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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A bit of time to appreciate Father’s Day and families

Taking a canoe across the Zambezi River.

Sunday, June 18th.

Musana Mwane, readers! 

Kylie here, reporting live from… you guessed it: Zambezi, Zambia! In the spirit of spicing up the blog, please bear with me as I do a little reflecting in addition to a short review of our day. Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads and dad figures, and love to those who struggle on this day.

Our day began with you’re-on-your-own-brekky: Some opted for the reliable PB&J while others switched it up with cornflakes or oats. We fueled up before walking over to the church— luckily for us, it’s just a stone’s throw away. Mass started at 8:30 this morning, so it was very on brand of us to parade out of the convent around 8:32. Oh, Zambia time. 

After the service, some of us opted for a quick jaunt around town while others read books. Many sat in on a friendship-bracelet-making lesson from our kind and patient teacher, Maddie. Down time has been rare, so we were not quite sure what to do with ourselves. Nevertheless, it was much needed and revitalizing.

Lunch came and went (grilled cheese!), and then it was time for the real event of the day: volleyball! Upon arriving to Zambezi Day school, we were met with an abundance of excited Zambians eager to bump, set, and spike. Oh, what fun it is to play sports with the Zambezi community. We got to see a new side of our good friend John Mwewa, who—in his role as referee—demonstrated that he has a passion for rules and protocol.

After volleyball, we took a canoe ride across the Zambezi River to watch the sunset and its light shimmer on the water. Our return called for a little extra strength from our rower and a little bit of patience from us. But we at last made it to shore.

As the day came to an end, we made plans for the big dinner to come on Monday. We expect up to 50 people and lots of food. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog post.

In honor of Father’s Day, I would also like to do a little reflecting on the family dynamics that I have observed during my time here. I am both inspired and positively perplexed by the effortless compassion and conscientiousness radiated by every family. It seems like in addition to immediate family members, the home is often accompanied by grandchildren, nieces and nephews, grandparents, and other relatives all living together in harmony. Culturally, women play a crucial role in the home, taking care of all the children—theirs or others—in addition to cooking, cleaning, washing clothes and dishes, selling in the market, carrying water, literally everything. Men farm, tend livestock, hold down jobs in town, serving as the leader and decision-maker of the family. However, there has been pushback in recent years to support women in education and other endeavors. This representation of family has been unfamiliar to me and, at times, uncomfortable to witness. I am missing my family a little extra lately, but I know that it will make our reunion on Saturday even sweeter!

From back: Kendall, Grace E., Bella, Lauren, and Kylie.

Happy Father’s Day, Pops! I can’t help but think about how much you would love it here. The music, the food, and all of spontaneous adventures. I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

Kylie Mukai ’25

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 Seeing the light, even when it’s sometimes dark

Mama Katendi and Sierra make their personal pizzas.

Hello everybody!! I am so excited to be on blog duty today! This Saturday started with us all having the opportunity to sleep in!!! YAY! Breakfast was not until 9, so we all got to catch up on some much-needed sleep. I am a new woman now. We had eggs, toast, oats, and cornflakes for breakfast!! It was so yummy!

Today’s agenda is pretty empty. The only group activities we have are playing net ball with our market friend Ben and watching a Zambian futbol game. Many started their morning by going to the market. Megan, Dee and I decided to start the day by going to visit the lovely Kelly and Janet, Kylie’s and my homestay parents). We are having a dinner party on Monday where everyone gets to invite a special guest, so I picked them. They were so welcoming to Kylie and me during our homestay, and I loved getting to know them. While we were there, we met their daughter, Esther. She was so lovely, and I loved getting to talk to a young Zambian woman about her life and experiences. While we were there, even though we showed up unannounced, they still managed to give us some cokes, bread, and fruit. Their hospitality and giving nature are amazing. I even said, “You guys do not have to do any of this” and they looked at me with confused faces and asked “Why?”

Not being so lovely and hospitable is foreign to those who live here. Zambians have a culture of sharing and being incredibly welcoming. I think the United States could definitely learn from Zambia when it comes to kindness. I am going to miss their adorable family so much.

Next, we walked over to the home of Mary and James, who are tailors. Megan and Dee picked up some ADORABLE skirts, and then we headed back to the convent. For lunch, we had a fan favorite: fruit, quinoa salad, and popcorn. Some of us then set off to watch the football game, and the other half went to play net ball. I chose to watch football!  We went to a nice bar, drank some Cokes and Fantas, and watched quite the game. Zambia won 3-0!! Woohoo!!

The other group headed for the field at Zambezi Day School only to find there were no nets for netball. For a while, the group played football and learned that Mama Katendi was a fearless goalie. That woman really can do everything! Eventually, the group decided to play a makeshift game of netball without nets, and they were joined by several local kids. Mama Katendi, who played in secondary school, again showed off her amazing athletic skills.

Today is a very special day for our group because it is pizza and movie night!! Jeff was able to make dough and buy cheese, and we are all looking forward to some delicious pizzas. I am even excited for my no-cheese pizza. (It really sucks being lactose intolerant lol). Clare and Jeff were also able to work together to come up with a plan to get our projector to project a Netflix movie. I think we are going to watch Hitch. YAY!

Today has been one of my favorite days yet. It was very chill but filled with lots of time together and with the community. I cannot believe that we only have three days left in Zambezi. This beautiful place has left a mark on me that will never be forgotten and so have the people who have accompanied me on this wondrous trip. At this point in the trip, a lot of us are devastated to leave but also craving the comforts of home. We have had so many lows over the last few weeks. Whether that had to do with unwanted comments from a few creepy men, car troubles, personal struggles, exhaustion, or cultural shocks, things have been hard. This has made it difficult to be present at times in our last remaining week here. The overwhelming and conflicted feelings of wanting to stay but also wanting to go has made it difficult to cherish the dwindling and precious moments we have left. We have also had so many shining, positive moments. We have given out reusable period products to young girls, taught sexual health classes, allowed many to earn certificates in business and health classes, connected with students at Chilenga and Zambezi Boarding School, learned how joyous it is to talk and learn from the Mamas, met so many lovely people. We have had countless late-night laughs together.

We still have so much to look forward to as well. We have our accompaniment dinner on Monday, more time at schools, graduations for the health and business classes, and many hugs left to give. I have chosen to try my best to focus on the good because I think that is something that we all need to do every day in our lives. Bad things happen everywhere we go. It is sad, but true. You cannot escape the cruelty of the world, but you can always build a new mindset that does not let the bad take over the good. It is important to sit with the hard stuff, really reflect on it and have feelings about it before moving on. I have noticed that this group has been really good at facing our challenges, helping each other through everything, and then finding the light again. The light will always outshine the dark. Our cozy covenant here in Zambezi has become a safe haven and home away from home. I will oddly miss the cold showers, the squeaky doors, the mosquito nets, the laughs I can always hear throughout the halls, and the smiling faces that I see every time I come face to face with a Zaggy. I am so glad that this Zag fam has let a Coug like me tag along for this unforgettable journey. This place, the people, and our group have forever earned a place in my heart and mind. I love you all!! 

Here is yet another update for everyone’s friends and families at home: 

Kylie is so helpful around the convent and is constantly doing little things to make everyone smile. She is such a joyful person to be around. 

Kendall is consistently causing us all to laugh with her amazing impressions and also killing it at teaching the business class (especially any lesson that includes math). 

Maddie is still sick but sweet as ever. She is being so resilient, and I give her mad props for that. I can’t wait to hopefully see her back in the classroom on Monday or Tuesday doing what she does best. 

Bella is a dancing queen and continuing to keep the group energized and happy. I’m not sure what we would do without her. 

Grace E. is still blessing us with her stunning smile, and we have all loved connecting with her through great late-night convos. 

Megan is giggling her way through every day and doing whatever she can to keep our group connecting.

Sierra has picked up the CUTEST skirts and outfits from tailors and is rocking them all. She is also constantly making us all laugh, and her presence makes every conversation much better. 

Clare is such a servant leader, and her willingness to be there for anyone at any time is admirable. We love having her around. 

Grace S. is a joy to see every day. Her smile is contagious, and I love doing silly accents with her. She makes the group so happy! 

Hattie has been in the kitchen helping the mamas I think almost every day. She is also such a servant leader, and she has been such an inspiration to me on this trip. 

Dee is still a safe haven for many, and her sweet and calming energy is a life saver. We have all loved getting to know her more. 

Jeff continues to make his legendary sarcastic comments that we know and love. He works so hard for us, and we appreciate him so much. 

Kris has been so comforting for us all, and her wisdom has helped us all reflect on each day. She looks out for us and is such a momma bear to us even though we aren’t even her children. 

Lastly to my mom, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, friends, and boyfriend I am so looking forward to reuniting with you all. See you guys soon! I love you <3. 


Lauren Benham, WSU ’25

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Desperation and inspiration

Winfrida introduced me to this family, encouraging me to share honestly about their experience living with HIV in Chingolala, near Zambezi.

Hello to everyone back home from Hattie and the rest of the Gonzaga-in-Zambezi crew! As I write this blog post, I am well aware of how soon we will begin our trek back home. To me, it feels like I am just starting to cultivate relationships and have meaningful experiences as the time for our goodbyes draws nearer. 

This morning I had the opportunity to accompany my homestay host mom, Winfrida, on her regular visits to the homes of HIV/AIDS patients. These patients live on the margins financially and sometimes struggle with isolation and the potential stigma of the disease they carry. Winfrida told me that she usually visits seven patients, but today we only met three. The walk to see those three patients was probably a few miles, and I was left in awe by the way this elderly woman has given of herself over decades to help with something she’s passionate about. 

The first family I met was much like others we’ve met in Zambezi. The mother shared the struggles of providing food and clothing for her children, and balanced their needs with her own desire to return to school (she became pregnant before completing secondary school). The next woman I met was an HIV-positive grandmother who took in her grandchildren after her daughter died of HIV. Though both of these women shared their struggles and asked for support, the 8 month-old twins of the first woman seemed lively and the simple furniture of the second seemed extravagant compared to the meagre life of the third family I met. This patient supported her children off nothing but an occasional odd job. She said she did not know what they would eat today and described the dizziness that results from taking her medication without food. I watched her young daughter start chewing on the remains of a plastic bag; when I looked again it had disappeared. The two young children that sat with us wore clothes so tattered that they barely served their purpose. They did not speak or smile. As I left, the young boy looked on the verge of tears, and I felt incredible remorse that I didn’t have even a granola bar in my pocket to offer to him. 

Despite the hardships I witnessed today, Winfrida was happy to introduce me to a part of Zambezi I’d never seen before. She took pride in the Zambian camaraderie we experienced as we walked, and she encouraged me to take pictures of the modest homes of those we visited. At first I was concerned about invading the families’ privacy and playing into the harmful stereotypes about people in the Global South, but she said it was important to show those back home what they are experiencing here. Despite all that she’s already done, as we walked back to the convent Winfrida shared her frustrations that she could not do more. She explained that if she could, she would set up a shelter at her home and take in those who needed food and a place to sleep until they were stable enough to return to independence. I was inspired by her desire to help those less fortunate, a desire shared by many community members here. They do not have much to spare, but they give away any extra and more. If those with little can give a little, how much more can I, who have so much, give back my time, talents and money?

When I returned to the convent, the health team had returned from their last day at the hospital, where they had visited the ward for HIV/AIDS patients and then learned about screening for cervical cancer. Everyone on the health team said that it was a good way to end their time in the hospital. 

Jeff, Dee, Kylie, Megan, and Lauren were still across the river teaching the Days for Girls and Men Who Know programs in Mize. They said that this group was very mature and received the information about menstruation and the male and female reproductive systems very well. 

Since Dee, Mama’s Helper for the day, wasn’t around, I offered to help Mama Katendi prepare lunch. As I worked alongside her, I thought about how much I will miss the familiar presence of this woman— the companionable silence, laughs, and even tears that we’ve shared (don’t worry— it’s just that there were a LOT of raw onions involved with today’s lunch). Mama Josephine’s departure made me realize that I have grown accustomed to the steady presence of these women, and that it will be difficult to leave.

Kids like those at this debate competition at Zambezi Boarding School demonstrate that the future is bright for Zambia.

After lunch, Kris, Jeff, Kylie, Lauren, and I headed to Zambezi Boarding School for the local debate competition. Though we were unfortunately only there for a debate between two other schools, we received news later that Zambezi Boarding won the competition! When I first met these students a few weeks ago, they were just starting to learn the different roles and rules of debate. Now they are the best debate team in the district, and I could not be more proud of them!

This morning I witnessed the devastation and desperation within Zambezi; this afternoon I witnessed its potential. The students and teachers at Zambezi Boarding School radiate passion and inspiration, and I am so grateful that I have been able to be a part of these students’ journeys in my time here. 

After the debate competition and the health team’s last class, a large group of us headed to Debby and Eucharia’s house for our last ZamCity. We played an intense game of ultimate frisbee. Some super competitive sides came out, sometimes preventing the ZamCity kids from getting a turn with the frisbee (cough cough, orange team, which was also Jeff’s team— who would have guessed?). Meanwhile, Grace Ehler’s volleyball instincts came out which led to some sick dives and scores for the green team. 

Though difficult, I will forever be grateful for each and every experience I had today. In one day I saw the rich diversity of life experiences, social status, and income levels here in Zambezi. I look forward to the last experiences we will have in Zambezi before boarding the tiny planes back to Lusaka.

I cannot believe that we will already be leaving in a week. Though we will be sad to say goodbye, we have been fantasizing about the coffees we’re going to get at the airport, the movies we want to watch on the airplane, the foods we’re most excited to eat when we return to the states, and, of course, the loved ones we can’t wait to be with. Thank you all for following along on our journey. See you soon!

Hattie Harrold, ‘26

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I don’t know, YET

Trying to braid Nikita’s hair was one of many moments in which laughter mixed with struggle has allowed me to grow.

Musana Mwane from Zambezi. My name is Maddie, and I’m very excited to have the blog again.

This morning, the business team continued to help individuals build their project proposals. They are enjoying learning what business leaders value in Zambezi.

The health team attended a conference organized by a local NGO, Save Environment and People Association (SEPA), with a variety of leaders in and around Zambezi. The conference focused on sexual and reproductive rights. They emphasized that by enhancing preventative measures such as increasing educational opportunities, they can lower teenage pregnancies or underage marriage.

The education team had a very successful day at Chilenga Day School. Hattie sat in on a math lesson about simple interest. Kylie sat in on a lesson about grammar. Lauren taught a really fun lesson about the different provinces in Zambezi, and I attempted to teach a lesson about flowers. Part of the lesson was to find flowers to examine. We went on a hunt for flowers only to realize it was winter and only dead grass could be collected. We spent the rest of the class pretending we had flowers in our hands while I walked around and talked about the pictures of flowers in the textbook. Never the less, the classroom was full of laughter, collaboration, and the desire to learn.

After lunch, the health team taught a lesson about human physiology. They constantly come back with both wholesome and hilarious stories about the things they hear from the people who attend their classes.

The education team and I attended the district spelling bee. Zambia follows the British education system and British spelling patterns, so our spelling knowledge was challenged on some words with British spellings were asked (diarrhoea?).

We had several dinner guests tonight. Mama Josephine shared her last meal with us before she needed to go out of town. We will always be thankful for the wisdom and knowledge that she gave us during our time here. The Muke family also joined us. They are two generations of change agents in Zambezi. They shared how they advocate for a better Zambia and how we can advocate for our own communities.

As we are wrapping up in Zambezi, I wanted to share how I have struggled with being in the spotlight. I am a shy individual who prefers to watch on the sidelines. But here, like the rest of my colleagues, I stick out like a sore thumb. I have been overwhelmed by the amount of children who want to touch my hair and the people who point at me in the market. Some laugh and say stuff in their native language, and when I can’t understand what they are saying, it can make me feel small and insecure. At the beginning of the trip I wanted to hide to avoid that feeling of embarrassment. However, the relationships I have formed helped me realize that instead of hiding when I am laughed at, it’s okay to laugh with them and learn why I look so funny to them. When my host family Linda and Bernard taught me how to eat nshima for the first time, they laughed at me for eating with two hands. By the end of the meal, I was a one-hand nshima-eating pro.

The other day, I had the chance to observe a hairdresser braid hair. Being the honorary hair braider of our group, I was intrigued to figure it out. She let me try and I failed miserably. Everyone in the shop laughed and took videos, and I couldn’t help but giggle myself for how little I knew about braiding. Some students at Chilenga taught me netball. I asked one of my teammates why she was laughing throughout the game. I found out I had been accidentally cheating the whole time and had been messing up the plays. Last week, I attended a church choir practice and attempted to learn some of their songs and dances. Churchgoers were so kind to help me learn the steps in between bouts of laughter. Prior to this trip, laughing made me feel insecure and small but throughout this trip, laughing has taught me that I still have so much to learn around me. How can I learn something new if I’m too afraid I’m going to embarrass myself? There will be many times where I will continue to embarrass myself on this trip and in my future endeavors, but I know that the people around me will be laughing with me and supporting me as I continue to learn about the world around me.

To my family and friends I love and miss you so much. I can’t wait to tell you all about my adventures!

Much Love,
Maddie Ford, ‘23

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Building bridges one brick at a time

Zambezi fire brigade No. 1 leaps into action.

Musana mwane to everyone following along at home! 

After a rough couple days and some intense bouts of homesickness, it seems our group has reached a turning point. With one week remaining, there will soon be no more musical greetings, no more chatting with Ben while we browse for chitenge in his shop, no more cooking with Mama Katendi and Mama Violet, no more laughing under the gazebo with our health and business students, no more intense games of ultimate frisbee with the ZamCity kids…. You get the idea. We are going to miss it here very much. The clock is ticking and we are soaking up every minute. 

My day began as usual with a sweaty workout while some hit the road for a run and others took advantage of sleep. Clouds like cotton candy were sprinkled throughout the sky, and I said hello to the sun as it peeked over the horizon. A beautiful sunrise, it was. 

I carried my feelings of gratitude and contentment with me to breakfast, where we enjoyed a lovely meal prepared by Hattie, Clare, and Bella. Not much later, I strapped up my chacos, Sierra tied her shoes, Clare put her crocs in sport mode, and the health team—minus Grace S., who was Mama’s assistant today—was off to the hospital. Eucharia greeted us with a shining smile, and looked fashionable as ever. 

My time at the hospital thus far has been an extraordinary learning experience; the nurses and doctors are eager to share their knowledge with us, and I’ve been able to get an in-depth look at healthcare in Zambezi. However, and I say this for the sake of being totally candid, our time at the hospital is often accompanied by immense discomfort. Our role as observers feels intrusive as patients get examined before us, sometimes screaming in pain. During these moments, uneasiness lingers and prods. It asks, what are you doing here? 

I can’t help but spiral into a pit of stress-inducing thoughts. What am I doing here? Who am I, a measly little third year Psychology major, to invade a patient’s privacy like this? What is the point of me being in this hospital setting, where I am useless? Where I can’t even hold the hand of a crying child? Perhaps the cultural difference of privacy not being a priority here is at play, but nonetheless I struggle with these feelings.

I don’t have all the answers, but I keep returning to the purpose of learning; gaining a comprehensive understanding of how a community functions means taking a good look at its healthcare system. It also means getting to know the people who live in said community. Through my hours at the hospital and our conversations with brilliant healthcare workers (plus conversations with other members of the Zambezi community), I have been able to do just that. And so, by embracing my role as learner, I may add even just one brick to the bridge that stretches between different countries and cultures—between Zambia and the United States. To be clear, one month is not nearly enough time to truly know all the ins and outs of a specific society. I can tell you, though, that I have acquired many stories, and I hope to use these stories to paint an accurate picture of Zambia once I am back home.

Some of these stories are personal experiences, and some will be tales shared with me by Zambians. For example, in our cultural lesson today, Mama Katendi and Mama Josephine talked to us about the history of Lunda and Luvale initiation rites for women. They explained that—back when they were young—girls who hit puberty would be taken away and taught how to serve their husbands. This process involved “marking.” I wasn’t quite sure what that meant until Mama Katendi revealed to us the scars on her back, forged by a razor blade during her own initiation. It was common for girls to be subject to this. Arranged marriage came next. 

Thanks to women like Katendi and Josephine, initiation rites like this are no longer practiced with the regularity they once were. Although certain traditions, such as teaching your children about respect, and other less harmful initiation practices, are upheld, the shackles of longstanding gender roles are gradually being broken. Mama Katendi said that she would never put her daughters through what she had to endure, and both her and Mama Josephine emphasized the importance of education being a priority for women. As a woman myself who knows all to well the battles we fight all over the world, their passion is encouraging. I continue to be in awe of them and all the other role models here in Zambezi. 

Following that conversation was lunch, which included quinoa salad! (A fan favorite). We gobbled it down embarrassingly fast, and everyone subsequently dispersed to attend to their daily duties. For the health team, that meant class time. Today’s topic was pregnancy and childcare, and as always, some fruitful discussion was sparked (you can always count on Julius to make things interesting. If you know, you know). I’ve grown to really look forward to these classes, and we have become very fond of our attendees. They never fail to ask thoughtful questions, share insight, or have a laugh. 

The day got even sweeter while spending some time with Kendall and Bella in our cozy room. We talked and giggled until it was time to leave for ZamCity, and then hopped in the truck bed with the others for yet another bumpy ride. On the agenda today: soccer (football, actually). All was well until we were greeted by the ashes of a nearby bush fire (oh no!). The ashes floated down upon us like black snow, and I jokingly stuck my tongue out while Lauren sang “feel the rain on your skin!” Being the bush lovers that we are, we rushed to help put the fire out with buckets of sand and some giant tree branches. 

Add putting out a fire without water to the list of things I’ve learned here! 

Our match resumed shortly. I was alright (I sucked), but Hattie, Lauren, and Kylie shined as they got to unleash the inner soccer player in each of them. Lauren even scored a goal so impressive that I couldn’t help but high-five her, despite being on the opposing team. 

It was a blast and a half. The ZamCity kids are talented and competitive and a whole lot of fun. Seeing their love for sport blossom under Debby’s (the founder of ZamCity) passion makes the athlete in me leap for joy. 

When it was time to depart, Hattie, Bella, Clare, Grace S. and I decided to run home. I don’t know what came over me, because I am by no means a runner, but it was surprisingly peaceful. I enjoyed the beat of our feet pounding the pavement as the sun set and the sky faded into a gentle orange above us. 

I’ll wrap up this blog post by giving you all an update on everyone, as others have done in the past: Kendall is continuing to make me laugh so hard my stomach hurts, Clare remains a stable and comforting presence, Kylie is impressing us all with her insightful comments during reflection, my roomies, Bella and Megan, are sweet and supportive as ever, Lauren has perfected her impressionist/accent skills, Sierra is revealing more and more of her sassy side, Grace’s kindness lights up our days, Dee is being her lovely and caring self, Hattie is kicking our butts on runs, Maddie is showing us all what a remarkable teacher she is going to be, Kris is spreading love everywhere she goes, and Jeff is cracking us up with his sarcastic remarks. 

To all our family and friends back home, we miss you and are eager to reunite, but we also can’t wait for the week ahead. Zambezi is a pretty special place. 

With so much love, 
Grace Ehler, ‘24

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Continuing to learn in complication

A group of boys from Dipalata–Chiteta in the center–begin to disassemble their homemade ball.

About 20 minutes into a rigorous game of dodge ball in the small town of Dipalata, about an hour’s drive from Zambezi, a young man grabbed the homemade ball only to find that it had deflated. His next hand motion was matter-of-fact: squeezing to ensure he expelled the ball’s last breath.

We asked one of our adult hosts, Pepytex—the Saint Clera Catholic Church choir director—if he could explain how the ball was made. “It’s a balloon.”

The ball was handed to another boy, Chiteta, who began meticulously disassembling it. He slowly unwrapped yards of red yarn, gray embroidery thread, and some nondescript string, all tied together to bind layers of cloth scraps, plastic shopping bags, and well-worn paper “trash.”

Chiteta and his mate carefully salvaged each component, rolling the yarn, stacking the bags, and setting aside the cloth and paper. The process took at least 10 minutes.

We asked where they might find a new balloon to remake the ball, and Pepytex said from the nearby missionaries who operate a 24/7 maternity clinic. A few minutes later a new “balloon” appeared. One of Chiteta’s friends began blowing it up, and we quickly realized the centerpiece of these homemade balls is a condom, surely intended to prevent the spread of some STD or other. After Chiteta’s friend, probably nine or ten years old, deftly pushed the end of the condom back in on itself to create a double layer, he blew it up just as our children at home might inflate a latex balloon at a birthday party. It’s clear to us that for all the good medical missionaries might be doing to enhance health outcomes in places like this corner of Zambia, they are (intentionally or not) also enhancing the recreational lives of the local youth.

Chiteta then began the careful process of putting all the pieces back together. He wrapped a piece of the worn paper, almost transparent from overuse, around the balloon, followed by sections torn from plastic sacks and then cloth. Holding the pieces tightly together—sometimes aided by a friend—Chiteta began to wrap lengths of yarn around the emerging ball as we watched his work take shape. With the string snugly bound, he began a second and then third layer, all in the same order. In total, he wrapped the ball five times before his task was complete. Each layer of paper, plastic, and cloth was tightened with a new web of string and yarn. The ball grew larger, the wrapping of the string requiring increasing force with each layer, and the exertion was evident. Occasionally, Chiteta would pass the work to a friend, who’d take an exhausting turn wrapping yarn before handing it back. The final web of yarn was so taut that we could hear the grunt in his breath. Click here to see a short clip of Chiteta and his friends at work.

After about 20 minutes of vigorous and careful work, two boys in rural Zambia had created a reborn football. This is no doubt a scene replayed by children around this country, across the continent, and in countries throughout the Global South.

Chiteta and his friends proudly display their new football.

Chiteta and his friends, like so many of the adults we’ve met here, leave nothing to waste. Any scrap, or even scraps of scraps, are repurposed. Shopping sacks transform into playthings, into near water-tight baskets, into thread that holds together mats made of grass. Plastic bottles get reused to subdivide honey into smaller portions for sale or made into small cars the kids roll around the sand. Loose nuts and bottle caps become percussion instruments alongside a drum for the church choir to use in creating yet another joyful noise. Damage something, even the bumper of a 4×4 truck (ahem, Kris), and watch as someone uses a scrap of wire to replace the missing screw. The examples are endless, challenging nearly every instinct of those of us from a disposable culture.

But this is not to say that all is glorious. The unfamiliar insects and possibly poisonous frogs can be slightly frightening. (Not to Jeff, but nearly everyone else.) The looseness of time can annoy. And the gender dynamics can be infuriating and cause us no end of introspection or challenge. Jeff can be questioned for spending too much time in the kitchen. The women in our group were ushered away from a demonstration on brick building in Dipalata (men’s work) so they could be shown how to pound and sift cassava meal in preparation for cooking (“they need to know how to do this,” we were told). When someone comes to the convent to ask for something or make plans, Kris is asked, “Where is Jeff?” despite her attempts to manage the issue. In one case, a man demanded to see the “big boss.” Gender-based violence continues here, as in the U.S., to be a major social problem, and the women in our group have even felt the discomfort of unwanted verbal attention from some men.

These frictions are, we continually remind ourselves, sites for learning. Just as Chiteta and his friend taught us surprising creativity, ingenuity, and patience, the less pleasant experiences also teach us. The critters can be reminders of the necessary diversity of this ecosystem, and that Zambians know which are pests and which the habitat depends upon. What we perceive as constant tardiness tests our patience and disrupts our plans, but it compels us to recall that time on a clock is a western construct and a poor measure of how to define accomplishment; dividing our day into hours to be conquered isn’t nearly so humane as measuring our days by the relationships we’ve invested in. Even though they are expected to fulfill roles that many of us recoil from, women in this community—as in so many others around the world—are the quiet leaders, advancing local efforts to address climate change, combat teen pregnancy, advance educational persistence, and raise awareness about sexuality and sexual health.

It is within these liminal spaces between challenge and renewal that growth happens, and Zambezi gives us so many opportunities to reimagine our lives and our world. Between the two of us, we have been here 10 times, and we continue to bring students to this complicated place because we continue to be both awed and surprised by how this community always serves as a teacher for us. We hope that our students—and, by extension their loved ones—will continue to seek ways to complicate their perspectives about what it means to be human in a world that tries to simplify and essentialize the complexity of human experience.

For loved ones at home, your students will be taking over the blog again tomorrow. Thanks for giving us professors a moment to share what’s been percolating for us.

Kisu mwane (blessings),
Kris Morehouse and Jeff Dodd

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