This Mosquito That is Flying Around My Head Right Now I Hope Dies a Painful Death

Zambezi Sunset

Where do I start? In the past few days I’ve laughed, cried, made new friends, learned a new language, held my friends while they cried, taught a computer class, made nshima. Hell, in the past few hours I’ve bought Chitenge, danced, laughed, had an anxiety attack, listened to John Mayer, and dabbed. Life is moving at an extraordinary rate, but at the same time it seems to be almost still. While eating dinner a few hours ago, I felt enjoyably peaceful. There was no pressure or rush to do anything except tally up Surprise Butt Pinch’s attacks (context later). Perhaps this is the Magic of Africa Shakira so fondly talks of in her song Waka Waka (This Time for Africa).

If you ever want to feel incompetent, hang out with an African family for a day. Two days ago we all went to homestays with various families throughout Zambezi and mine sure was humbling. As soon as we got there Morgan Green and I started watering the family’s garden with the brother of our homestay mom, Vernon. After finishing, we gathered on the porch to make dinner. They had set up two outdoor charcoal stoves that we used to prepare, among other things, nshima (SHEE-muh) – a thick corn mush that the Zambians use to scoop up and eat their food. You start with boiling water and a few scoops of corn meal, and then begin stirring. Morgan and I were feeling pretty good about ourselves, stirring and scooping at our leisure, but when the water boiled, ohhhh when the water boiled, our character was tested. A one hand casual flick of the wooden spoon turned into a two handed mêlée with this corn meal beast. Grunts and snorts evacuated our body. As the children suppressed their laughter and mom frantically tried to reassure us, Shelly, the 13 year old wonder woman, ripped the spoon out of my hand and, full savage status activated, grabbed the red-hot pot with one hand and whipped the nshima with the other. Upon this display of pure authority and force you can’t help but feel useless. The next morning we had a similar experience as Shelly cleaned three dishes for every one of Morgan’s and mine. Shelly is the real MVP of Zambezi.

I think jet lag and post mono is hitting me in full force. I’ve slept three nights in a row in my day clothes and Chacos because by bedtime I’ve been so tired I didn’t care to take my shoes off, let alone change into something more comfortable. This was no different at my homestay. I’ve never been in such a new and stimulating experience before and physically not been able to stay awake. As we sat and made food and talked about our respective cultures with our homestay family I could not for the life of me keep my eyes open. I was mixing “Yes’s” and “Mmmhmm’s” with bouts of falling off my chair. It’s a miracle no one noticed because I imagined I looked drunk. I guess I held it together though because Shelly never intervened. The only comment I got was one from Morgan just before bed when she told me she was wondering why I suddenly stopped talking for 30 minutes.

Despite the fights with nshima and struggles to stay conscious I managed to have lovely time at my homestay. I was blessed with a beautiful family and a mom and dad who seemed to love us as much as they love their family and their culture. I have never been welcomed into a home so graciously and lovingly (except maybe my own home, mom you have stiff competition). A sign of hospitality in Zambia is to kill a village chicken and prepare it for your guests who come to dinner and they did this for us. As explained by my homestay mom, this is done for important guests so knowing that they did that for us made me feel very loved. We talked into the wee hours of the night as we gathered in the living room and de-kernelled the corn for tomorrow’s nshima. Previously mentioned Vernon and up and coming Zambezi rapper collaborated with Jimmy Mac as we tandem beat boxed and rapped. I learned lots about their culture and their politics and they were ever so full of questions for us. I felt a part of their family and a part of their culture and leaving the next morning was like leaving my cousin’s house when I was five years old. I will be visiting my homestay a lot during my three weeks here.

I could go on and on about all the experiences I have had recently and the trials and tribulations I have faced, but I simply will not write a 2000 word blog while falling asleep. Zambezi is a place full of immense joy and love amidst much pain. I hurt for myself who is so desperately trying to open my heart up to the people around me and I rejoice in the love and friendship the Zambians have shown me. I am in a beautiful place with beautiful people and beautiful friends to experience it with. A cracked chair that pinches your butt cheeks as you sit in it (aka Surprise Butt Pinch) has become a joke and lasting memory because of the joy my friends insist on showing around me. The tears will continue to flow and the love will continue to be poured out because we are in a good place, a place that I already know I will love and cherish until the day I die.

P.S. Love you mom and dad and all my fam bam hope you’re kicking some serious a$# over in America. I miss my dogs.

Me at my homestay with baby Grace

Morgan vs. Nshima

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8 Responses to This Mosquito That is Flying Around My Head Right Now I Hope Dies a Painful Death

  1. Katie Barger says:

    Hi Jimmy, I absolutely loved the rawness of your words. I felt like I was with you on your homestay/ reliving parts of my own. Katie Kenks, Dakota were very similarily defeated by nshima and got to watch the magic of that occurs when Zambian mamas encounter hot thick pots of nshima. I hope you continue learning and doing life with your homestay family and cherishing the little moments you have together!! After all, “life is moving at an extraordinary rate, but at the same time it seems to be almost still”- what a beautiful and accurate line. Kisu Mwane,
    -Katie Barger
    P.S. I hope to hear more about this butt pinching thing. You had me on the edge of my seat.
    P.S.S. Mo Money, you so cute. Miss you lots and I hope you find a mathematical formula to teach chindeles how to make nshima!
    P.P.S.S. MORGAN SMITH wow you are amazing and I love your words. I was traveling all day yesterday and my phone wasn’t letting me comment for some reason, but I wanted to wish you the courage to continue walking those fine lines and asking questions along the way. You do it so gracefully and with such humility. Hey it’s kinda like walking a tight rope, maybe a new function of that rick steve’s utility cord? Wow I hope you are having so much fun with that and showing friends all the cool tricks you can do with it! So fun!
    P.S.S.S. Wishing you all my love for your first week of classes!! I hope you find growth, confidence, humility, wisdom and, above all, kinship in both learning and teaching. In the wise words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” 😉

  2. IGD buddy says:

    You are truly great. Truly. Wasn’t it just yesterday that we walked out of IGD together and tried to make the last few minutes of Zam Slam? Unknowingly, you helped me in IGD when I was way out of my comfort zone. So…Thank you. Thank you for being your smiley, funny, encouraging, and thought provoking self. You were a friendly face that I always looked forward to seeing every Monday night and will dearly miss. The first day in IGD I remember sitting next to you and being completely amazed by your explanation about why you love music. Part of the explanation was- stories. From your blog, it looks like you have a few new stories of your own. Maybe with that music talent of yours, you can help to deconstruct the single story that a lot of people have of Africa and bring in the strength, the dignity, and the love that a few of your new Zambian friends have shown to you. Thank you, just like in IGD, for being your funny, encouraging, and thought provoking self in this blog post. I am so grateful to have met you and am very proud of you.
    Your IGD buddy.
    P.S. Not going to lie…slightly horrified to hear that you had mono before you left! Praying for you.
    P.S.S. Great photos! Nice title.
    P.S.S.S. If I am around and if you are around we need to go to at least one story slam next year!
    P.S.S.S.S. Trying to be as cool as Katie B with my P.S.S.S.S.S….But not possible because she is pretty cool.

  3. Molly Patricia Bosch says:

    Oh Jimmy, in a matter of minutes, you had me going from immense laughter to big fat tears. Your words are so hilarious and so real. I am so sorry to hear about the nshima-tastrophe, but hey, what is a trip to Zambezi without a little nshima mishap? I am so glad to see that you are learning so much from the amazing people around you. It is so important to stay in tune to all of the wonderful and powerful people like Shelly that surround you who can teach you so much about that place and what it is about. Thank you for unapologetically sharing your joys, struggles, and awkward moments thus far. I am so excited to hear about the ones to come. Much love my friend!

  4. Sophie Anton says:

    Thank you for a wonderful blog post! I am so happy to hear that you felt so welcomed through the homestays! I remember feeling the same and being in disbelief that the overwhelming feeling of welcome could come after only a few days in Zambezi! Keep soaking up those moments in your light-filled Jimmy way! I hope you are recovering from mono and please take care of yourself. I want to wish you and all of the computer teachers a great first week of classes. Jimmy, Valerie, Morgan, and Joe (I hope I didn’t miss anyone), you all will be such wonderful teachers and I know that the students couldn’t wait for the next round of teachers. Please give the students Dakota and my best!

  5. Katie says:

    Jimmy, what a beautiful, open, vulnerable, funny recounting of your experience. It reflects the person you are. I can’t wait to hear more details when you return! Much love from Vancouver, Washington -probably feels like light years away from where you are now! Love, katie (your sister)

  6. Ann Wiegardt says:

    HI Jimmy, Thanks for the very visual and heartfelt description of Zambia. It is always so amazing how people in a different culture can be so open and loving. Of course you are so easy to be open and loving to. Are you taking lots of photos? What a fabulous experience you are having. Katie, Paul and your mom are supposed to come for a visit next week. Much love to you! Aunt Ann

  7. April McGinley says:

    Dearest Jimmy, thank you for holding little Grace in your picture. She is adorable and I know so much joy for you is found in the sweet unincumbered innocence of the little children. So much heart felt explaination in your post. I can picture it so well along with your laughter and huge smile on your face. It gives me comfort that another “Mamma” will make my son feel special. You are in so many ways and to so many people.
    We are fine here and starting to enjoy the summer. We’ll always be here for you. The dogs miss you, too.

  8. Joe says:

    You look really good. Have you been going to the tanning salon much?

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