Chelsi stood in the crowed semi-circle on the lawn of the Lusaka Peace Corps office. Having arrived a few minutes late with her friends Thomas and Janelle, they were positioned at the outside of the circle, facing in towards the rim of a car wheel, painted white and suspended from a tree. Leon, Peace Corps Zambia’s country director was make some statement about how proud he was of all of those who had completed two years of service in country. The sound of his voice mostly passed through Chelsi’s ears as noise. She personally felt that a lot of the administration in Lusaka thought of volunteers as a nuisance; that their jobs would be much easier if only there weren’t any volunteers.
“Good thing we left early,” Thomas whispered.
“Even though we were late?” Chelsi laughed.
“I know, I can’t believe they moved up the time by a half an hour, then only told like a handful of people,” Janelle whined.
“Well, you know, they did it for people like you guys, who are trying to get to the airport by 10 this morning.”
“I know, I told Cleopher to have Janelle and I be some of the first to ring out so that we can get in a cab right away.”
Ring out, Chelsi thought to herself, the ceremonial whacking of a stick against the car wheel, signaling the end of a Peace Corps Volunteers service. Chelsi wasn’t one for a lot of pomp and circumstance. But she wasn’t here for herself, she was here to support and say good bye to all the friends. It was the final day of their service; Thomas and Janelle, Ryder, Tyler, Laura, Jason.
“Where’s Jason?” Chelsi asked looking around. They had seen him on the street, walking away from the office. He was trying to say something about identification. But that was some time ago and it was nearly his turn to ring out.
The Program Manager for the LIFE project started listing the names of the volunteers. One by one, the volunteers walked to the center of the circle, took the stick from Leon, whacked the wheel, returned the stick, received a commemorative Peace Corps Zambia pin, and shook some hands.
“I don’t know,” Thomas replied looking around. “We saw him walking the wrong direction on the street. Figured though he’d have made it by now.”
“How come, how come, how come they’re not passing out certificates?” Janelle ask, staring intently between Leon and the Program Managers.
“We already got our certificates of completion.” Chelsi started, “remember at the COS conference? They passed them out on the second day.”
“But then why did you get one? And Oli! You guys are extending, or what if someone Early Terminated during community exit? They wouldn’t have completed!”
“Admin probably figures, if you made it this far, then close enough.” Thomas laughed.
Cleopher, the Manager of Chelsi’s Rural Aquaculture Promotion program, took the center of the circle. He had already made his speech about what a joy we had all been to work with, and how he wished us nothing but the best in our future endeavors. So he went straight into calling names.
“Janelle that’s you,” Thomas nudged her forward when her name was called.
“What! What! Do I do? Is this it?” she walked forward looking a little dazed, but her feet fell in line with the rest.
“Jason!” Cleopher called out next.
The circle was silent. Then there was crashing sound at the security gate.
“Sorry, sorry… sorry, sorry, sorry,” Jason came stumbling out from the guard house. “Don’t worry everyone, the Train is here,” he called walking quickly across the parking yard.
The perimeter of the circle parted ways to let him through. “Oh Jason, it’s nice to see you could make it,” Cleopher laughed as he pasted him stick. Jason walked out to the center of the circle, turned his left forearm to the sky and pressed the tip of the stick in to the head of the serpent tattooed on his arm.
“May the dark lord rise again,” the eternal Voldemort fan shouted, before casting a spell at the wheel and returning the stick to Cleopher.
Spotting his friends in the circle, Jason came to stand by Thomas, Janelle and Chelsi.
“Glad to see you made it, Jason,” Thomas squeezed his shoulders.
“Yeah, man, just in time to leave.”