Posts Tagged With: person to person

104: Siavonga

“Wow, this is so nice,” Chelsi exclaimed, walking out into the cool breeze coming off the lake.  Reaching for the railing of the hotel restaurant’s deck, she stretched her muscles; cramped from sitting in a minibus all day.  The hotel was positioned on the side of a mountain, looking over the Lake Kariba.  Chelsi hadn’t been anticipating the mountains, and got excited when she saw them out the window of the bus; then terrified when the bus careened on the mountain road, conductor hanging out the sliding door of the van. “You got very lucky,” Chelsi said to her recently found friend. “I guarantee my house will not be this nice, nor would be any other place I put you up in!”

“This is a very nice place.” Chelsi met Hans, a Tanzanian national, on her trip to Zanzibar. Her and her friends had been talking about Peace Corps, when Hans over heard them, walked up and mentioned that he was interested in adding a Peace Corps  volunteer to the team of his small NGO.

“And here I picked this time for you to come down thinking that it’d be okay because I would have a house, and what not. But good thing I called to remind Yalelo I was coming today, and they could arrange room for the two of us.” Chelsi had been surprised by the lack of professionalism the fish farm seemed to have.  As a for profit business, she wondered how it managed to run, if they couldn’t even manage to pick up their volunteer from the bus station their appointed date and time.  And what’s this about my house not being ready yet? The whole thing made her apprehensive about meeting the fish farm’s president the following morning.

Hans noticed the twist on Chelsi’s face as she thought. “You know, if you’re having second thoughts about the fish farm you can always come work for Better Nation,” he read her mind.

She threw him a side cast glance, “I only wanted to stay this side if it meant I could do this position; work on the fish farm, do something more closely related to my field.  So far all you have to offer me is a chicken project, and for even less money.  I’ve spent the last 2 years battling chickens!” Chelsi said exasperated.

Hans laughed, his white teeth flashing against the dark backdrop. “Come on now seriously.  Think of all the widowed, and divorced women, single mothers we could help.”  Hans’ grand plan was to help disadvantaged women become financially independent by helping them start small poultry operations.

Chelsi didn’t know that much about keeping chickens, but she always found terrestrial beings easier to care for than aquatic ones, the rules for chickens seem simple enough, proper food, water, housing and vaccination every three months.  The thought of New Castle vaccines gave her a flash back to her dove Spud, whom she’d always had suspected died of New Castle, when exactly two weeks later nearly every chicken in the village dropped dead.  She smiled.

Kerosene lights, used to attract minnows to the small fishing canoes out on the lake, twinkled off the water.  With the reflection of the stars, the lake seemed a more infinite universe than the one in the sky.  Chelsi ran her hand along the curved iron railing.  She thought the thought, that she thought a lot, about what it would be like, would have been like, if she hadn’t extended and just closed her service with the rest of her intake.

Having dodged two lanes of airport traffic, standing on the third, the last median for airport arrivals to be picked up by friends, family members, or rent-a-car shuttles.  With her duffle bag in one hand, the leash of her dog in the other, and overstuffed hiking backpack on her back, she would stare blankly at the airport parking garage across the road; cars whizzing through her field of vision. In the sun it would be warm, but given that arrivals were let out through the airport’s walkout basement, she would shiver when a cool draft came off a bus, bring her back to her current place. She would refocus on the traffic, for her parent’s car, and say to herself ‘Well, that happened…’

“So should we eat? Am feeling hungry,” Hans asked, pulling her attention back to the present moment.

“I was just thinking about Daisy, I hope she’s doing alright.” After deciding to would be too difficult to bring her down to Siavonga for a week, Chelsi had arranged to have her darling dog boarded at the kennel volunteers typically used in Lusaka. The following week Chelsi was to start her home leave.  Home leave being the month of special leave to the States that Peace Corps afforded to volunteers who extended for a third year.

“You have her at a very nice place. Am sure all is good,” He responded.

“All is under control?” She teased him.

“Yes,” he smiled.

“So, should we sit outside here, or maybe there?” Chelsi gestured to the far side of the deck to the right.

“Am feeling just a little bit cold.”

“Yeah, the draft from the lake is stronger than I thought it would be.  Especially for a place everyone was telling me is the hottest in Zambia.” Chelsi starting walking off towards the small building with floor to ceiling windows that revealed a bar, several tall tables and chairs and the forest green felt of a pool table, on the other side of a water lit, bean shaped pool.

Whatever happened instead, instead of the day dream she had had for the last two years, she felt prepared; that nothing could be more difficult than what she had already endured, that nothing could surprise her more than the melancholy she had felt as she drove away from her village for the last time, and nothing would replace the space in her heart for the hardest job she would ever love.

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Categories: Adventure, Fantasy, Mystery, Uncategorized | 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

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