Leaning into the discomfort

Nina, Holly, and Mama Katendi teach at Lwitadi.

It has been a privilege to feel discomfort in my privilege.

I find this happens when I go to the market.

Whenever there’s some free time in our busy schedules, a group of Zags usually find their way down to the market. It’s about half a mile from the convent down sandy roads.  The still, warm air is interrupted with the chattering of locals lining the streets, the sounds of the children in the rickety playground, and Zam pop from the barbershop on the corner. A normal day for the locals in Zambezi is disrupted by our presence. Soon after, we hear, “Chindele! Chindele!” and we have instantly stolen the attention of every person in the market. Their heads turn toward us with confusion and awe, and they stare intently at our bright skin and lightly colored hair. I feel my head fall, and I watch my feet shuffle through the thick sand. At home, staring would be considered rude. Here, stares are a gift not earned because of preconceived ideas about our wealth or education. They stare at our privilege. 

We walk by many shops and finally make our way to our intended destination: a chitenge shop. Colorful chitenge hangs from the walls and ceiling. As each of us enter, we fill the small space and begin our hunt. One chitenge in particular catches my attention, so I ask the storeowner, “How much?” 30 kwacha. I reach down into my wallet and flip through my cash. All I have left are 100 kwacha bills. That is possibly enough kwacha to pay for the storeowner’s tuition bill for her child’s next term at primary school. I’m immediately overcome with embarrassment and guilt for feeding into the stereotype about wealthy snobs from the United States being reckless with their money. I have a perfectly good chitenge back at the convent, and yet I’m still here thinking I absolutely need another just because I can afford it.


It has been a privilege to feel discomfort in my privilege.

I found that this happened when I visited the Falconer Home Orphanage.

There is a world separating Mary and me. For every obstacle she faces, I will have been handed three opportunities. It’s not my place to break down these obstacles for her, and I am restrained by both language and time to give her what she deserves. For now, I share a lemon cookie with her, and whisper, “You are my sunshine” as she slowly falls asleep on my chest. She was so calm and graceful while slipping deeply into slumber, as if she had rarely been given the gentle touch of a mother. My time with Mary wasn’t enough, nor would an infinite amount have been, but my presence will not affect her in the way it does me. It’s a privilege to meet Mary, but it’s simply a disruption to her normal life.

Mary is two years old. She and her twin sister, Sherry, have lived in the orphanage most of their lives and will continue to do so for many years. I can’t help but compare their childhood to my own. I feel guilty knowing that my bedroom is large and comfortable and all mine. I feel guilt knowing that everyday I’m fed more than enough food, and if I ever want more, there’s an overflowing fridge and pantry. I feel guilty knowing that I have more clothes than I know what to do with. I feel guilty knowing that my toys were often new and abundant and never made of repurposed trash left on the ground outside my home. The materialistic differences between Mary and me do not dictate whether one life is better than another, but somehow mine still leads me on a path of endless opportunities. 


It has been a privilege to feel discomfort in my privilege.

I found that this happened when I taught health lessons at schools in the bush.

When the health team arrived at the primary school in Malola, the first thing I noticed was the small size of the two buildings they used for educating over five hundred students. The second building wasn’t yet finished because the school’s PTA ran out of money to finish it this year, and the government can’t offer support, so it lacked a roof or any traditional furniture. Even so, the teachers are willing to be creative with the resources they have.

Our purpose for coming to Malola was to teach a lesson on menstruation to the sixth and seventh grade girls and hand out period packs containing reusable pads, a towel, and soap. Access to feminine hygiene products is rare, and even in places where they can be found in the market, the price is far too high. Because of this, many girls don’t buy these hygiene products but instead choose to stay at home when on their periods.  So, 3-5 days a month may be spent at home instead of in the classroom getting the education they are so eager to receive. In sum, that’s over a month of skipped school per year solely due to menstruation. These girls don’t choose to experience this, and they don’t choose their situation. It is just one of many obstacles adding to the difficulty of excelling in education. Not having a period pack has never stopped me from going to school. I have the privilege of buying my own hygiene products and many extras to keep on hand when needed. I left Malola overcome with shame.

Not all my teaching experiences have ended so sadly. Earlier this week on Wednesday, we had another opportunity to travel to a primary school in Lwitadi. The conditions of this school were similar to that of Malola, with over 300 students in only a handful of classrooms. These conditions, though, were not the focal point of this day trip. The class radiated positive and appreciative energy, which made for a perfect lesson led by Mama Katendi, Holly, and me. All three of us left Lwitadi feeling happy for the students and proud of our work.


I’m humbled by everything that I’ve been able to witness in Zambia. As the days go on, I attempt to organize and understand all that I’m feeling; the tensions between laughter and awkwardness, joy and anxiety, and excitement and discomfort are like a whirlwind in my head. With all of this to feel, I find most experiences hard to fully comprehend. However, I do not believe that the reason I’m here is to find understanding. This trip is a gift that a select few are able to have, so I’m beyond thankful to simply sit in this tension.

It has been a privilege to feel discomfort in my privilege.



P.S. To Mom, Dad, and Nathan, I miss you like crazy and I’m so excited to see your smiling faces when I get home.  I promise I’m safe and having the time of my life, can’t wait to tell you all about it.  Also, happy early birthday ben!

P.P.S. Morgan wants to let her loyal family and friends know that she loves them and is thinking about them, and all the Zags love the Mama Schin comments!





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8 Responses to Leaning into the discomfort

  1. Dan Schindele says:

    The experiences you all share each day inspire us to think about our own lives. You are all examples of living a Christ filled life of service. Miss you Morgan, can’t wait to have you home. Love you.

  2. Kathy Schindele says:

    Dear Zags,
    Thank you for adding the personal comment from Morgan. It made me cry instantly. I’m glad you enjoy my reactions, I speak from my heart! First and foremost, I am so proud of all of you!! It’s not easy to put yourselves in this situation. Going into situations where you feel to young, not knowledgeable and over privileged is extremely hard. However, know that: you are never to young for someone to learn something new from you( you can learn so much from a 2 year old & her twin), you have a lot of knowledge that many of these people know nothing about. You are smart leaders that have more to give these Wonderful people than you may think. Your privilege gives you the ability to be where you are, impacting their lives just by your presence. Just by being there you are showing that others care about improving their situation!

    You are Beautiful children of God who are walking in his footsteps! You are the hand and feet of Christ!!

    Enjoy your last few days there and know that you are impacting their lives and ours!!

    Love and prayers,
    Mama Schin

    P.S. Will someone give Morgan a huge hug for me? Please and thank you! Also, what is the translation of Kisu Mwane? I’m not sure who wrote this but guessing it’s Nina or Holly.

  3. Ben Ely says:

    Hi Nina & all other Zambia Zags!

    Wow. Your post is amazing, but what is more amazing is the fact that you can recognize privilege and analyze it in the way you do. I know that you are a caring person, and it clearly comes through in the way you’re approaching your time in Zambia, and how you strive to selflessly help those in need. You have such a big heart, and if there’s anyone who has a heart as big as yours, they’re probably there in Zambia, right alongside you. I’m proud of everyone who is on this trip. You are all representing the Gonzaga population in the very best manner: through using love, compassion, and empathy in a way that changes the lives of others and brings unity to the world. I applaud all of you and I think I can speak on behalf of everyone at Gonzaga that we support this group in everything you’re doing and will be happy to welcome you home when the time comes. It takes a really special group of people to be doing what you’re doing, quite possibly the very best students Gonzaga has to offer.

    Nina, I miss you, I’m thinking about you, I’m so freaking proud of you, and thank you for the birthday wishes. Your plants are alive and healthy and I’m keeping them happy for you! Keep smiling, caring, and being the amazing individual you are. Zambia is lucky to have you.

    All the best to all my fellow Zags!


    P.S. Try to find time in your busy schedules to experience some rain. You don’t want to miss the rains down in Africa.

  4. Michele E Morrell says:

    Good morning from Portland Zam Zags! I am so very proud to read each and every post and feel tears and waves of emotion from your experiences. Nina, I really liked the way you wrote this peace repeating the part about it being a privilege to feel discomfort in your privilege. You are so brave to immerse yourself in these new experiences. Recognizing and using your privilege is a concept that many of us realized much later in life. All of you are so brave to experience the new and sometimes scary circumstances you have been placed into these last 2.5 weeks. I am in awe to think about all the Gonzaga students and what great things they are going to accomplish in this world. Thank you for writing in this blog and giving us a sneak peak.

    Olivia, I really really miss you and can’t sleep! I keep looking at the clock, counting ahead and wondering what you are doing, eating, experiencing. On the home from the blueberries are growing really big and it should be a great crop this year. We’ve got a mom and dad black capped chick-a-dee couple working tirelessly in the birdhouse. Trudy is enjoying her walks with the neighborhood girls. Grandpa and I almost brought home a puppy as a homeless family at the food pantry had a truck full of poodle and wheaten terrier pups. Whoodles. Have a great rest of your week of teaching. Love you! Mom

  5. Susan Watters says:

    Great post Nina! So much we all take for granted, you and all the Zags are doing a great job at reminding us of the things and people we have to be appreciative of daily.

    Colleen we miss you so much, hope you are feeling well. Soak up all there is to experience and we look forward to hearing all about your time in Zambia. I am waiting to hear from Devon!

    Praying for all the Zags!
    Love ya
    Colleen’s Mama!

  6. Katie Shoenberger says:

    Your words paint such beautiful pictures. Every one of you!! Thank you! Every post is filled with so much energy and love. They are, for me, a welcome reminder to slow my day, pray and express gratitude for my abundance of blessings.
    You are having an impact in so many ways and this trip will forever touch your lives. What a gift!
    Bridget, I imagine the colors in the market fill you with creative energy. I can’t wait to see what’s in your bag. I hope that some of the love and energy you’re experiencing will flow into our home with the little things you bring back…. colors like the sunset, the yellow walls of the classroom, the hot sand, the blue sky…
    Love you all. I’m so grateful you’re able to have this experience – and especially grateful to live vicariously on your journey.
    A little extra hug for Bridget. xoxoxo

  7. E&G says:

    Hi Nina!

    We are so excited to finally see your blog! We have been reading all the Zag blogs daily.

    You never know which of these make the biggest difference — a simple gesture, a comment, or just listening could be a watershed moment that changes someone’s life for the better. Your presence helps the villagers in Malola know there is hope and the students in Lwitadi feel satisfied that they have learned something new.

    Your sense of Christian service, as well as the commitment to experience firsthand the struggles of others, shows that you already are well on the way to understanding. You and of all the Zambia Zags are on a special mission touching the lives of others while enriching your own. God bless you all.

    Nina, can’t wait to see your beautiful smiling face on 14th!

    Love and hugs, mom and dad.

  8. Tracy Dorsey says:

    ” It is a privilege to feel discomfort in my privilege” What a profound statement and a testament to the experience there. A life well lived takes many shapes and forms and paths. Glad to see you are growing together and loving on this community. – Hi Morgan! looking forward to see you back in sunny AZ soon. Love you!

    Aunt Tracy

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