A Day in the Life

Reilly SunsetHello blog readers. Most of the previous posts have provided excellent insight into some of the emotions we experience and some background of the program in Zambezi. However, I thought it might be a good idea to introduce what a day in the life of Zambezi is like. So here goes.

This morning I awoke with a start under the vast mosquito web netting that makes me feel like a princess. I immediately began calculating ways to silence the rooster that has dutifully provided a 4:30am wake-up call three mornings in a row now.

This morning, the engineering squad took a stroll to the market in order to charge the new battery we had purchased for a project. We took off after breakfast with battery in hand. As we waddled through the sandy roads, children flocked to the street in order to get a glimpse of a few lost “chindeles,” the Luvale word for outsider. It seems that the first words Zambezi children are taught to say in English are “How are you??” followed by “yes” and “thank you.” It is not uncommon to find children as young as two or three yelling “chindele how are you?” When we would reply “Good, and you?” they would simply respond “yes, thank you,” feel our arm hair, then run off again.

Upon entering the “old market,” it is usually a good idea to brace one’s senses so that the smell of dried fish does not hit you quite so hard. Collin, Allie, and I, being complete neophytes to the scent of salty fish baking in the sun, were hit with the full force of the odor and had to take a moment to absorb the experience so that we could describe it as a form of “imagery” to our professor, Jeff, later on. We eventually found the place where we could charge our battery and left it there for the remainder of the day while we meandered through the town to attend to other activities.

Our next errand was to visit our friend Samson in order to look at the pontoon crossing for tomorrow. We realized we were ten minutes late, and after debating whether we should walk a little faster, we quickly dispelled the notion realizing that the concept of Zambian time applied here. Zambian time means you that when you make it to an appointment, you make it to an appointment. Start times are just kind of suggestions, but everyone is happy because they know the meeting will happen eventually, no matter the hour. During classes later today, a group interested in health education arrived an hour and a half after the decided start time for the session, but no one was really that miffed about it because that’s just how things go. The concept of Zambian time is a brilliant one and I hope that maybe a few professors on Gonzaga’s campus would be willing to adopt the idea.

Anyway, back to Samson. Our friend Samson works for Seeds of Hope, an organization that builds bio-sand water filters that can be installed in homes and are good for a lifetime. Tomorrow we will venture to a village called Mize, across the Zambezi river. Today we decided to inspect the river crossing in order to ensure the filters’ safe transportation for tomorrow. After helping a broken car roll up the river bank and failing a price negotiation with the pontoon operator, Samson suggested that we take the canoes available at the shore to the other side in order to inspect the road. On the other side, Samson began a lengthy conversation with a few women sitting under a shady tree in the sand. Approaching us glumly after his discussion, he looked up and said “I have some bad news for you.” He solemnly looked each of us in the eye, all of us thinking that somehow our whole project won’t work out, me preparing for the worst. And he says, “these women don’t have any fish.” We each nod and purse our lips in a silent, sorrowful fashion looking from one to the other. With as much sincerity as I can muster, I tell Samson I am sorry and we have a moment of silence for the lack of fish.

The roads being as inspected as possible, and the pontoon man agreeing to meet us at eight hours the next day, the engineers began our walk home on the only paved road in Zambezi, recruiting anyone we could for our engineering classes throughout the week. We met Jeff and LaShantay along the side of the road and stopped to watch a casual goat fight. Collin tells me the mother was teaching the baby goat how to butt heads for its inevitable encounters later in life. I guess goat diplomacy is at an all time low these days.

Jeff and I continued our stroll through to the old market again while Allie, LaShantay, and Collin returned back to the convent for a recharge. Jeff convinced me simply by saying he was on a biscuit hunt. And biscuit hunt he did. In no less than thirty minutes, Jeff hit four shops, purchased 6 different packets of biscuits, had an interesting conversation about a Lunda bible, bought two toilet seats, and secured a ginger beer for the walk home. It was like poetry in motion. During the transition from our toilet seat purchase to the Lunda bible conversation, we ran into a man asking about our classes for the week, a fairly common question we hear from people in the market. The man began discussing his interest in enzymes, and we informed him that the health team could probably talk to him about this issue. The silences became more drawn out as the man tried to find the right words to sufficiently articulate his thoughts in English. After a particularly long pause and perhaps a small, but firm throat clearing from Jeff, the man spurred into speech, admitting that he was indeed drunk, but that we should forgive him and that maybe he would come to classes anyway.

Tonight was special because we had two visitors, Father Dominic, a priest from Solwezi and a good friend of the program, and Ann, a supporter and advocate for the library project at Chilena Basic School. Tonight at dinner Mama Kawatu, our chef extraordinaire and cultural guide, led a welcome song in Luvale to greet the newcomers. As we clapped and sang, the new arrivals grinned broadly and greeted each of us in turn. We sat for dinner and the hum of voices filled the air. The emotions felt by our visitors reflected our own. We are finally settled here in Zambezi. With good food, good friends, and good energy surrounding us, Zambezi is now home.

Reilly Dooris, Class of 2015

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15 Responses to A Day in the Life

  1. Vanessa Price Hileman says:

    Great post Reilly! I’ve been dying to hear about a typical day for you guys. I really like how you included stories (especially when they involve Collin) 🙂 Thanks for sharing! Lots of love to you all!

  2. Marieke and Steve Fealy says:

    Yes, Reilly! We were wondering about a typical day as well! Really enjoyed the discription of the first words in English young children learn . Made us laugh!
    Thank you!

  3. Brittany Van Buskirk says:

    Good morning! Thinking about you all! Enjoy your day give mama Kawatu a huge hug for me! I hope you all realize what an amazing opportunity you have been given! Keep up the great work!

  4. Grace Savinovich says:

    Lolololololol Reills I knew it was you before I even needed to look at the bottom. Nice. Good to hear your voice, kinda. Nice use of “neophytes” btw. I appreciated that & hearing from you. Can’t wait to hear from the rest of you (Hannah, Kenzie, and Lindsay excluded cause they already shared their wonder words – thank you). Peace, love, & charity. #gozags

  5. Matt Johnson says:

    Zags in Zambezi,

    This is Matt Johnson, a member of last year’s Zam Fam. 40 minutes ago I started catching up on all your posts on my phone as I got ready for bed in Lincoln, Nebraska, at a 10-day journalism internship training. Kind of like in Zambezi a year ago, I’m in an unfamiliar place with people I don’t know, trying to adjust to a new schedule, new foods and new cultures (Nebraska is definitely a new culture!). Which means I should be in bed getting a good night’s rest, but I seriously can’t right now after reading your posts — and especially after doing the mental calculation that I could get this post in before you all have breakfast. That mental calculation took me way longer than it should have. Anyway, seriously, I had to break out the computer because I’m so pumped about everything you guys are going through right now. I’ll address some specific people here, but really, this is meant for all of you guys!

    Reilly: Awesome post man. Loved the details in your writing that brought me right back— the roosters, the chindelehowareyou’s, the way that smell hits you at the old market, Mama Kwatu’s smile, Jeff always talking about a Lunda or Luvale Bible for some reason. And crazy father Dom. You guys are gonna love that guy. And I don’t know if you chose the photo for this post, but it’s everything. The sunset over that river is haunting.

    Hannah: Hey Han. I really appreciated your update about the library. My heart is filled with an unspeakable amount of joy as I envision the scene you painted so well — boxes and boxes being unloaded and kids swarming to help, finally reaching the goal we’ve wanted for so long. The library has finally made it!!! Seriously praising God for what amazing things he’s going to do through that library, through Chileng’a, and through each one of you guys in the next couple weeks.

    Lauren: Your description of landing in Zambezi brought me right back. What an amazing feeling that must have been for you. Imagine feeling the entire bushplane ride like you’re going to throw up at any moment, trying unsuccessfully to sleep it off, and the first thing you open your eyes to is hundreds of little hands all over the windows of that little plane, banging on the glass to get inside. Sounds like you experienced the mixture of breathlessness, sweatiness and complete awe that moment is — mostly of having no idea what the hell is going on. Awesome.

    Lindsey: So pumped that you’ve figured out the “mutual indebtedness” idea so well. You explained it really well, and I really hope you all are learning through experience what “serving at eye level” means.

    Jeff: Bro. (I get to call you that now, because I could never call you that to your face.) Sounds like you’re killing it as usual. Marauding in Zambezi the only way Jeff can maraud in Zambezi. The best way. But seriously, I’m filled with joy at the image of you back in this place you love. God has brought you back here for such great things, and I can’t wait for these Zags and the people of Zambezi to keep seeing the light that you are. I still remember our long chats walking back from Mize. Those meant a lot. Love ya.

    Josh: I mostly just want to congratulate you on the library. Your hard work has paid off. Congrats on another amazing year of leading these Zags, and know that my prayers are with you as you keep diving into all the new excitement you’ll find this time around. And please, more party boy dance moves.

    To the rest of you awesome Zags, you looked *prime* in the picture of y’all sleeping on the plane. Love you guys. Learn, ask questions, have a ball. What I’d give to watch a sunset over the river with you.

  6. Helen Reinecke says:

    Princess Reils,

    Thank you for the refreshing wit, so glad that I could share in a glimpse of how your days are coming together over there. I can hear the kids saying, “Chindele how are you” in such a way that at first you think it is just one long word. The thought of you and Jeff wandering the market together makes me both laugh and worries me a tad . . .not one, but two toilet seats?! Have you tried the Eet-sum-mors?! SO GOOD. Keep saying yes, keep watching casual goat fights (thank you Collin for that nugget of goat wisdom), and keep enjoying this time—it is so stinking special. Chat soon, hugs.

    Mama Kawatu- Hi! Love and miss you HUGE.

    Crew- So proud to call you all classmates and partners in this incredible journey.

    Love & positive vibes to Zambezi,

  7. Marianne & Jeff Kerstem says:

    What a beautiful visual you have blessed us at home with. Your authentic words transported me and I could almost smell the fish. I think the idea of “Zambian time” is a lovely concept that I hope you will never forget.
    Thoughts and prayers for all of you

  8. Paige Brunett says:


    What a day! Your words make me feel like I’m back in Zambezi exploring the Old Market. Thank you for your images and words.

    Mom- WELCOME! I’m so glad to hear you made it to Zambezi. You’ve been in my thoughts all week. I’m so proud of you for taking this journey. Love and miss you.

    Kisu Mwane to all!

    Paige Brunett
    ZamFam 2012

  9. JuliaDooris McGann says:

    Reilly: well done. I am so proud of you. Love, auntie

  10. Brady Essmann says:


    Great post. It’s crazy, but even four years later I can still smell that dried bubble fish, hear the calls of “Hi, howareyou!?” from hidden little voices off the side of the road, and see the sun setting over the Zambezi river at exactly 7:00. I love that Jeff has you doing sensory exercises; the beauty and wonder within each moment of experience is gifted to those who pay attention. Write it all down. Seriously, journal as much as possible; you won’t regret it as the years pass, I promise you that.

    (Sidenote: JEFF? AS IN JEFF DODD?! I’m sure I knew that you were headed on this trip — I think Josh mentioned it a while back — but aha;sldjfasljf. Zamfam2k15, I am so jealous of you all. If any of you get the opportunity to head into the kitchen and cook with this man, do it in a heartbeat. A prepared meal of butternut squash led me to make the best decision of my life in switching my major sophomore year. I hope you’re writing beautiful poetry, JD. Sending hugs and good vibes.)

    Joshman, give Mama K and Fr. Dominic big hugs from me! Missing you man. I hope your next adventure takes you to the east side 😉

    Brady Essmann
    Zambezi 2012

  11. Leah Willis says:

    Wow amazing! I felt as though I was there! I love all the descriptions and stories of how the Zambian people interact with you guys! I was soooo happy to hear my daughters name, Lashantay! Gave me reassurance that all is well. Continue to venture and do great things guys! I can’t wait to read the next blog. P.S. More pics please

    Love you Tay
    Love mommy

  12. Joe M says:

    “It is not uncommon to find children as young as two or three yelling “chindele how are you?” When we would reply “Good, and you?” they would simply respond “yes, thank you,” feel our arm hair, then run off again.”


    Enjoy the time over there everyone.

    –Joe, ’09

  13. Hayley Medeiros says:

    Hi Zam Fam! This rocks! Thanks Reilly for bringing me back to this special place. Literally, my heart gets all gittery thinking about Zambezi and all of you experiencing the community.
    For some reason planes makes me think of Zambia. And it just so happens that I jumped on a plane today and started thinking that all the homies sitting around me are my brothers and sisters- the old lady sitting next to me that kept telling me recipes that I most likely will not remember, or the little boy that wanted me to watch jake and the never land pirate with him on repeat. So as you buy toilet seats and biscuits and take in that funny but beautiful smell of kapenta LOVE on everyone and everything. Sit in the uncomfortable and let it eat at you but love it because you can.
    Fr. Dom!!!! How is it to be back in Zambezi?! I hope you are having so much fun with all the GU students. Know we are thinking about and praying for you always!
    Mama!!! Hi 🙂 I hope everything is going well! I miss and love you like crazy!

    Kisu Kisu Mwane!

    Zamfam 2013

  14. Tine says:


    So sorry I am late! Thank you so much for taking us back to Zambezi! I cannot wait to hear more stories and to see how the classes are going!

    You all are in my thoughts and prayers! Hello to Collin and Allie as well! Hannah Banana so incredibly proud and jealous of you! Also I have called you Hannah Banana so many times that my phone puts it in the suggestion box above the keyboard right atafter I finish type Hannah. Haha sorry. Side note.

    Love you Riles!

  15. John Hyland says:

    Venezia your blog captured and expressed so many wonderful nuances of your experiences these last weeks. You opened up and shared some lucid points of the challenges and experiences you are having. Your work and effort touch your ol’ dad so much and I am so proud of your expressions and descriptions of the Zambia program. Love you my dear darling daughter! Dad

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