Tuna Sakwilla Mwane, Zambezi

  1. I asked Mama Josephine today how to say ‘I love you’ in luvale. She has been teaching us luvale a couple times each week. She replied in saying “ngwakuzangn”. I had to say it numerous times to get the pronunciation correct – seeing it spelled out is daunting. In this however, the word sounds (to me) just as it does in saying Gonzaga. I don’t think that’s much of a coincidence.
  1. One night we went to a Mikishi ceremony. I observed from the back at first like I usually do when uncomfortable, and made my way up to the dance floor towards the end of the event. The Mikishi called me into the center of the circle to dance with them. I did, following their moves as if that was the correct thing to do. Mama Violet and Mama Josephine soon came into the center, cheering loudly and clapping around me. Walking back to the convent arm-in-arm with Mama Violet, I asked what it meant when she and Mama Josephine had come into the circle with me. She replied joyfully, “Ah, it is to bring emphasis to you”. I felt warm and speechless.
  1. I have some friends in the market that plat (braid) people’s hair. One day I said hello and showed interest in how they inserted and platted synthetic hair into their client’s natural hair. From then, I have felt as though I was a part of their business as well. With help and guidance, I have platted parts of 3 client’s heads, and even have a braid myself. The other day, one of the platters, ChiChi, told me she wants me to plat her whole head (I didn’t). My braiding friends shared their talent and many laughs with me each day as I would stop by to visit and contribute. This shared happiness is something I will forever cherish.
  1. It has been an honor to teach the Leadership & Business class. Today we had our graduation. Each of the students were so overjoyed and proud of themselves in completing the course. In the afternoon, one of the students, Burton, had stopped everyone to read a very kind letter to Chase, Taylor, Grace and I. The letter thanked us for our work, and showed great appreciation for the class’s growth and confidence in making a difference through leadership and business. Once he had finished presenting the speech, the entire class cheered so loudly. Maureen, another student, looked to me, as she cheered as any Zambian woman would. She was waiting for me to join her in the celebration too – so, I too, yelled with pride and love in what the class had brought to us all. Additionally, I took a photo with Burton and he picked me up. He picked Grace up for a photo as well. I’ll have to show you the photo sometime when I know how to upload it.
  1. At lunch today I sat next to Fr. Dom. As I would pass him food after serving myself, he would look to me saying, “I shall give as I have received”. He would take his part, and pass to Val to his right. This happened many times, as there were a lot of bowls of assorted food today for lunch. I was mean to hear this as much as I did for a reason. As my time in Zambezi has come to an end, I am to recognize all that I have received from this new home, and prepare to give it to more people back home in the states soon. I too, shall give as I have received.
  1. Last night we had the Accompaniment Dinner. Each of us invited one guest to which has left a mark and light on our time here in Zambezi. Beautiful faces and chitengi were everywhere. I had an awesome time. As Jessie sang her song to all of us, the guests and chindeles alike joined in with her. As Jessie had sung this song to Gonzaga, it is time for Gonzaga to sing it to Zambezi.

“Time has come to say goodbye, time to say goodbye,

We hope to meet and rejoice again, hope to rejoice again.

We appreciate your love and care, we appreciate your love and care,

We hope to meet and rejoice again, hope to rejoice again.

Sad to say goodbye, sad to say goodbye.

We hope to meet and rejoice again, hope to rejoice again.

Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye”



Ngwakuzangn, ufuku mwane,

Kelen Ahearn


P.S. The happiest of birthdays to our very own Jimmy! We had a great time celebrating him and his time here in Zambezi today.

P.P.S. Last week I counted 21 bug bites on my body. I have for sure gotten more since. Thank you to the bugs that bite in Zambezi too, as you have loved me, I have loved you too

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5 Responses to Tuna Sakwilla Mwane, Zambezi

  1. Venezia says:

    OF COURSE YOURE BRAIDING PEOPLE’S HAIR! I just couldn’t help but smile reading that one. You are full of selfless acts Kelen and I just love how I’ve seen you create so many braids at Gonzaga for people (myself included) and you’ve found a way to do that in Zambia. I just reread that sentence and it sounds like it’s a metaphor for something but I literally mean I’ve seen you braid people’s hair a lot.

    Anyway, I can’t express how proud of you I am and how excited I am to hear all about your experience. When I got to college, I expected to meet a lot of people and make friends with students of all grades. Never did I expect to meet someone I consider a sister but also is someone I look up to every single day. You are full of incredible wisdom.

    I hope you all have a safe journey to Livingston! Enjoy it and don’t get too hard on yourselves when more of the uncomfortable questions start to come up. You deserve respite from all your work and reflection. Enjoy the Falls. Let them take your breath away!

    Also Morgan G- I found out I’ll be teaching 6th grade next year and will desperately need all your advice related to teaching, staying calm, and being a badass.


  2. April McGinley says:

    Kelen, Thank you so much for your story. You all are such beautiful writers. It really feels my heart. Thank you so much for giving Jimmy a wonderful 21st birthday party! It is still the 8th here so we are all thinking of him and praying for this wonderful day of his. In fact his little neice and nephews, Charlie, Daisy, and Jasper called me from Ohio today wanting to talk to him and wish him a happy birthday. Can you tell him that? I know it will brighten his day.
    By the way, I am his MOM.
    Thanks again Kelen

  3. Lindsey says:

    Love. Love it all. I can see you sitting in the market plaiting hair and being so joyfully curious. Sorry for the short post, Kelen, but just wanted to say I smiled for you and felt joy thinking about you and everyone else there ending in such a sweet way. Thanks to all for sharing Zambezi with us these past few weeks. Still sending love your way as you travel on.
    Love always,

  4. Michele Ahearn says:

    Hi it is MOM!!
    I love each point you write about and can see your love and compassion for all those you have met. I know two girls here at home who will be waiting for the plat. Am I saying this correctly? I have so much joy reading your words of excitement and pride you have for your students, they mirror mine for you.

    You and each of your peers have inspired all of us readers to become the best version of ourselves. Thank you for this gift.

    I love you and am excited to hear of the next adventure.

    #6againsoon, but take your time and enjoy your last week.

  5. Robert Ahearn says:

    Hi Kel,

    Every word you write brings me present with you there, and I feel so much joy. I couldn’t be more proud of you!

    I love you and can’t wait to see you!


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