Chelsi sighed and rubbed her temples. She had volunteered to take on the responsibility of hosting site visit in April on a whim. She was in Lusaka, hanging around the office, riding a really good mood having just returned from her whirlwind Zambia tour, when one of her program managers mentioned that no Kaonde speaking aquaculture volunteers had applied to host site visit for the 2017 intake; she had shrugged her shoulders, unsurprised, and causally offered her site.
Regret was too strong a word to describe what she was feeling now, but the responsibility turned out to be more work than she anticipated. Her memory of site visit from two years ago was mostly just hanging out, shooting the shit, eating really amazing food she would never eat again in the village. She remembered doing a few language lessons, but it hadn’t occurred to her that she would be responsible for finding a place for the language and technical trainers to stay.
She stared out across the common room of her house. Daisy was stretched out on the couch taking a midmorning nap. Tulip was curled up on the end of her table. One things for sure though, I’m not going to find a homestay sitting in my house. She stood up to fetch her socks and shoes. Not ideal rainy season footwear, but after two years she had worn through all her other options.
“Come on, let’s go Daisy.” The dog casually opened her eyes and twitched the end of her tail. Chelsi moved to stand in the doorway. “Come on, let’s go,” she urged her. Daisy yawned, stretched her legs, rolled over to stand up, shook herself out and hopped off the couch. Chelsi closed the door behind them and fastened it shut with her padlock.
It was a rare warm sunny day. Most days of rainy season are cold, damp and cloudy. Out on the dirt road they started walking towards the school. The informational email suggested local teachers for homestay, Chelsi remembered. Maybe there’s an extra room in Mr. Musheka’s house. They walked on towards the community school.
Crossing the grassy field towards the school block, it seemed awfully quiet. Approaching the building Chelsi could see the classrooms were empty. She looked at her watch; 11:30. He should be letting them out in 30 minutes or so, but where is everybody now? The two circled round to the back of the building. The grass stood four feet high in the field behind the school block. Daisy raced off into it. Chelsi followed her pondering where all the students might have gone. Perhaps they just went out to do some work. It wasn’t unheard of for teachers to ‘rent out’ the labor of their students to do things like pull weeds in fields or slash yards. I’m sure they’ll be back soon.
Chelsi and Daisy looked for little critters and flowers in the grass. 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes, went by and still no students, no teacher. But Chelsi continued to wait, 5 more minutes, 10 more minutes, 20 more minutes, the sky started to look cloudy. She called Daisy back out of the bush. “I don’t think anyone’s coming today,” she said to Daisy.
They started to make their way back through the grass, and across the school yard. Chelsi diverted down a short cut close to the church. A couple of men stood in the church yard bagging charcoal.
“Mwabuuka,” Chelsi greeted them. They turned around to reply and Chelsi recognized one as the brother of a friend of hers. “How are you?” she asked, walking up to him directly.
“Us, we are fine.” He was an older man, who lived mostly in town. When they did see each other he was always polite and kind. Chelsi wished she could remember his name.
“Do you know where all the students have gone?” she figured she might as well see if there’s an explanation.
“You mean they are not there by the school?”
“No, we came to talk to Ba Musheka, and we’ve been waiting for an hour now, and nobody’s come.”
They looked at the few other men who were standing around. But they all shrugged and shook their heads.
“You see,” Chelsi started, “I have some teachers coming from Lusaka the first week of April. They can bring bedding and food, they just need somewhere to stay. Since they’re teachers, I thought maybe Mr. Musheka, but he doesn’t seem to be around.”
“Oh, well,” he paused, “I wish it was in town. But, there is an extra house, just that side.” He pointed in the general direction of his family’s compound. “It’s not all finished, but the iron sheets are there.”
Chelsi’s heart lightened, this was even better. “That’s okay, we still have some time to get it together. Can we go and see?”
“Yes, if you come by in the afternoon, you will find me there. I just need to finish here.”
Chelsi smiled and nodded, “tusakumonaangana. We will see each other.” With that they departed.