Posts Tagged With: life at the prov house

097: COS Party

Chelsi threw herself down on to the couch of the back porch of the Prov house.  “Hey Thomas, Janelle. How are you two?” Though they sat in the shade, the mid afternoon sun heated up the air enough, so that without effort small bits of sweat beaded up on the foreheads.

“Where good,” Janelle piped up. “How are you? How’s your site?”

“Well, when I came back from medical last week, my house was flooded, and the back portion of my roof collapsed.”

“Oh no,” Thomas chuckled, taking a swig of his drink. “Have you talked to Paige yet? Something like that happened to her too.  Like her walls broke.  It’s crazy, have her show you the pictures.”

“How is it now? Is it still broken?” Janelle squeaked.

Chelsi sighed, “My house is always broken.  But my host family came a propped the roof up some with sticks.  When it started slumping again, I went back and got another one of my friends to get some more sticks to give it a little more support.  It seems okay now, it not leaking any more than normal. We’ll see how it is when I get back.” Needing a drink, Chelsi stood up an made her way through the side door and into the kitchen.

The kitchen was a buzz with people peeling potatoes and cutting, chopping, shredding coleslaw components.  “Hey Chelsi,” Chelsi’s friend Tyler set down his knife and opened his arms for a hug.

“Hi Tyler, how’s dinner going?”

“Good, good, everything is going alright. When did you get here?”

“Just now, I had a horrible time finding transport so I ended up just calling a taxi. I also thought, ‘maybe I just shouldn’t come.’ But I knew I’d regret missing my own Close of Service party.” Even though Chelsi wasn’t officially closing, or ending, her service for another 15 months, she still felt a kinship to the other fellows in her intake who were leaving, and didn’t want to miss out on the tradition.  “I guess I could have walked, but I really didn’t want to be too tired by the time I got here.” With that she reached up on the cupboard shelf for a cup.  The vast number of people at the house meant her choices were limited.  She decided on a large stainless steel mug.

“No way! You need that energy for the mud pit later!” It was Oliver’s voice, coming up from behind.

“Oh my goodness, you guys really want ME to get in the mud pit? And do what?”

“We’re going to wrestle!” Oliver, cheerful as ever. Tyler laughed.

“Alright, we’ll see.”  Chelsi twisted the spout of a wine box on the counter and filled her cup.

 

The hot day slipped in to cool night.  All the while empty cups were refilled, and bellies were stuffed with fried chicken, mashed potatoes and coleslaw.  Chelsi was relaxing on the front porch with a few of the volunteers from the newest intake, when a ruckus of sounds drifted through the house from the backyard and into her ears.

“What’s that? What in the world are they doing back there?”

“I think that was Maddy defeating Oliver in the mud pit,” Victoria chucked. Chelsi had almost complete forgot about the mud pit. “I think that means I’m next, but I definitely don’t want to wrestle Maddy.” Victoria quickly downed the rest of her drink and stood up.  Curious, Chelsi followed suit.

“Are you going to get in the mud pit, Chelsi?” Jordan asked, remaining cross legged on the floor.

“I don’t know, will go down there, check it out.” Arm in arm Chelsi and Victoria made their way across the front porch, through the house and out in the backyard.  All the while whispering about potential wrestling mates.

In the poorly lit yard only about half of the people could be seen.  The others, covered head to toe in mud were catalogued against the night.

“Victoria, I think your next!” Tyler announced, being the first to notice the two women’s arrival.

“Okay, but I’m only going to go in if Chelsi goes in with me.”

“Fine, I’ve been convinced.” Chelsi smiled.

The two women removed nearly everything. Shirts, shoes, socks, skirts, watches, earing, so that when they were ready they had on nothing but their underclothes.  Holding each other’s hand for support, the two stepped into the pit together.  Chelsi hadn’t anticipated just how slippery it would be.

“Okay, rules,” Tyler announced. “Everything goes, but to win you need to pin both of your opponent’s shoulders for at least three seconds.”

Chelsi, not really sure what she was getting herself into, instinctively crouched down.  Her friend Victory was tall and narrow, so maybe if I get her below her center of gravity?

“On my mark,” Chelsi was aware of the small group that began to gather more closely around. “GO!”

It was harder than Chelsi imagined it would be. The mud was slick and any time either woman made an attempt to grab the other, the other would just slip away. They laughed and squealed some but had to remain mindful in order to keep mud from filling their mouths. It was difficult to say just how long they fumbled around in the pit for, but the two grew tired quickly, And Chelsi, having finally gotten a secure reach around the back of Victoria’s knees, was able to knock her off her feet and on to her bum. Chelsi was surprised by the strength of Victoria’s upper body, when she tried to push her back into the mud.  Chelsi nearly lost her advantage more than once, until Victoria’s arms tired, while Chelsi’s weight didn’t, and Victoria’s back and shoulders slid into the mud.

“ONE, TWO, THREE,” Tyler’s voice rang, and the crowd cheered.

Chelsi stood up, extending a hand to help Victoria, who took it with a smile. “You’re right, that was kind of fun. Thank you.”

“Yeah! Wow you’re good,” Victoria laughed.

The two friends carefully picked their way out of the pit, the crowd backing away to give them a wide berth.

“Alright, who’s next?!”

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Categories: Action, Health & Fitness, Thriller | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

091: mere Volunteers

“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.”

“Right.”

“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!”

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

087: A New Year

​Chelsi sunk back onto the dingy green media room couch next to her friend Tyler.  He was leaned forward though, fidgeting with something on the brown wicker coffee table.  

“So how’d it go? How was Zanzibar?” Tyler asked. 

“You mean, beside perfect in every way?” Chelsi voice was long and tired, but Tyler laughed.

“That good, huh? I mean, I heard about the train ride.”

“Oh, yeah, that god damn train! It nearly killed me, like seriously, we almost died.” Chelsi was sincere in the fieriness of her tone.  “Jason came the closest though.  The train car that derailed was the dining car.  Which was also of course the car smack dab in the middle of the train. Then after 18 hours of playing ‘how are you going to fix the train’ they ultimately decided that the dining car had to be left behind. So the only things we had to eat, was whatever we could buy through the window at short station stops… And, and there was no drinking water.”

“Yeah, it was not like that when Jason and I took it last time.”

“That’s what he kept saying. But you know what? I think it worked out for the better.  Because if the train hadn’t been delayed we would have gotten in to town yesterday, instead of today and because I only had one house day left this month, I wouldn’t have been able to stay for New Year’s. I would have been sitting alone in my house like last year.” She paused for a moment, remembering sitting in her now broken easy chair, staring at the clock on her phone; watching the minutes tick by – 23:50, 23:51, 23:52, 23:53, 23:54, 23:55, 23:56, 23:57, 23:58, 23:59, 00:00, 00:01, 00:02, 00:03, 00:04, 00:05, 00:06, 00:07, 00:08, 00:09, 00:10. Then she went to bed.  She couldn’t even recall if she had open a fancy bottle of wine.  “It’s much better this way.”

“Speaking of,” Tyler straightened himself and stood up. “It’s nearly midnight, and we’ve got fireworks to shoot off!” He looked down at her with a smile and started towards the door.  “Are you coming?” he pulled open the door and music filled the room.

“I’m right behind you,” She called after him looking at her watch; 23:56.  2017 huh? Chelsi thought to herself. 2007 feels like just the other week… But at 16 could I have really imagined myself here? She looked around the dimly lit room. The walls were concealed by floor to ceiling shelves of DVDs, VHSs, books and an assortment of other media materials.  Chelsi wasn’t even sure what color the walls actually were.  Nnn…, mmm well maybe…
She pulled herself up off the couch and walked into the common room. The house speakers, one stacked on top of the other, were bumpin’ the hottest beats from the club.  DJ Neal was squatting at the computer just beside them, finishing up the que for the next 30 songs.  Ireri and Sid, two volunteers from the newest intake were getting down on the dance floor together. Jason on the other hand was up on the dining table, twerking it with everything he had: “Neal! Neal!” he cried, “We need the Thong Song! Play the Thong Song!”

“No! Jtrain! We’re not playing the Thong Song.” Neal looked over his shoulder at him, “and you’re going to break the table if you keep doing that.”

“Alright everyone, if you want to see fireworks, come outside now!” Tyler screamed through doorway to the back porch. And with that, the music was tamed and the whole party filed outside.   

They stood on the steps of the porch watching intently the little cardboard boxes lined up in front of them in the grass.  “I know that one,” Sami whispered to Chelsi. “It’s the most dangerous one, because if they don’t fire at the same time then the whole thing will come shooting sideways across the ground and explode.” She voice crescendo-ed into glee, “and you don’t know where it’s going to go!”

“Please be careful Tyler!” Ireri called from the porch.

“Its fine,” and one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, little boxes filled with colorful explosives were lit, and Tyler took a few steps back.  

 With a loud bang, the first rocket shot off and a white flash filled the air.  Another bang, and green and red stars were propelled through the night sky.  And, “Bump, bump, bump,”

“Jtrain!” Neal shouted, “No one wants to hear the Thong Song!”

Categories: Current Events, DIY, Science & Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

081: Albert the Turkey

​“Just let me do it this year,” Chelsi had responded to Hannah and Sami’s email about preparing for Thanksgiving 2016.  “I just need you to make sure that the turkey arrives on Monday, alive and well.  DO NOT let them put it under the bus!”  What Chelsi had realized was that she just needed to make her instructions simple and clear. She was taking it upon herself to organize the meat course for this year, and rightly so, she thought, remembering last year’s ‘meat leader’ Paul, who had taken on the position out of some poorly placed sense of manly duty.  

“The entire time we were cutting up the pig last year he kept complaining that he was about to vomit.” Chelsi tried to explain to anyone who would listen.  

“So then what else do you need?” Hannah and Sami had responded after accepting her bid for the position.  

“Charcoal… Just charcoal. I’ll talk to Neal about what else he needs for the pig.” Slightly against her better judgement, Chelsi had delegated the task of cooking the pig to her nearest neighbor Neal.  She had been swayed by his genuine passion for the project and her confidence in her ability manage and rectify his inevitable failure. 

“He wants to put the pig in a pit, doesn’t he?” 

“Yeah…”

“Do you think that’s a good idea? Do you think it’ll work?”

“He’s very confident it’ll work, I think there’s about a fifty-fifty chance.  But this year I can guarantee that the turkey will be good and next year Neal will likely be the one leading the meat, so it’s better that he gets all of his wackiest ideas out of him now.”

When the day before Thanksgiving came, all preparations commenced.  A proverbial grave was dug, a funeral pyre lit inside and when the sun began to sink low on the horizon the pig, wrapped lovingly in banana leaves and chicken wire was buried in the pit. At that time, Chelsi could have sworn that she had seen a matching graving spring up just beside, all of your hopes and dreams, the headstone had read.  But Chelsi had walked away with confidence in her own project; dressing the turkey, Thanksgiving’s real star, she thought to herself. 

With some patience and agility the bird, who had been free to roam the expansive yard of the provincial office it’s last few days of life, was caught.  Though a larger crowd than Chelsi had expected showed up to watch the bird bleed out, it died well with little commotion. “Which is what you want,” she had instructed her friend and assistant Oliver.  “Next we’ll dip it in the water I’ve been heating on the brazier and we’ll feather it.”

The cleaning and cutting went smoothly, and nine plump piece of meat where dropped into brine and stored in the fridge till the next morning.  
“What time to you think we should unbury the pig?” Neal asked Chelsi Thanksgiving morning around the breakfast table.

Chelsi shrugged, “What’s your confidence level like that it’s finished?”

Neal paused for a moment in quiet reflection, “97%. I am 97% sure that in like an hour it will be perfectly done.”

“Alright then, I’ll meat you out there with a shovel.” Chelsi laughed, “get it? I’ll MEAT you out there?”

Chelsi passed the next hour rinsing, drying and rubbing her bird with barbeque spices and setting the fire on the brazier.  And when the time came she meandered out to the front yard.  

Neal and Oliver where on their hands and knees brushing aside the dirt over the pig.  “It doesn’t really feel warm…” Neal said with a strong strain of concern in his voice.  When the pig was finally uncovered and hoisted out the outlook was not promising.

“This, this little spot here is the only part that cooked.” Neal said, deflated but with rising inflections of worrying and haste in his voice.  

“So what do you want to do now?” Chelsi ask, feeling genuinely sorry that the scheme hadn’t been successful.  

“I don’t know… I don’t know, do you think it’s still safe to eat?”

Chelsi looked it over; it smells, but not unlike any piece of meat, the color’s fine, the flesh still has integrity. “I think its fine.  I got the grill going. Why don’t we just put it up there, cover it and see what happens.”

When Chelsi looked up, she could see Neal’s face covered in full blown panic.  A thousand reasons of doubt exploded from his mouth.  

“Since there is not much more we can do,” Chelsi tried to retain all of her cool, calm and collectedness, “let’s put on the grill and see what happens.”

With the effort Chelsi, Neal and Oliver managed to situate the pig on the grill and Chelsi was able to return her focus to the turkey.

For the last time, she removed the piece from the refrigerator, rinsed them then patted them dry.  She placed a grate over her fire and laid out the pieces as far from the fire as she could.  She checked her watch, about 4 hours till dinner, perfect.   

With the remaining time Chelsi bathed and dressed, and periodically turned her pieces on the fire.  She enjoyed the parade of fanciful dishes passing by; green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, freshly baked diner rolls, pies, cakes, cookies. Everything one would expect for a Thanksgiving feast.  

“And how’s the pig coming?” Chelsi asked Neal as the dinner hour approached. 

“I think it’s going to be okay.  It looks good, it smells fine.” And Chelsi couldn’t help but notice that the color in Neal’s face was looking better as well.  “Oliver and I are going to take it off the grill and remove all of the edible pieces.”

“Great, I think the turkey is done too.  I’m going to grab someone to help me pull it apart and plate it.”

After removing it from the brazier and setting it to rest, the meat pulled away perfectly from the bones of the bird. 

“Oh my goodness,” Chelsi’s friend Allison cried, “this has to be one of the best turkey’s I’ve ever tasted.”

“Thank you!” Chelsi said blushing.  
When the dinner table was complete, all the volunteers gathered around and shared what they were thankful for.  For Chelsi, it was finding family so far away from home.  

Categories: Adventure, DIY, Drama, Food & Recipes, Horror, Nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

070: Surprise Celebration

That’s strange, Chelsi thought to herself walking on to the compound of the prov house.  A pile of bags and furniture was stacked up by the door.  Perhaps one of the new kids didn’t make it to their site, it was a reasonable enough assumption.  Chelsi kicked off her shoes and went inside.  The tile was cool under her feet.  She threw bag down beside the long common table and continued out on to the back porch.

“Hey Chelsi,” Chelsi looked about startled by the voice.

“Oh hey Tom, how are you? When did you get here?” Thomas was a fellow volunteer of her intake, but Chelsi rarely saw him, seeing as he lived in the farthest reaches of the province and didn’t often make his way toward town.

“I’m fine, fine. We got here a few days ago. Because did you hear about what happened at Janelle’s site?”

Chelsi shrugged.  She was usually last to get news.  “The Mwini crew doesn’t usually keep us Kaondes informed.”

“Well, one the kids that Janelle worked with went crazy.”

“Yeah, he went crazy,” came Janelle’s mousy voice from the kitchen off the porch.  “Thomas? Do you want mustard on your sandwich?”

“What?” Tom cocked his head toward the kitchen, “oh yeah, yeah, that’s fine.  Yeah, apparently he got in this motorbike accident and hit his head pretty hard, probably gave himself a concussion.  And after that was acting kind of strange, and Janelle was telling him, you know ‘just follow advice of the clinic worker,’ and he was telling her that the other people in the village were telling him that he needed to go see the witch doctor.  And she was telling him not to go, but of course he went anyway.”

“Naturally,” Chelsi nodded a long with the story.

“Right?” Tom shook his head in agreement of the feeling.  “And when he came back he went to Janelle’s house and started telling her that she was a savior, a reincarnation of Christ, and that she needed to sacrifice herself to save him…”

“Oh dear,” Chelsi let herself fall in to the adjacent couch, just as Janelle was emerging from the kitchen, balancing two plates in her hand.

“Yeah, he was coming to my house, saying things like ‘Oh I am suffering, but you, you were sent here to save me.  You need to sacrifice yourself to save me.’”

“Yeah, and he was making threats against her life, like if she didn’t kill herself, he would have to kill her…”

“So I called Safety & Security, and they were like, ‘a yeah, you can’t stay there.’ So I pulled from my site.”

“Oh, so that’s all your stuff on the porch?” it was all coming together for Chelsi.”

“Yeah, and yeah, so now I’m here…” Janelle let out a nervous chuckle and took a bit of her sandwich.

“It’s really sad too,” Tom continued. “This kid was like, super smart.  He was one of the boy Janelle brought to Camp ELITE.  He was doing really well in school, spoke great English…” Tom took a bit of his sandwich.

“Well, what do you think happened? Do you think it was just a traumatic brain injury?”

“Yeah that could be part of it.” Tom said, chewing. “We think though too, it might have been something the witch doctor gave him.  You know some kind of drug that messed with his brain.”

“Sure, especially if it was already in a fragile state from the accident.” Chelsi leaned her head back and closed her eyes, typical. “So what now? What are the options?”

“I’m trying to move in with Thomas!” Janelle piped up with a smile.

It makes sense.  They’ve been together for more than a year and a half now, they’re in the same language group.  “What does Admin think about that?”

“Cleopher doesn’t mind, but it’s really just up to the Country Director,” Tom clarified.

“So Leon?”

“Yeah.”

“Have you been able to talk to him at all? What does he say?”

“That if we want to live together, we have to get married.” This was said very matter-a-fact-ly.

“Because the alternative is that they give Janelle interrupted service and send her home, it’s too late in the game to be moving her to a new site,” Chelsi added mimicking the somber tone.  They couple in question shook their heads, mouths full of sandwich.  “So, does this mean we’re planning wedding?”

“We’re going to go the city council office this afternoon and find out.”

 

Though the circumstances were unfortunate, Chelsi was rather excited by the idea of a wedding.  It’s a good reason to make a cake, and splurge for a bottle a sparkling wine… She was so excited by the thought it was difficult for her to concentrate on her work that afternoon.  So went Thomas and Janelle returned from town she was jumped on them for the verdict.

“Well, well, well,” Chelsi pushed them excitedly.

“Well,” Tom started, sounding optimistic, “one of the things we were concerned about was the cost.  We were able to get a hold of Hannah and Rob,” the only two other volunteers to get married during their service, so as to be able to co-habitat they knew of, “and they said they ended up having to spend like 800 dollars, not kwacha, dollars and their marriage. And if it was going to be that much, we just weren’t going to be able to afford it.  But apparently getting married in Solwezi is super cheap; a speedy wedding’s only 150 kwacha.”

“A ‘speedy’ wedding,” Chelsi asked.  “As opposed to a ‘not speedy’ wedding?”

“A speedy wedding,” Janelle chirped.  “it 50 kwacha more, otherwise it takes three weeks to have your wedding!”

“Are you sure it’s not just, you know, a bribe?” Even after Tom and Janelle explained the difference between a ‘speedy wedding’ and a conventional wedding, calling it a bribe, to Chelsi, still sounded more reasonable.

“If you don’t pay the extra 50 kwacha,” Tom explained, “ then the city council would take Janelle’s picture and biographical information and post it to this bulletin board of engagements at the office, where other men would have three weeks to bid on her and try to break up our engagement.”

Yeah, that’s a bribe.

“Meanwhile, I” Thomas continued, “have to get a letter signed by my father saying that I’ve never been married before.”

“Well, there’s no more honest work than spending an afternoon forging official documents,” Chelsi jested.

“But really…” and the group laughed at just the one more absurdity of living in Zambia.

“So when’s the ceremony scheduled to take place?” Chelsi needed to know how long she had to plan the reception.

“Tomorrow.  It’s too late to go back there this afternoon, but the guy at the city council office today said the guy who does the ceremonies will be in tomorrow. And I guess we need to call are families if we can,” Tom added turning to his fiancé.

“Yeah, you need to call my father and ask his permission!”

“So what kind of cake do you want?”

 

That evening passed quickly in a bustle of commotion.  Tom and Janelle spent the evening getting hold of every relative they could.  Chelsi, Rider and Molly, the only other occupants of the house that week, were set putting all the requisite wedding materials together.  Chelsi crafted the top tier of the cake, a spongy strawberry, Rider the bottom, a dense pound cake, and Molly artfully crafted rings from copper wire.

The next morning, there a small to do about what they groom should wear.  ‘Is it better to wear kind of dirty kakis or clean jeans?’ After the jeans were decided upon, a cab was called and the wedding precession began.

“Probably not exactly how you envisioned your wedding day, huh?” Molly commented while the five of them, struggled to shift around in the sedan, without ripping their finest cloths.

“I think Janelle and I will have another ceremony for our families when we get back to the States.”

“Will you still be considered married in the State?” Rider asked.  This really was the question no one seemed to know the answer to.

“We know that Norway doesn’t recognize Hannah and Rob’s marriage,” Tom said, “but we don’t know anyone who go Zam-married then moved back to America.  So we really have no idea.”

They small reception continued to discuss this point at the city council office until the master of ceremonies arrive.  It turned in to a long conversation too, because he never arrived.  After hours of waiting the party stormed the office and demand that someone be found to marry their friends.  Within five minutes a man was found, handed a binder and the proceedings began.

On their marriage certificate, Thomas and Janelle’s occupation was listed as volunteers.  The city council office readily accepted Thomas’s letter of consent to marriage from his not father, and Chelsi and Rider, the maid of honor and best man, respectively, signed as witnesses to the ceremony.  The man from the city council office fessed up right away that he had never done a wedding before, and though he had a script to guide him, still more than once look around at the witnesses asking what came next.  Copper rings were exchange, with a comment on how it was the love in their hearts, not the material of the metal in the rings that mattered.  And Thomas Strong and Janelle Horstman vowed to have and to hold each other; at least till they returned to America.

“You know, for a proper wedding, with our families in a church.”

Categories: Current Events, DIY, Romance | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

069: WELCOME!

Chelsi had not felt so tired at another time in Zambia thus far.  She could feel bags under her eyes swelling up. “So, its 14:30 now, it looks like all the shops are closing up early, being Saturday. But how do you all feel about dropping what we have so far at the office then going to Shoprite and just getting our food shopping done today?” She looked in to the back seats of the cruiser. Allison, Jordon, Sid and Victoria nodded back at her.

“I don’t see why not, if we still have time.” Allison concurred.  They were all newly christened volunteers; having just sworn-in two days prior.  Chelsi had volunteered to help them get settled.  She wasn’t regretting it now, I just wish I hadn’t been being run so ragged lately.  Her roof had just been finished the previous afternoon and she had spent that week sleeping in her tent on the ground. Which wasn’t a great recovery for the three days before that she spent diligently planning her up-coming workshop.

With room having been made in the cruiser for food purchases, Chelsi led her troop into the grocery store.  “Everyone grab a shopping cart. I like to start at the far end and make my way towards the perishable foods section.”  Rice, flour, pasta, tomato paste, peanut butter, cheese sauce packets; together they would be buying a year’s worth of food.

“Is it inappropriate to show up to the village with like, 15 bottles of wine?” Jordon asked as they approached the back of the store.

“Umm, no. Not unless you go waving them in peoples’ faces.” Chelsi advised. “My only suggestion is that you just buy a couple of boxes instead. They’re a lot easier to transport.”

“How long does juice last in the village?” Sid asked, plucking a tetra packed guava juice from the shelf.

“I’ll keep it for like, four days after it’s been opened. So long as it’s not blazing hot. Zambia has a great selection of juice concentrates too. Just over here.” The two women walk to the other side of the aisle. “You can just mix it with water, but because it’s mostly all sugar and preservatives, it keeps really well after it’s been opened.  I buy this one because it has peach pulp as its first ingredient instead of water or sugar.”

“How about this long life milk?” Allison asked from the end of the aisle. “It looks like it’s being sold in bulk.”

“Yeah! And that’s a good price too.”

“But what do you use it for? How long does it keep once it’s open?”

“Like two or three days, depending on the temperature.  But I put it in my coffee, or on the rare occasion that I have cornflake in the village.  But I also really love pudding, so if I open a liter container I use more than half of it right away for that.”

“Should we buy it?” Jordon asked coming up behind them.

“I would if I were posting. Because even if you don’t use it all in these next three months, it’ll keep.”

They walked up and down every aisle, and Chelsi answered questions about everything from preferred brands of floor wax to how long it takes an average volunteer to finish a kg of peanut butter. Until Chelsi looked around as the stood in the aisle with breakfast cereals, “where’s Victoria?”

Everyone else shrugged.

“Okay, if you can hold my basket,” Chelsi thrust the red plastic basket on Sid, “I’ll go look for her quick quick.” Chelsi retraced her steps through the columns of food stuffs.  She has to be in here, as she stumbled on the slender, brightly decorated frame for Victoria.  “Oh good, I was just looking around and noticed you hadn’t kept up with us.”

Her big, bright eyes look up at Chelsi’s, “Oh no, no, no, I think I’m managing just fine.”

Chelsi peered into her cart. It was filled with the biggest containers of rice, pasta, flour and potatoes that Shoprite had to offer.  “Well, it looks like you’re doing okay. Just remember too, to buy some things that you really like eating. Maybe some chocolate bars, or tea.”

“Yeah, yeah, okay.”

“Okay, well, we’re just finishing up with the breakfast cereals. Let me know if you have any questions.” Chelsi returned to the rest of the group just in time to advice Allison and Jordon on Shoprite’s meager coffee selection. Chelsi couldn’t help but wonder at Victoria’s rouge status.  She’s either, completely and utterly prepared, or… or… or what? In just a few days she would be on her own anyway. Chelsi tried to think back to her own posting experience.  She subconsciously scratched her head.

The only thing she could really remember well was the morning she left for site; Kenny, her posting helper, had offered her the last bit of the tequila from his birthday party the previous night. She then wondered if she was being as helpful.

“Chelsi?”

Chelsi’s eyes refocused and she snapped back into the present.

“Do you think I should buy breakfast cereal?” Sid asked, “I really like cereal.”

Categories: Adventure, Current Events | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

062: Buku wa Lesa

​“How do you feel about giving things away?” Sami ask Chelsi from across the dining table.  

Chelsi sighed, “Well…” she plucked up her white knight to capture one of Sami’s pawns. “I thought quite a bit about it. I mean, this is something that’s been building up for the better part of a year, and of course it’s only happening because Marmar happened to come to my house for that malaria activity last March.”

Sami moved her bishop to capture Chelsi’s knight, “You’re pretty terrible at this game.” Sami laughed.

“Yeah, especially considering you’ve never played before.” She paused to collect her thoughts and ideas. “So basically what happened, is there’s this man in my village and about a year ago he started asking me about bibles. If I had any, if I could find any, if I knew anyone who could bring some.  And every time he asked I gave him this non-committal answer;” She moved a pawn up two spaces, “Oh, I don’t have any but I’ll ask around, books are really expensive to ship, if I give one to you then I have to give one to everyone. And I really didn’t want a bunch of people breathing down my neck about bibles and books, so I was so-so about the whole thing.” Sami mirrored Chelsi’s move.

“Then Marmar?”

“Then last March, Marmar and I went by that man’s house for our malaria activity, and of course he was like ‘well, what about those bibles?’  And I did my shoulder shrug and Marmar was like ‘I know someone!’ And when she asked me about it later I was like ‘You know what, if you know someone go for it.’ At the very least I figured this man and I could stop have the same conversation over and over again; even if we didn’t get any we tried, and if we do, I’ll have my hands washed clean of it.” Chelsi charged her pawn forward.  

Sami moved her rook out on to the board, “And now you have how many books?”

“Like 40,” her pawn moved to capture an enemy pawn.

“Shit,” her rook moved to capture an enemy pawn. 

“I have like 4 pieces left!” the two women laughed. 

“So what are you gonna do with all of them?”

“When I was sure they were coming I asked my counterpart, and he suggested we divide them up and give them to the churches between my house and the tarmac and let the community figure out how to divvy them up.” Chelsi castled her king.  “And what I decided is that in the end, the people will be really happy, I really didn’t have to do any of the work to organize it, and always when I see men or children just standing around I catch myself thinking ‘Why don’t you go read a book?!’ and then I remember, ‘Oh yeah, there really aren’t that many books lying around.’

 Sami move her rook over “Check.”

“And so now, at least there will be more books around.  If there all bibles then fine, that’s what’s most feasible any way, and they’re kiikaonde translations too.”

“Well, that’s kind of cool.” Chelsi slid her king out of harm’s way.

“It’s good for literacy.” 

Sami slid her rook, “Check.”

“I think if it’s just going to go back and forth like this its check mate.”

“Check Mate!” Sami exclaimed with glee.

“But there is just no way to report this on my volunteer reporting form, huh?”

Sami laughed, “no, definitely not…  Like, maybe you can tell them at you Close of Service ceremony.”

“Fair enough…” Chelsi looked at her defeated statue on the board. “Do you want to play again?”

Categories: Action, Drama | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

044: PCVL

Chelsi stared at the Shoprite shelf in the open refrigerator.  “All I really want to eat is cheese,” she thought aloud.  But there was none that she could afford.  30 kwatcha for an ounce of cheddar … No. 24 kwatcha for ten individually wrapped slices … Double no.  She wandered away from the refrigerator section. Maybe they’ll have the big bags of fake Cheetos, she thought. 
It was pushing close to 5pm, she had left her house at noon.  When she offered to take the position as Acting Peace Corps Volunteer Leader for the rest of the week she had double checked that it was alright that she arrive later in the afternoon, but she never anticipated it taking her five hours to get to town.   Her feet dragged through the crowded isles, the extra mass from her backpack not doing her any favors. 
“Chelsi! Chelsi!” She took her eyes briefly off the shelf of snacks. “There you are.” It was Chad. Close in tow was Mike and Aubrey. A whole Mufumbwe gang.  Chelsi spirit picked up a bit.
“Hey, guys,” but her mind was still focused on cheese flavored snacks.  Chad and Mike pushed their way through the crowd towards her.  Aubrey continued perusing the shelf of cookies. 
“We’ve been trying to call you all day,” the urgency in his voice was settling in to relief. 
“Yeah, my phone only works when it’s plugged in. Sorry.” She paused to think, hopefully the status of her phone: broken, would not conflict with her official duties of minding the volunteers. “Why did something happen?”
“Well, it’s just that Ephriam left yesterday morning and we were expecting you then. We thought maybe something happened to you.”
Chelsi sighed and shook her head, “I swear the posting for the opening was from the 25th to the 27th, and I told Ephriam I wouldn’t be coming in till this afternoon. He said it was fine. Sorry you all were left to worry.”  Go figure. “He didn’t leave any instructions, you know about house schedule, generator rules, house goods, duty phone, did he?”
“No he just left,” Chad’s relief was now calm.  He clutched a Shoprite basket in one hand and played with his beard with the other. 
“Great, cause he didn’t tell me anything.” Chelsi shrugged, too tired to care, there’s always plausible deniability if something happens.
“We’re going to make a Greek pizza, with olives, and tomatoes, and some reasonably priced feta, if you want in.” Mike chimed in sensing the weariness in her response.
“That would be great. Cause I was just going to eat cookies and NikNaks. Who else is at the house?”
“No one, it’s just the three of us.”
“I’m still going to eat this bag of NikNaks.”
“Even me,” Chad chuckled grab a bag off the self for himself. 

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

030: Thanksgiving

It was truly a mark of the passage of time; the arrival of Thanksgiving. Chelsi could hardly believe it. About three weeks previously an email had sent around to start organizing who would help cook what, but the thought that the day would ever arrive was far off. Part of it, for Chelsi, was the hope that it would be enough time for her situation to change.  But alas, she was still making her home in the Prov house.
Out of the list of things to do in preparation for Thanksgiving dinner, Chelsi had volunteered to cut the meat.  Two other men had already signed up for this duty but she was pretty confident she would be able to subdue them in to taking her direction.  After all she had a reputation to uphold as the Master Meat Carver of Northwest Provence.  The only thing that left her a little unsure was the animal on the menu.
“This is my first time breaking down a pig,” Chelsi confessed. She was staring into the fridge on the front porch at a lumpy white plastic sack.
Big Paul loomed behind her. “Last year we cooked the animals whole. And Sam was in charge of most of the cooking.”
“I heard about last year. He put meat in and on every cooking surface, including the brick fire oven and wouldn’t let anyone open the doors to add anything for hours.”
“Yeah, we didn’t eat till 9pm. And everyone else was stomping around angry.”
“Can you carry it over to the table? I figure we cut it up out here cause I know meat make some people uncomfortable.” She stepped aside so Big Paul could get into the fridge and prepared the rest of her tools.
Her boning knife, which she had taken to carrying with her everywhere. An assortment of bowls and pans for placing different parts: meat pieces, fat and skin, discard. Finally she removed her watch, bracelets and rings.  “Last year’s strategy is definitely not an option since we’re only going to have power till about 9:30. Which will only leave the propane oven down stairs and Ephriam took apart the brick oven.  But if we break down the pig and the turkeys first we can put them on the grill and we won’t need to use any oven or stove space.”
“Okay,” Big Paul said with some effort as he hoisted up and open the bag to get the pig on the table.  “But I wanna try and deep fry the turkeys.”
“Definitely not! You know how many people die every year trying to deep fry their birds! It’s like the fire departments busiest day of the year.” Mostly Chelsi receive graphic mental snapshots of what her arms would be like after 400F oil was spilt over them, trying to wrestle a turkey in and out of the pot.  That’s why I don’t like deep frying anything.
“That’s not true.”
“People who don’t know what they’re doing go out to their garage with a 25lb, half frozen bird. Plop it in a pot filled with too much, too hot of oil.  The oil spits, spatters, catches fire and their garage burns down with them inside. I’m going to start by taking the head off.” Big Paul was standing at the butt end of the pig. “Do you have a knife? You can start taking some of the skin and fat off the back end there.  I figure, we leave half on half off, one side might taste better but if we mix together… plus it’ll help move the cooking process along.”
Big Paul looked down at Chelsi, with her knife in hand, moving the pig’s ears out of the way with the other.  “Is that knife big enough?”
Chelsi looked back up at him. His curly brown hair stuck out in all directions around his head.  Glasses like those Chelsi had in third grade where perched on his nose.  In lieu of a knife he had a glass of cane spirts and juice in his hand. “If you know how to cut through joint properly the size of the knife doesn’t matter so long as it’s sharp.”
They got to work on their separate ends.  As the distinctive fattiness of the pig began to be removed Chelsi noticed that it really looked a lot like a rabbit.  A giant, slightly redder rabbit.  This won’t be so hard after all, she thought.
“Okay, we have enough pork fat here, that if you really want we can try deep frying one of the turkeys.  But we’re just going to do pieces. Two at a time.  None of this stuff with the whole bird.” Something about breaking down animals calmed her down and now that she saw the pig as just a giant rabbit she began to loosen up a bit.

As predicted the power went out at about 9:30am as it did every Thursday, thanks to country wide power shortages and load shedding.  But every one worked together and was on top of their game.  By 5pm the table was spread with buns, Asian salad, tomato pie, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing, corn mac, pork, turkey, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, all the fixings for a true American thanksgiving. The older volunteers espoused a Peace Corps Thanksgiving that really was about more than just the food. After all, the mushrooms were just a little too tangy, the potatoes were creamed with sour milk and the pecans never made it up from the embassy commissary, ‘but it’s the one day a year where all the volunteers in Northwest can come together and cook, and eat and be a family.’ Dick had said this to Chelsi with such passion just a week before when she found out there were volunteers who wanted to rebuff with the other volunteers and spend it on their own. I guess every family has a few, Chelsi thought. 
She was thankful for her Peace Corps family, and was more than happy to be spending the day with them. And she said so.  Just before eating every one anonymously wrote what they were thankful for on a strip of paper and put it in a hat.  After, they all circled up and drew strips and read them aloud. Zambia didn’t feel so far from home after all.

Categories: DIY, Food & Recipes, Horror | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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.”

Categories: Drama, Law, Justice and Order, Mystery | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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