To be perfectly blunt, I’m not sure what I’m not afraid of. I don’t do well with big bodies of water. I don’t like bridges. I am not a fan of flying or being in small confined spaces. I have major FOBLC (fear of being late to class). I can’t stand when my feet are dirty, especially when getting into bed. Like most people, I always worry about showing raw emotion or looking like a fool. My list is long and agonizing, which makes me embarrassed to see how I’ve allowed myself to be held back by so many things. A wise soul once told me that his biggest fear is to live a life full of fear. Well, I’m proud to say that Zambezi has forced me to move past my fears, mostly because I haven’t had a choice.
During our first weekend we made a stop at the Chinyingi suspension bridge on our way to Dipalata. It was my chance to face many fears head on. I took my first step on the rickety suspension bridge as I breathed in deeply throughout each sway back and forth. All I could think about were the cold, crocodile-infested waters that lay below me. In front of me was Mama Violet, crossing without an ounce of nerves, in her blue, floral Chitengi. A woman balancing a basket on her head gave a slight nod as we crossed paths. She wasn’t clinging to the side or showing any signs of anxiety. She passed with ease and grace, showing that she had done it millions of times before. Another man came past us walking his bike across. As I continued with my deep breaths and tentative steps I gazed out
over the Zambezi River in awe. I realized that I had been wasting away this beautiful life I have been given as I hid behind my many fears. I questioned how many other breathtaking moments I have missed out on because of small anxieties and worries.
Allowing fear to control our lives is a privilege. The Zambians we passed by on the bridge cross without concern because they don’t have the luxury to do so. Crossing this bridge might mean the chance to sell their goods at a different market or it might be the path to school. This bridge was a fun experience for our group (or at least some of our group), but for Zambians this bridge is essential to life. I’ve had the liberty to live behind my wall of fears; many others have not.
During our second week in Zambezi, our health team traveled to Kalendola, a bush village, to teach a general health class and hand out menstrual kits. It was truly a day where nothing went according to plan. Our jeep was already packed to capacity with our health team, Jeff, Jenny, Sophie, Meg, Emily and Mama Love’s posse, so when we were unexpectedly instructed to make an hour detour to visit some fish ponds, I felt stressed that our already long and jam-packed day was being extended. The chaos only continued as our general health lesson in the sweltering sun changed from one hour to three due to loads of questions and pressure to cover all the requested topics. Under the canopy trees, men sat on benches and tables while the women sat on the ground surrounded by their children. The men would continually snap at the women to better control the rambunctious children, taking no responsibility for helping care for their children. My heart ached for the women who were trying to calm the children and also benefit from the lesson like the men. I struggled to witness the complicit gender roles playing out before me in that moment. We continued on with our lesson, trying to act oblivious to the tension before us.
Already feeling frustrations with what the day had thrown at me, I was nearly pushed over the edge when it came time for our menstrual talk for the school girls, only to discover that the girls were in school, uninformed that we were there. Instead a hundred locals, both men and women, swarmed us trying to receive the gifts we had brought. Moira, Molly, Jenny and I were in a tight spot trying to decide if we should pick 20 people to receive the kits, not hand out any kits since they are intended for school girls, or try to find a way to get to the school girls. Excuse my French, but I was losing my shit. Of course our day finished with even more chaos because in addition to the 14 people crammed in the car, we had an additional goat, chicken, three 60kg bags of maize and a multitude of pumpkins. With the maize and pumpkins tied on top of the car and the goat and chicken stuffed under the seat, we headed off! It only took a few minutes down the road for the bar of the car top carrier to break and the pumpkins to come tumbling down the hood.
It is within the Zambian nature to accept that nothing will go according to plan, so my Type A self of course struggled with this aspect of Zambezi. I am the person who makes a list for everything, and at the top of every list is “make a list” so I can proudly check it off and have immediate satisfaction. I’m all about routines, schedules and efficiency. Well, Zambezi, you have truly shaken up my world as not a single day has passed without any hiccups. With each wrong turn our day took in Kalendola, I began to recognize that my underlying fear in life is not being in control.
Back in Zambezi, not a single health class went according to plan because our students would always roll in late and Chiwala, our favorite 83-year-old grandpa, would consistently interrupt with rants about his time as a Freedom Fighter or his ancestors. Many meals were changed to accommodate the fluctuating power and water so we learned to be flexible with our evening schedules. I would love to say that I routinely showered every night but honestly I think I showered maybe five times on this trip because the water always shut out right as I was hopping in – that also means I slept with dirty feet. Not a single health team trip went according to plan. On one occasion we crossed the Zambezi river, drove down many bumpy roads, and accidently crossed a federal border to finally reach a primary school in Mize, only to find that school was canceled due to the elections. So, we got cokes in the market and laughed at another curveball thrown our way. The short reception that Chileña school gave for us turned into a two-hour dance party at 10am. Nothing has gone as I expected but I have learned to love that.
I’ve learned that my life is much richer when I’m not in control. There have been so many surprises thrown that have brought smiles and memories. My time in Zambezi has been so fulfilling because I’ve left it all in God’s control. At such a developmental time in my life, I am constantly questioning what direction my life is headed in, so it’s been so refreshing to be in a place that has taught me to stop worrying about controlling every aspect, but instead let my life play out in the way that it is intended. My mom always told me growing up, if He leads you to it, He’ll lead you through it. I’ve recognized that Zambians live by this saying through their ability to move past any circumstances and enjoy them along the way. Considering the grave challenges they’ve been presented with and successfully moved past, I know that I can do the same. So here I am, saddened that this journey is coming to an end, but thrilled to begin living a life free of fear and total control.
Class of 2016
To our family, friends, and avid blog followers:
We are back safe from our overnight safari! We enjoyed seeing the breathtaking Chobe National Park and sleeping in a tent amongst our new animal friends. We got to see elephants, hippos, crocodiles, lions, baboons, and even birds (only Jeff was excited about that). In Livingstone we also enjoyed getting showered by Victoria Falls and high tea at a fancy hotel that we didn’t fit in it. We are sad that our journey is wrapping up but excited to see our loved ones. These wonderful people have made me more grateful than ever to be a Zag.
PS- Mom and Dad- I am Zambian Bug free, just experiencing some hives! Love and miss you both, can’t wait to see you soon!
PPS- To the wise soul- can’t wait to be home putting our toes in the sand together!