Posts Tagged With: safari

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.

Categories: Adventure, Fantasy, Mystery, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

078: Kasanka

​The alarm rang at 3:15. It was dark and crowded inside Chelsi’s tent, but she unzipped her sleeping bag and slithered out of her sheets.  Beside her Laura groaned.  The two women dressed themselves the best they could in the cramps quarters before emerging from the tent.  The air outside was cool, and for a moment Chelsi regretted not bringing a sweater with her.  It won’t last though, she thought to herself.  As soon as the sun comes up we’ll be sweating.  She wrapped her scarf around her and took a seat on the campfire bench to wait for the truck.  

“You don’t think it forgot about us?” Chelsi asked, leaning against her friend. 

Laura shrugged. 

“It’s nearly a quarter to 4 and the sun will be coming up soon,” but again, Chelsi’s eyes were starting to drift close. She was still tired after so many days of travel.  She left her house a full three days ago, and only late the previous afternoon did she arrive at her first vacation destination; Kasanka National Park.  But it’ll all have been worth it, her foggy mind floated through her consciousness.  

“Here it comes,” Laura said, standing up, jostling Chelsi’s position.  Bright yellow head light illuminated their campground.  The truck rattled up the driveway.  

“Are we all ready to go?” their guide quietly called from his perch on the benches mounted to the truck bed.  Chelsi, Laura, and four other volunteers that were accompanying them gathered themselves up and headed towards the vehicle.
It probably wasn’t more than a few kilometers, but with the icy, morning wind biting at her face, it felt like a journey. To distract herself, Chelsi looked up at the stars.  She had had high hopes that the stars at in the park would shine brightest, but it wasn’t proving to be the case. The light of the moon was growing though, it would be full by the end of her trip.  

The truck came to a stop in a tall grass field on the edge of a dense forest.  Their guide hopped out and motioned for them to follow.  There was no clear path that Chelsi could see but her and her companions followed none the less.  Her fellows had kept some of their blankets with them and were now using them to shield themselves the dew covered grass as they made their way into the forest.  Chelsi had to hold up the hem of her skirt to keep it from getting caught on loose shrubs and branches.  This is not quite what I had in mind, Chelsi through as she picked her way with the group through the grass, but who am I to complain about a little extra adventure.  Their walk went on, about a half a kilometer more into the forest and ended at a ladder that climbed up into the tree canopy.  

One by one, each member of their group climbed up, up, up.  When it came to be Chelsi’s turn she climbed slowed, careful not to miss any of the rungs on the ladder.  The ladder climbed up through a hole in a floor perched amongst the tops of the trees and when Chelsi poked her head up through the hole she was greet with some of the first rays of morning light.  

“Oh wow!” she cried pulling the rest of her body.  Straw colored fruit bats, nearly the size of a house cat, blanketed the sky.  They were flying into the forest, after a night a forging fruits, in search of a place to roost for the day.  On their way some flew close enough overhead she could have reached out and touch them; close enough that she could see the texture of their fur and features of their faces.  Others seemed to look on at their group with the same curious fascination they Chelsi and her friends looked at them.  

As the light from the sun grew stronger the number of bats overhead became few.  Late morning stragglers.   The trees below their stand though, now seemed to flutter with wing like leaves; everyone in their place trying to get comfortable for bed.  With that thought, Chelsi yawn, I could use a comfortable bed. She smiled and gazed on at the sunrise, but not too soon

Categories: Adventure, Nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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