Finally Awake

A brief computer lesson brought out a crowd last weekend in Dipalata.

A brief computer lesson brought out a crowd last weekend in Dipalata.

Despite being well into our Zambian adventure, it wasn’t until today that I finally realized I was in Africa. In true Zambian fashion, my arrival was just slightly later than I anticipated. The past week and a half has been difficult because I’ve felt like I have been on autopilot. In trying to embrace Zambezi, I neglected to let myself into the community. Afraid to impose, I simply let myself observe my environment and not explore it.

In the common room of the Convent is a list of commitments we all agreed upon on in our first night in Zambezi. Number 6 reads, “Reducing “otherness” by practicing curiosity and openmindness toward the people of Zambezi,” and I believe somewhere along the way, my deep sense of curiosity went dormant. I have not fueled myself to know more and learn more about a community that so willingly and lovingly welcomed me. I believed I would not be able to make a lasting impact here, especially when only a handful of my students were able to say my name after the first week.

In class today, I was lost in conversation with one of my students, Kaumba. At first our conversation was more of a question and answer session, but after a few moments it was finally my turn to be prompted with a question. He asked me about the United States, specifically the application process for Gonzaga and other universities. The question was simple, “How do you apply to university?” But it instigated a real conversation that was filled with the rhythm of curiosity and passion. As he shared his wish to pursue journalism and I described my desire for a career in public health, I felt like I mattered.

Day after day the computer team teaches around 75 students various computer skills. We spend most of our time funneling people in and out the doorway trying to stay on time and get everyone substantial computer time. Our work is tedious and difficult and often I feel like I haven’t taught anything to anyone. During my conversation with Kaumba, however, I was more than a teacher. I was his peer. Together we surpassed “otherness” and built community through our mutual eagerness and curiosity to know more about our different cultures.

There is so much more to Zambia than the “CHINDELEHOWAREYOU” voices we hear every day and the market filled with colorful chitenge. It is filled with things to be curious about and people who are filled with a curiosity to know the world beyond Zambezi.

As I process and unravel my thoughts about my experience here, I have come to understand that as humans we share the mutual need to know and be known. We are curious by nature and we thrive on the knowledge and insight we share through the conversations that go beyond “How are you?” It took me longer than I expected, but I think I have finally reawakened the curiosity hidden inside of me.

So as I describe my current vulnerability in this post, I am also challenging myself to further awaken and explore my temporary home.

This morning I heard the one noise that gives me the most intense anxiety, the sound of my students entering the classroom as their soles sandwich the sand with concrete. Tomorrow there will be no anxiety, but instead an appreciation for the amount of curiosity that lives within each and every one of the men and women who have dedicated their time to understanding technology. Tomorrow we will be in solidarity as we deepen our willingness to see beyond what we know.

Kisu Mwane,

Venezia Hyland, Class of 2017


P.S. Today as I was helping wash some dishes I thought I saw a goat on the loose in the courtyard of the Convent. Turns out the Health Team was given a goat on their trip today. We are now housing three goats at the Convent. Slaughtering and mourning will be on Saturday afternoon. Between now and then we will be adventuring around Chitokoloki Mission Hospital and, considering our record, may bring home another goat. No blog on Friday, but we’ll work double-time to catch up after that.

P.P.S Mommy, Daddy, and Soleil I hope all is well and New York is treating you well.

Mom – HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Sending all the love to you on your soon to be special day.

Daniel – Happy Graduation bud! I’m so proud of all the work you have done and can’t wait to see you.

To the rest of the family – thank you for your prayers and I can’t wait to show you all the pictures that I’ve taken

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24 Responses to Finally Awake

  1. irene hyland says:

    You have made me very proud! Thank you for embracing this amazing experience and sharing it with such enthusiasm. I have read each blog with such intense curiosity and am simply humbled by such descriptive and talented writing (yours and your mates). Your words soothe my “mommy anxiety”. Stay focused and passionate about your responsibilities. Enjoy the goat! And know that you are loved and truly mommy!

  2. The Polachecks says:

    Venezia, that was beautiful! I have been waiting all day to read your post. Your mom posted photos on FB today…so I knew it was the day. Beautiful photos, can’t wait to see more. Enjoy every moment you have! Give Katie a huge hug from us!

  3. Taylor Ridenour says:

    Venezia!! Abby and I were yelling this morning as we were so very excited to hear from you! We talk about all of you often here. Thank you for sharing, so glad to hear that curiosity has been reignited in your heart. The need of knowing and being known is an important one. wow, missing you. SO proud of you.

    love you,

    ps. We’ve named our apartment the Dolphin den because we all have dolphins. I’ll be sad to see Dolly go but so excited to have your presence here often!

  4. Taylor Warren says:

    Hey y’all! Zambezi 2009 alumni here. I passed much of my day today getting caught up on the blog. Thank you all for the beautiful entries. I was transported back to Zambezi and all the sights, sounds, and experiences from my time there. My time in Zambia was a huge turning point in my life and I am always grateful for a reminder of the place that remains so close to my heart. I hope you all enjoy the time you have left and feel free to contact me if you are considering Peace Corps. 😉

  5. Marieke Fealy says:

    I feel like I know you from what Bree has told me. Can’t wait to meet you in person. You did share your vulnerability in your reflection. You are not alone in your feelings. Bree often tells me that you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone ! Like you, I am like no thanks. I am good right here. You have made a break through! So awesome!
    On a lighter note you all might want to go back to the comfort zone come Saturday afternoon with 3 goats gig! Yikes!

  6. Helen Reinecke says:

    Hi Lady,

    I cannot tell you how good it feels to read your words; I have been waiting! I can’t get over two things that you shared, the first being “a real conversation that was filled with the rhythm of curiosity and passion”—whoa I love it. Thank you for believing in this process enough to be candid and vulnerable with us. I am glad to hear that your conversation with Kaumba is helping you find your stride. The second is your last sentence, “Tomorrow we will be in solidarity as we deepen our willingness to see beyond what we know.” Holy smokes YES. This humility paired with curiosity is beautiful, thank you for the brain food—I am going to keep thinking of this. Keep being brave and honest anything less would be a disservice to yourself and those around you. Proud to call you a friend Miss Lady, you are so wise. Xo

    Han Van- How are the stars? Is your tummy happy? I think of you often and always smile thinking of you back in that place—you do it so so well.

    JEFF- THREE FREAKIN GOATS, WHAT IN GODS GREEN EARTH ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE?! Someone, anyone please feel free to share on the blog what he is planning on cooking.

    P. Sherm- Have you busted out the cute boy band music while doing the dishes yet? I hope the answer to that is Yes! Keep that big, adorable smile on your face. Miss ya!

    Bree- Loved the photo and your words, it sounds like the leadership crew is going after some heavy topics—I would expect nothing less! Sending my love to you all!

    Reils- The picture of you and Phillip of course made me cry, cannot thank you enough for that. Give him and Timothy some extra lovin’ for me. Seattle summer is in full swing and we are ready for you to join! Miss you huge and excited to see you soon.

    Crew- Don’t let the time left change your rhythm of life, keep saying yes and things will happen as they are to happen!

    Love and positive vibes to Zambezi,

  7. irene Hyland says:

    Hello Sweetheart,
    We were so excited to read your blog! We are so proud of your adventures. Your writing is truly inspiring! always remember that when the soul is ready…it opens up and embraces everything! Daddy is in NYC and had a hard time accessing the blog on his phone…so not sure if he will respond. I will be in NYC tomorrow celebrating my bday and thinking of you! Soleil is great and enjoying her time off from school. We miss you very much, but at the same time we are also enjoying this adventure. All your fellow travelers write beautifully and are truly inspiring. We wait with much anticipation for the “next blog”….stay safe, enjoy the goat, write in your journal, say your prayers and believe in your amazing SELF! Love mommy.

  8. Angela says:

    Venezia, you leave me in tears. I am so very proud of you and stricken by the beauty of your writing. I ditto the comments of your friend Helen.
    “a real conversation that was filled with the rhythm of curiosity and passion”… what an awesome description. You are most certainly brave, honest and an inspiration.
    This will be an experience that you will benefit from for a lifetime.
    I will look forward to future blogs,
    I love you and miss you but am so thrilled that you have taken this journey!
    Be safe,

  9. Karina says:

    VENEZIA I AM SO PROUD OF YOU AND SO EXCITED TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ALL OF YOUR ADVENTURES. I’ve absolutely loved reading your posts (especially the newest one) and I know that you and your group are learning so much on your trip. My fave quote about traveling for your crew: Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore – Andre Gide. Remember to immerse yourself in the culture and to soak up these once in a lifetime experiences! Love you so much venay!!

  10. Edwina Olt says:

    Venezia, what a wonderful blog you have written. So happy that you are learning so much and that you are able to articulate it so beautifully. Very proud of you.
    Enjoy the rest of your adventure. Look forward to seeing your photos. Love you, Aunt Winna.

  11. Lorena Bull says:

    Hi Venezia. The trip sounds amazing! The whole thing is inspirational and so relevant to our personal lives and as individuals of a world community. When I saw a picture of you and your school mates in Dubai it seemed unreal- just the distance itself. When people ask me what you are up to this summer I share that you are in Africa and every time I talk about it or read about your experiences it slowly becomes more real. Paul and I were just talking about you and what an experience you must be having. I love hearing your experiences with your students. The context is amazing because I fundamentally believe our lives are shaped and defined by relationships. Relationships with friends, family, all the people we meet along the way, pets and nature. Our capacity to be connected and informed is so great now , I think it is also necessary, yet it’s amazing to me how uniformed, unfamiliar, or unconnected I can be with the rest of the world. Your experiences are inspirational and a poignant reminder of the importance of openness, awareness of our world, and how we should be proactive in this effort.
    The curiosity you talk about I also believe is real and common trait in us…your conversations with Kaumba is a beautiful reminder of all these things…
    Love You- Aunt Lorena

  12. Marianne & Jeff Kerstem says:

    Hi Venezia,
    What beautiful writing and I find you very brave and insightful to consider the idea of “otherness”. Its uncomfortable to grow and change and look at things differently. I commend you and I send you love prayers on your journey.

  13. Grace Savinovich says:

    Nezinator –

    I love you, and I miss you, and I can’t wait to see your whole new ADVENTURE CAM!! (Sidenote, we still have to develop the old ones, but that’s just more bonding yay)! The Backseat Crew is quite lonely, but I know that El Jefe would be proud of where you are in the journey. Remember those Nomadic travelers he talked about? The ones that would walk for hundreds of miles and then, what seemed like at random, would stop and stand for hours…waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies. It seems like one has caught up with the other, and I couldn’t be happier for you.

    In a weird turn of events today on my way back up to Spokane, Washington, and who should I run into but the one and only Joshua Armstrong, somewhere in the middle of the C terminal of the Seattle/Tacoma airport. And it’s weird, because here I begin telling you the story of the exchanging of stories. He asked if I had read your blog post, and I responded by asking what the hell he was doing here, not only in Seattle, but America. I couldn’t tell if there was a rip in reality somewhere…you know when your in a place you just know you are going to run into someone you know…I had that feeling but was completely smacked in the face with a pie to find out that person would be Josh. In that little rip of reality, he told me stories, he showed me all the photos of your and being that it all was so fresh for him (almost to the point that he was still in it) I was allowed into peek through that little rip of reality. I saw all your faces in the Zambezi sunlight and it looks like it feels as sweet and rich as the honey you sell to get there. And your smiles all look like you just ate it. All of it. As much of it as you could stuff into your smiles to make them that wide. It’s all very cyclical.

    I didn’t hear all the stories, I don’t know if I’d ever hear all of every story you’re there in, but I saw through the rip for awhile, and have never quite felt so close.

    To tie this in a different kind of knot, Nez you have become one of my favorite parts about my GU reality, and right now is a very unique time in which I get to see so clearly into yours. It showed me a lot of the girl I have gotten to know and bits that I didn’t, but also the whirling wisdom within you wondering what’s really what and how your working it out. (YES ALLITERATION). Thank you for your vulnerability.

  14. Joe M says:


    Here is a gem of a quote, “In true Zambian fashion, my arrival was just slightly later than I anticipated.”

    Thanks for sharing,
    –Joe, Zambezi alum ’09

  15. Daniel says:

    Hey Venezia, thank you. I miss you very much and hope to see you soon. Hope you’re having fun on your big adventure. PS: your writing is amazing.

  16. Katie Blackburn says:

    Beautiful, Venezia! You’re so right- such a deep need of the human heart is to be understood, connected. Keep growing 🙂

  17. Katie Blackburn says:

    Beautiful, Venezia!

  18. Kaumba says:

    HI venezia

    the conversation we had made me realize that i can also make it in life because we are all humans despite the differences in culture and life style.

    a bigger shout out to you and bree.

    kaumba, zambezi

  19. Kaumba says:

    Hi, Venezia

    thank you very much for the conversation we, it made me realize that i can also make it in life.

    a bigger shout out to you venezia and bree!

  20. John hyland says:

    Hi darling daughter this the 3rd try, I loved your powerful and insightful blog. Venezia you are wonderful and dear. Thank you for expressing you ideas so superbly. I love you , dad

  21. Soleil Hyland says:

    Hi Venezia!
    Your writing is wonderful! I hope you continue to immerse yourself and make the most of your time in Zambezi. I can’t wait for you to come home and share all of the stories and experiences you’ve had on your adventure! 🙂

  22. Zack Rosse says:

    Miss you so much Noozy! I am so happy for you and everyone.

  23. Maddie Schmitz says:

    Oh boy do I miss you. I could really use some of your weirdness right about now. This was such a wonderfully written post. I have been thinking and praying for your incredible self since the day you left. Beautiful things are happening for you. I have been so blessed to be able to experience your loving presence, but Zambia is in for real treat. Proud of you each and every day. Continue to set the world on fire. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Love you more than you know.

  24. Emily Handy says:

    NEZ! I have been waiting for this blog post and then I missed it! So so so unbelievably proud of you. You are incredible and I’m lucky to be your friend. I can’t wait to hear all about this, as much as you’re willing to share with me. I love you and miss you so much. There have been so many baby Instagrams I have wanted to tag you in. I’m so proud of you – keep being great.
    Love, Handy

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