Wanna go for a run?

Yesterday Jessica and I were walking to the bus at the Zambia Airport in the back of everyone else. I started a new conversation, expressing to Jess that I was considering asking Elly to start the wheel of jobs in a way where I would write the blog post in a few weeks. I didn’t feel called to write first (probably out of fear, honestly) and I was eager to say something about it. Jess expressed the same, but ultimately told me that my (our) time to write the blog post would come at the right time meant for us. So, hello. Here I am, writing the first student blog post of the trip.

Yesterday we flew to Lusaka from Dubai, exchanged our US dollars to kwacha, and saw the Gonzaga Chamber Choir rehearse a couple of performances with the Sacred Heart Choir. It was really neat to see both choirs in Lusaka. Their hearts were shared as they sang with great power throughout the church. The echoes of their voices and smiles on their faces brought tears to my eyes. Jimmy sang with the choir for one of the songs. He had the biggest smile on his face. That made me emotional too. As the choirs sang together, I witnessed togetherness between my home in Spokane and my new home here in Zambezi. Well, it wasn’t Zambezi being represented in song, but still, Zambia – another community and culture different than my own. I saw that connectedness and love could be shared so easily through sharing oneself with others. I must do this now, too.

I woke up at 4:30 this morning with Mogan and Mack in the Flying Missions Guesthouse. LeBrun and Jimmy were already up – we’ve been a bunch of early risers so far. Three bush planes left as the sun was rising. I, along with eight others were scheduled to leave at noon once two planes had returned from the morning flights. We watched the three planes take off this morning. The planes were a lot smaller than I thought they were going to be.

Our group watches the sunrise as they wait for their 6am departure to Zambezi.

After the morning group had left for Zambezi, Jess, Elly, and I climbed the water tower right near where the planes takeoff. This is when I have felt most myself on the trip so far – when I was climbing. In climbing pretty consistently this past year, this morning I lead the climb confidently. Danger, risk, and the unknown were nowhere on my mind as I reached the top.   It was awesome.

Jess and I on top of the waterpower – great photo skills, Elly!

I wouldn’t say I feel in danger, but I have been thinking of risk and the unknown a lot while being here in Zambezi. I fear it. I wonder if my interactions and experience here will feel as easy, liberating, and affirming as climbing did. As I got out of the bush plane, children swarmed to greet me. Quite ruthless, they fought over my hands and arms. I was silent almost all of this time. I want to be louder, or at least, comfortable with the idea of being louder if I desire to be.

Father Baraza has shared an African Proverb with me four times now. It goes like this: Every morning in Africa a Giselle wakes up. It knows it has to run so fast; otherwise it will become the food of somebody. Every morning a lion wakes up and knows that it has to run so fast, otherwise it will die of starvation. And in this case it is not a question of if it is the Giselle or the lion. The fact is that when morning comes, you better start running.


With dirt on my feet, I am ready to run.


Kisu Mwane,

Kelen Ahearn

Class of 2019


P.S. We are all safe, sound, and doing well here in Zambezi. I am really excited to experience these next weeks with everyone.

P.P.S. Mom, Dad, Lauren, Erin, and Sean, I hope you are all doing well! I am thinking of you often and am already very excited to share the stories behind the pictures I already have of being only a couple days away. Erin, enjoy every moment of your confirmation weekend – I will be praying for you as you begin another chapter of your spiritual journey. Lauren, congrats on almost being done with finals! Enjoy your last moments at HNA, prom, and graduation. I will be thinking of you this coming week a whole lot. Sean, best of luck as you finalize your role in the play and perform soon. Break a leg! Mom and Dad, thank you for everything, I am so thankful for you. Enjoy all of the celebrations coming soon. I love you all and cannot wait to hear how you are doing. #soon6again

P.P.S. I think everyone is sleeping in the convent right now. I can hear celebration, drums, yelling, song, and voices in the distance. I just got a very strong urge for a dance party. Until next time!

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Wanna go for a run?

  1. Molly Patricia Bosch says:

    Well well well, miss Kelen Ahearn. How you bring me back to the sights and sounds of those first days. I am thinking of you all in that happy place where yellow walls of love squeeze you all so tightly each and every day. As I sit here in the nasty humidity of Boston, I cannot help but remember how hard it was to adjust to the sweat that was constantly covering my body during those first hours. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it. And the second you all start smelling, embrace the heck out of it — that means adventure is happening! I love the heck outta you girl, and I am so happy to see that your words are the first to welcome us all into your experience. So excited to see how this journey unfolds for you all. Hugs to Lebrun, Grant, Ethan, Taylor, Sooyoun, Jimmy, Jess, and all the other lovely souls over there. Also tell Elly I say Bly Blelly Bly Blove Blue! Kisu mwane friends!

  2. Sophie Anton says:

    What a beautiful first student blog! I got chills reading your words and imagining you in a place I find so dear. I have always been blown away by your ability to speak with such authenticity and I hope you know your words mean so much to all those following you through this journey. Kelen, your ability to already set goals about being loud if you feel comfortable to do so amazes me! Please know that some of the greatest moments can come if you are silent and choose to listen. Don’t let go of this wonderful side of you because you are one of the most intentional listeners I know. I know this ability of yours will make way for experiences that you will cherish and hold on to. I’m sending all my love to you and the rest of your group! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences with all of us back in the states!

  3. Emily Handy says:

    Wow friends. What I would give to be back in those yellow walls and concrete floors. Remember to always get to reflection early so you can snag a good seat and your butt doesn’t end up on those concrete floors for the next hour.

    Miss Kelen, so happy to hear you were able to find some of that climbing comfort so far away. That confidence that you speak of is so easily craved and so difficult to find in a world that is so foreign sometimes. But I guarantee you that you are already shining with it. You have so much to give and even more to receive.

    To both of my Morgans and my Madeleine Pauline, you’re here! You did it! Desperately waiting to hear the words you will all write that will surely give me goosebumps like these did. All my love to you ladies and the rest of the ZamFam. This is just the beginning.

    Kisu mwane,
    Emily Handy

  4. Jeffrey Dodd says:

    Kelen! So happy (though not surprised) to see that you are already challenging yourself to grow. Keep pressing in that, but don’t forget to extend grace to yourself.

    I was happy to read that subtle voice of yours, and I can’t wait to hear how you find opportunities to turn up the volume!

    Have a great homestay, and embrace those dirty feet. They’ll carry you far.

    Run on.


  5. RA Katie says:


    Thanks for your words and insights and for being the first student to share. Like many others, I refreshed the page all day in anticipation. I actually saw your post like four seconds after it was posted but I held back until now because I didn’t want to be the creepiest again.

    Kel-dawg (has that caught on yet?), I could hear your voice and your laugh through this post. Do you remember talking about Zambia last year in room 213? You were ready to hit the ground running then and you’re even better prepared now. I’m so excited for you to see and walk and run and love Zambezi in your kindhearted, loyal, fiercely protective, energetic way. I can’t wait to hear about it.

    This first breakfast together in Zambezi is something special. I can almost picture you all now, crowded around those tables pushed together in that big yellow room. Are your toes sandy yet? Did you take your malaria pill? Does the oven still sound like there’s something living in it? Elly, do you remember our first morning last year? I think I cried the whole breakfast just knowing that we made it. I’m re-reading We Need New Names and a line from it reminded me of that moment: “We’re hungry but we’re together and we’re at home and everything is sweeter than dessert.”

    You’re home, Zags. Start running.

    Kisu mwane,

  6. Moira Andrews says:

    Hello my dear friend. Thank you for your honest and beautiful words. I’m imagining you Elly and jess climbing that water tower and am overcome with laughter and tears of joy. I’m sure that view was spectacular. I am glad to hear that you all made it safely to Zambezi. I remember hearing music and singing through the night too, it’s one of the things I miss the most. Zambezi never sleeps. It’s always lively and full of song, thank you for bringing me back there. Kelen I can’t wait to hear how this new home will grow on you, how you’ll be challenged and how you’ll grow comfortable and confident like you feel with climbing. I love and miss you.
    Always and kisu mwane,
    Moira Andrews
    PS: To all the Zags, you made it! Have fun, ask questions, dance often, let the tears fall, and know there are lots of people over here thinking of you and singing along with you.

  7. Hannah Van Dinter says:

    Kelen (oh gosh, I almost submitted this as “Helen”),

    Your sense of readiness shined through in your post, and what a beautiful thing that is! Your time in Zambezi will be full, but it will go so dang fast, so start running and climbing and jumping and talking to people and practicing your greetings and crying with your roommates if you need to. Josh says it all too often, but the idea of holding tensions in balance is so applicable in Zambia. Practicing your greetings and talking to Zambians must be done in tandem with a lot of listening. Going on morning runs must be done only if you are also sleeping, hydrating, and taking enough time for yourself. Supporting your fellow Zam Fam must be done in conjunction with sharing your own needs and desires and struggles and longings. With a few days in your new home, you will start to find the balance and you will start to find a truer love for the place you’re in and the people you’re with. I AM SO EXCITED FOR YOU.

    Much love,

    P.S. If any of you meet a very old man from Mize named Chiwala, become his friend- he is the best.

  8. Tyler Hamke says:


    I am so glad you all made it safe and there were no bush plane…adventures…(Molly, Dakota, Jenifer). You did such a great job summarizing the apprehensions that comes with entering this new space and the combination of fear and hope that accompany that. Writing the first post can be daunting but you did a wonderful job! You will have time and the space to experience all of those emotions over the month, I encourage you to live in each of those feelings and let it sink in. Look around and feel the love that these yellow walls and your very seat that has held so many Zags before you and fallen in love with Zambezi as you are about to. Know we are all here thinking of you and wishing you the best.

    Go be a gazelle or a lion, I never really figured out which one we were supposed to be in that proverb…

    -Tyler Hamke

    P.S. Odds are that party is still going this morning and you should go find it! Show off some dance moves chindelle.

  9. katie p again, sorry says:

    PS – give the mamas huge hugs from me. Soak up as much as you can from them and ask a million questions. Tell Katendi she can take a nap in my bed while I stir dinner anytime 🙂

  10. Matt Clark says:

    Hello chindeles!
    In the midst of your first 24 hours in Zambezi, I hope that the whirlwind of your arrival brought peace in knowing that you are here, and this journey is real. The coming days will be full of tiny hands and big hearts, all excited to meet you and learn about who you are – embrace these opportunities to connect with the community around you, laugh with each other, and take a walk allowing the sand of the streets to fill your chacos.

    Kelen – I read this hoping that you would be one of the first with an opportunity to write your thoughts, knowing how anxious you were the night before you left for Dubai. In the last five days (can you believe it’s been that long?) you’ve had the opportunity to walk on three continents, and now here you are – ready to run. I hope these next weeks confidence in not only embrace the physical dangers and climbs in your life, but also the mental and emotional ones in this journey. Like Father Baraza says, lions and gazelles both need to run, and you will have opportunities to be both as your time in Zambezi progresses.

    Taylor, Grace, Grant, LeBrun, Chase, Elly, Jessica, Jimmy – I can’t wait to read all of your thoughts and emotions about this amazing place as well. Dr. Josh, I know your days so far have been filled with laughter, and cannot wait to hear about the new and old friends you connect with – I’ll be watching Zambezi Hot News for all the gossip.

    I hope the faded yellow walls of the convent are bright this morning as you gather around the patchwork table eating jungle oats and fruit salad, and know that Mama Violet and Mama Katendi’s soft smiles will provide peace as you begin your first full day in Zambezi.

    Kisu mwane, friends. Sending you all my love.

  11. Katie Kenkel says:

    I’ve tried posting comments three separate times, but the computer at my hostel will not let me. I will keep trying until it works if it’s the last thing I do, gosh darnit.

    Okay anywho

    Kelen- your post was beautiful. I am so happy that you were able to make the connection between climbing at home and here in Zambia. I hope you are able to continue doing so throughout your time in Zambezi. Your time certainly will be filled with unknowns, but I hope you can find peace in the unanswered questions. I have no doubt that you will wake up every morning ready to run, and I know that your Zamfam will be ready to run with you.

    Taylor and Grace- you made it. Finally. My heart is SO happy knowing that you are finally home. Just as Jess told Kelen that the blog would come to her at the time that was meant for her, I believe Zambezi has come to the both of you at the time it was meant for you. Say hi to her for me.

    All, it was so wonderful to see you in Lusaka the other night. It brought me so much comfort. Thank you. I was so happy to see how excited and curious you were already- so early in your trip.

    I am sitting in the living room of my hostel, and it is the same color yellow as the convent. I am typing this with tears of joy in my eyes, imagining you all sitting at the puzzle of a dining room table, reading these comments.

    You’ve finally made it. Now start running.

    Much love from Lusaka. Kisu mwane, my friends.

    Katie Kenkel

  12. Caroline Till says:


    I AM SO HAPPY TO HEAR FROM YOU! Like Katie said, I can hear your voice and your laugh in your writing. It is great to know that you’re still climbing 🙂 I’m so excited for you to embark on this amazing adventure and I am anxiously awaiting the time when I can listen to all of your stories. Know that I am thinking of you and the rest of the group often. Give Elly a big hug from me!

    Lots of love,

  13. Christi Smith says:

    Dearest Kelen, So thrilled to receive the post and learn of your first day in
    Zambia after a long but safe journey. So much to discover, learn, share and
    experience. You will make memories and friends that will be in your heart
    forever. Remember when we wrote to all of you in the “Re-imagining Africa”
    class. “We’re hoping that you will. at some time, pursue the opportunity to
    travel to Africa and discover the beauty and awe that that continent holds”.
    Happy, blessed discovery. Hugs. Christi and Gil

Comments are closed.