Going Beyond the Surface

Lindsey Blog Photo2We have spent the past three days standing in awe of one of the seven wonders of the world, riding in an open vehicle through the animal filled fields on an African safari, and drinking high tea at a resort over the Zambezi river that costs $1000 per night. For many this is the Zambia and the Africa they know, and I have realized I am so grateful that this has been part of my experience. But I am equally grateful that it has been only a small part.

I think it’s easy to come tour a place and say you love it, but I wonder if you can truly love something that you do not really know. If we look at some of the deepest relationships that exemplify love in our lives, we might look at the love between two sisters (shout-out to my two wonderful sisters), the love between a married couple, or the love between God and His children. Love like this isn’t one dimensional, simple, and ignorant. Love like this is raw, messy, nakedly exposed, and beautiful. Love like this means seeing a person in their glory and their flaws and still choosing to love every part of them anyway.

I am glad that I am more than a surface lover of Zambezi. I have started to transcend the line between romanticizing a people with the shallow love of a visitor to choosing to love a people after seeing all of their mess. This trip has been harder than I imagined coming in, but the challenges have allowed me to truly love Zambezi and call it a home.

My heart filled with simple, profound joy as I sat next to a fire with my “mom,” Rachael, and my “sister,” Diris, on the night of our homestay in a bush village with no running water or electricity. Katie and I sat under the stars with them talking for three hours about everything—Rachael’s divorce and her leaning on God to support her when everything in her life was stripped away, the vocations we hope to have in the future, what fills our hearts with joy and impassions us, the little things that define us and make us who we are. These strangers became family and allowed me to experience a life so simple and focused on loving each other deeply and truly.

My eyes filled with tears dripping down my overheated face after seeing the shock and pain in a classmate’s eyes after a dehumanizing encounter at a cultural festival we attended. I shook, infuriated that both the Zambians in the cultural performance and students on our trip were treated in disrepectful and violating ways where men had power over helpless women. The tears were for both the Luvale tradition that was being corrupted by these dancers who failed to respect and treat all people as equals, and also for the traditions I am fully aware that we have in the United States that also fail to respect and dignify all people as equals.

My skin filled with goose-bumps as I stood listening to the story of one of the strongest woman I have ever met reveal to me that she has been left by her husband with seven children and no support. Despite this, she works multiple jobs to make enough money to support her children through school because she values education so much. I had the honor to work with her in our business and leadership class on a project of her choice, and she chose to propose a knitting school to support other women who couldn’t afford to send their kids to school. Even though successful students of such a school might cut into her own market for hand-knit products, she talked about the women in her community as “my women” and deeply believed that her own liberation (and her children’s) was not enough. She would not be pleased until every woman was able to have meaningful work and support their children through school.

My throat filled with unspoken anger and disappointment as our leadership and business class spent a day discussing the roles of women in Zambia. We heard about how women are “just stupider” than men, how giving up a seat on a bus shows they are respected and equal but giving up a store to a female child rather than a male child would be unheard of, and how Jesus was a male and the twelve disciples were all male, so obviously no woman should be a leader or have power. I hated seeing how the Bible was used as a tool of oppression rather than a tool of liberation, and how deeply ingrained traditions about gender roles still exist and confine women to inferior roles.

My mind fills with memories of laughter, dancing, peace, and beauty as I recount all the morning runs that let me see the long rays of sunlight bring light to a darkened town; as I remember sitting around the fire singing tunalewane lalelo musangia kalunga in one voice: Zambians and Americans united together; as I relive the opening of the Chilenga library and see the pride and excitement plastered on the faces of those receiving books for the first time in their lives.

I have seen the beauty of other-centered living, the depth of relationships, and the simplicity of valuing the non-monetary aspects of life that really matter. And I have also seen the messiness of politics and power plays from those leading a town, the hopelessness of those with no option, and the inability to treat every individual in a society with dignity and respect.

To truly love a place, we need to fully see it and know it—not just its pretty waterfalls or the sunset behind a pride of lion. Although parts of Zambezi challenged me and frustrated me to no end, I would choose that any day because I cherish being able to say I know and love Zambezi as a home.

Lindsey Hand, Class of 2017

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A Look Back

Lauren Group at the FallsMany of you know by now that we are no longer in Zambezi, but are safely in Livingstone. We left Zambezi on Wednesday, and have had a packed few days, including an overnight safari full of elephants, giraffes, hippos, and lions. Also, our hostel is great, but the wifi is suspect.

As we left Zambezi, our group was split for the two and a half hour flight with Katie making a surprise and extremely quick entrance when we realized that Andy’s flight was supposed to have five passengers who were still asleep at the convent, not the four who were packed and ready at the airstrip. Aaahhh, communication. Props to you, Katie. Our flight was scheduled to take off at 06 hours, so we were not sent off in proper Zambian fashion. There was no singing or dancing and no children surrounding us or yelling “Chindele!” With heavy hearts, experiencing one of the only low-key events to take place during our stay, we departed from the place that we called home for the last three weeks and that will forever hold a piece of our hearts. To cheer ourselves, we have been reflecting on ten of the funniest moments to happen on our journey thus far:

  1. While still in Lusaka at the beginning of our journey, Josh insisted that we have dinner at a random curry restaurant which his friend had suggested. Curry in Zambia? A strange combination if you ask me, but we were all starving and eager to “lean in and say ‘yes.’” The restaurant was dark and could barely fit all of us, so it took nearly an hour and a half to get our food. We spent that time speculating how many of us would get food poisoning from the “Systematic Restaurant,” as it was called. Once we finally got our food, my table was left with no utensils. Curry is kind of hard to eat without utensils. You know what’s worse than waiting an hour and a half for your food? Waiting another twenty minutes for your fork. However, the funniest part of that evening had to be the restroom; we had to walk through a little passageway with a sink and head outside to find a small room with a toilet. LaShantay and I ventured out with a borrowed headlamp (side note, never forget your headlamp in Zambia). We kept the door open in case of rats, and when it was my turn to use the facilities, she started talking to me. I replied, “I can’t hear you. My pee is too loud.”
  1. The rumors about huge and frightening African spiders are true and we came to encounter these creatures many, many times on our trip. Some of us are hardly even scared of spiders (or cockroaches) anymore. The first encounter happened on our first night in Lusaka, right after we checked in to the lodge we were to stay in. As a few of us were waiting to be shown to our rooms, we heard a cringe-worthy scream from a room full of male students. We exchanged nervous glances and concluded that they must have seen some kind of creepy-crawly thing. Turns out, it was a spider and Collin is scared of spiders. They also fessed up to jumping on their beds for fear of an attack. I had my own encounter with an enormous African spider during an emergency visit to the toilet. The lid was up when I went in, but I closed it after finishing up only to find out that the biggest spider I’ve ever seen was right behind my back the entire time. He easily could have attacked me, so I screamed. Venezia came to check on me in the bathroom because she heard me from down the hall. I never put the lid down again for fear of seeing more spiders.
  1. One of our first cultural immersions was seeing the Makishi dancers of the Luvale people. That was an experience itself that ought to be tackled in another post. However, Father Dominic, one of our cultural guides, provided some comic relief by introducing us to his friend Brian as, “This is my friendship Brian.” From then on, none of us were friends, but rather we were “friendships.” He also spent the night wearing a strange headband that looked like a diaper on his head and passing it around to strangers. Sometimes the tailors here don’t quite understand what you’re looking for. I apologize in advance to friends and family that receive souvenirs made of chitenge, good intentions, and interesting construction.
  1. Zambezi is filled with flattened, dried up chameleons. One day, a small group of people went for a walk, and—unbeknownst to the rest of us—brought back one of these creatures. It happened to be my day to write the group journal, and when I went to read aloud what I had written during reflection, I let out a piercing scream and threw the book on the floor. I was so shocked and overcome with laughter that I couldn’t answer any of the “What happened?” questions that came rolling in. Maryclare picked up the book and opened it, repeating my act. This time, the chameleon flew out of the book onto the floor, exposing itself to the room. I belly-laughed for a good three minutes while Nick picked it up with his bare fingers. The chameleon continued to make the rounds throughout the week, hiding under a breakfast plate one time and between a stack of readings another. Father Dom then told us it was probably poisonous because a snake bit it (he was likely joking), then played football (soccer) with it through the kitchen. He got distracted and left it on the floor until some brave soul taped it to the wall where it remained for the next two weeks, a constant reminder to be ever aware of your surroundings.
  1. Zambians like to give gifts to their visitors. These gifts are often food items and are sometimes still alive. In total, we received five chickens (Hannah got one of her own) and FOUR goats. Each time was comical in itself, but the first left us with some casualties. We left the goat tied up under the seat and the chicken with its legs tied in the vehicle while we crossed the bridge at Chiningyi after leaving Dipalata. Somehow, the goat got loose! We came back to a terrified goat, a chicken with its feathers a bit ruffled, and a jacket and bag covered in farm-animal fecal matter. Trying to get the goat tied back up while getting four people with unstable digestive systems back home was interesting. Props to Logan for being the goat master.
  1. The plague. What more can I say? We had twelve out of nineteen students suffer from the Zambezi plague during our stay, and I think we all suffered from some unfortunate digestive issues. In almost all cases, it was a simple 24-hour stomach bug. While the illness in itself was not funny at all, the fact that an anonymous student fessed up to sharting caused a roar of laughter. Perhaps more remarkable is the fact that a normal and completely not-awkward conversation for us usually consisted of some reference to our bodily functions. My roommates and I often fell asleep to talk of such things and thought nothing was odd about it. Seems that no matter how old we get, potty humor is never not funny.
  1. If you haven’t figured it out by now, Zambians really like to sing and dance, and find many occasions to do so, including when welcoming guests, around a bonfire, when saying goodbye to guests, and when dedicating a library. At the library dedication at Chileña, the GU students were required to perform a song and dance as well. Most of us are not skilled in the performing arts, whatsoever, and we struggled to come up with a song. “Uptown Funk” was tossed around, but deemed inappropriate for a Zambian crowd. Somehow, we settled on the classic “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” for which only about three of us knew the words. The night before the event was spent frantically trying to learn lyrics and a dance, but there was no way we could impress a Zambian with our moves, or lack-there-of. During the performance, the music kept cutting out, we forgot the words, and they tried to get us to stop, it was that bad. Not to fear, we persevered through the song with no background music and received a hearty pity clap from the crowd. At least we can laugh at ourselves, right?
  1. I have been blessed with the ability to fall asleep anywhere, but I personally have provided a great deal of laughter for the group because I have not been blessed with the ability to stay awake anywhere. Seriously, I can’t control it. Shelby continuously tells me that there is something wrong with me, because whenever anyone looks my direction during an extended period of sitting (more than five minutes) or just about any time after the sun has gone down, I’m sporting the sleepy eyes and rockin’ the head jerks. Jeff and Josh, I promise it’s nothing personal!
  1. Reflection is a time at night where we sit in candlelight and discuss readings and challenges. While it is very meaningful (I think; I’m usually asleep), it also provides for some great laughs. For example, we all got a good laugh out of Jeff’s face turning purple from laughing so hard at an off-handed remark that Shelby made. One night, Katie was in the middle of making a remark when she let out some gas. “Sorry, I farted,” she said and continued on nonchalantly. A joke that continues outside of reflection is the sassy nicknames bestowed upon Jennifer and Shelby, Jenny and Shelly, respectively, during a sarcastic skiff between the two. Last, but not least, was Shelby splitting her chitenge pants while striking a yoga pose.
  1. To preface the final recollection, there is a Zambian tradition of pouring water over the head of a person having a birthday. It was necessary that we orchestrate this happening for Nick’s recent birthday. We managed to pull it off, but not without Shelby accidentally hit him in the head with the bucket while pouring water on him. Oops.

Our time together in Zambia is coming to a close, but we are continuing to reflect together on the funny, blessed, and challenging moments that we have had thus far, and we are embracing the remaining moments that we have.

Blessings to you all and see you in just a few days,

Lauren Benedict, Class of 2015

P.S. We were able to fly over Victoria Falls on our way in to Livingstone. Just seeing it from the air made me sure of its standing as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Exploring it in person on Thursday proved to be just as magnificent and provided us with many more funny stories, including baboon attacks!

P.P.S. We’ll have one final post from Livingstone tonight, so stay tuned!

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kNOw Expectations

MC OBWWe are told to come to Zambia with no expectations.

Sitting around in the Reed Mat Lodge on our first night in Zambia, we reflected on our expectations for our Africa experience. Many of us suggested that we were coming in with only the expectation to learn and others with no expectations at all, but I am realizing more than ever the truth of my own comment the sentiment of which many had shared: “I’m sure I have expectations that I don’t yet realize, but as of now I’m trying to go in without any expectations.” As hard as I tried to not expect anything and jump into everything with all my effort, somehow on our last day in Zambezi I can call to mind over fifty expectations that have not been met.

In our class last semester while still at Gonzaga Josh spoke of relationships we will build in the community and the one friend we will grow inseparably close with, our “Zambian Best Friend.” While this was most definitely not the way it was presented, in the process of telling stories of past experiences of this trip, many of us painted this picture. We somehow ignored the constant reminder that there is not only one formula to this trip.

When Venezia and I attempted to prepare the computers we were planning to bring with us, we struggled to figure out how to log onto and upload the typing software. As Josh jokingly scoffed at our capabilities I asked him if he was sure he chose the right people for the computer team. In that moment he reminded us that teaching computers is not about teaching computers, it is about building relationships.

I now realize that was my expectation coming into this trip. I planned to build lasting relationships with both students and the Zambians in my classes.

In attempts to take in all of Josh’s advice and must see/dos in Zambia, somewhere along the way I fell into the trap of building surface level relationships and connecting with people to fulfill my quota of sights, smells, and connections. Some of these included creating funny homestay memories, meeting someone who lives in a bush village, purchasing presents for family and friends, getting a cold drink from George’s shop, engaging with our students, and much more.

When we arrived in Zambia we began to question our abilities even more, as we discovered that there would be 76 students in four classes each day. We had planned for 45 to 50 students in three classes each day. We quickly replaced our worries with the realization of a greater possibility of building relationships with more students. Unfortunately, we quickly realized that with very little time in between classes there was little time to build relationships with students.

I began to grow discouraged by the lack of opportunity to connect with a student further than “hello” and “good job” when they learned a new technique. One day I looked over at a student who was engaged in his cell phone while he waited for computer time. Looking around to see no hands in the air begging for my attention, I took the opportunity to engage in conversation. I talked with him about his day and about the leadership class he was taking from our students. Organically, the situation became one in which Ramson stayed after class each day and we talked for about a half hour.

I thought this might be my chance to make a connection, but I grew frustrated with the surface level of our conversation. I was feeling the pressure when Josh asked us to invite one of our friends from the community to the accompaniment lunch. This is a lunch designed to bring together students and their cultural guide, a person in the community who has helped enrich their experience. Essentially we were expected to have made our “Zambian Best Friend.” Despite the conversations Ramson and I had had, I still did not feel a stronger relationship growing with this 23-year-old Zambian. With the invite deadline approaching I invited him on a whim. That Sunday night dinner created the perfect platform for diving into deeper conversation. Away from the classroom and some of the other students, we finally carried our conversation to deeper topics, talking about the way he grew up, the goals he has to support orphans through school and to empower a younger generation to succeed. That night he was the last to leave and even as we walked to the gate it was hard to end our conversation.

Yesterday I finally got the opportunity to ask him to join me for a coke in the market. Ignoring the fact that dinner was in an hour, I took the leap to embrace this relationship. I realized that if we were going to get past the awkward conversations then we just had to get through them. On my second to last day in town I finally got the opportunity to explore more of Zambezi as he took me by his Aunt’s house where he was staying and around the neighborhood.

It is frustrating to feel that I have finally begun to build a relationship and we have to leave in the morning. Through this development I have come to recognize that simply asking questions and truly listening for the answers can bring about relationships over time. When I finally stopped worrying about doing my job of teaching computers and truly gave in to letting someone get to know me and I them, I was able to let go of my expectations of the relationships I would build and let them actually happen.

Although I have yet to ride an ox cart or play checkers with the man outside in the market I can look at the experiences I have had and recognize my growth.

Peace and Blessings,

Maryclare O’Brien-Wilson, Class of 2017

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Thirsting for Knowledge

The Engineers with Samson, Elijah, and Mama Rachael (a filter recipient)

The Engineers with Samson, Elijah, and Mama Rachael (a filter recipient)

As we finish up the last days here in Zambezi, I reflect back on the unexpected experiences I have had so far, changing the way I look at the world with its issues and its hopes. I have gained understanding in areas that were previously unknown to me and struggled to know other experiences.

I now understand what it feels like to be in the minority. I understand standing out because of my skin color. I understand the confusion of completely not understanding the local language. I understand that getting laughed at for attempting Lunda or Luvale does not always mean that I suck at it, and if it does, I understand that that’s ok. I have been exposed to these situations for the first time and although I do not have complete comprehension, these things carry me forward on my journey toward growth and self-awareness.

What I still don’t understand is the absence, or inconsistency, of thought about the necessity of clean water. Last week, the engineers (Collin, Reilly and I) worked with an organization called Seeds of Hope. This is an organization that has developed a technology to clean drinking water. It is a small scale in-home slow sand filter. We went to two villages, Lishipa and Mize, to deliver the 22 filters that were purchased for the project. We were accompanied by Seeds of Hope staff Samson and Elijah. I saw their passion for Seeds of Hope in some distinct and inspiring ways. Elijah told me his story in the driver’s seat of the truck as we headed to Mize. He had been a man far from God when he decided to turn his life toward Christ and eventually found his way to Seeds of Hope. He shows a love for serving God and others. Samson described to us, as we crossed the Zambezi River in a thin, hand-dug wooden canoe, the fact that only a very small percentage of the Zambian government’s budget is dedicated to sanitation, while a good portion of it was dedicated to health. He emphasized the fact that if more were spent on prevention rather than treatment, Zambia could be a more healthy country. He was fired up and knew exactly what he was talking about. Both of these committed men fueled my views on why clean drinking water is so important and needed.

BioSand

Mama Rachael with her bio-sand water filter

The people in the villages surrounding Zambezi generally get their water from shallow wells or bore holes. These two sources of water are open to the atmosphere and are very susceptible to contamination. In the engineering class that we teach in the afternoons we gave some paddle water tests to our students to take home and pour water over. After receiving the results of our bacteria tests, it was evident that in the water that our students had tested there was plenty of bacteria present. This was true for primarily the tests done with water from shallow wells or bore holes, but even some of the tap water samples indicated positive results.

In some ways I expected to come to Zambia and have people be specifically aware of their need for clean water, but mostly we saw blank stares or curious faces when we educated on the critical need to make sure water is safe before drinking. The issue of the lack of clean water goes much deeper, revealing social issues involving practicality of their current methods of cleaning water and public opinion about its quality. Even when the communities did know that their water was at times dirty, they did not very often understand how important it was to boil or filter it. This action could work wonders in a community that sees multiple cases of diarrhea in a week.

I technically understand that there are difficulties to always cleaning the water. This comes partially in the form of a lack of knowledge, as at times the water may look pathogen-free despite the presence of contaminants. I can also see that it is a lot of work to boil water every time you want to use some. However, I struggle to understand how there is little connection between the amount of illness that the vulnerable face and the contamination of the water. A common myth that we heard when delivering filters was that the reason for diarrhea in babies was that they are teething. Samson brought this up while we were doing the educational portion of the installation and just about every woman nodded in agreement. It was hard for me to believe the predominance of this myth, but as I think about it I realize that we have similar myths in the US. We have used wives tales for years in our history to explain phenomena that we could not figure out. Although sometimes it seems as though we are not contributing enough to the Zambezi community, the knowledge that we are sharing changes these prominent myths and also changes the lifestyles of the people. When we were teaching a group of community members in Nsangula, the headwomen’s face shone with a smile as she clapped in appreciation. She pointed out to us how the valuable information of the importance of water filtration and of how to tell if a baby was dehydrated was going to improve the habits and health of those she was leading.

Although the lack of knowledge about water borne illnesses and importance of cleaning drinking water is something I have a hard time wrapping my head around, I do see people in remote areas taking strides toward a healthier water situation. I see community leaders set on informing those around them to make their water safe. I see an overall desire for improvement, even though it may not be immediate. And I see Zambians valuing improvement in technology and education, like the slow sand filters, to make their water cleaner for their community. I hope as I continue to reflect and analyze all of the data that I have taken in so far, I can see through the eyes of the Zambian community and walk with them to establishing safer drinking water.

I have met some pretty amazing people here who inspire me to be a better engineer and person. I can’t wait to form these hints of understanding into actions and attitudes as I return to the US. And to Zambezi, I am intrigued by you and will miss your presence in my daily life, but I will never forget the lessons that you have taught me. Thank you.

Kisu Mwane,

Allie Reiling

Class of 2016

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The Little Stuff on the Way

As the group’s time in Zambezi comes to an end, I do not believe I am alone in trying to recount my experiences and attempt to give this journey as a whole a greater meaning. I feel unable as yet to articulate one grand lesson from what I have learned from my time in Zambia. With two days remaining, the only lesson I feel ready to share is that time flies, but perhaps I can paint a picture of this country and its people by sharing a few of my experiences and the smaller realizations that I have come to along the way.

In my opinion, the best way to start this excursion is with an explanation of the infamous expression, “Zambian time.” Within the United States, there is a mindset that dictates the importance of being on time. This fast paced business mentality, fueled by our caffeine addictions, would not allow us to dally, as this could lead to the wasting of our so very precious time. Now if this notion of wasting your own time is already unbearable, consider the emotions you might feel if you felt another was wasting your time. Even though we believe being late in the States can lead to nothing good, a Zambian scoffs at this notion and will arrive within a window ranging from 20 to 45 minutes after the start time, interrupting whatever it is you are doing and likely shaking the hand of each person in the room while smiling broadly.

In similar fashion, Zambian culture dictates that if while on the way to do something, you run into and old acquaintance, stopping to catch up is obligatory; surely the person going to be met will understand. The students of Gonzaga quickly came to accept this fact and in some cases embrace it. Though always unsettling when your class is empty 15 minutes after it’s started, there is some good in this. This late into our journey, the entire group has adopted this new way of doing things by slowing down and taking the time to pour an extra cup of coffee, finalize lesson plans, or just panic at our inadequacies as teachers (some of us). Most importantly, this window allows us to slow down and sometimes have the conversation not otherwise possible. I believe the expression, “Zambian time,” reflects the values of the people of Zambia. It is just one example of the value Zambians put on their relationships.

I have also witnessed first hand just how important it is for a Zambian to build a new relationship with a guest. While meeting new people and being welcomed into their communities, I have been humbled by generosity like never before in my life. During our first weekend in Zambezi, the students all went on home-stays with families from the Catholic Church. For my home-stay, I travelled with Peter and Kenzie to the home of Steven and Violet, a couple living in the small bush village of Mushana, right outside of Zambezi. As we arrived, this couple’s property was flooded with 40 plus children under the age of ten. Steven explained to us that people with white skin never came to this village and so this was an exciting event for all of the neighbor children.

After enough singing and dancing with children to probably last the remainder of my life, dinner was presented. Violet had cooked a simple but traditional meal of nshima, relish, and eggs for the three of us. Before starting to eat, she presented each of us with a bottled soda, something we quickly understood to be a special gift reserved for guests, as the funds for such a treat are usually not available. Then, as we ate portions too large for most normal people in the U.S., it dawned on us that not only were the 40 kids staring at us not eating any dinner, but neither were Steven or Violet.

These people welcomed three strangers into their home, fed them anything but a small meal, and all while seeming to have sacrificed their own meals. I will never forget the moment Violet presented us three with our meals with a huge grin. I have been back to Steven and Violet’s since the home-stay and just as he did the first time, Steven said, “Just like America, this place is your home.” I truly believe Steven means what he says. He and his wife have accepted us all into their home and shown me a kindness I’ve never felt from a stranger in the United States. Steven and Violet allowed me to begin to understand just what it is the Zambian people value.

DSC_7521

(Kenzie, Steven, Peter, Violet, and I)

Each time the Gonzaga group has visited a new community we have been welcomed, not only with gifts, but also with song and dance. To show our appreciation, we have also sung for them. It is worth noting that I am not the kind of person who enjoys preforming in front of other people. Over the course of this journey, I have had to learn to get over this. During our time here, we have been taught different songs in the local languages, both Lunda and Luvale. Often after an impressive sounding choir has preformed for us, we attempt to return their gesture. We never sound as good. Even so, the people show their appreciation for the fact that we tried (often with laughter). Even during the library opening ceremony, our group was asked to preform a song and dance. Though the group’s rendition of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” was for lack of a better word was rough (let us hope there is no video), the people enjoyed it. Apparently even if the quality isn’t always there, the gesture is important because it shows that the relationship is being built from both sides. It is not just the Zambian people reaching out to us, but also us reaching back.

During my time spent in Zambezi thus far, I have learned several things. It is important to slow down and sometimes take a breather. Not only that, but priority should be given to catching up and maintaining lasting relationships. Even when it doesn’t seem comfortable, accepting gifts graciously, as well as fully appreciating what the gifts represent are important. Always remembering to appreciate what you already have and finally, putting yourself out there and taking risks more often than not lead to good things.

With several days left in this amazing place, I’m sure the lessons will continue. Even as our group departs, I’m sure that taking a step back from this place will shine a new light on everything I thought I knew. Who knows, maybe the my grand lesson will come to me after I leave Zambezi.

Nick Sadilek – Class of 2018

P.S. – Zamfam 2015 would like to claim the record for having been gifted the most goats ….. 4

To Family: Mom, are you Diet Coke free? Love and miss the whole family. Can’t wait to see you guys.

 

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Breaking Down the Walls

When I look back to the first night spent in Zambia at the Reed Mat Lodge, the very first thing I noticed was the largest spider I had ever seen, and then another. I was already panicked within a few hours of being in Zambia, as I am not so much a bug or insect person. However, I am a mosquito person as they love me so much and I have countless mosquito bites (don’t worry mom and grandma, I don’t have malaria, Ebola, yellow fever, or typhoid…yet). As I crawled into bed underneath my mosquito net for the first time, I was not sure if I was going to do well on this trip with all of my annoying fears. Little did I know those fears and comfort zones were going to be pushed and broken down.

Last Saturday, the group had the opportunity to travel to Dipalata, a rural village outside of Zambezi. When I say rural, I mean a stereotypical African village with no electricity and plumbing, so yes, we peed, pooped, and some hurled in a hole in the ground. I told myself to go to the bathroom right before we left and not again until we got back since I don’t like to go to the bathroom in honey buckets or even on airplanes, let alone a hole in the ground. My plan was not very successful; I had to pee within an hour of being there and I grabbed the toilet paper we had brought and made the trek to the holes, which were partially enclosed with walls of sticks and grass. You could say I was a little uncomfortable. From that moment on however, my comfort zone began to expand more and more.

Sunday, I was lucky enough to spend my 19th birthday in Dipalata and then riding back to Zambezi. The people of Dipalata were so amazingly gracious and gave us many gifts of love and gratitude. These gifts included bananas straight off the tree, groundnuts, large squashes and pumpkins, a chicken, a rooster (from hot James, the beekeeper) and one live goat. How were we getting a live goat back to Zambezi you ask? By tying its legs together so it could not move and stuffing it under the seat in the most stereotypical African Safari truck you could imagine. We should have been wearing khakis and jungle hats. Who got to ride two feet away from Mr. Gotye? Many of us enjoyed this privilege and I was one of them. Never would I have ever have thought I’d get to be in Africa gazing out across the beautiful plains while frequently being kicked and hearing the wails of an upset goat right next to me on my 19th birthday, but the day had just begun.

Our next stop was a suspension bridge built many years ago to prevent deaths from crossing the Zambezi River. This bridge was HIGH and looked very unstable. Did I mention I am afraid of heights? I took my first step out onto that bridge and my thoughts were “No one is ever going to believe I did this. Kenzie, get a picture of me!” LaShantay's PictureI walked over that bridge while admiring the beautiful Zambian sunset twice suffering only from a few minor cuts (thanks Nurse Hannah), a little bit of sweat, and having to dodge many scared Zambians and a motorcycle, only to come back to find the rooster and Mr. Gotye loose in the back of the truck with poop and pee on various personal items, including my jacket and Jo’s brand new bag. Oh the adventures kept coming.

I am not sure why I thought this would be the only time I rode in an African Safari truck with a goat because it happened TWO more times! One of those times, the goat was no longer under the seat but right next to me as it cuddled with the wonderful Reilly Dooris’ feet. I prayed Van Goat (the name of goat #2) would not panic and begin to cause a little too much excitement in one day.

Through these small and funny circumstances, I can see myself growing and pushing myself more and more. With that, I have come to see the boundaries I have set for myself that I cannot seem to break down. A lot of the students have mentioned the countless children waiting for us outside the Convent but I still cannot bring myself to go outside and play during my little amount of free time. I still do not feel comfortable holding hands with every child that wants to. I still freak out every time a bug comes near me, even when Reilly says to me “LaShantay, we’re in Africa!”

I do not know why these walls that I cannot seem to get myself to break down are so strong. I want to experience everything I can but sometimes I am a little too out of my comfort zone. Something that Josh said when we first arrived in Zambezi was “Lean in and say yes.” This phrase is used a little jokingly around the convent, but I really do wish to lean into my fears as I sit here typing this, looking at cockroaches crawling on the walls. Our time in Zambezi is quickly approaching an end and I want to be able to say I grew in ways I did not expect. So far, although that has happened, I know that even more walls can be broken down. Learning begins when you step outside of your comfort zone and I can feel that I have been learning everyday.

Kisu Mwane,

LaShantay Walls Class of 2018

 

P.S. Thanks to all of my friends and family for the birthday wishes. The group and I went out to dinner and had nice cold drinks to celebrate, it was definitely a birthday for the books. I hope you are doing well and I love you all! Mom, finish classes strong and tell everyone I miss and love them! I’ll see you in Tacoma J Grandma, I love you so much and I cannot wait to see you soon! Give Prince and Sugar hugs and kisses for me J

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Seeing through a New Set of Eyes

During the time that we have been spending in Zambezi, we all as a group and as individuals have seen or experienced many things that give us insight to the people of this town. We have seen their loving and giving nature as well as learned about some of their culture and history.

Although when I first decided to come to Zambia I thought that learning about the culture and history would be the biggest draw for me, more recently I have begun to realize that while I love learning about these things, I also want to get more personal and actually learn about some of the individual people that live here in Zambezi. Being in a new place with so much to learn about the people of Zambezi as a whole has actually distracted me from making relationships with individuals and from learning about the lives they live from their perspective rather than one from of an outsider looking in.

The day we unloaded the 20,000 books from a semi-truck at Chilenga Basic School I met a student named Jacob. On that day I only got to know him briefly in a superficial way. He is a 15-year-old in the ninth grade who is the Vice Head Boy at Chilenga Basic, which means he is the second best student in the school. He asked me many simple questions about a health book he had picked up. Other than his interest in this subject, I did not know anything else about him. Since then, during my time teaching at Chilenga, I have seen him every day after school when we talk during the five minutes it takes me and the teaching team to organize ourselves for the trip back to the convent. However, a couple days ago after school I decided to stay longer after teaching and talk to Jacob about my life and also ask about his.

P.S. He is not angry; people of Zambia often don't smile in pictures.

P.S. He is not angry; people of Zambia often don’t smile in pictures.

Jacob is considered an orphan here in Zambia because when he was five years old his father passed away and his mother cannot afford to pay for any of his simple living expenses. Although Jacob was born in Solwezi, his father was from Zambezi. He drove a truck that brought supplies to local villages. He always told Jacob that if he worked very hard in life he would be successful and would be able to see the whole world, including America. Ever since the death of his father, Jacob has had the dream of becoming a pilot and seeing other places in the world. His desire is to become a pilot so that he can go to and see other places from the sky, help to bring supplies to villages who are in desperate need as his father did, and most importantly, support his mother and two younger sisters.

While Jacob has a set plan of school and going to a University to accomplish his dream, he is faced with overcoming an extreme challenge, money. Because he is an orphan, he has had no support from anybody to pay for his school. While the fees of school here seem very small to some, for Jacob they require every kwatcha he has. He has managed to pay for schooling by working on Saturdays both in town and also for a farmer. The small amount of money he makes he uses to pay for his school uniform and the few books he can afford. This barely gets him by but isn’t enough to pay for simple shoes, a backpack, and other basic living expenses. Although he is the Vice Head Boy at the school, he tells me if he had the money to afford a laptop he would have been better with technology and been the Head Boy. He lives at the school and is practically always studying to better his education. A problem Jacob faces is that Chilenga basic school only goes up to grade 9 and he cannot afford to go to Zambezi boarding which is his only real option. To go there he would either have to pay to live at the school, which he cannot afford, or walk around 5 miles to and from school everyday. The only program that could help him is a program called Orphanage Variable Child, or OVC, which helps some orphans who qualify with the costs of schooling and their books. Sadly Jacob was recently turned down from the program despite his obvious qualifications due to lack of OVC funds.

Jacob is one of the smartest and most mature people I have ever had the honor to speak to. His hard work and constant battle to overcome obstacles in front of him is such an inspiration to me. He told me sometimes he cries because if his father were still here, then he would have a lot more push to work ever harder than he does currently and that he would have better opportunities. Listening to Jacob’s story was heartbreaking to me. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be in his shoes.

Sometimes I feel Americans, whether kids in grade schools or people like me at the University take what is given to us for granted. In the U.S. grades one through twelve are a given right, but here in Zambia most students cannot afford to go to school past grade nine. Others who are even less fortunate or who don’t have parents who push them to stay in school usually drop out even sooner than this.

The question I keep asking myself while here in Zambezi is, do I want to be a person who goes back home and pushes these things aside in order to feel more comfortable about myself? Or do I want to be the person who embraces the stories of not only the people I have learned about, but also the friends I have built relationships with and in doing so, allow them to change me and my outlook on life and the world?

Logan Howard, Class 2017

P.S. Mom, Dad- I love you and miss you and can’t wait to tell you the endless about of stories I have when I get home.

Lucas- Happy early graduation buddy, Love ya

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Finally Awake

A brief computer lesson brought out a crowd last weekend in Dipalata.

A brief computer lesson brought out a crowd last weekend in Dipalata.

Despite being well into our Zambian adventure, it wasn’t until today that I finally realized I was in Africa. In true Zambian fashion, my arrival was just slightly later than I anticipated. The past week and a half has been difficult because I’ve felt like I have been on autopilot. In trying to embrace Zambezi, I neglected to let myself into the community. Afraid to impose, I simply let myself observe my environment and not explore it.

In the common room of the Convent is a list of commitments we all agreed upon on in our first night in Zambezi. Number 6 reads, “Reducing “otherness” by practicing curiosity and openmindness toward the people of Zambezi,” and I believe somewhere along the way, my deep sense of curiosity went dormant. I have not fueled myself to know more and learn more about a community that so willingly and lovingly welcomed me. I believed I would not be able to make a lasting impact here, especially when only a handful of my students were able to say my name after the first week.

In class today, I was lost in conversation with one of my students, Kaumba. At first our conversation was more of a question and answer session, but after a few moments it was finally my turn to be prompted with a question. He asked me about the United States, specifically the application process for Gonzaga and other universities. The question was simple, “How do you apply to university?” But it instigated a real conversation that was filled with the rhythm of curiosity and passion. As he shared his wish to pursue journalism and I described my desire for a career in public health, I felt like I mattered.

Day after day the computer team teaches around 75 students various computer skills. We spend most of our time funneling people in and out the doorway trying to stay on time and get everyone substantial computer time. Our work is tedious and difficult and often I feel like I haven’t taught anything to anyone. During my conversation with Kaumba, however, I was more than a teacher. I was his peer. Together we surpassed “otherness” and built community through our mutual eagerness and curiosity to know more about our different cultures.

There is so much more to Zambia than the “CHINDELEHOWAREYOU” voices we hear every day and the market filled with colorful chitenge. It is filled with things to be curious about and people who are filled with a curiosity to know the world beyond Zambezi.

As I process and unravel my thoughts about my experience here, I have come to understand that as humans we share the mutual need to know and be known. We are curious by nature and we thrive on the knowledge and insight we share through the conversations that go beyond “How are you?” It took me longer than I expected, but I think I have finally reawakened the curiosity hidden inside of me.

So as I describe my current vulnerability in this post, I am also challenging myself to further awaken and explore my temporary home.

This morning I heard the one noise that gives me the most intense anxiety, the sound of my students entering the classroom as their soles sandwich the sand with concrete. Tomorrow there will be no anxiety, but instead an appreciation for the amount of curiosity that lives within each and every one of the men and women who have dedicated their time to understanding technology. Tomorrow we will be in solidarity as we deepen our willingness to see beyond what we know.

Kisu Mwane,

Venezia Hyland, Class of 2017

 

P.S. Today as I was helping wash some dishes I thought I saw a goat on the loose in the courtyard of the Convent. Turns out the Health Team was given a goat on their trip today. We are now housing three goats at the Convent. Slaughtering and mourning will be on Saturday afternoon. Between now and then we will be adventuring around Chitokoloki Mission Hospital and, considering our record, may bring home another goat. No blog on Friday, but we’ll work double-time to catch up after that.

P.P.S Mommy, Daddy, and Soleil I hope all is well and New York is treating you well.

Mom – HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Sending all the love to you on your soon to be special day.

Daniel – Happy Graduation bud! I’m so proud of all the work you have done and can’t wait to see you.

To the rest of the family – thank you for your prayers and I can’t wait to show you all the pictures that I’ve taken

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Small Steps Hand in Hand

CollinsWe have been in Zambezi for twelve days, with only seven remaining. With the passing of this week, we have gotten to the point where we have less time remaining than we have already spent here. Some of our projects have been completed, and many of them are starting to come to a close. With the little time we have left in Zambezi, I find myself wrestling with the idea of whether these people need us to solve problems in their community, or if we are doing them the most service just by showing up.

This community, region, and country as a whole have problems that are much too large for any Westerners to swoop in and solve, especially a small group of students and professors from Spokane. I have spoken to a number of local people who have expressed some of the greatest problems they see in Zambia. Some of these problems include: Lack of government funding for sanitation programs and infrastructure, an inadequate education system, and the unavailability of capital investment for local entrepreneurs. Each of these problems has its own unique challenges at both the small and large scale.

Samson from Seeds of Hope, the Zambian NGO the engineering team worked with on their water filter project, explained to us that the Zambian government allocates a grossly disproportionate amount of funds to healthcare as opposed to sanitation. Many of the health problems in Zambia are the result of waterborne illness, so instead of stopping the problem at its source, government programs are essentially allowing people to get sick and then treating them for their preventable diseases. While it is necessary to help people who are currently sick, allowing the cycle of preventable disease to continue is not a sustainable model for the future.

Education is another key problem in Zambia. Some of the students who attend our engineering classes at the convent are recent graduates of secondary school, and are looking towards higher education. I have spoken with several of them, and the consensus is resoundingly the same. Zambia’s universities do not have the capacity or resources to educate all of the qualified students who desire a degree. There is a huge surplus of intelligent, hard-working people who do not have the formal qualifications to attain gainful employment.

While people in developed nations like the US have opportunities for entrepreneurship and private enterprise, Zambians lack the socioeconomic structure to support innovators who lack formal education. At the large scale, Zambia’s booming copper industry is predominately owned and operated by Chinese companies. Many of the country’s economic problems could be significantly mitigated if there were a way for Zambians to run their own mining operations, providing jobs to thousands and bolstering the economy as a whole. At the small scale, there is not a reliable banking system to provide small business loans or even microloans to people who have good ideas, but cannot come up with capital on their own. Alube, a friend of the program Jeff and the engineering team recently visited, is a highly skilled electrician, but is unemployed and lacks the money to start his own home wiring company. At every level of the Zambian economy, there just isn’t enough money to go around.

The problems I have identified seem very overwhelming, especially in light of all the privileges we take for granted in the US. Although I felt like I knew what I was getting into when I came to Zambia, I can’t escape feeling a sense of desperation for these people in this great nation, especially after hearing their personal stories and sometimes cries for help. I realize what we are doing here makes a small impact in light of the vast problems facing the country as a whole, but what I have come to realize and accept is that we are not capable of or responsible for solving these problems. Yes, we come here with the intention of service and improving the community, but it isn’t our job to figure out how to turn Zambia into a prosperous nation. That’s a job for the Zambian people. We are merely here to walk with them to understand their suffering, and offer them a few tools to improve their own situation as they see fit.

Throughout most of this trip, I’ve been struggling to decide if what we are doing here is the most efficient or productive way to improve the situation for the people here in Zambezi (can you tell I’m an engineer?). Over the last few days, I realized I’ve been asking the wrong question. The question should be “are we helping this community?” and the answer is undoubtedly “yes.” As Mother Teresa famously said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” Although I’ve dedicated the last four years of my life and probably my entire career to worrying about numbers, I find solace in the notion of knowing that we are doing positive work here, even if it is only making a small impact in the grand scheme of Zambia’s struggles.

After dragging you all through the mud by discussing everything that’s wrong with Zambia and how we can’t fix it, I would like to end this post by painting a picture of what this program has done for the community of Zambezi and how the local people feel about it.

This morning, the Gonzaga team met at the front of the education director’s office. With over a hundred school children and adults from the community, we marched to Chilena basic school for the grand opening of the library, which was funded through Gonzaga’s Zambia Gold program and is one of the largest in the entire province. After three miles of singing, dancing, chanting, and running, we arrived at Chilena to see a crowd of hundreds more awaiting our arrival. Dignitaries from various government departments were seated in plush chairs underneath shade tents. Children stood in the sun for hours while choirs sang, costumed boys and girls danced traditional dances, and people in freshly pressed suits gave heartwarming speeches. After resounding sentiments of gratitude to Gonzaga from the entire community, we were gifted an assortment of local fruits and a goat, which I have come to understand is one of the highest forms of respect in Zambia. After the ribbon was officially cut, we were allowed to tour the library. What stood out to me was not the vast assortment of books and learning materials, but the children peering through every window, eagerly awaiting to dive into the new wealth of knowledge in their community and to educate themselves for a brighter future.

Collin Price, Class of 2015

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Getting on the “Roof”

Joel's blogAfter spending part of last summer in Zambia, I knew that I wanted to come back because being here gives me a better understanding of who I am and where I have come from.

Today in class, I taught adaptive leadership, and specifically the idea of “getting on the balcony.” As I was discussing this, many of the students looked confused, so my fellow teachers and I asked if they understood the concept of balcony? Many of the students stared blankly back at me, so we decided that getting on the roof was a better understood expression. As I reflected more on this class and the ideas that I taught, I realized that many of the things that we are doing here in Zambezi require us to get on the “roof,” and observe our experiences from a broader perspective. By getting on the “roof,” it gives us students a chance to not only analyze the Zambian culture, but also American culture. Furthermore, being in Zambia gives Zambians the chance to analyze not only our American culture, but also their own Zambian culture. We are able to analyze and critique both cultures, which leads to a greater understanding of ourselves and the people we are our spending time with.

In our leadership in business classes there is a final business proposal, where students find a need within their community and propose a solution to this. For example, many of them have proposed Internet cafés, and this is a really great idea if we look at it from our western perspective where the Internet is one of the most important tools for communication. But when we take a “roof” perspective and reflect on this, we can see how our American culture values communication in a different way than Zambian culture values communication. Internet cafés would drastically change the communication here in Zambia. Currently, people in Zambezi are very good at communicating face to face; in the U.S., even at Gonzaga, I have had many professors who say that one of the biggest problems we are facing is that we have lost our face-to-face communication skills.

We can see this in our Zambian leadership classes. For example, when we taught servant leadership we did the “floating stick” activity, where you have to work as a team to lower a broomstick to the ground. Those of you who have done this activity know that it is surprisingly difficult and requires very clear and concise communication. When the students in our class did this, they communicated well with one another and lowered the stick with ease. I have been parts of groups that took as long as 15 minutes to lower the stick. America’s lack of communication is something that we rarely notice, but being in Zambia gives us another perspective, where we can more accurately analyze our culture.

By interacting with Zambians, we are also able to give them a more accurate perception of our culture. I think of reflection last night, when we did an activity where we said, “My roots are” and listed, smells, sounds, sights, ancestors, foods, and phrases that define who we are. Father Dominic and Mama Kawatu, our cultural guides here in Zambia, and Robinson, one of Josh’s friends from Zambezi, were also in the room when we did this activity. They participated and we learned a few things about what they value as a culture, and also gave them insight into our culture. Some of the common themes that we identified within many of our responses were that we enjoy the smell of fresh cut grass and that many of our parents have told us life isn’t fair. These two things say a lot about our American culture.

I think that Zambians often forget that parts of American culture are not easy, and I have had multiple experiences where I felt Zambians glorify Americans and their culture. These experiences allow me to get on the balcony and analyze why Zambians believe that America is in some way better. My conversation with Julius is a good example of this. Julius told me of his perspective of both what it means to be American and what it means to be a Zambian. Julius said they need “more people” in Zambia because more people equals more infrastructure, and more infrastructure is “good.” Is more infrastructure really good? Our experience in the US might suggest otherwise: we seem to be building even when we don’t have resources and not using well the things that we already have.

Later, Julius also said that Zambians need to become more civilized, which made me question if America is really “civil?” What is civil anyways and why is Zambia in his mind, not civil? In particular, I think of the justice system in the United States and the great injustices that are present within this system. In Zambezi, the prisoners are allowed to go out of the jail during the day and work, interact, and communicate with the community. This seems pretty civil to me because prisoners continue to have opportunities to provide for their families, unlike the prisoners in the United States.

While these examples only scratch the surface, getting on the roof helps us develop a more complex understanding of both Zambian and American culture, and a love for the positives of both.

Joel Hanson, Class of 2017

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