I prefer not to think too much about an experience beforehand.
Nevertheless, many romanticized thoughts snuck into my head as well as resided there as our class met to prepare for our moments in Zambia, every Monday in the spring semester. Of course, my reoccurring hope for anywhere I go, is that I will notice an older woman sitting somewhere by herself, plop right on down next to her, exchange greetings and introductions, and after asking her a few too many questions about her life, proceed to sit in mostly silence, with an occasional wise or absolutely hilarious (certainly nothing in between), comment spoken by my new friend. Those who know me well know that I enjoy sharing conversations and silence with older folk.
Another reoccurring hope I did not realize I was harvesting until later related to my homestay. It is not that I had planned out the entirety of the moments we would share in detail (that would just be crazy), I simply planned out what I thought was a fairly obtainable situation. Obviously, I would be nervous at first, then—immediately upon meeting the host family—be welcomed into their modest home, sit with them (we would all gather around and probably sit in a circle at a table or on the floor, who cares) and have beautiful conversation. There would be wonderful moments of silence, they would ask me all about me, as I they, and most importantly we would discuss the things of faith and the soul within the first half hour. We would laugh, we would sit in silence and fellowship with one another comfortably. I would never want to leave Zambia afterwards probably and they would wish me not to go and demand I come back. We would be kindred spirits forever, easily.
Yes, I knew not all families were like this in Zambezi. I did. I had heard people that had gone before me tell me about countless families who have television and phones. Families who have beds, parents with college degrees, and etc., sure. Even though I told myself I knew this, I could not help but hope my experience would be the one in which the grandma crawled into bed with me (that was a moment that happened one year).
But, as Sylvia, me and Josh’s homestay mom, showed us her one-room home, with a big television flashing at us as she told us about her love for Disney Channel and as she was fixated on her phone while Josh and I invited her seemingly timid cousins, Chikaninu and Likoji, into a game of go fish (thank goodness I brought cards J, sorry family I took the star wars cards, I did not ask, and those will not be returning, yes my apologies), I could not help but feel a little disappointed. That is where I began to realize the image I had painted in my mind of how the homestay would go. This disappointment lingered and grew as the television in her aunt and uncle’s living room blasted United States pop songs, during our card game with their kids and during breakfast with Mr. and Mrs. Micheyi. I could not help but feel the deep relationships I was hoping to develop from this experience were tainted by stupid stupid Cardi B. I did not realize it fully then, I was trying to make the best of the situation and to get to know the wonderful people who were hosting us. But it was not what I had imagined. And although I ‘knew’ better, I still allowed those thoughts to develop into hopes and excitement that soon led to disappointment.
Overall, there were many wonderful moments created during the homestay. The munchkins warmed up to Josh and me, we played many rounds of cards, Mrs. Micheyi helped us out with our Luvale, I had to quickly disarm one-year-old Lumbanji from the huge knife he was holding, we laughed with Sylvia at her love for Disney, we discussed the similarities and differences of the northwest and Zambezi, and I must admit my body was filled with warmth when we introduced ourselves to the congregation our first Sunday and I spotted Chikaninu say my name and smile and wave at me. After mass, our host family asked us to return and Josh and I are planning on going tomorrow to visit with them and hopefully Sylvia will teach us a new card game as she promised.
My hopes and expectations both encouraged preconceived notions about a family I had not met yet and led to my own disappointment. While such thinking can be detrimental, it is impossible to avoid such thoughts. Likewise, my host family certainly had ideas about me before I arrived. Furthermore, one’s power resides in the ability to recognize that one’s own expectations are unavoidable and observe that their disappointment most likely derives from expectations. I knew this concept in theory before this experience and yet I fell into the same trap. Therefore, this experience serves as a beautiful reminder to continue to guard my heart, disengage silly thoughts, and question my feelings. Fortunately, this is a lifelong process J.