What a WONDERful day

Today we were very blessed to visit one of the seven wonders of the world, the Victoria Falls. 

We started off the day running, literally. Jackson, Ani, Brynn, Charlie, Sarah, and I accompanied Josh on a bright and early morning run at 7 am. We ran through the streets of Livingstone, passing by many, many children on their way to school. Many waved and had a big smile on their faces as we passed by them. Zambia has a large percentage of a young population, and we definitely saw this as the endless number of children filled the streets in the morning. It felt nice to finally stretch out and shake our legs after many days of travel in the past week. Although the dirt in the air combined with the thick smell of diesel made it hard to run, we finished at 3.5 miles. Jackson, a speedy guy, led the pack and even showed off by doing some parkour off rocks and walls. 

A wonderful breakfast followed, porridge or eggs/sausage with toast. Promptly after we piled into the Rosa Deluxe and headed off to the Victoria Falls. Once we arrived, we waited in the bus patiently as Dominic tried to rizz his way into getting us to cross the border into Zimbabwe without the whole customs ordeal. While we were waiting we saw our first wildlife animal, a monkey. We all were so in awe, and we took endless photos as the monkey hoped on a truck, stole a sugar cane, and started snacking on it. 

Unfortunately Dominic was not able to get us into Zimbabwe the shortcut way, but he rizzed us into priority parking for the Falls on the Zambia side. We walked through Royal Livingston Hotel, where we would later have High Tea. As we were walking through, we were amazed at a herd of Zebras grazing on the nearby grass. It was so bizarre to be close to such an elegant species. After many photos we continued our journey to the falls and ran into gazelles and monkeys along the way. Upon entering we were able to see how grand and powerful the falls truly are. The tons of water falling every second, accompanied by mist bouncing back and falling right on us. What we thought would be some light mist turned into a heavy pour of water. All of us were soaked head to toe and we felt so “free,” as beautifully described by Katie. We yelled and danced as we marveled at the sight below us. We ran into a group of South Africans along our sightseeing hike, and without hesitation, they welcomed us into their group as we yelled at the Falls below and took photos along them. This was beautiful moment where we were able to share happiness and joy with a group of strangers. 

After the falls, we headed back to the hostel to dry off and change into our fancy clothes as we prepared for High Tea at the Royal Livingston Hotel. We pulled up in our classy vehicle, the Rosa Deluxe, and were seated in an elegant room. We each ordered some tea, and the tiered stands of food came out one after another. After many delicious sandwiches, biscuits, and pastries, we moved outside to view the beautiful Zambian sunset along the falls. We engaged in hours of conversation with each other. It was nice to have time to catch up with each other, without the feeling of being rushed to head to next activity.

We headed back to the hostel and debriefed our day: What emotion did you feel today? Many of us said we felt so alive, liberated, and connected with eachother. 

Tomorrow, we will wake up early to head out to the Safari in Botswana. We will not have service, thus, we will not be able to post a blog tomorrow (Tuesday). So don’t worry, we are alive and well and will be sleeping next to many wonderful animals (safely) and underneath the stars.

Ana Gamboa ’24

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Zambian Time

Welcome to day three in Zambia, let another day of travel begin! We woke up this morning early in attempts to get onto the road early. We had put in our breakfast orders the day before, ready to be the first served at 7:30am and then get back into the Rosa Deluxe by 8:00am to begin our seven hour journey.

However, we soon encountered our new best friend for the day, Zambian time. As 7:30am came around we saw our other hostel mates start getting their food and soon we realized even with our preparation, our food was going to come out when it was ready, no earlier and no later. Eventually we all got fed and got onto the Rosa Deluxe at 9:00am to begin our seven hour journey to Livingstone.

We all piled into the bus, started conversations and continued to develop our connections. We drove through Lusaka with our favorite tour guide Dominic, telling us about future developments, the fun facts of the different neighborhoods we were in and fascinating history about the long North Road we were about to begin our journey on, with a little language lesson on the way.

As we exited Lusaka the country side of Zambia started to fly by. I was fascinated by all of the drought resistant flora and the small communities that we cruised by. The journey included a variety of fun games, of course connections, some fun riddles, the line game, silly sally, and a classic Pitch Perfect riff off. Throughout the ride we ate new snacks and tried new cookies (Tennis taking the cake as the crowd favorite), the bus drivers also bought us some sugar cane stalks from some kids on the road where everyone was given the opportunity to try the sweet and fibery sugar straight from the source.

Next, the challenge of the peanut butter jelly assembly began. We created a makeshift table out of the fold out chair between our seats, we recruited our peanut butter and jelly holders Brynn and Katie and our distributor Jackson and we went to work. Emily took charge of the peanut butter and I took charge of the jelly, after they were perfectly spread and clapped together they were passed out to be enjoyed. With breadcrumbs all over the bus and some messy hands everyone sat in silence and enjoyed their food.

The trip then got a bit deeper as we spun a wheel of deep questions to get to know each other better, challenge ourselves and become reflective as we go further on our journey. One of the questions I was asked was, what emotion have you felt the most today? And truly it was peace, as I find myself thousands of miles away from home, mostly disconnected, driving through the beauty of the country I will call home for the next month with a group of amazing people I’m sure I will soon call family, I feel at peace.

Very quickly the proposed 7 hour trip turned into 9:30 hours. We arrived at Fawlty Towers in Lusaka no earlier or later than the Rosa Deluxe was ready for but right on time, Zambian time. Throughout our time here I know that we will learn things about ourselves and each other no earlier and no later than we are ready for but right on time. I am excited to continue this journey and ensure that I do not let the experience go by, but savor every moment as we only have such limited Zambian time.

And a quick quote from Dominic to send us off, 

“Life is like a Twin Snake, sometimes sweet and sometimes sour” – Dominic ’24

Love,

Charlie Herman ’26

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Making Connections!☝️

Group photo in front of the National Museum

We have officially been in Zambia for 24 hours! This morning we enjoyed some much needed sleep and eggs for breakfast. Charlie won the award for longest sleep coming in at 13 hours. 

At breakfast, a couple new characters joined the crew!– Gilbert Masumba and Kelly Huckaby. Gilbert is Josh and Dominic’s friend from Zambezi, and Kelly is Josh’s friend from the states who has lives here in Lusaka. They each offered a new perspective for our group, and we enjoyed asking them questions all day. Gilbert gave us a much needed language lesson and refresher on greetings in Lunda. Kelly shared his perspective living here for 14 years and running a Christian summer camp, offering his insights from an outsider on many of the complexities of the culture here in Zambia. 

We hoped in the beloved Rosa Deluxe (our bus) and headed to the Lusaka National Museum, and in honor of national museum day, we even got in for free! Here we were led by our guide Meshach as we learned about the archeology, history, agriculture, and education of Zambia. Among many other fun facts, we learned Zambia’s country motto is “One Zambia, One nation” to pay homage to the 73 ethnic groups that inhabit the country. 

Lusaka National Museum

We said goodbye to Kelly and headed to The Hungry Lion, a popular fast food chicken spot. We enjoyed our fried chicken and took our sundaes to-go as we headed to 37D Art Gallery, funded by The Start Foundation. We all perused the art gallery and admired the beautiful jewelry. Well, all of us but Jackson, who enjoyed an early start to our afternoon nap in the bus. 

We headed back to our hostel and rested up before having our first reflection time of the trip. We kicked off our reflection with a ballet warm-up taught by Sarah who was our professor for the day, something we will all have the chance to do during our time here. We shared the origins of our names as we practiced our storytelling and continue to learn more about one another. We shared our initial thoughts about our time here in Zambia and reflected on the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings of this new place. 

We headed to dinner at a nearby mall at Nando’s where we met up with Seth Morrison, a former Zag who came on this Zambezi program in 2010, who has returned to Lusaka for medical research through an NIH grant. Some of us went to the grocery store to get snacks for our 7 hour roadtrip to Livingstone tomorrow. (We are putting the miles on Rosa Deluxe) 

Squad on Rosa Deluxe!

The night concluded with great excitement! An engagement at Nando’s! The whole restaurant erupted in cheers as the happy couple celebrated. 

For me, witnessing the engagement was another reminder to keep an open heart to this experience. Nando’s is a chain restaurant, similar to many we go to at home, and yet we got to witness such an extraordinary event and watch as complete strangers celebrated the love of complete strangers. I am excited to see what extraordinary events the ordinary has in store for during our time here. 

We are headed to bed as we prepare for our big roadtrip tomorrow. We continue to play connections and most of us are beginning to understand the game, especially Dominic. While it started with the game, Connections has become quite the inside joke. Dominic loves to point out “Connection” in conversation followed by finger point and hand heart. It’s safe to say we are making lots of connections here. 🙂 

Sending love home to all!! 

Lots of Love, 

Emily Even ’24

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We Made it to Lusaka

Hello family and friends!

After many hours of travel (14 hours to Dubai and 7 hours to Lusaka) we have finally made it to Zambia! We all agreed that the 7 hour flight to Lusaka went by quite fast and once we landed the excitement was UP! Once we got off the plane, we made our way over to Jason (a pilot for Flying Missions!) as well as Dominic (one of Josh’s close friends from Zambia who is also showing us around.) Most of us made it to our bus — Rosa Deluxe — except, we ran into one hiccup. Will and Ellie were stopped at the airport with some of Gonzaga’s duffel bags that had supplies for Flying Mission Zambia by some security officers! Don’t be alarmed, Will and Ellie were all good in the end and we figured out that the Flying Missions parts we brought would be taxed on Monday. We waited for our peers patiently and passed time by playing some fun games (connections), sharing snacks (twin snakes), and telling stories.

After all coming together on the bus, we went to the mall to exchange cash and go to the grocery store. Most of us purchased large waters and different kinds of potato chips. The barbecue chips were amaze. Ana loved them the most. We then made it to the hostel and dropped our bags before dinner.

Dinner was a BLAST!! We went to a restaurant called Urban Masai. Urban Masai had an amazing atmosphere, fun DJ, and delicious food. We had Matoke platters with beef, chicken, goat and sides of plantains, coconut rice, fries, kebabs, and samosas! At dinner, I really felt the group bonding together as we laughed and danced along to the music. By the end we all were thinking wow, the vibes are immaculate here (check the pictures above).

We made it back to the hostel at 9pm and although we all feel very tired, I can confidently say, the group dynamic is thriving and our spirits are high!!

Sending love to all of our family and friends <3 So much growing is happening and so much to look forward too!!

Love,

Lucia D0ty, Class of ’25

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Du-Hi from Dubai!

We made to Dubai and we hopped on a bus to take an amazing tour of the city. We marveled at the vast differences between life here verses our expectations for Zambia. We saw the tallest building in the world and dipped our toes in the Persian Gulf! Tune in tomorrow for more pictures and activities live from Lusaka!

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2024 Zags in Zambezi

For the past 18 years, Gonzaga faculty and students have listened, learned, and developed relationships in the rural town of Zambezi, Zambia.  On May 15, the next chapter of this remarkable friendship is to be written as fourteen Zags embark on a journey exploring the practice of accompaniment.  

For those of you new to this unique study abroad, some context on our intentions is helpful. Unlike study abroad experiences rooted in a foreign university, our month-long classroom is the community of Zambezi.  This remote town is nestled on the Zambezi river, the fourth-longest river in Africa, in the North-Western Province of Zambia, roughly 500 kilometers west of the provincial capital of Solwezi. This proud community has a rich cultural tradition influenced by the Luvale and Lunda tribes. Through community projects, developed in partnership with local leaders, Zags will convene lessons in computing, health education, business/leadership and partner in local classrooms. However, our intentions are not to “help” Zambians but rather to come alongside them in a decades-long relationship to assist them in standing on their own two feet.  This practice is rooted in an ethic of accompaniment – an intentional effort to operate at eye-level with Zambians, acknowledging the mutuality of our learning together, not in directing others through complex hardships but in walking alongside them, navigating challenges together with empathy and understanding.  This program recognizes that transformation occurs in the relationship of mutual reciprocity, when we learn to come alongside in relationship to unlock the power of accompaniment for organizational change. 

While Gonzaga has partnered in tangible projects (library at Chilena, Zambezi Writers’ Corner magazine, Zam City FC, Dipalata Community Hall, Zambia Gold Honey) most Zags will share with you the friendships developed during their time in Zambezi.  It is in these relationships that true learning occurs for Zags and Zambians. We hope you will accompany us during this next month (May 15 – June 15) as we navigate the complexity of intercultural partnerships and reflect daily on our learning.  Gonzaga students and faculty will be posting on this blog as we make sense of our experiences and share this learning with you. We hope you will comment on our postings, in a virtual conversation of your own learning and questions (and to stay connected to us).

Kisu, mwane.

Dr. Josh Armstrong

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Our Final Goodbye

The reception area at the USAID-supported DREAMS Center in Mandevu, Lusaka.

Welcome to the final blogpost for Gonzaga in Zambezi 2023! Thank you to everyone who has been following along for the past five weeks!

I’m not going to lie; the idea of writing the very last blogpost for this trip is terrifying. At the same time, similar to Kendall, it’s fitting that I’m blogging on our second day in Lusaka just like I did at the beginning of the trip. And this time, I have a much greater understanding of Zambia and a much stronger connection to the amazing women I’m traveling with—reference first blog post!

In GIZ fashion, we continued learning and unlearning on our final day in Zambia. Today we had the opportunity to visit two USAID offices here in Lusaka (courtesy of two women who work with USAID that we coincidentally met at the Doha airport on our way to Zambia—another full circle moment!). These offices receive funding from both the United States and Zambian governments, and their aim is to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS in at-risk populations.

We started at an office in Mandevu, a low SES neighborhood in Lusaka where many adolescent girls and young women struggle with poverty and HIV/AIDS. USAID, in conjunction with the PEPFAR program (an initiative of President George W. Bush during mid-2000s), works with local Zambians on the ground to identify ways to reduce the prevalence of these diseases, namely by preventing women from engaging in risky behaviors by giving them the opportunity to return to school or get a job. They have established various facilities to help women develop independence and employable skills, such as digital literacy. When we visited the economic strengthening room, there were six sewing machines lining the perimeter of the room, and a young woman sat at each one. Some were making reusable diapers and menstrual pads while others worked on various clothing items. They each shared their stories—a few were single mothers, others had started small businesses using the skills they learned at Dream, and a handful were on track to attend university. Listening to these stories both broke my heart and gave me hope that it’s never too late for anyone. Dream big!

My first time seeing pride flags in five weeks! These were found in the USAID-supported Olympia Wellness Center, which serves key HIV-vulnerable populations in central Lusaka.

The second office was only a stone’s throw from our hostel. This location was a care center for the “illegal” in Zambia: sex workers and members of the LGBTQ+ community. The first time I wrote the blog, I vividly remember how at debrief we discussed the taboo surrounding gender and sexual identity. These topics never took center stage during our trip, so I was floored that there is an entire center in Lusaka dedicated to these patients so they can receive HIV/AIDS testing, treatment if they test positive (with FREE medications!), mental health counseling, and contact tracing for those who might have been exposed. To be frank, I wouldn’t even expect to find a similar center in many places in the United States. We were honored to meet two patients at this clinic and hear their experiences of isolation from their communities and mental health struggles reminded me of stories my queer friends have shared with me back home. At times like these, I realize how the United States isn’t as advanced as Americans often give it credit for and that we, as the next generation, still have a significant amount of work to do.

It’s hard to capture the emotional rollercoaster that was today, so here’s my messy attempt. I have absolutely loved traveling with this amazing group of women + Jeff. I’m going to miss Kendall’s sense of humor, Kylie’s laugh, Maddie’s friendship, Lauren’s kindness, Megan’s creativity, Clare’s selflessness, Hattie’s sarcasm, Grace S’s sense of adventure, Grace E’s positivity, Dee’s quiet strength, Bella’s honesty, Kris’s motherly energy, and Jeff’s thoughtful reflections. I’m also going to miss Zambia: the vibrant sunsets, slow mornings, warm welcomes, rhythmic music, various languages, starry skies, tiny airplanes, sweet popcorn, nourishing meals, and all the other little things (if I typed them all out I’d miss the flight tomorrow!).

With that said, it has been challenging for all of us to disconnect from our loved ones, and I know we’re all itching to return to our more permanent homes in the United States. I started a list of things I can’t wait for when I return home (at the top are ice cream, Trader Joe’s, Target, pizza, and seat belts!). I’m also not going to miss some of the extremely difficult parts of being here: drunk men giving us unwanted attention as a group of young American women, being asked for gifts or job opportunities, children swarming me and touching my hair and hands and legs, cold showers, and holding my breath every time I get into a vehicle as we drive down the wrong side of the road (to us) following no set driving laws.

To my loved ones back home, I can’t wait to share the memories from this trip with you in person tomorrow❤️. To everyone else reading this blog post, know you’re deeply missed and we couldn’t have made it through this experience without your support.

And finally, to this special group, I feel like I’ve gained 11 sisters (+ I hold a special place in my heart for Genesis). I can’t imagine doing this without any of you. I love you forever!

Love from the entire GIZ crew!!

Sierra Martinsen, ‘24

PS: Mom and Craig, please bring Sophie to the airport!! A few snacks would be appreciated too 🙂

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Coming full circle

A mirrored image of the Zambian landscape taken from our small plane.

If you know me well, you know that I love restarts and full-circle moments. I love Mondays, the first of every month, and the greatest of all is New Year’s day. I love the satisfaction of a fresh start especially when a full-circle moment is involved. So, I was so excited to learn that my third and final blog would be today—the day we landed back in Lusaka. This is special because I wrote our first blog of the trip and posted it on the day we landed in Lusaka for the very first time. Now, I’m posting this from the hostel that we started at over four weeks ago. 

Half of us took off from Zambezi at 7 this morning. I was lucky to be on the later flight, so I savored some extra time in my extra cozy convent bed under the protection of my mosquito net. We finalized all of our packing and headed to the the Zambezi airport at 10:30. Being the tallest on my plane, I got a front-row seat to the action. I watched Pilot Colin toggle with all the equipment and press all the fancy buttons. He even offered me a chance to fly the plane, but I told him that I probably shouldn’t be trusted, although I’m definitely regretting not taking the chance to cross something else off my bucket list on this trip. 

We landed at 1:50 p.m. at Flying Mission just outside of Lusaka. Megan, Maddie, and I were welcomed with a generous lunch spread as we waited for the last plane to arrive. We ate sandwiches, watermelon, chips, and cookies with Anna, the wife of one of the pilots. She pointed me out as “the vegetarian” and handed me Everything but the Bagel seasoning from Trader Joe’s to give my sandwich some extra flavor. It was an amazing surprise that I didn’t know I needed today. 

Along with Anna’s incredible hospitality, being back in Lusaka brought a sense of familiarity and material comfort. We’ve been here before; the roads had traffic lights here. There are advertisements along the road and hot water for showering. All these things serve as reminders that we are officially beginning the journey back to the United States. Within 72 hours we will all be home. 

The transition phase we are in is prompting lots of personal introspection. I chose to be a broadcast major because I want to tell stories and capture them in time forever. This blog has been a great manifestation of my love for storytelling. I am so grateful that we have this site to look back on and remember all the days we spent together in Zambia. However, this experience altogether is a story that will be very difficult to fully capture. Kris said the other night that we have experienced some incredibly high highs and extremely low lows. Talking about my experience of coming to Zambia will be filled with joyous memories of feeling the spray of Victoria Falls, camping in the bush of Botswana, being greeted by the most amazing school choir after landing on Zambezi’s dirt tarmac, trying on my handmade skirt for the first time, playing ultimate frisbee with the kids at Zam City, and meeting the most dedicated students like Rickson and Hendrix. Although, those moments could not exist without the extreme homesickness that hits around week two, having to watch chickens get killed as a vegetarian, the constant eyes on me as a white person in a space that is not my own, and the dread of temporariness knowing many of the people I’ve met in the last three weeks will now only be a memory. 

It will be difficult to share the complexity of this story, Most of the positive experiences do outweigh the negative. Not all the relationships have come to and end, especially considering that I’ve already received WhatsApp messages from people in Zambezi. It’s OK to exist within gray space for a bit. 

Dinner in Lusaka–burgers, chicken strips, salad, and noodles.

You reading this most likely means you know someone on this trip. They will have their own account of this experience. As for me, I will stumble over words and forget key details when I recall being in Zambia. It has been a whirlwind of a month, yet a month I am so grateful for. When I tell you about Zambia, I will tell you about the homesickness and the cultural adjustments, but highlight the stories about Julius sharing his opinions in business class and my host family graciously opening their home to me. 

I could ramble forever, but I’ll put this limit on myself and end it here. 

Peace and love one final time,

Kendall Adams ‘25

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Sad to be leaving but happy to be going

The Business and Leadership class celebrating their last gathering.

Today has been a difficult day for all of us, as it is our last day here in Zambezi. It has been full of goodbyes, hugs, and celebration.

We had our business and leadership class graduation this morning, where we gave out snacks, juice, and the hard-earned certificates to each of our students. Mama Mary started a dance party by singing a song that we learned from Mama Josephine so that we could all celebrate together. We are going to miss each and every one of them so much. There were hugs and pictures with every single member of our class as well and lots of contact information exchanged so that hopefully some of us will keep in touch. It’s going to be hard to leave tomorrow.

Seeing the convent walls all bare has felt strange, and everyone seems to be in a bit of a funk today: conflicted about leaving but excited to go home. There has been so much fun, love, joy, and happiness here that makes us sad to leave, but also hardships and homesickness that we can’t wait to move past. It’s extremely confusing to feel sad and excited at the same time, and at least it is a feeling we can all share with one another.

After class I spent some time sitting outside watercoloring cards for some important people who I’m really going to miss here and watching the ducks/chickens wander the yard.

Glance came by for a quick meeting and it was a sad goodbye for me as she is a strong woman in this community who I will miss dearly. She gave an amazing business proposal for an all-in-one beauty salon (including nails, hair, and makeup) that she dreams of starting, and her business proposal was so well thought out and organized. I hope to see it flourish one day.

I took my last trip to the market with Lauren, Grace S., Clare, Grace E., Maddie, and Sierra. We visited tailors, got some drinks, tried to hunt down chips spice (which was a sad fail), and I said goodbye to Wendy. It was a difficult goodbye and she gave me a gift to remember her by that I will never forget. It was a cute flannel jacket and some elephant pajama pants that both fit perfectly.

Eucharia came to say goodbye and I can’t even begin to explain how much I am going to truly miss her with my entire heart. Her sweet smile and kindness is something I will never forget and I hope that someday I may see her again even though I know it’s unlikely. We dropped her at home on our way to the Royal to watch the sunset and got to wave goodbye to Eucharia, David, and sweet little Grace. I won’t lie, I shed a tear as we drove away. I will miss this family so so much.

We enjoyed the sunset together at the Royal and tried to cherish every last second we have together. I’m so not ready to leave these girls and glad we have a few more days before we separate.

It’s so hard knowing we are leaving and will most likely never see all of these people again. It’s the hardest goodbye and I can’t even describe what this experience has meant to me. It’s something I will share with these girls forever. We have so much love for Zambezi.

Can’t wait to see you soon to all of my loved ones at home – I miss you and love you bunches!!

Megan Benham, ’23

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Savoring the moments

The business team presents glass with her certificate.

Chingoloshi mwane to us here in Zambezi and howdy to y’all back stateside! It’s Bella again, but today I have no visual day in the life for you. This is because when I asked Jeff if I should do that again, he replied, “That was an extraordinary pain in my ass.” (It’s true; we were up for at least an hour and a half trying to format those pictures.). Pictures or no pictures, today saw many monumental moments for the various teams here in Zambezi: The education team spent its last day at the Chilenga School. The business team and a panel of local leaders listened to project proposals and deliberated on potential funding, and the health team held its graduation! As one of the leaders of the business team, I was awed by how students used the discussions we’ve had in class to construct thoughtful community development plans centered around their individual passions and values. The group spent the rest of the day at the convent to the tune of my overworked JBL speaker, which blasted Taylor Swift’s complete discography and Shakira (per Mama Katendi’s request). We were cleaning the common rooms, decorating photo booths, mashing potatoes, baking cookies, slicing fruit, and boiling spaghetti because tonight is a very special night: At 17 hours (but probably later because #ZambiaTime) we’ll be hosting about 40-50 of our best Zambian friends for our annual accompaniment dinner to celebrate the relationships we’ve built here and share some final moments together before we go back to real life (Lusaka) on Wednesday, and then home on Saturday. 

Side note for my sister (if your name isn’t Aniah, you can skip over this): Our flight lands at SeaTac at 12:35 p.m. on Saturday, June 24. Please pick me up then, preferably in Blue. I will be wearing your Shorecrest Volleyball sweatpants and a big smile. It would be great if you would get out of the car to help me with my luggage! Bonus points if you bring a Banh Mi to the airport. I have a feeling I’ll be pretty hungry! 😉 

It’s crazy to think we’ve been in Zambia for almost a month. When I was back home, envisioning my time in Zambezi, I worried a lot, as I’m sure many of your daughters and friends did in the weeks leading up to this big adventure. Reflecting now, the things I expected to struggle with did not really wind up making much of a dent on my experience. I worried about the lack of modern amenities but was pleasantly surprised to find that I can easily survive without all of the comforts of home. I worried about how my stomach would react to the food, but Mama Katendi’s cooking has introduced me to some of my new favorite meals. I even worried about not being able to express myself through fashion, but I quickly discovered that as soon as you leave a consumerist, maximalist environment, what actually matters is who you are on the inside and not the way you look on the outside (shocking!) I worried about getting sick and not getting the care I’m used to back home, but I only so much as sneezed. Of course, I worried about feeling completely out of place here, but the warm welcome we received quickly dissolved that fear. What I didn’t anticipate was facing the consequences of my heart growing to be the size of Zambezi. And now, I’m grappling with how to say goodbye to this place that has changed me forever.  

For the past few years, I haven’t lived anywhere longer than six months before settling into a new place.  From Los Angeles to France, Spokane to Missoula, and back home to Seattle, I have slowly learned to become good at saying goodbye or au revoir to the people and places that have come to mean a lot to me. It’s only grown easier over time, especially with the knowledge that I can always come back to visit, but leaving Zambia feels heavier. In the mere three weeks we’ve spent in Zambezi, which have felt like a blink of an eye and a lifetime all at once, I have grown so emotionally invested in this community and its people. I can already feel the lump in my throat forming every time I think about waving goodbye to Hendrix’s bright smile, or walking out of Mama Mary’s tailor shop for the last time. What do you say to someone you probably won’t ever see again? How do you tell them you might never be back?  The once-in-a-lifetime aspect of this trip is staring all of us in the face, and I don’t think I speak for only myself when I say that no matter what we’ve left behind before, this time, saying goodbye will be deeply difficult and complicated.

Mama Christine and Bella

Yet, there can be so much beauty in goodbye. When our tiny little bush plane takes off from the Zambezi airport and leaves this sweet, homey little city in the dust, I’ll feel so lucky to be left with the lingering memories of ever-present laughter echoing through the convent halls, long hours spent learning from our leadership students under the shade of the gazebo, countless ultimate frisbee points scored against Debby, and the immeasurable wisdom we’ve gained from Mama Katendi and Mama Josephine. I find so much comfort in the fact that next May, a new generation of ZamZags will gather at SeaTac, not knowing the sights that will leave them speechless, the inexplainable moments, and the incredible people who can’t wait to greet them on the other side of the world. I hope that they will continue to nurture the relationships that we have built during our time here in Zambezi with the same intentionality, respect, and open-mindedness.  

Bella and our beloved Mama Katendi

That’s enough introspection for now, though, because the party is about to begin!!! And if you know me, you know I wouldn’t miss a party. I hope all is well back home! Before we all know it we’ll be reuniting with our families and friends in the states. Until then, just know we are soaking up every second in the hot Zambezi sunshine and savoring every shared conversation, delicious meal, eruption of laughter, and three-step handshake we can get while we’re still in this incomparable place. What means even more than a proper goodbye is staying present in the moment while we are still privileged enough to be right here.  

To my family and friends in Seattle and Missoula, I love you!  See you all very soon 😉

Peace and love,
Bella Boom-Haupt ‘23

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