Endings Bring New beginnings

 

Greetings from Zambezi!

I feel honored to have a chance to write on this blog and tell you how blessed I have been to have met all your loved ones. They are all amazing, young individuals that I have been proud to work alongside with. I had only met the students on Skype once before this trip and after these few weeks together I can say I have 17 new wonderful friends. I have learned so much from my Zam Fam and have truly enjoyed growing with this family. Not only have I grown individually as a nurse here, I have watched my health care team grow and I am extremely excited to see where they go in the world of medicine and see where each and everyone of my new family members go individually. All your posts on the blog have been inspiring and yes every parent out there should be extremely proud of their son or daughter, because I know I am!

Last Sunday Father Noel ended mass with a few thought provoking words. He discussed how both the community and Gonzaga have experienced both positives and negatives from our trip here in Zambezi. In life we take both the positives and the negative experiences to help us grow. For me, the negative experiences in life have helped me grow as a person more often then the positive ones. This same concept has applied to this trip and particularly one of first conversations I experienced in Zambezi. This conversation was with a women from the HIV/ AIDS support group. We had been talking about how cute this little african boy was and she just came out and said “she had an infant die last week.” I was shocked, taken off guard and unsure how to respond. It was at this time it hit me… I AM IN AFRICA. As I started to give my condolences and express my sympathy the conversation shifted. In a matter of seconds she had changed the subject. This comment of hers has been unsettling and I have found it hard to comprehend and process. As a nurse back home the topic of death is something we skirt around. As I sat and compared my culture to theirs, it had me thinking about experiences I had in the hospital with patients dying. How my first death on the cardiac floor was hard to handle, but as I continued to have exposure and experience I started to become better at letting go and grieving in a healthy manner. This continual exposure to death is what I feel has happened in Africa. The topic of death is something that happens everyday. It is the unfortunate image I pictured when I thought of Africa and the sad reality of the hardships here; however, there is always a positive and the unexpected of all the sad talk is the way people handle the situation. People here are able to grieve, but try to focus more on the good. They live in the moment and do not obsess about the future. They still smile and dance and truly know the importance of the here and now. This is what makes a great servant leader. Someone who listens and is present. It is what we are all striving to do each and everyday here in Zambezi and throughout our lives. As much as I can bring to Africa and teach to the community and to those on my healthcare team, I truly feel we have grown and learned as much from the individuals here as they have learned from us. “At the end of the day, you can either focus on what’s tearing you apart, or what’s holding you together.”

As we leave our new home in Zambezi after being emotional and physically tested I hope we all remember Father Noel’s words “you have left us at a better level” and take this to heart knowing we have made a difference. We have all struggled with the questions of what are we leaving? Did we really make a difference? Did we make a change? I feel we will continually ask these questions as we embark on our next journey, but I feel we can leave knowing we did leave them in a better place. I can see it in the health care workers, the children and different community members we have met and taught. The huge turn out in our women’s cooking class (Above photo). The individuals who are so proud of their new computers skills. The community members who have been empowered by the leadership team to go make a change in their own community. The children who are proud to read and share their stories they learned to write with the literacy group and the relationships and long lasting friendships we have all made. What we have left will only continue to grow. We have all had our hearts torn, but what is holding us together is our friendships and memories. We have left our footprints in the Zambezi sand and had our hearts tattooed with the stories and faces of our new family here in Zambezi. I know each and everyone of us will continue to grow from this experience as we relive Zambezi in the pictures we bring home, the stories we tell our family and friends, the times we reflect on our own, the songs that bring back the memories and faces of our Zag/Coug Zam Fam.

We are off to Livingstone tomorrow and the thought of leaving Zambezi and my new family and friends here is bitter sweet. It is always hard saying goodbye and leaving a place the has truly touched your heart. I know we are all excited for another adventure in Africa, but as we board the bush planes tomorrow we will be glad to have one another and for the extra time together to cry, laugh, and reflect on our time here and start to transition our way back home.

Shelenu mwani,

Brittany

P.S. I love you Mom, Dad and Ben. Give Sophie a big kiss for me! Miss you all very much. It will be nice to FaceTime again.

P.P.S. Marji and Brown Family Nate says hello and he loves you all!

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21 Responses to Endings Bring New beginnings

  1. Lynda McCann says:

    Brittany, and all the beautiful group of Zags and Coug…Thank you one more time for your inspirational words! I hope your last day in Zambezi was all that and more, and the goodbyes weren’t too difficult. Remember DrSeuss’… “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

    Since I rambled yesterday and didn’t proofread, ill try to keep it short and just say HAVE AN AMAZING TIME ON THE SAFARI…you all deserve to see the other side of Africa, its beautiful, open and free wildlife! Kate, I miss you but am so excited for you to experience this part of the trip, I was Wendy’s age the last time I went to a game reserve in South Africa and still remember it well. Praying you all stay safe and see lots of beautiful elephants, I mean animals ;) take pictures (and video if you have enough card space?) Also I want a picture of you at Victoria Falls PLEASE! Ill explain the importance of having that picture when you get home. For now, I’m drinking my coffee, thinking of you, and sending loves to you all! (((Hugs)))

    P.s. Megan, I lay in bed last night thinking about your post and I remembered when I went to visit my Dad in 2009, I was also completely torn apart when he introduced me to “Joe” (a friend that my Dad sees at the market every Saturday morning). Joe was wearing tennis shoes that were so ripped and torn I was convinced he was actually walking barefoot with the remnants of a very old tennis shoe on the top…the first thing I did when I got home to the U.S was send my Dad a care package which included a brand new pair of tennis shoes for Joe. A month later my Dad told me he had run into Joe at the market (still wearing his old shoes) and my dad asked him why he wasn’t wearing his new ones? Joe laughed and said with tears “Mr Louis I have never seen such a beautiful pair of shoes, but these shoes still cover my feet, there are too many people that have no shoes at all.” Joe had given the shoes to someone that had less than he did.
    Sorry, I know I said I’d keep it short…enjoy the beautiful country and its people that you’re learning so much from…adventure on! Xoxo

    Pps. Katie…Uncle Lou says to send him a text when you get to the train station in Geneva, he said there are signs all over the airport to the Geneva train station. Hopefully you found some souvenirs ;)

  2. The serious Larry Newman says:

    It’s pretty evident that the trip has caused/enabled some profound changes in all the ZamFam. I’m really eager to hear about the trip in person and to see all the pictures. Megan, as a frustrated world traveler I’m eager to visit the falls and the bush vicariously through you. Enjoy it as you might never return. We’re immensely proud of you and all the others even though I’m not likely to meet you all (heck, after all the goofy posts I might have to wear a Groucho mask on campus). Keep up the good work and we’ll see you soon.

    Love. Dad
    P.S. Andy got in a car accident last night and the little white car is in trouble. Now he’s way down the list.

  3. Amber Siciliano says:

    WOW! All of your posts have been so inspiring and written so beautifully! I loved reading each and every one of them. I hope you all had the time of your lives and soaked in each and every moment spent on what sounds like a trip of a life time!

    Katie!!!!!!!
    I cannot wait to talk to you and to see your beautiful face!! The anticipation is killing me!! I cannot wait to hear all of your stories and to look through all of your pictures! It is going to be so nice having you back in Washington, I seriously have missed you TONS!! So brace yourself for this one.. The sun is actually out today!!!! Can you believe that?!?!? ;) It’s probably going to start coming out more because you are coming home soon!! :) My finals are next week and I will officially be done with my sophomore year as well! I am graduating from Highline with my AA with an emphasis in accounting on June 12th!! Can you believe that?! I wish you were here to see my ridiculous gown I have to wear… It’s like high school all over again! ;)

    Anyways, I cannot wait to have you back so we can catch up and have girl time/best friend time! I love you and have an AMAZING TIME ON YOUR SAFARI ADVENTURE!!!!!!!! :)

    P.S. Bachelorette Update!
    Still not too impressed by the guys based off of the looks but some of their personalities make them sooooo much cuter!! I can’t wait for you to watch them so we can catch up! I made sure no one deleted them here just in case they weren’t recording at your house even though I am sure they are ;) Miss you and love you bestie!!
    xoxoxoxo

  4. Mikaela Medeiros says:

    Another beautiful, insightful post- though at this point I’m not surprised! You all are fantastic, descriptive, eloquent writers, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my window to Africa these past few weeks. Thank you for your honesty and insight. The blog has not only been my connection to my sister- who I miss like crazy- but also has led to great personal reflection. Just in reading these, I’m comforted that my sister has been surrounded by a loving, caring, genuine, thoughtful, brave group of leaders- who have become her family away from home. I know she’s in good hands.

    H, still miss you so much and can’t wait to see you- nothing has changed there! I hope you have the time of your life on Safari and at Victoria Falls though!! Enjoy every moment, though I already know you will. Take pictures. Be safe. Whatsapp me the instant you get to London. There’s not too much to report here. Things are going great, and I’m having a lot of fun in the city. I’m getting settled in to the house, interning, and started training to be a campus tour guide today- which was really cool too. Jack is still waiting for us to come home to walk. :) Mom’s birthday is tomorrow, and she’s doing some fun things to celebrate. I’ll wish her happy birthday for you. Bobby is finishing up his last week of school, and Dad and Liz are doing well too.

    Love you so much girl! See you soon!! xo Mik

  5. Teresa Baldwin says:

    Dear Brittany,
    Lovely words that you have shared. It may be hard to imagine what good you did and what gifts you will be leaving behind. This is when it is time for you to trust. Trust your team, your leaders, yourselves, but most of all, trust your Lord Jesus. He put this trip together, hand selected the team, and made a series of divine appointments along the way. Trust that all you carefully placed in His hands will continue to be there as you leave. Nothing we do is accidental, I have come to believe, so now the effects of all your time there will continue to be held in loving and more than capable hands.

    Be gentle with yourselves and each other as you say goodbye, and treasure the time you have together before you get home. I love the way that Brittany said she has 17 new friends now…and I pray that these friends stay close to your heart. Enjoy this next week together, and rest. Rest your heart, mind, spirit and body. Take good care as you travel and know that we here at home are waiting impatiently for all of the stories you carry home with you.
    Love and traveling mercies,
    Mom and Dad Baldwin

  6. Brenda Sutton says:

    Brittany, thanks for your thoughtful reflection. I’m glad you can see that you did make a difference and are leaving Zambezi in a better place. Just as you have left your imprint on them, Zambezi seems to have found its way into each of your hearts. I’m sure tomorrow will bring a multitude of emotions for the Chindeles as your planes take off. Savor the memories, wipe your tears and hold on tight to each other. Praying for safe travels to Livingstone.

    Garrett, hope you enjoy your visit to Victoria Falls and have fun on safari – watch out for those old bachelor water buffalo! Love and miss you G-man, hugs from mom

  7. Hikaru says:

    Brittany, thank you for your insightful post. Your words encompass a wide variety of emotional states and it makes sense. It seems like part of hearts are being left in Zambezi. When I was in elementary school, the Glee Club (yes, we had a Glee Club) sang a song, which I don’t know the title of but it goes, “Love is something if you give it away, give it away, give it away. Love is something if you give it away, you end up having more.” Although your heart may ache now with giving part of your heart to Zambezi, in the long run, you’ll have more to love in return. Did that make any sense? You bloggers take up many of my thoughts lately, for good, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for putting heart and thought into each blog you have written to share part of your experience with me and us readers. I love it! I’ve connected with several ZamFam from my time and we’ve been indulging ourselves in memories, both the positives and the negative; however, surprisingly, the negative has become some of the really high positives. I wish you all an amazing time in other parts of Africa!

    Mateo; I’m leaving to be a Camp Counselor in a little over a week. I’m trying to go with “no expectations,” but I’m starting to get worried that I’m going to forget to pack an essential item. Embrace me with your Zen and “don’t worry about a thing, ‘cuz every little thing, is gonna be alright.”
    Jason; I picture you holding hands with multiple children and if I had superpowers and could see things like That’s So Raven, I see you mentoring Zambezi children, showing them to grow to be a man, like you. It’s in your actions, I see it. You are inspiring so many people. Hug, hug, hug!
    Josh; Constanza and I have been talking and I want to thank you for this program. Thank you.

    I leave with a quote a man named Lee Brice once sang, “Be a best friend, tell the truth, overuse I love you. Go to work, do your best, don’t outsmart your common sense. Never let your praying knees get lazy, and LOVE like CRAZY.”

    Sending you all love and prayers,
    Hikaru

  8. Monte Marti says:

    Awesome post once again. Thank you.

    “In life we take both the positives and the negative experiences to help us grow.” And, it is what you do with your life experiences that can have an impact ~ an impact on your lives and on the lives of these you engage. By being present (as was stated numerous times in the various blogs) and by being open/vulnerable ~ you have all grown and you will all continue to grow (wherever life takes you). You have made the people of Zambia smile. You make me smile! GOD BLESS! Monte

  9. Andre House says:

    Brittany- What a wonderful (and painful) experience you’ve had through the eyes of a health care professional in Zambezi. I’m certain this journey will lead to greater insight and appreciation when you continue your profession as a RN back home or wherever you choose to continue your ministry in health care.

    Safe travels to all of you as you move on to your next adventure in Livingstone!

    Conner- I saw a meme the other day of a giraffe way up high in a tree holding on with dear life……..the caption was: “(Bleep) there’s a spider down there!” Couldn’t help but think of you :) So, if you see a giraffe in a tree……..run!! Love you and enjoy the safari and Victoria Falls….then off to Geneva! Can’t wait to hear your voice! XOXOX Mom.

  10. Molly Baker says:

    Brittany,
    Thank you for your post. You guys have done it again – with your beautiful writing makes me spend the next couple of hours thinking about all of you and this zambian experience!

    Zambezi will be in your heart forever. Have fun with your next adventures. Be safe!! :)

    Hailey B, I can’t believe that I can give you a big hug in 1 week!!! I love you ! Have an amazing rest of the trip!

    Love
    Mom

    • Ann Edens says:

      Well your main mission has finally come to an end and now you get to experience part of Africa most of us wish we could. Hanna, I’m a little jealous you get to go on an African Safari. Enjoy your last few days in Africa. Be proud of what you brought the people of Zambia and what they have brought to you even if everything didn’t go as planned. They will be forever grateful for what you gave them as you will be in return. Your family is very proud of you and we can’t wait to hear all the stories. See you in a week.

      Love,
      Mom

      P.S. Nana wanted to let you know that she has been replying to the post but always under yours.

  11. Christian Hoag says:

    Can’t believe you guys are already done in Zambezi… I hope you all had the time of your lives, actually I know you did, and I know you all have changed, for the better. I can’t wait to hear about your time in Livingston and the safari!!!

    Katieeeeeee I’m sooooo excited for you, YOU ARE GOING TO GET TO SEE WILD ELEPHANTS!!!!!! It’s like a dream come true!!!! I’m getting excited vicariously through you. Also, your mom told me about getting a picture in front of the falls and you totally should, it would be soooo cool if you did! Your mom also wants to send missy to spokane, she caught two birds today, with no teeth? How does that work? Also, I decided I have to watch game of thrones, because I think matt and zach might kill me because they really want to talk about it at work. But I won’t spoil it for you, unlike you I can keep it all in ;) haha I love you for it though. Soooooo much. Have a safe trip to Livingston baby, I seriously cannot wait to hear all about it. Love you with all of my heart!! Be safe!
    Christian

  12. carole marti says:

    Wow love this post…again….actually i have loved them all. All of you Zags/lone Cougar (go cougs!) should feel super proud of yourselves at how articulate and descriptive of writers that you all have become and all are. And Dr Armstrong should be so proud of where you all started out in january of this year and where you all have come.

    Leaving Zambia – yes you will leave a part of your hearts behind just like that book that many of you have read prior to coming to Gonzaga, “Tattoos on the Heart”. But like was mentioned in the blog, you will have great memories and relationships that will live with all of you forever. I can’t wait to hear the specific stories of the computer skills and leadership classes, and be shown some Zambian dance moves. Who knows, maybe I will show up at Gonzaga one of these days and show you all some great African dance moves…but I would have to learn them of course.

    Shaun, Oma said to me today that she has never known anyone in her entire life who has gotten to visit Victoria Falls. I don’t think I have either. All of you need to understand what a BIG BIG deal it is to get to see that part of the world. You may never get back there but it will be a memory that will always be there. Take lots of pictures – camera ones as well as mental ones!

    Safe Safe Safe journeys on those bush planes…..and have a GRAND time on the safari and try not to entice big animals to come see you in your tents or wherever your sleeping quarters are…………

    May God be with you all and I know he will send his angels to look over you all!

    Carole Marti

  13. Tessa says:

    HI!
    Just a quick message from 1005 Sinto (Julie and Tess)! Megan, we miss you lotssss right now. We were talking and realized HOW MUCH we love you! You are one of the most compassionate people in the planet, and we can only imagine how much of that love you are spreading over in Africa. You may have felt as though you can’t make too much of an impact, but we’re certain that you moved mountains (words of Julie….). aka several people’s lives are now brighter because of you. Keep staying positive, enjoy the rest of your travels, and we are counting down the days until you come home!!
    Ally, we miss our little ball of sunshine and you’re probably super tan. jealous. But seriously we’re so excited to see you soon and hear all your tales of Zambia! You know how much we love you, and can’t imagine the difference you’re making!
    Katie, THE ELEPHANTS ARE NEAR! If I had to choose anyone in the world to go on a study abroad trip like this, it would be you. Your heart is way too big to be normal, and I’m sure you’re spreading allll your love to the community and your peers :). XOXO MISS YOU
    Love you all and travel safely on your next endeavors!
    T.J.

  14. Sara Wendland says:

    MEGANNNNNNNNN
    I was literately too in awe of your post to respond to it yesterday…there are so many things I want to say to you but I will just mention 5 in this post:

    1) Every time I think about you in Africa I get weirdly hyper. And no this is not an exaggeration…in fact, as I type this I just noticed both of my legs are shaking uncontrollably. I will catch myself doing things at 24 times the speed I usually do them, which in most cases doesn’t end well, especially when I’m cutting stuff with a CutCo knife. Needless to say, I am so ridiculously happy for you, but I think it will also be good for my mental health when you are back so I can stop doing these weird things.

    2) Your story about the little girl and her shoes really spoke to me. I went and looked at my shoe shelf in my room and felt completely disgusted. I want to give them all away. Can’t say I’ve ever felt like that before. Just goes to show that the impact you have made as a result of your trip is not only found in Zambezi.

    3) Father Noel sounds like a homie.

    4) This one is more for your dad I suppose: I know Jerry is no longer a potential new member of the Newman family, and I am sorry for your loss, but I think you should now seriously consider finding that mouse in your room and bringing him home. He could be named Jerry Junior (aka JJ how presh! omg itzz perfectttt), and could still live that pen you built. Imagine how happy he would be with all that space to roam free! His African mouse friends would be super jeal of all the American cheese he would have access to. Just a thought.

    5) Megan, I miss you so much and cannot wait to hear all about your trip. I know the heartbreak you have experienced has been so real, commanding, and perhaps even unbearable for you, and I’m sure at times you wished you didn’t care so much so you wouldn’t have to experience these feelings. But I hope you know that while you may have felt weak as you were crying during your patient visit, you were actually displaying one of your greatest strengths: your raw compassion and empathy for others. These two strengths allow you to maximize your life by sharing it with people.

    I love you and miss you! You worked hard, now go play hard!
    Love,
    Swendy

    PS- When you get wifi plz hit me up if you have time! Even if it is like 4 in the morning.

    • The new and serene Larry Newman says:

      Mouse in my room, I always thought of her as Mrs. Newman. Oooooooooooooooooh that hurts!!!!!

  15. Susan Norwood says:

    Brittany..
    Great post! I am so glad I didn’t write one…it would be nowhere near a eloquent as what you and others have written! I can think just where the first photo you attached was taken…and need two admit I was glad to avoid another trip across the bridge! I wish I had been there for your last cooking class..I am straining to see what the posters say! You will need to update me! I am so proud of all of you and especially “my” health group, of course! You have all left a part of yourself behind in Zambia (well, some more than others, with the flu tat made the rounds!)….and I know you will find that Zambia has carved out a spot in your heart and will haunt you at the oddest moments. To parents, I think you will find that this trip has beenasolid investment — your son or daughter will come back to you changed for the better. Thank you for the trust you have shown in us. I hope all of my Zam Fam enjoys the next chapter in this grand adventure. Safe travels to all..can ‘t wait to reconnect. I have to admit I feel a bit cheated not being there with you! Susan

  16. Brady says:

    A beautiful reflection on death and the transience of life. I’ll never forget when a ZamFam member experienced a personal death in the family amidst our trip, Josh read us a blog post he had written on mourning in Zambezi, and what it means to “love hard” when the reality of life’s uncertanities stare you in the face.

    Even within our Gonzaga community, we encounter death and suffering (for those that haven’t heard due to lack of internet, prayers and thoughts to Margie from Tilford cafe, and Jake Bigley, currenlty battling CF in intensive care). Reminders that life is beautiful, sacred, and meant to be lived forever in the present are so important and necessary. Remember what matters most.

    Love hard.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Hiks and Stills, Josh thank you for this incredible opportunity, not only to be a part of the (extended) ZamFam but for the wealth of eye-opening perspective shifts that still impact me daily.

    PS – HAVE SO MUCH FUN IN LIVINGSTONE!! BE FREE!

    Agape,
    Brady

  17. Bev says:

    Hi Brittany,
    Wow! As a faithful follower of the zam blog, I wanted to let you and all the zam fam know how amazed I have been with everyone’s beautifully descriptive narrations of their day and a life in Zambezi. Reading your blog has truly aided me in understanding the magnitude of emotions that you all are experiencing. My heart aches from so many of the stories I have read. Yet at the same time, my heart is rejoicing with the wisdom you share from your personal growth through these experiences. I am so proud of you and the zam fam for making a difference in this world. One day at a time and one person at a time. A difference that will make this world a better place. I treasure that you are all living life by Mahatma Gandhi’s quote,” Be the change you wish to see in the world.” So I leave you now with a big hug for being a wonderful part of our life. Remember to enjoy the treasures that surround you, celebrate each day, always laugh too much, take too many pictures, take every chance you can to dance in the rain, climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow til you find your dream!
    XOX
    Mom

    P.S. A big shout out to Nate to let him know we are missing him too!

  18. Melissa Houglum says:

    Hey Brittany! Awesome reflection! I loved how you pointed out the contrasts of life and death, good and bad, coming and going, things we must experience together in life. It sounds like you have had some profound experiences and learned a lot. Saying goodbye is so very hard but I thought the way you seacribed wrapping up your time in Zambia hit the nail on the head perfectly. Have a great time in Livingstone and safe travels to you and everyone!
    -Melissa Houglum

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