21 days


First of all I would like to say a few words about the picture above.

Please do not be alarmed if you do not see your child, friend, or loved one…they are probably just hiding behind the giant water droplet that totally decided to photobomb the camera lens. So even though it’s not a clear picture, I felt it was appropriate to share with all of you this snapshot of this absolutely AWESOME event that highlighted the Zamily’s day. Being soaked by the spray of the mighty Mosi Oa Tunya (Victoria Falls) was indescribable. However, not all went hunky-dory today. We did have some baboon confrontations at the falls, which resulted in two of our students being pelted by poo.

But anyways, I am here to write a blog. So it’s time for some real talk….and the first thing that comes to my mind is…

I have been dreading my turn to write this blog.

Yes, out of everything I could have started my blog with, this is what I came up with. Totally lame I know…I know.

I have been in Zambia for a total of 21 days now. 21 DAYS (I am still totally in denial). To be quite honest, the main reason I am/was dreading to write this is because I simply cannot in any way, shape, or form articulate this experience to its full potential…and that scares me. Our remaining time here in Zambia is running low, so it is inevitable that upon my arrival home I will be asked to share my stories/emotions with family and friends. But how is this even going to be possible when I am facing a serious brain fart on what to even write about here on this blog?

My only idea that may give the trip justice is to have those who want to know about my last 3 weeks pop a squat next to me and allow me 21 days of their time. This way I can adequately spew a full account of everything that has happened thus far in Zambia… but let’s be real. One, it would be unrealistic for someone to listen to me babble for 21 days…and two, even though I have Victoria Falls to thank for helping power wash my feet today, they are still pretty toxic…so sitting next to me for more than an hour and inhaling my foot fumes would probably be seriously bad for one’s health.

So I am still stuck here. Stuck thinking by the beard of Zeus how will I tap into this glass case of emotion? Stuck. Stuck stuck stuck. Double stuck. Forever stuck. But really…help me…I’m stuck.

So while contemplating how I should write about my experience in this blog, I turned to my journal (which I am proud to say I have been consistently writing in). And, duh, of course! I realized this potentially held the answer to my issue. I have recorded in this journal condensed versions of all my thoughts, emotions, and events for the past 21 days. So from these 21 daily entries I chose random quotes, which I am hoping will give you all a slight insight into what I am still trying to process in order to accurately describe my experience.

Day 1: Landing in Zambezi. The welcoming choir, dust, and over 100 kids actually wanting to grasp my forever sweaty hands. I don’t know why but I immediately began crying. And I’m not talking those cute little tears that grace cheeks. No, I’m talking about the kind that result in you bawling so hard you choke on your own snot. Not pretty, but hey, totally explains my emotional rollercoaster of arriving to Zambezi.

Day 2: I should have brought a full-sized towel. The dishtowel isn’t cutting it.

Day 3:  My favorite activity is by far dinking around with the Zambezi children outside the convent. Today we played a mean game of duck-duck-goose and danced to the Tomato song. Also on a side note the girls got ahold of my hair and braided the whole thing. They totally called me out on my dandruff, but it’s whatever. By the end I was looking fabulous.

Day 4:  Went to church and witnessed how truly religious the Zambian people are. These people have so little yet are so faithful to God and thankful for what they do have. It is humbling.

Day 5: FIRST DAY OF TEACHING AT CHILENA PRIMARY SCHOOL, MS. K IN THE HIZZZ HOUUUSEEEE. Morning class of 20 students in the 7b class and afternoon class of about 27 students in the 6b. This shall be a riot.

Day 6: I know I am only a couple days in and probably getting a little too attached or emotional…but I am honestly worried about leaving here. One, I already know saying goodbye to the kids around the convent and at the school is going to be rough. And two, I may never be able to come back to Zambezi, which makes the relationship process unsettling. How is it fair that I just show up in Zambezi and then leave? What gives me the right to do this? Currently wrestling with this thought.

Day 7: Take more pictures you boob! Also, the education group took the walk from Chilena through the village of Chingolala to the convent today. We had at least 20 children tagging along behind us. It was about a 45-minute walk consisting of 4 year olds constantly attacking us with the question,  “Chindele, how you are?”

Day 8: Encountered a major language barrier in class today. The students’ native language at Chilena is Lunda, so trying to explain myself in English (a language that the Zambian school curriculum introduced only in grade 4) can be a struggle. If something is understood I will usually get a “yes” as a reply. What do you want to be when you grow up? “Yes.” What do you learn about in school? “Yes.” So patience is needed and is key.

Day 9:  Our group walked to Steven’s house this evening (local man who housed students for homestays) and had about an hour-long dance party outside his house until sunset. A perfect example of how the Zambian culture is so richly influenced by song and dance.

Day 10: A bat bounced off my head tonight in the church at Dipalata. Needless to say: echolocation FAIL. P.S. No light pollution for 40km equals the best stars you will ever see.

Day 11: My first pit toilet experience. Besides being terrified the ground would collapse beneath by feet and I would be lost in a pile of dirt and poo everything went flawless. Well, except for in mid-squat I was interrupted by some passing locals (pit toilets don’t have doors)…. “Chimene mwane?”

Day 12: While playing on a makeshift teeter-totter with the kids outside the convent today, some of my money obliviously fell out of my pocket. One of the kids quickly ran over, picked it up, and handed it to me. This moment of honesty was beautiful.

Day 13: Realized today that substitute teachers do not exist in the Chilena (and probably a lot of Zambian schools for that fact). And the main reasons are because there are not enough teachers and the teachers that are there are extremely overworked (about 27 teachers for the 700 students at Chilena). So if a teacher is absent that class will simply not have a teacher, yet all the students will still attend class. As cliché as it sounds, I now understand how we take our education for granted.

Day 14: Was goalkeeper in Chindeles vs. Chilena football game…let’s just say I did not excel at stopping the ball, but I was quite good at running towards those trying to kick it and scaring the crap out of them. I also scratched off something that should be on everyone’s bucket list…watched The Lion King… in Africa.

Day 15: RIP Sir William Stewart, the goat we received as a gift in Dipalata, who was transported underneath the benches in an hour long car drive, and who has been living in the back shed. Today William Stewart is the day you WILL be STEWed (get it? ha…sorry)

Day 16: It was a double whammy day. Crossed the Zambezi river today over the Chinyingi suspension bridge and was climbed like a tree by a Makishi.  Score.

Day 17: When I blow my nose, dirt comes out.

Day 18: Today the staff of Chilena threw a party for our education group and it was “the best day ever” according to the headmaster Elvis. And I would have to concur it was pretty sweet. We all got up and sang, danced, the staff prepared a meal for us (which included the chicken butchered on my classroom steps that morning), and truly honored us for our time at Chilena. And although my role was to be a teacher and except this I honestly and truly believe we owe more to the faculty and students of Chilena for allowing us to learn from them. I will forever be thankful for this opportunity.

Day 19: Today is the day we left Zambezi. I will never forget Jr.’s tears as we huddled around the plane. I will never forget Jr., Japhet, John, Barnabus, and Joe. These kids, these people, this community, I will honestly never forget them and how they constantly reminded us how Zambezi was our home. Will I ever see them again? I don’t know, but one thing I sure do know is goodbyes suck.

Day 20: 24 hours ago I was in a place where people lived off less than 1 dollar a day. Tomorrow we will be visiting a resort that people stay at for 500 dollars a night. Zambezi and Livingstone are presenting me with two entirely different views on Zambia, which is fueling my conflicting emotions.

Day 21: I was completely drenched by Victoria Falls. Pictures will never be able to describe the absolute joy experienced. Also monkeys man. Monkeys are the American squirrel.

So hopefully that small taste of my 21 days so far gave you a slight glimpse into what I intend to share when I return home. I may not have had a full-blown epiphany in any instances, but my views have been seriously challenged and I am left with quite a great deal to process (and obviously a lot of stories and thoughts to share).

I would also like to say I am so thankful for the Zambezi community’s hospitality and this incredible opportunity to come to Zambia with such an amazing and truly incredible group of people. Hi to those back home as well, I will be seeing you soon!


Carolyn Kvernvik or “S”, Class of 2016

P.S. Mom, we are going to need to invest in a scrub brush for my feet J

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7 Responses to 21 days

  1. Janet Kvernvik says:

    Carolyn, thank you! Your humor is there, your thoughts are spinning and you gave a small taste of what this trip has been. Thank you to Gonzaga for this door opening and a life altering experience! Mama J

  2. Katie McCann says:

    I knew I loved you from the moment you walked into the Study Abroad office with that contagious smile of yours and told me you were going to Zambezi. That was THE most unique, captivating way to blog about your experience and I am low-key OBSESSED. Your writing had me laughing out loud but also brought me to tears. I long so badly to be back in Zambezi journaling about those exact same things. Thank you ssssoooooooo much Carolyn for giving us all a taste of those 21 days, you did it so beautifully (with some hilarious humor added as well).

    I hope you’re not all creeped out by how in love with each of you I am. Although I’ve never even met many of you, my assumption is that we will all be friends when you return. Hopefully Conner and Mark haven’t scared you away from me because I am dying to meet those of you I haven’t yet and chat about all these things Carolyn’s just illustrated.

    Mark, I was FB messaging with Kelly a couple days ago and she misses you tons! So anxious for you to come home…but seriously SOAK IT ALL IN on the Safari. Ah so stoked for you all. Conner, I know you’ll be a good T.A. and protect them from the potential water buffalo that may stalk your tents at night 😉

    Mwanes on mwanes!!!!!
    -a very happy Katie McCann

  3. Nancy Chamberlain says:

    That was hysterical. Thanks for the laughs.
    Maggie’s Mom

  4. Donna M. Clark says:


    I loved the journal blog!! Hope you all have a great safari.

    Shannon I love you.

    Think about the young men who risked and lost their lives in the D-Day invasion 70 years ago today.



  5. Andre, Theo and Chad House says:

    He, he! Thanks, Carolyn- you had me cracking up with your reflection! Just think, when you’re 90 years old rocking in your chair, you’ll be able to pick up your journal (and put your readers on….) and your writings will bring you right back to Zambezi like it was just yesterday 🙂

    Conner- I hope you survived the swing over Victoria Falls………..I haven’t heard from you since your text telling me you were doing this and you may fall into the falls and……good Lord, son!! Can’t wait to see your smiling face on Tuesday and get a big Conner hug!

    Love, Mamma House.

  6. Mama Susan says:

    OMG, what a great post! I miss all of you and Zambezi so much! Josh,will you let me be a part of the group again????? Enjoy what’s left of this incredible adventure you have been so blessed to have. Safe travels home..and I hope you arenot stuck in the. District of screaming infants like I was! Mama Susan

  7. Aubrey says:

    I love how you write, and I love what stood out to you each day! It says a lot about you and how Zambezi will stay in your heart.

    Aubrey Weber
    Zam ’12

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