“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world”
– Mary Anne Radmacher
Prior to opening my journal, I had no idea what I was going to blog about. Our fifteen short days here have been filled with emotion. I am not the same having seen the moon shine 10,000 miles away from the place I call home. The short time in Zambezi has shown me more about myself than any of the many self-assessments I have taken in my short twenty years. After busy days in our classrooms, many of us take a journey to Zambezi Motel where we take time to soak up the fiery-red sun as it dips below the horizon and gives way to a nearly full moon. This transition ends just another day we have spent understanding what it means forus to be here, as many of us struggle with finding our purpose in Zambezi. This transition is a helpful reminder to spend time taking in the beauty of our opportunity and break down expectations for ourselves. This transition reminds us that tomorrow we will begin again, another day of endless opportunity. Our days hold abundant class time and trips to the market. But perhaps the most prevalent aspect of my daily experience is the role played by our Zambian mamas. Zambezi holds the most colorful sunsets I have ever experienced but also strong women that remind me of the ones I leave at home. Although I have seen the moon shine on the other side of the world, the mama’s that surround us make Zambezi a home away from home.
Around the convent our mamas, Katendi and Violet, keep us both safe and very, very full. Mama Katendi spends her time with Mama Violet in the convent’s kitchen preparing our meals. Each time I pass through the front doors, I am greeted by both of these mamas with smiling faces and hugs.
Each of us gets the privilege of being “Mama’s helper,” one day while we are here. This gives us the opportunity to spend extra time with the mamas and learn about their personal lives, all while preparing food for those who reside in the convent. Last week, I was lucky enough to get to be Mama’s Helper. While carrying three chickens that Mama Katendi would soon kill for lunch, I learned about her life. She moved from Zambezi with her children in 2014, to leave behind a life that she no longer wanted to live. From that moment on, she has provided for her seven children on her own. Mama Katendi travels here from Mufulira (781 kilometers), just to spend the month here in Zambezi with us. Working alongside these women for the day showed me how much work these women put in to get food on the table for us.
Mama Violet leaves her family home, traveling 40 minutes on foot to and from the convent, to care for us. Mama Violet leaves us here in the evening, only to continue providing for her five children at home. In total, each day Mama Violet provides love and care for twenty-seven children. Of course, none of our meals is worth enjoying unless it begins with * Mama Violet voice * “the food is as follows… [insert each entrée and side of the meal here].”
Mama Nancy comes to the convent three times a week to assist us in cleaning the home, and doing laundry for us. She raises her granddaughter, who was left at the loss of her daughter, who lost her life in child birth.
Mama Josephine visits the convent three times a week for language lessons. She shares stories about her life and career as a Zambian politician. Involving herself in politics at the young age of thirteen years, she is well known among those in the Zambezi community. It is inspiring to watch her lead so passionately as a woman, as it is uncommon to be a female politician. These women have pushed the importance of women being self-advocates and being strong enough to live on one’s own. Mama Josephine emphasized this during a past language lesson, as she learned before becoming divorced from her husband.
When I am called a “strong girl,” and “hard-working” from these women I feel a sense of pride, but also undeserving of these affirmations. These women have fought hard to keep their families safe and give those around them a good life. They drop their lives to take care of 19 Gonzaga students that they may only know for 21 days. These women tell us that they care about us, and they are always here for us. I am humbled knowing that these women share their love so easy, and expect nothing in return. They are passionate, strong, hard-working women that make you feel their presence. Their work is not publicized, but felt by those around them. These are the women that I aspire to be like in different ways. These women in Zambezi are like the woman who raised me, and I see a part of her in each one of them. I have been asked a couple times who has taught me the importance of hard work from, and it is safe to say, I got it from my mama.
To Emmitt: Congratulations on finishing up your senior year of high school! I am very proud of all that you have accomplished and will continue to accomplish at UW. I wish I could be there to celebrate!
To Zach: Good luck in the NWAC’s this week! Cheering for #15 from Zambezi!!
To Mac G: Thank you for the big hug, sending you a big kiss back your way J
To the rest of those I love: I cannot wait to share my experiences in Zambezi with you all! Thinking of you each step of the way.