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.
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