Love the Ordinary Moments

“Love the Ordinary Moments” This quote is pasted in bold letters across the front of my journal. When I made my journal at our retreat this spring I cut and pasted this quote without really giving it a second glance or thought. I liked it so, therefore, it was put on my journal. I did not realize the truth of this quote until just a few days again when I was reflecting on the time I have spent here in Zambezi.


We have now been in Zambezi for almost three weeks. At times it seems as if I have been here forever and at other times I feel like it is my first day here. Trying to remember and recount the moments I have had here so far seems almost impossible. There is so much to tell about, yet only so much I can write. I have tried my best to compile the most memorable and impactful moments I have had here in Zambezi. So here they are. I am sure I have missed many and will make sure to have my fellow Zags remind me of them, but the ones that I remember are as follows:


-Grace grabbing my hand as we took off in the bush plane because she knew I was nervous


-Crying when I stepped off the plane and heard the Chilena choir singing


-Singing “Twaya Monta” with Mamma Josephine… 50 times in a row


-Father Baraza talking in proverbs which sometimes make sense and other times left us looking at one another saying “what?”


-Anna screaming after every bump we go over in the car (which is about every 5 seconds)


-The health team’s trip to Kalendola which at one point consisted of 18 people, 2 live goats, one dead goat in a cooler, 10 pumpkins/squash and 10 woven baskets all on top of or in our what is suppose to be a 10-12 person land cruiser


-Looking down at a child and smiling at them and receiving a shy smile or giggle back


-Singing “No One”, “Sunday Candy” and “Brown Eyed Girl” in the back of the land cruiser while sliding, bumping and smacking into each other as we drove over the bumpy bush roads and the pure joy that is felt with the wind blowing in our faces as we drove the road


-Distributing Days For Girls menstruation kits to girls who would have had to miss a week of school each month because of their period and empowering them to become beautiful and powerful women


-Trying to greet Zambians in Luvale and receiving giggles in return because I for sure pronounced it in an American accent or said the wrong thing


-Looking around the reflection circle seeing the Chaco tanned dirty feet that all have a story to tell about how their feet got so dirty that day. Many from walking to and from the market for a cold coke or chocolate bar, one from helping the Mammas at the market so they can help cook our meals, a few maybe from walking up and down the hall in our sandy convent, the health team’s from walking to the church hall a few yards away or traveling to a nearby village or the teachers from the long walk back to the convent


-Making PB and J’s while listening and dancing to the song “Peanut butter Jelly”


-Saying something weird to Caroline knowing that I will get a head shake and a “oh McKenzie” in return


-Sitting in the silence and grief with Mamma Katendi after she learned her sister had passed away and being okay with sitting in the sadness with one another


-Mamma Violets sweet and soft “ohhhhkay” after anything we say to her


-Elly saying something weird, dancing or yelling like a Zambian woman knowing we would both laugh about it


-Chiwala (the old man who walks 30 minutes and takes a boat across the river to attend our health class almost everyday) asking questions that make us laugh and shake our head such as “Can I breath under water?”


-Getting the land cruisers stuck in the sand (again) and not having a doubt in our mind that we won’t make it out but rather getting out to have an impromptu dance party


-Listening to my little friends Patrick and Emmanuel tell me about their family and not know what to say when they ask “What are you going to give me when you leave me?”


-Knowing that my fellow Zags who sleep within the yellow walls of this convent with me will always have a special place in my heart and mine in theirs. Also the fact that at least 6 of them have walked in on me in the computer room writing this blog just to ask how it was going and to tell me they cannot wait for me to read it


I realized that most the memorable moments and impactful parts of my time in Zambezi have had a common theme. They have for the majority been ordinary moments or simple gestures from another person. I think many times we are caught up in the idea that in order for something to be memorable or impactful it has to be a grand event or action. I have come to the realization that loving and embracing the ordinary moments is the best way to experience your life to the fullest. The parts of the trip I will look back on and smile, cry or laugh about are the little moments with another person that allows me to connect to them.The ordinary moments are what fills our lives. Without them there would be holes in our stories and lives.

More recently I have come to the fact that we are not guaranteed tomorrow or the next day or the next.  Like Father Baraza has taught us there is not future in Africa. The Africans only recognize the past and the present because you are not able to predict the future. This concept is something I need to practice more in my own life. Being in the present with others and enjoying the ordinary moments. If we do not love and embrace every moment we have here on Earth (ordinary or extravagant) we are not fully living the best we can. So, this is why I have chosen to love the ordinary moments here in Zambezi along with the grand, exciting and somewhere in between moments too. I hope to have many more ordinary moments here. I also hope all of you reading this learn to embrace the everyday and commonplace moments with the people you love.

Kisu Mwane,


McKenzie Gallagher ‘20


P.S. Mom, Dad, grandparents, and anyone else whom it may concern I am healthy, safe and loving my new temporary home here in Zambezi. To all of you as well as my people in Spokane, Montana or wherever else you are in the world (you all know who you are) I miss you so much and cannot wait to be back in your arms and hear your voices.


Also I am pleased to announce that the Zags beat Chilena in the soccer game today. 3-2!! All thanks to Miss Morgan Green who was named MVP with two goals to her name!


It was also FaBra’s (Father Baraza) birthday today. We celebrated with pizza, cake and the tradition of throwing water on the birthday boy’s head.

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12 Responses to Love the Ordinary Moments

  1. Sarah Gallagher says:

    Loved your post! Thanks for sharing your memorable moments with us. You had me laughing and crying. So happy you got to experience this awesome journey. The next 10 days will be fast and furious, but I know you will enjoy every moment of it! Love and miss you. See you soon Mom

  2. Mama K's Famous Pumpkin ___ says:

    Hey Zam Fam –

    It’s hard to believe it’s almost been a full week since I’ve been back stateside. Seven days full of so many emotions…from the debilitating confusion of reverse-culture shock, to tears of happiness reliving stories of chicken-plucking, goat transporting, land cruiser pushing, butt pinching (okay, maybe just actual tears on that last one), and I am ever grateful for the time I was privilege to spend with you all. Thanks for letting me crash your trip 🙂 That said, I’ve been following along with your reflections, and have been using your words to transport me back to Zambezi, walking alongside each of you as I grapple with the re-emersion of “what now?” It hasn’t been easy, but I’m ready to drop back in and let you know that I think of you and Zambezi every day.

    I do miss you all terribly. In so many ways, I still feel right there in your midst. Jimbo, stop hogging the oochi and no, Ethan, you probably shouldn’t put it on your noodles you weirdo. Jess, slow down on them oranges, eh? Morgan & Maddie I hope you’re hanging in there, just a few more weeks of diet constraints! Taylor & Elly, still dreaming of that perfect Solwezi dinner. Mmm..happy oatmeal everyone.

    Do me a favor and look to the person to your left. I’m serious, humor me. Take a moment and turn in your chair. And now the right. Annnnd now directly across the table. And smile. What I’d give to have that view right now. You’re surrounded by so much love and support – cherish these moments.

    And now to play catch up for those posts I’ve been reading since my return to New York. Sorry not sorry for monopolizing the next 25 minutes of breakfast.

    Kenz, when I met you I kept thinking (and forgetting) to myself, there’s no way this girl was a freshmen just last year. And you did it yet again. I can hear your calming voice in head as you read this, carrying the grace of a mature woman of the world, and I’m so looking forward to the places you go. Thank you for sharing these sweet, simple passings that define what you carry in your heart – a sweet, simple ability to love, nurture and recognize the light in those around you. And whaaaaat? You beat Chilena, no waaay. I knew this group was something special.

    Chase, thanks for the early morning subway tears. Not my best look (or perhaps better yet, maybe it is…), but it prompted a friendly stranger to ask if I was alright; a devastatingingly rare occurrence in the Big Apple – the idea that we’d speak to others whom we don’t know. I appreciate your words, because they reminded me to keep holding up my own mirror as I experience, reflect, re-direct and grow. When I first met you, I was taken aback your pure joy; you have true, authentic presence, sir. From someone who also struggles with maintaining the external facade of having it all together (all the time), know that your energy is as intoxicating as your contagious smile. My favorite Thoreau quote goes “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” You’re always jumping along to the beat of life’s symphony – it’s a quite beautiful thing to behold. Keep dancing.

    Oh my sweet Elly. You are so wise beyond your years. It was a true gift to watch you during the short stint of time we had together in Zambezi. Your leadership comes effortlessly, because you relate – to your world, to the world of others – so naturally.

    The ever-present tension between the personal and professional “needs to get done” is a constant balancing act. Francis is truly onto something here. Alongside his philosophies to develop productive and effective habits, he’s obviously a very smart man – pizza is always the answer. I’m sending you my warmest wishes that you find the peace to stay present during your final days in Zambezi. We may leave to remember, but we must first come to know – so heartening to hear that you’re working so intentionally to soak in every second of what’s around you. Time is a trixy vixen – she seduces you with the promise of more, but before you know it she’s slipped out the back door without a goodbye. It’s the ever-elusive thing we can’t “buy” more of at the end of our days. One of my favorite tidbits of wisdom is that love is really spelled “t-i-m-e.” Invest it well and your heart will always be full. Biggest hugs, sister.

    Caroline – wow. I must admit, I felt a bit guilty that we never had a chance to connect or chat much during my time with your amazing group. It was so evident to me that you were constantly taking everything in; as an observer, you were always processing. I have no doubts if we were somehow able to project the inner workings of your brain at any given time, there would be a million beautiful pictures, ideas, and emotions dancing on the wall.

    Your questions are incredibly valid, and ones I can promise many students partaking in this unique experience have pondered many times over. The answer I’ve found in my heart, is that to truly be vulnerable and allow accompaniment to take form, you have to trust that you are enough. Even broken and full of questioning doubt, your presence is enough. Because you’ve shown up for the people of Zambezi, you’ve reaffirmed their sense of self worth. Sometimes the purpose is not to overthink the purpose – which is incredibly counter-cultural. At the end of the day, this is one of the most powerful lessons I received during my first international experience. Just be (Grant, see what I did there…don’t worry, you’re next.)

    If our experiences are a culmination of moments that happen to us, our memories are the lens in how we choose to experience them. My challenge to you sweet Caroline (bum bum bum), is to keep asking those tough questions, but don’t let them keep you frozen in those awful plastic chairs, placed in a freezing room with hideous floral wallpaper that smells like old anestheptics.

    Only you can take yourself out of the waiting room, when you’re ready. And my only piece of advice on this is that instead of surrounding yourself with old copies of Reader’s Digest circa 2002, think about the number of people – many sitting around the table with you right now – who would rather make memories with you. There’s even a near stranger, who you’ve never talked to one-on-one, sitting in New York thinking about how incredible you are, right.this.very.moment.

    Grantham why am I not surprised that you nailed it…yet again. I often think about our walk through the market in search for your crazy energy drink, and how impressed I was by you. You have this innate maturity that just screams, “he gets it.” Relational is definitely a word I would use to describe you, but so is self-aware. It takes a humble attitude to admit when we’ve got it wrong. And it’s not an easy thing to do. I once read that some people come into our life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Whenever you willingly give your energy and thoughts to another person – no matter for how long or with what intensity – you’re respecting their existence by gifting them the one irreplaceable resource we have to offer: your attention, care and time. Simply by “being” you’re sending the message that they are worth being with you. No matter where the relationships you’ve developed in Zambezi and beyond might fall, I hope you give yourself the grace of knowing you’ve impacted someone else’s life – just like you did mine.

    Maddie. I can’t begin to find sufficient words to express what your letter meant to me. You wrote that questions are universal, and I’ve also believed that that too which is most personal is the most universal. Thank you for sharing such personal questions; your story really hit home in more ways than one, and I’m so, so proud of you.

    One of the things I appreciate and admire so much about you, is your competency that breeds confidence. Having known you three weeks, I’m like 98% sure, yeah, I’d let you operate on me. You move fast, but so does life and you have an unique gift of being able to keep up with it – don’t forget that. As our biggest strengths so often and too easily act as our weakness too, I’m so proud of you for acknowledging and sharing your fear. You, my dear, are fully embracing this experience and the processing you’re undergoing will help you make sense of it all. You speak of how hard life hit you in Dipilata; it’s funny, because one of my most vivid memories from Dipilata was watching in amazement as Maddie LeBrun somehow was someone able to muster energy to jump right into the middle of a soccer game with 20+ kids whilst the rest of us sat exhausted after a long, hot, and difficult journey. As you hiked up your chitenge and ran around in the sand, you had a huge smile on your face. You were keeping up with life. It was a true privilege to watch and I’m glad I know you.

    Taylor, my realist with the sparkle in her eye. It’s really rare to encounter someone who’s as equally pragmatic as they are idealist; in some ways, you actually really confound me. I’ve always prided myself on the ability to get to the heart of what drives people, and much of that is solely based on taking the time to understand how they approach the world they see. But with you, I think the world you see is very different from how you choose to engage with it. You see people and places exactly as they are – which is both a gift and a burden – yet you still burst with an effervescent joy that can only be rooted in optimism in its purest form. And in a world – let alone a place like Zambezi – where the physical circumstances are enough to break your heart and turn hardheaded pragmatists into a critic or apathetic observers, you’ve done the opposite. Your ideals are constantly guided by something deeper, and your post has me amazed by the way you’ve allowed your mind to believe what your heart knows to be true. You are such an incredibly special human. And even writing that I know how juvenile it must sound, but I don’t know how else to express it. Just as you outline the beautiful juxtapositions of life’s “do’s” and “don’t throughout your post, you too are the perfect product of two absolutes. You have a rare gift to see both sides – you owe it to the world to not only keep challenging your own initial assumptions, but to share your findings. I’m certainly humbled that you did, and I know I’m not alone.

    Joshman, I owe you a big photo upload. So many amazing shots of the laughter and light you carry throughout Zambezi. Missing you already, and ever appreciative for the way you continue to challenge me – even across the country and world. ALSO, the Zags do indeed play ‘Nova at MSG in December…might be the perfect excuse to come visit…

    Father B – you must come visit too! And happy, happy birthday! What a gift you are. Thank you for gracing us with your wisdom; I feel honored to know you.

    Kris, what a special experience and time to spend with you. I know you’re keeping your heart open, and can’t wait to read whatever pieces continue to be inspired from this trip!

    Mama – I thought through a million times what my goodbye would look like, what to possibly say that might express what your companionship has meant to me…but instead, I channeled it all into that last hug. Thank you for the humanizing way you care for all of us. Missing your hugs and sending you strength.

    PS: A few of you asked if I’d post a running list of all of the things I was eating now that I’m back in NY. But personally I feel like it would just be mean to tell you about the granola parfait I had for breakfast, or the avacodo toast with feta for lunch…

    PPS: (Because it would feel wrong not to include at least one more “P”) You guys are rockstars. Take care on eachother.

  3. Jeffrey Dodd says:

    -The health team’s trip to Kalendola which at one point consisted of 18 people, 2 live goats, one dead goat in a cooler, 10 pumpkins/squash and 10 woven baskets all on top of or in our what is suppose to be a 10-12 person land cruiser.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!! But seriously, you haven’t lived until a sudden stop sends those pumpkins flying across the hood and rolling down the “road” in front of you. Seriously, though, yall found a cooler?

    In conclusion, after years of desolation on the pitch, A TWO-YEAR WINNING STREAK! Great job Zags! The Chilengsters will surely be out for revenge next year.

    Savor the glory, and all those wonderful little moments. Thanks for sharing these with us, McKenzie.

  4. Katie Polacheck says:

    Beautiful words, McKenzie. The ordinary moments are so important. At one of our last dinners in Livingstone, Sham and I asked and answered the question, “if you could re-live any three seconds in Zambezi without changing them, what would they be?” It sounds like you are already doing this 🙂

    My heart dropped when Tay told me about Mama’s sister the other day. I was able to talk to her yesterday for a while and was reminded of her incredible strength and resilience, but I know she is hurting. And I know it must be hard for you all to see her leave Zambezi early. Know that you have mamas in your faculty (hi, Mama Joshua) and a mama in Mama Elly and mamas all around you in Zambezi. Brady nailed it when she talked about the humanizing way Katendi cares for us Zags, for her family, and for her community. She is something so special. We have a lot to learn from her, even when she is across the world.

    My love to you all. Thinking of you as you start to say goodbye to that beautiful town by the river. Eat some romany cremes about it.


  5. Motha G says:

    Happy birthday to Fr. Baraza! Great message in your post. Thank you

  6. Dad says:

    Great post 6. Mature beyond your years as usual. Have fun on the rest of your ourney and come home to Montana. We love and miss you.
    PS… read your post to Emmy and his ears perked up when i said your name…

  7. Carol Winninghoff says:

    Hi Mckenzie, Grandpa and I are truly impressed by reading your blog. You even brought a tear to my eye. What a wonderful experience and such a Blessing for all of your family.. We are anxious for your return and stories for us to hear. We will always Love and Pray for you. Grandma and Bobby

  8. Amy says:

    Hey Mac!! So happy to read your blog! Have been thinking about you so much! What a wonderful experience! Like Gma you brought a tear to my eye as well.. can’t wait to see you and hear about your journey! You are such an amazing soul and I am so lucky to have you as a niece… love you to the moon!! Enjoy the rest of your trip, be safe and we will see you back in MT soon!

  9. Shawna says:

    I hope that Josh is sitting, because as you may or may not know, this is the very first time that I have commented on the blog ever! So, in honor of 10 years for Josh in Zambezi, here it is. First of all, I want you all to know that I have thoroughly enjoyed your thoughtful reflections on experiences you’ve had in a place that I love. Although I am at home many miles away, my home and memories of Zambezi are still fresh. I’m with you in the classroom at Chilena, or on the sandy path walking to and from the school. I’m there for language lessons with Mama Josephine and on the bumpy rides with 22 people and a goat tied on top of the Land Cruiser. I’m there as the beautiful ball of fire sets over the Zambezi and for the escort to and from the river with a 100 plus beautiful Zambian children. This year in particular, each of us (Aiden, Eli, Owen, Grace, and I) are longing to return to the place that we love. But, until then, we will live through your experiences. Enjoy the moments! Love to you all, especially Josh who loves the place that we love too!

  10. Peggy Sue Loroz says:

    I look forward to reading these blog posts and love every one of them and then I don’t comment because I’m not sure whether I know any of the students in this year’s group other than Elly (who is a big boss TA now) so I can’t write anything super cool and personal back to you about how I’ve been waiting for your blog post EVERY SINGLE DAY (cuz I haven’t been, other than Elly’s, which was awesome, but I missed commenting on it at the time, DANG IT [!], but that’s something only an American would stress about, so I’d best embrace my inner Zambian whispering “chindende, chindende” in my ear and relax) nor can I remind you about that hilarious time that we tried to take an Uber in Vegas but the backseat was full of junk and say that’s just like how the land cruiser situation sounds (cuz that wasn’t you, so you won’t think that’s funny). But then I thought it was kind of creeper that I love all of these and I love all of you because of these and I (almost) never comment. So here it is. I love all of these. You’ve each given me something awesome to think about. And I love all of you! You make me so proud to be a Zag. Dang, we have good people. How’d we get so lucky/blessed to have such great people? Oh yeah. Jesuit Pope. Using his Jesuit joojoo. Glad he’s on our team! Or we get to be on his team. Whatever. Josh, are we making these posts into a book at some point? We should totally do that. If you already have and volumes 1-5 are already available on Amazon and I missed them, I’m so sorry. They haven’t shown up in my “recommended for you” picks. For some reason that’s full of selections on how to parent tweenage girls (“How to Hug a Hedgehog” is particularly recommended) and fantasy novels (for that same girl, which is better than another top pick for tween girls, “Boys Like You,” cuz mama ain’t ready for that), along with some stuff on killer soccer drills for your six year old star and a big book of clothespin crafts. I dabble, apparently. Looking forward to adding a hardcover version of these posts to my collection and seeing how that forever changes my Amazon recommendations for the better. (For the record, I did buy “Tattoos on the Heart,” but apparently that purchase has been swamped by other genres! 🙂

    Hope you have a fantastic day today, just being in ZamBEzi.

  11. Lindsey says:

    Thanks for all the little moments McKenzie! They bring all of us past zags back to our time there. OF COURSE MS MORGAN GREEN IS THE SOCCER STAR….I have to throw a Ryan bragging moment in but did you all know she has 17 IM championship shirts?! Love it, morgs haha! Updates for you, diva number 9 failed miserably and my fam did a half together which resulted in 2 passed out fam members! Whoops!

    Morgan smith I met your future self!!! Chels and I spent all day volunteering with a tiny nonpfoirt in Reno called be the change, and we were helping clear a plot of land for two single women to move in with their children into a tiny-Esque house community living space. The nonprofit makes sustainable living options and starts gardens all throughout the neighborhood to help with food insecurity and community involvement/education in one of the lowest socioeconomic neighborhoods in Reno, which also happened to be the first neighborhood black people were allowed to buy houses. And there’s a new development (in a different neighborhood) that is being built with 6 tiny houses on one plot! Dreeeeaaaaaams! Sending love to you all!

    Love always,

  12. Kathy Wilmes says:

    This is Jessica’s Mom (again)…..I just wanted to take a moment to say that all of you are so inspiring. I eagerly await each daily post, yearning to read about your adventures and trying to catch a glimpse into what life is like in Zambezi. I have to be honest, I have turned into an emotional wreck with each post that I read and I wonder if all of the parents who are also anxiously waiting and reading the daily posts feel the same as I do. It seems like forever ago that we dropped Jessica off at Seattle Airport and briefly met a few of her friends (for the first time) and drove away thinking that I do not know anyone who is traveling with my daughter for the next month (except of course for Kris who I am so grateful for)….and I found myself wondering about all of you and hoping and praying that you will all bond together. After reading the first few posts it became apparent that you have become a tightly knit family which gives me so much comfort. I am so impressed with the honesty and openness of your posts and am so grateful that my daughter is a part of your Zambezi family.

    Jessica – I can hardly wait to see you in 9 days and wrap my arms around you! We are all fine and doing well at home. Sending my love to you and your entire Zambezi family and praying for safe travels! Now it’s time to once again mop the tears up and move on with my day!

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