Posts Tagged With: new home

098: the Home Stretch

Wow, Chelsi thought, quickly scrolling through the folder of blog posts on her computer.  97 stories, that’s quite a feat.  How’s is it I got all the way to week 97? She wondered this, even as she stared at the answer.  Every week was accounted for, all the way up to the present.

She looked closely at the story titles from weeks 45 to 55; the stories she wrote about one year ago and halfway through her service.  She thought about how when she was writing story 52, she couldn’t even have conceived the titles for week 70, the week Thomas and Janelle got married.  At the same time though, she would have hoped for a title like week 68’s, when she was finally getting her roof replaced, but at the same time could have never foreseen the follow up’s regarding the story of her roof in weeks 74 and 96.  And now, only six more stories to go… it’s the home stretch.

Chelsi closed the top to her computer and snapped it shut into the hard plastic pelican case.  After replacing the case on the bookshelf beside her bed, she reached under the wooden frame for her duffle bag and backpack.  She figured now was as good a time as any to start packing.  This was in part because she wasn’t sure how long the supports on her roof would hold, and if she had to evacuate, it would be little notice and she wanted to be sure that at least her most valuable things were ready to go. Secondarily, she didn’t have a lot else left to do.  She was done running programs, most of her friends in the village were away at school and she had finished most of the books in her house.

The duffle bag, she had decided, would be the bag she takes back to the States for home leave, the 30 days of special leave she would get starting May 9th to the second week of June, before she would officially start working on her 12 months as an extension volunteer, in Southern Provence’s city of Siavonga.  In it, she began to pile the trinkets, knickknacks and gifts she had picked up on her other vacations; paintings from Malawi, perfume from Zanzibar, colorful stones she had pick up from the bed of the hot springs in Kapishya.  She added a few of the chitenge dresses she had made in the preceding few months.  Most of the rest of this is garbage though, she thought, looking at the remaining clothes hanging in her bedroom.  She hadn’t switched out her skirts and t-shirts as often as she had thought she would when she arrived in country.  She thought about the few t-shirts and skirts the remained pristinely sealed in their bags at the Prov house.  Those she would take to Siavonga; though she was still unsure what the dress code would be at the Yalelo fisheries office there, she figured there was always weekends and holidays for t-shirts.

In the backpack, she put the things worthy of the trip to Siavonga.  Surveying the things in her house, she tried to decide what was she should taking with her and what she could replace on arrival.  The pots and dishes can stay, but the knives were expensive, so I think those will come.  Anything that couldn’t go in the bag right away because she was still using it, was added to a list, so as not forgotten on the final day of departure.

Happily, she knew now that there was a house waiting for her in Siavonga, and a little bit about it.  ‘A small guest house,’ her new manager had described it. ‘There’s electricity, running water, no proper kitchen, but we’ll give you a toaster oven with a cook top and small table to set it on.  I also requested for you a chest of draws.’ Chelsi had scrutinized the few pictures she had been sent, trying to judge just how small, ‘small’ meant.  In one of the pictures, you could see a full size mattress and box spring already in the house.  Using it as a reference, Chelsi decided that ‘small’ was at least four times the size of the mattress, so at least the size of my current house, which is comfortable now.

She knew all this, but still left undecided was the day she would officially depart from Kamijiji. She wanted to be in Siavonga by the 1st of May, acquaint herself with the city a little before she left for home leave. So that she could see the rest of her friends from her intake before they all left on their last day as volunteers, April 27th, Chelsi needed to be in Lusaka by the 26th of April. Her duffle bag finished and zipped shut, and her backpack about half full, she sat on the couch next to where Daisy was napping.  Chelsi stroked the top of her head and her eyes peaked out a little.  The decision when to leave wasn’t so simple because she would probably be left hitchhiking down; the bus wasn’t an option. She kissed the top of Daisy’s head, and she wagged her tail, “don’t worry, when the day does come, you won’t be left behind.  We’ll figure it out.”

Categories: Current Events, Drama | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

068: the Sky Above

Chelsi sat on the easy chair inside her house and looked up at the sky through the fresh bamboo reeds of her new roof.  Small miracles, she thought. Though this was no small miracle. The roof on her house was worse that she thought.  As her two Zambian friends removed the old grass on the roof the day before it had near collapsed; even though their frames were slight.  The old roof had always sloped awkwardly over her common room, it had simply been made that way. The poles on that side just weren’t long enough she knew.  What the grass had hidden though was how much shorter they actually were and how poorly than had been roped together to make a semblance of a standing structure.

No amount of black plastic would have kept it from raining on me.  Now she would have a properly made roof. With so much grass.  She had the 30 bundles she had purchased a few weeks before, plus what looked like 30 more bundles off the old roof.  Originally Chelsi had been worried that the old grass would become too damaged upon its removal that it couldn’t be reused. ‘The pulling and tugging’ she was told ‘that would be needed, because it’s tied down, might make it unusable.’ Only to find out it wasn’t tied down at all.

The new roof was balanced perfectly, peaking over the center of her house.  ‘With proper pole placement and river grass, it will be a five year roof,’ she had been promised.  Roofing in Zambia was described by the length of time it should last.  A roof with made of marsh grass was a one year roof. A roof of broom grass, thatched in the Luvale style, could keep you sheltered for 25 years.   The roof Chelsi had moved under last December was two month roof.  ‘Good’ Chelsi had replied to the promise, ‘because if you have any hope of getting a volunteer to replace me next year, we have to make the house nice.’ It was just the threat it sounded.  If the house wasn’t improved, she wouldn’t recommend a replacement.  She couldn’t, in good conscious, lead another volunteer in to the circumstances that she had been placed. But, now that the work was being done, she only hoped that whomever it was that came to replace her would appreciate her efforts.  It wouldn’t be perfect, but it would be an immense upgrade to the dilapidated shack I had been presented with, more than a year ago now. 

Sitting in the easy chair Chelsi felt luminous; with the sunlight reflected off the white, limed plastered walls of her house and the sky a glittering blue.  This week was the most continuous time she had spent under the Zambian sun.  Her skin was showing it too; red, despite the sunscreen.  But Chelsi was smiling, imagining the thatch on her new roof.

A few of her doves flew up and perched on the reeds of the roof.  The black and white mottled birds preened themselves contently.  Above them small jobies sang in the tall tree that shaded the house.

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

046: Malaria Madness

“Thank you so much for being flexible with the plans Marmar,” Chelsi said leaning back in her lazy chair. 
“It’s alright, not a problem.” Marmar voice was like milk and honey; smooth and sweet.  She was perched on the table chair, combing her fingers through her long, thick, black hair.
Chelsi stuck the spoon back in the oatmeal, forcing herself to finish the last few bits. “So I think what we’re going to try and do is hit every house between her and the lodge.  Then we’ll spend the night at the lodge, this way tomorrow you’re a much closer walk to the tarmac, to get where ever you need to go and I’ll just walk to Kamyanga and pick my bike.” She had to work her jaw a little to finish chewing her words. 
“Alright.” Marmar, finished with her hair, stood up to adjust the contents of her bags. “Do you want to break up what we’re going to say and practice while we wait?”
During the month of March Peace Corps pushed volunteers to do malaria awareness activities in their villages.  What had kept her from undertaking these activities on her own was not lack of knowledge about malaria; oh my goodness some much malaria training. But lack of confidence in her vocabulary to speak on the subject with non-English speakers and self-consciousness of the feeling of forcing herself on people; sauntering on to their compound, changing the conversation, inviting yourself in to their bedroom, then having to see them the next day. 
“Sure.” Chelsi paused, trying to recall the vocabulary she did know. “I can talk about bed nets.”
“Okay, and I can talk about transmission and treatment. That it’s only transmitted by mosquitoes, and by mosquitoes that are come out at night. That the symptoms are; headache, diarrhea, vomiting, fever. And that you have to go to the clinic to get tested and if you’re positive you need to take all your medication as directed.”
Chelsi jumped in with her end, “The best way to prevent malaria is sleep under a mosquito net at night.”
“Mmmhmm, and the net needs to be tucked in to the mattress or reed mat and that any holes bigger than a 50 ngwee need to be patched.” Chelsi had often wondered how Health volunteers spent their three months of training, now she was starting to form an image: weeks on weeks of roleplaying malaria, HIV and nutrition talks.
Wow, Chelsi stood up to peek outside. They were waiting on her village counterpart, Austin, to get started. “I’m really glad you’re here Marmar. This wouldn’t be happening without you.” The morning was grey, and a light drizzle fell, but Chelsi was sure it would burn of by mid-day.
“Why?” Marmar’s question was filled more with concern than curiosity.
“I don’t know,” She sighed.  That’s not true, “this just isn’t the type of activity that comes naturally to me. And with you here, it keeps me from backing out at the last minute.” She turned to look back at Marmar, who had stopped fiddling with her bag. “You’re keeping me accountable!”
Marmar’s face lit up in a big smile, “well I’m glad I can help!”
They past the last few minutes waiting silently. When Chelsi saw Austin’s bright red shirt come up her path she glanced at her watch. 8:30, not bad.

Chelsi glanced at her watch. She was starting to feel the heat of the day beat down on her, and she was dragging under the weight of her pack. Before starting out Chelsi had figured they’d be spending five minutes tops at each compound: ‘This is wait you need to know about malaria. Do you have a bed net? Yes, no? If yes, can we take your picture with it?” But the way they were going at it, they were averaging 15 minutes per compound. Which is good. Marmar is very personable and through. But we are never going to reach the end at this rate.  It had taken them four hours to walk what usually took Chelsi half an hour and they still had a two hour plus walk ahead of them to the lodge. 
“Marmar, this is going to have to be our last compound, otherwise we are never going to make it to the end.”
“What time is it?”
“13:30.” She looked over at Austin who was help Marmar carry her few to many things. “I think this is going to have to be our last house.  We’re trying to reach Mitukutuku before the sun goes down so that Marie is close to the road to go home tomorrow.”
Austin’s response was a protest, “but why are you leaving us so soon, Marie? You need to stay for at least three weeks.” Yes, because in Zambia you have not visited unless you have stayed for at least three weeks.
“She has her own village to go back too, and I’m sure they have been missing her. Plus she’ll be back.  We were talking about doing some nutrition training later this year,” Chelsi answered for her. “Come now,” they turned up the path to their last compound.
“Mwaiyi Mwane!” Bamaama Kayambo greeted them.
“Mwane,” their group resounded together.  Davis, his sister, a cousin, his father, mother, and a dozen children were already crowded in the chinzanza.  At the approach of their group there was a great shuffling of seats to make room for the new comers. 
After a flury of greetings Chelsi began the dialog that had now been burned on to her brain.  “Jizhina jabo Ba Marie. Baikala mu Mufumbwe ne bafujisha bya bumi. Ne Mwayuka ami, Chelsi, ne Ba Austin, ne Ba Menace.  Lelo tusakwisamba bya malaria.  Malaria, maji ka?”
Malaria is a disease!’ many of the children enthusiastically responded.  ‘It’s an illness spread by mosquitos’ one of the adults said. ‘It can make you very sick’ said another.
“Bolongo!, Tuyuka inge tujina malaria biyepi?” Chelsi carried on the conversation.
There was some silence before Bamaama spoke up ‘the person becomes hot.’
“Eee mwane!” Marmar used her tailored vocabulary and hand motions to mimic the remaining symptoms. “Ke inge muji bolongo ne, muuba ka?”
‘You must go to the clinic’ one of the older children chimed in.
“Right!” Marmar’s enthusiasm picked up even more with his interaction. “Can I get a Malaria Keylow!” Marmar clapped her hands together six times and made a buzzing X in the air with her hands.  The whole chinzanza cracked up with laughter, then copied her. 
Each member of their group took up their part one last time.  And Chelsi’s heart warmed when Austin and Menace, who had just tag along after they visited his house, took up considerable chunks of the conversation about transmission and prevention. Because that’s the point.  Transferring knowledge to people who are permanent members of the community. 

Categories: Adventure, DIY, Science & Technology, Teaching | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

002: Posting

Buy this plastic bucket, buy these plastic bins and buy those plastic plates. Buy three sizes of nails, buy two kinds of brooms, buy one piece of art.  Buy things you need. Buy bars of chocolate, bags of chips and a big box of wine.  Buy things that make you happy.  Spend all your money; you won’t need it where you’re going.  Buy, buy, buy, and write your name on everything.
This was the advice she had received from other volunteers as she prepared to post. Over time extensive lists where complied of things new volunteers should buy before moving to their permanent site.  Chelsi herself had diligently prepared a list over the three months of training. Buy kerosene for the stove and the right size mattress.  She wondered if some things she would ever really use, while making choices when buying other things was a stressful matter.  There was no limit to the amount or size of things she could buy;
“Four bags of cement and one writing table, please!”
Peace Corps Zambia is special, they still did things the old fashion way: a cruiser ride directly to your site with all of yours things.  Chelsi had heard that this had changed in a lot of the other Peace Corps countries, so far as to have heard from one RPCV that he had been glad that he had brought only two small carry-on to country because the only ride he could find to his the site of his permanent home was on the back of a motorcycle. 
Though for Chelsi this lingering luxury had created a conundrum.  She stared at all of her things now piled up in front of her new house.  House was a loose term.  Most of the volunteers in Zambia do live in houses; a spacious 5 by 6 meters, made of mud brick plastered with clay and lime with vents to let the light in and smooth cement floors.  Chelsi was to now live in a hut.  It was not that the grass thatch was starting to slide off the roof or that the doorway was too short or that there was more termite tunnel than wall or that the floor was filled riddled with holes or that with no effort she could stand in the house and see clear over the wall and under the roof to the outside, or that the structure was a mere 2.8 by 4.3 meters measured from the outside; it was all of these things combined that lowered her new home to hut status.  She had been told by the Peace Corps volunteer leader to think of her new home as cozy.  It was certainly going to be cozy sqeezed in with all of her stuff.   
The moment the cruiser pulled away her new host brothers started haphazardly shoving things at her to put in the house.  They were driven by the idea that the less the neighbors saw of her things the better,  but there was also no way it was all going to fit just thrown in. 
As she was getting her host brothers to back off so she could organize, her host father walk up.  He appeared older than he probably was, with grey hair and whiskers.  His skin was starting to sag around his face but his eyes were big and round giving him an open and welcoming appearance.  He walked slow, he spoke slow, “Welcome, you are moving in to a nice place.  No one will come and steal your things.”  Chelsi had heard that his English was limited and since she was not in the mood to exercise her kiikaonde she simply smiled and nodded, “I’m happy to finally be here.”
“But do not leave you water bucket out when you are not home because someone may come and put poison in them.”

Categories: Action, Adventure, Thriller | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

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