Kinship on a mourning run

Let me begin by offering my heartfelt appreciation to the families and friends of our Gonzaga students on this Zambezi program. We have felt your prayers, words of encouragement, and challenges to live into the moments of learning that Zambezi provides. In particular, I am thankful for the support of parents and families. You have trusted us with your child, and I can’t wait for you to hear firsthand the relationships that they have built with Zambezi residents, the challenging conversations we have had, and the true moments of kinship.

This is my tenth year of leading this study abroad program in Zambezi. During this past decade, the people of Zambezi have continually welcomed us into their lives. As we strive to practice accompaniment, we see more of the community, both the beautiful and the painful. As you have read in the blog over the past month, students dive deep into the fabric of this community.

Each year, I learn lessons, some new, some that I need to continually learn. These lessons can smack me across the face or be a small still moment that I can’t seem to shake. One lesson that I continue to return to centers on how difficult it is to “do good in the world.” Zambia is littered with those with good intentions who have created more harm than good. In our community work, we are often working against years of colonial relationships that solidified the power dynamic in our favor and didn’t empower communities with an honest mutuality that sustainable change requires. We are often asked (by individuals, churches, and community groups) to fund projects without the necessary relationships firmly in place. My time in Zambezi is laced with explanations of our role in this community and conversations about coming alongside Zambians as they stand on their own two feet.

This was the context for a morning run that Ethan Kane and I took to the local cemetery last week. As we walked through the overgrown site, honoring the dead in a place that buries too many, often too young, we stumbled upon a group of six men digging a grave. We approached them and offered our condolences, sitting in the silence and weight of the moment. Then one of the men turned to me and asked, “Can you give us a couple shovels?” This question went straight to my Western ears, and I thought, are you kidding me? We stop by this gravesite and you are asking me to go buy you some shovels? I was taken back.

We have been talking in our nightly reflections about sitting in the discomfort of a moment, and I listened to his question again though my Zambian cultural lens, can you give us a couple shovels? I suddenly realized he was inviting us into his experience, offering us a chance to join him in the mournful work of burying his sister. So we jumped into the emerging grave and shoveled – Ethan diving into the work with the passion of a heavy heart. As earth was moved, we heard about the 25-year-old women who had passed, about the upcoming day of celebrating her life, about those she was leaving behind. For a moment, we belonged. We were invited to participate in a sacred moment.  The opportunity offered by our mourning friends was one of kinship; as Fr. Greg Boyle says, “There is no us and them; there is only us.”

This morning run will stick with me for a while. Not just for the reminder that I am continually learning to hear our Zambian friends through their cultural lens, but also the affirmation that many Zambians have graciously invited us into the joy and pains of their everyday life in ways that continue to be spellbinding for me.

We are heading out to our international flights home today. We look forward to be in the arms of loved ones, but Zambia’s lessons will be in our hearts and minds for years. Thank you for following along, it is my hope that, in a unique way, you have also been challenged by the poignant moments and will continue to engage our community of Zags in Zambia as we make sense of these experiences.

Kisu, mwane.

Dr. Joshua Armstrong

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Humans of Zambezi: Gilbert Masumba

“I put my faith in God that for sure one day will come that I can go to school.”

Gilbert Masumba loves math, loves it so much he wants to spend his work life adding and subtracting. “I love numbers very much,” he says in his characteristically enthusiastic way. “I want to study accounts.”

In year nine of secondary school, Gilbert traveled to Solwezi for a math competition, earning first place in his district, second in the province. His passion for math and business stuck with him through year 12, and he planned to follow his passion all the way to university after graduation.

Alas, tragedy struck the day before he took his final exams. Gilbert’s uncle, his educational sponsor, died unexpectedly. “I wrote my exams in sorrow,” he says. Even then, he passed with high marks the eight-subject assessments—math, English, civic education, commerce, geography, foods and nutrition, chemistry and physics, and biology.

With his educational plans on hold, Gilbert, 20, is working temporarily at the parish of Our Lady of Fatima. He cheerfully cleans the grounds, sweeps the convent floors, feeds the chickens—all while dreaming of being an accountant.

“I can’t get frustrated. Who would I be frustrated at?” he says. “I know that God is there watching me. He knows what I want.”

Soon, the parish’s permanent caretaker will return, and Gilbert will return to Chilena, the small village near Zambezi where he lives with his grandma, mom, and little sister. He will help his mom raise cassava and maize on their small plot of land while he figures out a plan to pay the 5,000 kwachas (about $535) per year for university. It’s the one math problem he can’t seem to solve.

“If there were more job opportunities, I would raise money so I could take myself to school,” he says. “But there are none.”

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I am what I am because of who we all are

I left my glasses in a green canvas tent, 50 kilometers deep into Chobe Game Reserve in Botswana. And I did not panic or swear or even, really, get upset.

If they read this blog post, my friends and family back home will wonder what happened to the real Kris during her study abroad adventure to Zambezi, Zambia. She is not the calm one, never the calm one, they will think  She is the one who churns with anxiety about things big and small. I frequently joke with my closest friends that worry is my happy place.

I don’t know why I felt so calm when I lost the glasses that guide me each morning to my first cup of coffee and the newspaper and relax me when I put them on at day’s end to read myself to sleep. I don’t know why I felt so calm when I was sweaty behind the wheel of an aging Toyota Land Cruiser, stuck in a bog of sand and mud, with 11 Gonzaga students crammed in the back. I don’t know why I felt so calm when an elephant stomped his foot and lowered his head, readying himself to charge our bus, which had backed up to watch him strip leaves from a tree alongside the road. I don’t know why I felt so calm when a giraffe walked within 10 feet of my backside. (I know they are peaceable creatures, but they possess a mighty kick, or so I am told.)

I do know that this trip has been a bit of a reckoning for me, a moment from the weary words of Yeats. “The center cannot hold.”

Life in Zambia has forced me to slow the frantic pace that is my constant companion in Spokane, to loosen my bondage to the “now.” I can’t go now because the bus isn’t here, and Lord knows when it will be. I can’t eat now because the electricity is off, and Lord knows when it’s coming back. I can’t take a cold (read: numbing) shower now because the water has stopped flowing from the cistern, and Lord knows when it will flow again.

In Zambezi, life moves at the pace required in that moment. I walked a Zambian friend home after we’d had tea at the parish. She gave me a pumpkin and insisted on carrying it back to my temporary home. I drove a man to the place where he would ride a dugout boat across the Zambezi River, and he asked that I stop when he saw in the market the sweet potatoes he wanted for the following day’s breakfast. I asked the tailor about my chitenge dress, and she said she would bring it at 15 hours, or 17, or maybe 19. Or maybe tomorrow.

I am not sure how or when it happened, when my frantic soul decided to take a deep and dusty breath of Zambian air and exhale slowly. But I did, and I felt a peace I long for in the states.

Before my friends rush out to buy new, brightly colored clothes for the somber-dressing me, I should offer a few caveats about my experience in Zambezi. I remain deeply forlorn–even more so now–by the ravages of colonialism that keep a heavy foot on the back of the native people. I remain uncomfortable with the missionary work that robbed locals of their old ways while dangling new ways just out of reach. I am deeply confused about the right way the United States should provide aid to developing countries. I am angry that my country’s arrogance has tried (unsuccessfully, always unsuccessfully) to convince me the people in Zambia and other countries on this continent aren’t like us who live in our shining city upon a hill.

What I am convinced of is the goodness of the Zambezi people who welcomed me to their town and into their homes. The people who shared their stories and asked me to share mine. The people who cooked for me and cleaned for me and cheerfully greeted me in the market. While I know this all may sound annoyingly positive, that is my experience. I know they can’t all be kind, but I never met a person in Zambezi who didn’t treat me with far more generosity than I earned.

I am also convinced by the goodness of this program and the relationships Josh and his crew have cultivated these past 11 years. You see the fruits in the local’s stories about taking the basic computing course that later helped them get a job. You see it in their faces when they share the business plans they developed in class. You see it in the tears of the Chilena students as they say farewell to their Gonzaga teachers.

While I have so missed my family and my friends, I am deeply grateful for the time I spent in Zambezi with the 19 students who gleefully embraced this hard and heartening experience, who cried with me and laughed with me and gracefully tolerated my motherly presence. I would gladly claim each of them as my own if their parents weren’t desperate to have them back.

In a few weeks, I can assure you, I will again be moving frantically through the aisles of Target in search of some material item I am sure will change my life. A new face cream. A new book. A new exercise ball. I hope, for just a second, that I pause in my reach and remember Zambezi and the people–the locals and students and faculty–who reminded me that things don’t changes lives. What truly changes us is the recognition of our shared humanness, the African notion of Ubuntu. “I am what I am because of who we all are.”

By the way, my glasses came back to me today. I return to my family on Friday. Tomorrow, I begin my travels home with an odd mix of feelings–a sadness at leaving here alongside a longing for my family and pets, a cold glass of milk, and a Netflix binge of “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmitt.”

Kisu mwane.

Kris Morehouse, Communication faculty

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Humans of Zambezi: George Njolomba

George, our shopkeeper

“There is no way we can do away with our past.”

George Njolomba’s general store sits at the juncture between Zambezi’s old and new markets, a visual symbol of the owner’s devotion to past and present.

Inside his small shop, two TV sets broadcast soap operas from South Africa and Japan. People gather on couches and chairs to watch television, drink a Coke, and chat with George. The shelves that line the pale yellow walls are crammed with everything from spring onion crackers to L’Oréal shampoo, Lay’s potato chips to Johnson’s Baby Powder, long brooms to giant tubs of paint.

While his shop filled with Western goods represents Zambia’s post-Colonial present, George is passionate about his people’s traditions. He serves as a cultural guide to visitors, explaining the complicated roles of the Makishi dancers in the centuries-old, rites-of-passage ceremonies.

“Everybody has to be part of it,” he says. “That is our tradition. That is our culture.”

George’s journey to local businessman involved an interesting blend of old and new. As the seventh of 12 children and the son of a teacher, George knew money for secondary school would not stretch far enough to include him. So George, at the age of 12, began plotting his educational path.

His grandparents had gifted him two hectares of land (4.9 acres) that he sold to buy a cow. By the time he was ready for year nine of school, that cow had birthed a second cow. He sold the first and used the money to pay his fees to Zambezi Boarding School.

After year 12 of school, George knew his family did not have the money for college, so he sold the second cow and began buying small quantities of bush meats–impalas and warthogs–to sell in Zambezi. He used the profits to buy larger quantities of meat. Eventually, he began asking friends traveling to bigger cities such as Solwezi or Lusaka to pick up items hard to come by in his town–chocolates, sweet biscuits, tobacco. He sold them for a small profit and bought more.

“It started growing, little by little,” he says, his grin broadening into a full-faced smile.

Eventually, he socked away enough kwachas (Zambia’s currency) to rent a truck and fill it with goods from Lusaka such as children’s clothes, postcards, and lotions.

“Once you bring it, you find there is a demand,” George says. Eventually, people started asking for specific items. “Can you bring me this or that? I just kept on.”

His entrepreneurial gifts earned him a rental space in the old market, then a bigger one. Eventually, he owned a plot of land with his own building on it.

At 39, with a wife and three kids ranging in ages from 2 to 17, George would like for his business to grow, but he says his country has an uncertain future. People are losing their jobs, and prices are increasing, including the cost of a truck full of general goods from Lusaka.

“The people are getting poorer,” he says.  “They don’t have money.”

For now, he is content to share his people’s past and present from his post behind the counter.

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The road less traveled

As Jessica mentioned yesterday we all arrived safely in Livingston. Thus far our days have been filled with relaxation, the spectacular Victoria Falls, high tea, and the beginnings of processing all we have given to and taken from the past three weeks we spent in Zambezi. As we sat in reflection this morning, we were thinking especially of the moments that we hope to take with us from Zambezi, both collectively and as individuals. As I sat there in the grassy courtyard of our hostel, I was transported back to three adventures of this trip and the very structure of my life in Spokane.

With clean feet and a slight breeze pressing against my back I was transported back to the hot and dusty adventure, from almost two weeks ago, that has now notoriously been named “The Road to Dipalata,” which others before me have eloquently recounted for you in previous blogs. Today as I began to hear some birds chirping in the trees above me I thought to the spontaneous, side of the road tree climbing and road races that came as a result of a Land Cruiser breakdown and getting stuck in a sandy road on the way home from Chitokoloki. Finally, as I opened my eyes and they met the bright sun above me I was brought back to the journey on the last Wednesday of classes, with two of my students, to find the little known Zambezi beach, a place with the softest sand you will ever feel, and whose route included running through grass higher than my head and down a trail not much wider than my two feet.

While these three events seem to be unrelated, in thinking about them this morning I found all three of these adventures prompted common questions from me, “are you sure this is the right way?”, “where are we going?”, and “are you sure we are going to make it in time?” and all of these questions were met by the same answer “this is just a short cut, we will be there soon.”

The funny thing that I learned over my time in Zambezi is that these “shortcuts” usually took longer than it would have to follow the marked path or turn around and go the way one usually would. This little fact was something that annoyed me at first—as a person whose greatest loves include family and friends, chacos, coffee, and a stable plan. I found myself getting frustrated by the extra time or uncertainty that came with these detours and then getting frustrated by my inability to be more “go with the flow” or just embrace all that was happening in the moments that filled our short cuts.

It wasn’t until my last adventure to the beach, a little (okay a lot) stressed about making it back to the convent in time for the accompaniment dinner, that I looked up to witness the river just a sand bank below me and the sun dipping slightly lower in the clear afternoon Zambezi sky.

Zambezi River in the evening

As I stood there for just a moment, before hurrying to catch up, the words of Robert Frost echoed in my head:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

While I was unable to shake the consciousness of limited time that day, I did realize that there may be more to “adventurous” short cuts than the actual time that it takes to get from point A to point B. I want to believe that they act as a reminder that things don’t happen in Zambezi or in life through taking short cuts— but rather through taking the time to slow down, have a conversation with someone, observe what is happening around you, and being open to the many things that come from this.

A part of my heart is disappointed in the time that it took me to get to this realization and my inability to fully apply it to an adventure during the time we had in Zambezi. But the other part of me is trying to internalize the feeling of sand between my toes and the sun on my back for the many junctions that life will bring me to as I enter back into daily life in at home and in Spokane.

Simako and I on our way to the last Zambezi sunset

Two roads diverged in Zambezi, and I—

I, am happy to say, took the one less traveled by,

And it truly did make all the difference.

 

Kisu Mwane,

Morgan Smith

P.S. We will be heading into Chobe bright and early tomorrow for our safari. There will be no blog tomorrow because of this but be we will be back Monday, I’m sure with some great stories to tell.

P.P.S. Thank you to all the friends and family that have followed the blog along with us in on this journey. Your support from a far has been incredible and I cannot wait to give many of you a big squeeze when we return to the states.

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Zambezi, my third home.

I would first like to start off by saying that today we left Zambezi and all made it safely to Livingstone. No one got sick on the bush planes this time, and we all got to see the incredible view of flying right over Victoria Falls.

The past few days have been really hard for my fellow Zags and I. Before I left on this trip, I thought three weeks in Zambezi was such a long time. Now that three weeks are up, I want more. This has been a common conversation with my Zambian friends this past week. We can’t believe that our time is already up. We wish for just a few more weeks… maybe a 6 week trip would be enough time. But then I proceed to tell my friends that even if we had 6 weeks together, it still wouldn’t feel like enough time. This is because in the three weeks that I spent in Zambezi, I made friendships that have changed my life. I met people that truly left a footprint on my heart. People that made it hard to say goodbye. Even though I only knew these friends for only three weeks, I felt like they had always been a part of my life. It is hard for me to express all the ways that Zambezi has impacted me in one blog post, so let me just tell you about a family here that has changed my life.

During our very first weekend in Zambezi, we had the opportunity to stay the night at someone’s home from the church community. When I say we had the opportunity, what I really mean is we were told we were doing homestays. Remember, this was our second night in Zambezi and as you can imagine many of us were already quite unsure and anxious of what was to come. Grant and I were both sent to stay at David and Gloria Sefu’s house. Now this is where everything started for me. David is a nurse and works in a rural village, Gloria is studying to be a secondary school teacher, and then they have two little girls, Shekinah and Kuunda. Shekinah is six, but is more mature than any six year old I know, and Kuunda is two and is just a bundle of joy. During our homestay, I could not believe how generous Gloria and David were to us. They welcomed us into their home, fed us dinner, let us sleep in their girl’s bunk beds, and even let us bathe (with warm water!) before church. I remember feeling overjoyed just for simply being accepted by them.

That next Monday, I found myself wandering back to their house. Gloria had mentioned that she wanted to teach us how to make nshima, so I wanted to set a date and make it official. I was eager to keep this relationship alive. We planned to cook nshima on Wednesday, and I could hardly wait.

Wednesday came along and Grant and I made the quick journey back to their house. Gloria taught us the proper technique for making nshima, which was way harder than she made it look. Grant caught on pretty quickly, but it took me another day to really get it. Along with nshima we prepared chicken, relish (veggies), and gravy (sauce). Lunch was delicious! I was so proud of our lovely meal and our blossoming friendship.

From that point on, I went to Gloria and David’s house whenever I had free time. David was almost always gone since he travels so far for work and is only home on the weekends, but I found that I loved hanging out with Gloria and the girls just the same. Gloria taught me so much about Luvale culture and what it means to be a strong Zambian woman. I felt as if I could ask Gloria anything. I would ask her about the challenging things that I didn’t understand about Luvale culture. I asked her about what it means to be a woman in her community and whether she thought that was fair or not. I asked her what she liked and what she didn’t like about her country. One of the things that I loved about Gloria is that she asked too. We taught each other about important holidays and what crops are most commonly grown at our homes. We talked about deep issues and we talked about everyday things. We did dishes together, cooked meals together, watched cartoons together, danced together, and even walked to the market together. I taught Gloria and her daughters how to play Frisbee. They taught me how to make perfect nshima without any clumps. They introduced me to David’s mother, his sister, his niece, his brother, and many other friends. I introduced them to my friends from Gonzaga and they eagerly invited them into their home as well. They gifted me with their first ripe papaya of the season. I bought their girls candies from the store. They gave me a beautifully woven basket that they had someone make just for me. I gave them a Gonzaga bulldog cap and t-shirt.

This friendship is something that I will never forget. Because of them, today was one of the hardest, but also most beautiful days of my life. This morning Kelen and I went over to their house to say hello and to say our last goodbye. David was just packing up and getting ready to head back to work, so we first said goodbye to him. We knew what was coming next, but we weren’t quite ready to face the reality of things. Instead, we tied shitange around our waists, blasted some tunes, and danced around their living room trying to will our hips to move as a traditional Luvale woman. Let’s just say that Shekinah showed both Kelen and I up. When we knew we should head back to the convent, because our planes were about to arrive, we all fell silent. I gave Shekinah a hug goodbye, Kelen hugged her goodbye, and then she threw her body on the floor and bursted into tears. I then made my way into Gloria’s arms, tears already welling up into my eyes, and we both loudly sobbed while holding tightly onto each other. Gloria told me that I had become more than just a friend, and more like a sister. I told her that I would never forget about her and that we would stay in contact via Facebook and WhatsApp. We ugly cried for a few moments extra, but knew that it was time. As we headed back down the sandy path home, I couldn’t help but to feel grateful. Even though I was feeling so much sadness with having to say goodbye to what is now my family in Zambezi, I was just as blessed to have this opportunity. I feel so honored to have met this family and to be graced with their presence. They taught me how to unconditionally love another person. They made me feel so important and cared for, and I hope that I was able to make them feel the same.

Wow. All I have to say is thank you so much for being a part of my life, and thank you for everything that you have taught me. I love you so much.

 

Kisu Muane,

Jessica Wilmes

 

P.S. Mom and dad, I love you so much and cannot wait to see you. I have so many stories to tell you and pictures to show you! I am also really missing watermelon and bacon… breakfast Saturday morning? Love you both <3 Also, I found a miniature donkey in Zambezi! It wasn’t the nicest and looked kind of scary, but I got a picture with it regardless.

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Tuna Sakwilla Mwane, Zambezi

  1. I asked Mama Josephine today how to say ‘I love you’ in luvale. She has been teaching us luvale a couple times each week. She replied in saying “ngwakuzangn”. I had to say it numerous times to get the pronunciation correct – seeing it spelled out is daunting. In this however, the word sounds (to me) just as it does in saying Gonzaga. I don’t think that’s much of a coincidence.
  1. One night we went to a Mikishi ceremony. I observed from the back at first like I usually do when uncomfortable, and made my way up to the dance floor towards the end of the event. The Mikishi called me into the center of the circle to dance with them. I did, following their moves as if that was the correct thing to do. Mama Violet and Mama Josephine soon came into the center, cheering loudly and clapping around me. Walking back to the convent arm-in-arm with Mama Violet, I asked what it meant when she and Mama Josephine had come into the circle with me. She replied joyfully, “Ah, it is to bring emphasis to you”. I felt warm and speechless.
  1. I have some friends in the market that plat (braid) people’s hair. One day I said hello and showed interest in how they inserted and platted synthetic hair into their client’s natural hair. From then, I have felt as though I was a part of their business as well. With help and guidance, I have platted parts of 3 client’s heads, and even have a braid myself. The other day, one of the platters, ChiChi, told me she wants me to plat her whole head (I didn’t). My braiding friends shared their talent and many laughs with me each day as I would stop by to visit and contribute. This shared happiness is something I will forever cherish.
  1. It has been an honor to teach the Leadership & Business class. Today we had our graduation. Each of the students were so overjoyed and proud of themselves in completing the course. In the afternoon, one of the students, Burton, had stopped everyone to read a very kind letter to Chase, Taylor, Grace and I. The letter thanked us for our work, and showed great appreciation for the class’s growth and confidence in making a difference through leadership and business. Once he had finished presenting the speech, the entire class cheered so loudly. Maureen, another student, looked to me, as she cheered as any Zambian woman would. She was waiting for me to join her in the celebration too – so, I too, yelled with pride and love in what the class had brought to us all. Additionally, I took a photo with Burton and he picked me up. He picked Grace up for a photo as well. I’ll have to show you the photo sometime when I know how to upload it.
  1. At lunch today I sat next to Fr. Dom. As I would pass him food after serving myself, he would look to me saying, “I shall give as I have received”. He would take his part, and pass to Val to his right. This happened many times, as there were a lot of bowls of assorted food today for lunch. I was mean to hear this as much as I did for a reason. As my time in Zambezi has come to an end, I am to recognize all that I have received from this new home, and prepare to give it to more people back home in the states soon. I too, shall give as I have received.
  1. Last night we had the Accompaniment Dinner. Each of us invited one guest to which has left a mark and light on our time here in Zambezi. Beautiful faces and chitengi were everywhere. I had an awesome time. As Jessie sang her song to all of us, the guests and chindeles alike joined in with her. As Jessie had sung this song to Gonzaga, it is time for Gonzaga to sing it to Zambezi.

“Time has come to say goodbye, time to say goodbye,

We hope to meet and rejoice again, hope to rejoice again.

We appreciate your love and care, we appreciate your love and care,

We hope to meet and rejoice again, hope to rejoice again.

Sad to say goodbye, sad to say goodbye.

We hope to meet and rejoice again, hope to rejoice again.

Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye”

 

 

Ngwakuzangn, ufuku mwane,

Kelen Ahearn

 

P.S. The happiest of birthdays to our very own Jimmy! We had a great time celebrating him and his time here in Zambezi today.

P.P.S. Last week I counted 21 bug bites on my body. I have for sure gotten more since. Thank you to the bugs that bite in Zambezi too, as you have loved me, I have loved you too

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Humans of Zambezi: Jessy Mukumbi

Jessy Mukumbi

“Death can happen at any time.”

Mukumbi Jescar (known as Jessie) lost her mom when she was an infant, her grandparents a few years later. Her father died last year. Over the years, she has lost many friends and relatives, including a 24-year-old niece, a teacher and mother to a year-old son, who died in April from yellow fever.

Like many people in Zambezi, Zambia, Jessie knows death as a constant. To her, this reality means she must protect the five children ages 7 to 19 she is raising alone in case she can’t see them all grow to adulthood. She bought them each plots of land as an inheritance “so that they have something” if she dies. She lives in a home on land owned by her oldest brother, Damien.

When she speaks of her brother, she smiles. After her grandparents died, Damien, a doctor, raised his younger siblings. He paid their school fees and encouraged them to further their educations.

These days, Jessie works as a teacher in Chilenga Basic School where she is loving but firm with her many pupils. On some days, she has as many as 48 students in her year-seven classroom. As she walks among the students, they sit up straighter, stop their chattering, pay closer attention to the Gonzaga students teaching them about storytelling.

For several years, Jessie has trained her students in traditional dance, and they have traveled to cities such as Livingstone to compete in a contest sponsored by the National Association of Arts and Music in Zambia. In 2014, they won second place. The competition takes place again later this year, and Jessie will be there with a new troupe. The dancing “reminds me of the old, old, old past, what my great grannies used to do,” she says. “I don’t want to forget about my culture.”

Just like her brother before her, Jessie’s hopes for her students and her own children are that they get their educations so they can live independently. “I can support my children,” she says. “I want them to be like that.

“They have to believe in themselves.”

 

 

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How to Crap Swim

The last message I received from my family was nearly a month ago now. It was an unfortunate autocorrect in which my mother attempted to type the inspirational phrase “Carpe Diem” (Sieze the day) only to write “Crap Swim”. The message was sent in our family group chat and so naturally, I received a “Sieze the crap swim” message from every member of the Kane family. Gotta love parent texting.

Since that day, I’ve made it my goal to crap swim the hell out of my time here. I’ve seen our group dive headfirst into a crap swim, seizing every opportunity, jumping into any dance circle, talking to literally any stranger, attending any celebration. Hell, with these people I’ve now attended or participated nearly every life event one can have here in Zambia, from a baby shower, to a birthday, to a baptism, to a circumcision party, to a wedding, to digging a grave, to even attending an exorcism. We even joke that there is a running check-list of life events that I need to attend here in Zambia (fingers crossed for a Bar-Mitzvah).

In fact that check-list mentality is how I’ve always treated carpe diem (or crap swim). At Gonzaga I make around 5 to-do lists per day. A day well seized revolves around how many memorable or productive things I’ve done that day. The “to-do” culture was the product of a stressful major, and drastic over involvement. At Gonzaga I’d venture to say I’m one of the fastest walkers on campus. Legend has it that Ethan Kane made the trip from C/M to 4th floor of Tilford in 7 minutes and grabbed a muffin from the cog on his way. I don’t waste much time getting places, I just want to be there with efficiency, because of a fear of wasting time. Often I would think that wasted time means an un-seized day.  I recall one day in Spokane when I was walking to the library during a beautiful snowfall. Due to my busyness I found it impossible to enjoy the true immaculate beauty of the snow drifting to the ground. I remember the deep frustration of that moment. I’m sure many of us know the curse of being too busy to notice the wonderful world.I ran into the same problems in Zambezi as I did in Gonzaga almost immediately. In an attempt to make as many friendships as I could and experience everything, I had became too busy to slow down and truly feel anything at all.

The funny thing about Zambezi is that the ground literally forces me to slow down and notice the world. Every street runs entirely with thick fine sand that pulls my feet deeper and deeper into the earth, forcing me to walk slower to a pace that ordinarily I would find unbearable. In this context though, I’ve started to love how slow the sand makes me walk. Zambezi physically won’t let me rush. It pushes my feet to sink into the sand and experience the gentle therapeutic feeling of sand running over my toes. It forces me to listen intently to the calls of children yelling “Chindele!”, and truly see the faces of the people around me.

Joshua escorting me home from school on one of those sandy roads.

So these last few days in Zambezi I’ve been trying to always walk in the deep sand, in fact the deepest ruts of sand I can find, because if I don’t, I know I’ll rush and I’ll completely miss the simple gift of sand on my toes, just like I had always missed the beauty of snow in the Spokane winter.

I feel that my idea of Carpe Diem (or crap swimming) can actually oppose my ability to truly feel a moment. Don’t get me wrong, the motivation to seize opportunities is a beautiful mindset, and has led me to so many adventures. Doing a lot of things is great, but as long as the pressure to do a lot of things doesn’t push you out of the moment you are in. Is doing everything worth anything if you don’t feel it.  You may sieze the day, but never forget to surrender to this moment.

Two nights ago was Father Baraza’s birthday, and as I shared a Zambian beer with the birthday boy, he went off on a well rehearsed speech about how Africans view time (A very common topic of conversation with Fa-Bara, as he is lovingly called). He spoke of the absence of future in the common African view of time saying “The only thing that exists now, is now.” and when asked for the secret of a long life revealed “Just be.” (shout out to Grant for his blog figuring it out early).

I cherish the times like this in Zambezi that like the sand, have forced me to surrender to now, erasing all thoughts of the future or past. Like, surrendering to the grief as I hear the tragic story of the smiliest kid you could ever meet. Surrendering to the complicated beauty, holiness, and sadness that the Falconer orphanage holds. Surrendering to awkwardness as a very enthusiastic and sweaty man challenged me to a close-proximity hip gyration dance contest.

Instead of seizing this last day in Zambezi I want to surrender to it. Instead of looking for profoundness, I want to let the profoundness of the mere existence of the world find me. I like the idea of surrendering instead of seizing because I want to give myself to this day, not attempt to “take it”. I want to let it take over every fabric of my being and guide me wherever it may. I want to surrender to today with joy as my students as perform stories they’ve written with confidence and pride. I want to surrender to my frustration and sadness as I say goodbye to Zambian friends who I’ve learned to love, just in time to leave them. I want to surrender to the beauty of the Zambezi river one last time.

However, this presence is a hard thing to do when there is so much to worry about: saying goodbye to our friends, buying our family gifts, packing up our stuff, wondering if I brought toilet paper with me or if I’m going to get pinched by the infamous butt pincher chair. This last day it would be easy to take on the carpe diem mindset that I need to see everyone and wrap up everything the way I want it before I leave. But that’s not realistic. How does one say goodbye to the friends and children and students and mentors that you’ve just begun to truly love? Especially when you know that in all likelihood you may never see them again. A clean goodbye is going to be difficult. Today I will attempt to show the people that have welcomed and loved me with all their hearts, all the appreciation I possibly can and I know that for me it may never feel like enough. How can one possibly have a goodbye to this place and these people in a way that does feel like enough? So I go into today knowing that I can’t do enough for everyone today, but perhaps I can just feel one thing well. It would do a disservice to this place, these people, and myself to not feel today with all my being. I give all of myself to you today Zambezi.

Kisu Mwane,

Ethan Kane

 

 

p.s.    I have been rocking a sty in my right eye for the past 6 days. There are pretty much no mirrors in Zambezi, although I can only assume that I partially resemble a distant relative of Sloth from Goonies. Don’t expect many photogenic pics (hence the picture of me walking away).

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Love the Ordinary Moments

“Love the Ordinary Moments” This quote is pasted in bold letters across the front of my journal. When I made my journal at our retreat this spring I cut and pasted this quote without really giving it a second glance or thought. I liked it so, therefore, it was put on my journal. I did not realize the truth of this quote until just a few days again when I was reflecting on the time I have spent here in Zambezi.

 

We have now been in Zambezi for almost three weeks. At times it seems as if I have been here forever and at other times I feel like it is my first day here. Trying to remember and recount the moments I have had here so far seems almost impossible. There is so much to tell about, yet only so much I can write. I have tried my best to compile the most memorable and impactful moments I have had here in Zambezi. So here they are. I am sure I have missed many and will make sure to have my fellow Zags remind me of them, but the ones that I remember are as follows:

 

-Grace grabbing my hand as we took off in the bush plane because she knew I was nervous

 

-Crying when I stepped off the plane and heard the Chilena choir singing

 

-Singing “Twaya Monta” with Mamma Josephine… 50 times in a row

 

-Father Baraza talking in proverbs which sometimes make sense and other times left us looking at one another saying “what?”

 

-Anna screaming after every bump we go over in the car (which is about every 5 seconds)

 

-The health team’s trip to Kalendola which at one point consisted of 18 people, 2 live goats, one dead goat in a cooler, 10 pumpkins/squash and 10 woven baskets all on top of or in our what is suppose to be a 10-12 person land cruiser

 

-Looking down at a child and smiling at them and receiving a shy smile or giggle back

 

-Singing “No One”, “Sunday Candy” and “Brown Eyed Girl” in the back of the land cruiser while sliding, bumping and smacking into each other as we drove over the bumpy bush roads and the pure joy that is felt with the wind blowing in our faces as we drove the road

 

-Distributing Days For Girls menstruation kits to girls who would have had to miss a week of school each month because of their period and empowering them to become beautiful and powerful women

 

-Trying to greet Zambians in Luvale and receiving giggles in return because I for sure pronounced it in an American accent or said the wrong thing

 

-Looking around the reflection circle seeing the Chaco tanned dirty feet that all have a story to tell about how their feet got so dirty that day. Many from walking to and from the market for a cold coke or chocolate bar, one from helping the Mammas at the market so they can help cook our meals, a few maybe from walking up and down the hall in our sandy convent, the health team’s from walking to the church hall a few yards away or traveling to a nearby village or the teachers from the long walk back to the convent

 

-Making PB and J’s while listening and dancing to the song “Peanut butter Jelly”

 

-Saying something weird to Caroline knowing that I will get a head shake and a “oh McKenzie” in return

 

-Sitting in the silence and grief with Mamma Katendi after she learned her sister had passed away and being okay with sitting in the sadness with one another

 

-Mamma Violets sweet and soft “ohhhhkay” after anything we say to her

 

-Elly saying something weird, dancing or yelling like a Zambian woman knowing we would both laugh about it

 

-Chiwala (the old man who walks 30 minutes and takes a boat across the river to attend our health class almost everyday) asking questions that make us laugh and shake our head such as “Can I breath under water?”

 

-Getting the land cruisers stuck in the sand (again) and not having a doubt in our mind that we won’t make it out but rather getting out to have an impromptu dance party

 

-Listening to my little friends Patrick and Emmanuel tell me about their family and not know what to say when they ask “What are you going to give me when you leave me?”

 

-Knowing that my fellow Zags who sleep within the yellow walls of this convent with me will always have a special place in my heart and mine in theirs. Also the fact that at least 6 of them have walked in on me in the computer room writing this blog just to ask how it was going and to tell me they cannot wait for me to read it

 

I realized that most the memorable moments and impactful parts of my time in Zambezi have had a common theme. They have for the majority been ordinary moments or simple gestures from another person. I think many times we are caught up in the idea that in order for something to be memorable or impactful it has to be a grand event or action. I have come to the realization that loving and embracing the ordinary moments is the best way to experience your life to the fullest. The parts of the trip I will look back on and smile, cry or laugh about are the little moments with another person that allows me to connect to them.The ordinary moments are what fills our lives. Without them there would be holes in our stories and lives.

More recently I have come to the fact that we are not guaranteed tomorrow or the next day or the next.  Like Father Baraza has taught us there is not future in Africa. The Africans only recognize the past and the present because you are not able to predict the future. This concept is something I need to practice more in my own life. Being in the present with others and enjoying the ordinary moments. If we do not love and embrace every moment we have here on Earth (ordinary or extravagant) we are not fully living the best we can. So, this is why I have chosen to love the ordinary moments here in Zambezi along with the grand, exciting and somewhere in between moments too. I hope to have many more ordinary moments here. I also hope all of you reading this learn to embrace the everyday and commonplace moments with the people you love.

Kisu Mwane,

 

McKenzie Gallagher ‘20

 

P.S. Mom, Dad, grandparents, and anyone else whom it may concern I am healthy, safe and loving my new temporary home here in Zambezi. To all of you as well as my people in Spokane, Montana or wherever else you are in the world (you all know who you are) I miss you so much and cannot wait to be back in your arms and hear your voices.

 

Also I am pleased to announce that the Zags beat Chilena in the soccer game today. 3-2!! All thanks to Miss Morgan Green who was named MVP with two goals to her name!

 

It was also FaBra’s (Father Baraza) birthday today. We celebrated with pizza, cake and the tradition of throwing water on the birthday boy’s head.

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