The last message I received from my family was nearly a month ago now. It was an unfortunate autocorrect in which my mother attempted to type the inspirational phrase “Carpe Diem” (Sieze the day) only to write “Crap Swim”. The message was sent in our family group chat and so naturally, I received a “Sieze the crap swim” message from every member of the Kane family. Gotta love parent texting.
Since that day, I’ve made it my goal to crap swim the hell out of my time here. I’ve seen our group dive headfirst into a crap swim, seizing every opportunity, jumping into any dance circle, talking to literally any stranger, attending any celebration. Hell, with these people I’ve now attended or participated nearly every life event one can have here in Zambia, from a baby shower, to a birthday, to a baptism, to a circumcision party, to a wedding, to digging a grave, to even attending an exorcism. We even joke that there is a running check-list of life events that I need to attend here in Zambia (fingers crossed for a Bar-Mitzvah).
In fact that check-list mentality is how I’ve always treated carpe diem (or crap swim). At Gonzaga I make around 5 to-do lists per day. A day well seized revolves around how many memorable or productive things I’ve done that day. The “to-do” culture was the product of a stressful major, and drastic over involvement. At Gonzaga I’d venture to say I’m one of the fastest walkers on campus. Legend has it that Ethan Kane made the trip from C/M to 4th floor of Tilford in 7 minutes and grabbed a muffin from the cog on his way. I don’t waste much time getting places, I just want to be there with efficiency, because of a fear of wasting time. Often I would think that wasted time means an un-seized day. I recall one day in Spokane when I was walking to the library during a beautiful snowfall. Due to my busyness I found it impossible to enjoy the true immaculate beauty of the snow drifting to the ground. I remember the deep frustration of that moment. I’m sure many of us know the curse of being too busy to notice the wonderful world.I ran into the same problems in Zambezi as I did in Gonzaga almost immediately. In an attempt to make as many friendships as I could and experience everything, I had became too busy to slow down and truly feel anything at all.
The funny thing about Zambezi is that the ground literally forces me to slow down and notice the world. Every street runs entirely with thick fine sand that pulls my feet deeper and deeper into the earth, forcing me to walk slower to a pace that ordinarily I would find unbearable. In this context though, I’ve started to love how slow the sand makes me walk. Zambezi physically won’t let me rush. It pushes my feet to sink into the sand and experience the gentle therapeutic feeling of sand running over my toes. It forces me to listen intently to the calls of children yelling “Chindele!”, and truly see the faces of the people around me.
So these last few days in Zambezi I’ve been trying to always walk in the deep sand, in fact the deepest ruts of sand I can find, because if I don’t, I know I’ll rush and I’ll completely miss the simple gift of sand on my toes, just like I had always missed the beauty of snow in the Spokane winter.
I feel that my idea of Carpe Diem (or crap swimming) can actually oppose my ability to truly feel a moment. Don’t get me wrong, the motivation to seize opportunities is a beautiful mindset, and has led me to so many adventures. Doing a lot of things is great, but as long as the pressure to do a lot of things doesn’t push you out of the moment you are in. Is doing everything worth anything if you don’t feel it. You may sieze the day, but never forget to surrender to this moment.
Two nights ago was Father Baraza’s birthday, and as I shared a Zambian beer with the birthday boy, he went off on a well rehearsed speech about how Africans view time (A very common topic of conversation with Fa-Bara, as he is lovingly called). He spoke of the absence of future in the common African view of time saying “The only thing that exists now, is now.” and when asked for the secret of a long life revealed “Just be.” (shout out to Grant for his blog figuring it out early).
I cherish the times like this in Zambezi that like the sand, have forced me to surrender to now, erasing all thoughts of the future or past. Like, surrendering to the grief as I hear the tragic story of the smiliest kid you could ever meet. Surrendering to the complicated beauty, holiness, and sadness that the Falconer orphanage holds. Surrendering to awkwardness as a very enthusiastic and sweaty man challenged me to a close-proximity hip gyration dance contest.
Instead of seizing this last day in Zambezi I want to surrender to it. Instead of looking for profoundness, I want to let the profoundness of the mere existence of the world find me. I like the idea of surrendering instead of seizing because I want to give myself to this day, not attempt to “take it”. I want to let it take over every fabric of my being and guide me wherever it may. I want to surrender to today with joy as my students as perform stories they’ve written with confidence and pride. I want to surrender to my frustration and sadness as I say goodbye to Zambian friends who I’ve learned to love, just in time to leave them. I want to surrender to the beauty of the Zambezi river one last time.
However, this presence is a hard thing to do when there is so much to worry about: saying goodbye to our friends, buying our family gifts, packing up our stuff, wondering if I brought toilet paper with me or if I’m going to get pinched by the infamous butt pincher chair. This last day it would be easy to take on the carpe diem mindset that I need to see everyone and wrap up everything the way I want it before I leave. But that’s not realistic. How does one say goodbye to the friends and children and students and mentors that you’ve just begun to truly love? Especially when you know that in all likelihood you may never see them again. A clean goodbye is going to be difficult. Today I will attempt to show the people that have welcomed and loved me with all their hearts, all the appreciation I possibly can and I know that for me it may never feel like enough. How can one possibly have a goodbye to this place and these people in a way that does feel like enough? So I go into today knowing that I can’t do enough for everyone today, but perhaps I can just feel one thing well. It would do a disservice to this place, these people, and myself to not feel today with all my being. I give all of myself to you today Zambezi.
p.s. I have been rocking a sty in my right eye for the past 6 days. There are pretty much no mirrors in Zambezi, although I can only assume that I partially resemble a distant relative of Sloth from Goonies. Don’t expect many photogenic pics (hence the picture of me walking away).
Another great post by the Zags in Zambia! Thanks for sharing your reflections and experiences with all of us. I eagerly anticipate the posting each day and I read each of them several times. I am excited for each and everyone of you for being able to have this experience. Your posts have made me more thoughtful in my daily life and I keep trying to be more present and slow down and enjoy the life I’m living.
Enjoy these last days in Zambezi and the next adventure to Livingston and the safari.
Sending prayers to you all.
Amy (Morgan S’s mom)
P.S. If anyone is near Morgan Smith, would you give her a big hug for me?! We all miss you MoMo 🙂
It truly has been so wonderful to read each one of your posts as you have shared so many details and amazing experiences with us on this journey. I can’t imagine how many emotions you must all have as you prepare to depart Zambezi. Enjoy these last hours together with these incredible people who have shared so much with you for three weeks and welcomed you with open arms. We are keeping you all in our thoughts and prayers as you enjoy the last bit of your journey and head for your safari. Embrace this last week together, celebrating the many lessons and experiences you have encountered each day.
Thanks again for sharing your hearts, your stories, and yourselves to help others. I know I speak for all your families and friends back home when I say we couldn’t be more proud of this amazing Zag family.
Lori (Joe’s Mom)
I love the idea of crap swimming, but maybe that’s because I grew up on the Gulf of Mexico! For real, crap swimming wasn’t some kind of cheeky metaphor.
Man, I loved getting to know you in Neah Bay, and I am happy to see how Zambezi is causing to you slow down and enjoy those moments with little Joshua and others.
It’s my firm hope that the the intentionality you are cultivating, the eye-level love, will allow you to continue moving in the world with integrity and dignity. Excited to see how that shapes you back in Spokane.
To all of you : I hope you know what a boon and inspiration you all are to so many of us here at home. I had dinner tonight with a Zambezi alum, and we remarked on both how we were impressed by you and how much we would like to be there with you. You have XX hours left in Zambezi. Keep making us all proud.
By the weekend you will be in a place that presents a whole new set of challenges. Tackle it with the grace, dignity, empathy, and love you have shown so far.
Love, hugs, and many mwanes,
Before you left for Africa, we talked for days about this blog and how it would be the only way for you to share your wonderful experiences with those who weren’t physically with you. It wasn’t until after you turned your phone off and left for Dubai, that I realized I never even asked you how I could keep up with the blog! So when you turn your phone on after landing back in the states you will find a message from me, sent a few minutes too late, asking about this blog. Luckily though, I happened to find the link on fb and have been religiously reading a post before going to bed every night. Most nights, the posts have left me more curious and hungry for adventure and life. Other times they have left me in tears, the kind that naturally roll down my face to express what I can’t put into words: in this case, my appreciation of the vulnerability and strength that each of you in Zambia have shared with me through this blog. I am so incredibly excited for you and I literally cannot wait to hear about every special moment (laughs, smiles, tears and all) that you’ve shared with the friends you’ve made (probably effortlessly and oh so naturally) in Africa!
P.S. To update you real quick on some things in my life… I started listening to folk music (and I found that I really enjoy it), I still haven’t watched the last episode of 13 reasons why, my insomnia is back because my cure has escaped the states, the amounts of guavas and mangoes I have eaten in these past 3 weeks is unbelievable, I have seen TWO bunbuns, and Frederick is healthy and enjoying the sunshine, although he did tell me that he sometimes misses the cold cold winter nights in Montana where he used to sit (and slowly wilt) by the window.
Stay safe and “carpe the shit out of this diem…” I think that’s what you used to say to me.
With lots of love,
E Well done my son. I am so happy to see your picture and your words. A level of anxiety is relieved. I am so happy for you all and this wonderful experience. It is a gift to truly experience how wonderful people in other parts of the world really are and for them to see how wonderful you are. Thank you all for your posts. Thank you all for being our ambassadors to Zambezi. In this age of isolationism, nationalism and me first ism it is refreshing to see your generation step forward and make a difference. Ethan we can’t wait to see you back in MT Crap swim Dad
Happy birthday to Jimmy! Tell him his family loves him and misses him.
What fun it has been to share your experiences through this blog! You are all so blessed to share in the life there in Zambia. Ethan, you are such a pride and joy for your family!
Your insight into life is always an inspiration! So indeed , don’t “take the day” , let the day take you!
(Famous Crap Swimmer)