Wow. What an incredible opportunity this trip has been so far. I’m sure my peers have grown tired of my constant asking “do you guys know where we are?!” as I continue to come to terms with this African experience. We’ve traveled around the world to meet and walk with entirely new people in a completely different culture. We have all had the opportunity of a lifetime thus far, and are even beginning to call Zambezi “home.” I can easily say many of us have struggled, grown, and maybe even changed in this incredible process. To top it all off, our group has grown incredibly close throughout this experience. It’s hard not to call all these amazing, inspirational, funny and awesome people my family.
Tuesday morning, a few of us (Hayley M, Delaney, Shaun, Garret and I) set off to accompany Josh as he dropped Susan and Erik off at the airport in Solwezi. (Don’t worry parents Mateo, Brittany and Raymond Reyes were holding down the fort in Zambezi.) We woke up early, and with the rising sun, began our 500km trek east across Zambia. We didn’t realize we were beginning one of the longest and most challenging journeys we had yet faced in Zambia. 25 minutes in, we ran into our first problem. The inner tube of the left rear tire popped, as Josh calmly and smoothly steered to the side of the road. Garret and I (mainly Garret) were able to change the tire within 20 minutes, and with laughter about our bad luck, we were off again. Three hours later, a spiking temperature gage and the sound of steam shooting from the radiator alerted us to our next problem. We pulled over, let it cool, and compiled our water from our Naglenes to fill up the drained radiator. We were off again. For about 15 minutes. The next time we pulled over (thanks to the help of a stranger and some deductive reasoning) we realized the problem. The belt that spins the fan to cool the radiator and charge the battery was gone. We were stranded next to one of the smallest villages I had seen yet (the beautiful Kamakuku), 2 hours outside of Solwezi, in the middle of nowhere. Josh was able to call ahead to friends we were planning to meet, asking for help. The said they would come, and the wait was on. It was hot, uncomfortable, and bug-filled. Things began to get a bit hopeless. Some of us began rationing our remaining cliff bars and water, in case of an overnight stay in the bush. It was decided that we would eat Garret first. However whenever I would stare at the dead Land Cruiser with dwindling hope, a positive remark from the group reminded me to enjoy the experience. After all, this is Africa. Thankfully, three and a half hours later, Father Sidney arrived. Sidney arrived with a fan belt, and his uncle, a mechanic, on the Bishop of Solweizi’s orders. We eventually got the car running, and it drove like new as we finished the journey with the setting sun. We dropped our bags, and hit the town looking for some good food. I don’t want to rub in the amenities of the trip to my friends who stayed back in Zambezi, but it involved pizza, and maybe even a hot shower.
I was told recently that there was “no hope for Africa”. I have to disagree. I have seen an immense amount of hope in my time here. I’ve seen it in my fellow “Chindeles” (white or western people) who came here to love, and see how they can help sustain and empower people. I’ve seen it in people like Sandu, who travels miles just to learn, grow, and positively impact his community through the leadership course. I’ve seen hope in clean mission hospitals, and in villages like Dipolata who have a mindset of sustainability. I’ve seen it in computer classes full of people eager to learn skills that can empower them and their community, and in our teachers who walk miles (past a library rising, thanks to Gonzaga) to teach young Zambians. In the health group who has crisscrossed the area educating community health workers, students and medical staff. I’ve seen it in the little warm hands that shoot from every direction when we leave the convent, and in the warm smiles and kindness that surround us in the Zambezi community. There is a lot to be hopeful for, but turning the hope we all have into a reality is going to be the struggle. Actually, it’s going to be a lot like our journey to Solwezi. Tires are going to be popped, fan belts blown, and we can feel a bit stranded and without hope. But, just as in our journey, that hope of arriving at reality will eventually come. With a positive mindset, friends willing to help, kind strangers, the realization and appreciation of the experience and journey, good old hope and maybe even a new fan belt, one day, we’ll all arrive. And who knows what awaits when we do.
Much love to my mom, dad and brother Chad, as well as all of our friends and family following this blog from home. Your warm and encouraging posts are something we all look forward to. Susan and Erik, fly safe. We already miss you.
Conner House, Class of 2015