop off her information so that you can call her and come that side to show her.”

“You took a lot of liberties that weren’t yours.” You can’t tell someone I’ll go work with them without asking me first. “Give her my number, tell her if she wants to learn about fish farming she can call me to setup a time to meet me at my house.  I’m done wandering around looking for people and their plots, I have other things to do.  But still give me her number so I can put it in my phone.  I don’t answer calls from unknown numbers.”

“You will have to give me your number again, I think I might have it wrong.  The last few times I tried to call there was no answer.”

You are incredibly dense, “and the network here in the village is terrible,” Chelsi added sourly. She followed it up with her phone number.  

“You said she should meet you here? But she doesn’t have a car.”

“So?” the word shot a pain through Chelsi’s chest and she gripped it in a fit of coughing. “You have one, give her a lift,” she was snide and feeling tired. “Or you’re always suggesting that I come that side when all I have is bicycle. You’re adults, I’m sure I’ll figure it out.” He passed a strip of paper with Mrs. Ngoma information on it through the window.  “Is that all?” she took the slip of paper and folded it up in her hand.

“Yes,” there was no smile, no banter.

“Where are you going?” Chelsi voice was stern, but she was curious.

“I have a farm on this side.”

“Alright, well if you’ll be driving by often stop by if you have business.”

“Okay, okay.” The head master revved the engine of his minivan. Chelsi took a large step back.

Good, she decided, no comments about love or angels. He looked defeated. So hopefully that will be the end of that, and I really hope I never have to have that conversation again.  But her doubt nagged her; she was still young and at the beginning of her career.  And now that she thought about it, it hadn’t even been her first. Not in American, and not in Zambia, but she rarely handled the sexism and harassment so bluntly, though it was rarely in such sharp relief. She shuttered thinking of all the times men had referred to her as an angel, and she subsequently wanted to remind them that they were not friends.  What I really want it to be referred to and treated as a human, but if my choices are between angel and dog, I choose dog. Dogs are at least recognized as have needs, wants and character of their own, while angels are nothing but projections of the believer’s imagination. 

“And we are certainly alive in the world,” she smiled at her darling Daisy, who now took up the place the minivan had been. “Come on, let’s go to the well.”

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041: Two steps back

From the time Chelsi saw her first horror film as a child she had practiced mentally preparing herself for finding a lifeless body behind every door.  After all, she reasoned, crisis situations are no time be acting emotionally; especially if there’s an ax murder in the house. Over the last 25 years she had opened the door many limp, lifeless bodies.  Mostly fish, a few reptiles, lots of plants.  But coming home from Mufumbwe last Tuesday, two days later than anticipated, she skipped the mental.  Her house was too small for murder to hide and everything seemed accounted for as she pushed the door open.  Except the excited mews from Poppy, who usually sat just behind the door anxiously waiting for her to arrive. 
She had dropped her stuff just beyond to door and sat her basket full of doves on the table.  She had checked the bushes around the house he like to sit in. Nothing.  Maybe he’s napping in the trees somewhere, she thought returning inside the house.  Daisy wiggled and sniffed excitedly at the doves. 
“Leave’em alone Daisy,” Chelsi had said turning her gaze towards the table. “God damn it,” she sighed. Just beyond the table a lump of glossy black fur was sprawled on the floor. “Go outside Daisy,” she pushed the dog outside, shut the door and opened the curtains to let in the light. 
He still looked full of life, that if Chelsi had just called his name gently he would spring back up.  “This couldn’t have happened more than an hour ago.” Not only were his expelled feces still fresh, but the puddle of urine was still wet and his eyes were still plump and dilated.  There’s not even any ants on them yet, the true test of freshness of anything. 
Using a grocery bag, she picked him up and brought him to her host father.  The top contenders for his demise was poisoning, maybe he ate a rat that had been poisoned, snake bite and ju ju. And that’s where Chelsi stopped the conversation. She knew too many volunteers that had to be removed from their villages after accusation of black magic were made; whether against them or by them.  She had been sad about Poppy, but like so many situations in Zambia the truth wasn’t important, probably didn’t even exist.
But all that was yesterday, she put the break in her mind to help her deal with today’s visits from the reaper.  She was sitting in her folding chair stripping the feathers from her most prized dove.  She was one of four that Chelsi had carried from Mufumbwe. We haven’t even been home for a day… Just after feeding them that morning Chelsi had returned to the house to feed Daisy. Through the open window in the back of the house she sudden heard the fluttering of wings. Good thing I hung that net under the house, she thought. The birds had their flight feathers removed so they would learn that Kamijiji was their new home, and Chelsi had hung a net under and around the house in the event that one of them fell they wouldn’t end up on the ground where one of the other animals could get them.  She hurried herself outside to help the dove back up to the house, but quickly realized her had made a terrible mistake. 
Her host father’s dog Trigger sat just under the bloody net, where the dying dove was cradled.  “You fucking bastard,” she cursed at the dog and looked franticly around for something to chuck at him.  Before she could find something the sound of her voice sent him skittering away.  Daisy and Lion were in tow behind her.  She had never cared for that dog, but had never had a more compelling reason to dislike him.
She reached the dove house in time to hear the speckled white dove make one last coo.  After removing around her porch.  Chelsi tied the net back up, tighter this time and look up at the little girl’s lonely mate.  The odd number would torture her.  She had to call every single person she knew, dragged herself all over Sowlezi and even stopped random people on the street, trying to find people that would be willing to sell her doves and she had still only come away with four. Now it was three.  She needed eight to have an established colony.  Walking back towards her house she wildly threw the rock at Trigger, who took off towards the road with a yelp. 
So now, when she had planned on spending the morning weeding her garden, was feathering the little dove.   Chelsi had ask her host father yesterday to take Poppy to the farm and bury him there because she didn’t know what he died of she didn’t want Daisy digging him up and eating him.  The dove would most certainly be dug up and eaten by one of the dogs, and unjust reward and if she handed off to her host father one of the kids would just eat it, setting the precedent that they would get any dead doves.  She definitely didn’t want to go down that road. 
She had killed and eaten more things than she could remember, but the weight that this one had been so unintentionally it hurt for the first time.  All wanted was the body to be bare so she could at least pretend the circumstance of this meal were different.  When she was done she dropped the tiny bit of poultry into a brine and went out to start on her garden.
Her goal was to finish weeding just one bed of her eight beds.  All the plants had really taken off in the week she was away, including the weeds.  Chelsi was surprised by how long the weeding took too; after two hours she had only finished half a bed.  She stood up to stretch out her knees and back.  Lion and Daisy stood watching her just beyond the garden fence, watching her.  Man, I just built this and the termites are already destroying it, she thought when she notices a few of the fence poles slumped toward the ground. That’ll have to be really close to the top of the list getting fixed. Just beyond the fence though, through the passion fruit vine she saw a mother hen with her seven chick. Not really chicks any more, the plants weren’t the only thing that grew while was gone.
Her smile turned quickly to a frown, “Lion, No!” Chelsi’s yelled but not fast enough.  She rushed through the gate.  Little chicken feet protruded from Lion’s mouth. Lion took a quick leap away.  The commotion caught the attention of Chelsi’s host sister, Juliet. Lion was her husband’s dog.  She hurried over in just enough time to see the wind blow away the last few feathers; Lion’s fate was sealed.  Juliet cursed at the dog in kiikaonde and dragged her away by the rope tied around her neck.  From across the yard Chelsi heard an exchange of thwacks and yelps between Juliet and Lion. It was quiet again in a few minutes and with nothing left for her to do so Chelsi went back to weeding her garden.   
Chelsi retired into her house early that evening.  Before starting dinner she took some cuddle time with her darling Daisy.  She reclined into her chair and scooped her puppy up on to her lap.  Shortly after Chelsi heard Maurice, her host brother-in-law, return from wherever he goes during the day.  The conversation between Juliet and her husband was short, and though Chelsi didn’t catch all the words she understood the intention.  Daisy say quietly, Chelsi whispered sweetly into her ear.  She heard Lion, at the end of her chain, being dragged in to the bush just behind her house. 
THUMP!
YELP!
THUMP!
Yelp.
THUMP…

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029: What’s up with your house?

Chelsi was sitting out on the steps that led down from the small porch at the back of the Prov house. I can’t believe it’s been six weeks! She thought to herself. She lifted her head from between her knees and looked out over the freshly slashed grass of the walled in compound.  It really was like a separate world behind the twelve foot, cement walls.  The compound was big enough with enough space and trees that the walls did not seem intrusive, but at the same time you could see the razor wire that ran along the top of them; like a separate world? Or just a prison?
She could spend days behind the walls, almost forgetting all together that she was in Zambia.  And what purpose was there in leaving from behind the walls really? What am I going to do? Stroll around dusty Solwezi alone? With minibus drivers grabbing at me? Or wander around Shoperite buying things I don’t really need? Yet there was not much left to do inside the walls.  I planted trees, made animal feed, built and painted a giant bird house. The internet is non-operational… I guess I could read another book.
“You’re still here Chelsi?” a friend voice sounded from behind her.
“Yep, I’m still here.”
Chelsi’s friend Ginny took a seat next to her on stairs.
“You mean your house still isn’t done?” her voice was filled with disbelief.
“Nope.”
“Wow, how long has it been now? How long have you been staying here?” she pulled a cigarette from a small box and lit it.
“We’re going on week seven now.”
“What’s going on? Why’s it taking so long?”
“I don’t know… My host father says it’s because no one else in the community has been coming to help build the house, but at the same time he told Chunda the other day that he chased away two men that said they wanted to help. When Chunda relayed this to me he was kind of laughing, so I don’t know if it really wasn’t a big deal or who these men were but, I don’t like the sound of it.”
“What did it look like when you saw it last?
“All the walls were up, which is good.”
“Right, cause they are making your house bigger.”
“Yeah I’m going from a 2.8 meters by 4.5 meters to the ‘standard’ 5×6. Which means they also had to rebuild the roof and cut new poles, which were also on the house.”
“You’re still going with the grass thatch? I heard a lot of the newest volunteers are getting iron sheeting.”
“Yeah, I probably could have, and it would have made things easier maybe and a little quicker, but I like the grass.  It’s cooler in hot season and makes a whole lot less noise when it rains. And I plan on getting a cat, so that should help with the rat problem.”
“Okay,” Ginny stood up and paced on bit on the small cement slab in front of the stairs.
“And there was grass on the roof, but when they were building the walls they didn’t have the windows. They have them now so they still have to put them in.  The floor needs cement, and roofing plastic needs to be hung…  They’re so close it’s just taking so long…” Chelsi pause to organize her thoughts, she had so many on the subject. “And I understand too, they can’t spend all day working on it.  They have the farm to take care of, and you really can’t be out working between 10 am and 2 because it’s just too hot. And I don’t think anyone from Mitukutuku is coming to help because they think if the house doesn’t get built I move closer to them…”
“Yeah, what happened with that?”
“Back in June, when I was trying to get my house fixed up no one in Kamijiji, my immediate area was coming to help, and before he left Mike mentioned that there were people in Katoka and Mitukutuku, up the road by the tarmac, that would be interested in coming to help. So I went to them to ask for help and they got the idea in their head that instead of coming to Kamijiji to fix the existing house they would just build me a new house closer to them.  I told them maybe but we would have to talk to Peace Corps, wait, don’t make any plans.  But instead they started holding community meeting about where they were going to put this new house of mine.  This is now mid-July and words about this got back to my host-father and he got upset, thinking I was trying to move without asking him. So he call Chunda and told him to send me back to America.  So Chunda came to smooth out the situation, then threatened my host father that if the house wasn’t ready to be fixed, to move me and my stuff out, by the end of August I would move to Mitukutuku.  I have since found out that they would have never move me there no matter what, but any way.  I came back from Malawi at the end of August, and was told to ‘sit tight.’ Though none, of the materials for my house were ready. And I should have pushed then, to move to a new site.  Cause I know now that there is no other place in Northwest Provence for me to go now.  It’s either I go back to my house, or maybe I go back to America.  Which sucks, It took them six weeks after the deadline of when I was supposed to be moved for them to get enough, enough that is, not all, the material together to start working on the house before I could move out and I don’t know it’s just shitty. And frustrating.”
Chelsi let out a sigh. Having finished her cigarette Ginny took back her seat next to Chelsi. “It leaves me feeling stupid for even asking for what I’m supposed to have, as housing standards are supposed to go. I know it would have been really hard, but I probably would have made it in the ka tiny house.  Though the roof wouldn’t have made it.”
“No, there is nothing wrong with asking for your house to be fixed. They told you this is what you are supposed to have so you have every right to push for it. Peace Corps, they’re the ones who put you in this situation.  If the house wasn’t done, and the community didn’t have the buy-in to fix it up appropriately then they should haven’t put a volunteer there.” Chelsi was relieved to hear the strength in her voice, because she had been searching for some.
“You know what’s funny, the agricultural extention agents that work in the village, they’re always asking me ‘but wouldn’t you rather live in town?’ No, I’d much rather live in the village. There I’m free to do what I want, when I want.  I can work on my garden, take a walk in the bush, play with Daisy.  That’s the other thing, I hate thinking of Daisy sleeping outside all alone, especially now that it’s raining.   Here, there nowhere to go. You just end up spending a lot of money and there is constantly people around. Which gets exhausting after a while.”
“I agree. I don’t even like coming here for more than a day or so at a time. I can’t imagine what it must be like after what, seven weeks?  Is there an end date? A date where a decision is going to be made about what happen with you? You can’t stay at the Prov house forever.”
“Chunda told them next Friday when we were there on Wednesday.”
“So the day after Thanksgiving.”
“Yeah. He’s supposed to go on Monday to help move sand for the floor and he’ll let me know more about how it’s looking then. But I don’t know man, I just don’t know.”

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023: the Global Family Network, part one

“Well, hello Chelsi!  It is so nice to meet you!” Mel cried, approaching her position on the porch, arms wide open.  Chelsi struggled to match his enthusiasm with her greeting.
“It’s nice to meet you too.” Mel’s arrival though anticipated, felt abrupt; his bubbly personality caught her off guard.  Her and the 65 year old British man embraced before she had the time to acknowledge and greet her fish farmer, Felix.
“How are you?” Felix asked as they walked over to sit on the walls in the shade of her chinzanza. 
“Hot.”
Felix laughed. “Yes, it is hot season now.”
“But the other farmers tell me the rain will be coming soon. Maybe the second week of October. But hopefully not before my house is fixed.”
“Maybe there will a little rain in October. But it won’t start really raining until November.” They joined Mel, having already seated himself. 
“It is so great to be finally meeting you Chelsi. Felix has been telling us all about you and about so of the work you’ve been helping out with at the Farm, yeah.  I’m sorry my wife, Jean Ann couldn’t be here. She woke up feeling ill this morning so she stayed at the house. But tell me how are things going here in the village?”
Chelsi had a vague idea of the relationship between Mel and Jean Ann and Felix.  Even the coming of Felix to the village, the pieces of his story just never seemed to fit together for her.  She knew he was Lunda, a tribe concentrated in Northwestern Provence, but raised and working in Livingstone, Zambia’s premier tourist destination, as a hotel and hospitality manager.  How he became a connected to the British couple, running a farm outside Solwezi left her puzzled.
“I see you’re living in Mike old house.” Mel continued.
“Yeah, I’m in the process of trying to get the village to help me fix it up; new roof, new walls, new floor, before it rains. You knew Mike?”
“Yeah! Mike and Annie and Andrew down in San’gnombe. Am I saying that right?” Mel turned his hefty trunk to face Felix. “Sand’gombe?”
“Yeah, Sandang’ombe.”
“Sandang’ombe.  Mike was here last year when we brought the pigs to the farm.” Mel pulled out a smartphone and tapped the screen a few times before passing it to her. “You can see the pictures there.”
She scrolled through the pictures. “So you’ve been down in the area of Kaymanga for about a year now?”
“Yeah,” Chelsi pasted back the phone. “We’re running the farm to raise for our charity, Global Family Network.”
“Right, Felix has told me a little bit about it. And then you build houses for the old people that have been pushed out of their family or their children have died and they’re taking care of their grandchildren in grass lean-tos.” Just sitting and the sweat was beginning to bead on her forehead. “But I’m still a little unclear how the farm settled in where it is today, and how you and Felix became acquainted.” 
Over the next hour Chelsi learned that Jean Ann and Felix became close friends while work with the same charitable organization in Livingstone; Jean Ann as a missionary from the UK and Felix in his spare time.  Some years after Jean Ann moved home Felix contacted her and Mel saying that he had found his passion in life, “God’s calling for him” as Mel put it; to help reconcile old people, who are often pushed out of village society after being condemned as witches, with their families or building proper housing for those without families and are caring for children, often orphans of HIV/AIDS.  Felix proposed the idea of starting up a farm, closer to his tribal home, to fund the charity in the long-term but ask for help from the British couple to get started.  Jean Ann and Mel accepted the proposal and so the search for finding and buying land to start the farm began.  From here the story was lots of heart ache and bureaucracy. Of the course of the next two years they vied to buy three different plots the land.  Government Ministry works pointed them from office to office to office always telling them their paperwork was incomplete or the order in which it was filed was in correct. In one community after making an offer to a village and having it accepted by the headman, the headman turned around and sold the land to a mining company, stole the money and left the village. But just when even Chelsi, who knew the ending, was about to give up all hope that the story had a happy ending, Mel paused.
“And then a man, an old respectable man, a village leader in Mitukutuku, called us over to his house for a meeting and he said, ‘I see you here, trying so hard to make our community a better place and we want to make sure you can stay.  I have a small garden plot in the dambo, I want to lend it to you, so long as all the profit from the farm goes back to helping the community as you promise.”  Chelsi could see Mel’s heart well with joy just by recalling the memory.  “And the next day we went down to see the plot, and my god, it was just the most beautiful spot… Well you know, you’ve seen it.”

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