The next chapter

Chinyingi Bridge 2019

Tambokenu, mwane.  Welcome back to the Gonzaga in Zambezi blog.  In May 2007, Gonzaga University and the Zambezi, Zambia community wrote the first chapter of our partnership, a relationship rooted in the ethic of accompaniment.  This practice of accompaniment asks each Gonzaga student (now 300+) to walk in solidity with Zambians as they move to greater levels of community self-sufficiency and personal empowerment.  Through community engaged projects, students and faculty strive to operate at eye-level with this rural community in opposition to the “savior complex” of many short-term international tours.

After a pandemic pause since 2019, we are excited to write the next chapter of accompaniment with our friends and mentors of Zambezi.  On May 18, 2022, a team of 18 undergraduates and four faculty/staff will embark on a five-week study abroad program.  Our program is rooted in relationships and we are thrilled to reunite with friends, young and old, that have hosted and taught Zags for more than fifteen years.  If you are unfamiliar with the Gonzaga in Zambezi program, I encourage you to watch the 2 minute video below.

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

For returning faculty and staff, our travels in Zambia have been transformative and we await the journey ahead, knowing the stark hardships and deep joy that this next chapter holds. I want to leave you with a stanza from Irish poet John O’Donohue’s For the Traveler blessing:

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.

Dr. Josh Armstrong

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Linger

Hello all family and friends!

I am posting this from the Dubai airport (we made it!) but have been writing while settled into seat 44F next to the one and only Bryce Joshua Kreiser. Many of my peers are queuing up the movies they plan to watch, devouring a book, or chatting up a fellow zag or new seat mate. That is, except for Preston Matossian. From what I can see, this earnest friend of ours is finally catching his breath and a few laughs after his sprint from security to the ticket counter, back through security, and to Ethan waiting patiently for him at our gate to be some of the last to board the plane. Why? You might be asking. Well friends, let me tell ya. Preston was notified at the back end of security that the not one, not two, but THREE axes packed in his carry-on luggage would not be suitable to accompany him aboard our plane tonight. Fortunately, he had plenty of time to declare and check all three weapons and get into his seat before Daniel would have lost his seat mate and Ethan would have spent some quality time with Preston and the Flying Missions pilots.

Following the ax debacle, this second flight of the day has been notably more still than my first. Partially because we are in a Boeing commercial airliner instead of this morning’s six-seater bush plane, but mostly because plump and endless crocodile tears aren’t pouring down my face the way they did this morning. The first hour or so of this morning’s flight was spent clinging to my sweet seat (& suite!) mate Ellie as we both let ourselves cry. I’m talking ugly cry. I’m talking weep. Oh yes folks, I said it, weep.

As mentioned in the earlier blog authored by the aforementioned Presto, I had been feeling some type of sentimental way, and shared a song called Linger from my scouting childhood with the whole of our group and our guests at the Accompaniment Dinner on Saturday evening. This song is one that’s been stuck in my head and heart over the last few days as I kept wishing to linger a little longer in Zambezi. As Preston already relayed, the lyrics end with: “And as the years go by, I’ll think of you and sigh, this is goodnight and not goodbye.” Today on the flight out of Zambezi, I wished so badly for this to be the song that ran circles around my head. Instead it was my friend Jessie’s beautiful song she sang both at the Chileña farewell party and the Accompaniment Dinner. The sound of Jessie’s voice so powerfully echoed inside my head: “The time has come to say goodbye, the time has come to say goodbye. We hope to meet, rejoice again, hope to rejoice again.”

Each new day in Zambezi, I felt a string in my heart tie itself to any person, place, feeling, or event it felt called to knot itself up with. Some strings, like the one that will always tie me to Chingalala or the market, reflect the width and surprising strength of the twine we used to hang the art projects in the grade seven room. Some strings were as sturdy as the bungee cord I trusted with my life just a few short weeks ago. I think this strong bungee is the kind of string that will always tie my heart to Mama Katendi and to Chileña. Another heartstring resembles the knots tied around my ankle in the form of an anklet that matches the bracelet of one of my students who I grew particularly close to. This morning as we flew into the sunrise towards Lusaka, I felt the tension pulling on each of the strings in my heart now tied to hearts in a place that I am going so far from.

In my pocket is a bow made as a remembrance by the student whose wrist matches my ankle. Each time I run my finger over its cotton, I find myself turning over the question, what happens when goodbye comes? What happens when we can’t linger in a place anymore? How can you linger so many miles away from people who have tied their heartstrings to yours as you’ve tied yours to theirs? If you even should, how do you guard yourself from the pain of attachment or the fear of futility? When you so badly wish you could linger, for only a little longer, but you can’t, is it grief you feel?

I don’t know. I really don’t, and I’m hoping that’s okay.

I do know that accompaniment, friendship, companionship, and kinship -this partnership involves a certain empowering and life-giving mutual indebtedness to one another. That the closeness that has followed from seeing, knowing, and loving each new friend to the best of my ability given the time I have, no matter how much it might hurt when those heartstrings pull, gives way for the tightening of a bond, of a knot in the heartstrings of people connected over space and over time. I do know per the demonstration of the Deputy Headmaster at Chileña Secondary that just as you cannot separate Coke poured into Fanta, Gonzaga cannot be separated from Chileña. We ultimately are one. Our liberation, just as now our heartstrings, are bound together.

This may have been one goodbye, but I will linger in Zambezi, and Zambezi will linger in me. I will linger as the future Gonzaga students who keep writing chapters in our story. Zambezi will linger in my heart as I travel to and love each new place, and each new person. I will linger in the hot air balloons that each of Isaac and my almost 70 students so artfully created. Our students will linger in the moose song; each time I sing it (which is more often than you think) they will be there. I will linger on the wrist of my student, she will linger on my ankle. I will linger in the memories of those whose heartstrings are now tied up in bows, knots, and vines around mine, and those same people, places, events, and feelings will forever linger in my memories, in my heart.

Gratefully yours world!

Kisu Mwane,

Leila Lewis ‘21

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Sweet Dreams Zambezi

Goodbyes: not always easy to accept, never saying exactly what’s desired or wanted. Only attempting to convey the love and appreciation felt along this amazing, yet tumultuous month-long journey. Hopping on bush planes tomorrow, beginning the long, airborne journey home to the United States, I can’t help but feel a lack of closure.

I would be outright lying if I said I have loved the entirety of this trip. Day 4 of computer classes hit hard. Leaving times of welcoming lectures and class expectations, the computer team navigated ways to build connection and teach all of our students. Mind you, with around 25 students per class, 3 classes, and about 10-11 computers depending on the given day and whether those said computers decided to work, this was not an easy task at hand.

Starting computer lessons about Microsoft Word, we gave our students a project about family members. Type about each member of your family in a word document and save that file. Simple enough, right? Not quite, because the lowest number of family members was deemed to be around five and the speed of users was estimated to be around three words per minute. Joel, a member of the first class, similar to me in age, raised his hand to ask about the finger placement on a keyboard. Eager to make conversation with my students, I began to ask him about his life, family and goals. What I did not expect was the conversation of kids and parenting. We chatted about his two children and how being a father has shaped him into the man he is today. The theme of young parenting was present throughout the lessons, even with girls in grade school, coming to lessons in their school uniforms. “You don’t have any kids?” they would ask, “Do you not want any?” It seemed to be common culture for young mothers and fathers to raise children as single parents, the family dynamic of ‘a village raises a child’ in full swing with masses of kids hanging out by the gate, around our classroom and playing around the community.

“Do you have kids? Aren’t you my age?” I would ask in return. This always was followed with giggles and laughter, continuing on with lessons and sharing of stories. But deep down I felt a pit in my stomach of discomfort and uneasiness. How will I be able to fit into this hot-climate culture and a place so unlike my own? With the intention of walking “with” people, how are these relationships supposed to develop when lifestyles completely differ to the point of doubts and insecurities developing?

Later that day, grappling with how I was going to be integrated into this community, growing and learning about myself the way I was anticipating, I remembered a quote from one of my favorite artists addressing the issue of normality.

“Normality is a paved road. It is comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it.”

– Vincent Van Gogh

The sandy pathways of Zambezi represent the journey that we have made to a different climate, culture and routine. A complete opposite of a paved road, Zambezi caused some instability within the first few days. I was slipping, getting stuck in the sand, trying to gain footing and balance, walking in a community that I feel starkly opposite from, not only in my appearance, but also in many of my values and lifestyle.

However, day by day, walks to the market did not seem as daunting. I knew the path, could walk decently through the sand while still holding conversation and even started to say hi to new friends at different shops as well as my students that I ran into. My flowers of kinship in the sandy walkways of Zambezi had started to sprout and I was giddy with excitement to nurture and tend to these newfound relationships.

 But what happens now that these relationships started developing? Digging deeper into my journal writing and my fellow Zags in conversation, I realized my deepest fear on this trip, one that I described, handing my rock to Leila and Regan, which Leila labeled perfectly. The fear of attachment. I love with my whole heart. Some may say this is a strength or a weakness: that is up for debate. But, I love deeply, susceptible to pain and brokenness when that is taken away. But I knew I was leaving. I have always known that I was going to be leaving. And that was the most painful weight on my heart and obstacle in making and forming these relationships. My fear of not making connections soon disappeared with continuous conversation and vulnerability. Language differences became just but a small barrier as I dug deeper into my students and friends. But the nagging countdown of days left in my head stuck as I went through lesson after lesson, market run after market run. I had gotten my footing in the sand, having relationships sprout up with every step, blooming into wonderful stories that I will keep in my heart, but the deadline until goodbyes haunted my thoughts, knowing that they were inevitable.

Our group is not meant to stay here forever. Goodbyes are meant to happen. Our time here is only but a chapter in the book of Gonzaga’s relationship with Zambezi. New chapters will be added with future groups of Zags and faculty, there will be new stories, new relationships, new struggles. Some characters in these new chapters will be returners, but some will be fresh, stepping into the sandy pathways with chances to grow and flourish.

As our time here in Zambezi has come to an end, this does not mean that the 19 of us will stop growing. Am I feeling a sense of closure as I spend my last night in Zambia writing this blog to all of you? No. Far from it. However, even though our feet are not going to be planted in the unpaved roads of Zambezi, walking to the market, school or just playing games with the children, we refuse to cease reflecting and thinking about our time here. As we close our eyes, we dream of this Zambian community, the friendships made, meals shared and memories created. We picture the sandy roads, vibrant sunsets and clear skies full of stars. We don’t say goodbye to Zambezi, we say sweet dreams.

 

Behind you, all your memories.

Before you, all your dreams.

Around you, all who love you.

Within you, all you need.

The biggest of Kisu Mwanes,

Emma Cheatham

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Enjoy Right Now, Today

But a few nights ago,

I found myself in the kitchen between Mamma Violet and Mamma Katendi, cutting sweet potatoes with utmost precision. A flow state accompanies me as I balanced the task at hand and the small talk amongst the three of us. The light dialogue prompts Mamma Katendi to ask, “How are you going to describe Zambezi to your parents?” –  the flow state is crushed in an instance.

 Within moments, I find myself warping through the inner dimensions of my mind, playing back every feeling and experiencing that has washed over me in these three weeks. There is no answer. The flow of the conversation has come to an abrupt stop, Mamma Katendi and Violent stop to see if I am okay. I snapped back into it and spit out something along the lines of, “the people here are very hospitable, there’s good and bad, the sunsets are nice”. The conversation and cutting is able to continue on, dinner must be served.

Flashback to 6:30am that morning. I am with a friend that has been a close companion that I met through my homestay experience; we plan to go fishing (let’s call him Gunter). Gunter’s gleaming presence often reminds me of that first true night in Zambezi; Isaac and I freestyling over a beat produced by our homestay – it would be safe to place us in the category of ‘aspiring’ rappers. Later that same night, after much banter and camaraderie, it’s time for Gunter to head home. Shortly after, my homestay alludes to Isaac and I about Gunter’s struggling with  heavy drinking, that sounds like it has gone on for some time now.

My western lens intensifies! My homestay’s compassion toward Gunter that night was not match for the ideas I was conjuring on how to avoid seeing Gunter at all costs. He had a problem. That problem encouraged me to place him in a box, a box of single stories, of assumptions, a box lacking curiosity, a box lacking grace. A take a moment to breath, what has preparation for this class taught me? I take a second-deep breath, and I am taken back to the Center of Spiritual Living (CPL) in Santa Rosa. A place my dad dragged me to here and then following my senior year. I am reminded that the quickest way to never know anyone, is to live a life guided by assumptions. I muster the courage up within me, this courage enables me to strip back a layer of my lens – “let’s meet up again Gunter” something along those lines.

Three weeks later, and Gunter is my closest friend in Zambezi. From freestyling endlessly, to introducing me to his family and home, to letting me name two of his dogs, which I named RobbyP and Pesto (RobbyP was stolen:( ),to teaching me about tribalism conflicts in Zambezi, to the perpetual struggle of alcoholism in his family, the limited job markets his up against, and his struggle with boredom and idleness. Wow. A word that Gunter says regularly is fitted in what came out in our time together over the three weeks. Thanks dad for dragging me to CPL, and thanks to Josh and Father Baraza for encouraging me to be compassionate of those that lie in the margins of society. Not to pity him, but to exists with him in those moments, to listen, to ask questions, to enjoy one another, to reciprocate appreciation of one another. 

P.S Tonight was the Accompaniment Dinner – Isaac, Chloe, and I are the MCs. Isaac does a backflip, it’s lovely. The choreographed dance does not go as planned. Leila and I are wearing matching chetengi, we take some awkward prom photos.    

Zags and Zambians are in the kitchen and in the front yard cooking dinner that will feed over 50 people. I found myself in dialogue discussing social anxiety with a Zambian friend. I cannot stop dancing. Zambians and Zags give short speeches regarding the impact of one another. I began to tear up. I hold back these tears. Maybe one day I won’t.  

Friendship real and deep reverberates in the atmosphere of the echoing convent. Deep appreciation for others is something hard to describe, but I felt in that moment. I drink a coke with my guest, Given. My heart and head attempt to balance the complexities of the challenges Zambian face that I have seen with the current joy I am experiencing; it feels as though I am in Debby’s Aerobics class partaking in a rambunctious maneuver. I remind myself that we are not called to be idle or even hostile to other cultures because of our western lens. I particularly struggle with gender roles in Zambia, which at face value is hard accept. It becomes a clash of human autonomy versus maintaining respect for one’s culture.

Most of all, as I sit surrounded by people I love and am inspired by, I am in the flesh (say in Baraza voice), I am here. I wish to embody the third type of person that Father Baraza describes, those that act. I am brought back to a quote my friend used for his senior project, “small acts, when multiplied can transform the world” -Alex Urasaki’s CBSL 2017. Tonight, felt like the perfect manifestation of that. We are not here to change Zambezi, we are here to exists in accompaniment with Zambians. This is easy to forget, and sometimes the efforts to engage in simply play with Zambian youth or conversational Luvale with Zambians feels futile. But this trip is bigger than these three weeks. We are but a chapter in book, a book that has Zags and Zambians enthralled with every page. This chapter of Gonzaga in Zambezi, chapter 2019, has brought joy, discomfort, love, anger, feelings of futility, eye-opening experiences, and companionship to all those that have partaken in its creation.     

This trip calls us student to reevaluate control. Often, we become paralyzed by the things we cannot control. Control is one of the deepest desires of humankind. This is why boxes exists, they enable us to have control over our perception of the world. To see things at face value, and make quick analysis of whether a thing is “good” or “bad”. Instead, one should listen with true openness.

True openness, while it may sound cliché, holds upmost value, especially in unfamiliar settings. While I do not recommend jumping into experiences willing to accept all new ideas, similar to how one should not check the temperature of the pool with both feet, one should be conscious of the lens we have. Peel back that lens, ‘feel free’. And anyways, in the androcentric words of Aristotle, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”.

One last thing, embrace those that you love and build one another up. I’ll prompt the question, is time more valuable than those that surround us? Instead let’s Linger in those moments that are there, waiting for us now!

Leila’s words sung early tonight at the Accompaniment Dinner (which pulled heart strings and trigger tear ducts alike) does a great job summarizing the feelings amongst us as we prepare to leave behind this place we’ve been began to call home.

“I want to linger (mmm) a little longer (mmm) a little longer here with you (mmmmmm) it’s such a perfect night (mmm) it doesn’t seem quite right (mmm) that this should be my last with you (mmmmmm) then comes September (mmm)I will remember (mmm) our Zambian days and friendships true (mmmmmm) and as the years go by (mmm) I’ll think of you and sigh (mmm) this is goodnight and not goodbye”(mmmmmmm).

Let’s make time for each other. The African philosophy of Ubunu reminds us that we only exist because of each other. Let’s find ways to enjoy right now, today. To be present, to be in that discomfort, to ask questions, to be confused, and while we’re at it, love your parents too.

 

With that in mind…Happy Father’s Day! It’s nearing 12am so not everyone got a chance to show some love, but hope all the fathers have a special day regardless.

 

Ellie: Daddio! Thank you for all your unconditional love and constant encouragement and support! I love you to the moon and back and can’t wait to see you soon!

 

Caityln: Yo Daddio! I can’t thank you enough for teaching me how to work hard and to be resilient. Without your love and guidance, I would not be the strong person I am today. I love you! Also, happy belated birthday mommy! I love and miss you with all my heart!

 

Megan: Dad! Happy Father’s Day! You know if I was there I would be giving you a great gift and planning a fantastic day for you! Love you so much and can’t wait to see you!

Sammi: Happy Father’s Day Papi! Thank you so much for always being a great role model for me. Looking forward to talking to you and the family in just a few short days, love and miss you!

 

Leila: Hey there dad! Happiest of Father’s Day’s to you. You always told me that luck was where opportunity met preparation, and I will always say that that leaves out the category of blessings. You are of the greatest of blessings. I love you oh so much and I can’t wait to huge you in SeaTac on Tuesday!

 

Maurie! Hey Dad! You’re pretty cool I guess. Happy Father’s Day! See you soon.’

 

Chloe: Hello father, I’m so incredibly proud to be loved by you, known by you and constantly learning from you. Thank you for making me the woman that I am. *Chelsea*

 

Isaac: Dad! I cannot believe I didn’t realize I’d be gone for Father’s Day :/. Your card and gift are on their way (with me)… but until then, thank you for being the best father in the world; I appreciate and love you so much. Can’t wait to see you soon <3

 

Annika: Dad!! Happy Father’s Day!!! I can’t wait to see you when I get home in 2 days!! Thanks for always supporting me in everything and being the absolute best! I love you so much!! (P.S please tell FarFar Happy Father’s Day too)

 

Emma: Hey dadJ thanks for being my biggest supporter in everything I do and wanting me to achieve. I am looking forward to many motocycle trips to Alice’s in the near future. Can’t wait to see you in a couple of days! Love you with all of my heart.

 

Rachel Has: Papa Dave!!!! I love you with my whole heart and have missed you everyday of this trip. I have so many photos and memories to share with you. <3<3 Some of my favorite memories have been spent with you: skiing, biking, and watching a Blazer’s game or two. J See you soon!! #BestDadEverEverEver

 

Spencer: Hey Daddio! Happy Father’s Day to you ya dingus! Thanks for always putting up with the shitty movies I choose to watch, can’t wait to watch some more over bbq when I see you on Tuesday! Love you lots!

 

Bryce: Jefe! Happy Dad’s Day. Thank you so much for the cards and comments, I appreciate your thoughtful, meaningful love, and your support. I look forward to being with you soon – thank you for your prayers

 

Alea: Hey Dad!! I love you lots and lots. Cant wait to see you in the airportJ Thanks for being the best!

 

 

 

Mwane Vule Mwane, Preston

 

 

 

   

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Oh the Places You’ll Go

 

The 6th grade class at Chileña.

Goodbye. Such a simple phrase, though it carries an abundance of weight and unknowing. How do you say goodbye to people that have stolen a piece of your heart whom you know you will likely never see again? How do you let yourself feel that sorrow without letting the weight of it crush your spirit?

There is no right or easy way to do so I am afraid. This moment in time simply approaches when you realize that the time you have spent with one another is coming to a close and you must say those dreaded words: goodbye. The only comfort I find in saying goodbye here in Zambezi is knowing I have done my best to express to each individual how much their presence in my life these last three weeks has meant to me.

Today, I along with the majority of the other Gonzaga students on this trip concluded our final day in class. While the majority of the other classes have students who are older and may have social media such as Facebook or email to stay in touch with their teachers, the ED team has no way of staying in touch with our students who are 6thand 7thgraders. Likely these students who have had such an impact on our hearts, we will never hear from again.

Throughout the last three weeks here, each team has worked tirelessly to prepare for each day of class and complete the curriculum we had prepared. Something that the ED team and I chose to focus on was the concepts of empowerment and expression. What is empowerment and expression? Empowerment: feeling and knowing you are strong and capable. Expression: showing your feelings, happy, sad or mad. Each day Caitlyn and I would begin the day reciting this with our students. While at first they were apprehensive and shy, they soon caught on to our enthusiasm.

Each morning we would walk in to our room and be greeted with “Welcome Madame” and they would continue standing until they were given permission to sit. Each day was truly an adventure at Chileña that none of us will ever forget. We quickly learned to expect the unexpected. From showing up to discover classes had been cancelled for the day to finding a dying chicken in the back of the class room or having a bat fly out of the rafters, every day was filled with lots of belly laughs and contagious smiles.

Every student brought a ray of sunshine to the dim classroom as well as a hunger for learning. Their desire to succeed shown through in their hard work and high aspirations. Mukenda and Omega want to be doctors. Hastings wants to be a pilot. Comfort wants to be a teacher. Royda wants to be a nurse. Jenni wants to be a soldier. I want them to fight for their dreams. I want them to soar.

But deep down inside of me, there is a voice that whispers, “Some of them won’t.”  This voice haunts me day and night and I struggle to come to terms with it. I want the world for these children who have given me one of the greatest gifts any person could receive: unrequited love. The thought of them not being able to achieve their dreams closes in on my heart and crushes it, leaving me only with a dull ache.

This is what I have struggled with the most during my time in Zambezi: empathy. All my life I have been encouraged to empathize with others. Empathy isn’t just something that happens to us, it is a choice we make. While this has been something I pride myself in doing it has become a burden here. It weighs on my heart in everything I do and I have worked tirelessly to shut it out during my time here out of fear. Fear of hurting so badly that the rest of the world is unbearable. There has only been one day here where I have failed to keep the sorrow I feel deep down at bay and I became so overwhelmed that it came as silent tears streaming down my face.

While there is so many things here and in the world that make my heart hurt, here in Zambia there are also so many things that inspire me and give me hope. I see a fire in the people here. I see a hunger and desire for more. I see their kindness to others. I see their openness to form new relationships and connections. I see their laughter and joy. I see their culture and I love them.

I see these things in Mamma Josephine whom divorced her husband because he wouldn’t let her pursue politics. I see these things in Mamma Love who was a teenage mother but worked her ass off, founded SEPA and then found herself at a conference speaking to world leaders. I see these things in Father Yona who works tirelessly to cultivate a better community for the Catholic Church. I see these things in Gladwell, the headmaster of Chileña Primary School, who wants what is best for his students. I see these things in Debby and Eucharia who support the youth through Zam City, and the kindness they radiate from their souls.

Every single one of these people have inspired me and have left such a profound impact on who I am and will continue to be. Thus, returning to the issue of how do we say goodbye to that? It will be no such easy task. These last few days in Zambezi will be filled with many tear-filled eyes and watery smiles as we prepare to leave the place we have called home for the last three weeks.

Although I will be leaving a piece of my heart here in Zambezi something that eases my conscience is knowing that I will carry with me the memories I have made with the people here for the rest of my life. I will forever remember the bumpy car rides, walks to the market to pick up ice cream, long talks with my classmates or Zambians, the sweet dreams conspiracy (whom we now know was the health team), the spiders, the cold showers, the friendships. I will remember the people who have inspired me and kindled my spirit. I will remember the joy upon each child’s face when being read a book. I will remember the goodbyes.

I leave here knowing all the lives that have touched mine and the lives I have hoped to touch myself. I hope to have kindled the fiery souls of each student through empowerment, expression, and the wonderful Dr. Seuss. In our final days at Chileña we read to our students Oh the Places You’ll Go.This is a truly powerful and poetic book that fit right into the theme of our class. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” I hope that you all can take this with you as a reminder to follow your dreams and realize you are in control of your life, just as I hope the students of Chileña have taken the same thing with them.

Much Love,

Regan Corley

To my friends and family: as much as I am sad to leave this place that has filled me with such joy, I cannot wait to hear from and see all of you in just a few short days. I have thought of you all every single day and you have truly walked this journey alongside me.

XOXO,

Regz

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Yes

Our recent ventures during our concluding week in Zambezi have included visits to the beach, many meetings with various tailors around town, wrapping up class material, celebrating Annika’s birthday in stereotypical study abroad fashion, watching the sun set, and attending a traditional Makishi festival. Shout out to all of my classmates and leaders, who I admire so much, for going all in these past few days and taking full advantage of our last days in Zambia while somehow incorporating self-care and reflection.

When talking with Zambians, especially those whose English is limited, the word yes tends to come up a lot in conversation. It did not take me long to figure out that “Yes.” does not always mean yes. For example, many of the conversations I have had with children here, including Magis, Janet, Cecilia, Jen, Jane, Pricilla, Precious, and Meid, have gone something like this: “Hello! What is your name?” They look up at me through a sometimes beaming, sometimes shy smile. “My name is Precious.” “Do you go to school?” “Yes.” “Do you like school?” “Yes.” “What is your favorite subject in school?” “Yes.” “What grade are you in?” “Yes.” By this time, I realize that they probably are not understanding much of my English, so I ask a question I know they will say and mean yes to. “Do you want to play a game?” “Yes!”.  The diverse bunch of Zambians I have had the privilege of interacting with on this trip all have unique stories and backgrounds, some of which I have gotten the chance to understand more thoroughly. I learned quickly that yes or no questions are not the best vehicle for truth. This goes beyond English proficiency and touches on the hot climate culture in which the Zambian people exist. In this type of culture, when the choice of an answer is between yes or no, the answer is almost always yes.

In our computers class, every student was required to put together a Power Point and present it in front of the class. The content of their presentations was based on a plethora of superficial questions about themselves and their lives. During our afternoon class yesterday, Kanyambi, a student of 66 years who I have come to admire very much, presented his Power Point. He touched on the immense poverty he was raised within and some of the struggles he faced due to this economic shortage. I felt much empathy and sadness. Have I seen profound suffering here? Yes. But, countering this suffering is a unique beauty that comes from the type of experience which builds resilience. There is a kindness and joy, the type that only comes from persistent, deep hope, that remains within and radiates off of Kanyambi and so many other Zambians. Their joy is not contingent on how much money they can hoard, their status in the community, or being the star consumer. They view life from a different paradigm that I cannot pretend to fully understand, but I can say that this opportunity to peak into their lives means the world to me.

Throughout the second week of computer classes, many people approached me asking if they could join late. One day during class, a man walked up to the back door and asked me if he could join the class. I informed him that we were at full capacity in all three classes and he had already missed half of the class periods which make up the course. In the middle of my delivery, I noticed him peering in to our classroom. I figured he was curious and interested in what class looked like and the information we were covering. After a few more seconds of staring past me, he asks if he can speak to the one in the hat. He was talking about Bryce, the only male instructor in the room. I informed him that Bryce would give him the same news I just had, but he insisted. Once Bryce delivered the same information, the man left. Have I experienced overt sexism in Zambezi that implies female inferiority and comes off as blatant disrespect? Yes. Are there many men in Zambezi who build up the women in their lives and understand that the defamation of one group leads to the denigration of humanity as a whole? Yes. An example of this can be seen in the way Debby, the coach for a youth development focused soccer league, lifts up his wife Eukaria. He encourages her to further her education and supports her ventures as a business woman as well (She makes and sells the best ice cream in Zambezi). From what I have seen, though I could be biased by my inclination towards romanticism, their love is pure, supportive, and equal. It is founded in a mutual respect and understanding of each other. I believe this type of respect and understanding would counteract the underlying values which perpetuate sexism in this culture. There is a similar strength I have recognized within many of the women of Zambezi, including Mama Love, Violet, Katendi, and Josephine that makes me question how so many of the men in this culture have not caught on to the fact that women’s capabilities go far beyond what they assume.

During our past three weeks in Zambezi, many of the women have experienced the unique discomfort that is cultivated through the unwanted touch or words of a man. In many cases, the actions of men in Zambezi have stricken the dignity and autonomy of the women on this trip. Do I periodically engage in relatively risky situations in an effort to reinstate my own dignity and autonomy? Yes. Does the fear of being taken advantage of persist in the back of my mind even while I strongly refuse to be controlled? Yes. Does hearing that well esteemed members of the community condemn the inappropriate behavior I, and my fellow classmates, have been subjected to make this fear disappear? No.

As our time in Zambezi comes to a close, I am reminded of a brother and sister pair I met in Dipalata two weeks ago, Roy and Meid. Though our time together was ever so short, I still think of them every day. A piece of my heart that I cannot get back is with them. Is it painful knowing that I will likely never see either of them again? Yes. The remnants of this heart fracture keep me wondering about what it will be like leaving Zambezi, knowing that my goodbyes are potentially permanent. A piece of me is saddened knowing that our time to leave has come because this place has just begun to feel like home. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The footprints – marks we leave behind as we go about our busy lives – serve as a metaphor for the journey each of us takes during our time on this planet…The more I interacted daily with Livingstone’s people, both real and imagined, and left my own footprints in the sand, I found that this beautiful, unfamiliar land had begun to feel like home.” -Ruth Stanford.

We are all pushing through struggles and tensions trying to make the most of our last memories here in Zambezi!

Kisu Mwane, 

Alea Chatman

 

 

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Lines in the Sand

“Are you going to dance?” inquires an individual at the Makishi ceremony.

I grasp tightly onto the skin on my upper arm. The flesh feels tight around the muscle and bone. “No, I’m not,” I reply.

“Why?” The individual responds.

“Why?” The question reverberates throughout my body and rattles my being. It’s like nails on a chalkboard. I never like to say “hate,” but I hate this question. Why do I have to explain where I draw my line in the sand? I should never have to do this, not for anyone.

“I can’t,” is how I respond.


Something I’ve been constantly been thinking about throughout my time in Zambezi is my boundaries, my lines in the sand. I’ve been monitoring myself and where I draw my lines because I am afraid of being hurt. I draw my lines as far as I can establish trust – trust that I won’t be hurt by people and won’t hurt people in return. Call it uptight or irrational if you desire. Talk as much shit behind my back as you want; I don’t care. Don’t affirm me or applaud me either. I just need security and presence. My boundaries are my boundaries, and my trust is my trust.  

Can I trust the people in my life with the agony I’ve felt that binds my lips and squeezes my heart dry, that some days keeps me bound to my bed? I put a great emphasis on trust in my relationships with people and institutions because these are things that have changed my life in the past. My family, the people I’ve been transformed by at Mt. Adams Leadership Camp, and those I’ve grown very close to at Gonzaga are examples of people that I’ve come to know very dearly and would without hesitation give my trust to. I tend to take things very personally, but it is mainly because of the “persons” that have molded me into who I am have set the bar high for what I expect from kinship. I do not intend to “point fingers”, rather, I am incredibly grateful for companionship and accompaniment that has made me the very opposite of complacent and has helped me refuse to be stepped on.

I have come into Zambezi with many lines drawn. These lines I have drawn are lines I have consistently placed between the people of Zambezi and my fellow classmates. These are lines that do not intercept and inhibit my ability to sit in the complexity of societal issues I don’t understand or listen to people’s voices, however. These are lines that I have drawn are born from anxieties and fears I have been grappling with all my life. Like I mentioned before, these fears of being hurt, of not being “enough”, of missing out, and of being a burden. Among all of these fears reigns supreme the fear of loneliness. I have written it down on a rock that I have been given, as it represents something much larger than a rock – rather a shackle or chain finding home around my ankle.

I have been apprehensive about a good amount in Zambezi.  Such apprehensions include not wanting to hold the hands of beady-eyed children, not speaking my mind around the people I spend so much time with, and not wanting to foolishly dive into a relationship where, without my knowing, I am ridiculed or looked down on.  There is at least one person, however, that I have not felt inhibited around. There is one person so far that I have not felt the divide between due to my own line in the sand. He is the priest here where we are staying. His name is Father Yona.

I found myself the other day with Father Yona in two wooden chairs placed in close proximity to the fish pond that lies just outside both the priest’s house and the convent. The Gonzaga students have been required to conduct “leadership interviews,” meaning we find leaders in Zambezi and ask them things such as “what kind of leader are you” or “what leaders do you look up to?” I had interviewed Father Yona once before, that time about his experience living in Zambezi. I eagerly awaited our time together, as for me it felt like much more than an interview. It was more so a chance to continue getting to know someone who embodied values I admired and, for someone who has arrived in Zambezi just two years ago, had maybe explored the feelings of being an outsider in their own home.

Following the interview, the two of us sat half cooking underneath the heat of the sun and half basking in the shade provided by the walls of the priest’s house. We spent a few moments in silence. “What was your greatest fear about Zambezi?” Father Yona asks.

I have to think about it for a moment. I respond to his question by regaling him with my fear of loneliness and not knowing to whom or where to place my trust. I mention to him instances of dreading feeling hurt. I recall to him the anxieties I’ve felt throughout my life and how I have felt as though these were things I couldn’t give to the people I was with now. He responded very insightfully with something that seems simple, yet continues to allude me in every bout with anxiety, loneliness, depression, and insecurity I have ever partaken in

“Sometimes we have to take risks and put our trust in people. Sometimes it works out, and when it doesn’t we have to learn to take these as teaching moments. One failure cannot mean the end.”

I take some time to process this, and to write it in my journal. Father Yona then asks me what I’ve liked the most in Zambezi. Feeling less shackled and inhibited, unconscious of the lines I had previously etched, I talk to him about how I have loved the simplicity of just being able to ask people how they are while walking along the roads and pathways making up Zambezi. I talk about how this sort of openness or keenness to build something beautiful like a friendship even in passing is something that is incredibly uncommon in the United States. I hope that Gonzaga can be an environment that is willing to adopt this openness and flexibility to build the kinship and compassion that exists in Zambezi with someone who many may find to be an unfamiliar face, even in passing.

In closing, Zambezi has taught me something very important. The people that I have entrusted all share common aspects that have allowed me to give trust, remove my lines in the sand, and feel free in our togetherness. These aspects are presence, compassion, and warmth.

If you wish to hear me and to have my trust, don’t be at my side “for me.” I don’t want your pity, I want your presence; your radiance. Be “with me.” Be with me in the moments where we can share laughter, the moments we can converse meaningfully in and out of the storm, and we can gift to one another the loving embrace of feeling like, to one another, we belong.

I hope to return to the United States in these few, short days feeling less shackled and inhibited, while feeling freer to express the complex being that I am. In the meantime, I will be erasing my lines in the sand, one at a time.

Best Regards,

Spencer Weiskopf, Class of 2020


A note from Annika, to Alyssa: Congratulations on graduating!!!!!!! I’m so proud of you and all that you’ve accomplished! I miss you so much and wish that I could be there with you on this special day to celebrate! Love you, see you in less than a week! 🙂 

 

 

 

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Other People’s Words

 

Pictured above, these three beautiful humans have been teaching business and leadership here in Zambezi, a group that I’m lucky to be part of. They’ve taught me more than they could ever know. They show up and shine. Chloe, teaching an almost full class of men a lesson on women in business and the instigator of the now (and hopefully beloved) class cheer. Maurie, leaning into every relationship through genuine conversation. Also literally leaning in, halfway out of his chair, always engrossed in a student when they’re speaking. Spencer, who has continuously brought invaluable lessons that get at the heart of leadership—caring for others. To the parents and people who have poured time and love into shaping them, thank you. Witnessing them in moments of passion and care will forever be a highlight of my time in Zambezi. 

The members of our class though, have taught us much more. Their leadership mission statements that reside on our walls represent the caliber of individual that exist here in Zambezi and in our classroom. I want to share a couple of them with you in the hopes that our students here can become a little more real to you. As, over the weeks they have become incredible real to us, and us to them.

“To transfer knowledge to the people, thereby developing the society with equity of all members of the society.”

“To impart knowledge and lead people to the truth”

“Ensure, provide, and promote quality leadership through creativity and integrity and boost development to help alleviate poverty and promote unity and have a healthy society through equity.”

“I want to be a leader who has the heart for the people and takes their desires for the betterment of the community.”

“I want to gather and lead people with different background and make change in their life and my life as well.” 

“To lead in order to bring the people together and do the right things. Because as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” (sounds familiar @Kelen.. feels like you left an impact you can’t even imagine here)

The words that our students wrote attest to who they are much better than I could, and I’m starting to detest the idea of even trying to encapsulate them. This post could be about the friendships I’ve formed in our class, the personalities that show up, the tension, and the lessons. But, it’s not. That’s just honestly impossible for me right now. For starters it’s almost midnight and I’m out of chocolate O’s. Also, I still find it difficult to write and think completely about people without also considering the unique hardships that exist for them within this developing nation. Comparing people strips them of their dignity, so I won’t do that. And, to act as if I understand their problems fully would be stepping into a dangerous paradigm.

A western paradigm that simplifies the world’s problems and ignores domestic issues. A common practice that Michael Marsicano condemns in his article “The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems.” He demands that young Americans stop going abroad to fix the world, and I agree with him. Specifically, he points out the hypocrisy in an outsider thinking they can easily solve a muti-faceted problem that insiders have been working on for decades. His solution? Don’t go. Stay home and work on issues that address the deep and horrific side of our country. Issues like mass incarceration, immigration, government efficiency, the foster care system, issues that we know are much more complex than they seem and that will humble you each step of the way. Or, if you must, go to listen and lean into complexity. 

In Zambezi, we’ve been steered far away from fixing. Where has that left us though? Smack dab in complexity. Our days are full of intentional connection and practice at accompaniment. Of reactions to newness or wonder that appear on this blog daily. As I’ve been with my classmates these four weeks in complexity, a reading on confusion has been somehow clarifying. The quote below from George Saunders has mesmerized me since the day I read it while laying on the convent couch early in our trip and it’s one of the last things I’d like to share with you.

“No place works any different than any other place, really, beyond mere details. The universal human laws— need, love for the beloved, fear, hunger, periodic exaltation, the kindness that rises up naturally in the absence of hunger/fear/pain— are constant, predictable, reliable, universal, and are merely ornamented with the details of local culture. What a powerful thing to know: That one’s own desires are mappable onto strangers; that what one finds in oneself will most certainly be found in The Other… 

Don’t be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen.”

Read that again. Maybe read it out loud. Let it sink it. Feels slightly Doddian (yeah Jeff, you sure you don’t have an alter ego by the name of George Saunders?).

Each line echos a truth to me.

The idea that where we are isn’t really much different than any other place. That we are adaptable and malleable creatures. Only when pulled away from our own comforts can we settle into a new routine, as we’ve found slightly easier than expected here in Zambezi. That there are universal laws. Needs exist everywhere. Love is bountiful for the beloved. Kindness flourishes when we find ourselves free. That our desires and selves can be mapped onto strangers until we find that The Other seems to be more of a mirror than we ever thought possible.

It’s the last part of this quote that stays with me in a deeper way though. Don’t you dare be afraid to be confused, and if you find yourself certain, know that you’ve got far far astray. Be permanently confused, not because it’s a cop out, but because it’s possibly the hardest thing you can do. Believe truly that anything is possible. Don’t close yourself off to the world. Be open to everything and get ready to hurt, because it’s going to hurt, badly. Then when you feel as if you can’t do it any longer, dig deeper. “..until the day you die, world without end, amen.”

And I say, amen. 

But, Father Baraza has one more thing to add. 

He told us last week in a small group that, “We know what God wants, but God has no hands but yours.” A statement that I slightly fundamentally struggle with. My own faith calling me deeply to not assume the intention and or entirety of a higher power. But, my respect and deep admiration for Baraza pulls me into the later half, that God has no hands but mine and the individuals around our little circle. As Father Greg Boyle writes, “Everybody belongs. No kinship, no justice. We begin here.” So here I begin in Zambezi, reminded again that the power which allows us to divide and create hate is also the power that starts reform and harmony. The hands to do this work belong to all of us. 

Other people’s words all jumbled together, the best I have for you. Make some sense or dive into confusion, I recommend the latter. 

till the day I die,

Rachel Haas

 

p.s. 

Mom and Dad, there are also some words from other people that I literally brought along with me, yours. I’m sitting here holding the card you left on my desk freshman year. Your hearts are always safe with me. One short week. 

Griff, your graduation is so soon. You are in every way the best brother I could have asked for. Thank you for pushing me to be more inquisitive and resilient, I learned by watching you. You deserve all the praise and congratulations possible, I know it’s been a long four years. It’s you and me in this world, I love you.

 

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How to Set the World on Fire (without burning it down)

I write you today in what may be my last writing ever as a Gonzaga Student.  In a fitting end to my collegiate writing career, I now write this in the wee hours of the night after a beer (in celebration of Annika’s birthday).  Sooooo, lets get this blog.  I first want to say congrats! You’ve officially made it around the horn!  Every one of our Zags have posted a blog now, and how amazing have they been eh? Wherever you are, give your zag of choice a round of applause, no matter how socially awkward it may be to clap in the current moment, because they deserve it!

I graduated nearly three weeks ago now (wild…).  Countless times I was encouraged to “go forth and set the world on fire”.  I even posted a snarky Instagram joke about that quote from the SeaTac airport before I left on this trip (check it out @ethandkane). I’m afraid that too often “setting the world on fire” is pictured in shiny grandeur.  Visualized as someone changing the world in a glorious and profound way in a celebrated way. At least that’s the way most graduation speeches make you feel.  It’s a good intention to inspire us to do huge great things.  But the world is full of good intention and apparently so is the road to hell.  Good intentions that are not informed, or based in connection, or community based are what has led to billions of dollars of western aid leaving developing countries like Zambia often no better, or even worse off than before aid.  These kinds of good intentions can perpetuate stereotypes and single stories that can disempower people through some missionary travel.  They are a kind of good intentions that ignore the global west’s role in perpetuating global wealth gaps. We want to go forth and set the world on fire so badly that we can end up burning it down.

For guidance, lets call upon our very own Gonzaga (the human, not the school). Old Aloysius, decided to set the world on fire by caring for plague victims until he literally died of the plague.  Not a very shiny or glorious way to set the world on fire, but now the man is a saint.  St. Aloysius Gonzaga exemplified a type of relationship that stands beside people in the face of what seemed like futility. His endeavor should have been considered futile.  He was bound to die, and he would never cure the plague. Yet, he compiled a collection of small acts of great love that made his entire life one act of love on behalf of the sick.  Even after an evil like the plague claimed his life, his legacy of love came out victorious for the rest of recorded history.  Recently we’ve encountered our own example of this saintly love. Lilias Falconer, the founder of the orphanage we visited on Saturday lived a similar life.  She spent more than half of her life in rural Zambia caring for neglected lepers, walking miles daily to preach the gospel, and founding an orphanage that stands today with an aura of love and over 70 children. She lived the life of a saint without the recognition. Her small acts of love outlive her to this day in the powerful community that exists at Falconer. Especially through the current director Simon, the human incarnation of Santa Claus, and a member of her first group of orphans. On the wall at the Falconer orphanage is hung a quote that reads, “The smallest act of love is greater than the largest good intention”.  What is more powerful than that? In the face of futility such as the plague, leprocy, and huge numbers of orphaned children, their only weapons were small acts of great love, and they won.  They freakin’ won.

 

I believe every last one of our Zags has encountered a frustration on this trip, a tension, a challenge, or a call to justice.  The trip is designed to produce such moments.  Through our conversations with Zambians we’ve come across a variety of issues such as unequal treatment of women, global economic disadvantage, extremely young pregnancy, tribalism, educational inequalities,  unequal treatment of people with disabilities, HIV/AIDS prevalence, lack of access to healthcare, poorly resourced orphanages, and much more.  We’ve engaged with these issues on a deeply personal level through friendships we’ve formed with Zambians.  They are issues that can paralyze us with their magnitude. Paralyze us with futility. For any number of reasons, from the short length of our trip, to our lack of deep cultural knowledge, to our lack of training, we must recognize that right now we can frankly do nothing about these things except offer our modest acts of love and kinship. I feel okay about that, because there are people here who are much greater, stronger, more capable leaders than I can ever aspire to be, and much better equipped to enact the change needed.  Leaders like the famed Debby and Eucharia who quite literally give all they have to support their programs for developing Zambezi youth.  Leaders like Mama Josephine who have stood as pillars of community strength for decades. Leaders like Mama Love who have passion coursing through every vein, and words strong enough to stop literal presidents in their tracks.  With people so empowering and strong around what could I possibly offer to Zambezi except my companionship?  What can I offer Zambezi except for a small act of great love?

Mumbi/Junior/Gaflow and I stuntin’ with a fresh new chitenge shirt courtesy of James the tailor.

I was walking around Zambezi with a teenager the other day.  His name is Mumbi, but he goes by Junior or Ga-Flow (his rapper name).  He’s a lanky and humble 17 year old with curiosity and gratitude beaming out of every pore.  I met him 2 years ago on my first trip to Zambezi, and he’s been a staple in the Zambezi-Zag experience for the past 7 years now.  Zags throughout the ages know his shy smile.  As we trudged through the deep sand of Zambezi, he relayed to Sammi, Spencer, and I the massive societal, cultural, and economic barriers in the way of his goal of becoming a nurse.  I continued to encourage him and affirm him that his intelligence and resilience could get him there. But even as I said it I began to feel the weight of futility of my own words. I don’t know if it can get him there.  As that feeling began to build, Junior continued on. He said “I’ve known you Gonzaga guys for years now. For years you people, have told me ‘Junior, you are smart, and kind, and capable, and all that.’ Before then, I knew I was a nobody. But now I’m convinced that I’m somebody”.  Junior is finishing grade 11, taking our Business and Leadership team’s class, and it is my pride to call him a friend.  We can’t change Junior’s educational future, but year after year after year after year, we can damn well try to affirm him his worth. 

We come to Zambezi for 3 weeks.  It’s not enough time to do much. But we can face futility, plant small acts of love, and support the amazing capable leaders who live here.  After years and years and years of small loving acts, maybe we can build lasting marks that can outlive our short stay here.  As we look to our return home in 1 week, I hope we can collect sparks that we find here in Zambezi, and fan them into flames once we arrive back in the states.  I hope we see the faces of our Zambian friends reflected in others in the US and feel inspired to accompany them as deeply we try to do here.  I hope we remember that many of the issues we see in Zambezi exist in our very hometowns.  I hope we use our sparks here to set our home communities on fire in the quiet ways that they need most.  I hope we go forth and set our worlds on fire. 

Big ol’ mwane,

E. Kane

PS. Dad! You know how I definitely teased you for making me pack all that random ass medical supplies? Well I’ve used nearly all of it, so thank god for fatherly wisdom.  Sending my love to all.  

 

 

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Looking up, looking down

Hello loyal blog readers and followers!

Since it’s been a while here’s a few updates for those following along at home:

  • Although the flies and spiders are still a problem, we have ventured into the world of cockroaches. So, we are currently exploring various methods of removal.
  • The peanut butter is a staple of our diet here and no matter what we have for breakfast it is always brought out, but we have just run out so there may be some tense moments at breakfast tomorrow.
  • Leila is in the lead for the best Chaco tan, but there is stiff competition for second place.
  • We watched Black Panther with the “saucy” youth group at the Priest’s house. It was quite an experience, with lots of clapping, cheering, and whistling during the movie.
  • Sunday mass this morning clocked in at about 3 hours. There were 3 collections, lots of singing, and some impressive dancing

 

 

I find myself looking down quite often here in Zambezi. Many of the roads here are dirt or sand and I look down to help navigate the deep sand, rocks, thorns, pieces of trash, or feet of the little kids that are (always) around. As a result of looking down when I’m walking I have found that I have a horrible sense of direction in Zambezi. I get so lost and I can never understand where I am or how I got there. Looking up, I can see the surroundings, so I can navigate easier, and I can share smiles and musana mwane’s with the people passing. But, then I run the risk of tripping so I normally put my head down and keep walking. I definitely keep my head down during the morning aerobics class as well. Debby, the leader, likes to call us up individually to lead the group in a few of our own moves. I try to avoid this part as much as possible.

 

I put my head down at other times here in Zambia when looking up is a little more difficult than looking down. Looking down has become a way to center myself and have a moment to not fully take in all that is around me. For instance, I looked down when we visited HIV patients last week and it became a little too hard to look at their faces when they were listening to our words of encouragement. It was difficult to look up and acknowledge the hardships they face every day that I can only dream of. Like Ellie discussed it was an intense feeling of discomfort because I could not relate to their struggles. Looking down allowed me to avoid the feelings of discomfort in this moment.

 

On Thursday the Health Team traveled to Mpidi and distributed Days for Girls Kits (reusable menstrual pads). We had 97 girls packed into a small classroom to hear our lesson about menstruation and how to take care of yourself during it. I looked at the ground when 72 of the girls had to leave after the lesson because we had only brought kits for 25. It was made more difficult because the teachers had chosen the 25 girls because of their good grades and good standing at the school, and they thought that these kits would push them further to excel. I didn’t want to see the faces of the girls, as they walked past me to leave, who need these kits just as much as the others, but don’t get one because their grades aren’t high enough.

 

On Saturday, we went to visit Faulkner – an orphanage about 100km away from Zambezi. I felt many emotions on this day, many of them I am still unpacking. Looking down I could isolate myself and only allow myself to think of the pain that the children have and not see it with my own eyes. But, looking up I can experience the whole picture of the orphanage. Although there is pain, there is beauty in the community and so much love that is present there. Looking up allowed me a glimpse of the beautiful love the children have for each other and the love the caretakers had for their children.

 

Looking down, the world is a little simpler. I can be in my own world and in my own thoughts for a little bit.  But, I have to remind myself that I cannot explore the complexity of the world by looking at my feet. It can become easy to think I am alone and forget about the community around me. Last week, I was looking down at the Land Cruiser 2 feet deep in sand. Looking down, the problem seemed daunting and another moment of “oh no what are we gonna do?” But, looking up I could see the 15 men, women, and children from the community that came to help. People were pushing the car, shoving branches and leaves under it, and shoveling sand out of the way. I felt an intense feeling of gratitude and a moment of community in a place we had visited for only 30 minutes. Once the car got unstuck, there was such joy and celebration and a moment of intense satisfaction for the group that literally lifted the Land Cruiser out of the sand.

 

Looking up requires acknowledging the world is more complex than what is at my feet. Looking up is so much more compelling and helps me to begin to navigate the world around me. Looking up brings questions that may not have answers, but looking down I don’t get the opportunity to even realize the questions that might come up. It is not easy to not have all the answers, but I have found value sitting in that feeling of confusion and come face to face with complexity of reality.

 

Like the name of the shop in the market, our “Days are Numbered” here in Zambezi. We leave for home a week from tomorrow and although I am looking forward to coming home, I know that my time of looking up at the complexities here is coming to an end soon. Although it is not easy, I’m going to keep pushing myself to look up, even at the risk of not having all the answers. Walking around Zambezi with my head up high will be difficult at first, and I am really risking the possibility of tripping and falling, but the view will be worth it and I may be able to start navigating around here.

 

Mwane, mwane, mwane

 

Megan

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