Posts Tagged With: Friends

104: Siavonga

“Wow, this is so nice,” Chelsi exclaimed, walking out into the cool breeze coming off the lake.  Reaching for the railing of the hotel restaurant’s deck, she stretched her muscles; cramped from sitting in a minibus all day.  The hotel was positioned on the side of a mountain, looking over the Lake Kariba.  Chelsi hadn’t been anticipating the mountains, and got excited when she saw them out the window of the bus; then terrified when the bus careened on the mountain road, conductor hanging out the sliding door of the van. “You got very lucky,” Chelsi said to her recently found friend. “I guarantee my house will not be this nice, nor would be any other place I put you up in!”

“This is a very nice place.” Chelsi met Hans, a Tanzanian national, on her trip to Zanzibar. Her and her friends had been talking about Peace Corps, when Hans over heard them, walked up and mentioned that he was interested in adding a Peace Corps  volunteer to the team of his small NGO.

“And here I picked this time for you to come down thinking that it’d be okay because I would have a house, and what not. But good thing I called to remind Yalelo I was coming today, and they could arrange room for the two of us.” Chelsi had been surprised by the lack of professionalism the fish farm seemed to have.  As a for profit business, she wondered how it managed to run, if they couldn’t even manage to pick up their volunteer from the bus station their appointed date and time.  And what’s this about my house not being ready yet? The whole thing made her apprehensive about meeting the fish farm’s president the following morning.

Hans noticed the twist on Chelsi’s face as she thought. “You know, if you’re having second thoughts about the fish farm you can always come work for Better Nation,” he read her mind.

She threw him a side cast glance, “I only wanted to stay this side if it meant I could do this position; work on the fish farm, do something more closely related to my field.  So far all you have to offer me is a chicken project, and for even less money.  I’ve spent the last 2 years battling chickens!” Chelsi said exasperated.

Hans laughed, his white teeth flashing against the dark backdrop. “Come on now seriously.  Think of all the widowed, and divorced women, single mothers we could help.”  Hans’ grand plan was to help disadvantaged women become financially independent by helping them start small poultry operations.

Chelsi didn’t know that much about keeping chickens, but she always found terrestrial beings easier to care for than aquatic ones, the rules for chickens seem simple enough, proper food, water, housing and vaccination every three months.  The thought of New Castle vaccines gave her a flash back to her dove Spud, whom she’d always had suspected died of New Castle, when exactly two weeks later nearly every chicken in the village dropped dead.  She smiled.

Kerosene lights, used to attract minnows to the small fishing canoes out on the lake, twinkled off the water.  With the reflection of the stars, the lake seemed a more infinite universe than the one in the sky.  Chelsi ran her hand along the curved iron railing.  She thought the thought, that she thought a lot, about what it would be like, would have been like, if she hadn’t extended and just closed her service with the rest of her intake.

Having dodged two lanes of airport traffic, standing on the third, the last median for airport arrivals to be picked up by friends, family members, or rent-a-car shuttles.  With her duffle bag in one hand, the leash of her dog in the other, and overstuffed hiking backpack on her back, she would stare blankly at the airport parking garage across the road; cars whizzing through her field of vision. In the sun it would be warm, but given that arrivals were let out through the airport’s walkout basement, she would shiver when a cool draft came off a bus, bring her back to her current place. She would refocus on the traffic, for her parent’s car, and say to herself ‘Well, that happened…’

“So should we eat? Am feeling hungry,” Hans asked, pulling her attention back to the present moment.

“I was just thinking about Daisy, I hope she’s doing alright.” After deciding to would be too difficult to bring her down to Siavonga for a week, Chelsi had arranged to have her darling dog boarded at the kennel volunteers typically used in Lusaka. The following week Chelsi was to start her home leave.  Home leave being the month of special leave to the States that Peace Corps afforded to volunteers who extended for a third year.

“You have her at a very nice place. Am sure all is good,” He responded.

“All is under control?” She teased him.

“Yes,” he smiled.

“So, should we sit outside here, or maybe there?” Chelsi gestured to the far side of the deck to the right.

“Am feeling just a little bit cold.”

“Yeah, the draft from the lake is stronger than I thought it would be.  Especially for a place everyone was telling me is the hottest in Zambia.” Chelsi starting walking off towards the small building with floor to ceiling windows that revealed a bar, several tall tables and chairs and the forest green felt of a pool table, on the other side of a water lit, bean shaped pool.

Whatever happened instead, instead of the day dream she had had for the last two years, she felt prepared; that nothing could be more difficult than what she had already endured, that nothing could surprise her more than the melancholy she had felt as she drove away from her village for the last time, and nothing would replace the space in her heart for the hardest job she would ever love.

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Categories: Adventure, Fantasy, Mystery, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

092: Birthday Bananza

26, 26, 26, Chelsi thought over and over to herself, stepping out of the cold shower at the Pace Corps bunk house in Lusaka.  Two times 26 is still only 52. I can’t imagine that the next 26 years will be anything like the first 26 years. But probably, maybe the next six will be like the last six.  After toweling off and brushing out her hair, she slipped in to her blue dress with elephant chest pocket.  I guess I knew what years 24 and 25 were going to be like.  And now if I stay in Zambia, move to Siavonga; that will be year 26 and half of 27. WOW, 27 is awfully close to 30. Chelsi slipped her shoes back on, collected her things and left the bathroom.

The bunk house in Lusaka was reserved for volunteers called to the main office for medical reasons.  It was Chelsi’s first time, though she didn’t identify at all with her current bunk mates.  None of them were people she had ever seen before, and nearly all of them were coughing, sneezing, red faced.  The handful of them well enough to stand were now collected in the common room, through which Chelsi had to pass to make it outside to the bunks.  She didn’t want to be unfriendly, but she was concerned about the contagiousness of their afflictions, and she would be leaving first thing in the morning tomorrow, which didn’t leave a lot of time for making friends.

She smiled and greeted them as she passed through.  They were chatting about what to order for dinner, when a large red bearded volunteer stopped her. “We were going to order some take out. Do you want us to get you anything?”

Chelsi’s smile widened by the gesture. “Ummm, thank you. But, it’s actually my birthday, so I’m going to go out…” She looked around at the blank faces, “It’s not that you’re not all invited, but I’m going out with all of your PCVLs. So I figured none of you would be interested in coming anyway. You know, it’s not all that great to party with your boss…” Chelsi felt a little bit awkward, but it was all true. Plus they’re basically strangers.

“Oh so you’re a PCVL?” a curly brunette sitting on one of the old couches asked. “Of which province?”

“No, no, no, I’m not a PCVL. I’m just at the point in my service where all of my friends have become PCVLs.” Clearly none of them have been in country for more than a year, Chelsi thought. That’s why none of them look familiar.

“Oh, okay,” the group kind of nodded in collective understanding.

“Well, have fun,” the bearded one added as Chelsi slipped out of the room.

When Chelsi arrived at the meeting place to catch a taxi with her friends, it looked like everyone was already waiting for her. “Hey, dude!” Her friend Sara waved her over. “We were almost starting to think you weren’t going to make it.”

“Nelson, we’re waiting for a man named Nelson,” Justen said over and over to other taxi drivers, harassing him for business.

“Everything’s ready, the restaurant has our reservation. I just called to reconfirm that they’re expecting us,” Ginny had agree to be head of the party planning committee.

“How are you feeling? What did the dentist say?” Chelsi’s PCVL, Laura asked.

“I feel fine now. He definitely thinks it’s my jaw and that some kind of special mouth guard or split he called it, should do the trick.” Chelsi looked around for the last member of their party.

“Ah! Ba Nelson!” Justen motioned the rest of them to a taxi on the far side of the parking lot.

There she is, Chelsi thought spotting Lani on the other side of Justen.   Chelsi snuck up behind her and gave her a big bear hug.

“Ohh,” Lani let out with a laugh. “There you are. Are you ready to have your best birthday yet?”

Chelsi smiled and gave Lani another big squeeze. The two women laughed.

Categories: Current Events | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

075: Crowning Achievement

“Hey, Warden Burger,” Neal’s voice called across the school yard.

Chelsi’s ears twitched at the designation.  It didn’t feel in poor taste given her general mood and the state of things, but is just sounds so unbecoming beside the fact that I’m running an environmental education camp for children.  “What?” she yelled back, feeling that mood of her flaring up.

“Good morning,” he replied cheekily.  She closed the distance between them, approaching the porch of the school block.  “Do we get two eggs today?” Neal asked, as Oliver Twist might have, but with all the sass of one in false hardship.

Minding the reality of their situation, her temper cooled and she played of his jest, “I have asked the cook to prepare a double ration of porridge for all, and two eggs today.”  Neal help dismount the large pot of oatmeal from her head and placed it on the stoop.  “I think Lauren and Ken are coming with the other pot and the eggs.”  Her head now free, Chelsi looked around the school yard.  At 7 am it was still earlier for her, but her Zambian campers, probably rose at 5:30, and now they were running about the school yard playing a pick-up game of hand ball.  They looked happy and content.  The remaining volunteers, and the more reserved children, were sitting on the stoop of the school block playing Euchre.  It wasn’t the best form for them to be sitting around playing cards, but it was the end of a long week, and they had earned some space.  “Alright, if I can have everybody’s attention for a moment.” She went to the stoop and sat down with the group.  “Ken and Lauren are being over the rest of breakfast. But first of all, happy final day of camp! You’ve all been working really hard and have dealt well with the few challenges we’ve had.”

“You mean like not having water?” Neal interjected.

“Like with the shortage of water filters; thank you Neal for putting a spigot on that bucket.  I just wanted announce some changes to the schedule today.  Marmar is going to go back into town today and bring Newton his things.” Newton, Maddy and Chaz’s counterpart who had suffered a seizure halfway through the week and had to be admitted to the hospital was going to be released that morning to the care of a nearby relative. “So I will be taking over her session on ecosystems this morning.  But I still need time to write it, so instead of going first hour, I’m going to go third.  So I need Adam and Amanda to do the Crafts with Trash session first, then if Neal can you do the fruit dryer.  My session should be done by then.  Then after lunch, Maddy and Chaz with do Climate Change and Mike and I will finish up camp sessions with Chongololo Club and how to be a leader.  How does that sound?”  There was a general nodding of heads that Chelsi took for understanding.  “Don’t forget to be drinking plenty of water, it’s going to be another hot day today. And if we can just power through everyone will be able to relax tomorrow.”

Ken and Lauren, having just arrived, and sat the remaining breakfast pots on the school block porch.  “Great thank you,” Chelsi said standing up.  “Also, there’s two eggs for everyone and two pots of oatmeal, so be free.”  Chelsi plucked a hard boil egg from the top of the pot and pealing it tossed it to Daisy.

“RED EKLANDS!” Lauren called out to the kids in the school yard to come be served breakfast.  “If you have a red name tag and you’re an ekland it’s time to get your food!”

 

Breakfast was served and eaten.  The campers came back for seconds and thirds until the porridge pots with scraped clean.  Neal liked teased her with talk of rations, seeing how the pots were scraped clean at every meal but Chelsi had been pleased so far with the way her food planning had turned out.  Nshima, the staple of ground maize, boiled until stiff, which must be had in a Zambian’s mind in order for food to be considered a meal, even if nothing else was offered, and many volunteers considered a large factor of malnutrition of children, had only been served once, the evening camp started.  As far as Chelsi knew, she had been the only one in history of Peace Corps Zambia to deny Zambians nshima for so long.  But everyone is better off for it.  The campers get some variety in their diet, the volunteers aren’t complaining of being bloated on nshima, and the counterparts get a lesson in adaptability.  Long in advance, Chelsi had made it clear, that if at any point people were unhappy with the food they could leave.  She heard only one comment and crushed it immediately.

After everything was cleaned up from the meal, at about 8 o’clock, and the first hour session commenced, Chelsi sat down on the ground of the school alcove and began to write her session.

Talking points, session topics and take-a-ways from the week bounced around Chelsi head.  Monday had been Water day, with sessions and games focusing on the water cycle, water quality and fisheries dynamics. Tuesday, Soil & Fire day, which help answer simple questions like ‘what is soil? What are village friendly solutions for improving soil fertility? And, how do fire affect soil and the landscape?  Air & Atmosphere day followed, when, after learning about oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and other air and atmosphere molecules, the campers made terrarium biomes glass jars to help hammer home the point that, like in the jar, everything on earth is finite, contained inside the atmosphere.  Thursday was Plant & Animal day, where sessions touched on biodiversity and food webs.  And all of this culminated to today – Ecosystems and Climate change day.  But have they been putting it all together? Chelsi wondered.  She flipped to a clean page of flip chart paper, pulled a set of water colors from the crafts bag, set up a cup of water and began to paint.

 

 

“Hey Chelsi?” Adam approached her from behind.

“Yeah?” Chelsi glance briefly over her shoulder at him to let him know he had her attention.

“Neal is just finishing up with the fruit dying session, are you ready for your session? It’s next, right? Is there anything you need me to do?”

Chelsi glanced at her watch, ten minutes to 11, not bad. “yeah, I’m just about done.  Let the campers have a ten minute break to fill their water bottle if they need, and if you can make sure lunch is being finished up on time, that Ba Gladys has everything she needs.”

“Sure,” he turned to go and Chelsi finished up her last learning aid.  She had drawn up five microsystems, each on its own flip chart page, that when arranged together created the big picture of the ecosystem.  There was a stirring in the school yard of the camper stretching, filling their bottles and grumbling about the heat.  Just a few minutes, and we’ll be ready to start.

 

“Remember, during session, we; listen with our ears,” Chelsi wiggled her ears, “and watch with our eyes,” she fluttered her lashes, “and if we have something to say we…” she closed her lips and raised her hand.  The students quieted their chuckles and prepared their notebooks.

Chelsi began her lesson with a brief review of all they had talked about over the last week before venturing into the idea that an ecosystem is how water, soil, fire, air, plants and animals operate together.  She was pleased with how engaged many of the students were offer tidbit they had learned throughout the week.  After the opener, Chelsi asked the campers to get in their teams, and passed each of the five teams one of the pictures she had painted. “Now what I want you to do in your groups is answer these questions: In our picture, Where is the water? Where is it being stored how is it being used? What is the soil quality like? Describe its condition using evidence from the picture.  Where is the air? How do you know it’s there? What plants and animals to you see? How are they interacting? Is there human activity? How can you know? Is the activity good or bad for the environment? Why is this activity being done? What could have been done instead? When you’re finished you’re going to present you picture to the rest of the group.”

As the campers chatted in their groups Chelsi walk around listening like a dutiful teacher.  Generally, she liked teaching sessions, she liked commanding the attention of the room and coming up with activities, and teaching styles that help keep her students engaged.  But, because she’d been tending to the other duties of Camp director, or warden as Neal like to call her, she hadn’t much committed to teaching any sessions at the start, and then barely found the time to sit-in on the sessions of others for more than a few minutes. She was only teach ECO ECHO now, and a session on fire earlier in the week, because it had fallen into her lap.  Though the conditions under which this had happened weren’t great, she was happy to receive this session in particular.  She thought it would be the best measure to see what the campers had learned in the last week.  After all Environmental Education was the whole point of planning this year Camp TREE, Teaching Respect for Everyone’s Environment.  If they hadn’t learned anything, all the stress, anxiety, and hard work to make it happen would have been for not. 

When the chatter had died down and it sounded like each group had come to a consensus on their pictures, Chelsi invited the groups up one by one to explain their pictures to the group.  The first group to go had a picture of some birds sitting in the tree tops.  They talked about water transevaporting through the trees, and wind blowing the leaves.  In the background they identified were trees had been cut and piled for conventional charcoal making. ‘Instead,’ the group identified, ‘they should be using the maize cob method we learned Tuesday and Wednesday.’  When the next group stood up, Chelsi pasted their picture just under the tree tops.  Here was a picture of the forest floor under the canopy.  On one side the group recognized that the earth was scorched by a bush fire.  ‘Likely one set by a hunter’ they added after identifying a prominent game rodent in the picture.  ‘Instead, the hunter should have brought a dog to help find the Fuko, because now the soil has been destroyed and young trees burnt.’  After they finished, the next group stood, pasting their picture of a small maize field in the forefront of the forest floor.  “The soil here is good” the group decided, because the maize had grown tall. They pointed out the small group of goats being managed in the field. “The goats here can be eating the farm waste and dropping manure on the field, but here they are still burning some of the compost, which is polluting the air and could have been tilled into the soil.”  Just in the corner of the picture of the maize field was a blue stream; which in the following picture connected to the rest of the stream.  This was the picture most different from the rest. It was a cross-section of the stream, featuring a few fish and frog, a couple aquatic plants and garden beds planted just on the banks. In the background and abandoned fishing net could be seen stretched from bank to bank.  “And the air in this picture?” Chelsi prompted after the group talked about the fishing gear, fish habitat and how stream banks shouldn’t be used for gardens. ‘Why, the air most be going in to the water.  Otherwise the fish wouldn’t be able to live.’  Excellent, how excellent, Chelsi thought.  The final picture portrayed the other side of the stream. A tall grass wetland was being cleared with fire.  The mice and snakes were racing towards some homes in the background, not having anywhere else to go.  The final group hit on every point in an appropriate way.

When the final group had finished the summery of their picture, refocused everyone’s attention and asked them all to take a step back.  “In front of us, we have a very familiar seen.  The bush, with birds and fuko, alongside our maize fields and animals, near streams for watering gardens, not too far from our homes, where we live.  After having looked at the pictures individually, we can easily see, now that they are fit together, aspects of an ecosystem, like the water cycle. And how a human’s decision to do something like light a bush fire affect can affect the whole picture.  Is everyone together with this?”  There was a vigorous nodding of heads.  “Because this afternoon Ba Maddy and Ba Chaz are going to talk about what happens when humans make too many decision that are bad for an ecosystem.” Chelsi glanced quickly at her watch; just after noon, right on time. “Thank you all for your attention.  I’m really, really pleased to say that I can tell you all have learned a lot this week.  It’s certainly made all the planning worth it” She added quietly to herself, turning to remove her learning aides. “There’s a half an hour of quiet time before lunch. So go enjoy!”

dsc_0818

Camp TREE gang

Categories: Current Events, Nature, Teaching | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

073: Pokemon Go

“So are you going to come with us?” Chelsi’s friend Mike asked about this evenings activities. Chelsi was seated at the long table in the sitting room of the Provincial house.

“I really need to tally up the receipts for the grant and prepare tomorrows shopping lists for camp.”  Chelsi was in town for a few days, for the second time that month preparing for the youth environmental education camp, Camp TREE, that she would be hosting at her house in less than two weeks.

“Yeah, but you’ve worked hard today; you need to take a break,” Mike added patting her shoulder.  “I’ll help you with your receipts if you just wait till tomorrow.”

Chelsi sighed, “Where are you going again?”

“Neal and I are going to the airport.”

“Remind me why again…”

“BECAUSE it’s the only pokestop in Solwezi!” Mike was walking into the kitchen. “And I’m out of pokeballs! And I really want to hatch this egg.  I only have to walk like, four more kilometers.  So we’re going to walk to the airport from Kyawama.” He returned with a knife.

“Then we’re coming back?”

“Yeah, or whatever,” he said placing the knife on the table and bending down to pick up a small box.  “There’s that new restaurant, pub thing that just opened by New Shoprite.  Remember we saw that woman walk out today with a pizza box.  Maybe they have pizza there. We can go for dinner after the airport.” The box was plopped on the table with a clink.

Chelsi closed her eyes, rubbed her temples.  She was tired; tired from the dust and the heat of town, and tired from running around all day in it.  She was tired of diligently watching the bricks of cash that was her grant.  Just one stupid mix up and I’m done with. Any money missing that was not was not accounted for by a receipt, she was liable for, to be removed for the volunteer’s readjustment allowance, the waiver of understanding had said.  And she knew that the amount of her grant, though no more than a few thousand dollars, was two to three times as much as she would make in all her service.

Mike cut into the box with the knife, and peeling back the flaps revealed a cases of kijilijili; pint sized glass bottles containing cheap liquor of various sorts.  This particular box was full of Ginger Sky, a local specialty, which Chelsi had recently learned was available only in the northwestern part of the country.  The giddiness on Mike’s face was obvious, “can you believe, this whole box was only 80 kwacha?”

Chelsi reached in removing a bottle and studied the label.  “It’s really that good?” she wondered aloud.

“It’s really not bad the way it is, but we’re going to take a few bottles with us to the airport, and there’s a bar there we can get cold cokes from.”  Mike removed a few more bottles and fit them in to the pockets of his shorts.

“Are we going yet?” Neal asked, coming in to the room from the back porch.  “Are you coming Chelsi?” He wasn’t looking at her, but in the box of Ginger Sky.  “Do you have enough? Should we also bring the Castle in the fridge for the walk over there?”

“Yeah man, maybe three for each of us.  And three for Chelsi, she’s coming too.”

Neal started for the front porch, “Chelsi, what did I tell you? you need to be downloading Pokemon Go right now!, so you can play with us.

The absurdity of her friends made Chelsi smile, “Well, there’s no way there’s enough memory on my phone, but grab those Castle for me. I’ll come with.”

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071: Chisemwa cha Festival

Well, I came for a festival, Chelsi thought, sitting in the easy chair inside Erez’s house.  Though she was something of a festival novice she felt that most of the main festival point where being touched on.  They night before there had been a pig roast, a bonfire and general merr-making.  That morning they had gone swimming in a river, and now were doing their best to hide from the heat. Although Chelsi though, looking around, we also kind of look like a bunch of strung out junkies in a shooting gallery.  Through the door to the front yard Chelsi could see volunteers strewn about, some lying what little shade there was, other playing cards.  All were tanned by sun and dirt and moved their heads lethargically to carry on conversations about the insufferable heat and state of the day.

Chelsi picked up her gourd of strong mankoyo and tipped it into her mouth.  All that was left was chewy grain mash at the bottom; the now absent liquid having been converted into her satisfying buzz.  Given the current state of things now though, it was all the same to her.  Not to mention, glancing at her watch, it’s about lunch time.  Remaining in her seat certainly beat having to get up and scrounge for something else.  The sweet smell of sticky sweat rose from her, without any exertion, and mixed with the smoke of cigarettes wafting through an open side window.  Yeah, morning like a drug house, she decided taking in the rest of the surrounding inside the house.  Bottles of Desert Island cane spirits, at various levels of fullness, were scattered across the floor.  Tattered backpacks and clothing were heaped in piles along the long the walls.  And at the back of the long room an old, thin mattress pad was spread on the floor.  A top it were two, half naked men, both with dark, unkempt curls atop their heads and beards.  One, the festival host Erez, was lying back, propped up against the wall.  The second, his friend Ian, a Mambwe volunteer from Northern Provence was leaned over Erez’s upper half repeatedly sticking him with a sewing needle, soaked in india ink, tied to a pencil.

It’s the whole festival experience, Chelsi, still wondering to herself how it might have been different if the Senior Chief hadn’t cancelled the actual Chisemwa cha Lunda festival, the day after it was supposed to have started, in order to attend the inauguration of the re-elected, but hotly contested president of Zambia.  ‘I heard that’s the reason he decided to attend,’ Erez had tried to explain to them after they arrived. ‘A bunch of other chiefs who want a recount are also going to express their displeasure with the way the election was decided.’

 

With patients though, the heat of the day began to pass away.  Wisps of dark clouds even began to gather in the sky.  “Do you think rain?” Chelsi ask over her shoulder at friend Oliver.

“I think the 25th, that’s when it’ll start raining,” he declared with confidence.  “Peter thinks the 18th.”

“Well, if a keeps looking this way, he might be right,” a cool breeze rustled the flies of their tent city.

In the front yard, beyond the fence, the crowd grew larger and larger.  They were the village residents, lured from the shade of their own trees by the cooling air, and greatest show on earth.  Children young and old alike, grasped the bamboo reeds of Erez’s fence and press their faces through the wholes.  The adults stood back, using their height to peer over the barrier.

“Erez said that his village has something planned for tonight,” Oliver added, blowing out his cheeks to the gleeful squeals of the children at the fence.

But Chelsi had begun to walk away.  The unblinking eyes stirred up her anxiety and she went in search of quieter place to hide.  She followed the path out the back of the fence, and made for a small thicket behind Erez’s pit toilet.  As she approached to nose told her that she’d be alone, but never alone.

“Hey Chelsi,” Tyler greeted her in his usual way, blowing a lung full of smoke over his shoulder. Rider, standing just nearby, nodded his head in her direction.

“Hey guys.” She let the weight of her body fall again a tree.

“How is it up there?” he asked, stretching an offering out with his hand.

She gracefully accepted it, “crowded.”

Rider, standing in the corner of his own world, laughed then coughed.

“I know what you mean, and that fence; so much worse.  There’s nothing that makes you feel more like a caged animal than a fence,” the passion for the subject was clear in his voice.

“It’s almost like, because there’s a fence they’re far more bold about pushing their faces up against it.”  Way back when, when Chelsi was asked in her initial Peace Corps interview, how she would cope with being watched, a fence hadn’t occurred to her.  After arriving in country and seeing other volunteers with them, and she started to feel eyes on her every move, she began to consider one; but was ultimately glad that she had decided against it.  “I don’t blame them though.”

“Yeah,” Tyler finished her thought, “this is easily the most exciting thing that has ever happened here.  Some 20 white people, and Samira showing up and partying and being just generally ridiculous.”

The three of them carried on, about the yurts and tree houses and furnished, electrified apartments they imagined other volunteers across the world living in, about mute goats, the bat on a string, development, migration, priorities in the village.  All the while, the sun making its way swiftly towards the horizon.  And when the sky was dark and the light shone red, Chelsi started to hear the sound of drumming.

“Oliver said the village was planning something.  That must be it, huh?”

“Yeah, they’ve probably got a fire, going and they’re dancing.”

“Should we go?”

Rider shuttered, “people. Noise.”

“Alright, well, I think I’m going to go.” Though she was put off by both those things as well, she felt a little obligated. “I’m here for a festival after all,” not that she needed to justify her decision to the other two.  But a small twinge of disappointment did resurface in her, thinking about again how the official festival was cancelled, “and I do feel like I’ve been getting the full festival experience!” she added with a grand smile.  The two boys laughed.

“It’s been quite the weekend.”

She turned to go back to the house, there’s only one festival activity left, she thought to herself on the way, and that’s to dance! Dance like nobody’s watching!

Categories: Adventure | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

058: Kijilo

Chelsi readjusted her sit bone on the reed mat beneath her.  On her approach, a few moments ago, another woman had evacuated it for her. She was one in a sea of women sitting, legs stretched out, on reed mats and mealie meal sacks. They chatted quietly among themselves, many staring over at Daisy who was busily situating herself on the mat beside Chelsi. A fire burned on her other side, lit the night before to keep the overnight funeral attendants warm.

All the women were just becoming resettled when sudden wail disturbed them.  Chelsi looked through the fire to a small grass hut at the center of the compound.  She knew that is where the body of the dead woman lay. In life they were the woman’s private quarters, but when death seized her last the previous evening it, became her funeral house.

“Maama! Maama!” a woman cried from inside the small room.  When the news had spread of the woman death, woman and men, who were seated apart on benches in the distance, relatives, friends, from as far as a two hour walk away began collecting at the house.  Only the women of the family would grieve with the body, but their force was enough for the whole community.

Her friend, Ba Paskarina, nudged her arms. “Ba Chels,” she said in a hushed voice to ensure she had her attention.  The old woman began to stand, carrying her mealie meal sack with her.  Chelsi nod with attentiveness but watched before acting. She was not as accustomed to funerals as some other volunteers had become and was still shy to ensure she was observing conventions.  Ba Paskarina shifted over to the hut, spreading out the mealie meal sack in the shade up against the grass wall. She settled herself and patted the space beside her.  Chelsi could not deny that it was becoming hot in the sun, so she moved to be beside her friend.  Daisy on the other hand stretched out in the open space.

Through the wall Chelsi could feel movement from inside the hut.  The wailing had momentarily ceased, and she could hear some soft words being spoken but could only make out a few. “Bamaama…. ya… ikala… ya…” Ba Paskarina stared silently at her hands, turning them over and over in her lap.  Usually, she was an outspoken, confident woman, much bigger than her size. But today her somber manner was cut to fit.  Chelsi knew the deceased woman had been a close relation of hers.

When first invited the funeral, Chelsi had been apprehensive about coming. She did not know the deceased woman, she did not know the wailing women. Lacking grief she thought she needed to not feel awkward about her attendance, she had felt anxious when first sitting down.  Now though, she understood her attendance as part of a chain of support.  Her presence was a comfort for her friend, who in turn was a comfort to her sister, who was supporting the body her wailing niece, over the loss of her mother, as she led her out of the hut and into a nearby house.

 

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