Our Pride

Post safari with Lance and George. We will miss you!

Good morning to our lovely friends at home as we prepare to hit the hay back in Livingstone,

My inner zoo camper heart (Yes, that’s a thing. My parents let me go each summer and I even was a camp counselor) is bursting! No bus this time, but two vans transported us to Botswana promptly at 7 am. Crossing the border ran smoothly unless you had fruit in your bag. Pro traveller advice: You cannot take fruit across borders, no matter how delicious it is. After disinfecting the bottoms of our shoes and collectively eating all of the strawberries, bananas, and cucumbers that were present, we continued on to Kalahari Tours, where we were kindly welcomed with coffee, tea, fruits, muffins, and the most heavenly donuts I’ve probably ever seen. 

Here, we met our safari guide, George, who made an incredible tour even better with his witty humor and vast knowledge of the Chobe River. We had the privilege to board his boat, and we were off, hoping that no one would get sea sick or decide they wanted to go for a swim. George noted that we didn’t want to end the tour with “sad smiles” should something go awry. 

I’m thankful that El Capitán George (as he calls himself) has probably the best eyesight in the world because I am sure I don’t, and I’m not sure about my peers (Why, oh why, did I think not packing my glasses was a good idea?) At first, George pointed out various animals, including guinea fowl and a type of reptile whose name I don’t remember. As the boat tour continued, George and his perfect vision spotted our first elephant. Yes, I said our first. We slowly approached it, growing ancy that it would move before we reached it. However, after rounding the corner, we came across an entire herd of elephants! But this was only the beginning. 

After seeing a wild community of crocodiles, elephants, hippos, and many birds, we arrived back for lunch, then took off again in the safari trucks with George and his colleague, Lance. Our bodies may or may not have been tossed up, down, and all around by the bumps on the road, but throughout the rest of the afternoon (we literally didn’t stop until 6:29 pm), we were able to see many of these incredible animals even closer, with the addition of a pride of sleeping lions. I think my cherry on top, however, was a moment at sunset. A solo elephant had been eating and decided it wanted to get very up close and personal with us. It was both a slightly scary and amazing sensation. We drove on a bit more, but shortly after, the elephant crossed directly in front of George’s “Safari Ferrari,” right in the glory of a sunset that rivaled one from my hometown. (Yes, I am a firm believer that NM has the best sunsets in the world). We were all silent, and the moment was genuinely so serene I could have cried. 

Chobe River water colors.

Our safari was not just about looking at cool animals, though. While there was no direct theme or lesson, I made many observations on the power of teamwork and support. 

One: Baboons and impalas. Lance pointed out that we saw often them together. He said the reason for this is they share a common enemy so they tend to band together. I thought of this as a beautiful alliance, and after all, the definition of leadership is working together toward a common goal, right? 

Two: Elephants. We were certainly entertained for at least 20 minutes as we watched a family of elephants—a mom and her two babies—playing in the mud. The smallest baby kept toppling over and the poor thing had trouble getting up. While the three certainly struggle-bussed, together, the mom and the older baby were able to get the youngest back on their cute little (but not really) feet. This is an example from nature on how teamwork makes the dream work, and support makes all the difference. I’m so thankful that I am surrounded by the most supportive group as we finish off our first week in Zambia (+Botswana) together. 

Three: Pride. As we sat watching a pride of lions sleeping peacefully (thank goodness), I made a silly little analogy in my head and thought of our group as our our own little lion pride. A group of strong, powerful women, and our source of guidance and leadership, Jeff (+Kris). We all work together, and we share in each other’s emotions, achievements, jokes, the works. 

I continued to think of these values of union and friendship as we rose from our “skyscrapers”—I mean, tents—at 5:45 am and jumped back into the vehicles for our game drive, where we were even able to see a leapord in a tree. 

Our safari was incredible, but this was made possible by the people present. To our tour guides, George and Lance, who so kindly took the time to answer all of our questions, engage in meaningful conversations, and kept us safe on this journey. To the crew, Amos and Jiggaman, who thoughtfully set up our camp and gave us delicious meals. And of course, to our own little pride. 

To finish off, upon our return to Livingstone, as a lover of running, I wanted to commemorate my first run in Zambia. Joined by Claire, Hattie, Bella, and Grace S., we went for our first brisk jog together immediately after arriving back through a Livingstone neighborhood. Our endorphins definitely were released, and I am so impressed at the energy we somehow mustered up to get our bodies moving, especially after spending so many hours in a safari car. Running is cool, y’all. 

To everyone I love at home, I miss you dearly, but always remember we sleep under the same stars, even if yours aren’t as numerous and brilliant as those constellations that George pointed out to us with a lightsaber. 

With peace and love,

Dee ’24

P.S Mom and Dad–You would be so proud of me as I used my Spanish miles away from home. George was muy curioso about Spanish vocabulary, and I may or may not have taught him a few slang words we use in Burque. 

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Staying for (High) Tea

High tea at the Royal Livingstone was fun, if complicated, experience!

Hello everyone! 

This is Clare Cibula reporting live from outside the Basil Cafe in the Fawlty Towers Lodge. The time is 7:37 pm, and I am sitting at a table with a few fellow zags (Hattie, Grace S., Kylie) eating our dinner that we snagged from a nearby Shoprite grocery store. Today was a full and exciting day. We are beginning to fall into a general breakfast and dinner routine. This morning, we received delicious scrambled eggs and porridge from the cafe. We then sat in a bright clearing of grass and shared a few reasons why we decided to come on this trip. Hearing the stories of how other students and our lovely professors came to be on this trip is a wonderful and inspiring experience. Today, we were blessed with Genesis and Dee’s stories, and I’m lucky to say that I learned more about their lives and goals. I also was able to share one of the reasons I decided to apply to come on this trip, and honestly it felt relieving to finally put effort into articulating both a fear and a purpose of mine. In the excerpt we read from Aaron Ausland’s “Staying For Tea,” an important part of being present with others is listening and opening your mind to understanding others. In a situation like this, it is important to do this both inside and outside the group we travel with, and I’m thankful that I got this opportunity along with my two buds, and am excited to hear more.

After our morning routine, we had a little break before heading to the Livingstone National Museum. To fill the time, Grace S. and I attempted washing our clothes in the hostel sinks for the first time. The louder you grunt, the easier the water comes out of the clothes when you squeeze them. When we arrived at the museum, we met Mwewa Mwaba, our museum guide. We learned so much about the history of Zambia, including traditions, village life, the transition to city culture, and how colonialism has affected the country. We also learned about the wildlife of Zambia, displayed with some very interesting and graphic taxidermied animals. The museum curiously smelled like my Papa Al and Grandma Glenda’s house. I have no further comment on that point but I felt it necessary to include for background. When discussing the wildlife, Mwewa emphasized their efforts to protect all parts of the environment. She explained how if you kill one animal, the rest of the ecosystem suffers, listing vultures as an example. Just because we don’t like something doesn’t mean it has to die. This reminded me way back to day 2 when Father Dominic told us that the dead snake in the road was “brother snake” and he was actually our friend. Mwewa and Father D, for you guys I will not smush Sister spider as long as she doesn’t climb into my bed. The tour itself was very long, but extremely informative. I maintained a healthy half squat position to avoid my signature knee lock. 

After the tour, we perused the gift shop in the museum. Unfortunately, at this point many of us realized that we had been slightly pranked at the Victoria Falls markets, and the people selling us souvenirs there likely did not in fact hand-make their items, nor were they “the only of its kind.” We can still pretend. 

Next, we went to high tea at the Royal Livingstone. This was an extremely fancy experience, for which none of us had the clothes. We showed up, fanny packs and chacos/crocs/tevas/birks a blazin’. We were told if we were lucky, we may see some giraffes meandering about the lodge. We drank delicious tea and tried a variety of small treats. I still think my Grammy makes a meaner cucumber sammie. We then grabbed some drinks and wandered the property. Bella, Grace S., Kylie and I set off in the search of giraffes, and found horses instead. Kinda close? As we were walking back, an employee named Nmoya rolled up alongside us in a golf cart and told us to hop in. We let him know what we were searching for and he immediately revved that little golf cart engine to the max. We went around the entire lodge grounds, asking people and keeping our eyes peeled but no sign. Nmoya dropped us back at the main building. The golf cart experience itself was so much fun, and we let Nmoya know this so many times, but he was still dedicated to our mission. We walked back to the bar and we were just about to go to the bathroom when Nmoya came running in from a different door, telling us to follow him. We all put our heads down and took off. Silently we hopped back in the cart and he zoomed us to the giraffe. What a cool experience, and what lucky gals we were to have happened upon Nmoya and his cart. This experience also may serve as a reminder of the willingness of local people to bend over backwards to help us simply because of the way we present and exist here. The feeling of both discomfort with the fact that Nmoya was probably only catering to us because we were paying guests, alongside the gratitude and excitement of seeing something new, is confusing and I am still trying to navigate how to deal with moments like these.

It’s behind us, isn’t it?

After watching the sunset at the lodge we headed back to our hostel for dinner, which brings me back to the present. We just had a very fruitful conversation about what we experienced today. We learned a lot about how colonialism has affected Zambia and how this persists today. This was what the majority of our conversation revolved around tonight, whether we are responsible as Americans, as a predominantly white group, and as people. I really, truly am grateful for every person in this group and their willingness to converse openly about these things and see other viewpoints. I think while we didn’t even reach the tip of the iceberg in this conversation, we made important strides individually and as a group that may help to prepare us for Zambezi. I am incredibly lucky to be on this trip. 

I’m sure everyone at home is wondering how their loved ones are doing. Rest assured, they are quickly becoming a part of my family as well. Hope that doesn’t make you too jealous. Hattie is still cracking infrequent but hilariously blunt jokes. Genesis is staying 100% true to herself and rocking some epic new jewelry. Dee has promised to continue to lead us in Zumba classes (maybe we call it Zumbia)? Grace S. is a ray of sunshine and brings effortless happiness to the group. Maddie actually pretended to be interested in the dead spider that I made her look at on the museum tour, and that takes some serious grace. Megan has beautiful style and a very calming presence that has not gone unnoticed. Bella is still Bella’ing, LAG! Sierra consistently impresses me with the things she notices and thoughtful things she says in discussion. Kendall has begun calling me Klaere (I tried to write it as best as she pronounces it), which oddly reminds me of home. Lauren’s exuberant dance moves have the power to turn a storm cloud into a rainbow. Grace E is still looking for a memento to put in the group journal. I also envy her thoughtfulness. Kylie and her Taylor Swift knowledge have been a whole different learning experience, one that I never expected when coming to Africa. Kris’s smile and wink never fail to make me feel safe and seen. And finally, Jeff brings me back down to earth every time I speak with his sarcastic comebacks. Thanks, Jeff. 

To all my loved ones, I miss you! Sending love from Livingstone. 


Clare Cibula, ’24

P.s., We’re heading to Botswana for our overnight safari in the morning, so don’t worry about us if you don’t see a post tomorrow. Look forward to Dee Leyba’s post Saturday night!

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The long journey to Victoria Falls

Not even a long bus ride can deter the spirit of 13 zags and one coug!

At 5:20am my Nintendo Wii (Hip Hop vine remix) alarm goes off. GOODMORNING for us here in Lusaka! Room 17 slowly starts waking up, climbing down their bunks and getting ready for the day ahead of us. Our bus to Livingstone leaves at 6:00am (hypothetically) so we all start to put a little hustle in our bustle. 

Before we leave, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are made and coffee is slurped down. The breakfast of champions. 

We all put our larger bags at the back of the bus and went around the side to get a seat. Courtesy, a friend we met at the beginning of the trip will be our driver and his best friend Andrew joined us on our journey as well.

Something I have noticed from our short time here so far is how important introductions are. Andrew was introduced so well by Courtesy, ensuring that he felt welcomed and comfortable with us on this journey. The introduction was so well that Grace Ehler barely made it on the bus as she was stuck outside while they were blocking the doorway.

Soon enough we are off on our 8 hour journey to Victoria Falls! Sights included a cement factory, a zoo with Ostriches and Zebras, and many small vendors along the roadside. 

The only stops we made along the way were for toll booths, police stops, and a single bathroom break. K3 per pee and it couldn’t have been more worth it. The plan was to break for a restroom every 2 hours, but us women understood the assignment. We wanted to get to Victoria Falls ASAP so we drank minimal water before and after the bus ride. Dee also led us in a dance during our bathroom break. Thank you for getting us moving Dee!

As we were riding on the bus, people started shoving sugar cane stalks onto our bus. It was simply crazy! We got enough stalks for everyone to have. We were peeling the stalks and chewing on the sweet sugar cane. Dee and I were chewing it but it took forever to eat all the way. We ended up putting some in trash that we just simply couldn’t chew any longer.

Bella soon came in clutch when she pulled out her JBL and started queuing up absolute jamssss! The set list was complete with Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Sean Kingston, and more! We started singing along and it kept the mood lively. 

After around 8ish hours we made it to Livingstone! We checked into our hostel at Fawlty Towers and split our group into a group of 6 and 8 zags. We all quickly changed to “get absolutely soaked” as Jeff warned us. We got back on the bus and headed to Victoria Falls! 

Before we entered the gates to the falls, we saw a baboon!!! It looked huge from the bus. 

We left the bus and started walking around the falls. Jeff joined us for the first part and we looked at Victoria Falls from afar. The beauty of the falls can’t be captured in pictures, but we attempted as Clare set up a 10 second timer photo of us all.

The second part of the falls Jeff collected all of the items that we wanted to stay dry and sent us all with Kris to get “soaked” by the falls. Ok sureeee Jeff, the only thing he needed to worry about was getting robbed by the baboons because apparently they like to take shiny and loose things. Jeff was surrounded by shiny and loose things.

Jeff was right, per usual. We got SOAKED. A natural shower if you will. Grace Ehler brought her phone to take pictures while the rest of us left ours behind to be bait for Baboons to attack Jeff. Rainbows, Bridges, Waterfalls, oh my! The sights were UNREAL. Grace was able to capture some beautiful photos and we are so thankful she brought her phone with us, although it definitely did get a little wet.

The majestic Victoria Falls, or Mosi-oa-Tunya in the local Tonga language, was the highlight of our day.

As we made our way back up, I for one was relieved to see that Jeff appeared to be healthy and had all of our stuff with him. No bamboo attacks today!!!

After Victoria Falls, we stayed around the area and checked out the small curio vendors that were selling stuff. They were very passionate in wanting us to purchase their goods. Some of us stayed strong and some of us gave in.

On the bus ride back we all sat in our drenched clothing dreaming of the Italian restaurant that Jeff had made reservations at for 6:30. We walked over at around 6:15 and started scanning the menu. We all ordered our food and in classic Zambian fashion, it came out about 2/2.5 hours later. We all enjoyed the meal and the company that came along with it. 

After dinner we went outside to order some gelato! There was a man at the gelato shop who we met that couldn’t figure out what he wanted to order. Therefore, Jeff ordered him a huge bowl with one of every flavor. We had a fun conversation with him and learned it was his birthday tomorrow!! We all wished him happy birthday and sent him off in his cab.

We then took our turn and ordered some gelato! So yum!! Time to hit the hay.

(hello to all of my friends at home I love and miss you all <3)

Grace Sikes, ’26

P.S. from Jeff to ZamZags 22: Caret three, y’all.

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When things don’t go accordingly to plan

Who knew that I’d come to Zambia to enhance my BeReal Game?

Hello to everyone keeping up with the GIZ blog and the thirteen of us students!

We have collectively agreed that today counts as our first “real” day in Zambia. Yesterday, we were a pitiful sight with our rumpled clothing and greasy hair, and many of us were so exhausted we could barely form a coherent sentence. After about 10 hours of sleep—which was unfortunately disturbed by some enthusiastic roosters and dogs around 2 am—there was a tangible shift in our energy when we met for breakfast at 9 am. As we munched on eggs and toast (kindly home-made by the hostel staff), we reviewed Kendall’s charming blog post from last night (thank you to everyone who left a comment—we thoroughly enjoyed them!) and discussed our plans for the day. I appreciated that this was a screens-free meal as I got to know everyone better. For example, I had no idea Kylie is obsessed with Dance Moms or that about half of the group has an odd connection to a random celebrity! We also explored the plans for the rest of the week. Of particular interest was the range of adventures available at Victoria Falls—I’m sorry mom, but I’ve committed to going bungee jumping! Does it make you feel better that I’m doing it with Clare?

My favorite moment of the day occurred in the two hours of free time between breakfast and leaving the hostel. In true introvert fashion, I was so excited to grab a book and find a cozy chair where I could enjoy some peace and quiet by myself. As I made my way to my dorm with Bella, we stumbled upon Grace E. and Maddie on the balcony just outside the door. They kindly informed us that the lock to our dorm had broken and there was no indication when it would be fixed. One look at the gaping hole and splintered wood where a lock once stood, and Bella and I decided we were out of luck! Grace and Maddie invited us to join them on the couch, and in the two hours I chatted with them, I learned so much about everyone’s personal lives, our shared Gonzaga experience, and how to properly use BeReal 😊. This experience highlights the idea that some of the best memories are made when you decide to slow down and roll with the punches—and when you are in such great company!

Today also marks what I’m told is a recurring theme here in Zambia: having expectations for how the day will go, and them being entirely abandoned soon after said plans begin. Zambians work on their time, not ours. Around noon we set off for the day! On the agenda: explore the local mall for an hour, have a group lunch, head to the University of Zambia around 3 pm for a tour from two Zambian students at the university, have dinner, and head back to the hostel for our nightly debrief.

Lunch was a slight train wreck, but we left with full tummies and a bright spirit. The restaurant we ate at is situated across from the University of Zambia where they were hosting graduation. As students left graduation, they ended up at our restaurant. Our large group, along with a handful of groups even larger than ours, overwhelmed the staff and not everyone received the food they ordered. We all decided to share the food we did receive along with some delightful conversation to keep everyone in good spirits. Though this experience could be negative, I think it demonstrates the resiliency of this amazing group of women who want to be here and are willing to let go of American standards to enjoy this trip. I can’t wait to see in what other situations this spirit endures!  

First stop on our tour was a visit to a student
residence hall at the University of Zambia.
Drying laundry in open air is a necessity.

Our next stop of the day—the one we were all waiting for—was the University of Zambia! Last night during our debrief, we all explored our expectations of what it would be like and what questions we had. What resources would these students have? How many women attend the University? How many students get the opportunity to attend higher education? What are these students’ dreams? We were given a tour by three students at the University of Zambia. Micheal is studying civil and environmental engineering, and he was so eager to answer our questions! Harmony is studying public health, and I really appreciated her perspective (given that I’m a nursing major) and her warm attitude! Saint is an accounting and computer science major who was very knowledgeable about campus! We were excited to learn the percentage of women attending UZ is substantial, though it varies depending on the year and major, and that more people now have the opportunity to attend university since K-12 education recently became free nationwide and more students are graduating. I also learned that while a degree opens doors here in Zambia, it is much harder to find a professional job than in the United States. This has led me to reflect on my privilege as a nursing major who is guaranteed a job post-graduation.  

I do feel the need to write about an event that occurred today during the tour. It was confusing and uncomfortable, though none of us feel too negatively about it. It highlights this idea that we have become the outsiders, and that we are quite obviously different from the locals in our appearance and culture. As a group of mostly white women in particular I think we drew attention on the college campus that we wouldn’t have if male students accompanied us. Micheal and Harmony gave us the chance to visit the dorms which are divided into male and female. As we walked through the female section, the women pointed and whispered and a few waved. As soon as the men got sight of us, however, they all flooded their balconies and began shouting in various Zambian languages, pointing, waving, and recording us. During our debrief, we described feeling like celebrities as we passed through the dorms. Kendall shared an interesting thought that regardless of the fact that we’re trying to blend in and make ourselves small to avoid unwanted attention, we are noticeably different and we can’t escape that.

The kitchenette in Micheal’s dorm: Both familiar to and distinct from dorm kitchens everywhere.

Overall, we all discussed how lovely the UZ tour was and how our day was both chaotic and exactly what we were expecting in signing up for this trip. We are happy and safe, and looking forward to our adventure at Victoria Falls tomorrow! Waking up at 6 am for an 8-hour bus ride to Livingstone before we do that, however, not so much!  

Sierra Martinsen, 2024

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A busy first day in Lusaka

They may drive on the “wrong side,”
but we’re just happy to be outside of a plane or airport!

Good Afternoon for all of you and Good Evening to us here in Lusaka! We have finally finished our initial journey, so no more planes and airports for at least a few days.

Although, all our travel has already laid the foundation for some new memories. Like when we were waiting at the gate in SeaTac comparing what took priority on the packing list for each of us. For Bella and me, it was lots of plane snacks, while for Genesis it was wilderness survival gear. Pretty similar in importance if you ask me. Boarding the plane was a bit like Christmas morning for Claire, Grace S, and me in row 36. We explored all the games and movies available to us for our 14 hours in the air. I also learned the hard way that when Malaria pills are supposed to be taken with food, a Crunch bar doesn’t really count.

Once we landed in Doha, the group had a luxurious 9 hours in Hamad International Airport consisting of “detox water” and some light stretching led by Hattie. Some of us chose a quiet and restful layover, while others chose the airport-exploring route. Kylie (and Lotto, of course) took a quick nap despite Jeff’s recommendation not to. Maddie and Grace E. enjoyed the indoor playground, though it was definitely designed for children and probably not for a D1 volleyball player.

Then we boarded our final flight and were ready to complete the last leg of today’s travel. Megan, Lauren, and I felt some disappointment when we realized our row on the plane didn’t get a window, so we didn’t get to see all the views we were hoping for. But it was mostly for the best because we all had intentions of trying to squeeze in a few extra hours of rest before landing in Lusaka and packing in a full day of activities.

We were enthusiastically greeted by Dominic, a friend of the program and the former priest in Zambezi, the second we walked out of the airport. He eagerly learned all of our names and quizzed himself as we got on our bus to the hostel. More than one of us made the joke that we were driving on the wrong side of the road as we pulled out of the parking lot. At the hostel Sierra spotted the first spider of the trip as we were setting our bags down. Dee and I shared our hatred for spiders which we will hopefully (and probably need to) overcome within the next few weeks. We all did a quick change into clean clothes and sandals and headed off again for the day.

Our first stop was exchanging currency, which was way easier than I anticipated. I’ve inspected my new Kwacha to see all the different designs on the bills. At lunch, Dominic wasted no time and asked if we could talk politics. We covered all the bases from the 2024 election, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and the impact of colonization on Zambia. I expected these types of conversations to happen at some point but I will admit it caught me by surprise only being here for 4 hours. It was cool to hear Dominic’s perspective on things and begin the process of cultural and social immersion here in Zambia. After telling him that I was a broadcast major, he was very happy to share with me that he has was a guest on GUTV when he visited Spokane. I filled him in on all the updates regarding the Integrated Media department since he’s been there. After lunch, we went to an art gallery and the longer drive exposed us to more parts of the city. We had some solo time to shower and rest once we got back to our temporary home base. Then, we finished off the day with reflection time as a group.

Our ankles are still a bit swollen, our necks are still a bit stiff, and eyelids are getting heavier by the minute. However, we are very excited for what’s to come!

Kendall Adams, 2025

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Preparing for arrival

For those of you who’ve followed this Gonzaga-in-Zambezi blog over the years, you understand the Jesuit posture of accompaniment that animates our annual return to the town of Zambezi in Northwest Zambia.

For those of you who will are seeing it for the first time, some context. Since May 2007, Gonzaga University and the community of Zambezi have been co-authoring a story of solidarity, reciprocal learning, and personal growth. On Saturday, May 20, thirteen Zags and two faculty will join the 300+ who’ve gone before them in an earnest desire to operate at eye-level with this rural community in opposition to the “savior complex” of many short-term international tours. This year, long-time leader of the program, Dr. Josh Armstrong, will be remaining in Spokane, but his spirit animates every aspect of the program. Professor Kris Morehouse and I look forward to building on the foundation that he, past students, and previous faculty and staff have established.

We hope you will follow along during the next five weeks as Gonzaga students reflect daily on their experiences in Lusaka, Livingstone, Botswana and Zambezi. We invite you to comment below each blog post (we will read each one) and let us know what you are learning through our words.  If you are an alumni of the program, we hope you will share a memory or greet a friend in Zambezi. 

As we make final preparations, I’m inspired by these closing lines from “The Journey” by David Whyte, a poet near to Josh’s heart:

You are not leaving.
Even as the light fades quickly now,
you are arriving.

Kisu Mwane,

Jeff Dodd
Associate Professor
English Department

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We Truly Felt Most Welcome

Pre-departure plane pic. We love and miss you already Mama Katendi <3
The expansive and mighty Zambezi river from the view of our plane.
The view from my seat: Fearless pilot Lukas enjoying the beauty while safely getting us to Lusaka.

Hello dear friends and loved ones,

Today is yet another turning point in our time together and our relationship with Zambezi, the community that we have come to cherish so dearly. I am coming to you live from the cockpit of our bush plane, just having taken off en route to Lusaka and soon the United States. I wish you could see the beauty and immensity of the landscape below-its untouched green purity is remarkable and inspiring.

As you all can imagine, many emotions are present today. Immense joy for the time we have shared together with Zambians and Zags. Resounding gratitude for the people, old friends and new, that have impacted each one of our lives through their stories, generosity, and welcome. Wonderful laughs for the fun jokes, convent moments, open air drives, and dynamic students we have been graced with. Curiosity for how our time here in Zambezi will percolate into our daily lives back in America. Admiration for the sense of community that exists in this special place. Sadness for the apparent closing of this chapter together.

Just twenty three short days ago I sat right here in this same seat. Seat belt fastened tight, I was curious for what lay ahead. Never could I have imagined the depth of love, warmth, challenge, adventure, beauty, resilience, and togetherness that would shape my time in Zambezi. How is it possible that in this short time people and a place can become so incredibly special?

While I have been grappling with this question for the past few days, I am continually reminded of its possibility simply because Zambians care. They care so deeply for themselves, for one another, for each child, each mama, each neighbor young and old, and each visitor. Family is important and no one goes unseen or uncared for. It was apparent to us too, we felt most cared for, we truly felt most welcome.

This sense of care is facilitated by authentic intentionally and pure hard work. No where in my life have I ever seen a community of individuals that day in day out each work so hard with the intention to support each other, provide for one another, and enjoy life together. I am reminded of some poignant words Josh shared with a few of us in the land cruiser on our drive to Dipalata, “In America you can be lazy but still successful. In Africa you can be hard-working but still not offered opportunity.” Wow. Many moments have arisen in which these words have become painfully present for me. In a land where hard work is prevalent and foundational, what could I share to those who yearn for a chance for the opportunities that I am blessed with? Instead of persisting on these thoughts that at one point I may have become stuck on, I now feel that I am called to witness the joy, celebration, worship, dedication, and authentic hospitality of these beautiful people and instead receive their example and appreciation for the goodness of life.

At the accompaniment dinner two nights ago, our beloved friend and skilled tailor, Mary, shared a foundational Zambian sentiment, “Twama Nge Mulya”. In her words, it means that “You should not be seated and want eat. You should instead stand up and be counted, work to eat.” Through the fervor of her speech, the collective desire for all to contribute and provide was articulated. It was clear that she and the other Zambian guests were passionate about this call and it’s representation in society. Let the power and strength of her words and voice be an example for us all.

No one better personifies this Zambian proverb than our beloved Mama Katendi. Dedicated as the Mama of the group, she has worked diligently with Gonzaga in Zambezi for 15 years, starting the very first year Gonzaga came to Zambia. While she lived in Zambezi for many years, she has since moved to Mufulira, however continues to return each May/June for another ZAG crew. Each day, Mama Katendi beautifully prepares lunch and dinner for our group, often using 5 pots at once with stir sticks ablaze as nshima is boiled or greens are simmered. Each day that chicken is on the menu she is in charge of the dispatch, quick and clean, she is the definition of a strong Zambian woman, working hard to put food on the table. While she always says that she loves working with us, internally she is working to support her family as a single mother. She is working so her children can go to university in Lusaka and seek opportunity. She is working to put food on the table for her young children back home. She is working hard in pure love for her family’s survival. Walking through the market with Mama Katendi is so inspiring as she is often stopped by dear friends so delighted and grateful to see her. Her selflessness and passion for serving others has fostered a vast community of love surrounding her in Zambezi. Mama Katendi stands to be counted as a woman of resilience and fortitude, working hard literally for the livelihood of her family. I am inspired by Mama’s selflessness and her steadfast passion to see her children thrive.

ZAGS jumping for joy on the bank of the Zambezi after an exciting crossing in transitional wooden canoes.
Look at all those ZAGS enjoying a beautiful sunset, one of our favorite Zambezi pastimes.

As we journey forward, the lessons and memories are plentiful and deep. Each one of us has a unique piece of Zambezi etched into our hearts that will no doubt impact the course of our life path. While I feel called to dig into being intentional about what it means to work hard in all times, inspired by the example of our fearless Mamas, each Zags heart will individually lead them in growth. For many of us this may be the only time in which we are physically in this place; however, our friends will always be on our hearts and in our WhatsApps, captured memories will be treasured on our cameras and phones, newfound food loves may grace our home tables, beautiful melodies will be on our minds, and we will be able to relive special moments annually through the words and reflection of future blogging Zags in Zambezi. Even if it’s cheesy, this is only the beginning for this group of Gonzambians 2022.

Each morning at the breakfast table sharing the blog post has become a precious routine moment. Through the comments and replies you are there with us. We love and appreciate your support and dedication as faithful followers in this experience 🙂 See you soon!
Before I sign off, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention the EPIC dance party all of us shared after dinner with our Gonzaga longtime friend Dom and mama Katendi’s sons Teddy and Goodson. A memorable start to our time in Lusaka.

Kisu Mwane.

All my love,

Emily Bundy
Gonzaga University
Class of 2023

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First and Last

Big Circle, Many Pushups

Last night, as our Zambezi friends slowly filtered out the door after our accompaniment dinner, I walked towards the familiar sounds of the local choir and the sight of two fires in the sand; all alone in Zambian darkness, the grand vibration of travel and adventure and feeling far, far, from home swallowed me whole. The drumbeats and the swishing of my feet in the sand grew as I walked, and I stared upwards at the stars within constellations hidden away in this continually new hemisphere. For just a moment, I imagined my location on the spinning globe lamp at home in Idaho and felt utterly alone. In that moment, I could not comprehend how I could ever explain what we did here or why we even tried, and the only people who would understand would soon be too far away. I turned and briefly walked back towards the familiarity of the convent before realizing it was time to take a breath and walk into another new situation. I walked again towards the choir fire and the night began in earnest.

The happy fire seemed like a good place to bring friends, with music, warmth and some more Zambian dancing all included. So, I returned to the convent once more and recruited a small crew ready to keep expanding our growing comfort zones.

It turned out someone had died.

This party was a funeral.

However, the mourning choir still wanted us to stay. I asked a few people which individual had unfortunately perished, but they didn’t not know the name. I asked how long they would sing, “all night” was their only response. Brendan, Joci, and I only managed to 3:30am.

We stayed as long as we were able, balancing our feelings of living in the moment and respect for a custom we do not understand. The choir danced and sang with other mourners, stopping only once for tea. Others cooked food or prepared sleeping mats with blankets inside a small building behind the fires, while some sat silently at the adjacent fire covered in blankets or laying in the sand. Brendan, Joci, and I remained among the choir, trying to learn dances and songs our Chindele hips did not understand. They appreciated our effort, and we loved their grace and warmth.

We are all trying to soak in as much as we can before our group says goodbye to Zambezi. I am grateful to be here at all. I planned to come to Zambezi with Gonzaga in the summer of 2020. That trip was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic, and I never thought I would have the chance to experience this wonderful place, but here I am in Zambezi, Zambia. Those words still don’t quite make sense after everything that has happened the past two years. My first blog post was on the first full day we were here, and my second and last post is on the last full day we are here. It seems obvious to say, but I truly believe we have all learned more than we could ever explain in the time between.

I am tiring of saying goodbye to so many good friends and stories. As a group, we must wave farewell to our Mamas, Violet and Katendi who have cared so dearly for us the last few weeks; the students in our class like Julius and Guyauna; the shop owners and tailors in the market like Mary and Jessie; and the leaders who taught us during our stay like Eucharia and Debbie Kasoma. Of course, we will never forget our trusty white truck – despite the bruises on our asses – or the color of the Zambezi River at sunset, despite Jeff’s claims that the sun sets everyday, everywhere. We must say goodbye tomorrow morning to a whole world that has welcomed us with open arms and refuses to let go without a fight. However, I believe we can leave in grace, knowing we have danced, cried, sang, negotiated, taught, learned, and lived and worked towards the high Zambian standard.

Today was our final full day in Zambezi and I am still amazed when the lessons of travel and accompaniment sneak into my brain. I woke up thinking of a sage Abbey observation: that Zambians give what they have. If you eat in their home, they will feed you and your friends, no matter how many you have, and with whatever they have; if you need directions, they will personally take you to where you need to go, no matter their schedule; if you die, they will dance and sing for you all damn night, even if they never knew your name. I hope to embrace the love of life that Zambians manage to hold in their everyday interactions and activities. From the big lessons learned here, we can make small changes that will benefit us and those we meet forever. Thanks for everything Zambezi.

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Becoming Real

Zambian friends at Accompaniment Dinner

There is a passage from the Velveteen Rabbit that I have been thinking about for the past week. I’m not sure if it fully relates to today’s activities but I think it relates to one of the many aspects of being in this special place. In this passage, the Velveteen Rabbit asks the Skin Horse what it means to be ‘Real.’ (For context, these characters are stuffed animals). The passage says:

‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.’”

I think this passage can relate to what we are experiencing here. Like one of the previous blog posts highlighted, we haven’t had a mirror in the convent to brush up on our appearances. Dust and dirt covers our faces, and our hair tangles each and every way when we ride in the back of the truck. Additionally, there have been moments of awkwardness from stepping out into a new connection without understanding of a cultural cue or social dynamic (I’m thinking of our dancing at the Makishi ceremony last week). Amidst our appearances that feel rather unfamiliar and unkept and our total surrender into unknown cultural experiences, we have still been covered in love and connection by both the people in this Zambezi community and each other in this group.

Today has made my heart feel very full. I got to watch the final presentations for the Business and Leadership class that I have been teaching with Andie, Nicole and Dugan. In these final presentations, each student was asked to present a business plan that would benefit the Zambezi community in some way. I was very eager to see the hard work that our amazing class had put into their projects. This class has been one of the biggest highlights during my time in Zambezi because I have grown quite fond of every student and the unique personalities that each of them show. Their presentations were absolutely fantastic, and it brought me so much joy when each student thanked us for facilitating the class.

For the remainder of the day, the Zags prepared for the Accompaniment Dinner that we have so anxiously been anticipating. Each person from our Gonzaga group was asked to invite a community member to this dinner to celebrate the friendships and connections made in our time here and close out the journey. Some people chose to invite their homestay hosts, or students from their classes, or their favorite tailor in the market, or even just a random friend they made along the way.

Abbey and Mama Katendi in front of our photo wall

It was during this dinner celebration that many Zambezi friends gave speeches that touched our hearts. Father John, the priest that guided our trip to Dipalata declared: “You have preached to me before I preached to you.” Mama Josephine, our warrior woman and Lunda/Luvale teacher, told us that each person in our group has become one of her children. Jessie, the choir teacher that first welcomed us into Zambezi, sang us a song about saying goodbye. It was quite an emotional evening with many tears but also many smiles, and it felt really nice to be able to show our gratitude and hospitality to the people who have given us so much.

Throughout our time on this journey, I think it’s safe to say that we have all been made to become a little bit more Real.

Kisu Mwane,

Katy Rettenmier, ‘24

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Moments of Joy

Sunset on Zambezi River

Over the last couple of weeks, I have thought often about how I am going to describe and articulate my time in Zambezi to friends and family. There could be no string of words to do my full range of thoughts, feelings, and actions justice. But nonetheless, I will try.

Perhaps the best way to start is by describing my favorite parts of the day in Zambezi. We all have settled in nicely and developed somewhat of a daily routine. Of course, there are slight shifts and opportunities for travel that change the course of the day, but most of these core moments stay relatively the same throughout the week. These daily experiences are how I will remember and center my memories of Zambezi.

During the week, my day normally starts with a run. My running partners vary by day but Josh, Tyler, Andie, and I have formed a consistent group to exercise, chat, and see different parts of town. There is something about seeing a place in the early morning—before kids are off to school and the market vendors are set up—that provides a sense of peace and depth. I am going to miss my running crew and the breathless “Chimene Mwane” (good morning in Luvale) we say to anyone passing by.

Our business and leadership class has quickly become one of my greatest sources of joy throughout our time here. The students are spirited, determined, and engaged with the material and class activities; they often stay after class to further discussion and connection. I always leave the class energized by their enthusiasm and commitment to education. Our diverse range of students (ages ranging from 74-21) inspire me daily; I feel very lucky to facilitate conversations about leadership and self-discovery—it makes me long for a Comprehensive Leadership Program in Zambezi.

Katy and leadership students

Our daily routine here in Zambezi is built around mealtimes. Some days, the only times we are all together is for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Squeezing 22 (or sometimes 23, 24, etc.) around the table(s) has quickly become a highlight of my day. While the food is delicious and prepared with love by our Zambian Mamas, it is the conversation and reflection that occurs at this time that brings me the most joy. Each meal, I usually sit next to someone different, but there always seems to be an interesting thing to talk about. It’s often loud, chaotic, and messy, but it reminds me of home and family. There seems to be a never-ending stream of chatter, laughter, and sarcastic remarks (usually made by our fearless leader, Jeff).

While I have come to love and look forward to our daily routines and habits, I find the most joy in the random, unplanned moments throughout the day. Every day, after lunch, I (and usually 3 or 4 others) venture down to the market for a coke, chitenge, or conversation. While that walk has never changed, the run-ins and moments of connection shift daily. I truly never know who we might see or talk to—and I love it. However, I do have some constant people I must say hello to on my journey through. Jasper—a local shop owner—is often my first stop. His friendly smile and loving “hello” brightens my day and welcomes me into the shop. Patrick and his wife Edith—also shop owners—are usually my second destination. I come in for the chocolate and stay for the conversation. After those initial visits, I usually just wander until I find another home base. Today, I found myself in an open-air restaurant talking to Judith—the sole employee. She is a hardworking single mother who dreams of becoming a nurse; I have a feeling she will be another consistent stop in the market.

I’ve also come to love the chaos of the market. Walking along the main stretch of vendors brings unique smells, sights, and feels—I don’t think I will ever be able to look at or smell dried fish again after this trip. However, I will miss the women selling bananas and avocados at the entrance of the strip, the men encouraging me to buy their watches and chitenge, and the children running up to us for a fist bump or high five. Anytime we leave the comfort of the convent, beautiful, unexpected, and seemingly meaningless moments occur at every turn. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

My days in Zambezi are numbered, and I am not sure I am prepared for the fast-approaching goodbye, but I know that these are the moments I will hold most deeply when reminiscing on my time here. I can’t wait to tell people about the beautiful and at times challenging parts of this experience: the smell of burning plastic in the air, the feeling of nshima on my hands, the sound of Jasper’s laugh, and the strength of Mama Katendi’s hugs.

Much love,

Nicole Perry

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