Laughing Through Zambezi

As I sit down and reflect on my experiences in Zambezi, the moments in which I find comfort, purpose, and connection are through the shared laughter that I am experiencing so consistently during my time here. Yeah, yeah, I get it, I laugh a lot so clearly it doesn’t take much to get a giggle (or cackle) out of me. But bear with me here for a moment.

Today, Tuesday May 30th, marks the two-week point in our trip- we are halfway through. During these short weeks we have been some busy bodies. The Zags have seen the Burj Khalifa and toured the over-the-top city that is Dubai. We have successfully traveled from Lusaka to Zambezi in six person bush planes that reminded me of the size of a Honda Civic, to be embraced so hospitably by the Zambezi community. I am not sure I will ever feel more welcomed in a place that is so foreign to me. We have been given the opportunity to witness and learn from the strength the Mamas here uphold with such poise and pride. We have been given the role of teachers in various classrooms in order to learn more about this community and about ourselves and how we communicate. We have ventured on very low riding boats across the Zambezi River (very fearful of falling into waters which may or may not contain crocodiles). We have taken an ox-cart “shortcut” road to Dipalata, which took a major toll on our three cars as well as our bodies. We have partaken in circumcision celebrations, and attending a “Welcome Home From the Hospital” celebration for mother and child, which included baby powder being dumped on our heads. We have been confused and frustrated and we have been shown authenticity and genuine love.

Mwamba, her two children Natalie and Emmanuel, and her niece Given who welcomed me for a homestay.

I am not much of a journal-er, maybe due to laziness or maybe due to just wanting to take in the moment instead of feeling obligated to document it. But I have been working to be intentional about writing about my experience here as this is something I will want to remember. I want to remember not necessarily the specific day-to-day events but how I was feeling and the questions I was struggling with. Will teaching storytelling to these seventh graders be relevant in their lives? What am I getting out of this and what are these community members? Could I have been more present in that moment? I want to remember where I was taken aback or where I was reforming my thought processes or my beliefs. I have been flipping through my journal to look for words to express how I am feeling, and reading notes I have been given by some of the children here as well as reading though student work from my grade seven class at Chilenga. And I am sitting here smiling and laughing at the moments I have had and how much I look forward to the many more outbreaks of laughter there are to come. There are countless moments I could share now, but here are some that come to mind:

  • Feeling as if we were sinking into the Zambezi River with an overloaded boat as the man rowing us along had beads of sweat dripping down his face

Even with the risk of falling, look at that sunset

  • Morgan Green’s bloodcurdling scream in the backseat of our Land Cruiser after Fr. Baraza was inches away from hitting us in the beat down Suzuki (it’s funny now… I promise)
  • The narration of animal planet as we analyze the enormous bugs on our ceiling each night
  • Dishwashing dance parties to Peanut Butter Jelly
  • Lydia’s sailor’s mouth coming alive as she trips on the not-so-stable metal suspension bridge at Chinyingi
  • Taylor’s incredible, ridiculous laugh as she falls once again in an attempt to dance and learn the Charleston
  • Asking the question What is your favorite place? and reading a student’s written journal answer as “a little bitch” when his verbal response was “at the beach” (We are still working on spelling…)

I had hold in some laughter as I read this over his shoulder 🙂

I am constantly overwhelmed with thankfulness for the people around me who make me laugh and who laugh alongside me. These days can take a toll on you if you choose to sit in the discomfort and the feeling of privilege instead of asking questions, listening for answers (which may not always come), having a laugh, and moving forward. That is where I have found the most growth.

This experience is one of the best decisions I have made while it has also not been the easiest one. As I boarded the 14 hour plane ride from Seattle to Dubai I felt doubtful of myself and my abilities and wondered if it would have been better to just return home to Minnesota instead of such an unfamiliar place. Yet that doubt has slowly been fading through the shared laughs alongside Zags and the Zambezi community. I do find it difficult to contextualize my experience because I have never been a part of a community such as this. I am not finding all the answers at this moment, but I am learning that it is not as simple as finding an answer. I am questioning and I am struggling, but I am laughing along the way.

Kisu Mwane,

Anna Yeung (Class of 2019)

Mom I made some new friends.

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3 Responses to Laughing Through Zambezi

  1. Carol Yeung says:

    Hi Anna,
    We just got back from a short visit to Josh and Veronica, and saw Joseph at Dim Sum. Dad is well, glad to hear you are well. I loved your theme of laughter and I am so happy for you. I cannot wait to see you, but I love that you are making a huge effort to stay in the moment. We love you so! Mom and Dad

  2. Amy Phifer says:

    Hi Anna
    I have been waiting for your turn to post! Thank you for giving us a glimpse of the wide variety of experiences you all have been having, those kids are so lycky to have you as their teacher. Continue to stay in the moment and keep laughing,

    Love and prayers to you and all the Zags!

  3. Sophie Anton says:

    Thank you for such a joy filled and expressive blog. You shared your experiences in such a vivid way and have allowed me to imagine you smiling and laughing your way through such a challenging journey. After briefly getting to know you this past year, I have no doubt that you are radiating joy and sharing your light with others in Zambezi. You are one of the people I look to in order to remind myself of the importance of finding happiness in all of my experiences. Thank you for sharing this part of yourself with me.

    Grace- I am overjoyed at the thought of you being able to fully experience Zambezi after such a long journey to get there. Thank you for trying to tackle the most challenging questions about faith in a place so filled with religion and spirituality. I have been constantly sending you my good thoughts and prayers! You have been such an inspiration to me this past year because you’ve shown such resilience and patience. I hope you feel the endless amount of love being sent to you from Zam fam 2016! Love you and keep singing and dancing in those beautiful mass experiences!

    Joe- Wow! Thank you for sharing your amazing Dipalata story! That place never fails to produce stories that last a lifetime. I hope computer classes are going well and that the weekend trip was a nice break from the convent! Sending you my best wishes for the rest of this journey.

    Sooyoun- Thank you for your deep and thoughtful words and vulnerability in your blog post. And thank you for reminding me of the importance of not defining our worth through accomplishments, but rather through our being. This is a powerful message that comes from an incredibly thoughtful person. You are always so intentional in every interaction you have with others. I am deeply grateful to call you a friend and know your beautiful spirit! Thank you for sharing the love you have for others with me!

    Morgan- I wish I could be a fly on the wall at Chilena and watch you teach. From all of the comments, it is so obvious you have greatly impacted a countless number of people at Gonzaga and in the Spokane community and now in Zambezi. I am so blessed to be one of those people impacted by your presence. I wish you the best time in Zambezi and am so happy for you to have this experience as one of your lasting memories as a Zag!

    Love and prayers being sent to you all ☺


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