Connections: Zam Fam 2024

I’ve always struggled saying goodbye, and as I have got older, sometimes I find myself worrying about saying goodbye to people before I took the chance to say hello. I have noticed that this fear leads me to hold people an arms length away, as leaving a gap makes goodbyes easier. However, distancing myself from others in avoidance of difficult emotions is not sustainable nor does it cultivate a joyful life. In Zambia these past three weeks, the word “connection” has been the staple of our group. Something I have always believed is that it is easier to connect to strangers, because at the end of the day you don’t need to see them again and words shared amongst strangers remain as simple moments or memories. I was excited to get to know the other students traveling to Zambia with me, however I still felt myself hitting a wall at points. My brain seemed incapable of closing the gap. However, during this last week, I felt my mind starting to switch gears as I watched fellow students connect to one another, and navigate the complexities of difficult emotions hand in hand. We did a reading the other night which stated that difficult emotions, including goodbyes, while individual matters, do not need to be private matters and it is possible to sit beside someone in their solitude without changing them or imposing your own fears, bias, and beliefs onto them. As I read through the reading, I realized these were the words I had been waiting to hear. I began wanting to sit beside someone in their self introspection, and more importantly I was opening up to the possibility of people I care about sitting beside me; finally finding a way to close the gap. As I looked around the room, I was in awe of the connections my peers had made, each of their own characteristics and personalities contributing to the group that I have called family for the past month. It is difficult to describe in words what I have witnessed, but let me just tell you the way this group operates with one another is extraordinarily beautiful. Given that this is the last blog I wanted to share more about the Zags who have made me want to close the gap between myself and others for the first time in a long while. 


Lucia’s name means “light,” and that is exactly what and who Lucia is. She is vibrant, kind, and genuine. Lucia’s excitement for life is contagious and her pure joy at the smallest moments brings smiles to faces. Lucia is also fiery, she calls life as she sees it, however she maintains an intense and inspiring optimistic outlook. Lucia has also taught me a great deal about spirituality and has taken time to help me understand a different religion than my own. When I look at Lucia it is clear to me that she exemplifies the beauty of spirituality. 


Emily has always been able to make me laugh. I love sitting next to her during meals and listening to her one liners that only the people next to her might be able to hear. Emily exudes strength and independence, something I know she takes pride in, but she is also incredibly well articulated, observant, and grounded as she connects to others. During our reflections, I always listened extra carefully when Emily would share, as her insight always made some confusion feel a bit clearer before bed. 


As I have gotten to know Charlie, it is clear to me that he is always thinking. He observes the world, people, smells, sounds, and details that I think others might miss. Whenever Charlie speaks, it is with intention as he adds incredible value and insight to even the smallest of conversations. As we navigated the human complexities of being visitors in a place far away from our own, I always looked over at Charlie when I felt nervous, and I was met with a calm and grounded presence. 


Julia is like a chocolate chip cookie, crispy on the outside and warm and tender on the inside. At first glance, she is one of the most honest and loyal people I have met. She is an absolute badass who I know has my back without question. Julia is always incredibly loving and genuine. Her love for her people radiates outward and her ability to care for others the way they individually need to be cared for is inspiring. 


Katie is like a warm hug come to life. She moves through life by singing and dancing, lifting people up as she goes. Something I noticed about Katie on the first day, is the way in which she listens to and supports the people around her. When someone speaks to Katie about both the hardships and beauty of life, her eyes carry an intense gaze that I have never seen in another person before. It is clear that she is listening to every word and understanding every emotion. She will truly be an exceptional nurse and has taught me so much about friendship. 


As I write this, Brynn is reading her fourth book in three weeks. Brynn is a grounding presence in the group. She is calm and collected and when I think of Brynn I think of someone who walks through life with grace. Brynn, while sometimes soft spoken, has an amazing sense of humor and is an incredible team player. Without anyone asking, Brynn steps into many roles and helps people with all of their daily tasks. She is someone you can rely on during significant life events because she is always willing to support during the small moments too. 


I had the pleasure of being Ellie’s roommate the first night we spent in Dubai and the three weeks in Zambezi. What I love about Ellie is how she wears her heart on her sleeve. When Ellie is excited about something new or is happy about life, it is clear throughout her entire expression. Ellie is one of the kindest people I have ever met and she is also incredibly genuine. Her ability to express her emotions and also support others in theirs will make her a wonderful teacher. 


Sarah has been like a older sister to me throughout our time here. She is sarcastic and funny, intelligent, and always gives good rational advice. She makes seemingly big problems feel small after talking them through. Sarah has had some difficult moments here, especially after the loss of her grandfather, nonetheless she has showed up every day willing to take on each new possibility with curiosity and excitement, something I know he would be proud. I have loved watching Sarah dance while in Zambia, she is so clearly full of pure joy as she dances and it is beautiful to watch. 


Jackson was the first person I worked with in the group. The first time we met to work on a project, we ended up sitting and talking for 2 hours. Jackson has a special presence that brings people together. He is selfless, generous, and wicked smart. Watching him in the hospital I saw him light up with curiosity and passion. He has a unique ability to articulate even the most frustrating moments and emotions. My favorite thing about Jackson is that he always leaves me grinning ear to ear after any conversation and is the living definition of what it means to be a friend to all. 


Will has the best jokes and brings the “dad” sense of humor to new heights. Will is full of questions about life and wants to learn every opportunity he gets. I have loved watching Will’s inquisitive nature as he meets new people and asks them about history, politics, life stories, family, friends, and much more. By asking the right questions, he is skilled at getting others to open up and encourages their vulnerability. Will is also a great dancer and I have loved watching his new nickname “The Dancing Man” come to life. 


I have had such a privilege getting to know Ana on this journey together. Ana and I have similar senses of humor and are always laughing together. Ana is very intelligent and has answered many of my nursing questions during our visits to the hospital. The thing I love most about Ana is her confidence in herself. She is going to be the best nurse practitioner and I look up to her for her knowledge, patience, and intelectual abilities. Ana is simply a wonderful friend and the lessons she has taught me and the joy she has brought me are unmatched. 


Josh is the most present person I have met. Even his jokes are delivered with the perfect timing and tone. He is an exemplary leader and has looked out for all of us throughout this journey. Josh is a complete teddy bear who is full of love which radiates outward when he speaks of his family, friends, and his home away from home, Zambia. Watching Josh step off the plane in Zambezi I was emotional observing how much he meant to the community here, a true testament to his character. I am profoundly grateful for everything Josh has done throughout this trip to ensure our own personal growth and collective connections. 


Jeff is someone I respect immensely. He is a realist at heart which is apparent in his somewhat tough exterior and sarcastic jokes. At the beginning, Jeff shared with me that when he was younger in some way or another he had a difficult time opening up and showing vulnerability to others, something I struggle with myself. During our time spent together, Jeff has opened up and shared moments in his life that are emotional to him and also incredibly meaningful for me to have heard. If I were to use two words to describe Jeff it would be intentional kindness. There is a difference between being nice and being kind, as kindness runs deeper and chances the tone of a group and community. Something Jeff does not know is that watching him show vulnerability is really inspiring to me and his kindness and connectivity to others is something I aspire for one day. 

I want to take a moment to send prayers to Jackson’s grandma and family as they take on a tough new chapter in their lives. Please keep Colleen, Kathryn, Doug, Jackson and the rest of the Schmidt/Ryan family in your thoughts and hold them close to your heart. 

All of these people have truly impacted my life. Our time spent here in Zambia bonds us all and my gratitude for each and every one of them runs deep. My heart breaks saying goodbye to Zambezi and all of the people who, in only three weeks, I have come to consider my chosen friends and family. This trip has opened my eyes to a different part of the world, one that is rich in community, love, partnership, and knows the value of human connections. Thank you all back home for your unconditional support, your daily comments which we shared every day during breakfast brought us all so much joy and filled us with happiness as we set out each day. 

To my family, I cannot wait to see you in the next couple days. My time here has been one of the greatest pleasures of my life and I am indebted to your generosity, love, and care for allowing me an experience of a life time. 

Signing off from Zambia for the last time,

Ani Posner 2026

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Full Hearts. Full Minds. Full Hands.

The rhythms of our Zambia trip hold most years, and the final week in Zambezi is a stew of emotions. We all struggle to remain present even as reunions with loved ones draw near. We are saying goodbye to the community that has extended itself in hospitality, even as we try to hold their loving embrace a bit longer. As faculty who’ve experienced this many times ourselves, we too struggle with these tensions.

Jeff is fond of calling Zags into this tension in one specific way: when he hears them start to say “we only have n days left,” he offers a reframing: “we still have n whole days left; imagine what you can do in that time.” Today was a case in point. 

Josh often says that the days here in Zambezi are “full but not busy.” This speaks to the different pace of life here compared to our lives at home. We have opportunities and responsibilities each day, but the Zambian concept of time and the cultural ways of relational connection make each day feel more like invitations than obligations. When my head hits the pillow at the end of the day, I often reflect on our many interactions and experiences that never felt “busy.”  Many times, those days reflect the work of our hands, minds, and hearts. 

Full Hands: Home health visits with Winefrieda

For the last several trips I, Jeff, have made to Zambezi, I have taken lead in organizing the health and wellness team. During this time, I have tried to cultivate a network of relationships in area clinics, and—importantly—in the Zambezi District Hospital. I have grown “comfortable” in this under resourced hospital and with its truly impressive and creative staff of healthcare professionals. I have also visited the two mission hospitals at Chitokoloki and Dipalata, as well as several outlying clinics. I have even taken students to visit traditional healers (sorry ZamFam 2024, time is not with us) and to be treated at modern clinics in Lusaka. But there is one aspect of Zambian healthcare I had long wanted to understand: the work of Community Health Volunteers (CHVs).

Last year, a student named Hattie accompanied an old friend of the program, Winefrieda Mwewa, as she visited HIV patients in a home monitoring program. After a career in social services, she is a full-time CHV, visiting dozens of mostly women living with HIV in the area. This year, Brynn (aka “Mangana”. If you know, you know.) and Katie followed up on the opportunity. I decided to join them and fill in this gap in my understanding. 

We visited several women, in hopes of learning about the ways they are being cared for amid the challenges such a diagnosis presents. As we talked with these women, several themes emerged. For most, their HIV+ status remains largely hidden, in some cases from all but a single family member. I have always been struck that Zambia is one of the youngest countries on earth because HIV/AIDS claimed entire generations of families. And yet,  the very disease responsible for such massive death is still taboo. Additionally, most of these women live without a husband or domestic partner, having been abandoned or suffering the death of a husband from the disease. Further, all of them expressed challenges meeting their basic nutritional needs, eating only one or two meals per day. Because of this, each was vulnerable to the side effects of their medication when taken without food: extreme dizziness and fatigue. Some took the medication despite the side effects, while others took it inconsistently. One, a breastfeeding mother of a five-month old child, took the medication irregularly because the side effects were so difficult to bear. Of course, the risk is clear. Without the ART suppressive effects, her viral load will increase and she’ll be more likely to pass on the virus to her infant. 

Late in the morning, Winefrieda introduced us to a fellow CHV, Grace, in a community west of Zambezi. Grace then guided us to a woman named Charity. At 17, she tested positive for HIV in 2004 after spending six months in the hospital with TB. Winefrieda explained that TB and HIV are cousins because a suppressed immune system makes patients susceptible to diseases like TB. About the same time as her TB was being treated and she began receiving HIV treatments, Charity developed a skin rash that has persisted for close to two decades and progressed to feature large nodules all over her head. She removed her cloth cap to show us that some were now open wounds from being picked at and were at severe risk of infection. Brynn recognized her from the hospital, where she’d seen Dr. Mpande consult with Charity earlier in our trip. Charity had previously been referred to Chitokoloki for care but still hasn’t gone due to lack of funds for transportation. As we left Charity, we discussed with Winefrieda and Grace what it would take to get Charity to Chitokoloki, and listened as they worked out a plan.

At each of our visits, Winefrieda and Grace were welcomed with joy and warmth. The work they and their CHV colleagues do may not save every life or ease the burdens of living with a disease that nearly devastated this part of the world, but they are able to bring them small necessities such as sugar and soap, while also connecting them with healthcare resources to enhance the likelihood of their survival. That work is a reminder to us Zags that patient, present acts of compassion can be a lifeline for those facing serious challenges. Full hands.

Full minds: Final class presentations and ongoing library work.

Earlier today, final presentations were offered by students in our computer, business and leadership, and health education courses.  The culmination of our three-week courses provided opportunities for our Zambian students to show their learning to the community.  These presentations are marked by encouragement from others (cheers erupted from the computer lab as each student presented their work!) and a sense of accomplishment.  New skills are displayed in computers, knowledge shared in the health course, and business proposals offered in the leadership class. Josh had the opportunity to sit on a panel of community and business leaders evaluating proposals for micro-loans offered by Gonzaga to launch new community businesses.  Captured in these twenty proposals were the imagination and hopes of incredible leaders who strive to make a difference in their community.  Through the direct questions of our panelists, I was reminded of the care and capacity here. The feedback provided opportunities to increase the viability of their projects. Students were asked to dream bigger and hone in on their distinctive contribution to the Zambezi business community. A community of learners and leaders rather than a business competition to be won. 

We sometimes downplay our classes because they are taught by Zags who themselves are still learning, and are sometimes far outpaced in knowledge by the adult Zambians in the room. Indeed, they function as much as spaces for developing relationships as they do one-way transfers of knowledge. However, watching students beam as they present what they’ve learned and accomplished, or hearing them describe how they used our classes to springboard a new career or endeavor is a reminder that growth can be nurtured when minds are open to possibility.

Dominic Sandu has used the opportunity of returning to Zambezi to reignite the partnership with the Chilena Library.  Nearly ten years ago, our program assisted the community in building a library in a rural school just on the outskirts of Zambezi.  A shipping container full of books provided the largest library in the region, a collective effort that solidified our belief that we can do it together.  However maintaining and leading a library is certainly as hard as building one.  With new leadership at the schools and renewed passion for literacy from Dominic, this week has been an opportunity for him to dig into the work of partnering with local collaborators to share the wealth of knowledge in the Chilena library with people around the Zambezi district. He’s invoked the power of curiosity and knowledge with community members, the school district’s resource coordinator, teachers at other schools, and at the district education board supervisor’s office. Dominic’s dedication to the intellectual growth and capacity of this community reminds us all that knowledge can change lives. Full Minds.

Full hearts: Accompaniment dinner.

Josh’s favorite night of our time in Zambezi is the Accompaniment Dinner, where Zags honor the friendships and partnerships developed during our time here.  It’s a festive night with amazing food (cooked by our mamas), marking connections, new and old, with the Zambezi community with photos, dancing, speeches and songs.  At the center of our program here is developing relationships, and tonight we got to meet each students’ “people” and honor them for the generous hospitality that been extended to us. 

This year, Katie and Jackson emceed, and the absolute highlight was each Zag introducing their guests, explaining what they valued in their friends and what they learned from their Zambian guides. Early in the buildup to our trip and again when we arrive, we read Aaron Ausland’s brief essay, “Staying for Tea,” in which he cautions us against seeing people as function or backdrop, preferring instead the pursuit of friendship true and deep. It is affirming and inspiring to see the ways our students come to know, after just three weeks, the people in Zambezi friends.

The evening closed, as it often does, with Jessica Mukumbi singing a song called “Time has come.” It’s a goodbye song, but also one that looks forward to a reunion full of rejoicing. Often she sings the song to us, but this year, the group slowly began to sing along, building from a singular voice to full choir of perhaps 50 Zambians and Zags celebrating our time together. Full Hearts.

As we start our last full day in Zambezi with full hearts, minds, and hands, We are beyond grateful for the community of Zags on this program. They have taken full embrace of the possibility each day offers, navigating uncomfortable spaces while moving towards growth. We have laughed and cried together.  We have experienced inspiring beauty in the people of Zambezi and wrestled with the complexity of this place. They sing and dance to the delight of this community. They have lived into a maturity and connection which has allowed us to stay together through difficulties.  We have marveled at the connections they have formed in Zambezi.  You should be proud, and ready to listen to these stories when we return.  

Josh Armstrong and Jeff Dodd, Associate Professors, Gonzaga University

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

“We have so much to talk about”

Hi everyone and happy Tuesday! 

This week signifies the final stretch of classes and our time here in Zambezi. From the student’s computer presentations with Sarah and Charlie, to the business proposal with Emily and Lucia. Will, Ana, Julia, and Ani led a science project at the local school, Chilangi, while Katie and I had one of our last hospital days in the morning. There were several market trips scattered in to all of our busy days. And of course we all came back together at noon for one more Mama Josephine lesson. All these endings to classes and the inevitable countdown of days going by, has gotten me reflecting and thinking about what has happened here, but also what is still to come. 

Earlier last week, I went on a run with Josh (no, I am not a runner and this was my second run this entire trip), but as we ran we talked about how the trip has gone, different things we were looking forward to throughout the day, and I talked about the friendship’s I’ve made in the hospital. Yet something was nagging at the back of my mind as we talked. This whole trip I felt an immense amount of pressure that I was putting on myself to make deep connections and foster relationships that was boiling to the surface with our now very limited time. Now don’t get me wrong, I was working to create new friends, but what I actually did was create a fear that I wouldn’t be able to have what I thought was the “right” experience here. That maybe I wasn’t going deep enough in conversations, branching out far enough, or simply fearing that if I asked one of my new friends to grab a coke during their lunch break, they would say no. 

Flash forward to this morning. It all started in the hospital. Throughout my time in Zambezi, I have spent many mornings in the physiotherapy ward (some background info for those that don’t know me, I’m hoping to one day become a PT). And today was no different. I got to spend time with some of my favorite physiotechs, Brudas and Able. I have spent many hours with Brudas watching as he examines fractures showing me the x-rays and then quizzing me on if I can find its location, or watching as he plasters a cast or removes one on “Fracture Friday.” I have absolutely loved every second of getting to be in this ward. Today, I got to talk more one on one with Able. Our previous conversations had consisted of snippets of bonding over Top Gun or sharing our favorite music, my answer of course being Noah Kahan. I found the same structure this morning, as he asked for even more music suggestions, as he said that he would always remember me as the person that introduced him to Stick Season and that he was never tired of finding a new artist. This conversation grew and grew more into me no longer watching the plaster of a cast or examining an x-ray, but instead, engaging in small talk that now furthers me and Able’s bond. We talked of his education, his family, my family, my sisters, his girlfriend and how she is visiting soon. Then, when I was losing track of time and before I knew it Katie came from the peds ward to get me. Before I left, he said something during the smiles, laughter, and sad goodbyes for the day, “We have so much to talk about.” 

When Able said this, it was a conformation to me that he was not only my friend, but that he was able to see me as his.

That I’ve had the privilege of getting to know them as they have gotten to know me, and together we’ve gotten to walk together for this brief amount of time, even if some days I was simply accompanying Brudas as he placed on a cast. 

Though the run last week left me feeling fearful for the time I had left and the connections I had yet to make, in instances like this I find that my fear slowly disappearing because even though the time here is almost up, I know that we really do have so much left to talk about.  One of our group reflections last week, we emphasized how our relationships made here are not meant to end during our three weeks. That they come back with us and can also further flourish and grow. Though we have so much to talk about, we really have do much time to talk. It has been a comfort to me these last days to know the seeds of my friendships have started in the connections I’ve made here in Zambezi. That though I have experienced pressures, and wrestling with the feelings of a “right” experience, I have found places where connecions have formed in beautiful depth, vulnerability yet also small talk or a hand hold or a quick Chimene Mwane. That though our time here is brief, the connections are only just beginning because we really do have so much to talk about. 

To my family and friends at home, I miss you all and I am so excited to see! 

Lots of love, 

Brynn Neal 25’

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

The Beauty Is Yet to Come

Three weeks ago the Zam Fam began our day headed to Victoria Falls to see one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. We hiked in to the national park, and—when we got our first glimpse of the falls—we wanted to stop and take it all in.  From our first view we walked to the right side of the falls where the Zambezi River dropped off. We were perpendicular to the water as it fell. We could see the other cliffs that faced the river that were filled with luscious green rainforest trees. When we looked down where the water fell we could see jagged rocks and crashing water that fell so hard it sprayed back up to our eye level. We could even see a rainbow formed from the reflection of the sun on the spraying water. I remember trying to juggle taking in the beauty of the falls with my own eyes, taking photos on my phone, and taking photos on my digital camera.  I remember also feeling dumbstruck. I didn’t want to move from the spot we were at. Despite this Father Dominic, kept telling us as a group, “Let’s keep moving the beauty is still yet to come”. So I marched on.

We backtracked and went down a path to the left that we saw from the previous viewing point.  Again, we could see the falls and the same feeling overcame me. The spot was surrounded by green rainforest trees that created a sort of dome out of which jetted a platform to see the falls. From this angle we were face to face with the sudden drop off where the Zambezi river crashed over the edge and became Victoria Falls. We could see the falls on both our left and our right. On the left hand the falls seemed to stretch out far. Again I wanted to stop, and again Dominic said “Keep Moving the Beauty is still yet to come”.

Again I marched, but I fell behind the rest of the group. This time I found myself on a bridge where I could see Victoria falls on my right and water sprayed up onto me. To my left was a second bridge that resided within Zimbabwe where I could see bungee jumpers fall. I could also see a rainforest beneath me with more beautiful green trees and running rapids. From the spraying water another rainbow was forming. Yet again, I wanted to take photos and soak it up, but I was told “There is still more beauty to come.” We walked up the trail and there was a spot that sat the closest to the other side of the falls where the water of the Zambezi fell. At this spot the spraying water from the falls was so powerful and so close to us the water felt like a heavy rain. I stood there dancing, singing, playing with my fellow Zags as we all tried to (literally) soak in the beauty of Victoria falls. As I sat there I thought to my self, “This must be what Dominic meant by ‘the Beauty is still yet to Come’”.

“The Beauty is Still Yet to Come.” These words have stuck with me through this whole trip.

As we approach the end of our time in Zambezi, many of our minds are turning to things like saying goodbye to the people of Zambezi, what our our first meal at home will be, or seeing the faces of our loved ones back home. At least I know my mind has turned to thoughts such as these. However, every time I think like this I am reminded of Dominic’s words. “The Beauty is Still Yet to Come”. 

After posting this blog we will have only three full days left in Zambezi. So what do we have left to look forward to? On Wednesday we will be hosting an “Accompaniment dinner” for all of our closest friends of the program. Each student will be inviting one person they have considered a close friend or cultural mentor and we will prepare a meal for them. This is meant to be a celebration of the relationships we have developed in our short time in Zambezi. 

The hope of the Accompaniment Dinner is that these relationships will not end when we step on the bush plane on Friday. 

The hope is that the relationships that have been created with Zambezi will be maintained both at the individual level and the community level.  The hope is that each Gonzaga student will not forget the people of Zambezi, and will still check in with the town every once in a while, even if they never return. The hope is also Gonzaga will again return and the long history between Gonzaga and Zambezi will last well into future. This hope is what “The Beauty is Still Yet to Come” has come to mean to me. We still have a short time on this trip and many highlights remain. We still can create memories of and with the people here. This is something we shouldn’t mentally rush past to get home, no matter how much we miss it there.

Even on these last days there are still beautiful moments to be found. Just this last Friday Ellie, Ani, Dominic, and I hosted a panel on mental health at Zambezi Boarding. The panel went very well and many of the students reported feeling they learned from it. I plan to keep in touch with the teachers who helped us organize this and continue to deepen the relationships we have there before we leave.

Even once we do find ourselves on a plane returning to the United States, the beauty doesn’t have to end there. We can still send WhatsApp messages to our friends here. We can still send supplies for ZamCity when the next Gonzaga class goes. We can still recruit underclassman to ensure the program survives. All of these small actions ensure the beauty of our trip doesn’t have to end here. We hopefully might even find ourselves like I did in Victoria Fall surprised at just how beautiful the world can be.

To my family and friends back home I miss you very much. I will see you soon.


Will Kelly, ’26

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Music to my Ears

After a warm welcome to Dipalata, a rural village a quick and bumpy 40 minute ride away from the convent and also our cozy home for the night, the crew began to unload the two land cruisers packed full like clown cars. While setting up the beds for the night, which consisted of mats, blankets, and pillows in a long hallway (perfect slumber party conditions), I started to hum whatever tune was in my head at the moment. In response to this, Josh turns to me, laughs a little, and asks “You just sing through life, don’t you?” 

If you are close to me or have been living in the Convent with me for almost a month, you know the answer to this question, but for those of you who don’t, let me explain. My whole life has been one defined by tunes and rhythms that satisfies that one part of your brain that makes it so you can’t help but tap your foot. For example, it’s been said that I could sing all the words to ‘you’re the one that I want’ from The Grease soundtrack before I could talk and I could dance well before I could walk, specifically on the kitchen counter in little pink cowboy boots while apple bottom jeans is playing. 

Now, in Zambia, I have been given the advice from former zam zag, Ethan Kane, to attach experiences to our senses. Given the short background I’ve given, I think it’s apparent that one of the senses stands out to me. Hearing. This practice has heightened the emotions that I’m feeling and entertaining that one part of my brain that longs for sounds. I’d like to share some examples of how living through listening has impacted my time here in Zambia. 


Mama’s Assistant. I have just spent the day being Mama Katendi’s assistant, aka I help make lunch and dinner and assist with the background chores that might have gone otherwise unnoticed. For dinner, I decided to make BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches, cornbread, and a side cabbage salad (to my family: yes, I was covered in the BBQ sauce by the end of the meal). While sitting outside cooking, I took a breath, noticed my surroundings, and listened. The sky in front of me, a mix of pink, orange, and red that you don’t see anywhere but here. The bread and butter sizzling when it meets the pan heated by the fiery coal in the brasier. The sweet BBQ sauce boiling in the pot popping every now and then reminding me to give it another taste test. Andy Grammars “Keep your head up” playing on the speaker in the distance. Laughter coming from children playing in the back of the convent with our finest yoga, dance, volleyball, and soccer instructors. The breeze rustling through the trees causing the branches to sway. These sounds only broken by the Mama’s coming outside to sit with me. The conversation that followed was one of noticing, listening and hearing. 


Home Stays. Brynn and I set off to stay the night with a beloved member of the community, Mama Winfrieda. She volunteers Monday-Friday from 8am-4pm to test people for HIV/AIDS and visit and assist members of the community that have been affected by this disease. When we arrive, we fall upon a scene of a celebration. Around 30 friends and family gathered in her backyard. Women cooking up a meal of nshima, greens, and chicken. A couple women and men dancing, called out to us in hopes that we will join. My cheeks get flushed and I get warm with embarrassment due to the fact that I am a Chindili (western/white person) who cannot move her hips like they’ve been trying to show us. Though this embarrassment was short-lived, as I allowed myself to take a breath, notice my surroundings, and listen. Listen to the banging of the drums. The laughter and joy that comes from a reunion of friends and family. The communion of multiple voices coming together to sing harmoniously. Listening. It reminded me of that part of my brain that was longing to be itched. The part that makes me tap my feet. The part that doesn’t care if others are watching. The part that wants to put on her pink cowboy boots and get on the countertops, but instead I wanted to put on my chetangi and shake my hips as best I could with the people that have welcomed me into their homes so generously. 


Car Rides. Being in Zambia has consisted of many car rides, whether the nine hour ride from Lusaka to Livingstone or the 30 minute ride to Chitokoloki. These rides have been what I would compare to your average family road trips. Full of “how much longer”’s, lotsssss of snacks, good conversation, and a bit more singing than I think some of the group wishes. Sitting in the quaint backseat of the Land Cruiser can be a bit crammed and the bumps will most definitely require a visit to the chiropractor, but these close corners allow me and my fellow Zam Zags to truly get to know each other through, you guessed it, taking a deep breath, noticing my surroundings, and listening. Driving through the bush, watching as the world disappears behind us. Conversations prompted by questions like, “what’s your happiest memory?”, “in another life, what job would you want?”, and my personal favorite, “what’s you spirit animal?”. These conversations give me even more of an insight on who these 14 people I’ve really gotten to know and consider my family are. When these car rides are not met meaningful conversation, they are certainly matched with some very beautiful and lovely singing of all your favorite Disney classics and maybe a little Hamilton… Being free to belt these songs with others reminds me that we all have that part of our brain. That makes us almost childish in a way. Singing without a care and laughing at just how much fun we are having in a very crowded, less than ideal, incomparable to the rosa deluxe, basic Land Cruiser. Here, I get to listen to the children in us all as we laugh, sing, and shout “are we there yet” to our two dads, Josh and Jeff. 


Dipalata Campfire. Sitting at dinner in Dipalata, I overhear the faint singing of children. I quickly shovel down my food knowing I have to get to the music. Walking towards the sounds, I come to recognize the song. It’s one that we have been learning in our language lessons everyday at 12. We all gather around the well populated fire place and begin to sing the songs with the children. This. This is the moment of connection I have been yearning for. A feeling of complete harmony and unity overcomes my being and transcends words. I don’t even need to take a second to take a deep breath, notice my surroundings, or listen. I began to do it all involuntarily. The stars above shined by the dozens and brighter than any I’ve ever seen. The fire below warmed the soles of my feet. The flaming blue and purple root of the fire danced around the logs just as we all were dancing with one another. The orange of the fire projected onto the faces of all those gathered around the campfire illuminating the countless smiles. More than 200 voices joined together, to sing a song as one. Each voice unique, but as a whole created a perfect blend of song. A memory I will forever remember through the sounds. The sounds of community. The sounds of rejoice. The sounds of glee. The sounds that quenched the yearn that come from that part of my brain. The part that listens. The part that hears. The part that loves. 

To my loving family, my 714B girls, and my friends, I can’t wait to talk to you all soon and hear your sweet voices again, for I’ve missed them dearly. I love you all with my whole heart. Say hi to Ollie and Cholula for me 🙂

With tremendous amounts of love,

Katie Harris 25′

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Why Not?

Hello family & friends, 

It is the end of week 2 of classes! Being here in Zambezi has brought so much joy, growth, emotions, reflection, and a whole lot of CONNECTIONS!

A month before we left for Zambia, I started to get really anxious about what could happen on this trip. I wasn’t really the person who would go out and try new things unless I was with my friends. I chose to stick with the comfortable. I had so much anxiety when talking to new people because all I could think about was, “What do I talk about? What should I talk about? What good questions should I ask?” A few days before we left for the airport, reality started to hit and I started to think that I was in over my head, leaving home for a month and going to a country that I’ve only heard about from Josh and former Zags who have gone in the past. I had to prepare myself with the questions, “How do I connect with the people in Zambezi and how can I challenge myself?” 

However, there’s a quote I’ve been constantly thinking about here in Zambia. From one of my all time favorite movies, We Bought A Zoo, Scarlett Johansson asks Matt Damon why he bought a random zoo and Damon replies with “Why Not?” Whenever this quote would pop up in my head, I would think “Why not do this? Why not do that?” Life is too short to not take opportunities so why not take them? There are many things I have regretted not doing in college and now is the time to get out of the comfort zone. 

On our first night in Zambezi, we were welcomed by the community with a huge dance party. I wasn’t in the mood to dance (for all my family and friends back home, SHOCKING!) and was hoping to blend in with the others on the outer skirts of the circle. But seeing Sarah & Will dance with everyone, why not have fun with everyone? Why not shake my hips with Sarah & Katie? By the end of the dance party, I was in happy spirits and excited for the good moments to come. 

On the first Wednesday here, I was walking home by myself from Zambezi Boarding (ZB), trying to find my turn to the road. I then heard a distant voice behind, yelling “Hi.” A man was walking behind and caught up to greet me. He introduced himself as Morgan, a student teacher at ZB. I then thought, “Why not walk with Morgan? Let’s walk together!” I invited him to walk with me to the spot where I was meeting Josh at. Despite living in the opposite direction, Morgan still took my invite and we walked to the main road together. We asked each other questions about the other person’s life, passions, local talk. Morgan was so kind to walk home with me, but what I remember most about our walk together was being present. I wasn’t worried about time, the path, or questions I should be asking. I was living in the moment and getting to know my new friend.

The next day, Will and I had our first lesson at Chilena Primary School, focusing on Library Day and Science. While reading with the students, I noticed that comprehension was very difficult for most of the students, especially when I asked them what their book was about. When the students read their books, I tried to think of ways to explain how to identify the lesson or theme of a story. After reflecting on the day, I thought, “Why not scratch some of our Library Day ideas and start fresh?” While I can’t teach everything about reading to the students of Chilena in three weeks, I can help with teaching them some basics of reading. After deciding this, we got to work on some lessons and are excited to be spending time with some of the brightest students.  

This week has come with a lot of emotions and homesickness has started to kick in for me and for others around here. I knew this was going to come, but what I didn’t expect was how hard it was going to hit. I tried to stuff my emotions deep down inside, focusing on going to ZB and connecting with the community and the ZamFam. It became a lot for me, so I thought, “Why not just let it out? The tears are going to come anyways, so why not just let them out? Why not focus on yourself for a little bit?” I went to bed early that night, just letting my tears come out while I fell asleep. The next morning, I still felt off and didn’t have the motivation to be happy or excited for what’s to come in the day. My ZamFam could tell I was quieter than usual, so they would check in on me, give me a hug, or let me have my own space when I needed it. While the homesickness didn’t completely go away, I felt unconditional love from everyone and appreciated the support I needed, even if I was nervous to ask for that support. 

I have grown a lot on this trip with making new friends, trying to get outside of my comfortable routine, starting fresh, and allowing all emotions to be felt. Usually when someone says they have seen me grow in different moments of my life, I don’t really believe them as I can’t see that growth myself. However, I am proud of myself for taking a very big leap and joining this amazing trip of a lifetime. I am proud that I have taken the path less taken because it has led me to some amazing moments filled with joy, lessons, and a lot of growth. I hope to continue taking the opportunities and leading with “Why not?” 

To my family, Priest Lake friends, & my Sinto girls, I miss you all so much and cannot wait to see you soon! 

With love, 

Ellie Powers ’24


PROGRAM NOTE: We will be staying overnight in Dipalata, Zambia, a special rural community this weekend.  We will post our next blog on Sunday evening here in Zambezi.  

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The Beauty of the Human Hand

These are my hands, hands that touch, that give, that create.

These are my hands, though small and without the prototypical slender elegance of fingers. Years dancing upon the keyboard of a computer and other spontaneous acts have rendered them supple, capable of matching the digit-spans of hands inches longer. They skitter in scales, they sing in fugues, they tremble in trills and tremolos — imperfectly, amateurishly, perhaps, yet with love enduring.

They are magic hands, I like to say. Hands that bear way to my various mannerisms. Hands that drive the way through my curiosity. Hands that cook, that clean, that play. Hands that know pencil, paper, and exams too well. Hands that have learned to count: 1, 2, 3, 4,… hands that gripped the monkey-bars of the elementary school playground and learned to avoid cuts and scrapes in a fall. They are hands that tagged the shoulder of the next “It”, that learned not to point or push, but to welcome and wave, that kept a daily round of lonesome basketball-dribbling in fourth grade recess, until, discovering another’s that did the same.

These are hands thatalternatingly leapt towards the classroom ceiling, beckoning to the teacher, please call my name, please let me answer, please! Eventually learning the patience and compassion to encourage fellow persons to discover the joy of truth for themselves. These are hands with flaws, with scar and injury. They are sensitive to the cold, sometimes losing circulation even when gloved against the frosty outdoors, yet they themselves shock when met with a hot, sweaty, and AWESOME hand handshake (especially with my dear friend Katie). 

These are my hands that, to the now, likely, surprise of my parents, love to leaf through books of many authors. To breathe their words, to touch their life-song that tickles from the pulp — to know the working, writing hands of another, even through typed text, their loving caress of thoughts, ideals, imagined worlds; that is the true spirit of reading.

These are my hands that swim in the air as I engage in ecstatic dialogue with my roommates about philosophy after our classes, shaping invisibly the difficult concepts and ideals our minds strive to fathom. What if we cannot be sure of anything at all, even the existence of the hand? Besides, do we not think and feel and know one another — through our hands?

Crucially, my hands are not just mine; but also my fundamental connection to others — my gift and gift-givers to the beings of Earth. Without a voice to speak, I could still with my hands sing: on the strings of my Dad’s old guitar, by which I may share with the audience of a few of my friends; on the small black and red computer Santa once gave me, by which I now compose videos, essays, and more to inspire growth in mind and heart; in the rhythmic beating of drums and random tabletops that energizes the local Zambian children (and inner child in me) to celebrate their life-song in dance; in the cultivating of the seeds of spirit innate in human beings yet shy to sprout towards sun — the educator’s mission I shall pursue even though I choose not the teaching profession. 

These are my hands. Ones that are obsessed, filled with drive, yet still have space to dream, dreams that are coming true as this journey through Zambia continues. Dreams that couldn’t be completed by just my hands, alone. Accompanied by the hands of my fellow Zags, a community stronger than most has been made; one that desires involvement, change, and empathy. In the hands of these wonderful humans, there is a spirit striving — to understand, to imagine, to grow.

We are all capable of this no matter our whereabouts and whether our minds falsely assume “impossible” from possible. I say; we shall be a group of artists, not of appearance, but of action. Ones that have deepened our roots, and will continue to make history with our hands here in Zambezi, and beyond. Ones that are enabled, not just because we feel that we must.

There are my hands, there are your hands, and here are our hands, all capable of the impossible, and everything that may lie beyond that. All of which will continue to write their own beautiful stories, one’s that begun somewhere, were lucky enough to connect here, and will flourish elsewhere.

Mom, Dad, Kathryn, my extended family, my friends, to all of those reading this blog, and more, I reach my hands out to yours and implore you to think through your mind, body, spirit, and most importantly… your hands, and do just as we are here: feel.

Sending my love,

Jackson Schmidt 26’

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Letting Go and Saying No

May 26th at 6:09 AM: On our second full day in Zambezi I woke up to text from my Mom that read “Call now, urgent”. The call was about my Grandpa, he had fallen and hit his head hard and was unconscious. “It’s bad” she said as she passed the phone to my Dad. My Dad explained to me that the doctors said he might not make through the night. My Grandpa had always been extremely healthy for his age. He always went on daily walks, ate the best foods, and cut out all of his “bad habits” (AKA coffee and wine). I was so horrified by how everything had changed so quickly. One minute he was fine the next minute he was fighting for his life. 

I asked my Mom to hold the phone to his ear as I told him all the ways he positively impacted my life. His career at Boeing that spanned from the 1960s to the 1990s inspired me to be an engineer, just like him. He always took the time to encourage me and celebrate all of my achievements throughout school. In May, he saw me walk across the stage and become the first female engineer in my family. Throughout his career he got to travel to five different continents and countless countries. He was very excited for my own adventure here. I like to think I got my love for exploring places and meeting new people from him. Now all I could do was selfishly hope he could hold on for just a little while longer.

As I laced up my running shoes I prayed the doctors were wrong. I prayed that he would recover. I didn’t know if I should carry on with my scheduled run with Josh and Ana. However, there was something so calming about the routine of getting ready that soothed me. Ultimately, I decided a run would be for the best.  

During the run we paused to admire one of Josh’s favorite spots in Zambezi. A bridge constructed of thin wooden planks that spanned a stream. The stream was ponded and its surface was engulfed in blossoming lily pads. The centerpiece of the perfect picture was the sun that shone just over the horizon. A hallow of orange surrounded the little ball of light, extending outwards causing far off tree to appear as silhouettes. A sunrise, a sign of renewal and rebirth. A symbol that can make even the worst days hold promise. For the first time that day, I exhaled.

A few minutes after our run ended my phone started ringing, I hadn’t even stepped into the convent yet. Once I could muster up enough cell service to do so, I answered the phone. “It’s over”, I heard. My grandpa had passed away. It was the answer I never wanted, but one that I thought I may have at least few more hours to come to terms with before it came in. One hour did not feel like enough time. I felt like I had whiplash. As my fingers fastened the buttons on my shirt for 10 AM Mass that same morning, nothing felt real. I clung onto my routine, simple tasks, and events in a desperate attempt to satisfy a longing for normalcy. A sense of normalcy that, for a short while, allowed me to escape the reality of his death. I carried on with my week in a vacuum. 

On Friday, I learned that the funeral was scheduled for the day I return from Zambia, and that I’d be missing the funeral by only a few hours. Something within my false sense of normalcy cracked a little, and I could feel the pain I hardly had any time to feel brimming to the surface. Yet I still had to get through my three computer classes that day. The weekend was filled with ZamCity, a home stay, a 3-hour Mass, a lunch out, and a birthday celebration for a very special Mama’s Boy (AKA Jackson). I sat at the of the dinner table overwhelmed with the idea of facing another week. It had been an entire week since my grandpa died and I felt like I barely had time to be sad about it and grieve him. 

I left the table early. Jeff found me in the computer room a little later. He ask me how I was. “Fine” I replied, I was certainly not fine. “And sad” he asked? That was all he had to say, I started crying. Jeff got Josh and they offered me the opportunity to spend the night at the Royal, a secure (and Boujee) place where I could be alone and have some peace. There was also an option that included leaving to the Royal Monday morning, foregoing my Monday tasks completely. The thought of missing my classes, one of my favorite parts of Zambezi, was sad to me. My heart also churned, at the I thought of the kids I promised to play with that Monday afternoon. However, I knew I needed to say “yes” so I took the opportunity.

The Royal was indeed super boujee, with little white hut-styled rooms lining the property. Gonzaga payed for a room that overlooked the Zambezi River and covered all my meals while I was there. There I did my best to center myself, to reflect, to read, to call friends and family, and to simply just relax. I watched the fires lit by the Luvale tribe turn the sunset red as I dangled my feet off the platform walkway outside my room. In such a beautiful setting, it was hard not to feel the pressure to come back and be “fixed”. It was hard not to feel like I needed to find a way to return renewed and ready to hop back into the connections we are forming, ready to be my full self again, and ready to tackle all these new experiences with inhibited joy. However, the most important thing I realized while I was taking a step back was the importance of saying “no”. 

Zambezi for most, is a once in a lifetime experience. We are told to “yes” to things, to be uncomfortable, and to stretch beyond yourself. However, I’ve learned that something like the unexpected death of a beloved family member brings a new caveat to those suggestions. I’ve learned that saying “no” is just as important and sometimes even more challenging than saying “yes”. I’ve learned that I need to practice setting more boundaries, in order to give myself the space to mourn regardless of the unique and fleeting environment I am in. Whether I’m saying “no” to the laundry list of tasks I create for myself here or saying no to others, it’s the only way I’ve found here to carve out more time for myself.

Throughout this process I’ve also realized what an amazing group of people I’m walking through this journey with. From the moment they heard the news I’ve received an overwhelming amount of support, empathy, and love from my fellow Zam Zags. We’ve really transformed from a group of strangers to a family (our Zam Fam), especially  in these last few weeks abroad. Immediately everyone was offering me big, big hugs, hand squeezes, pats on the head, kind condolences, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, access to a stash of treats (Thanks Katie!), and more. People offered to take on my chores for the day, with Emily pitching in to help with dinner dishes (the evening I found out) so I could have more time to talk on the phone with family. Ani gave me the time to talk about the incredible person my grandpa was during group reflection. Charlie took the lead in all three of our computer classes when I took a leave on Monday (with Josh acting as his assistant). Both Josh and Jeff have always been available to share in sad news with me and process things as they come in. I wish I could sit here and write how each person in the convent has helped me cope through this time. They truly all have taken time out of their days to comfort me in some way. While it has been less ideal to be 9,600 miles away from my family in such a difficult season, I truly feel blessed by the home away from home we have created here.

Sarah Simmons, Class of 24

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Manifesting leadership in Zambezi

Being in CLP, a program that has always focused on servant leadership, I thought that I had a good idea of what it is to be a leader. However, being here has given me many examples of leadership that I hadn’t expected. It really shows how much being in community and company with others can change your view on even the things you thought you knew well. There’s a leadership manifesto here in the convent that hangs on the wall that I frequently refer to as I discover leaders in this community.

For this blog post, I would really like to highlight some of the most admirable leaders here in Zambezi. Here are some examples of leaders I admire – 

This past weekend, I had the privilege of being welcomed into the home of Debby and Eucharia, two impactful community members in Zambezi. Also known as “the power couple” of Zambezi, these two individuals created a community focused on sports and life skills education for the children of Zambezi from complete scratch. This unique and creative project is quite popular and successful in this community, as it has has offered many kids and their parents important life skills and created routine and positive habits for teens who’ve battled with poor life choices. But this program didn’t arise with much ease. I was shocked to hear that Debby and Eucharia have funded most of the program with their own money! All the while, both have been working hard as a teacher and a nurse, respectively, to provide five children with the best opportunities possible. At first, Eucharia was skeptical about using their hard earned money to start a goal that seemed far fetched and unachievable. However, Eucharia and Debby had trust and faith, and continually supported each other in their vision and goal. Eight years later, ZamCity is a hit with the youth of this town. ZamCity continues to run without a sponsor, and depends very much on Debby and Eucharia’s funding, as well as the Zags’ contributions. Leadership is risky. These two individuals didn’t let the risk of failure scare them off and they gave it their all to make a difference in this community. From hearing them talk about how passionate they are for making change, the risk of inaction might have been even more detrimental than the risk of failure for these dedicated community members.

^Eucharia and one of her sons David teaching me and Will how to cook.

Dr. Mpande is a kind and brilliant doctor in the local Zambezi Hospital to whom the health group has grown close over the past weeks. Every time we walk in at 10:00 am for rounds, he greets us with a big smile and greeting. He immediately welcomes us to come front row, so that he is able to explain the pathophysiology of each patient’s condition to us in great detail. His love for teaching and patient care is evident to all of us students, and all the patients in the hospital. I additionally admire his adaptability to use such limited resources to provide the best patient care possible. Leadership must fundamentally address our most difficult challenges as a collective. Dr. Mpande embodies leadership by being able to confront challenges head on and use his flexibility, improvisation, and quick thinking to come up with innovative solutions. Another way Dr. Mpande exhibits leadership is through his relationships with the other staff at the hospital. The other day, a patient came in to the hospital with an infection due to an easy mistake during an earlier suture. Dr. Mpande respectfully confronted the healthcare professional that made the mistake and educated her on what to do in the future. Dr. Mpande’s ability to create a safe and educational environment in the hospital, all the while prioritizing patient care depicts how leadership is an activity, not a position or authority. I’ve had to do lots of reflecting on my own role as a healthcare professional, especially as I go into my final semester in the Nursing program. I must ask myself, as Dr. Mpande does every day, how to approach people and their mistakes with kindness, openness, and morals despite the obstacles.

^Dr. Mpande

Steven, a bright man in my health class is always the first one to arrive, front row and center. He always shows up with a cheeky smile on his face ready to learn and listen. Steven has been attending the health class for the past two years, and is dually enrolled in the business and leadership classes this year. As the health group has come to figure out, teaching about medical terms and health has come with its challenges. There are many cultural practices and terms that we are unfamiliar with, and that google could not have prepared us for. Whenever we struggle to answer a cultural specific question from another student, Steven promptly raises his hand to rephrase the question in a way that would help us better understand. On top of this, Steven frequently helps his fellow peers with understanding the material if he notices that they are struggling with the way we phrase things. Steven is just a student in our class. We don’t ask him to stay behind after class to help his peers. We don’t expect him to help us out in teaching the class. However, Steven sees that he can be impactful by speaking up, so he does. I admire Steven as a leader because he embodies that if anyone can lead, then everyone can lead. Although he may not have a position of ‘authority,’ officially speaking, he takes it upon himself to help and to care. He is on this journey with us and with his peers. His role as a student does not prevent him from being a leader, and it’s reminded me that leadership is always more than just a job title. 

Last, but not least, Sarah, a Zag on this journey like the rest of us. Everyone on the trip can attest to the fact that Sarah is always so engaged and present in all that we do. She’s always ready to jump in the dance circle and play sports with the children in the yard. She’s unwaveringly positive, and someone who can get a laugh out of you with her punny jokes. On top of all this, she’s a great teacher to the computer literacy group. Last week, Sarah had received some very sad, personal news from her family while on the trip. Sarah has preserved hard, completing all her chores, being impactful to the students in her lessons, and creating connections with many of the members of the group. The strength Sarah has here to persevere and to advocate for personal space for healing is something I look up to her for. Sarah reminds me of a servant leader. She works hard to prioritize the well-being and success of our team while being able to focus and advocate for her own well-being. She is courageous as she has worked to find this balance in Zambezi. It can be hard, but it’s important to remember that leadership does not require complete self-sacrifice, and it can be necessary to give to yourself as a person deserving of care.

I am so grateful to be part of this experience, as I am discovering many different ways that I wish to exhibit leadership in my future career as a nurse. I invite you to learn from these individuals, as well as find and embrace similarities from your own leadership style.

I miss you mom and dad, I am excited to share all my adventures with you soon.

Ana Gamboa, ’24

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Second Nature

We rarely think about things that come to us as second nature. The way we breathe, walk, put on shoes, clothes and more, all have become mindless and automatic tasks for us across the years.

As I have been here in Zambezi I was tasked with teaching the computer class. With the help of previous Zags there was a well established curriculum of what has been taught before with essential computer skills, largely revolving around the Microsoft Suite, Word, PowerPoint & Excel. Using these tools and apps everyday have made them extremely familiar and learning the basics is long lost memory, therefore I was prepared to take a step back and be conscious about deeply explaining the skills and language that come so natural to me to make sure my students were learning the essential skills.

Little did I know these expectations and assumptions could not prepare me for the challenges of teaching computers that I was going to face. On the first day when opening computers I asked each of my students to start their computer and open up Word. After seeing some computers open and some futile keyboard presses I realized that this task was not a simple one. Even after hearing that many students had never used a computer or a keyboard, I didn’t fully grasp what this meant for my students. They didn’t know to press the space bar to open the computer, hit enter to submit a password, know what application is Word, what button on the mouse to click or how to quickly double click to open the app. I had failed to recognize the experience or lack thereof of my students and took off before students had reached their seats.

This sparked a reflection on how our lives are so different and how technology had become an extension of our bodies but not that does not apply for my Zambian students. I had to find the vocabulary necessary to define words and actions that are fundamental to my understanding of computers.

Being here it is clear that there are significant and obvious differences between us and our Zambian neighbors, however, throughout my time here I have largely created many connections through our shared humanity. Nevertheless, my classes and learning more about others have made me more aware of the smaller differences between us that are harder to notice. I have seen how there are many aspects of Zambians human nature that are extremely foreign to me. Through exploring those, asking questions amongst each other and being curious about each other’s second nature I have made the strongest connections.

Some of the aspects of Zambians second nature I observed are; the mamas start a braiser with their eyes closed, grab hot coals and not even flinch and decapitate a chicken without blinking an eye. I have also noticed how it is in Zambian’s second nature to greet everyone as they walk by or ever enter any space. I have noticed the importance that they put in checking in on other’s families and boasting about the successes their children and friends have achieved with great pride. These elements of their second nature are things that are not in my common nature and when I have been asked to do them I have felt like a deer in headlights, just as my students on day one. Yet embracing that uncertainty and learning how to start a braiser, asking questions about others families, and checking in on how other’s days are going have deepened my connections with Zambians and Zags.

As I have allowed students to question my second nature, I have been greatly inspired by my their ability to learn and adapt quickly. Now I am watching them double click without thinking about it, changing fonts and making lists without me having to point out which button it is and much more. While they are not computer gurus, they have grown so much in the past week and I know will continue to do so. And while from an outside perspective, including mine before I arrived here, I may still think they know little to nothing about computers. Yet, as they made me aware of how my assumptions of their previous knowledge were unfair, it is clear that they have learned so much, as before I mistakingly assumed their second nature was the same as mine.

All this to say that even while in anticipation of coming here I was making a conscious effort to limit expectations and come ready to teach computers from a basic level; nevertheless, I was unaware of expectations I had made as they are so engrained in my human nature. I do believe that it is impossible to come into a new place, prepare for a class and arrive ready to serve while having no expectations or reasonable expectations. That does not mean it shouldn’t be a part of your preparation for a trip to a new place as a servant leader to remove and be aware of your expectations. Finding intentional practices that help you notice subconscious actions that may influence your presence or purpose in the new place will help you be better prepared to serve. For example, I could have more intentionally prepared lessons by walking through each step and making note of every action I take with a computer, actively noticing actions I take without thinking and being ready to explain them. 

Even after making this intentional effort it is important to be ready to face assumptions you have made that are wrong, shortcuts or practices that come to you as second nature that will be met with confusion and very uncertain nods. As a result the most important thing that I have learned so far is to create space for questioning and uncertainty. Continuing to reinforce the importance of asking questions and being alright with not knowing. This is something that I have needed to foster within my students but also myself. Asking questions to the Zambians and Zags around me about what they do that I don’t understand. Questioning others second nature I think can often lead to the greatest learning as it teaches the skills that they fundamentally expect you to know when they teach you more, enabling deeper connections with less confusion and greater understanding.

So continue to question, dive into uncertainty and learn about others second nature. 

To all the family and friends back home I love you and miss you.

Charlie Herman ’26

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments