Home Away From Home

As I walk up to the distorted metal gate, fine sand in my shoes, and the irregular cobblestone-like porch I step up to the creaky wooden door and open it. I walk in, there are the grey floors with the contrasting black stove in the opposite left corner, walk-in pantry to the left, double-sink and refrigerator to the right, and a quaint set of double doors entering to an large, open worn-down yellow room. To the right is a wing of rooms filled with beds covered by mosquito nets and to the left, a storage closet, a few more rooms and two classrooms that echoed with the chatter of students during the first week of classes. Welcome to the convent, welcome to our home.

For the past week, we have settled and made our mark on what is our home for the next two weeks. The custard yellow surroundings speaks volumes of the incredible people inhabiting the walls of this place from novel quotes, morning inspirations, affirmation posters, and a personal goals wall. In particular, honoring not only each other, but also the community that has so graciously embraced us as we arrived, our community agreement epitomizes the ambitions we collectively strive towards in our time in Zambezi: honesty, authenticity, intentionality, meaningful and wise use of time, respect for the human person, and of course, fun.

IMG_4706Its kind of ironic that after ten days being away from the States, countless conversations, and witnessing simplicity of such a happy place, I struggle to fully accept where I am at. I give credit to the relationships that transcend my current place in time to those who walked the rugged sandy roads, irregularly power surging halls of the convent, and the undertone of love pulsing from handshakes and greetings surmounting to ten years of cross-cultural interactions.

I spoke with Simako, a young twelve-year-old boy who told me he wanted to be a teacher. He attends school in the morning and the afternoons are spent singing, dancing, and learning how to read with some of the remarkable people I have the pleasure of knowing on this journey. Witnessing the struggle and success of Simako throughout his day has been one of the most impacting experiences I have had yet in Zambezi. I look back at the time I have spent at Gonzaga and am reminded how fortunate I am to have received the education I have thus far. As I sat listening to the aspirations Simako shared with me, I am dismayed in the moments over the past four years of recoiling from something academically associated because it wasn’t motivating. Simako speaks of his goal to learn enough to pass that knowledge to those after him. It is a gift to have a newly found appreciation and motivation for the education I received. What makes my friendship with Simako as meaningful as his longing to learn is throughout the restlessness, distance and struggle God gives me a gift in the form friendship: “Do you know Cecilia?” Simako asked me. Immediately, I flashback to my friendship back in Spokane with a fellow Zag and Zambezi Alum. The subtle reminder of the people that I am continuously surrounded by in Zambezi can create a sense of belonging in an unfamiliar place.


IMG_4712At dinner tonight in the living room of our convent lit by the unequally distributed power lighting and yellow walls hugging our family, we set the multiple, oddly shaped and configured wooden desk tables for what is to be a meal full of more stories and laughter. Upon the conclusion of dinner, we recognize an esteemed individual who has made an impact on our time here in Zambezi. Father Dominic, received affirmation regarding his selfless heart, compassionate spirit, and his ability to attack each day with a vigor that inspires us to do the same. Father Dominic quelled some of the initial nerves I had regarding my time in Zambezi by uniting our family in the first moments in Africa, becoming my first familiar face here. I hold this quote dear to my time in this remarkable place: “It is not the length of life, but the depth of life” by Ralph Waldo Emerson. With Father Dom’s departure quickly approaching, I am challenged again to make the most of the deep connections Zambezi has to offer for the short time that I am here.

At the conclusion of dinner Father Dom makes his round of goodbyes, journaling commences, and the dishes are being done to familiar American tunes, another peaceful reminder of how close home can be.

Each night we conclude with a guided reflection that triggers dialogue to further analyze the tension in our vastly different experiences in Zambia. Tonight, we revisited our community agreement and deconstructed where we as a family are thriving and where we could use some growth. Themes ranged this evening as we hit points of tension and resolution regarding our first week together as a group. Emotions ran high when recognizing the beauty in struggle and overcoming cultural and domestic adversities that challenged each of our perspectives on actions and words. Elly spoke of the language of love and just as different tongues can unite through love, our family experienced love as the universal language of hope and desire for our best selves.

I am writing this blog from the irregular cobblestone-like porch of our home when I look out and see the moonlit courtyard in front of me. It brings me great ease that Zambezi has provided a safe place to call home because, after all, when we look up and admire the moon in the evening, hear a familiar name, make a mutual transcontinental friendship, or listen to American music in the kitchen, it makes our loved ones seem that much closer in a place we’ve all learned to call home.

PS: We will be traveling to a rural village outside of Zambezi this weekend. We will be returning Sunday evening and will resume blog posts then. Have a great weekend!


Kisu Mwane and Go Zags,


Zachary Chelini, Class of 2016


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22 Responses to Home Away From Home

  1. Peter Sherman says:


    You have managed to bring me right back to that musty, old, drafty, wonderfully homey convent. I sure do miss that place, and it makes me smile real big to think that you all are making unforgettable memories within that yellow living room that you can now call a piece of home. It’s strange to think how an old convent that you live in for three short weeks begins to captivate your heart and your soul. But, as you so perfectly explicated in your blog, when you begin to invest your time, knowledge, curiosity, and love into this new community, you leave pieces of your heart everywhere you go, and that’s what makes these people feel like family, and this place feel like home.

    Sending lots of love to you all as you depart for Dipalata this weekend (I’m assuming that’s where you are headed??)!! I hope your experience is fruitful, and not poop-full like ours was last year LOLOL! Take care of each other. Miss you guys.


  2. Joshua says:

    Thanks, Zac. I’m now officially homesick for Zambezi. I’m guessing you will all see the convent in a new light after the weekend in Dipalata.


  3. Dan Anton says:

    Great hearing about where you are living, and seeing pictures of your home. Hope you have safe travels this weekend. You all are in our thoughts and prayers. Woke up this morning to snow in McCall. Love, the Anton Family.

  4. Joanna says:


    Wow. That literally made me smile. Thank you for walking me back through that familiar convent, mosquito nets and all. I’m so happy you, and the rest of the Zags, are finding Zambezi to be home. Enjoy the weekend in Dipalata. I love that place and it is still one of my favorite memories from my Zambian experience Make sure to look at the stars, they are as bright and beautiful as ever!

    Safe travels and I’m looking forward to the next blog!

  5. Venezia says:

    Zac- another wonderful post byt another incredible human. Your reflection was aunthentic and I encourage you to continue all the love that the convent and its inhabitants give you (like even from the cockaroaches and mysterious things that live in the ceiling). It is all so beautiful and raw and often challenging, but you will never forget the laughter and joy that comes from that building.

    Good luck to all of you in dipalata. (Warning: if you feel like you’re getting sick, use the bathrooms because the fields have snakes in them. But I guess if you want a little excitement, it might be worth a shot. Just kidding. Don’t do that.) enjoy the music!


  6. Tori Chelini says:

    I’m so proud of you and everything you have accomplished so far in your life. Zambezi is an amazing opportunity and I know you will make the most of each day. You inspire me everyday to do what I love. I can’t thank you enough for being one of my best friends. I love you and miss you mucho.
    Your baby sister,
    Tori B.

    P.S- Papa says he is very impressed. 🙂

  7. Hannah Van Dinter says:

    Zachary, I have been waiting for the day you write the blog!! I too wrote my blog post on that cobblestone (ish) porch (isn’t it so weird how many connections there are, 10,000 miles away). Thank you Zac, and everyone who has written so far, for using such vivid imagery to capture your experience! Love you Zac and team- Dipalata hopefully won’t become a “Shit-a-lot-a” trip for you guys! I’d recommend bringing an extra roll of toilet paper and some hand sani with you, just in case. Kisu mwana, Hannah

  8. Dori chelini says:

    I started reading the blog and quickly scrolled down to see if it was you! So excited, I am drawn to Zambia through your beautiful description. I can hear the sounds, see the room, feel the excitement. You painted a beautiful picture with your words. We were all sitting together Saturday morning, Dad, Papa, Tori and I. I read the blog out loud to them. We are all so proud of you. What an amazing journey you are on, not just miles away, but within yourself, I know you are embracing everything Zambia has to offer. I am so thankful for the picture of your meal together, I am anxious about what and how you are eating. Praying for you and look to the moon! love you forever! Mom

  9. Monica Dyakanoff says:

    So excited for you and your adventures. I have dreamed of going to Africa all of my life and am loving your blog. We are proud of you and we love you ❤

  10. Zac,
    This is incredible to read. I am SO happy for you, you finally made it to Africa! Congrats on all of your success! You have inspired me over the years in many ways & I am forever grateful for that.
    God bless!
    Kendall Hollinger

  11. Caroline says:


    You are such a gifted writer. I had felt I was right there, embarking on an adventure that will change my life. I am proud of your good work and your leadership. But most if all, proud of passion.

    Safe travels and we’re all looking forward to more pictures and writing!

  12. Tamara Perera says:

    What an amazing experience you are having. It is a blessing to be able to see your adventure through your eyes. Thanks for sharing this experience with us. Can’t wait the hear of your coming days and the things you will be seeing and doing. Have a great time!

  13. Shellie Phillips says:

    Thank you all for writing so beautifully and evoking a place I have never been. Everyday I eagerly read each new post and comments–you are all surrounded by a cloud of encouraging witnesses! Davis, the boys lost the first game to Vashin Island 5-3 so the state run ends. Some tears for those seniors. Celebrating Grandma and Papa’s 60th anniversary this week. Praying for your entire team-all my love Mom

  14. Nancy & Scott says:

    Thank you all for such moving and inspiring stories from your Zambezi adventure. The journal entries are so vivid and descriptive that I feel like I am sharing in your amazing adventure, even though we are far away in Portland, Or.
    This is the gift of a lifetime, to be on this trip, and to be able to serve and learn, and have a remarkable adventure too.
    Matthew we are proud of you, and hope you are having a wonderful time! Sending tons of love and good wishes from Oregon!

  15. Karley Baggerly says:

    Awesome post!

    MEG RAPP- I MISS YOU SO MUCH. Hope you are having an awesome time 🙂 I tell everyone that I have this cool friend who is in Africa getting the experience of a lifetime. I cannot wait to hear all the stories! Spo is not the same without you. I’m with the Waltier’s and they all say hi!


  16. Sue and Kurt Hamke says:

    Thank you for the blogs! They do an amazing job of giving those of us that have never been there a sense of where you are and how you are doing. Your insights on the experience are thought-provoking and I find myself reflecting on them throughout my day. All of you are in my thoughts and prayers.

    Tyler, we love you and are so proud of you. I hope the stove project is working out as you and the engineering team envisioned. Love, Mom and Dad

  17. Kim Mazzolini says:

    You are so very fortunate to have this opportunity. As difficult and humbling as it is you will emerge a better person with perspective that many of us will never accomplish. Emerge yourself in culture and open your heart to all. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your mission.
    Love you and are so proud of you

  18. Kenzie Fuller says:


    So sorry this comment is coming in so late…biochemistry is taking over my life. Your post brought tears to my (and Donna’s) eyes. You brought me right back to a place that I know I will call home for the rest of my life. Thank you for sharing pieces of your joys and struggles. I cannot wait for our long talks at Tahoe sharing more than pieces of these joys and struggles. I miss you and hope you are continuing to build trusting relationships, say yes, give yourself the time that you need to decompress, and accept the love that surrounds you. Sending all my love to you!

    P.S. The whole Fuller Fam says hi!

  19. Kenzie Fuller says:


    Sorry it has taken me so long to comment here…biochemistry is taking over my life. Your post brought tears to my (and Donna’s eyes). Thank you for bringing me back to a place that I will call home for the rest of my life. I miss it every day and you helped me relive some beautiful moments. Thank you also for sharing a piece of your joys and struggles with us! I am excited for days at Tahoe when we really dig deeper into our joys and struggles. In these next few days in Zambezi, I hope you continue to build trusting relationships, sing and dance your heart out, give yourself the time you need to decompress, and accept the love that surrounds you. Sending all my thoughts and love your way!

    P.S. The whole Fuller Fam says hi!

  20. Joseph Chelini says:

    Very much enjoying the comments, they add much to the Blog. It is difficult to add more depth to what I have read. My comment is to express how much you have and are achieving under sometimes very stressful circumstances. “Who-Rah.” That which you are experiencing in Zanbia is one you will never forget. Glad to be your Papa. Be safe.

  21. Zac–
    What a wonderful opportunity to experience life in a foreign country. Enjoy every minute, absorb the culture, and take lots of pictures and notes as this will be a trip you will always remember. We are anxious to hear the stories and learn of your experiences. Take care and be safe.

    Love you–

  22. Zac–
    What a wonderful opportunity to experience life in a foreign country. Enjoy every minute, absorb the culture, and take lots of pictures and notes as this will be a trip you will always remember. Take care and be safe.

    Love you–

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