Expectations and Reality

Zambezi is more beautiful than I could have ever expected. I have already experienced so many things for the first time.

I have never identified as a white person before. I have always seen myself as black or as mixed, but never just white. However, just like the rest of the group, I am called “Chindele” everyday by the children of Zambezi. Each day in Zambia makes me question my heritage and my privilege in a new way. Being a minority in the U.S. is different from being a minority in Zambezi. In the U.S. being a minority serves as a route to experience judgement, missed opportunities and, often, violence. In both Zambezi and the U.S., I appear as the odd one out in a crowd, but in Zambezi, being a minority does not mean that you are lesser. Here, I am constantly celebrated. I am given priority at every event. I am fed first and am offered the seats of the Zambezi people. At times I am so overwhelmed by the attention that I find myself hopping over the back fence of the convent, dodging the children of the community as if they were paparazzi. I am not yet sure what to make of this distinction. Perhaps it is only because I am identified as a “chindele” that this is the case. I am still questioning if I receive this attention because I am a minority in this community or because I am considered white. I have never reaped the benefits of being white before now. My experience so far has already added so much perspective but in different ways that I could have imagined.

I was hoping that once I got to The Motherland that I would be removed from all of the stereotypes and generalizations surrounding African Americans in the U.S and be able to feel more accepted while I learned about my heritage. This was an ignorant expectation to have. I thought that because Zambezi was so remote it would be removed from the racist culture of America. I was wrong. During my homestay I started to pick up on the subtle nuances of the same hierarchy of skin colors that I experience back home. My host was only 19 years old and hinted at the impact that lighter skin can affect how other’s see your beauty. This concept of colorism is prevalent within black communities in the U.S and has negatively impacted so much of my life. In another moment, I learned that the weaves and wigs that women and children sometimes wear is the only way to have “good hair.”

I am not sure how to connect this revelation of racism with the superiority with which I am regarded. I can’t help but feel a wave of disappointment after realizing that no matter how connected I think I am to the community of Zambezi, I will always stand out as different. Despite how much I think that my family history originated here, I still feel like an outsider in the community and can’t escape the pedestal I am placed on.

In another breath Zambezi already means more to me than I could have ever expected. We attended the braai yesterday evening and were amazed by the welcome we received. A braai, for those of you who don’t know, resembles an open mic night / talent show but also incorporates elements of a barbeque. The youth of the community danced and performed poems and songs for us in attempt to introduce us more to the culture of Zambezi. In return, we were asked to show them our best dance moves (which took the form of the Macarena) and also sing them some cultural songs from America (“Lean on Me” and also “Zombie Nation”). The braai was one of the first times I felt connected to the community and truly relaxed. I am so excited for the fun times to come and more revelations about my role in this community.

– Olivia Antoine
Class of 2020

Message for Mom:
I’m seriously fine. I hope you figured out how to access the blog. Your lack of embarrassing comments is worrisome. Other than a ton of mosquito bites and living with giant spiders, Zambezi is amazing. I am safe and happy and have been using the skills I learned binge watching “Survivor.” I lived through the flight in the bush plane and even got to fly it! Hopefully I can email you soon.

Update on butt chair:
The location of the butt pinching chair is unknown at this point. Few have encountered it. More updates to come.

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10 Responses to Expectations and Reality

  1. Michele Morrell says:

    Hi Liv!!!!!! I did comment on two of the three blog posts already! Trying not to be too clingy. At least I haven’t dialed the Gonzaga phone, yet. Really glad you are there safe and taking it all in. So glad I didn’t know about you flying the plane until after it happened. Clearly no one had driven in a car with you prior to that experience. Everyone here is so excited for you and asking for updates. At work today but sneaking onto the computer and loved to see a post from you! Love you sweet girl. Looking forward to the next posts from the group. Peace and love to all of you Zags!

  2. Mama Ann Brunett says:

    Your comments are really thought-provoking, and a great example of how stepping outside your box can awaken you to different perspectives. Good for you! Your voice is clear, and you’ll come away from your experience in Zambezi with lots of answers, and even more questions. And at the very minimum, your mom and the rest of your readers are righteously impressed with your aviation skills.
    Kisu mwane,

  3. Elly says:


    Wow lady, thank you for sharing your reflections and analysis of the complexities present as the chindeles come to Zambezi. It’s important to name those expectations that you came in with and realize that the reality is not what you may have thought. That can be tricky, but it starts with reflecting in the ways that you are doing. By voicing your experience, you are opening up a gateway to dialogue and reflection with your fellow Zags and with Zambians just like your host for your homestay.

    As I get ready to start the portion of my summer program with Teach for America, I have been doing lots of reading. An article I read this morning by Beverly Tatum reminds me of the necessity for your thoughts and reflections. In talking about racism and prejudice in the U.S., it reads, “Unless we engage in conscious acts of reflection and reeducation, we can easily repeat the process with future generations. We teach what we are taught. It’s not our fault, but it is our responsibility to interrupt this cycle.” It can be tough to come in to each new situation with no expectations, but continue to be open, ask questions, share your experience, and build connections. Thank you again for making that conscious choice to reflect. I sure would love to join your reflection circle and hear about the perspectives you all are bringing.

    Enjoy this first week of class and continue to explore! Someone have a TingLing for me.

    Much love to all of you.

    Kisu Mwane,

    P.S. I eagerly await more updates on the butt pincher. If you know, you know…

  4. Kathy Schindele says:

    Hi Olivia and group,
    Your choice of song and dance gave me a good laugh! I hope you’re able to find the connection there.

    Tell Morgan her mom loves her and can’t wait to hear more about these stories

    Love and prayers,
    Kathy Schindele

  5. Conrado says:

    Great to hear you have all arrived and that getting settled hasn’t “bugged” you too much. Darn mosquitos! So glad to hear that the bugs and bites are not keeping you from so much more.
    Olivia, I read and reread you post. Thanks for your poignant post and explaining what I can only try to understand. You helped and that means a lot.
    Sending lots of love to you all and a special hug for our Devon
    Best, Mom and Dad

  6. Morgan says:

    You are already beginning to name some of the many tensions that Zambezi holds for you and the group and its only been a few days! Thank you for that. Thank you for reminding us all of the ways that Zambezi challenges us to find comfort in the uncomfortable and ease in the disease–not by ignoring that which challenges you, but by leaning into it. I can’t wait to hear about the ways you continue to do this throughout the trip!

    To you and the rest of the computer team, I hope that registration and your first day of classes went as smoothly as possible. Remember to slow down, get to know your students, get outside the convent, and savor the moments in that tight, sweaty, and a little smelly classroom (you’ll miss it… I promise).

    Much love for you all in this first week of classes!

    Kisu Mwane,
    Morgan Smith

    • Katie Shoenberger says:

      Love! So much to experience and think about!
      Bridget, how’s you’re stomach and skin? Hoping you’re feeling good and I’m pretty sure you were showing everyone how to Dance!!
      Love & hugs to all…a little extra squeeze for Bridget!!

  7. Katie Kenkel says:

    Hi all!!

    I know I’m a few days late to the game- but it’s the best time of year! Zags in Zambezi time.

    Olivia- your post is beautiful and comes at a really coincidental time for me. I am currently in the process of applying for Jesuit Volunteer Corps. I was working on my application today and was answering a short answer question about privilege, and I wrote about my experience as a minority in Zambia. So interesting that then, just a few hours after reflecting on my own experience from two years ago, I open the blog and see your post about the exact thing I was reflecting on earlier today.

    I am thankful that you are already asking yourself the tough questions. I’m not sure if this will make you feel better or worse, but I still struggle with them very often. I remember feeling very uncomfortable for being celebrated as a Chindele as well. I hope you all find comfort in the fact that you are all much, much more. You will each leave your mark in Zambezi, I have no doubt about that.

    My time in Zambezi wasn’t just a month-long study abroad; I still experience daily reminders of the joy, laughter, and very difficult questions that came up while there. I am certain this will be the case for you all, as well. Lean into the difficult questions. Don’t be afraid of not getting answers. I am SO excited for you all.

    I can’t wait to catch up on the blogs that I have missed, and to read the future ones. I’m thinking of, praying for, and living vicariously through y’all.

    Much love and kisu mwane,

    Katie Kenkel (Zam Fam 2016)

    P.S.- Morgan- how did I not know you are in Zam this year?! I’m so excited for you. Sending love your way!

  8. Kenks (again) says:

    P.S. I just read the other blogs. Y’all are awesome.

    ALSO I DIDN’T KNOW HANNAH KLASSEN WAS IN ZAMBEZI. Dodd AND Hannah? You guys are incredibly lucky. So much love.

    Okay that’s all for now

    Kenks 🙂

  9. Michele E Morrell says:

    P.S. Olivia: Message from Grandma-she always knew you could fly! We love you!

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