“But we are Different”

Emmanuel’s house rests on a large plot above the Zambezi River. The pink walls and deep red steps blend in with the hot Zambian sun that beats down on the back of our necks, even in the dead of winter.  The large, off-brand, flat-screen television connects to a speaker system, with enough bass to shake the buildings across the dirt road. The booming drowns out the hum from three fridges that line the walls while Nickelodeon cartoons and a live stream of the Royal Wedding illuminate the different colors of chitenge that cover the doorways. Emmanuel’s mother works at the police station specializing in crime scene investigation while his father spends over 12 hours a day at New Generation, a general store in the middle of the market.

Emmanuel helps his friends read the questions I write down. His skill in English allows us to have a meaningful conversation, something that cannot happen with most children, and even many of the adults in Zambezi because of my inability to speak Luvale, Lunda or any of the other local languages. I ask him: “Why do you like to hold all of our hands?”

He says with a grin, “Because we are friends. Your skin is white and soft.” His smile fades as he rubs my arm. “My skin is black and rough. We are different.” His smile disappears and he averts his eyes to his callused hands.

“No, we are the same,” I insist, pleading with him, or perhaps just myself.

“No, we are different,” he repeats.

I want us to be the same. I want to believe that my privilege plays no role in my life. But these are both not true; I suspect Emmanuel would do very well in a place with more opportunity. I want to believe we are the same because it is the easy thing to do. I want to believe that the places we were born have nothing to do with the fact that I am spending thousands of dollars to come to his country, eat his food, and sleep in his bed.  

Emmanuel is correct; we are different. He understands these differences more at 13 than I will my entire life. He more intimately understands the opportunities of the 20 studentswho come to Zambia on a plane each year for one month, who then leave in that same plane. He knows that he will probably never see me again and that our friendship will complicate once I go home, even though I wish it were otherwise. He knows I will go back to my life of privilege and opportunity in the United States

However, we have many things in common. We are both people and deserve the same dignity and respect. He and his family show me this again and again. Emmanuel’s family offers me their home when I come visit, and his father offers me free drinks in his shop. Emanuel and I can hold a conversation about football and basketball or a conversation about why he likes to watch Nickelodeon cartoons over Disney cartoons. We both immediately know how to play hide-and-seek and to not leave the fridge open too long or the milk will spoil.

While I may never be able to identify or define these differences that the two of us possess, the effect that it has emerges. He tells me that he wishes to visit me in America and attend American University. What do I tell him? I think we both know the odds are stacked against him. Should I tell him that, after I leave Zambezi, I think this will be the last time I greet him, Chimene mwane? We don’t talk about these things. Instead, I spend as much time as possible with not only him but also the entire Zambezi community. I visit his father’s general store to buy a Coke and say hello. I cannot do much to dismantle the complex issues that have done so much harm to Zambia, so what can I do?


Whoever you are, written by Mem Fox.

Little one,

whoever you are,

wherever you are,

there are little ones just like you all over the world.

Their skin may be different from yours,

and their homes may be different from yours.

Their schools may be different from yours,

and their lands may be different from yours.

Their lives may be different from yours,

and their words may be very different from yours.

But inside, their hearts are just like yours,

whoever they are, wherever they are, all over the world.

Their smiles are like yours,

and they laugh just like you.

Their hurts are like yours, and they cry like you, too,

whoever they are, wherever they are, all over the world.

Little one, when you are older and when you are grown,

you may be different,

and they may be different, wherever you are, wherever they are, in this big, wide world.

But remember this:

Joys are the same, and love is the same.

Pain is the same, and blood is the same.

Smiles are the same, and hearts are just the same- wherever they are, wherever you are, wherever we are,

all over the world.


Kisu Mwane

Garrett DiMarco

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11 Responses to “But we are Different”

  1. Ann Boman DiMarco says:

    Thank you Garrett …we are all the same. Your post made me think about Dad and my time in Nepal…yes,we are all the same.
    I love you so much and am praying for your team and the wonderful people you are visiting.
    I am looking forward to your stories.
    Kisu Mwane

  2. Diana DiMarco says:


    I think we both know I am crying after reading this:) It is profound in its honesty and how clearly it reveals your BIG heart and the humbling experiences you are having. Also I appreciate getting a taste of what colors you see there and how it feels and the connections I know you all are making. I love you, I miss you

    Love DD

  3. Peggy O’Heron says:

    Hello Garrett and all,

    I am struck by your post and left thinking about one thing- what would my experience day to day be like if I wore a lens called ‘sameness’ through which I would view, assess, judge, evaluate every aspect of my life? I think my ‘automatic’ filter is one of difference, maybe rooted in a fear that I am ‘different’ or not the same……or maybe some other fear….
    Obviously not well-formed thoughts but I appreciate the nudge to look a bit deeper…what could our world be like if we all saw sameness first……

    Much warmth, gratitude and love to you all

  4. Ann Boman DiMarco says:

    Hi Garrett
    Please thank Emmanuel’s Mother and Father for sharing their love and home with you (hard to type again through tears). It means so much to me! And to Emmanuel,thank you for being Garrett’s friend and brother. While complicated, friendships can last through the years and over many miles.
    I love you.
    Kisu Mwane

  5. Gary says:

    Hello Garrett and Zambezi Zags.

    I have had the privilege to collaborate with people in several countries. In many ways we are the same. We value friendship. We value commitment. We value sharing good times. Some of us have been given better opportunities, but as a result we also have a higher duty to convert those opportunities into good works.

    Keep it up. We know you are doing good, Zags!

    Love from Katelyn’s family (and her dog Sandy)

  6. Elly says:


    So excited to hear from you. I seriously love Mem Fox and I remember back to two years ago sitting in a circle in those wonderful plastic chairs that say, “God is Love” with the education team and reading the book for the first time. We were nervous, anxious, and excited for our first day at Chilenga and we wanted to review our plan for the day. Reading those words gave me peace and encouragement and I really did come to realize the smiles and hearts that show love all around the world.

    Garrett your writing is a beautiful depiction of an interaction and relationship that is filled with love and joy and frustration and pain. Thank you for your insight and gentle nature of observing Zambezi.

    Missing you and all of the ZamGold peeps. (Hi Anna, Olivia, and Grace!)

    I hope you enjoy your time in Dipalata this weekend. It will bring new memories of smiles and joy and pain and frustration. The wonderful welcome and gathering of community around one campfire is unlike any other.

    Kisu Mwane,

  7. Katie Kenkel says:

    Garrett, what a beautifully honest reflection that brought tears to my eyes. It is amazing how wise those young ones can be. As Elly said, our Education team chose to read “All Over the World” for our first day of class at Chilenga. What a powerful book with a really important message. Thank you for sharing that message and for living it out in Zambezi- Emmanuel is lucky to have you as a friend.

    Much love,

  8. Kathy Schindele says:

    Yes, you are different. In looks and in privilege but always remember that we are all more similar than we are different. We all love, laugh, hurt, smile, have feelings and so much more. The similarities are more important than the differences.

    Don’t worry about what happens after you go home. Live and enjoy the here and now and know that you are making a difference!!

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story!

    Love and prayers,
    Kathy Schindele

  9. Momma Ebel says:

    Beautiful post and picture. Haunting and memorable. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Katie and Paul Shoenberger says:

    Love!! Love y’all!! Blessings & Hugs!! xoxoxoxo

  11. Mama Ann Brunett says:

    Thanks for a beautiful acknowledgement of the struggle that’s at the heart of so many of our Zambezi experiences. One step at a time.
    Stay well!

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