Feeling Too Much

As I post this blog, we’re sitting in the Dubai International Airport, just a few short hours from reconnecting with our loved ones back in the States. For the times where we’ve had intermittent Wi-Fi, or quick connections to make and no time to check in, please know that we are all safe – at about 8:00 in the morning in Dubai, we’re thinking of all of you finishing dinner, sitting with loved ones, and preparing for the Friday that, for us, has already begun.

Our journey home has been long and emotional in many ways, but the thought of being home is thrilling and we cannot wait to share our experiences with all of you so soon. Plot twist: the blog doesn’t really stop until you’re holding us in your arms, so make sure to keep checking until the last minute – there might be more to come.


The room that Andrew, Justin, Sam and I stayed in at Fawlty Towers for a week. The coincidence was greatly appreciated, and made the hostel feel a little more like home.


The journey home is an interesting one for me, because at the current moment I don’t totally know what’s next: I have a home in Spokane for at least another year with some incredible guys; but with a Bachelor’s degree from Gonzaga in hand, there is nothing officially tying me to Spokane. Moving back home was an option, but in so many ways moving on and moving out has always been a little bit of a difficulty for me.

You’ve all read the descriptions of the convent that became our home: the piecework kitchen table collected from classroom tables we shared for breakfast, the hallways that afford no relief from any noise in the convent, and the mustard yellow walls that soon became filled with our memories, lessons, and goals for our time together in Zambezi. For the last week, while we’ve been in Livingstone and on safari in Botswana, we haven’t had the same comfort – while Fawlty Towers served as an incredible home for us in the short term, it definitely lacked the space and memories that helped it feel like home.

Often at breakfast in Zambezi, I would find a seat on a specific side of the table. The wall behind me held affirmations from the first week here: “_______, I think you are….”, with a multitude of ideas from the beginnings of our journey together and how we showed our best selves to those around us. In front of me was a different kind of affirmation wall – one filled with our goals for ourselves for the trip, and how people could best challenge us in the coming weeks.

The mornings were a great time to look at these posts and remember that so many of us had struggles that we would need help with. For example:

“_______ is going to work on not taking his stress out on others.”
“_______ is working on making mistakes and embracing each failure as a learning opportunity.”
“_______ is working on listening more than speaking and taking time for himself.”
“_______ is working on being wholly herself with no apologies for who she is.”

My eyes would float through this list every morning as we read the blog posts from the day before, and I couldn’t help but think how so many stories reflected the struggles each individual were working on. Then, my eyes catch mine, situated at the bottom of the group.

“Matt is trying to work on genuinely experiencing emotions while here – please help him work on this!”

Soon after beginning this journey, I came to recognize that the emotions associated with this trip are experienced in vastly different ways than the emotions we feel in the States. Often times, I found myself as the group member who walked between the larger groups of students. I was the one who stared out the window, who listened more than he talked, and was often one who asked how things were going instead of answering. While I had always considered empathy to be one of my strengths, I found myself struggling to understand my own emotions, especially in the early days of this journey, and I couldn’t help but think that I was inhibiting my own goal.


Places like the Kabompo River give great opportunities to reflect. Get it? Reflect?

In a couple of early conversations with faculty and friends, I mentioned how easy it was to experience what felt like the entire emotional spectrum in a single day. Compared to the comforts of Spokane, where days could go by on roughly the same emotional level, and emotions quickly became exhausting. For someone who was used to flying though the day on autopilot, the challenge came in recognizing that each individual emotion carried weight and significance to our journey. Even more important? The similar emotional journeys of the twenty Zags and two powerful women I shared the table with every day, all of which had just as much importance in our time in Zambezi.

Leaving for this journey two days after graduation was extremely difficult. In the rush to wrap up my final year at Gonzaga, I left a lot of conversations unfinished or unspoken. It took me a while to fall in love with Gonzaga, but once I did I fell hard – and it was difficult to imagine myself anywhere else with any other people.

So, I did what I usually did: I disconnected. I ran. I let people know that I was starting to get comfortable again, and immediately used it as an excuse to leave, even though I knew that growing remained to be done at home. Just as quickly as the years of my undergraduate career passed by, I passed by as well – half moved out of 1004.5 E Sinto, exchanging awkward goodbyes with my friends and roommates who had become my biggest support system, and knowing that by taking this journey, I would be missing out on another month with all of them. For the first time, saying goodbye to friends felt wrong, for I knew the next time we would all be reunited was in the very indefinite future.

And then, I left.

The best (and sometimes most challenging part) about this community is that it’s just about impossible to hide things from those around you. For the first couple of days, it was really easy to deflect and convince people that everything was okay. But, as time does, it gets out the truth. Soon, dinner conversations became more insightful and in-depth, challenging us to search out the answers we were suppressing. In numerous conversations under the stars on creaky benches, it all came out – homesick, not finding the space to process the ways God was yelling at us, feeling disconnected, being lost. My personal favorite: wondering why I was there, why I was anywhere, what was mine to do in the world.

Every question I had been ignoring or pushing down for the last three months, meet the world. World, meet questions.

In the health classes we taught, the passion of our students for the subject matter inspired us every day, and often drew eye rolls and laughter in team reflections later on. Somehow, nearly every conversation we would have over three weeks would take a turn into some aspect of sexual health or education, often instigated by the group of 20-something boys in the back corner or 81-year-old Chiwala in the front right chair.

As awkward and random as their questions could be, they always drew laughs – with students laughing the hardest. For them, it was easy to find joy in every situation, knowing that together they were learning and having an experience that comes around once in a rare while. They embraced the awkward and the small failures in the grand scheme of the experience, laughing and rolling with the punches.

Just like we were – even though I couldn’t see it right away.

In our three weeks we shared in joy at breakthroughs in classes, frustration in the unreliable power grid that often led to last-minute changes of plans, and sorrow with community members that became friends as they grieved. Some of us, more than others, shared all these emotions at once in taking trips across rivers to villages to teach classes, only to find school closed. We would settle for a Coke instead and share in pained laughs about the day, but were thankful for the companionship experienced in the process.

Leaving Zambezi was hard. It was emotionally hard, physically hard, and hard to know when the next time I’ll return is. Four years ago, I left the comforts of my family home to move to Gonzaga and quickly found out that life doesn’t stay the same once you leave. In the same way, I know that my memories of Zambezi won’t be the same as past and future groups, but the stories we tell will piece together a narrative that continues to weave us together over time.


Pro tip: if you ever get the chance to stand in one of the world’s largest waterfalls, the word “no” is immediately removed from your vocabulary.

But what is most important is the ways that the experience of leaving and growing apart and together all at once change me. With our time in Livingstone, there have been incredible highs and deep lows, often in the same day. I stood in the majesty of Victoria Falls, soaked by waterfall spray that hid the tears on my face, and laughed at the sheer beauty of falling water. A few hours later, standing on a bridge at the edge of the falls with a close friend, I was asked if I was doing okay with it all.

Minutes earlier, I had looked down at the water rushing out of the collection pool some 500 feet below us and thought about the distance to the water below. I’ve been quick to think of the worst possible situation in the last three months, and often those thoughts crowd out reason and overwhelm me. Close friends have gotten familiar with this and know the importance of time in coming out of a funk, but here on the other side of the world it can be hard to remember that safety nets are large and wide.

In that moment, I was overwhelmed. But just like some thoughts keep omnipresent, over time these can change – I found myself wondering why I was worried about the worst things that could happen, instead of enjoying the moment for the simple memories it would bring.

The question was repeated: “Matt – are you doing okay with it all? What’s going on in your head?”

I kept my eyes down for a few seconds, thinking about the answer. “I don’t know if I am right now, but I will be okay soon,” I managed to say. And, for the first time in a long while, I’m comfortable with that answer.

I don’t know if I’m okay right now, or will be once we land in the States, or five years from now. A lot has happened here, and these experiences are definitely something that will take time to process. There have been answers to questions I’ve long been asking, but often these are simply more questions that will also have to be answered someday.

Instead, I’m learning to embrace that process. For so long in Zambezi, we didn’t have answers to all the questions we were asked, and I probably have more questions now that we’re leaving than when we landed – but that’s okay. I’m okay with that, and that I won’t be the one to answer those questions in the future.

I’m working on being emotionally authentic – please continue to help me with that. Call me out on the ways I hide or run away, because I’ve spent the last month finally unable to hide from questions. Challenge me, just like so many Zambians and Zags have continued to do, and as they will in the future as well.

There are questions that will continue to remain unanswered. I’m okay with that. Questions that are mine to answer will come in time, and I’ll know when it happens, but for now I’m okay with still looking for answers and finding more questions along the way. Zambezi, I look forward to hearing how you challenge students in the coming years, and I cannot thank you enough for showing me the power of true emotions and the healing that can come in admitting you’re struggling.

Mama Josephine said it best – “We will be there soon, but it is still far away.” You’ll forever be close to my heart, and though I don’t know when, I look forward to meeting you again in another time.

Tunasakwilila mwane, Zambezi. Moyowove cheka – see you again soon.

Matthew Clark

Gonzaga Class of 2016

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The Big Chindele


“Okay. I am going to ask you a question that I probably already know the answer to but that I need to ask because if I don’t ask, I will explode. What the hell are we doing here?”

These words tumbled out of my mouth just like the crumbs that had recently fallen from its corners. Either the apple crisp that I had eaten was extra crumbly, or my mouth really couldn’t help but fall open in disbelief. I entered the Royal Livingstone Hotel proudly wearing my new chitengi shirt, with two opposing roosters emblazoned upon my chest. I wore it as if I were a 6’4” middle finger screaming that I did not belong to the world that I was entering into. But from the first zebra casually grazing on the lawn out front, to the one greeting me as a tasteful rug beneath my feet, I could not find a place where I could disappear. I took a step back into time, a time in which people like me stayed in a place like this and held invisible power over other individuals. I felt as out of place and lost here as I had during my first days in Zambezi, despite the extreme contrasts of the two places. I was confused about what my purpose was and what exactly I was getting from this experience. All I knew right then was that I was angry. Not at the people that stay here because I can never know what they do or think when they visit here, but about the history that this place represents: The oppressive regimes that this building displays and how, even to this day, similar regimes continue to exist in all corners of the globe.


“Why do you think we are here?”

I quietly read a copy of National Geographic from WWII, gawking at the quality of the pictures and amazed at the time capsule that is sitting in my lap. Right now, I am in 1943, transported to a year that I have only read about, and I am learning so much regarding both the military conflicts, as well as the social, economic, and cultural issues that were present at this time.

“Did someone ever make you stop reading?” Jen asks, with a hint of curiosity and laughter.

“My mom did…as a punishment,” I laugh, thinking back to the nights when I was caught under my tent covers, flashlight in mouth, reading a book in secret because I was supposed to have gone to bed 4 hours before. Right now, at this moment, this copy of National Geographic that I am flipping through is my safety blanket. It is holding back the emotions that I am struggling with. Right now, all I want to do is leave. I don’t belong here, not in a ‘I don’t have enough money’ sort of way, but in a ‘I feel gross and weird to be sitting here having tea and crumpets sort of way’ in a place that represents the oppression of a culture and people. Jeff stated at the beginning that he was told “if you dress normally, come in a small group, look like you belong (and in most cases, this means being white), you can get in without paying and no one will notice.”

As the Aaron Ausland article ‘Staying for Tea’ has been quoted in these blogs saying, “It doesn’t depend on us.” But I can’t help feeling guilty, feeling like I am contributing to something that is the opposite of what I had just experienced, that I was letting the people that I had made relationships with in Zambezi down, and that I was casting judgments and opinions towards the people who stay here and see this as their experience of Africa. The stuff that is sitting inside this building, (the artwork, china sets, cigar cases, decanters full of a multitude of whiskeys, the furniture), the building and site alone, could pay for the education costs of the entire village of Zambezi. From school fees starting after 3rd grade all the way through to university costs (roughly 6,000 kwacha per term). But here I am, in my blue shirt with roosters and chicks running around the breasts and shoulders, drinking tea from china that I will probably end up breaking due to my eternal struggle of being too big for indoor use, like nothing is happening or has happened.




I break down. Well, in my own terms. Breaking down in front of someone is such a personal thing and means something different for everyone. For me, it means struggling to push back the burning tears that flood my eyes, struggling to speak in between intermittent, baby chokes and trying to hide the true emotions that flood from the end of my bent toes to the top of my short hair. I don’t do this nearly enough and still struggle with letting the emotions that I feel come rushing through my body like a herd of elephants trying to make their way to the cool river. However, in this moment of utter vulnerability, Jeff just stares and lets me ramble on and on until I finally reach the conclusion that I have so desperately been searching for over the last month. We come here because in reality, this is what many people think of when they think of Africa. They think of the big five, of safaris, of Victoria Falls, of all-inclusive resorts, of the beauty that this continent offers. However, if we did not come to these places and experience these things as well, we would only have one half of the story.

The Royal Livingstone, the city of Livingstone as a whole and other big cities just like it, are just as Zambian, if not more to Zambians, as Zambezi and the other towns. This idea that we spent 3 weeks in a little town in the Northwestern Province and because of this, we know all that there is to know about Zambia and Africa as a whole, is an incomplete picture. It is one piece of the story that does not allow us to better understand what it means to be from this place, to live and work in this area. The reality is that the Royal Livingstone and other resorts like it provide jobs for hundreds and hundreds of people. They offer them the ability to feed their families, to provide a roof to protect themselves, the ability to be a normal human being who is looking for both necessities and comforts that make us all united in this life. Right after coming to this realization, while trying to hide my half puffy, half red eyes, scribbling away in my fifth little journal, our waiter Danisto reminded me what it means to be live in relationship with others. He walked up, grabbed the last menu off of the table, opened it and said “Here, keep the leaves. I see you scribbling away and this will help you remember.” This man, who didn’t even know my name, offered me the greatest insight into what this entire experience means. No matter what part of Zambia you are from, no matter your reason for coming, the genuine human to human contact and interaction is what it means to be from here. If my only perspective was Zambezi, I would be missing a majority of what Zambia truly is, who the people are, and what it means to be from this sandy, lovely place.


“So what now?”

These conversations and realizations in reality do nothing to quell my fear and difficulty in understanding what my place here among these people really was over the last three weeks. I still have questions and issues that have arisen while being away from the dingy, mustard yellow walls of the convent. I have others that will come from my time here in Livingstone. There are questions and issues that will constantly arise and follow me moving forward. And the truth is, I don’t have the answers right now, I may never find the answers. However, I need to move forward with this realization and fact in order to process and better understand what it is that I have gone through. The time that we have spent here in Livingstone allows us to bridge the gap between our own personal experiences and what others perceive. It allows us to accept that we have left Zambezi and help to move forward from this experiences and the relationships we made, finding glimpses of those people in our lives back in Spokane and beyond, continually pushing us and helping us grow.

When I arrive home in two days, to my place, what will my experience be? Will I be new, filled with the experiences, questions and relationships that I have gained from here? Or will I fall back to where I was, leaving behind the person I have become? All that I have done here and all the relationships that I have built have been a collection of perspectives and tolerances. These are the same things that we deal with in the States. We don’t always understand different perspectives and cultures, but I need to continue to accept that things are different, not wrong. My time in Zambezi has shown me that you can read 1,000 books about a place, about a people, about a culture, about an idea, about a subject, but nothing compares to the real life experience that one receives from going out and interacting with whatever you have read about. Interacting with the different parts and pieces, getting to meet the people, building relationships with them. I wasn’t here to give knowledge, but to learn and support it. So thank you Zambia, for making me look up from the pages of my own story to better support others in their own writing and understand those that make up this world.


Kisu Mwane and Salenuho Mwane Zambia,


Andrew Mercer

Class of 2016


P.S. – We are leaving for Lusaka in roughly five hours. We are going to be bouncing around the roads of Southern Zambia to Lusaka, where we will board our first flight to Dubai, then our short skip and a 14 hour hop to Seattle. We all cannot wait to see you and will be home in Seattle at 12:55pm tomorrow. See you then!

PPS – Kayla Rose, I cannot wait to see your face. I miss and love you so much. Thank you for always being there for me.

PPPS – To my Family, all is well. I cannot thank you enough for your love and support. I made it through with only a minor infection in my foot and slight bumps and scrapes. Nothing out of the ordinary. Cannot wait to see you all.

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The Biggest Fear of All

To be perfectly blunt, I’m not sure what I’m not afraid of. I don’t do well with big bodies of water. I don’t like bridges. I am not a fan of flying or being in small confined spaces. I have major FOBLC (fear of being late to class). I can’t stand when my feet are dirty, especially when getting into bed. Like most people, I always worry about showing raw emotion or looking like a fool. My list is long and agonizing, which makes me embarrassed to see how I’ve allowed myself to be held back by so many things. A wise soul once told me that his biggest fear is to live a life full of fear. Well, I’m proud to say that Zambezi has forced me to move past my fears, mostly because I haven’t had a choice.

During our first weekend we made a stop at the Chinyingi suspension bridge on our way to Dipalata. It was my chance to face many fears head on. I took my first step on the rickety suspension bridge as I breathed in deeply throughout each sway back and forth. All I could think about were the cold, crocodile-infested waters that lay below me. In front of me was Mama Violet, crossing without an ounce of nerves, in her blue, floral Chitengi. A woman balancing a basket on her head gave a slight nod as we crossed paths. She wasn’t clinging to the side or showing any signs of anxiety. She passed with ease and grace, showing that she had done it millions of times before. Another man came past us walking his bike across. As I continued with my deep breaths and tentative steps I gazed out
over the Zambezi River in awe. I realized that I had been wasting away this beautiful life I have been given as I hid behind my many fears. I questioned how many other breathtaking moments I have missed out on because of small anxieties and worries.

Allowing fear to control our lives is a privilege. The Zambians we passed by on the bridge cross without concern because they don’t have the luxury to do so. Crossing this bridge might mean the chance to sell their goods at a different market or it might be the path to school. This bridge was a fun experience for our group (or at least some of our group), but for Zambians this bridge is essential to life. I’ve had the liberty to live behind my wall of fears; many others have not.


During our second week in Zambezi, our health team traveled to Kalendola, a bush village, to teach a general health class and hand out menstrual kits. It was truly a day where nothing went according to plan. Our jeep was already packed to capacity with our health team, Jeff, Jenny, Sophie, Meg, Emily and Mama Love’s posse, so when we were unexpectedly instructed to make an hour detour to visit some fish ponds, I felt stressed that our already long and jam-packed day was being extended. The chaos only continued as our general health lesson in the sweltering sun changed from one hour to three due to loads of questions and pressure to cover all the requested topics. Under the canopy trees, men sat on benches and tables while the women sat on the ground surrounded by their children. The men would continually snap at the women to better control the rambunctious children, taking no responsibility for helping care for their children. My heart ached for the women who were trying to calm the children and also benefit from the lesson like the men. I struggled to witness the complicit gender roles playing out before me in that moment. We continued on with our lesson, trying to act oblivious to the tension before us.

Already feeling frustrations with what the day had thrown at me, I was nearly pushed over the edge when it came time for our menstrual talk for the school girls, only to discover that the girls were in school, uninformed that we were there. Instead a hundred locals, both men and women, swarmed us trying to receive the gifts we had brought. Moira, Molly, Jenny and I were in a tight spot trying to decide if we should pick 20 people to receive the kits, not hand out any kits since they are intended for school girls, or try to find a way to get to the school girls. Excuse my French, but I was losing my shit. Of course our day finished with even more chaos because in addition to the 14 people crammed in the car, we had an additional goat, chicken, three 60kg bags of maize and a multitude of pumpkins. With the maize and pumpkins tied on top of the car and the goat and chicken stuffed under the seat, we headed off! It only took a few minutes down the road for the bar of the car top carrier to break and the pumpkins to come tumbling down the hood.

It is within the Zambian nature to accept that nothing will go according to plan, so my Type A self of course struggled with this aspect of Zambezi. I am the person who makes a list for everything, and at the top of every list is “make a list” so I can proudly check it off and have immediate satisfaction. I’m all about routines, schedules and efficiency. Well, Zambezi, you have truly shaken up my world as not a single day has passed without any hiccups. With each wrong turn our day took in Kalendola, I began to recognize that my underlying fear in life is not being in control.

Back in Zambezi, not a single health class went according to plan because our students would always roll in late and Chiwala, our favorite 83-year-old grandpa, would consistently interrupt with rants about his time as a Freedom Fighter or his ancestors. Many meals were changed to accommodate the fluctuating power and water so we learned to be flexible with our evening schedules. I would love to say that I routinely showered every night but honestly I think I showered maybe five times on this trip because the water always shut out right as I was hopping in – that also means I slept with dirty feet. Not a single health team trip went according to plan. On one occasion we crossed the Zambezi river, drove down many bumpy roads, and accidently crossed a federal border to finally reach a primary school in Mize, only to find that school was canceled due to the elections. So, we got cokes in the market and laughed at another curveball thrown our way. The short reception that Chileña school gave for us turned into a two-hour dance party at 10am. Nothing has gone as I expected but I have learned to love that.

I’ve learned that my life is much richer when I’m not in control. There have been so many surprises thrown that have brought smiles and memories. My time in Zambezi has been so fulfilling because I’ve left it all in God’s control. At such a developmental time in my life, I am constantly questioning what direction my life is headed in, so it’s been so refreshing to be in a place that has taught me to stop worrying about controlling every aspect, but instead let my life play out in the way that it is intended. My mom always told me growing up, if He leads you to it, He’ll lead you through it. I’ve recognized that Zambians live by this saying through their ability to move past any circumstances and enjoy them along the way. Considering the grave challenges they’ve been presented with and successfully moved past, I know that I can do the same.  So here I am, saddened that this journey is coming to an end, but thrilled to begin living a life free of fear and total control.

Kisu Mwane

Hayley Wilcox

Class of 2016

To our family, friends, and avid blog followers:

We are back safe from our overnight safari! We enjoyed seeing the breathtaking Chobe National Park and sleeping in a tent amongst our new animal friends. We got to see elephants, hippos, crocodiles, lions, baboons, and even birds (only Jeff was excited about that). In Livingstone we also enjoyed getting showered by Victoria Falls and high tea at a fancy hotel that we didn’t fit in it. We are sad that our journey is wrapping up but excited to see our loved ones. These wonderful people have made me more grateful than ever to be a Zag. DSCF3991IMG_9356
PS- Mom and Dad- I am Zambian Bug free, just experiencing some hives! Love and miss you both, can’t wait to see you soon!

PPS- To the wise soul- can’t wait to be home putting our toes in the sand together!


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Leaving Home


When someone passes away in Zambia, it is tradition for a group of women to gather and mourn together. This mourning is hallowed and haunting: it takes the form of loud, sharp cries sung together in one voice. I stumbled upon one of these gatherings when I walked past a church on the way to a tailor last week. Voices ripe with grief swelled to fill an empty church room. I was told the mourning can go on for days. As we leave Zambezi after nearly a month, I can feel my heart mourning the loss.

While we cleaned out our rooms and prepared a last breakfast, I was able to hold it together. I didn’t even cry when I squeezed mama Katendi for the last time. But as she walked out of the courtyard with a box of her belongings on her head, I felt a bit like I was moving out of a childhood home, like a part of me that has been cultivated here would always remain. The weight of these goodbyes found itself lodged in my already full backpack. Katendi’s wave happened to be a breaking point.

As we move on to the next part of our trip, I am mourning Zambezi. This summer and last, I have grown and learned from her, wandering her sandy paths and meeting people who have shaped many of my beliefs. More than anything, though, I am mourning the person I am in Zambia. Josephine, Katendi, Rachel, and many others have modeled for me the woman I am working to become—one whose love extends beyond familial and cultural boundaries, one whose strength is paired with softness, one whose fierce protection of the vulnerable is fueled by a tenderness toward the pain of others. I’m afraid that I will leave these goals for myself behind in Zambezi.DSC_1264

There’s an Aaron Ausland article called “Staying for Tea” that any good Zag has read at least 6 times before her senior year. Ausland outlines the principles of accompaniment that this Gonzaga-in-Zambezi program purports and holds so dearly. A phrase from this article that comes to mind in the midst of all these goodbyes is “it doesn’t depend on us.” Many of the previous bloggers have so eloquently communicated the ways that we feel we are learning much more than we could ever teach; we are gathering more than we could ever give away. Ausland intends this statement to be understood in the context of community development: he would say that the success and happiness and wellbeing of Zambezi doesn’t depend on us.

During my time in Zambezi this summer, I’ve begun to associate this idea with the examples of motherhood that I see both here and in the states. The love that mothers have for their children doesn’t depend on the behavior of the children. Mama Katendi lives with six of her seven children, as one of them moved away last year to live with his dad, a man who has hurt Katendi deeply. He has since cut all ties with his mother. When this son showed up at the convent to ask her for money, Katendi sent him away. She told me that she wouldn’t give him money but that all she wanted was for him to stay and talk. Katendi’s love for her son extends far beyond the limits of her own hurt.

My relationship with Zambezi has begun to feel like a relationship with a mother. The town as a whole and its individual people have loved and nurtured me even when I don’t deserve it. Zambezi doesn’t depend on us, but I think part of me will always depend on her. This relationship isn’t equal or reciprocal, but what kind of love is? My own mom doesn’t ever let me end a phone call with “I love you more,” as nothing could ever compare to the love I know she has for me. Zambezi will continue to nurture me into the kind of woman I want to be, a woman modeled by both my mama and my Zambian mamas. I am hopeful that I can carry the examples of these women with me.

While Katendi has greatly shaped my beliefs about empowerment, community development, cross-cultural interactions, strength, and family, I am one two-hundredth of Gonzaga-in-Zambezi to her. And primarily, Gonzaga-in-Zambezi means to her that she can continue to support her children as a single mother. In this way, Katendi can teach us all a lesson in humility. It has never depended on us.

DSC_1601As we trudge down the airstrip to meet the planes waiting to take us to Livingstone, I drag my feet reluctantly. Minutes ago, I had hugged Katendi goodbye. I had felt hot tears welling in my eyes in front of my fellow zags for what feels like the thousandth time. I had walked through our funny yellow home, its dusty shelves now empty of our collected belongings, taping up a note for the 2017 Zam Fam in the well-loved closet. Leaving Zambezi seems big–colossal, monumental, even. And it is for me. I have learned and grown here for two summers now, and I will not easily forget the sandy path from the convent to Jasper’s shop where I went nearly every day for a ginger beer. But the last lesson Zambezi offered me was one that reminded me how inconsequential I am here. Very appropriately, it came in the form of a little boy named Wisdom. As I took my last steps on Zambezi dirt for at least the foreseeable future, he stuck a sweaty hand in mine and asked, “what’s your name?”DSC_1561

I leave Zambezi with puffy eyes and a heavy heart, but I also leave her with a promise to return. It’s a verbal commitment: I’ve told a quiet and thoughtful 12 year old named Junior that I will come back and see him when he isn’t so junior anymore. Maybe I’ll be back in five years, or maybe it’ll be fifty. I can definitely picture myself as a globetrotting grandma like the one who has inspired me. Abbey, one of our faculty members and another graceful woman I admire, has observed that Zambezi measures time in decades while we are used to measuring it in mere hours and minutes. Mama Josephine confirmed this foreign sense of time when someone asked about the progress of a drive back to the convent:

“Will we be home soon?”

“Yes, but it is very far.

Zambezi, I’m so grateful to hold you as one of my homes. It’s very far, but I’ll return to you soon. I hope we can pick up where we left off.


Kisu mwane,


Katie Polacheck

Class of 2017

Zam Fam 2015 & 2016





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Sweet and Sticky

DSC_0943I plunged my hands into the 25-liter bucket of cold, sticky oochi mixed with honeycomb and scooped as much as I could into the filtration system (another 25-liter bucket with a corrugated base resting on top of a larger empty bucket.) With Jeff’s GoPro camera strapped to my head, I was ready for the action of filtering and purifying some fresh oochi-(Luvale for honey). The oochi was smooth and dripped off of my hands with each motion. A Zambian beekeeper, my guide in this process, was meticulously following my movements in case I dropped any of the honeycomb mixture, which I did… quite often. After several tries, I decided that maybe this very involved demonstration would be better left to the professionals. So instead I reached my hand back into the bucket and grabbed a clump of oochi and honeycomb and put it right in my mouth. I chewed the glob in delight and spit out the remaining wax as the sweet taste of oochi lingered on my taste buds.

Jeff and the Zambia Gold interns- Katie P, Katie B, and myself- had set out for Lwitadi, a small village just east of Zambezi, for an afternoon of visiting and interviewing beekeepers and also touring some of their beehives. We pulled over on the side of the paved road and parked the car only to walk a few feet and step through a sea of tall grass acting as a wall between the road and the beekeeper’s home.DSC_0904

The beekeepers (as we had collected more than a few, filling the entire land rover at one point) explained that the purification process normally takes a few hours. As more and more harvested honeycomb is piled into the corrugated bucket, gravity begins to do its job and the fresh honey seeps out of the holes at the base and flows into the new container, leaving solid chunks of wax and bee parts behind.DSC_0910

Deeper out in the bush, our group was able to witness a few beekeepers in action. The beekeeper suited up in his harvesting attire: two pairs of pants, one on top of the other, one thick button down, and a mask made of patches of burlap sack sewed together with a mosquito net webbing. I watched from the ground as the brave man scaled the tree with ease and tied a rope around a branch using a pulley system for the bucket he would use to collect the fresh honeycomb. It truly was a balancing act as the beekeeper stood on a thin branch while reaching into the log hive to scrape the honeycomb into the bucket.


DSC_1067 (1)



Safely on the ground, Newton, another one of the beekeepers, began to pluck bees out of the honeycomb so he could have a taste of the new harvest. “These ones are strong and sharp” he said as he flicked one off his finger. A beekeeper’s job is usually carried out later at night when the bees are less active but these men graciously agreed to share their harvesting experience with us during the mid-afternoon, when the bees were less than happy to see us.DSC_1083 DSC_1096

I have always felt a special connection with bees and honey, but my relationship didn’t start out so sweet. Ever since my sophomore year of high school when a swarm of 2,000 bees decided to land on the front hood of my car and start a new hive, I have wondered a couple things- Why did the bees land on my car conveniently during the lunch period for the whole student body to see? And the ultimate question: Out of all the 200 cars in this parking lot, why did all these bees land on MY car?

My mom used to tell me that the bees were looking for a sweet girl and that is why they landed on my car, but I had a hard time thinking positively about the flight patterns of bees when they were messing up my daily routine. During school, four months after I had gotten my license, a security guard called me out of class to inform me that all the bees in Colorado had swarmed my car. It could be seen from the building. My least favorite part of this whole extravaganza was the fact that after a beekeeper had finally come and loaded all of the bees into a box, he offered us a sample of his freshest honey from his bee farm back home. I tried the honey a few times and was not very pleased. For the most part, the honey sat on a shelf in my pantry as a reminder of one of the strangest phenomena in nature to ever occur in my lifetime.

My relationship with bees is much sweeter now. I am a part of an intern team for Zambia Gold- a student run organization on Gonzaga’s campus that supports education and economic development projects in the Zambezi community through the sale of honey harvested in and around Zambezi. Each Monday night throughout this past semester our interns would take shifts at a booth in front of our dining hall and promote the mission of Zambia Gold and encourage friends and fellow Zags to support us by purchasing a pouch of our Zambia Gold honey. All of this time I never thought twice about the time it took to produce a single pouch and all of the hands involved in the process. A hive of bees flies about 55,000 miles to produce a pound of honey. That’s more than five times the distance from here to Spokane. And the average worker bee makes only a twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. That means (if I’ve done the math correctly) that over 93,600 bees contributed to making the 1,300 ounces of honey we sold just last semester.

Our weeks in Zambezi have come to a close and tomorrow is the day that we set out for Livingstone for the last week of our adventure. My mind is fully packed with the experiences that we have had in the Zambezi community and my heart is overflowing with love and gratitude for this place and these people, both Zags and Zambians.

Like a big bucket of harvested honeycomb, there is a lot to sort through. Final celebrations and hard goodbyes have filled our past few days and there has not been much time to let the great experiences seep out into the forefront of our memory. But just as the purification process for a bucket of oochi takes some time, so will sorting through the mixed emotions that come with leaving the place we have called home for the past few weeks. My looming fear is that I won’t be able to keep up with the balancing act of being present this week in Livingstone while also desperately trying to cling on to the memories I have made back in Zambezi. The beekeeper’s steady feet on the high branches of the tree he climbed to get to his beehive give me hope: it may be risky to have my heart pulled in so many different directions but I know that, by being present and relying on my community, I will be able to stay balanced.

Come tomorrow, I will take a big bite of a gooey honeycomb glob in Livingstone and start to load all of my emotions in the filter bucket and wait. With the support and encouragement of my fellow Zags, I look forward to reflecting on my experiences and piling on memories as the insights slowly drip out like some sweet, sticky oochi.


Kisu Mwane,

Elly Zykan

Class of 2018



Taylor (our fellow Oochi mama) we are thinking about you often. Oh what I would give to see your face when you taste this stuff. (Hopefully it’s better than Katie’s when she was surrounded by bees) It’s really good, I promise. Even without the stale pretzels.


PPS (from Katie P.): Mom, I used the new lens to take the tree photos safely from the ground. It was GORGE-ous. Elly and I are laughing so hard right now. Love you.

PPPS: Elly’s mom, Elly and I (still Katie P.) have been awake for over an hour adding photos and doing all that bee math. She says, “I’ve never felt so alive.” She loves you.

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Faith Beyond the Walls

Walking down an unfamiliar road, two of the Katie’s and I follow anxiously behind Mrs. Phiri, our homestay mom, as she welcomes us into her family’s home. She shows us to the sitting room and invites us to take a seat on the couch while she prepares our dinner. Our eyes curiously wander the walls of the room as we try to take in as much as we can in this new environment. I notice several posters of Jesus coupled with bible verses and shift in my seat until my eyes lock on a particular poster that reads: “NO JESUS NO LIFE.” I try to hide the confusion on my face as I mentally prepare to answer yes to being a Catholic in order to avoid any awkward conversations. Surprisingly, our religious affiliations did not come up in during the meal, but the image of the poster stayed ingrained in my mind.

Upon coming to Zambia, I knew I would struggle and grow in many ways including the inevitable focus in Zambian culture: faith. Growing up, religion was not a big part of my life. Though we would attend mass most Sundays, religion was never a topic of discussion in our house. I went to a Catholic Jesuit high school, Seattle Prep, but my experience there did not push me to grow in my faith. If anything, the opposite. I was constantly behind and confused in my scripture classes because of my lack of understanding. Faith also has a big presence at Gonzaga, but even there I do not feel as though it is enhancing my faith life. In reality, the only mass I attend while at Gonzaga is the Spanish mass at St. Joseph’s, but that is purely to practice my Spanish learning,

Here in Zambezi I have been confronted face-to-face with my faith on a daily basis. We begin every meal with a prayer, attend Sunday mass, and casually talk about our faith in many conversations. In the computer class we teach, almost every student writes about their relationship with God and recite like a broken record, “I know I am good because I have the LORD.” I try to find the words to inquire and learn more about this strong religious mentality, but am overtaken by discomfort and fear that I won’t be able to understand.


Though I am curious about the faith of those around me, I have been discouraged from developing my faith in many ways over the past few weeks, especially our recent visit to an orphanage an hour outside of Zambezi. When we arrived at the orphanage, there was an eerie silence and absence of children. The director met us on the empty concrete patio and ushered us into a room where we sat and talked with him for a long time about the orphanage. We talked a lot about the founder and the history of the place, but surprisingly little about the orphans. Later, as we toured the property we began to see how the orphans played a small role in the organization. There were not enough rooms or beds to shelter the children, nor was there apparent evidence that too many children were actually living there, despite the director telling us that 100 children are currently being cared for. I began to be very frustrated with this place and began to question the leadership and direction behind the orphanage. Upon asking the director what his plans were for future improving and sustaining, he replied that they have faith in the Lord and they leave the future in God’s hands. I immediately cringed on the inside when I heard these words. Being someone who takes interest in and studies social structures, I was frustrated with the lack of planning behind this organization that I feared was being negligent in its care for the children. The other part of me that currently struggles with my faith became frustrated with the reliance on their faith to solve their problems. I have seen this pattern among many people I have encountered here, people who rely on their faith to get them from day to day. I have a constant internal battle because I feel an urge to enlighten these people that they need a plan outside of faith, but also feeling like I have no credibility to intervene because maybe I am the one who is unenlightened by the glory of God.

Another thing I struggle with is how central the church is in this community and the implications that come with it. Sitting in mass last Sunday, the priest began to tell a story of a woman who was struggling financially, which was causing other parts of her life to suffer. She turned to the church and was encouraged to give money to the church in return for God’s Grace. This had proven to work because down the road, the woman’s struggles seemed to take a turn for the better, emphasizing the miraculous ways that God’s Grace works through us when we donate to the church. This story was followed with the ritual assembly line to the donation box, where everyone is expected to come up and donate an amount of Kwacha to the church fund.

This structure of the church being the center of the community implies social expectations of their financial contribution. I question how the people in this community allow the church to have such a strong power, but I am beginning to understand that this is the only way they know. Since the colonial era and the presence of missionaries, this community has had very tight ties to a variety of Christian denominations, and religion has shaped Zambezi into the place it is today and has formed a rich culture.

Aside from the institutional aspect, this culture is spiritually alive and so full of life. Beyond the walls of the church and the bureaucracy that comes with it, the Zambians live a joyful life. You can’t walk down the street without running into a familiar face that turns into a drawn out conversation about how our days have been and how our families are doing. Though this is often lost in translation, the intentionality is always there and accompanied with a big smile. The constant laughing that fills these dusty streets, and the singing and dancing that fills the homes of this place is indescribable. I can’t help but think about how this communal energy would still be without the institutional churches as centerpieces of the community. I believe that the love and zeal found in many Zambians would be present with the same enthusiasm even in the absence of such a powerful church presence.


I strive to carry over this incredible spirituality into my own life, as I continue to grow in my faith. I have found peace in this struggle by allowing myself to experience the spiritual part of religion that allows true kinship in a community, rather than dwelling on the problems that arise in a church on an institutional level. Just as the Zambians have the historical context behind their faith, I recognize that my own background has helped shape my views and questions, but also wonder how my life would be different if I grew up in a faith-based community like Zambezi.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to experience a culture that is so alive. I am so grateful for the friendships I have made here and I am so grateful for the ways I have learned when pushed outside my comfort zone. I have been challenged to discover the role of faith in my life as I grow into a person who is more consciously spiritually alive.

Tunasakwilila mwane Zambezi,

Dakota Peterson

Class of 2018


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Beyond the Lens

SNAP!! SNAP!! The children yell once they realize what the black box hanging off my shoulder is. “SNAP AND GIVE” they scream, referring to a Polaroid camera they assume based on the size and shape of my camera. Every time I walk through the rickety gate guarding the convent, I have my trusty Canon 6D slung over my shoulder. This camera has become part of me and of my persona whilst in Zambia. We both have a long way to go in our life together. I am 21 years old, just starting to live my life and experience the world, this camera has a mere 15,473 photos taken in its lifetime with many tens of thousands more to go.IMG_1618

I landed in Zambia with only 341 photos of our trip so far, a hand full of photos that reflected my relatively low understanding of Zambia at the time. This new place I was dropped into pushed me far outside my comfort zone and began to overwhelm me. My camera was my safe place, my sense of control and order amid my uncontrollable environment. When I became uncomfortable or confused I would take a photo and use my camera as my shield, deflecting my true feelings and experiences. This caused me to become introspective and analyze myself critically, inspiring the discovering and learning that can only happen on the edge of one’s comfort zone. Over time, and many clicks of the shutter, I turned this introspective nature outward and began to explore my place in the world and do my best to understand our new home in Zambezi.

IMG_6270I am constantly looking around me, observing the faces of joy and struggle, heartbreak and triumph. We are all constantly adjusting for the conditions around us. For an emotional, intimate photo I like using a shallow depth of field, focusing in on one person and allowing them to become the focus of our mind through the image.

On the concrete porch outside a dilapidated house halfway down another sandy road off the tarmac, I sat across the table from James the tailor. His modified foot-powered sewing machine separating the distance between us as he puts down his garment to warmly greet me. James, my first friend in Zambezi, exudes a joy for life I hope to embody every day. We talk about his work, his passion for sewing to support his family, and how he most enjoys his home business because he can work 15 feet away from his wife, Mary, whom he loves with his whole heart. I can feel his love and passion in his words. The conversation continues about our families, and our mutual connection with my sister and his daughter working as and hoping to become nurses. I am curious about schooling in Zambia, so I inquire about university fees. I see the joy on James’ face replaced by pain. He explains that school is too expensive and he is having trouble paying for it. I shift uncomfortably in my seat, unsure of how to react to this news, adjusting my camera whose value could easily pay for all of their education. James continues to tell me how he can work so hard, but there is no opportunity here due to the corruption in the government. The emotion is palpable in the air; I no longer worry about my dirt crusted feet and what I will say next. My friend has become my sole focal point. I can’t help but tear up hearing how hard James and Mary are trying to support their family. I see here, this home, built with love and commitment, as an example of the work James and Mary have put in to provide for their family. Through this conversation, James transitioned from James the tailor to James my friend. He made me feel comfortable enough so I could take the filter off my lens that was distorting my perception and come closer to being able to see the people on the other side of the camera. My camera no longer was my shield but a tool to connect and document.


Through my 24-105mm lens I am granted a unique perspective into the world. I try to focus on the details both in my photography and in my life. These photos allow me to see our experience in a different light. I see things in 1/2000th of a second intervals, which forces me the find the details; from the ways the yellow walls of the convent tell the story of hundreds of visitors or the emotion in the jovial faces of the children. I try to capture the people here to help tell their story. Many of the photos shared on the blog so far have been part of that effort. I have been struggling with how/if I will share these photos publicly when I return home. My fear is I will share these images causing the lives of the people I captured to be stripped away. Leaving nameless African people in the void, reinforcing the white saviour complex we are trying to desperately to avoid. I hope these photos are not the end of the conversation, but the first page in the story of our new friends we will soon be able to share with you all.

Where I find the most peace in my life is sitting outside on a clear night and seeing the millions of glowing dots in the sky. Zambezi offers one of the most spectacular views I have seen, sending chills down my spine with the hairs on my arms sticking up as I let the grandeur of it all flow over me. This nightly ritual helps me process the day’s events and center myself. As astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson says in one of my favorite quotes:


“The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically
connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”

As my camera rhythmically clicks away photos of this night sky, I often reflect upon this quote and its broader meaning. We may all be different makes and models, Canon, Nikon, American, Zambian; but we are all here on this little pale blue planet orbiting our sun, flying through space together at 504,000 miles per hour. This reminds me how petty all our issue
s are in the larger scheme, in a planet of 7.125 billion humans we all make not even a blip on the radar of the universe.
IMG_0382As this snapshot of time in Zambezi ends in a few days for us, I am grateful for my lenses and how I have had the privilege of getting the image and story of a handful of people of Zambia, 8,935 photos later (so far).


Kisu Mwane,

Tyler Hamke

Class of 2017


P.S. For the first time in history Gonzaga won the annual Gonzaga vs. Chilena football match.







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Teaching to the Top

“Ed team, let’s roll!”

It is 8:55 am, and we have just finished a breakfast that most likely consisted of bananas and oochi that was enjoyed over good conversation, reflection, and a reading of the previous day’s blog. We gather our backpacks that are filled with children’s books, our students’ name tags and notebooks, chalk, and other materials we will need for our lesson. Andrew, Elly, Emily, and I pile into the back of the Jeep and pray that it starts. After about three or four tries, it finally does and we’re on our way.


We pull up to Chilena Primary School at 9:05, right on time for our 9:00 class. (We’re on Zambia time.) Andrew and Elly split off for their grade 7 class, and Emily and I walk into ours. We are greeted by our 26 students, and we begin singing our good morning song.

Chimene mwane, chimene mwane!

Some people say chimene mwane!

Hello, good morning! Hello, good morning!

Some people say hello good morning!

Then, we begin our lesson. Emily reads a story to the class, and we have the students open up their notebooks for their writing assignment: “Write three sentences about your morning routine”. This was part of the lesson that Emily and I taught on our second day at Chilena. I remember walking over to the right side of the classroom and reading a student’s work:

“The first thing I do in the morning is I wake up. I go outside and I get some water. I wash my face and brush my teeth, and I eat breakfast with sweet potatoes. Then, I go to school…”

Kelvin goes on to describe not only his morning routine, but his routine throughout the entire day. With the exception of a few spelling errors, his writing is nearly perfect, and he well exceeds the three-sentence requirement.

Great, I thought. Our curriculum is going to be too easy for these students.

 I made my way over to the left side of the classroom to continue looking over my students’ work. I knelt down beside Vera, and she looked up at me with wide eyes. All she had written down on her paper was the prompt that she copied down from the chalkboard.

“Vera, what is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?”

“Yes,” she replies.

After several more failed attempts of rephrasing the question into words Vera might understand, another student sitting in front of Vera turns around to speak to me.

“Madame, this girl does not speak any English.”

Throughout the past two weeks, I have learned that it is true; along with several of her classmates, Vera does not speak English. She knows how to read English, but struggles to comprehend what she is reading. With one-on-one work, either Emily or I are typically able to help Vera and the students that sit by her to write at least one sentence in their notebooks. We have found ourselves spending a lot of time with the students that sit on the left side of the classroom.

The left side of the classroom is where the students who struggle with English Literacy sit. On the right side of the classroom sit students like Kelvin, who are considered “high achievers”. The layout of the classroom segregates ‘high’ and ‘low’ achieving students. It’s a practice that’s common throughout Zambia, one that’s a standard taught in training programs for primary school teachers – the concept of teaching to the top.

Teaching to the top means that classes are designed to help “high achieving” students succeed. The level of difficulty of coursework helps them flourish while leaving behind the students who are not at the same level of literacy.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Jessy, the amazing woman who is the regular teacher for my grade 6 class. In an interview with Jessy, I asked her which students in her class she thought could realistically attend university after they finish secondary school. She listed off three names.

Just three students. Only three students that walk to school every morning to sit in the dusty classroom with no electricity, trying to soak in as much knowledge as possible. Just three of 29; a little less than 10% of the class.

“They are smart enough for university, but the problem is money. Those students will most likely not be able to afford university. I’m not sure if any of them will go.”

When I asked Jessy how this affected her teaching, she explained to me that she gives remedial work for students who need it. She is one of the only teachers who differentiates for students.

This concept of teaching to the top has left me discouraged, heartbroken, and furious. It has caused me to question my role as a temporary teacher at Chilena: How am I going to help these students in just three weeks? It has also caused me to question my role as a future educator, as well as the education system as a whole: How will I help my future students grow to their potential while helping students of all abilities? Why is it that the education system allows so many students to fall through the gap and to not reach their full potential? What does this mean for the education system in the United States?

Teaching to the top has also caused me to reflect more upon concepts that we have been discussing often during our nightly reflections at the convent: accompaniment and kinship. We have often discussed our purpose here in Zambezi. I believe one of our purposes here is to get to know the community and to walk alongside them. I want to learn from the beautiful people that live in Zambezi; to learn about their stories, their families, their lives, and their culture. There is no “top” in this village; there should be no “top” in life. In life, we are not organized like my classroom at Chilena, with “low achieving individuals” seated to the left and “high achieving individuals” seated to the right. Rather, we walk among each other, learning from one another every day.

Last weekend our group took a trip to Chitokoloki. During the hour long drive, the students in my car took turns reading out loud the article that was given to us for reflection that night, The Voice of Those Who Sing, by Gregory Boyle. In this article, Boyle explores the concepts of accompaniment and kinship.

“Of course, there’s no ‘us’ and ‘them’- just us. I suspect that Jesus was executed, in the end, for suggesting this very thing… no one is left behind. There is no hierarchy of value, no pecking order of worth. No one’s presence among us is a waste.”

This article was the perfect article to precede our trip to Chitokoloki. It was during this trip that I met Misula, a 24 year old single mother that I struck up a conversation with because of her involvement in the church choir. Misula and I talked for about an hour and a half. In the beginning of our conversation, we exchanged stories about our families, shared songs from our respective countries, and talked a little bit about what it was like to live in Chitokoloki. After some time, we began talking about topics that were beyond surface level. There is one answer that Misula gave me that I will never forget.

I asked her how it would be perceived if a chindele, such as myself, were to move to her village. Would I be accepted into her culture?

“Why wouldn’t you be accepted?” She asked. “You are a human being just like me. You are no better or worse than me because you are white. You have come to learn from us just as much as you have come to teach us.”

I was almost brought to tears. In one response, Misula perfectly answered so many questions that I didn’t even know I had. There is no top. There is no ‘us’, and there is no ‘them’. On this earth, we are all human beings; we are all one.

Each morning as I stand in front of my students at Chilena, I can’t help but wonder how the classroom would be different if there was no teaching to the top. Now, I can’t help but wonder how the world would be different if there was no “teaching to the top”. How would the world look different if we all stood as one, instead of being separated into ‘us’ and ‘them’?

“For Jesus only sees a circle of compassion and wants no one outside of it… Everybody belongs. No kinship, no justice. We begin here.” –Gregory Boyle

Kisu Mwane,

Katie Kenkel

Class of 2017


P.S. Mom, Dad, Mary, Kevin, Emily, Alex, and Joey: I miss you so much and I can’t wait to be with you all soon. Keep cheering on the Cubbies for me… (Even you, Kevin). I’m doing so too, even from half way around the world. I love you guys more than you know.

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Cement Is Messy


My time here in Zambezi has been a mixture of sand, dirt, water, and cement. Each moment I look at this place I see the sandy roads, the dirt of the ditches they are digging in the market and that we use for our bricks, the water of the river and from the sink (hopefully), and most of all cement on my clothes, in my hair, on my hands and too many other places. Cement has taught me a lot. A bag that looks like a 60-pound bag at home may in fact hold 50 kilograms (About 110-pounds) worth of cement- the worst. It would be smart to pick it up before you say you can carry it through the market back to the convent close to a mile away (that was a workout and a half and my new Zambian compatriots laughed at that dumb chindele trying to show off his “strength” by being an absolute fool). I also learned that when you put a bag of cement on your shoulders it gets EVERYWHERE and is really difficult/impossible to wash.

Looking back at that moment, I see a lot of shortcomings in my application of my education, as an engineer and a son. “Work smarter, not harder,” my dad would always say… woops. That phrase sums up a lot of my trip in Zambezi. I was working too hard to be who I think I am supposed to be, and not recognizing that I am accepted and loved exactly for who I am in each moment.

If anyone has been around a group of Gonzaga students for long, they begin to see the stupid amount of talent and skill that each of them possess. But, they will also see the humility and self-awareness that makes each person feel loved. Being a part of one of those communities is amazing but is also really difficult sometimes. The question that I have been struggling with is: What makes me unique and adequate to have such an experience and to be able to call such people friends? Each day I see Zags here living in amazing ways, whether it be opening up to each other, supporting one another, walking with Zambians through a learning process for both communities, and most of all creating meaningful relationships with the Zambezi people. Where do I fit in to this daily life?

I am a second year engineer working on a team with a super genius third year engineer and a graduated engineer. The feeling of inadequacy bogged me down for too long. Not knowing how I would contribute to a team made up of individuals who frankly know more about engineering because of their extra experience in school was a difficult pill to swallow. I could not see how I would have a different impact on the Zambians than Zac or Tyler. So instead of living into who I am, I tried to fit the engineering mold seeing as that is what I am studying and supposed to be “teaching”. But I was faking it – that is not who I am or what makes me unique.


I felt forced in both my engineering group and the community of Zags. My actions felt like I was trying to be someone that I am not, actually more like an exaggeration of who people see me as/”expect” me to act. I spent days without recognizing what I was doing until someone asked if I was okay (Tip for living in a community, when someone says they’re fine, give them specific instances where they are acting different). With some prodding, I realized I was acting differently trying to fit in with these amazing people around me by not being my authentic self and not recognizing my own unique abilities and trying to live into other’s abilities.         The next day I dove back into what gives me strength to be who I am and to know that I am loved and that is my Bible. I ended up on Luke 19:11-27 about the master handing out the Ten Minas to servants. In the story, one of them took the money that was given to him and did nothing with it because he was scared he might lose it and the master got upset with him for not using what was given to him to make more. That is what I was doing with my abilities that God has blessed me with: I hid them in the Zambian dirt because I was scared people would see that I was not perfect and that I had more room to grow. I was not living into the community as authentic Davis. This was my time to add to my talents just like the other servants did in the passage with their Minas, and Zags have done with their abilities, but I was falling short by not being myself, this was my time to change that.

How to change that? The passage opened my eyes to look not only at the Zags around me but also the Zambians that surround us. Each day that I look deeper at their community, the more and more I am blown away. The care that they express for each other is with a love that I have experienced only with close friends yet they have it with everyone. They have an understanding that each person no matter how young or old, sane or not has something to give to the community. I have been amazed and inspired each day by watching individuals interact in this community with joy and bluntness, but before this passage I never had looked at the way they took everyone as they are. It does not matter how dirty they are, their occupation or lack there of, or how old they are. As long as they are themselves, they are accepted FOR their unique gifts. That is something that a person like me who is really hard on myself can learn from. I need to not only accept other people where they are at but accept myself where I am at and FOR what God has blessed me with.

Learning how to accept others and myself for the unique qualities that each person possesses is difficult and messy. People are each uniquely different which becomes apparent after living with them in a confined space on the other side of the globe. The three engineering students here could not be more different from each other, but after further inspection that is what makes us such an amazing team and allows us to get along so well, AND it keeps life interesting.

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The opportunity to form a community that does not ignore one’s unique struggles, triumphs, and life is worthwhile and life changing. The impact that such a community has on a person, inside and out, does not wear off unless you REALLY want to scrub it out – just like cement. The two communities that I am surrounded by, Zags and Zambians, have pushed me to accept and appreciate who I am in each moment no matter how messy. This lesson and the cement will never wash out. (Sorry pants that I bought for this trip and dad’s shirt).


Kisu mwane,


Davis Phillips

Class of 2018

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments

Periods Are Awkward.

The past two weeks here have been wonderfully challenging. The community members I have met are full of strength, wisdom and immense determination. Our Gonzaga team is bright, compassionate and relational. I am in awe of this place for many reasons, including the breathtaking sunsets, the constant chatter and hum of laughter and my love/hate relationship with the dusty, bumpy roads. Another reason is the self-exploration this place has afforded me. I have examined not just the things that make me a good student, friend and daughter, but also things that cause me to fall short in all of those aspects of life. It has been difficult to face these attributes and shortcomings head on but it has also been surprisingly healing. It has helped me work on embracing who I am entirely.


Picture taken on our way home from Chitokoloki, one of the many beautiful sunsets seen on our adventure here so far. (pc: Tyler Hamke)

For many people, including myself, a motivation to come here was to get out of their personal comfort zone. Until this trip, I thought that the only place growth could occur was outside of one’s own comfort zone. As an introvert I thought the best way I could expand and get out of my comfort zone was to try and be an extrovert in a stimulating setting like the Zambezi market. However, this caused me to begin to lose my genuine self because I’d compare myself to the incredible abilities of my fellow Zags. For a while I didn’t understand why I would get so anxious walking through the market, talking to my students outside of class or dancing and singing with all the children. I’d second-guess myself every time I tried greeting a shopkeeper or market goer and tell myself “You didn’t pronounce that right” or “You should’ve said something else”. I found myself trying to pretend that I knew all the answers with students outside of the classroom when all they wanted to do was talk. When children didn’t remember or know my name I thought it was because they didn’t like me or I wasn’t fun enough, when actually “Moira” is just extremely hard for them to pronounce.

I am in awe of how great my fellow Zags are at establishing and forming genuine new friendships and at their ability to get out of their comfort zone, which is different for each and every one of us, in a way that leads to new found confidence and growth. I have been trying to emulate them because of my admiration for them.

However, it has become clear that this isn’t the path to true growth for me. I start to lose my genuine self if I try hard to be an extrovert. Spending too much time outside of my comfort zone in this way resulted in me comparing myself to others even more because I was trying to change my true personality.

The past two Thursdays Hayley, Molly and I traveled to give talks about menstruation and pass out kits that help girls stay in school while they are menstruating. “I am here to talk with you all about something that is uncomfortable and awkward, but it is part of what unites all women and makes us courageous and beautiful: menstruation.” This is how I have started the talks I have given to young girls and women at Malola and Kalendyola. The feeling of these talks is all too familiar. The girls slowly hunched over, sank in their seats, and darted their eyes down once they knew what this talk was going to be about. I remember starting middle school and sinking and hiding in my desk while my teacher talked to us about periods. I remember trying to make myself look as small as possible and avoiding any eye contact because eye contact would mean I’d have to say something about this weird thing called a period. I was scared and uncomfortable, just like most of the girls we have talked to.


Mama Love translating part of our menstruation talk at Malola. The pinks bags contain the menstruation kits.

I sat in a classroom in Malola and outside of a hut in Kalendyola, both filled with young girls. Throughout the talks I reassured these girls and women that their period is not something to be ashamed of and that it is important not to let it stop us from going to and continuing school. It is hard knowing that something that makes us women is what keeps so many girls here and in other places from getting the best education they can and being who they are entirely. Normally during our Health classes, I am self-conscious about what I am saying. I question everything that comes out of my mouth. I look at the incredible teaching ability of the other members of my team and believe I cannot live up to them. I am so scared of failing my students. But during these particular talks I am completely calm; my palms aren’t sweaty, which is a huge feat for me, my voice is steady and my head is clear. I feel connected to these girls because I can remember feeling extremely uncomfortable and scared at their age. It is in these moments that I don’t feel like an American teaching Zambians; I feel like a woman talking and experiencing the awkwardness of becoming a woman with young girls. I can see myself in their shoes.

These two menstruation talks are the only times I have had nothing on my mind besides being with these girls and being a woman. Nothing else mattered in these moments, and I found myself never worrying about what I was saying. I wasn’t second guessing myself because I felt like there was no power dynamic, like there was no teacher/student or American/Zambian relationships. It was just a woman talking to young girls. A woman who had been in their shoes and knew how they were feeling; a woman talking with young girls about something that all women struggle with, something that connects us all and makes us beautiful. All I cared about was making sure these girls knew they had nothing to be ashamed about and that it was okay to be scared. We were all embracing womanhood together. This was clear when, after both talks, the girls sang and danced. I was moved to tears as I witnessed these girls, who minutes ago were sinking in their chairs, confidently singing, dancing and smiling together.


Sitting and talking with the women and girls of Kalendola. Mama Josephine translated for me.

Recognizing the calmness I felt in these two talks made me realize that the growth I have experienced here has actually occurred within my comfort zone, in a group of women talking about what connects us all. In this comfort zone, I was able to recognize my strengths and be more comfortable and confident in who I am. This growth in comfort, ability and confidence is exactly what I am trying to attain.

As I am preparing to walk through my last week here in Zambezi, I am coming up with active steps I can take to fully embrace myself and also the Zambezi community. First, I need to work on accepting exactly who I am before I can fully embrace and be a part of the community here. I need to accept my self-discoveries and use them in a way that furthers rather than hinders my experiences. Although I am not sure if I will ever be seen as anything but a “chindele” to many in this community, I can work on showing my true self to the people here with whom I have relationships in order to form bonds that are beyond teacher and student. In order for true accompaniment to occur during this final week, I need to work on being present and being confident in the human being I am, confident in the fact that the people of this community would like me and enjoy talking to me even if I wasn’t here to teach classes. It is important for me to stretch myself in ways that do not lead to a loss of who I am. I need to stop thinking of myself as an American and this community as Zambians; I need to think of everyone here, the Gonzaga and Zambezi communities as well as myself, as humans who crave relationships and love.

Kisu Mwane,

Moira Andrews

Class of 2018

Posted in Uncategorized | 28 Comments