Jumping into Zambezi


This is day three here in Zambezi, and I already feel like I have lived here for some time. Well, in some respects…. The roosters crowing outside at 4:30AM, showers resembling the polar bear swim, and all the foreign bugs and geckos still get under my skin. However, the days feel long due to no technology, and not having much concept of time. When I lie down the mosquito net draping over me, it’s hard to believe everything I did because in Africa, it’s just living. Time can feel so long, and yet I’m completely content in the present moment.

It has already been a whirlwind of emotions after a mere three days. The first night here, my journal read, “I’m not doing okay… I can’t do this, I want to go home.”

I had walked into my room for bed and found myself overwhelmed by bugs—I’m talking beetle-style, the revolting kind that you don’t want to get friendly with—crawling all over the room. I stood in the middle of this chaos tearing up, hugging myself in fetal standing position.

That night was challenging, and I am still trying to understand why it stressed me out. All I could think about was, “how the hell am I going to make it two weeks like this?” One of the strangest things is that I am inside a building, and yet there are creepy crawlies and no matter how many we kill they double in amount. This challenged me in a way that I was not expecting, but I wouldn’t take back this challenge because I know it’s going to change me in some way or another.

Aside from this traumatizing moment (okay, not totally traumatizing), Zambezi has been pretty amazing. Upon arrival, I have never felt so warm inside, or more welcomed. Before I even made it out of the bush plane, children ran up to me pulling me out of the plane. Instantly, I had 10 little hands grabbing my two little arms. Tears of contentment and joy began to well up at this overwhelming experience. I’ve never felt so full or right before.  In that moment, it was pure beauty. The love and excitement that was so contagious struck me like the ice cold shower I would take the next morning. I felt like I was coming home from a long vacation to the most loving and affectionate family of little kids. I wonder how I have lived my whole life without this outpouring of love from people I don’t even know. People are people here, not functionaries in others’ lives.

Every time I step outside there are little hands that grab mine. It feels as though I am famous when people stop and stare as I walk down the streets. I know that is not the case, but it’s the strangest sensation. It’s getting hard to give out all this love though. There are moments when I decide to stay inside the convent, just so that I can avoid the children. I love it, but sometimes I don’t want a child to hang onto me because that’s not real life. There will always be a kid who wants to play with me. It doesn’t mean that that’s what Zambezi is all about and what this experience has in store for me. I am striving to experience what REAL life is like here in Zambezi.

The older gentlemen all say “Welcome” as we “Chindeles” walk by. They say, “We want you to be at home here.” One woman said, “Hello sister, how are you doing today?” These people care about other people, and I feel so welcomed here by the community of people I’m afraid I won’t be able to know fully. Last night, cars would drive by, roll down their windows, and ask us how we were doing. Honestly, why is America not like this? Why do we put our heads down? Why are we not friendly and open to the concept of community? It’s so simple and makes me feel a part of something bigger and greater than myself. It makes me feel important and like life is about the relationships not about our next appointment. This community has already stolen my heart and filled it full of life and love.

Yesterday was the big One Nine, having a birthday in Africa was probably the greatest birthday to this day. That’s saying a lot because I have been on this planet now for 6,935 days. It was like I did nothing and yet everything today. I woke up and made breakfast, worked on my project, and ran down to the market to pick up supplies and recruit community members. Today was my first REAL taste of what Zambezi is—full of life. I wandered through the small tattered little alleyways looking for chitenge (African fabric) in the many small shops throughout the market. To top the night off I saw the horizon on fire, as the orange sun set right over the Zambezi river. Walking Mama Kawatu home, we saw the moon, which resembled what we know to be the harvest moon back home, and a night sky full of beautiful stars. I felt like I was in a movie it was so unreal.

This was the best way to spend my birthday because it was not about me, but rather about living life. Instead of having hopes of it being an extra special day, I just lived in the present moment of life and let it take me where it wanted. My Zamily ended up making my birthday incredibly special and I cannot thank my loving family here enough. Each person went around saying a few words about me. All I wanted to do was cry. I am so lucky to be surrounded by people who see life, and love courageously. I cannot remember another time when I felt this special. My international birthday was incredible due to my Zamily and the community and just feeling that there was something greater going on, but special time was taken to celebrate my life. I am blessed. So blessed.

I guess that’s all she wrote. My eyes have been opened and my heart enlarged as I live day by day in this beautiful place under the sun.

God bless you all, and thank you for your support and love as we continue on this journey together. I love each and every post, most definitely the highlight of our mornings.

Paxton Richardson, Class of 2016

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Jumping into Zambezi

  1. Andre House says:

    Wow. What an amazing reflection, Paxton! God Bless you and the words you’ve expressed above! Oh, and Happy Birthday!!!!!! Our son Conner will also share a birthday while in Zambezi (the big 21!!) Thinking of all of you ZAGS throughout the day and feeling grateful you have this amazing opportunity! Love you, Conner House 🙂

  2. Katie McCann says:

    Ahhh your words resonate so deeply with me Paxton. You did a remarkable job at capturing just how wonderful and at the same time horrible those first few days truly are. If I could give you any advice, it would be to remain confident in the fact that this new “zamly” of yours will be your greatest comfort.
    I loved what you had to say about community and the way Zambezi contrasts with The United States. I still find myself getting frustrated with our fast-paced, individualistic mentality over here in good ole ‘Merrica… But having those memories of Zambia to return to and appreciate will be our driving force. That being said… Keep noticing, keep reflecting, and keep taking it all in over there. It’s so clear you’re already doing that with flying colors.

    The bugs though… Uh what? Props to you gal because that actually sounds like an unbearable nightmare. And I’m sure Conner was very little help with that particular situation… 😉 love ya HOUSE.

    Josh- so far I think Conner’s parents might earn MVP blog commenters. But the way I’ve been constantly refreshing this site helps me to understand my mom’s insanity from last year. My phone battery has been dying so quickly because I am ALWAYS on the blog. First word problems.

    Mark- I can’t wait to read your reflection. I’m sure you’re already showing off your fancy soccer skills to the kids outside the convent and they’re just eating it up. With how busy you always are here at home… I have a feeling you’re probably not even tired yet HA. Jk unless you’re actually superman that’s impossible.

    Cecilia- girlfriend your short week-long visit to the Spo was such a tease. Can’t wait for you to come back so I can continue to get to know and love you!

    Matt- are you tired of Conner yet? Also I hope your first day of teaching goes SO WELL!

    Okay this is getting to be extremely long so I’m gonna spare you all any more of my rambling and just say LOVE YOU ALL THE WAY TO ZAMBIA AND BACK!! Peace out homies.

  3. Debbie and Bob Richardson says:

    Our dear sweet Paxton:) how you have grown leaps and bounds! I was reading this
    and was amazed at who wrote such an incredible experience already in just a few short days! It touch my heart so much, I began to cry as I was reading aloud to your father.
    I kept on reading to see it was our amazing daughter! Before I even knew you were the one writing, your experience made my heart long to have such an indescribable some
    day too! We are so blessed to have you as our daughter. We are very grateful to your Zamily and and so happy you were chosen to be apart of this amazing experience! I am so glad this was your best birthday ever!! Love you so much, Mom and Dad


  4. Lynda McCann says:

    And this reflection is the perfect example of why the blog is my favorite ‘summer read’ 🙂 I don’t know you Paxton, but your post brought tears to my eyes. I know your parents have to be glowing with pride!! Before you know it, your time in Zambezi will come to an end and you might actually find yourself missing those ugly bugs and wishing you were sharing a room with them again (…or maybe not). Despite your description of the long days, I know my daughter still can’t get over the fact that it’s already been a year since she was there. Time goes so fast…so take pictures and savor every moment! God bless each of you as you continue this incredible experience. (((Hugs))) to Josh, Mark and Conner, (and all of you)!

    PS- Conner, you should be shaking your head at Katie’s little jabs at you in her comment after having to deal with her in Switzerland 😉

  5. Hayley Medeiros says:

    Paxton! What a beautiful, raw post-literally brought me right back to that convent. Through all the uncomfortable times, that big heart of yours is growing girl. I am sending hugs to you from the US! And I am so happy to hear your international birthday was nice! The happiness on all of your faces in that picture is so evident. Con, I hate to break it to you, the girls are jumping higher than you! But really, I miss ya tons! I miss all of you! I love reading these posts and picturing each one of you in the small town of Zambezi. I can’t wait to hear from all of you! Love you all and praying and thinking about you daily!

    Kisu Mwane

  6. Bread says:

    Aw come’on now, the Paxton I know would never be afraid of a few little bugs. The miiiiice scurrying through your room at night though…

    Just kiddin’.

    Kind of.

    But in all seriousness, I can absolutely relate to the pure feelings of being so overwhelmed in Zambezi that you describe so wonderfully in your post. One of the most beautiful paradoxes of this experience is that they simply keep coming, overwhelmingly — the good and the bad. Process through it all. Have meaningful conversations with your ‘Zamily” (love that, by the way). Journal. Journal a ton. But you nailed it in your post: just live in it. Indulge in it.

    A peer on my Zambezi trip told me once that if you go searching too hard for the point, you miss the point completely. So don’t overthink your overwhelming reactions (because trust me, they are so natural and they just keep comin’) and keep living those great questions you’re already posing by day 3 (that’s my girl!).

    Happy birthday Pax! I hope it was incredddddible! I’m so sorry I didn’t get a chance to see you before you took off, but know that I will love you always and if you are ever on the East side you should give me a call.

    Mwanes for days,
    Zambezi 2012

    C-House – I heard Gonzaga had to shut down because the Prez wasn’t there to run things. Awwwwwkwaaaard for you :/ Do us all proud and get a few good Zambian booty shakes in this time around, will ya?

    Cecilia – “Cecilia, you’re breakin’ my heart…” (No? Nobody? Ask Josh to sing it, he’ll know). But seriously, I am SO LIVID I didn’t get at least ONE MEASLY HUG before you took off. Such is life. Know that I cherish you and your joyous outlook on life. The people on this journey with you are so incredibly lucky to have a beautiful, reflective spirit like you around. Miss you too much and love you big time.

    Helen – Hiiiiiiiiiii Helen! Whooooop there it is you gone did it girl. You made it to Africa. Gah I can only imagine you right now, staring off into the Zambezi river as it mirrors the setting sun with a dozen smiling faces littered around you. I bet those kids adore you. Do me a favor (well, let’s be real, a few): if you run into a Collins, Melody, Chris, or Humble give them THE BIGGEST HUGS YOU’VE EVER GIVEN ANOTHER PERSON, make SURE you spend a few nights out on the tarmac staring up at the galaxies above you, drink way too much tea and stay up later than the lights go off, and kill the chicken. Yes. I want documentation. See you soon rockstar.

    Mark – Try not to get into too much trouble, eh? I’m sure you’ll give those Zambians a run for their money on the futbol field.

    And Dr. J – I hope you are having the time of your life. It looks like you’ve got a solid crew and I can’t wait to see pictures. Kisu mwane to you all. If you run into Howard, send him my good wishes. I think he’s still in Solwezi, but you never know.

  7. Brittany Van Buskirk says:

    Wonderful Reflection! I have been reading your blogs over the past couple days and have struggled to find words to write down. As I read each of your post it brings back a flood of memories. I have a little bit of envy, joy, sadness, heart ache and love when I think about Zambezi. I know each day you all are going through a roller coaster of emotions. Take the time to truly feel each and every emotion. Smile when a child holds your hand, cry when your heart feels their pain and suffering, love with all your heart, sing like you know what you are doing and dance as if you are an African. This is a one of a kind experience. It is amazing how stepping out of your comfort zone brings a group of individuals so close. Truly embrace the relationships build between all of you and those you make with the Zambezi community. Over your next couple weeks there I know you will all struggle in different ways. Take each and every struggle as a challenge. Learn something new about yourself and never let that learning stop. I still think about Zambezi and the group that went with me daily and I am always challenging myself and learning something new. Thinking of you all. Please give MAMA a HUGE HUG for me.

    P.S. House, Susan and Josh miss you all so much and wish I was there on the emotion roller coaster with you! Nate says hello and wants to make sure Mama is still getting private computer lessons so we can all get updates from her.

Comments are closed.