Zamily Signing Off

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Well, we have come to the end of the Zamily’s journey. The last 5 days in Livingstone have been jam packed. Victoria Falls, the Royal Livingstone,  a fantastic two-day Chobe National Park safari (where we saw countless animals, including a rare leopard), exploring the Curio markets and Livingstone itself, all while enjoying the last few days with our family. It has been an incredible way to end a once in a lifetime experience.

I am writing this on the first leg of our long journey home, a 6-hour bus ride from Livingstone to Zambia’s capital, Lusaka. It seems like it was years ago that we were staring up at the world’s tallest tower in Dubai as we began this experience, wondering what would await us when we finally reached Zambezi. And now, as we have nearly reached the end of our trip I wonder what everyone is going to take from this program and what awaits all of us back In the United States as learning continues.

This last month has been extraordinarily full day after day, as we tried our best to dive deep into this opportunity we are lucky to have. This roller coaster experience has left us feeling like we never want to leave and wondering why we ever chose Zambia. Usually within the span of an hour. On top of this, a common theme in reflection has been coming to terms with how this opportunity is impacting or changing us.

Although I am struggling with processing my experience, I’m lucky to have the ability to reflect back on my experience in Zambezi last year as a helpful guide. What I remember lines up with common themes discussed in this year’s Zamily as we begin to learn from the experience. I wanted to include a quote that a member of the ZamFam 2013 sent me with this year, because I believe it touches on many of the struggles our group is facing and will face as we come to terms with what we have learned and how we are changed.

“Be patient towards all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and foreign tongues. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then, gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answers” -Rainier Mana Rilke

We have all just lived quite an experience. I know we have learned a lot about other people, and about ourselves, but big questions remain. How did this really change me? What’s next? How do I now apply what I have learned? Many of the questions we are asking ourselves don’t now have an answer, if we can even put the feeling into a question.

The truth is it should be a struggle. We shouldn’t leave here with all the answers. In doing that, we close this experience and put it on the shelf. Rather, we should let this journey live inside us, connecting to everything we do and the lens we view the world from. In doing this we will be able to continue learning, and this growing from Zambezi.

I know after my return last year, my family and friends got tired of hearing me talk about Zambia. I suppose this was one of the ways I continued processing, and the Zamily this year will now have to find a way that works for them. I’m excited to be with everyone as this occurs. A part of this experience is growing close to a group of people that you can debrief and keep learning with, a support system and community that we can turn to when the going gets tough, we are having a bad day or are missing Zambezi.

Thank you to everyone following Gonzaga-in-Zambezi on this blog. Your comments and the idea that we could share this experience with all of you was very comforting.

We will see you all very soon. Kisu, Mwane.

Conner House, Class of 2015

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21 days

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First of all I would like to say a few words about the picture above.

Please do not be alarmed if you do not see your child, friend, or loved one…they are probably just hiding behind the giant water droplet that totally decided to photobomb the camera lens. So even though it’s not a clear picture, I felt it was appropriate to share with all of you this snapshot of this absolutely AWESOME event that highlighted the Zamily’s day. Being soaked by the spray of the mighty Mosi Oa Tunya (Victoria Falls) was indescribable. However, not all went hunky-dory today. We did have some baboon confrontations at the falls, which resulted in two of our students being pelted by poo.

But anyways, I am here to write a blog. So it’s time for some real talk….and the first thing that comes to my mind is…

I have been dreading my turn to write this blog.

Yes, out of everything I could have started my blog with, this is what I came up with. Totally lame I know…I know.

I have been in Zambia for a total of 21 days now. 21 DAYS (I am still totally in denial). To be quite honest, the main reason I am/was dreading to write this is because I simply cannot in any way, shape, or form articulate this experience to its full potential…and that scares me. Our remaining time here in Zambia is running low, so it is inevitable that upon my arrival home I will be asked to share my stories/emotions with family and friends. But how is this even going to be possible when I am facing a serious brain fart on what to even write about here on this blog?

My only idea that may give the trip justice is to have those who want to know about my last 3 weeks pop a squat next to me and allow me 21 days of their time. This way I can adequately spew a full account of everything that has happened thus far in Zambia… but let’s be real. One, it would be unrealistic for someone to listen to me babble for 21 days…and two, even though I have Victoria Falls to thank for helping power wash my feet today, they are still pretty toxic…so sitting next to me for more than an hour and inhaling my foot fumes would probably be seriously bad for one’s health.

So I am still stuck here. Stuck thinking by the beard of Zeus how will I tap into this glass case of emotion? Stuck. Stuck stuck stuck. Double stuck. Forever stuck. But really…help me…I’m stuck.

So while contemplating how I should write about my experience in this blog, I turned to my journal (which I am proud to say I have been consistently writing in). And, duh, of course! I realized this potentially held the answer to my issue. I have recorded in this journal condensed versions of all my thoughts, emotions, and events for the past 21 days. So from these 21 daily entries I chose random quotes, which I am hoping will give you all a slight insight into what I am still trying to process in order to accurately describe my experience.

Day 1: Landing in Zambezi. The welcoming choir, dust, and over 100 kids actually wanting to grasp my forever sweaty hands. I don’t know why but I immediately began crying. And I’m not talking those cute little tears that grace cheeks. No, I’m talking about the kind that result in you bawling so hard you choke on your own snot. Not pretty, but hey, totally explains my emotional rollercoaster of arriving to Zambezi.

Day 2: I should have brought a full-sized towel. The dishtowel isn’t cutting it.

Day 3:  My favorite activity is by far dinking around with the Zambezi children outside the convent. Today we played a mean game of duck-duck-goose and danced to the Tomato song. Also on a side note the girls got ahold of my hair and braided the whole thing. They totally called me out on my dandruff, but it’s whatever. By the end I was looking fabulous.

Day 4:  Went to church and witnessed how truly religious the Zambian people are. These people have so little yet are so faithful to God and thankful for what they do have. It is humbling.

Day 5: FIRST DAY OF TEACHING AT CHILENA PRIMARY SCHOOL, MS. K IN THE HIZZZ HOUUUSEEEE. Morning class of 20 students in the 7b class and afternoon class of about 27 students in the 6b. This shall be a riot.

Day 6: I know I am only a couple days in and probably getting a little too attached or emotional…but I am honestly worried about leaving here. One, I already know saying goodbye to the kids around the convent and at the school is going to be rough. And two, I may never be able to come back to Zambezi, which makes the relationship process unsettling. How is it fair that I just show up in Zambezi and then leave? What gives me the right to do this? Currently wrestling with this thought.

Day 7: Take more pictures you boob! Also, the education group took the walk from Chilena through the village of Chingolala to the convent today. We had at least 20 children tagging along behind us. It was about a 45-minute walk consisting of 4 year olds constantly attacking us with the question,  “Chindele, how you are?”

Day 8: Encountered a major language barrier in class today. The students’ native language at Chilena is Lunda, so trying to explain myself in English (a language that the Zambian school curriculum introduced only in grade 4) can be a struggle. If something is understood I will usually get a “yes” as a reply. What do you want to be when you grow up? “Yes.” What do you learn about in school? “Yes.” So patience is needed and is key.

Day 9:  Our group walked to Steven’s house this evening (local man who housed students for homestays) and had about an hour-long dance party outside his house until sunset. A perfect example of how the Zambian culture is so richly influenced by song and dance.

Day 10: A bat bounced off my head tonight in the church at Dipalata. Needless to say: echolocation FAIL. P.S. No light pollution for 40km equals the best stars you will ever see.

Day 11: My first pit toilet experience. Besides being terrified the ground would collapse beneath by feet and I would be lost in a pile of dirt and poo everything went flawless. Well, except for in mid-squat I was interrupted by some passing locals (pit toilets don’t have doors)…. “Chimene mwane?”

Day 12: While playing on a makeshift teeter-totter with the kids outside the convent today, some of my money obliviously fell out of my pocket. One of the kids quickly ran over, picked it up, and handed it to me. This moment of honesty was beautiful.

Day 13: Realized today that substitute teachers do not exist in the Chilena (and probably a lot of Zambian schools for that fact). And the main reasons are because there are not enough teachers and the teachers that are there are extremely overworked (about 27 teachers for the 700 students at Chilena). So if a teacher is absent that class will simply not have a teacher, yet all the students will still attend class. As cliché as it sounds, I now understand how we take our education for granted.

Day 14: Was goalkeeper in Chindeles vs. Chilena football game…let’s just say I did not excel at stopping the ball, but I was quite good at running towards those trying to kick it and scaring the crap out of them. I also scratched off something that should be on everyone’s bucket list…watched The Lion King… in Africa.

Day 15: RIP Sir William Stewart, the goat we received as a gift in Dipalata, who was transported underneath the benches in an hour long car drive, and who has been living in the back shed. Today William Stewart is the day you WILL be STEWed (get it? ha…sorry)

Day 16: It was a double whammy day. Crossed the Zambezi river today over the Chinyingi suspension bridge and was climbed like a tree by a Makishi.  Score.

Day 17: When I blow my nose, dirt comes out.

Day 18: Today the staff of Chilena threw a party for our education group and it was “the best day ever” according to the headmaster Elvis. And I would have to concur it was pretty sweet. We all got up and sang, danced, the staff prepared a meal for us (which included the chicken butchered on my classroom steps that morning), and truly honored us for our time at Chilena. And although my role was to be a teacher and except this I honestly and truly believe we owe more to the faculty and students of Chilena for allowing us to learn from them. I will forever be thankful for this opportunity.

Day 19: Today is the day we left Zambezi. I will never forget Jr.’s tears as we huddled around the plane. I will never forget Jr., Japhet, John, Barnabus, and Joe. These kids, these people, this community, I will honestly never forget them and how they constantly reminded us how Zambezi was our home. Will I ever see them again? I don’t know, but one thing I sure do know is goodbyes suck.

Day 20: 24 hours ago I was in a place where people lived off less than 1 dollar a day. Tomorrow we will be visiting a resort that people stay at for 500 dollars a night. Zambezi and Livingstone are presenting me with two entirely different views on Zambia, which is fueling my conflicting emotions.

Day 21: I was completely drenched by Victoria Falls. Pictures will never be able to describe the absolute joy experienced. Also monkeys man. Monkeys are the American squirrel.

So hopefully that small taste of my 21 days so far gave you a slight glimpse into what I intend to share when I return home. I may not have had a full-blown epiphany in any instances, but my views have been seriously challenged and I am left with quite a great deal to process (and obviously a lot of stories and thoughts to share).

I would also like to say I am so thankful for the Zambezi community’s hospitality and this incredible opportunity to come to Zambia with such an amazing and truly incredible group of people. Hi to those back home as well, I will be seeing you soon!

Love,

Carolyn Kvernvik or “S”, Class of 2016

P.S. Mom, we are going to need to invest in a scrub brush for my feet J

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Wake Up Call: I’m in Africa

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After almost four weeks in Zambia, I am feeling a range of emotions. This past week, it finally struck me: I am in Africa. I know it sounds ridiculous – I have been here for almost a full month! – and where else would we be followed by children screaming “Chindele! Chindele! How are you?”

In America, because of our fast-paced and always-on-the-go attitude, days, weeks, and eventually months and years, go by before we even realize it. All of a sudden, time has slipped through our fingers; retrospectively, you realize things that, if you had just taken a little extra time to stop and notice, or cancelled that last thing on your list to stay and enjoy who or what was in front of you, you might not be as struck when you catch yourself actually “being in the moment.”

This same, sudden realization came to me when I was studying abroad this spring in Florence. It wasn’t until the last couple of weeks that I fully embraced the feeling that this place of living, teaching, and experiencing was my home. Something had shifted inside me.

Being in Zambia is nothing like I have ever imagined before.  Becoming used to the American, fast-paced notion of seeing the goal and not letting anything get in your way, making your destination the only stop along the way, and not letting other distractions hinder your success or accomplishment of a task, is something that I have mastered. When I see a goal, I put my blinders on and keep my focus until the end, giving it everything I have to get there as efficiently and as best as I can. Being in Zambia it all changed; it was no longer about the set goals and not letting anything get in the way, but more like slowing down and seeing what is happening around you.

This concept sounds so simple, and yet it took me what seemed like almost a month to understand. I feel so lucky to have been a part of the Education group. I love my team and don’t think I would have been able to get through this journey without them. Unlike me, they all had the ability to slow down and enjoy the moment, and to stop and see the happenings that are going on right in front of you. I am studying to be a teacher, so you would think I would go in knowing what to do in a situation like this, teaching literacy, but that was not the case.

Two nights ago I broke down at the moment of realization that maybe being a teacher is not what I am supposed to be. I am so head driven and so good at seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, that I miss the amazing little moments around me. In this case, working for two weeks and seeing a light at the end of this tunnel for the 6th graders, with various literacy levels, was something I felt like I would never be able to make clear. I remember coming home day after day wondering why I couldn’t see improvement, what I was doing wrong, why I couldn’t establish the relationships like everyone in the Ed group could. It took tears, and then some more to truly realize that this super speed life isn’t for all, and not something for me.

The thoughts ran through my head of, “should I even be a teacher? Am I even making an impact on these kids?  I have asked this student what her favorite color is three times and all she said is “yes,” why can’t you get through to her?” I started noticing that while I recognized the faces behind the convent gates that yell Stefen or Steph, I really didn’t know their names. Maybe if I were to take a few extra moments of trying to get to know those faces and feel like I was actually creating that bond, instead of moving on to the next thing. Bawling due to the realization that that’s not how they work and maybe that’s not how I should work either, hit me.

This moment of reflecting on myself and having that time to experience, the “now,” was something that literally felt like it needed to slap me in the face in order to see and understand the hard way (the tears), before the understanding of the good intentional way.

As I left again another place with another piece of my heart, the space left gives me to grow and gain that understanding I have been longing for, for understanding my self, realizing that I can be a good teacher and that I will with the help of this experience, and what the Zambian people are so good at: giving what they have and doing it in love.

Today was the day that I never could see nor wanted to see. I had to pack all the chitenges, baskets, and new Zambian engraved values into my backpack for the journey home. The bittersweet moment set in as we headed to the airstrip with hundreds of smiling and waving children screaming “Chindele! I will miss you,” and our new friends holding our hands as we approach the bush planes. I was excited to go, because I know that in less than a week I will be home with my families, but I’m sad because these kids start having their eyes filled up with tears, as they know their friend they have connected with in the past month is now leaving and probably will be the last time I see them again.

I look into their eyes one last time before I climb into the little 5 person plane and tell them to study hard and stay in school and to never forget to work hard and remember us. The little sad face looks a little bit at ease at the sudden memory that they know we care and that they will always be in our hearts.

As Donna Hatch says, “for every goodbye, God provides a hello.”

I am so blessed and so amazed at the opportunity I have had in Zambezi. Without having this reflection and sudden realization of “being in Africa,” I wouldn’t be able to say that I am learning more about myself. Throughout the long workdays at Chilenga Primary, growing as an individual, seeing the amazing sunsets, trying on every chitenge possible, and learning in ways that challenge me left and right, has been something I wish I could go on and on about. I never thought I would be able to say that “I served myself,” and not just others, and learning the importance of it, would be something I would say.

Mom, Dad, Up Chuck (Charlie), Big T (Tommy), Jeter Babes (pup), Oma, and all my family members, I am thinking of you all and pray every night for you. Can’t wait to share more of my stories, memories, and experiences with you.  Thanks for giving me this wonderful opportunity! Love you all, so glad to share my experience with you. Don’t worry I am taking lots of pics!

Kisu Mwane & Love you lots!

xoxoxo

Stephanie Leonard, Class of 2016

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How was Africa?

 

HannahBlogTonight marks our Zamily’s last night in Zambezi. It is bitter sweet to be leaving this place that, for many of us, has only just begun to feel like home and these people who have just begun to feel like family. Our experience in Zambia has been filled with questioning and wrestling about our own cultural, emotional, and spiritual identities. We have posed many complex questions to one another in the midst of such a rich experience, many of which have no explicit answer. I am sure that I will still be struggling to understand my thoughts in response to these questions in the coming weeks, months, and even years.

One frightening question that we must all be prepared to respond to in exactly one week is “How was Africa?” We owe it to our eager family and friends to provide some sort of insight into the whirlwind of a month that we have just experienced. How in the world are we going to adequately describe all that we have seen, heard, felt, and smelled in the past month while honoring the people and the place that have allowed us a glimpse into their lives? No words that I can provide during 5 minutes in passing or even an hour sitting in a quaint coffee shop will ever fully capture the many facets of my experience here in Zambia.

While reflecting on my joys, failures, frustrations, and relationships, my mind has often come back to Howard Thurman’s quote“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needsis people who have come alive.” The experiences that have made a mark on my heart and will continue to impact my thoughts and actions are those experiences which have struck something inside of me that make me feel alive, more fully human, and more in tune with who God created me to be. Attempting to touch the surface of these experiences and how I believe I have seen the face of God through them is the only way that I can do justice to what I have experienced.

Many of the moments that have struck a cord in me are moments that have made my soul ache and my heart heavy. Talking about these experiences and how they have transformed my worldview is absolutely necessary, but each one of us must be intentional about representing the whole truth, rather than just those parts of the truth that reinforce the world’s inadequate perception of what Africa is.

As the wise and respected Raymond Reyes said during last night’s reflection, “you are responsible for what you know.” I have felt this more and more as I have been here. Not only have I been blessed with a bounty of knowledge through my education, but I have been given first-hand knowledge of the needs that exist here and around the world.

My responsibility to share knowledge is two-fold. It is my responsibility to articulate the ways that I have been inspired in this place so that my family and friends may in turn feel a tug and a challenge for their own lives. It is also my responsibility to not allow the teaching and serving to end as we board the plane on the way back home. I now know that what may seem like simple and insufficient knowledge on my part can in fact empower entire communities.

During one of our first weeks, the health team made an appearance in the rural village of Chavuma. Expecting to teach a simple lesson on nutrition to a small group of 20-30 women, I was overcome by amazement as the numbers grew to upwards of 200. By the middle of our presentation, our message was landing on the eager ears of half the village, including men, women, children, and village elders. “This is going to change our lives” has been a response to our teaching on a few occasions. Knowledge is power. So what are we going to do with this power?

I feel a sense of duty and responsibility to offer every ounce of energy and knowledge that I have in order to help meet some of the needs that I have observed. When people ask me why I chose to pursue nursing as a career, I am often not quite sure of my reasoning. Through the past few weeks, I believe that God has revealed to me why I was called to nursing.  The ability to share knowledge about health is an absolute gift and the practical skillset that nursing provides me with will openmany doors for me. I pray that I will be open to discerning the places where God is calling me and that I will have the courage to act.

Our health team had the opportunity of meeting Tanis, a missionary nurse from Canada who works at the Chitokoloki Mission Hospital. At the age of 23, Tanis felt that God was calling her to Zambia. Without hesitation, she listened. For the past eighteen years, she has continued to have faith in God’s plan for her life and has endured the struggle of being called in for surgery at three o’clock in the morning, only to work a full shift the next day. She persists with limited resources and technology, and endures with strength despite the disheartening experience of watching countless patients die of preventable disease.

Rather than seeing her service as a sacrifice and burden, it is clear that she views her situation as a blessing. She is thankful to be able to use her skills, her heart, and her energy to be able to serve. I wish that every person reading this blog could have a chance to listen to her speak, for her sense of purpose and her confidence are remarkable. I cannot help but imagine myself in two years, as a 21 year-old who has just graduated from nursing school. If I felt called to do something so bold and challenging, I hope that I would be willing to make sacrifices for the sake of coming alive and living into my purpose on this earth.

So, family and friends, brace yourselves. When you ask me “How was Africa?” I am not going to give you a neat and tidy synopsis. My explanation is going to be messy, long-winded, and, at times, poorly articulated. But I will do my best to honor this amazing experience and the people who have touched my life, whether it takes two minutes or two hours.

Mom, Dad, Andrew, and friends- I cannot wait to tell you all about it! I miss you all dearly and am thankful for all of your support in helping me get here. Love you all to the moon and back.

Kisu, mwane.

Hannah Van Dinter, Class of 2016

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Living in the Moment

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I’ll admit it, on May 21 I had a bit of a meltdown. It all came from the sudden realization that I was over 12000 miles from my home, from my sister who would be celebrating her sixth birthday without her older sister there to push her face into the cake. My mind carried me to May 22 and to how my family would celebrate without me. How would my mom prepare so much food for all of the guests? Who would decorate the house? What decorations would Emily pick? After sitting for a good hour or so under a clear starry night, blubbering over these questions that I would receive no concrete answer to, I stopped and thought about how selfish I was being.

Here I was, sitting under one of the most beautiful night skies I had ever witnessed and I was crying over an event that hadn’t even occurred and that I knew would be handled perfectly without my presence. I wasn’t living in the moment; I hadn’t been present in my Zambian experience because I was worried about something that was out of my reach, 12000 miles to be exact. This brings me to my topic and to my greatest challenge thus far, to live in the moment.

It may seem a little ironic that I am reflecting so much in this post when my point is to live in the moment but there is a purpose, I promise. At home I continually noticed how often I had spent my time thinking and preparing myself mentally and emotionally about this trip. I can hardly remember my last night at home because I was so focused on how I would handle certain situations that might come up in Zambezi. I would build these scenarios in my head and then make up outcomes to those scenarios. I’m sure if I had been more focused on living in the moment I would not have had such a hard time that night under the stars.

Also, I tend to reflect on past experiences. I remember that the very first thing I thought about as we were driving through Lusaka was “Oh my gosh, this place is just like my home in Mexico!” Wrong. I’m glad I let go of that thought because although Zambia looks like Mexico, my experiences there are VERY different from my experience in Zambezi. Comparing my experience from Drum Corps has also been more of a hindrance than an outlet. Marching with the Oregon Crusaders in 2012 was an experience all in its own. There is nothing like it, so why do I keep returning to it?  I believe it’s because I want the end result of this trip to be a clear and precise answer. As I was nearing the end of that summer-long endeavor I knew what had changed within me. My time in Zambezi has nearly reached its end, only one day to go, and I have no idea how to put into words my experience here. When I reflect on my Drum Corps experience I only continue to build expectations about what needs to happen here in Zambezi. It doesn’t allow me to fully experience Zambezi on its own. No worries, not all is lost.

The moments I have felt of intense clarity have blossomed out of times where I remind myself to live completely in the moment, to be able to let go of my worries and know that my future is in God’s hand. At home, my best friend often tells me when I would get too stressed about an upcoming event, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, God is already there.” I find that I have this in my mind whenever I am teaching at Chilenga and when we traveled to Dipalata.

Being a teacher at Chilenga Basic has been extremely rewarding. My students have given their hearts over to me without any need to. Much like my fellow Zags have mentioned in their posts, Zambians have an unbelievable capacity to love without expecting anything in return. But along with my students at Chilenga, I have given a piece of my heart to each on of them and to Mrs. Melody, who is a beautiful and shining soul to work alongside. There is a quote that comes to my mind whenever I think about my time at Chilenga, “Where you invest your love, you invest your life.” My students are a prime example of this because they absolutely love coming to school. Many of them have written in their stories how fortunate they are to be getting an education and how important it is for their lives. One student wrote, “I love school because it is my life.” He understands the power behind his education, and the love that he puts into it will further his education even more. My students live in the moment constantly because they have placed their worries in God. They do not fear what happens after they graduate because they have this mindset that their education will lead them to success. They trust God with their future.

Much like my students, the people of Dipalata work very hard for what they love. During the short time we were there I had this feeling that everything they did for us sprouted from their love. Sitting around the campfire that Chris pictured in his blog I found myself not thinking about what was going to happen or what had happened. When you live in the moment you feel a sense of peace like no other. It’s hard to explain, but you feel like you have never lived until that moment. I give my ultimate thanks to the people of Dipalata for letting us into their community and for giving me the opportunity to find paradise of serenity.

I want to conclude with a beautiful homily by Father Noel that was completely relevant to my thoughts on living in the moment. He spoke about how the ascension of Jesus did not mean that Jesus had left his disciples for another place. Jesus was both in heaven and with his disciples. He did not abandon his people by going to heaven. It is through Jesus and his omnipresence that we are able to find the beauty in the world and work to continue building that beauty. Our lives are a culmination of experiences whether they are good or bad, but in order to get the most out of my time here in Zambezi I recognize that living in the moment is more pertinent than reflecting on the past or worrying about the future. In order for me to get the most out of my time here in Zambezi I need to recognize the fact that this experience is like nothing else and should not be compared heavily with any other events.

Kisu Mwane,

Lili Ramos, Class of 2016

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

P.S. Happy Belated Birthday Emily!! A toda la familia Ramos, los extraño con todo mi corazon y espero el dia para verlos otra ves! Les mando muchos besos y habrasos.

 

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Working Title

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If I had a kwacha for every time I started, and then reworked, my thoughts for this blog post, I would have enough for probably two chitenges. I was thinking of basing my ideas on a quote, but that felt too confining. I drew some inspiration from an article we read before reflection a few nights ago about learning how to lean into both your “light” and your “shadow” to lead most authentically and fully. But with how I’m feeling these days, getting the ball rolling doesn’t quite cut it.

There is one thing I know for sure, though, and have been holding onto to help me wade through my swarming thoughts. While we were sitting in mass in Dipalata last Sunday, beaming children and adults surrounded our group of fresh-faced chindeles. Wide-eyes, curiosity, and some amusement from our newness radiated on their faces. We were praised, blessed, and fed more than we could consume while we were in the middle of a village that doesn’t have running water or electricity, let alone enough to properly feed their entire family week to week. What were we doing there? Yes, we taught some classes, and I am proud of the computer lesson Shannon, Mark, and I were able to throw together for a group of eager learners, but I couldn’t fight the feeling that I was showing people the door to all of this wonderful and exciting knowledge and potential (hello power of the Internet, which was quite a trip explaining), but then putting the key to this greatness in my back pocket and peacing out for good. “Here is this tool, it will connect you to the world and give you the ability to access knowledge you cannot even begin to fathom, but shucks!, looks like you can’t have it.” These thoughts were pulsing through my body as I was looking around at these bright faces at mass the day after our lesson.

What the hell were we doing there?

Before my thoughts could take me down the path of “are we doing more harm than good?” I realized that our presence offered something beautiful and powerful. We were being. Simply being. We flew from Seattle, Washington, to Zambezi, Zambia, literally halfway across the world, just to be with people. This was even more evident in Dipalata, where we did not go to teach two-week long courses that ensured students GU certificates. We were literally there for an overnight immersion experience. But more importantly, we were there just to be. Our purpose in Dipalata was to acknowledge people for their full and dignified worth. Simple as that. I then stopped to look at these individuals in the eye, instead of grazing my glance from child to child to adult to child. Before accompaniment comes acknowledgment. Helen said it in an earlier blog: the greatest thing you can give someone is your attention, your time. Acknowledge people for what they are with the entire dignity they deserve. That goes for conversing with children and adults like we would back in the States—no patronizing, no coddling, no special or different treatment. People are people, no matter where they are from.

Africa is being un-romanticized for many of us, which is a wonderful thing. This continent is that exactly: a continent. It is not one country with one culture, and while there is extreme poverty in many places, there is also extreme growth, and not every man and woman is starving living in a mud and straw hut. Sure, there are more cultural differences than I can count, but that goes both ways. This place and country and city is not filled with elephants and lions and people in tribal costumes speaking only in tongues. It’s not all hard and tragic and “third world.” And it isn’t all easy and beautiful and handholding and poetic. It’s life and these are people. Zambia wove itself into the fabric of my being. I will always hold it near and dear, but not put it up on a pedestal, as that would be taking away from the innate dignity that comes from acknowledging a place as exactly what it is: a place. Sure, some of the people here have changed my life for the good, but people from all over the world have done that for me. And the people in Zambia are no more special than any one of you reading this blog.

The moment we lose sight of our global “oneness” is the moment we dehumanize and diminish peoples’ dignity and merit as individuals. Each person is worthy of her own story, and it is our challenge, privilege, and responsibility to join people in accompaniment in the journey of mutual discovery, liberation, and growth. I think it is fair to say that these past three weeks have been riddled with experiences that have both challenged and inspired; I am not without insightful topics or happenings. I have come to accept, though, that I am at a time in my life where the foundation of who I am is being rattled. My above idea is the one sense of clarity I have had the entire time. My sense of self and worth; my faith; my relationships and connectiveness and place in the world; what the hell I want to do with my future; my gifts, talents, and purpose; and the mere foundation of who I am is unsettled and being called into question. I have had pretty drastic shifts in discerning who I am, what I believe, and who and what is important to me in the past, but this experience is pretty surreal because I am not identifying these shifts retrospectively, but rather in the moment. In the past, I grew most from reflection on particular conversations, events, and moments, all after the fact. Wisdom from experience.

However, this time around, I feel my mind racing at a rate I can barely grasp, and it is almost making me feel numb. Emotion overload—I don’t know what to feel or how to articulate anything that has been crossing my mind after all of these wonderful and interesting encounters and experiences. A part of me also feels desensitized to the culture shock, and I am not fazed by some things until I realize my fellow fam members are inspired or disturbed. Part of that, I believe, is because I have a unique perspective on this trip. I am coming from a year of studying and traveling in Europe, so culture shock has lost a bit of its novelty for me. People are people, and a place is a place, regardless of where you are in this world. Zambezi felt really comfortable only after couple of hours, and I think that led me not to be as obviously and blatantly challenged as some of my peers. I have never had an “ah ha!” moment, and while now I am seeing that that is okay because each experience is our own, it initially caused me to wonder if I was missing the point or was not challenging myself enough to dig deeper. This mentality prompted the uncertainty on all else, which brings me to this blog post and how I just don’t know. I have faith that this experience will lead to great growth, but it is definitely daunting to still be in it and not have much to hold on to. Who I am is on unstable territory. And I realize that is okay, and probably the point I seem to be desperately searching for. I don’t need, or want, even, clarity or peace now. And I have come to embrace and accept my uncertainty, more or less. But as someone who draws strength, faith, and peace from grounded ideas and values, I am feeling lost.

This all goes back to the article I mentioned about owning both our “light” and our “shadow.” I think my shadow, at least at this point of my life, has to do with my uncertainty about almost everything I am facing, which has brought up different insecurities from my past. I am very much a person of faith, but not much for organized religion. At the same time, because I don’t have the structure that institutional religion can offer, I often struggle when my faith faces challenge. I know I see God through and in my relationships and the conversations I have with people, and God is very much the fibers that connect us as human beings. But what, exactly, is God to me? I have a trust in something greater than us, and put my faith in the unknown and believe that what is meant to be will find its way. I guess I can call that God? But that doesn’t sit right with me. I feel a disconnect between how I see God and what God is to me, and having this existential crisis, alongside many other questions about my purpose (etc.) in this setting is quite a trip.

Other than all of that utter and complete distress, life in the Our Lady of Fatima Convent is great! We cleared well over 60 of Conner’s no-bake chocolate-peanut butter cookies today, so all is well and yummy on our front.

That’s all for now. Kisu mwane, my friends!

Be free, Cecilia Vollert Class of 2015

P.S. Sending a silly amount of love to you Mom, Dad, Andrew, Brian, the rest of the Vollert and Tierney clan, and all of my wonderful friends back home. I am coming for ya!

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Discerning Between Authentic Friendship and Alternative Motives

Mark Blog

Over the past two weeks I have been intentional about spending time with Zambians outside of the classroom setting. Whether that entails playing soccer in a nearby village or sitting at a computer teaching aspiring individuals Computer Science and Computer Engineering. These different encounters have created bonds between me and the different individuals I spend my free time with. While this sounds great and worthwhile, most of my not so beautiful challenges have come from this relationship building. This may seem counter to what may be expected but as an American I am labeled with many assumptions and preconceived notions of wealth, status, and stability. It also doesn’t help that I am teaching members of the community how to use computers, which in Zambezi are extremely expensive and hard to come by.

These notions are creating expectations and barriers when I am building relationships. The first of these was with an 18-year-old boy named Michael. We met my first week here while dancing around a candle one night at my home stay. I walked out to his village a few times to play football (soccer), and he also came after one of the computer classes hoping I would teach him and his little brother how to use a computer and download music. This was great until he started to ask for things. Josh warned us that this might happen, and of course it did. Michael asked my soccer ball, told me he would like a backpack because he has to carry his schoolbooks by hand to and from school, and he wants a memory card to get his phone to work properly. Were all these things the sole purpose of him hanging out with me?

I also have been teaching two 20-year-olds, Samuel and Patrick, computer engineering after our afternoon classes.  One day at the end of a 30-minute walk with them they told me that they want me to get them out of Zambia in a few years. They thought I would have connections that could get them to America for free and then they could make a lot of money. Another guy by the name of Steve came and asked me to teach him how to write code and create programs for computers. After teaching him, he came to me a few days later asking for a certificate from Gonzaga University so that he can get a job. He told me that if you go to an employer and claim you have a certain skill set you must show proof of completion of a class to get hired. Showing an employer that you have a certain skill is not a custom in Zambia; you must have a certificate. After explaining to him that I am just a student of Gonzaga he understood that I didn’t have the authority to give university certificates.

I have kept putting myself in positions to get to know people and it has been ending with me having to give bad news about their expectations of me. My most upsetting encounter has happened three times where a student has come to me asking either about Gonzaga University and how to go to school there or how they can get funding to go to a university in Zambia. Graham, a student who wants to attend a Zambian University, asked me this question. He told me that he graduated grade 12 and that was where everything ended. He has always desired to go to a university, but in Zambia a small percentage (less than 1% in the Zambezi district) go to a higher learning institution. Not knowing exactly what to say, I asked him if he had access to a computer and Internet, thinking he could Google search scholarships; he said no. After that, I remembered Josh saying that the computers we bring are meant to be for the community. So I told him that the only thing I can do for him is to ask if the Parish Priest will let the community use the computers under supervision while the Gonzaga group is gone. After hearing that, Graham got a big smile on his face just by the fact that he might have access to a computer that he might be able to use to find a potential scholarship for a university that he hasn’t applied to. After leaving that conversation, I was so upset at the fact that I could do almost nothing for a man who wants to attend a university more than some Gonzaga students do.

From all these experiences I have formed relationships that all have some aspect of expectations involved. I understand now that I am seen as an opportunity to those I am forming relationships with. Some see me as a wealthy, educated man who can help them get from where they are to where they want to be. It is upsetting that it is hard to form authentic relationships here that are free of these barriers.

Fortunately I have a student who is a big football fan. Jevious (Jay-v-us) is one of the students in the beginner computer class. He and I began talking about the 2014 World Cup and who we thought would win. This sparked a conversation that lasted three hours and included a plethora of subjects. I have continued to talk to Jevious and he has so many dreams and desires, yet over the past week he has never asked me for anything during conversations that regularly last 3-4 hours. He is determined to come to America so he and I have been spending time describing our cultures to each other. This is the authentic friendship that I was hoping for. It has allowed me to understand that not all Zambians look for handouts from Americans but rather that there is a good amount who do want to be in community with us and build relationships that can last.

Since being here in Zambezi I have been faced with many beautiful challenges that have encouraged me to grow spiritually, emotionally, and physically. My beautiful challenges have caused me to sit and contemplate how this culture, focused on generosity and oneness, can impact my understanding of my own culture as well as my understanding of self. These struggles to build authentic relationships have been challenges that have caused not so much contemplation but it rather left a pit in my stomach. As my time here is coming to an end, I hope to leave my relationships in places that can, in some way, benefit the Zambezi community after I leave.  God bless to all who see this blog and I am excited to come home and tell you more of my adventures.

Mark Beck, Class of 2015

Romans 8:31-39

P.S. Papa, Grandma, Mom, Dad, Kel, Jenny, and Mikie… Love you all and can’t wait to tell you all of my adventures.

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Doctors may Treat, but only God can Heal

Chitokoloki

When I arrived in Zambezi I was confident that I had come without any expectations. I had a busy last semester of college with graduation preparations, medical school finalizations, and a full load of classes, so I had minimal time to envision what my month in Zambezi would entail. I got off the bush plane with an open mind and an open heart, ready for impressions to be made upon me. However, I soon started to discover hidden expectations that had been conditioned within me throughout my American life. Particularly, the healthcare system in Zambia left me with the realization that my preconceptions about basic health care did not match the realities before me. Over the past few weeks I have come to see that what I thought were universal standards of healing were in fact only privileges reserved for those able to pay for them.

I am more or less obsessive-compulsive and have perfectionist tendencies that manifest as habits to clean, organize, and control everything around me. Given these compulsive propensities, certain aspects of hospitals and the health care system in America drew me to study medicine. When I stand in an operating room there is a certain calm that washes over me. The room is spotless and smells so clean that I cannot help but breathe in deeper; the walls are fresh and white while the floor is shining and manicured; the instruments are smooth, undisturbed stainless steel, and the outfits and dressings are crisp and unstained. Perhaps even more attractive, however, is the step-by-step procedural organization and control that exude from the operating room. It is meticulous, where checklists are made and protocols are followed; it is where I undoubtedly belong.

Given my passion for surgery, I have spent a significant amount of time shadowing in operating rooms and am familiar with the associated procedures, rituals, and precautions. When I found myself standing in the Zambezi District Hospital’s “Operating Theatre,” my expectations of what I would encounter in that room were immediately shattered. Instead of fresh white walls I was staring at peeling, yellowed paint. Instead of shining floors I was staring at sandy, cracking, concrete. Instead of shiny instruments and bright lights I was staring at rusting sinks, spider webs, collapsing ceilings, and a corroding operating table. This was not my haven; it was my hell. I commend the doctors and surgeons that work at these hospitals as they try to save lives in conditions that fight them every step of the way.

Healthcare in Zambia is free. My expectations of what free healthcare would look like shifted as I was told that although fees are not a problem, transportation is. Only a few designated hospitals throughout Zambia are equipped with antiretroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS treatment, and thus treatment is inaccessible to a large portion of the population. Some of the district hospitals also deal with corruption, with leaders pocketing money that was intended to purchase vaccinations for the population. I cannot imagine a world in which free health care could be so difficult to take advantage of, where doctors and hospitals were not a comforting commodity around every corner, and where not even those dedicating their lives to healing are trustworthy with honest intentions.

My expectations were further challenged yesterday during our visit to Chitokoloki, one of the most respected and sought-after missionary hospitals in Zambia. The hospital constantly exceeds capacity, having to accommodate excess patients on makeshift mattresses all over the floors, and private rooms for treatment are non-existent. Women and men are separated into their respective wards, which are large open rooms packed with beds to allow for “patient privacy.” Patient protection programs, such as HIPPA, are nonexistent, and the reciprocal doctor protection programs, such as lawyers and impeccable dissertations, are not necessary seeing as Zambian patients do not sue their doctors. Premature babies are left in dysfunctional incubators heated by a warm water bottle, and before recent innovations, x-rays had to be hand-developed in a dark room before they could be read.

Although the operating rooms at Chitokoloki were much improved compared to the Zambezi District Hospital, they still lacked basic necessities such as anesthesiologists. This type of doctor is present in every operating room in American hospitals and yet is nonexistent in the district, thus requiring all surgeries to be performed under local anesthesia. This expectation was one of the most shocking for me to let go of. These people had to go under the knife in a waking fog with no muscle relaxers, speaking to the bravery of both the patients and surgeons. Yet there are no complaints. These people do not whine, they do not cry, and they certainly do not have anything to say about the meager conditions in which they are treated. The resilience of this country astounds me.

The health care students, plus a few others tagging along, were permitted to watch both a bilateral tube ligation and a basic hernia repair. As I prepared to enter the operating room I found myself waiting for the ritualistic instructions, preparations, and sterilizations. None of these expectations were fulfilled. We were told to find some scrubs in the supply closet and put them on, and that shoe covers and masks were not necessary. Our only instructions were to avoid touching anything blue in the room, which signifies sterilized equipment and surfaces. Further, the surgeon allowed seven of us to observe in his operating room. In America most doctors do not allow more than one student observer in the room at any time; my previous experiences have done nothing to prepare me for Zambian medicine. I was prepared to be chilly in the operating room, as they are kept cold to control microbial growth, but actually found myself quite warm standing there. The room felt strangely relaxed to me with the familiar procedural orders seemingly lost in the art of improvisation.

The hospital staff amazed and inspired me. These people literally have dedicated their lives to saving people in hot, smelly, second-hand conditions, and they do their jobs without complaint, without hesitation, without leave, and without letting their limitations stop them from defying impossible situations. They have become self-sufficient and have learned to improvise with unmatched skill. It is inspiring to see what expectations you can rise to and what standards you can set in the face of such obstacles.

Although Zambia is filled with happiness I cannot begin to measure, love I cannot begin to emulate, and hope I cannot begin to harness, it is also filled with unimaginable darkness and cruel hindrances. Medicine was designed to make people feel better, to make them feel secure, and to ensure confidence; yet the medicine here is unlike any I have ever encountered.  As Zambezi has dissolved expectation after expectation, I have begun to rediscover the face of medicine. I realize now that doctors and hospitals are more than just checklists, order, and precautionary protocols; they are where innovation is fostered, bravery is expected, and where faith is constantly called upon to make the impossible seemingly palpable. This continent may not be a leader in medical advancements, but I think Africa has a thing or two to teach future doctors like myself on adversity and finding a way to beat the odds; after all, a life might depend on it.

God bless and much love,

Kylie Edinger, Class of 2014

Psalm 46:10

P.S. Mom, Dad, Jake, Jason, Jonathan, and the rest of my family: I love you all dearly and miss you all deeply. Zambia is in my veins and I cannot wait to share it and my future plans at Chitokoloki with you. Kisu mwane xoxoxoxo.

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The Elusive African Mango

ShannonBlog

Almost four years ago I traveled to Ghana, West Africa, with Saint Francis High School in Sacramento, California. One of my favorite and most talked about memories from that amazing trip surrounded the simple gift of fresh mangoes. On one of our many bus rides, we were running far behind schedule (Ghanaian time is a lot like Zambian time) and when we finally reached our destination, our guide, Thomas Awaipo, realized we had never stopped for lunch. Although we told him again and again that all of us were fine and had power bars and other snacks to tide us over until dinner, he insisted on going to the market and grabbing us a snack. We emerged from our rooms to find two juicy, fresh picked mangoes, cut up and on plates for our consumption. I have never tasted such a fruit. The ripeness, the sweetness, and the pure nature of those mangoes follows me to this day. I have yet to find another mango as delicious as those in a small northern village in Ghana. For the past four years I chased this insatiable mango desire. I tried everything – mango salsa, mango chutney, mango salad, grilled mango, every recipe I could find – attempting to replicate the memory of that taste. Alas, no success. I’m still searching for that perfect mango flavor. My time in Ghana not only encompassed tasty fruit, but a people that struck me with their kindness. I saw a community walking over a mile to pull all the furniture out of their homes, so that the American girls did not have to sit on the ground. I witnessed a people who had nothing and yet were willing to give everything. I visited with Catholic Relief Service workers creating long-term projects for simple problems, all in the name of empowering the communities. I met a doctor, who—after working for years in the government hospital—became frustrated with the high cost of healthcare ($7 a year) and the inability of most Ghanaians to pay, so he left and opened up a free clinic, with an HIV/AIDS hospice attachment. I came home wanting to share their stories and my new perspective on the world, on giving, and on community.

When I came to Zambia, I thought ah ha! here is my chance to experience that sweet fruit yet again. Here, after four years of longing for the simple taste of fresh mangoes, I would finally get a second chance, a second taste. But, damn those pesky hemispheres and the switching of seasons. It’s winter here in Zambia, which means no mangoes. Foiled again. As I sat and pondered my deep desire for mangoes, I started to realize that perhaps it was not the fruit itself I longed for, but for something more basic, more human. I ached for the attitudes, perceptions, and lessons I learned from the people of Ghana. I yearned for the unfiltered, raw, pure nature of their lives, much like the raw and pure nature of the mango. Somewhere along the way in the past four years, amongst the hustle and bustle, the stress and the obligations, I stopped living out the messages from Ghana. As our time here in Zambezi is coming to a close, I turn my head and heart towards the question of “how do we take our time, our experiences, and our relationships from here, home?” I want to recapture the messages from West Africa, while incorporating my new knowledge from Zambezi, but how?

Many of my fellow Zamily in the previous blogs mention the generosity of the Zambian people, the outpouring of love, fellowship, and community. We’ve all struggled with how we can repay the generous gifts. How can we ever express the gratitude for a mattress given up for us on our homestays, for the invitation into a dancing circle of children and adults, for more food presented at our table than most families see in a week, for time and energy spent cooking and teaching us language lessons, for the long hours of conversation and relationship building, for the presentation of a goat (yes, a live goat), and for the many blessings bestowed upon us by the people of Zambezi? I think any attempt at repayment will fall far short of our desired intention. Rather, I believe the questions of “how do we take Zambia home” and “how can I (we) repay the generosity” are inextricably linked.

We can “repay” the Zambian people by taking their generosity, compassion, and acceptance back home. Now I don’t mean to say we should start greeting every guest who drives to our house with song and dance. Too much of that and the guest lists may start to dwindle. There are some limitations to taking Zambia home. Attempting to live like Zambians in the United States may prove far more difficult than we imagine and would be absurdly naïve! Perhaps the truest testament to their way of life and kindness is not to imitate those values in the same way in America but to utilize the lessons of compassion, giving, and community in our own setting. Living out a life of giving and acceptance merely takes little steps in the hopes of slowly but surely bringing Zambia, Ghana, and all the compassionate cultures of the world into our own homes, neighborhoods, cities, and country.

For some of us, living out Zambian values may look like volunteering once a month at a free health clinic as a doctor or a nurse. It may be joining Teach for America, the JVC, or the Peace Corps after graduation. It may be the donation of time and effort to nonprofits and charities. As a Political Science and History major, my gift from God and the gift I can hopefully share is my voice. For me, the best testament to my experiences in Ghana and Zambia is not the pictures I’ve taken, the videos I’ve shot, nor the items I’ve bought; it is in better living out the following quote from FDR: “The truest test of our nation is not whether we give to those who have too much, rather it is in whether we give enough to those who have too little.” I can lend my voice to the voiceless, and I can work to break down the margins that keep the marginalized at the edge of society. I can speak on behalf of the hungry, the broken, the imprisoned, the poor. I can practice the Zambian value of generosity by funneling my talents, passions, and education towards the people who need them most; I can give of myself to the poorest of the poor with full acceptance of them, their lives, and hardships.

Perhaps the best way to live like a Zambian – the best way to share our experiences here – is not through imitation but through living out our Jesuit, Catholic, and humanistic education more fully, wholly, and unconditionally. Perhaps the greatest lesson we can learn from the Zambians is not how to live like them but how to live as better Gonzaga students, better Christians, better Americans. Perhaps the baggage we bring back should not only include all the wonderful tangible reminders of our time here but should also include a better understanding of our Jesuit tradition, of how to live as men and women for others, and a more complete plan for how to go forth and set the world on fire. And maybe, just maybe, it should also include an African mango.

Prayers for those affected by the UC Santa Barbara shooting

All my loving

Shannon Clark, Class of 2015

P.S Mama, I hope this was worth the wait. What happened to the Red Sox?!!?!?! 10 losses in a row, 8 games back last time I checked. All bad news. Guess I have to head back to the continent for some good luck.

And Loki, I miss you like crazy. I hope the house is going smooth and that you are giving Chippy all the sarcasm he deserves. Happy early 7 months gorgeous. We’ll celebrate both important days this next week when I get back. I love you to Africa and back.

And fam bam, if you’re reading this, I promise I won’t talk about Africa as much this time, but you might still want to keep count. Love and miss all of you.

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A Beautiful Tragedy

DSC_0386

My first impression of Zambezi was purely positive and joyful. I was happily surprised to find greetings of song and dance at each new destination. I walk down the streets here and find myself immersed in abundant conversations, smiles and many tiny hands grasping for mine. This place radiates pure beauty accompanied by indescribable feelings of joy.

I compare my current relationship with Zambia to a developing conversation between two people who have just met. When you first meet someone you don’t know, you put a smile on and shake hands. You act happy and engaged while keeping personal information behind a closed door. Once you sit down and get to know each other a little bit, you establish a baseline of trust that allows some truth to come seeping through the cracks.

Zambezi and I are at the point where we are past the baselines of trust. The baseline of trust sparked my curiosity to see behind this door and to tap into the Zambians’ depth.The joy that the Zambians’ portray is by no means superficial, but it is the first of many layers that make up their lives.

The specific type of door in this situation reminds me of one I put upduring my freshman year of college. Transitioning from high school to the dorm life was uncomfortable for me at the beginning, but I would never tell anyone my true feelings in fear of being seen as weak or overly emotional. I would put on a smile and reply, “I’m good” when someone new would ask me how I was doing.

Behind the same type of door sits undeniable pain and suffering in Zambia.There are families here who live on less than one US dollar a day and have over seven mouths to feed. Despite their undoubted hard work and resourcefulness, some families still can’t afford basic needs such as food, shoes, and school uniforms which then creates a cycle of poverty. It’s a heartbreaking tragedy.

But what is so incredibly inspiring about this whole affair is that the Zambian people don’t let these hardships define them. They refuse to wear the pain. Instead, they look to God to discover joy and positivity. The people wrap themselves in the warmth of love, which fills each and every one of their hearts. What they lack in material possessions are more than made up for with community and connected spirits. Thinking about how much raw courage and strength these people possess brings me to tears. The people here are full, and it’s so incredibly beautiful.

Witnessing their strength has taught me so much about how to live life in a positive light. The people have left me with the desire to brighten up my own life by loving every person like crazy and embracing the blessings that I have been given.I am truly inspired by the courage and compassion that the Zambian people portray every day, and I hope that one day I can live life in such a beautiful light.

Maggie Chamberlain, Class of 2016

P.S. A quick shout out to Susan Norwood for being such a wonderful health education mentor. Your wisdom and expertise was a HUGE factor in our success this trip, and we can’t thank you enough for your dedication. Have a very safe trip home; you will be greatly missed!

P.P.S. While part of our team was in Solwezi tonight, we had homemade gnocchi, Fanta, and mama’s donuts at dinner (thanks to Stephanie and mama). Take that Solwezi group.

*Sorry for the late post! Zambia time and a bad Wifi connection are to blame*

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