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.”