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.
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
- 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 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.
Anna Yeung (Class of 2019)