Questioning My Fears

As we enter into our final days in Zambezi, I am experiencing so many emotions. I am filled with mixed feelings of happiness, gratefulness, and sadness. These past two weeks have been amazing; however, my experiences here were nothing like I expected them to be.

Prior to arriving in Zambezi, I shared my excitement with many friends and family members and attempted to explain what the program is all about. Most people responded with confusion as to why I chose to spend part of my summer in “Africa.” Some joked, with subtle seriousness, about how they thought I would not survive here. Even someone who was familiar with this program stopped me one day to talk to me about how worried they were for me to come here. I could go on about comments many family members and friends made to me sarcastically about this trip. But before I continue, I must recognize that I too had many anxieties and worries before arriving in Zambezi.

The first two days we were here, I found myself standoffish and not willing to engage. The anxieties I had gradually worsened, especially prior to my homestay. I was so nervous; I did not know what I would eat, where I would sleep, or really what I would do. As families arrived to pick up students, I spent the first hour trying to avoid getting sent to a homestay, thinking that if somehow I were last to leave, all would be well. It was not until I had a small conversation with Hannah regarding my fears that I realized I just needed to go for it and stop sitting around in the convent stressing about all the things that could happen that night.

I was eagerly welcomed by Elizabeth, my homestay mother, who was very excited to take me to a women-only event. For some reason I heard her say, “Kitchen Bath” instead of “Kitchen Party” when she was explaining to me where we would be going. For about five minutes, I found myself freaking out, thinking I would be entering a communal bath. I insisted I did not have to attend, but she was not taking no for an answer. Once I heard her say “party,” I knew I had it all wrong. She was actually taking me to a wedding reception, also known as a Kitchen Party. That party was so much fun, and it was definitely an experience I will cherish for a long time. I cannot believe I almost did not go because of my irrational fear that I would be soon bathing in a communal setting. 

As much as I hate to admit it, there have been many experiences like this. Coming into this trip with a negative lens only allowed me to be slapped in the face by the realizations of all the stereotypes and stigmas that lived in my brain. I often find myself questioning all the preconceived notions I have, along with those of my family and friends, and where they stem from. Why is it that almost everyone I talked to found it shocking that I chose to go to Zambezi or thought I could not survive? Why do we generalize a whole continent as somewhere that is unlivable? What do we know?

I have seen many commercials, fundraisers, and more that depict “Africa” as a place where everyone is famished. In no way am I proclaiming that I am not seeing real hunger. Simply, I would like to shine light on some things the media does not always bring attention to. That is how much so many people I meet value education. I have heard so many stories of individuals who are unable to finish or continue school because of financial issues. There are so many stories about people who have tried their absolute best to continue their educations, but they are unable to because of their situations and find themselves stuck and not able to improve their lives. I cannot count the number of times I have heard the phrase, “Finish your food. There are starving children in Africa.” Why do we not shine light on the desire for education many individuals here have? What about the desire to improve their cities, countries, and even continent? Why do we dehumanize so many by calling them a lost cause that only our benevolence can help? What do we know?

What I do know is that in the more than two weeks I have been here, I have seen stronger values and richer culture than I have ever experienced in the states. I know that each student in the Business and Leadership class has a desire to change their communities with their business proposals. I know that the students in computers are motivated to continue to develop and improve their communities with technology. I know that in the health class, the students have a strong desire to see change in the health issues they face. I know the students at Chilenga Primary School are eager each day to learn a new lesson.

Ultimately, what I know is that I have a lot to learn. My three short weeks in Zambezi will not even begin to allow me to understand an entire continent. However, I would like to say that in my time here I have learned so much. Many of my new discoveries have left me more confused than before, but I know these questions will be things I find myself pondering for the rest of my life. My time here in Zambezi is not supposed to give me all the answers. It is giving me the right questions that I will continue to struggle with.

Kalunga Akukisube, 

Margarett Qaqish

P.S. – To my family and friends, I miss you all so much. Please know I am thinking of you daily and cannot wait to share all my experiences with you. And yes, I love the food. See you very very soon. 

P.P.S- For all those wondering, Friday night we entered a choir concert competition and performed a mashup of “Where is The Love?” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and “Don’t Stop Believing.” We even danced. And yes, it did fulfil my life long dream to be on “Glee.”


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23 Responses to Questioning My Fears

  1. Hi Margarett:
    I am so happy that you are embracing every moment given to you. And I want to say that I am proud of all the other students with you too. Seeing you today on the website made me cry…I was so excited to finally hear from you. And to see that smile…
    I see your smile and know how happy you are in Zambezi.
    You are learning, teaching and forever going to take this lifetime experience to heart.
    I have learned one important thing from reading this post and that is that you see the light in the childrens eyes to learn with eagerness. And as you mentioned, the culture is richer than you would have ever imagined. You made me laugh thinking you were going to attend a communal bath…I can only imagine your thoughts…
    Your heart is full of compassion and I know you have left many their loving you.
    I found something that I read and it made me think of you…

    “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God
    is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

    Sending blessings to your Zags and a safe journey back to us…We miss tremendously
    and Ginger misses you too. I love you to the moon and back…

    • Amjad Qaqish says:

      We are so happy to as you put it to fears and preconceived notions aside and go on this wonderful trip and to learn, share and grow. Life is about learning and trying new things and the best way to do that is to sit with people and really get to know them and let them get to know you. That is how we break down misconceptions and barriers. We are very proud of you and we love you very much.
      You asked “why is it that almost everyone I talked to found it shocking that I chose to go to Zambezi or thought I could not survive?” Well, it’s because you liked to be pampered and taken care off at home and we knew there would be no pampering in Zambezi, that’s why!!!
      Although you can’t believe it’s almost time to come home and you want to stay longer, it’s been too long for us and we can’t wait till you get back. Can’t wait to hear your stories and all about your new friends.

  2. Sophia Troeh and Elizabeth Helmer says:

    Hi Margarett! It was so great to read about your experience and we are happy to hear you’ve been having such a great time and getting out of your comfort zone. The “kitchen bath” story made us laugh ◡̈ We’re both really excited to hear more when you get back and to discuss what you’ve witnessed. Love you and miss you lots!
    -liz and soph

  3. Rachel Bohan says:

    You’re awesome! From the moment i met you there was a certain spark of authenticity and compassion in your spirit and a desire to know the people around you. Your words and your experience only serve to show that. I love the way in which you view Zambia and everything that it encompasses. I once did something similar to you and it broke my heart to see the state people were living in but I left everyday feeling more full than i ever have. And i finally realized it was because these people have such a sense of joy and a special culture that radiates love and community. It is one of the most incredible feelings to be a part of and im so happy you got to experience that. I’m also really glad to see you overcome your anxieties and fear and just trust in the plan God has for you. I lived by a phrase one of my clc girls taught me this year and it is “let go and let god.” Living by this phrase changed my life and i hope it changes yours too. I learned I had a desire to control and that most of the time it just led to negative outcomes. Once I was able to hand over the reins to God, my life became a whole lot easier. Theres a lot of scary stuff in this world and a lot of anxieties and fear are to come. I think knowing we are not alone in that and seeing the beauty in everything we come across makes living in this world so so much better. Im really lucky to know you. You are an incredible woman of faith and i cant wait to hear all about your trip!

    p.s. Hey lyss it was national cider day yesterday..thought of you

  4. Cheryl Jamieson says:

    Margarett, I enjoyed your blog today. Thank you for being so honest and sharing your true feelings. I have to say that I laughed about the Kitchen Bath. I’m glad you have a homestay momma that is including you in these special events. Continue to engage in every aspect of these last few days, as you will soon realize the moment goes by much too fast.

    He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

    Mrs. J

  5. Suha Simon says:

    Hi Margarett!
    After I read your story titled “Questioning my fears “ I came to the conclusion that you in fact ‘Conquered your fears!’
    You’re absolutely right fear does keep us from doing things and fear is a liar because it makes us believe stereotypes. I’m so proud of you for conquering your fear and shows how you were able to have these experiences that enrich your life and make you a better person by being more understanding and thoughtful. Thank you For shedding the light on the importance of seeing things from a positive perspective instead of a negative lens.
    Thank you for sharing the Zembazi culture , your experiences and breaking stereotypes!
    Here’s to more amazing and life changing adventures!
    God Bless!
    Love and miss you!

  6. Kelsey Moran says:


    Beautiful writing. You should be extremely proud of yourself for taking all of these enormous steps– pushing yourself to grow in so many ways. You inspire me!! I cannot wait to hear more about your experience in Zambia in the fall.


  7. Joe Parry says:

    Wow Peggy!
    It is awesome to hear about your experience and how it has started to shape you. What you said here was worded in such an incredible way that it reminds me of my time in Tanzania. I always regret how I fell victim to my anxieties and didn’t open myself to the full experience because of fear, and I’m so unbelievable happy that you didn’t let that happen to you. I hope you continue to ponder these questions that you wrote about and all the others that have surely come up, and I hope when we get back to GU we can think and talk about them together.
    I’m sorry that I may have been one of those doubtful friends but so glad to hear it’s been incredible (and that you like the food).
    Enjoy the remainder of your time! Can’t wait to see pictures and hear all the great stories you have.

  8. Kathy Schindele says:

    Good morning Zags,

    Margarett, what an honest and heartfelt story! I’m so glad you decided to go to Zambezi. What an Amazingly Strong person it takes to overcome your fears. I would love to hear more about that Kitchen Party . It sounds like it might be similar to a bridal shower?

    As your journey in Zambia comes to an end, always remember: Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination. …

    Thank you for sharing part of your journey with us!

    Love and prayers,
    Mama Schin

  9. Sarah Qaqish says:

    Hi Margarett I miss you so much but I am so glad you are having a wonderful time. This experience is great for you to help you grow as a person. I’m happy you are liking the food and surviving I’m sorry I doubted you. I’m sad you missed my grad but I was thinking of you. I can’t wait to see you soon but enjoy your time it’s short, so experience everything you can. I love you so much and ps I lost some of your streaks sorry but me and you and Ariana still have them hehe

  10. Sahar Qaqish says:

    I’m glad your enjoying yourself. This is a very good experience when you come home you need to tell us all about it because we can’t to go there. I’m praying for you and love you and we send kisses.

  11. Bridget Foster says:

    This was amazing to read! I am so glad you have has this incredible opportunity to travel to a knew place both in the world and in yourself. It is great to hear how you are growing and helping others grow as well. This sounds like it has been an awesome time to both just have fun and help others but to also discover the strong, amazing woman that you are! I miss you a lot and am bummed at how absurdly long it will be before we see each other again but I hope you have great rest of the time in Africa!
    Safe Travels home babe!
    Ily a milli

  12. Gary says:

    Margaret & Zambezi Zags,

    Fears keep us from being our best or giving our best. Learning to work through fears will be one of the gifts that you take home from this experience.

    Another gift is perspective. When I was in college it was much less common for students to have international experiences. However, those with some exposure to living in less developed countries showed a better appreciation for the small things in life. It is clear that you are all gaining a similar perspective.

    Love from Katelyn’s family

  13. Samar says:

    Margoooooo!! Words cant merely express how proud of you I am!! I bave to admit, I was skeptical! But, I love that you surpassed yours and our expectations. You are a sheer example of someone who has “done it afraid”. I know God is surely with you and guiding you every step of the way!! Thank you for being an example to us all! Love you so much and cant wait to hear all your stories!!
    Amto Samar

  14. igooogi says:

    Good that you went. Stretching yourself intentionally when staying in your comfort zone is easier is the key to success, wisdom, and happiness. You are right again when you say that Africa is not a country but a diverse set of histories, cultures, and languages. Good reminder.

    See you soon

    PS: good writing skills!

  15. Raya Kakish says:


    Awesome blog. I knew you can do it. You conquered your fears with God by your side. You are an amazing young woman learning and experiencing new journeys in life. Your story about the baths was funny. I am glad that you went and opened your heart. Sometimes you need to “just do it” and jump into new experiences. I am very proud of your accomplishments.

    Come home safely. Thank you for sharing your experiences.
    Love Auntie Raya

  16. Nicholas Qaqish says:

    Hey Margarett! I’m so proud of you for jumping on this opportunity and putting yourself in a position to help others to a great extent. I’m so glad to hear you’re having a good time and learning from this experience. Get home safely and I’ll see you soon.

  17. Isabelle says:

    Marg! So glad you’re having an amazing time there, sorry for all the doubters (including me lol only because of the food, which I want to hear more about). Can’t wait to learn about what you’re doing down there and other crazy stories you might come back with, it, seems like such a great opportunity. Kinda bummed it didn’t turn out to be a community bath. Miss you though and hope the rest of trip goes safely!!

    Your least fave Lada,

  18. Rana Jones says:

    Hi Margarett,
    We are so proud of you for stepping out of your comfort zone to help others! You are so brave and an inspiration to all! I was so touched reading your blog and look forward to hearing all about your amazing experience! Continue to step out of your comfort zone and do wonderful things! God Bless you always 🙂
    Love you so much!!!

    Love ~ Rana and the rest of the Jones family

  19. Peggy O’Heron says:

    Hello Margarett and the rest of you Zags!

    The dance with fear, preconceived notions and self-doubt……for me, a life-long ‘waltz’….just think of the internal ‘muscles’ you are all building!What a gift.

    As your time in Zambezi comes to and close, I will be thinking of all of you. I can only imagine saying ‘so long’ to a people and place where you’ve exchanged so much richness, respect, learning and love.


    P.S. if you happen to be sitting along side of Devon at this moment, please give her a hug from me……thank you.

  20. Dear Margarett
    I read your blog and
    I disagree with one thing
    I am not one of the doubters
    So – I always had my faith in you
    James Gardner

  21. Isaak Qaqish says:

    Hope you are having a good time Margarett. The family misses you. I hope you enjoy the rest of your trip and get home safe.

  22. Mama Ann says:

    “Ultimately, what I know is that I have a lot to learn” – I am in awe of your insight. I hope Zambia means the world to you, as your words mean to me.
    Mama Ann

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