Laura seated herself on the couch of Chelsi’s small sitting room. Chelsi meanwhile, moved about in the dimly lit house, replacing the candles in their holders.
“Tomorrow, first thing, I need to call the canter and remind it to pick up at least 15 people from the parking lot of New Shoprite. The canter is too small to fit all 30 of them, so it’ll have to make two trips.”
“So what is it you need to me to do?” Laura asked.
“From you…” Chelsi paused to collect her thoughts. Everything that she had been working so hard for was coming to acumination tomorrow. Tomorrow, when thirty, nearly perfect strangers will be showing up to the spend week, expecting to learn about the environment and have their basic needs met. Chelsi felt secure in the environmental education part. Even if everything went awry she felt confident she’d be able to carry on seamlessly with sessions. It was the caring for everyone’s needs. She worried how long the tomatoes would keep, whether the campers and adult mentors would readily accept sleeping on reed mats, how they would manage carrying water from the well or after sunset without electric light. It was unprecedented, the venue Chelsi and her Lunda counterpart Tyler, had selected for this year’s Camp TREE, Teaching Respect for Everyone’s Environment. ‘The village will be cheaper. Arrange with the teacher to let the campers sleep in the school block. Reed mats are only 25 kwacha each. Plus, there’s no rules about where you can and can’t dig. I think there should be lots of digging this year,’ Tyler had reasoned with her. ‘And we wouldn’t have to limit the number of volunteers who can attend,” Chelsi added, remembering last year how she was unable to attend because the camp was held in a National Park, where space limited and costs was exponentially higher. ‘And camp in the village can be a whole five days of sessions, since we won’t have to spent half the time transporting people around the province.’ To the two of them at the time, the advantages of their scheme seemed untouchable by the shortcomings. But now every weakness was highlighted in Chelsi’s mind, even with every mitigation she could think of in place.
“From you, I mostly need emotional support,” she confessed. “I’ll be fighting the desire to run and hide when I see that big blue canter roll up with the first group of kids.”
Laura chuckled, not distastefully though. “I’m just imagining the canter pulling up and you hiding behind a tree!”
“Seriously though! Big groups and loud noises make me anxious. And what it Camp if not a large group of children, and what are children if not noisy?” having just finished lighting the candles, Chelsi threw her exacerbated self in to her easy chair. She now wondered if her anxieties would have been lessened if Camp was being held anywhere else but her own house. Tulip then broke her train of thought, having jumped into her lap with a purr and attempt to suckle her arm.
“You’ll be fine!” Laura reassured her friend. “You’ve been working really hard and everything looks to be in order. Tomorrow morning we have to what? Bring the reed mats over to the school block, roll them out. You said the mosquito nets are already organized, they just have to be strung up. Toiletry kits and notebooks have to be set under the nets. The welcome banner has to be hung…”
“We need to fill the tipy taps,” Chelsi continued, “and hang the chitenges on the bathas and toilets…” A wind blew up over the walls, under the roof causing the candles to flicker. “The pots and tomatoes need to be brought to Gladys, so she can start dinner sooner rather than later.”
“You said Tyler and Rider are coming with the rest of the veg and some buckets of chicken?”
“Yeah,” Chelsi replied with a sigh.
A more substantial wind now blew through the house, nocking some lose grass from the roof. “Do you think it’s going to rain?” Laura asked.
“I don’t think so, but I wouldn’t mind if it did. It’s been so hot, and I’d rather it rain now than during Camp, where I don’t have any place to shift activities inside. It’s drizzled a bit a few times so far, but nothing substantial like in Mwinilunga.” Just then, as if on que, the sharp sound of rain drops hitting the tin roof of her porch reverberated through the house. “Well, speak of the devil…” Chelsi stood up, Tulip spilling out of her lap, and pushed aside on of the curtains. “It’s probably just a short, passing thing.” When again, on que the ferocity of the rain doubled.
“Well, I’m glad you were able to get this new roof put up.” Laura commented, looking up.
“Right?” Chelsi started to move about the room, her arms outstretched feeling for any offending leakage. When she crossed in to the bedroom she paused. If she was still she could feel a light mist surrounding her body. She looked around for the possible source. “You want to come in here for a minute?” She called to her friend.
Laura relinquished the rest of the space on the couch to Daisy and entered the bedroom. “It’s like a mist almost.”
“I know, right? You think it blowing in from over the walls?”
“Ummm,” Laura looked about equally confused.
“Or ricocheting of the tin sheets, and then over the wall? It kind of feels like it’s coming from that side.”
Laura twisted up her face, “I think it’s just coming down from the roof.”
“Pshh, the roof is brand new,” she moved back in to the sitting room in protest, only to have a large drop of rain splash over her head. Outside the strength of the rain redoubled, inside a little private rainstorm was taking place. Chelsi’s inside wrenched. A quiet scream of anger and frustration escaped her. “Fucking Kaonde roofs. What short straw I pulled, not being a Lunda.” Her soured temperament fell back on cursing the age of stereotypes of her tribe. Meanwhile, rain was puddling around her. The smell of sad, wet dog filled the air, and Daisy’s ears drooped with a whimper.
After a few moments, when Chelsi had collected herself, she set to work protecting all matter of things that she could of importance. “I guess it’s good you have all these big plastic buckets,” Laura commented, helping her.
“Yeah, well. This is one of the reasons. And if I didn’t have all this stuff for Camp….” Fucking camp, and all its blasted stuff, she thought now. “Camp’s cancelled,” she announced to her friend.
Laura, having finished packing up all the things they could started unpacking her tent. “What do you mean? Camp’s cancelled?”
“If there was ever a reason to cancel camp, this would be it.” After all, to Chelsi, completing Camp had seemed like an unsurmountable challenge, and now it would be.
Laura was exercising the fullest extent of her empathy, but wouldn’t indulge Chelsi’s dramatic flair. “You know, sure, the whole life you have been building for yourself in Zambia, is being ruined, but it could be worse.” Chelsi lightly glared at her friend, her now idle hands reaching for the bottle of Royal Kingston on her kitchen bench. “At least you are home, so you can protect what things you can.”
“And good thing you’re here with me,” she interjected, “so first thing tomorrow you can help me put up the plastic lining of my roof.” Taking a strong pull from the bottle, she ended sourly, “Not how I wanted to spend the morning before camp…”
“You can sleep in the tent with me if you’d like,” Laura kindly offered. And with that Chelsi started to pack up her bad mood.
“Thank you. The rain outside does sound to be letting up too.” Though inside it still seemed to be pouring around them. “The old roof still would have been much worse.” She almost chuckled, imaging how absolutely horrid it would have been to be under the old roof. “That one would have likely collapsed on us.” She made her again idle hand busy again help Laura with her tent poles. “Then Camp really would have been cancelled.”
“Or you could be in Neal situation, with no roof at all.
“Really?! How’d he manage that?”
“After months of trying to get his village to come and replace it, he felt it last resort was to just remove it himself and move out till they fix it.”
Chelsi laughed, “I might have been the one to give him that advice.”
“I think a lot of people did.”
“Ironically too, because exactly one year ago is the day I move out of my house to have it refitted.”
“See! And look how far you’ve come!”
The two friend smiled amidst the rain, and crawled into the tent.