The Smoke that Thunders

“It hurts worse to be taken advantage of by someone you love, and by that I mean Emirates Airlines.”  -Bryce Kryser

Our beloved airline is the speculated cause of the less than beloved illness that spread through our group once we landed in Lusaka. A few of us even gained throw up stories of glory–out of a bus, into a sink, not a toilet was spared. It seemed as if the only thing that could protect you was the sheer joy of graduating as our two seniors, Ethan and Daniel, escaped unscathed. Or possibly if you were Ellie and had an Irish connection with a flight attendant (yeah we’re suspicious). This is a less than unique travel experience, and I’d also like to say for the parents reading that only like six of us actually vomited, mostly people just felt off and queasy.

I write this blog sitting in the sun next to our hostel pool. Isaac, Preston, and Bryce are playing freebee in the grass. Sami and Catelyn are talking with their feet in the water. Chloe is napping next to me while Lelia, Avery, Emma, and Megan read their books. I also hear in the distance what’s beginning to become the familiar sound of Father Barraza telling a story. We’ve started to fall into a group rhythm, or using my professional leadership lingo—forming. After some long days of travel, it feel nice to settle for a while. Staying in Livingstone is allowing us to not only dive into our relationships with each other but start our relationship with Zambia and some Zambians.

We started grand and viewed the famous Victoria Falls. Picture after picture was snapped of the thunderous 3 kilometers of free falling water rushing out of the Zambezi River. As we took photos together, it felt obvious how tightly people wanted to hold onto the memories they were making. Many smiley selfies made it out the spray, and I’m sure we’ll look back on them fondly. I hope you enjoy the one I included at the top of my post, for sure a crowd favorite.

As we’re only a couple days into our time in Zambia I find myself having learned some small lessons. Mostly though, we’re looking forward to Zambezi. How will our classes go? Who will be our host family? Will the views from the bush planes be as cool as Ethan has described? While waiting we’re definitely enjoying our time here. The first sights of giraffes, zebras, and hippos has brought an excited smile to all of our faces. Tomorrow we head out to a two day safari, so expect a day off from the blog but some literary heat to come your way soon.

I want to leave you with our first tension that arose from the group today, and that I’m guessing will continue with us. How do we hold both names that exist for the falls we saw today? Look at the seven natural wonders of the world and the Victoria Falls are listed. Ask Father Barraza and he’d tell you their real name is Mosi-oa-Tunya, “The Smoke that Thunders.” This is what a google search won’t tell you. This is what we can easily turn away from and not lean into. This is balancing how we see colonialism having shaped Zambia and how we interact or understand Zambian spaces.

This is a tension we are not able to fully articulate. As we continue our time together I hope we can treat these goals of complete understanding more like the fabled Ithacas they are than the facade of a landing that can exist. As we all know, our journey will be what shapes us the most.

“As you set out for Ithaca                                                                                                                hope your road is a long one,                                                                                                              full of adventure, full of discovery.

Keep Ithaca always in your mind.                                                                                            Arriving there is what you’re destined for.                                                                                    But don’t hurry the journey at all.                                                                                                Better if it lasts for years,                                                                                                                     so you’re old by the time you reach the island,                                                                                  wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,                                                                                    not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.

Ithaca gave you the marvelous journey.                                                                                    Without her you wouldn’t have set out.                                                                                          She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca won’t have fooled you.                                                                  Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,                                                                  you’ll have understood by then what these Ithacas mean.”

-C. P. Cavafy

 

Rachel Haas, Class of 2021

 

Also, hi family!!! I love and miss you! I’ll be writing one more time, so wait about 21 more days and you’ll hear from me again. A piece of my heart is with you always.

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Every road has a story

Allow me to reintroduce myself to the Zag family. This is Dominic Mizhi Sandu, many like to call me Fr. D. I am  a long time partner of Gonzaga in Zambezi program going to way back in 2007. Am happy to save some time again to accompany the 2019 team and share with them the Zambia hospitality because of the bearing the leadership program has offered to my personal life. 

Today the 19th May, 2019  our journey begun at 07:00 hours from Eureka Farm Camp that hosted Zag team us for our very first night in Zambia. Eureka was a place warm enough to soothe the motion sickness that just need a bed to sleep in order to regain the energy to traverse the African soil and roads.  It took us nearly nine house to travel from Lusaka to Livingstone, a journey that should only take 6-7 hours.

Traveling on a public bus has many conditions especially how one express his or her faith, but on this trip our bus host Mr. Nkoma invited one of the passengers  to offer a prayer for a safe journey. One of the Zags offered to pray and even when she was not loud enough for every person on the bus to hear, the host summed up for us saying,”if you were not praying along then you’re were traveling alone on the full bus.” Our journey was a journey of faith and we are grateful to God for the traveling mercies.

We were almost getting used to the sleeping on the bus, and the potholes on the Zambia roads, when the host woke us up to an announcement about a break down. What came to my mind first was the thought of a tyre puncture but it was not.  The fan belt of the Marcopolo bus had cut and the driver and the host were resolved to replacing it with a new fan belt.

We began to explore the options for ‘plan b’ for travel,  recognizing that we were in the middle of Lusaka and Livingstone cites.  The only option left was to exercise patience. Despite the effort to fix the new fan belt,  the driver and the host of the bus struggled to put it in its right place.

We had many ‘bush automotive engineers’ but they all failed.  Dr. Josh Armstrong, who’s not known for his automotive insights, was asked to offer them his iPhone to help “google the solution” on how to fix a fan belt on Marcopolo bus.

Wisdom tells us never, ever under estimate any person that we have met for the very first time. The person that helped fix the bus was actually a humble passenger that came to our aid and helped the driver to repair the bus. Thankfully google machine and the passenger repaired the bus. One other lesson I learnt from the bus experience is be good to people I meet on the road because they may be of help to me at some point or the other as the saying goes, “stranger is only a friend you don’t know.”

The break on the bus had taken close to two hours. The trip after the breakdown became even more enjoyable– the noisy tv was switched off, people begun to talk freely to one another. Many  fellow passengers slept peacefully until we reached Choma town. when most passengers were asleep the man who helped repaired the bus disembarked at Choma without even thanking him.

The story of this experience has just opened our awareness process of this journey we has just embarked on in Zambia. We know we shall be here as a team but we do not know each other giftedness when it may be applied to help the Zambezi Zag team.  Thank you entrusting your loved ones to this country – we look forward to the next journey and lessons.

Dominic Sandu

 

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Arrived safely in Zambia

We are tired, but this is a quick posting to let all parents and friends know that we have arrived safely in Lusaka.  We will write a reflection once we settle into Livingstone tomorrow.  

Josh & Zags in Zambia

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Dubai or not Dubai; that is the question..

Family! Friends! Followers of the blog! You can breathe easy, as after copious amounts of inflight movies and a few awkward hours of plane sleeping, we’ve flown over the top of the globe and made it to the land of sand and extravagance, Dubai.  Our Zags are a bit underslept and a bit overstimulated, but get used to it sugar cuz its all part of the experience. Last night we arrived weary and stiff from sitting in close quarters on our 13 hour flight, and immediately hopped to sit in close quarters for 2 more hours on a Dubai tour bus.  After the quick tour seeing sights that we’ve only read about in Guinness Book of World records, our Zambezi Zags have a few words to describe their impressions of Dubai.

Rachel Haas: the try-hard child trying to stand out/compensate for something/earn approval

Preston: Extravagance

Leila: Middle east meets Bellagio

Bryce: Opulence

Rachel Walls: Colorful

Spencer: A Spectacle

Maurie: Big is best

Janeen: Imaginative

Sammi: unreal

Reagan: Awe inspiring

Annika: Extra…

Megan: Whoah…

Ellie: Lit up

Fr. Baraza: A place to go

Alea: Modern

Isaac: Bright

Emma: Larger than life

Daniel: an oasis of glass and steel

Chloe: the most successful 47 y/o I’ve ever met

Caitlyn: A whirlwind of differences

Josh: Inauthentic or plastic

The trip starts here in awe inspiring, over-the-top, larger than life, opulent, big-is-best, unreal, Dubai. In many ways it is possibly the farthest thing from Zambezi.  It offers us a view of a world that values extravagance, wealth, and above all being the biggest and best.  We’ll soon find ourselves in a place very much the opposite. It feels bizarre and unreal here, as if we’re in a Mission Impossible movie.  Josh commented that it feels as if you could lean on the wrong pole and the whole place could come crashing down as if it is merely a well painted Hollywood background.  I can’t help but agree, because after all the glory and glitter of Dubai was built in under 35 years, and the country of UAE is only 47 years old. Most of our parents are older than the famed Dubai (and as Chloe said likely less successful than Dubai. Do any of our parents have the tallest building in the world or an indoor ski hill?). Daniel described it as an oasis of glass and steel, and perhaps it is just an oasis; an illusion to be questioned. It feels fake though. Soon we’ll find ourself in Zambia a place that feels quite the opposite.  Real. Almost too real.  We’re quite literally boarding the plane for Lusaka right now so I’m off! Thank you all for reading and supporting us from afar. Your love and support crosses continents and oceans. 

 

Kisu Mwane, 

 

Ethan Kane

Gonzaga Alumni ’19

 

 

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Travelers preparing for the journey

Final Spring Class – Zags in Zambezi 2019 (missing Ethan K, Chloe S., Fr. Baraza)

In the weeks preceding our departure to Zambia, I wake up early. Too early.  Although it’s my twelfth trip to Zambia, I still feel the excitement, anticipation, and anxiety that a new journey brings.  Did I order the water filters already?  When is the cash advance going to be deposited? Are the GU students done with their curriculum?  When is Mama Katendi traveling to Zambezi?  My subconscious is working out the many questions in my dreams and I wake with thoughts of Zambezi.  I can almost conjure the distinct smells of the burning grasses, the stunning sparkle of a Zambian smile, or the way my feet feel after a day of walking its’ sandy paths.  I’m getting ready to travel.

“When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.”

It’s been a good and hard year.  Teaching leadership has never felt so important and complex.  Growth has been a consistent partner, keeping me on that learning edge, personally and intellectually.  As I grade final papers from the spring semester, it’s not difficult to see the faces of students and remember the laughter and tears of true learning. The meaning making of leadership explores the shadow and light of each of us; asks us to explore the tensions in the world and ourselves. And Zambezi holds these tensions in powerful ways that brings delight.

“When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:”

I am keenly aware that one of the challenges of our Gonzaga-in-Zambezi program (or maybe any study abroad) is managing expectations.  Returning students share stories, photos and videos of past harrowing tales, and a spring semester worth of reading, anticipating, and preparing that leads up to next Thursday, May 16th.  As faculty we have expectations for the learning that will occur for our students; encounters with intercultural leadership, practices of accompaniment, and self-awareness from teaching and learning in new spaces.

Have you had that moment, when you are introducing two of your friends who don’t know each other, but you’re just sure that they will be fast friends?  After a semester together, I see the amazing potential in this collection of Zags participating in Zambezi 2019 and I’m trying to manage my own expectations of introducing them to a community that I have come to love.  A community that I love not because it’s perfect, but because I have come to know its parts; beautiful and broken, good and bad, alive and disturbing.  I believe that in coming to know more about this community we journey to know about ourselves through transformational learning. Through reading and reflections and the strength of a learning community, we have the opportunity to bring our curiosities to global spaces and explore.

I leave you with the poem, For the Traveler, written by John O’Donohue, which we read at our opening retreat in February and will share at our Missioning service this week.  It’s my hope that as we travel through this program, you would join us.  Most days in Zambia, we will be writing blog reflections, and look forward to sharing our learning, as well as your comments and encouragements.

Dr. Josh Armstrong, Gonzaga-in-Zambezi Faculty Director

_________________________________

For the Traveler by John O’Donohue

 Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.
 
New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.
 
When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:
 
How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening in conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
You needed
To illuminate
Your way.
 
When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.
 
A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.
 
May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.
 
May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.

 

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Goodbye Zambia, Hello Laramie

Morgan (right) with Gonzaga alum and current Peace Corps Zambia volunteer, Katie Polacheck (2017).

On the morning of Sunday, May 13th, I received my invitation to join the Gonzaga University Alumni Association. On Tuesday, May 15th, I said goodbye to my life in Spokane and got on a plane, starting my journey to Zambezi. There I started my transition out of the Gonzaga bubble.

Today is Tuesday, June 12thand I find myself closing another chapter of my life, Gonzaga-in-Zambezi. I have been filled with joy, enveloped in conversation, failed, questioned, and learned more than I ever expected. But my Gonzaga-in-Zambezi experience is the final chapter in Morgan Schindele’s Gonzaga story. I will not be returning to campus to be surrounded by my other Zam Zags. I will be starting a life in a new city, with new people, and hopefully a new job. The return to the states means more confusion and uncertainty for me. As I look at everything I have experienced the past month, my reflections and critical thinking cannot end when we fly out of Lusaka, it’s only the beginning.

For the past month I have been the only graduated senior on this trip. The majority of our group is starting their journey with Gonzaga and its connection to Zambezi, but I have closed the Gonzaga door. I have felt isolated because I am at a different stage of my life than all of the other students. I will not return to Spokane in the fall, I will not be on the retreat, I will not get to talk to the next group that teaches the computer course during their spring class. There are a lot of differences. Throughout my time both preparing for this experience and living it, I have focused too heavily on the differences between myself and the rest of the students. There are many differences, and my life is filled with ‘lasts’, but our differences are what bring out the important conversations. We do not have to agree with each other, or be the same age, or be in the same stage in our lives. We do have to listen to one another. 

At the start of the trip I was very focused on differences between my needs compared to the other students. I found that I separated myself from my fellow Zags. I neglected the relationships that should have been the easiest. Although I will not be returning to Gonzaga, these relationships matter. Each person has a different depiction of what Zambia was to them. My story is not the only story that will be told. Each perspective holds an important piece of what this experience has been. We will never have the whole story, we will never know every story, but we need to keep listening. I need to keep listening.

When I came to Zambia a month ago, I only listened to the stories of the new people I was meeting. I neglected the stories of those sleeping under the same roof as me. We have spent a lot of time reflecting throughout out Zambezi journey, and that is when we learn the most about our group. That is where I learned that it is okay to disagree, be different, and still be able to have a conversation. This is something I will take back with me. The ability to productively argue, to ask questions of one another. It is important to be comfortable being wrong, and asking questions about what you do not understand.

Coming back to the states, I find myself in dire need of more reflection. What has happened over the past month I could not possibly type in this post. I cannot comprehend all that has occurred and all the thoughts that inevitably will be circulating for the months to follow. I look forward to being able to have these conversations with my fellow Zam Zags. Moving 3 states away to Laramie, WY, forces me to be intentional with the relationships and conversations with the friends I have gained and have shared this time with. Many things we can relate on, but many things we have experienced differently. My time here has taught me that the differences we experienced are crucial to talk about. I hope I never stop asking questions, and I hope people never stop asking me questions.

We have shared stories, friendships, struggles, privilege, but now we are closing our Zambezi chapters. My struggle now is the fear of returning, of being alone and away from those that know what I am feeling. My reflection upon returning to the states will different than many of our other Zags, but we will all have moments of feeling alone and that no one understands. The process doesn’t end here, we will still need each other, need the stories, the conversations, and the friendships.  

As I pack my bag filled with gifts for loved ones, I am filled with sadness to leave. Yet I am also filled with joy that I have 21 other Zags who will not forget their time in Zambia. The young souls of the Zags still in their undergrad have fresh perspectives and are less bitter then my aged soul. I have observed the different ways we each form relationships, and learned ways of being more intentional in conversations. I have learned from everyone I have interacted with on this trip, but I am thankful that the other Zags have helped me see that difference stimulates growth.

Laramie is waiting for me, but Zambezi will always be on my mind. The friendships, young and old, will never be forgotten. The combination of Zags and Zambians, and everything in between, has given me endless conversations, endless questions and families on all sides of the world. Thank you Zambezi, Gonzaga, all of our loved ones, and bell hooks, for changing my perspective.

I am writing the last page of my final Gonzaga chapter, closing the book.

Kisu mwane,

Morgan Schindele

 

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In conclusion…there is no conclusion

♪ We hope to meet, rejoice again, hope to rejoice again ♪
Arriving in Zambezi to the familiar voice of Jescar Mukumbi leading the Chileña choir through their welcome program brought me back to the last song Jessi had sung to the group of 2017 Zags in Zambezi:
♪ Time has come to say goodbye, time has come to say goodbye, we hope to meet, rejoice again, hope to rejoice again ♪
Last June, I left Zambezi at peace with the idea that this was a time in my life that had come to a close. It was a time filled with confusion and frustration coupled with laughter and admiration, but a time that was through. My story would continue on somewhere else. I knew upon departure that I would hold close those moments spent bustling around in the back of the Land Cruisers in search of another learning opportunity. I would hold close partaking in three-hour-long masses with music and dancing that reminded me of the joy found in community worship. I would hold close cheering on the grade 7 students during their play performances with tear filled eyes. These moments amongst countless others have been constant reminders throughout the year of the power of engagement when I find myself falling into a mindless day of going through the motions of work and school. I had learned and loved with Zambezi but the script would not continue beyond our goodbyes at the airport. And yet I am learning that the script continues to be written. There is no conclusion.

I came back to Zambezi as the student teaching assistant. During my second visit I realized that the more I learn about Zambezi, the more I discover I have barely scratched the surface of understanding. I’ve found myself questioning more deeply my initial perceptions of the lives of individuals I have met, the community, and the parts of the culture I have interacted with. I’m challenging a lot more as opposed to taking things at face value. Lifestyles and cultural norms I thought I had figured out became much more complex than I made them out to be. I thought I had summarized the way the Zambian education system functions because of my short time spent teaching at Chileña last summer. The more formal, British-style education system made me think there wasn’t much student engagement, but I was misguided by my educational lens. This summer, I have come to learn through conversations with headmasters, deputy heads, and teachers from different primary and secondary schools these assumptions about teaching strategies and exercises I had generalized for all classrooms in Zambia were incorrect. There is no summary; there is no conclusion.

I have accepted the fact that the purpose of me being here is not to discover any sense of purpose but rather be present and listen to the different perspectives I have the chance to learn from. The trap that I find myself falling into is the frustration of not finding the answers to all my questions, and without them, I choose to summarize stories and experiences. This allows me to formulate my own explanations. It is naïve to think that I can summarize the lives of individuals and community structures with the limited experience I have as well as the personal biases that I carry with me into every interaction.

I can think of several individuals who have given me glimpses into their journeys thus far, but I could in no way provide a summary that holds the depth that these individuals are due. Last year I was introduced to a couple, James and Mary, who have been dressing Zags in the finest chitenge outfits for years. I spent many afternoons on their porch, making small talk and enjoying the calm pace at which it seemed they lived their day-to-day lives. My summary of James and Mary was that they were a nice family that provided me with an escape from the bustle of the market or the chaos of the classroom. There is no neat conclusion about who James and Mary are. I had the chance to reunite with these two, and yes, once again sit on their porch and chat. But this time I realized their lives are more complex than I had summarized them to be. James and Mary support many children and grandchildren, working tirelessly everyday to do so. (It can be easy to be fooled by their calm demeanor). They remind me of my hardworking parents, who began and continue to run a family business together. Tak and Carol can be found at the Grand Shanghai cooking and serving Chinese food just about everyday, in the same way James and Mary can be found sitting on their porch cutting and sewing Chitenge everyday. My parents have instilled a work ethic in me that I see James and Mary instill in their family. Work hard to earn what you want in life but make space for peace and laughter with your family along the way. This is and will continue to be more complex than my summary of a couple that sits on their porch and sews.

With my limited knowledge, I cannot give Zambezi or individuals I have met along this journey a summary. What I know I can do is share pieces of stories that continue to be written whether I am a part of them or not. I love to share these pieces because they are now a part of my story, but I want the world to know they are in no way summaries, there is no conclusion. I may not be back to Zambezi in the future but I refuse to make summaries. The stories continue.

 

Thanks Zambezi, thanks James and Mary, and thanks Mom and Dad,

Anna Yeung 

James, Mary, and I at the accompaniment dinner. “Their sweet Chinese-American daughter” -Jeff Dodd
(sorry for photo quality I took a photo of a photo because technology is my enemy)

 

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Reconsidering Expectations

May 18, 2018, 09:45 hours

The bush plane we are in slowly begins to descend as we approach the Zambezi airstrip. I look over the metal roofs, tall green mango trees, and the golden brown sand that coats the Zambezi streets. We fly over the single paved road in Zambezi and I turn around to Sanna in shock. Our eyes lock with a look of “what were we thinking?” Our bush plane makes a sharp turn toward the gravel airstrip and my eyes begin to fill with tears. I look down and see children from all sides running as fast as they can to the single airport building. A pit drops in my stomach and I feel goose bumps form over my skin. I turn back to Sanna, a single tear running down my face. The corners of my mouth stretch as far as they can, showing the most uncontrollable smile I’ve experienced. Our plane smoothly lands, and I feel overwhelming waves of shock, excitement, love and joy. A few minutes later, our plane is parked and we are exiting through the small cubby doors. The sole of my Chaco sandal hits the hot rusty red gravel road and I look up to see a swarm of children running my way. I turn my head and notice the Chilenga school choir singing, “We welcome you” in a soulful and loving melody.  I would soon learn this to be a common sound in Zambezi. That moment was filled with emotions of overwhelming love, joy, excitement, homesickness and fear of the unknown.

 

Before embarking on this journey, I inevitably conceived expectations and predictions about what I would experience while in Zambezi. From the moment I stepped out of the bush plane, my experiences failed to meet those expectations, and at other times exceeded those expectations.

Before arriving in Zambezi, I had many conversations with friends who had previously gone on the trip. From their stories, I expected I would meet many friendly and wise adults that I would form authentic and long-lasting relationships with. I imagined that I would stay in touch with them over the occasional email and frequent Facebook message. A week into being in Zambezi, I realized that my expectations of forming authentic and vulnerable life-long friendships with adults in just three short weeks might have been too ambitious. I spent most of my days at Chilenga teaching 6thand 7thgraders. I began to feel down on myself as I watched my fellow Zags making friends and finding their “person” in Zambezi. I questioned my ability to make friends and sometimes wondered whether I was more surface level than I thought. I struggled with the language barrier and finding appropriate questions to ask. I was confused because of the hospitality I experienced and how I didn’t see that transferring over into my relationships. As the weeks went on, I continued struggling with this. I was creating meaningful relationships, but they weren’t as epic and deep as I anticipated. I had to re-evaluate my situation and find meaning in the relationships I had created. I had to remind myself that I am enough, my hard work was enough, and most of all, my reflections on these experiences and the lessons I was learning were enough. I was reminded that, similar to at home, it takes me awhile to form deep relationships. I am good at socializing with new people, but it takes me awhile to call people “close friends”.  Contrasting that, I also learned, that it is possible to connect on an authentic level with someone within three short weeks. I learned that people are inherently interested and curious. I learned that merely saying “hello” could lead to an hour-long conversation in the market. I learned that no matter how hard I try, I don’t control the narrative and I can’t force relationships, but I can choose to engage and do my best to know people on an authentic and meaningful level.

From talking to the same friends that had been to Zambezi, I expected the people to be very kind and caring. However, those expectations were far exceeded. From the moment my Chaco hit the road Zambezi, I felt a form of love and compassion I had never experienced. At home, it is typical for people to be polite in public and for us to express love toward those we are close to. However, in Zambezi, I felt an inexplicable form of love from the people I interacted with. The mamas worked endlessly all day to put food on our plates and to wash our clothes, but not once did I feel anything but love from them. The tailors welcomed us into their shops with warm smiles and curious conversations. The parish at Our Lady of Fatima Church hosted us in their homes, put on events for us, and honored our work and presence in the community. The teachers at Chilenga spoke with us warmly and enthusiastically as we shared stories of our families and learned from the differences in education at home and in Zambezi. Our students admired us and worked so hard to adapt to our teaching style as we adapted to their learning style. They greeted us each day with a smile, a hug, and a unified “Hello Madam, how are you today?” The people I passed on my daily walk to the market would first stare, and then greet me with a welcoming “Musana mwane” or “hello.” The Zambezi community had no reason to approach us with such love and grace, but they showed me that you don’t need a reason to love someone. As cheesy as this may sound, the Zambezi community showed me that that loving isn’t an action, it’s a lifestyle.

 

June 8, 2018, 06:04 hours

Ten of us haul our bags into the back of the white Land Cruiser. We have grown accustomed to the tight quarters and bumpy roads of Zambezi. What was uncomfortable and squished three weeks ago now seems like a daily routine. We are oddly quiet on our short drive from the convent to the Zambezi airstrip. The journeys we have gone on in the Cruiser often involve loud signing and boisterous laughs. This morning, our journey was silent. We were greeted at the airstrip by a group of people that three weeks ago were complete strangers, but this morning their faces seemed more like family than anything else. Three preteen boys approach us as we unload our oversized backpacks stuffed with new chitenge and woven grass baskets. I approach them, unsure of what to say, because I know that for the first time in my life, when I say “goodbye,” I really mean “goodbye,” not just “see you later.” A simple Zambian handshake and hug with cheek taps on both sides is enough to communicate my gratitude and love for these people. “Jackson,” I say, “thank you so much for being a great friend and for showing me around the market on my first day. I will always remember singing Justin Bieber songs with you.” He looks at me and giggles as if he knows exactly what I am talking about. “Yes,” he says, “I will remember.” I break our eye contact to the sight of Mama Katendi frantically carrying two bags and a winter coat as she paces down the long gravel road toward us. “Hello Mama,” I greet her with a big hug. “Ah,” she sighs, “I can’t believe you have to leave.” Mama walks away to greet the rest of the group and I lock eyes with Grace K. Our teary-eyed contact and warm embrace nonverbally communicate our mutual despair that our time here was quickly coming to an end. As we boarded the bush plane I was filled with love, joy, sadness, and tears because of my amazement at the impact the Zambezi community has had on me during the last three weeks.

Kisu Mwane,

Devon Smith

 

p.s. Mom, Dad, Christian and Lorena, I miss you loads and can’t wait to see you in just 6 short days! Please tell Howie I say hi and that I miss him dearly. Also, if you could stock up on vegetables that would be much appreciated.

p.p.s. Our group safely arrived in Livingstone, Zambia, today. We are excited for the adventures of the next five days and look forward to sharing many stories when we return home.

 

 

 

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May We Never Lose Our Wonder

“May we never lose our wonder. Wide eyed and mystified, may we be just like a child.”
– Hillsong United

When I reflect on one of the many reasons I chose to come to Zambezi, I am reminded of my initial desire to escape the “real world” and be reminded of “simple truths.” In my time here, I have found there is no world that is more real than another, and there is no such thing as a simple truth. Every simple truth is just a complex one in disguise.

Each moment of this trip I have found myself in wonder. I stop, look, listen, breathe, and try to just be. I try to sit in the moment. However, I could never have expected how hard sitting in those moments could really be.

In the past three weeks, I have been challenged to change my perspective. Putting these experiences into words is hard for me because I feel as if they are lessons I will never stop learning. Earlier this week the health team traveled to Lishipa to install 24 Biosand water filters. We were working with Seeds of Hope, an organization focused on raising awareness about sanitation and providing clean water for families in Zambia. While there, I had the privilege of working with a man named Samson. We spent the morning teaching about the filters we would be installing, and then we did a brief lesson on waterborne illnesses. We laughed and told stories as we began the installation process under the unforgiving sun. (And, yes, I got burnt again just in case you were wondering, mom.)

Seeds of Hope was started by a couple who live outside of Zambia and is funded by international donors. Samson and the other Zambians who work for the company are at the mercy of donors from other countries to continue their work. They have appealed for government funding, but so far there has been no substantial assistance. Samson’s passion for the communities that go without clean water is not enough to fund the work that he does. Yet at the same time, Samson is involved in life-changing work that is transforming many families in Zambia that did not previously have access to clean water.

Along with working for this organization, Samson has just completed his education to be a primary school teacher. He wants to reach young children to instill in them a desire for education, advancement, and the importance of health. His goal is to build a school where all of the teachers who work there value educating the students more than their paychecks. Samson said that a lot of the reason people choose to teach in Zambia is because the government pay is good. He told me that he wished more than anything he could change the future of Zambia by changing the educational foundation for children.

I felt so conflicted when I ended my time with Samson. Here was a man who wants nothing more than to see Zambia thrive, to see the country rid of illness and corruption and to improve access to education. Yet because of the situation he was born into, he faces many obstacles. Because of the situation I was born into, I have been handed so much. I simply don’t face the same challenges.

In the story of Samson and so many other individuals I have had the pleasure of meeting, I am struck with a deep sense of the importance of storytelling. I am reminded that I am called to listen and receive, to meet people where they are, and to share this with others.

We live in a broken world full of broken people, no matter what geographical location we find ourselves in. This brokenness manifests itself in many ways. We often find ourselves in the world of our narrowed perspectives until we choose to step out of them. It is an active choice to become comfortable with the uncomfortable. It is challenging. It calls into question our identity, our purpose, our calling, and so much more. However, if we can look past the discomfort and lean into the wonder, everything starts to change. I was struck by the resilience of Samson and so many people I have had the pleasure of walking with in my short time here.

As we prepare to leave Zambezi, I am faced with the truth that I am conflicted in many ways. In my time here I have found, there is never one side to any story.
There are no easy answers. Behind every simple truth is a complex one that follows.
We are going to fail. Maybe that means we were finally curious enough to try.
It is a choice to enter into this confusing and formative way of thinking. This isn’t something that only happens once. Each day it is a transformation that we get the privilege of entering into. We get to choose to see the wonder in the world and let that transform us. I’m not sure it’s enough but one day I hope it will be.

Wakuzanga,

Alyssa Groscost

P.S.
To my CLC and my fearless leaders, I miss you and talk about you everyday. I can’t wait to hear about everything that I’ve missed. Praying for each of you and sending you a huge hug from halfway across the world. Big soccer kicks, T!
P.P.S.
Family and friends I miss you guys. Ryan, I hope you survived Vegas, and I can’t wait to hear about your summer so far. Can’t wait to eat my body weight in sushi with you when I get home.

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Chindende, Chindende (Slowly, slowly)

“Welcome Madam.” These are the words that greeted Maddie, Devon, Lexi and I every day in our English classes at Chilena. On Tuesday, we heard these words for the last time. We celebrated together in grade 8 and in grade 6, which provided an opportunity to reflect on everything we had done over the last two weeks.

We started at Chilena with a unit of lessons prepared and eager to meet our classes. As we met our students, my fellow teachers and I realized we needed to adjust to the Zambian classroom, and they needed time to adjust to us. The need to be flexible became immediately apparent upon entering our classrooms, and we knew there would be many changes. The Chilena students are accustomed to a more routine system of learning and are used to formalities I would have never expected out of middle schoolers back home. We are used to checking in with all of our students during independent work and taking breaks to sing songs or play games. Chindene, chindene, I get used to the formalities and learn the games and class encouragements that the students are accustomed to. The students begin to get comfortable with Lexi and I teaching and share their personalities and jokes with us while making incredible progress on storytelling.

Chindende, chindende.

The second change we made as teachers was adjusting how we taught. Our accents are strange and very hard to understand as are many of our speech patterns. We learned to adjust the speed of our speech and our phrases, and we picked up an accent somewhere between theirs and ours on some words. We changed the way we asked our questions and our approach to each day’s lessons. Our students have only been learning English for one year or three, and the original plans did not consider the diversity of language learners we would have. In our grade 6 class, we have students who seem fairly fluent while others routinely struggle, and one student wrote in either Lunda or hard-to-read guesses at English. We brainstormed lists of daily activities, used fill-in-the-blank style sentence starters, and tried to become comfortable with each other so that our students were not embarrassed to ask us questions when they needed help.

Chindende, chindende.

The third change the other teachers and I had to adjust to was that almost none of our assumptions about our students were true. Rock, paper, scissors needed to be explained. They were always incredibly eager to learn and would have sat listening to us teach for hours without much fidgeting. I do not think I have ever taught more attentive students, and they were incredibly quick learners. But our assumptions about how much time activities would take were way off. We mixed new ideas with the originals to better suit our students, sticking with Lexi’s visual aid that explained plot but following it with a list of activities we do in a day to practice identifying plot. We spent more time solidifying our basic knowledge of stories and also used some of our time to play games and sing songs together.

Chindende, chindende.

The last change we about what we wanted the students to create. We came here thinking we wanted a collection of individual stories on each element we taught plus longer stories that integrated all of those elements, or perhaps we would have them perform a play. We quickly realized a play would never logistically work— the grade 8 class has 64 students. Instead, we worked together to write short fiction stories and fill in the blanks for a structured “I am” poem. The writing took a long time, but we all enjoyed the process.

Chindende, chindende.

Though our adjustments came slowly, our final day of teaching snuck up on all of us. We felt like we were just getting to know our students, and the students were sad that we would no longer be here. We spent our day celebrating with arts and crafts for our celebration day on Tuesday. That night, we wrote notes in their exercise books and carefully snipped out pages to create stories. The next day, we handed out stories, lollipops, and pipe cleaners to our grade 8 students and said goodbye. We came back for grade 6, handed out stories, then went outside to play football. We ran around the field together, laughing together on our final day. We were joined by the other grade 6 class taught by Maddie and Devon, and we played as one massive group on the grass. Time passed strangely, and though it seems like a long time as I tried to run around in a dress on the field, it was time to head in much too quickly.

We left our students with lollipops that vanished before the period was over, storybooks they will hopefully cherish, a few new skills, and, with any luck, maybe a confidence boost.

As I reflect on my time at Chilena, I remember that many people asked what I would be doing on this trip. The student in my grade 6 class who originally could not write in understandable English finished our time here able to dictate incredible stories. They have all worked so hard, and everyone with consistent attendance finished their storybooks.  While I did teach, I learned so much more than I taught. I was humbled as I learned to change almost everything I knew about teaching as I taught these classes. I have gained a new flexibility in teaching because we had to change our lessons and would figure out for sure what we were doing in the moment every day in class. I will return a much better teacher, and I am so proud of these students I had the privilege to teach for the last two weeks.

Kisu mwane,

Katelyn

P.S. Friends and family, I miss you so much and am so excited to share all my stories and photos with you when I get home.

P.P.S. In answer to your post Mom and Dad, I have not seen many animals. Some butterflies and the chickens we have eaten. I have seen a lot of spiders (which I have grown used to—I know, who am I?) and the goats that roam around Chilena. Love you all lots, so excited to share my adventures with you!

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