In conclusion…there is no conclusion

♪ We hope to meet, rejoice again, hope to rejoice again ♪
Arriving in Zambezi to the familiar voice of Jescar Mukumbi leading the Chileña choir through their welcome program brought me back to the last song Jessi had sung to the group of 2017 Zags in Zambezi:
♪ Time has come to say goodbye, time has come to say goodbye, we hope to meet, rejoice again, hope to rejoice again ♪
Last June, I left Zambezi at peace with the idea that this was a time in my life that had come to a close. It was a time filled with confusion and frustration coupled with laughter and admiration, but a time that was through. My story would continue on somewhere else. I knew upon departure that I would hold close those moments spent bustling around in the back of the Land Cruisers in search of another learning opportunity. I would hold close partaking in three-hour-long masses with music and dancing that reminded me of the joy found in community worship. I would hold close cheering on the grade 7 students during their play performances with tear filled eyes. These moments amongst countless others have been constant reminders throughout the year of the power of engagement when I find myself falling into a mindless day of going through the motions of work and school. I had learned and loved with Zambezi but the script would not continue beyond our goodbyes at the airport. And yet I am learning that the script continues to be written. There is no conclusion.

I came back to Zambezi as the student teaching assistant. During my second visit I realized that the more I learn about Zambezi, the more I discover I have barely scratched the surface of understanding. I’ve found myself questioning more deeply my initial perceptions of the lives of individuals I have met, the community, and the parts of the culture I have interacted with. I’m challenging a lot more as opposed to taking things at face value. Lifestyles and cultural norms I thought I had figured out became much more complex than I made them out to be. I thought I had summarized the way the Zambian education system functions because of my short time spent teaching at Chileña last summer. The more formal, British-style education system made me think there wasn’t much student engagement, but I was misguided by my educational lens. This summer, I have come to learn through conversations with headmasters, deputy heads, and teachers from different primary and secondary schools these assumptions about teaching strategies and exercises I had generalized for all classrooms in Zambia were incorrect. There is no summary; there is no conclusion.

I have accepted the fact that the purpose of me being here is not to discover any sense of purpose but rather be present and listen to the different perspectives I have the chance to learn from. The trap that I find myself falling into is the frustration of not finding the answers to all my questions, and without them, I choose to summarize stories and experiences. This allows me to formulate my own explanations. It is naïve to think that I can summarize the lives of individuals and community structures with the limited experience I have as well as the personal biases that I carry with me into every interaction.

I can think of several individuals who have given me glimpses into their journeys thus far, but I could in no way provide a summary that holds the depth that these individuals are due. Last year I was introduced to a couple, James and Mary, who have been dressing Zags in the finest chitenge outfits for years. I spent many afternoons on their porch, making small talk and enjoying the calm pace at which it seemed they lived their day-to-day lives. My summary of James and Mary was that they were a nice family that provided me with an escape from the bustle of the market or the chaos of the classroom. There is no neat conclusion about who James and Mary are. I had the chance to reunite with these two, and yes, once again sit on their porch and chat. But this time I realized their lives are more complex than I had summarized them to be. James and Mary support many children and grandchildren, working tirelessly everyday to do so. (It can be easy to be fooled by their calm demeanor). They remind me of my hardworking parents, who began and continue to run a family business together. Tak and Carol can be found at the Grand Shanghai cooking and serving Chinese food just about everyday, in the same way James and Mary can be found sitting on their porch cutting and sewing Chitenge everyday. My parents have instilled a work ethic in me that I see James and Mary instill in their family. Work hard to earn what you want in life but make space for peace and laughter with your family along the way. This is and will continue to be more complex than my summary of a couple that sits on their porch and sews.

With my limited knowledge, I cannot give Zambezi or individuals I have met along this journey a summary. What I know I can do is share pieces of stories that continue to be written whether I am a part of them or not. I love to share these pieces because they are now a part of my story, but I want the world to know they are in no way summaries, there is no conclusion. I may not be back to Zambezi in the future but I refuse to make summaries. The stories continue.


Thanks Zambezi, thanks James and Mary, and thanks Mom and Dad,

Anna Yeung 

James, Mary, and I at the accompaniment dinner. “Their sweet Chinese-American daughter” -Jeff Dodd
(sorry for photo quality I took a photo of a photo because technology is my enemy)


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5 Responses to In conclusion…there is no conclusion

  1. Elly says:


    Yes yes yes yes yes. Your conclusion of no conclusion brings a me a sense of peace that I am searching for this year in being one year removed from time in Zambezi. The wonderful part about this program is that yes, the stories do continue and that more and more folks can come to the same “conclusion” as you. This place and these people are a part of you and I hope you keep the stories close to you. Anna I am so proud to know you and have witnessed your tremendous impact on those around you. Our late night pillow talks under the mosquito net last year with Mak Daddy were filled with a yearning to know more. I’m glad you are still pushing to know more and I know your group is thankful for this desire.
    On a similar note, let’s keep talking about how awesome Anna Yeung is. I can still hear your laugh bouncing off the walls in the convent, filling everyone’s soul with deep joy and allowing us to delight in the world. I hope you all got to experience that laugh A LOT during the past few weeks. And how ‘bout that willingness to try something new, meet someone new, find something new, or learn something new? I can’t wait to hear how that played out this year in Zambezi. I want to say thank you to Tak and Carol too for raising such a genuine, charismatic, courageous, and loving daughter.

    In Conclusion Zags, let the story continue. You went to Dubai, you went to Lusaka, you went to Zambezi, you went to Livingstone, you went to Botswana, you went back to Livingstone, and you are going back to Lusaka, and you are going back to Dubai, and then… you keep going. Find ways to connect this experience with moments you have upon your return. The little stories that pop into your head while you are eating dinner with a friend, reading a book, looking at a photo, or reminiscing with other ZamBaes. The big reflections that keep you up at night or pop into your head as people ask you the super awesome loaded question, “How was Africa?” All of it. It’s all the story, and it’s a fraction of the story. Just keep your story going

    All my love and gratitude for the wonderful travelers who have shared their insights during this experience. From one Zambae to another, tunasakwilia Mwane. (And then you all say…. mwaneeeeee)

    Kisu Mwane,
    Elly Zykan

    PS. Anna, I’m heading to Milwaukee in a few hours for the summer and I’ll be a few hundred miles closer to the Grand Shanghai. How about a lunch date in the future?

  2. Katie Shoenberger says:

    Thank you for taking us on this journey! Thank you Bridget for convincing us how important this experience was for you and now I understand for me. You’ll bring something back with you that will have an impact on all of us. All of your stories are so honest and there’s so much love. Learning to be in the moment and just love and listen is such a gift. Thank you for the reminder of what I aspire but continues to challenge. Safe travels beautiful ZagZamFam!! xoxoxo I will miss this blog and all your voices. But I am very glad to see Bridget’s bright eyes and wrap myself in her warm hug!!

  3. Katie Polacheck says:

    YOU GOT JAMES AND MARY TO LEAVE THE PORCH! And you all match! What lovely faces. So happy to see you glowing and growing, Anna Yeung. I’m proud of the ways you led the zags through zambezi/beyond and I’m soooooo excited to see what the future has in store for you. Remember, you can always keep coming back to Zambia 🙂

    Love and mwane to you all as you begin this next transition. Please be free and reach out if you ever want to chat. I’ll be here, eating nshima.

    Twatasha mukwai (thank you),

  4. Margaret Hoban says:

    Oh Anna, How wonderful it is to hear from you and see your darling smile! When Madelyn began considering this trip to Zambia I thought…”oh, no!” But when I heard you’d be going as the student TA I thought “it’s going to be ok”! I’ll never forgot meeting you your sophomore year as one of Madelyn’s roommates. You were/are so poised, confident and beautiful. Remember that itty bitty diaper you showed us? Madelyn has always said should wonderful things about you and now I understand why! Your family in Zambia are fortunate to have met you and I’m sure you will see them again! Your Zag family is so excited to see you soon and thank you for your leadership, guidance and love! I admire you because I know Madelyn can sense great character!

  5. Mo$ says:


    Yes. Love the idea that the stories continue. Can’t wait to hear about your new experiences and insights from this year. Love that you brought James and Mary to the accompaniment dinner. Love you and your sweet soul. I am so thankful to know you, Anna!

    I think there is an abundance of peace held in the notion that stories don’t always have to have a conclusion. How often do we try to write summaries and provide answers to stories that are supposed to be continuing? In relationships, in future plans….and the list could go on. An interesting lesson to consider in all aspects of life.

    My last day of school is tomorrow (thank goodness I let the teaching story continue this year) and the thought of Jesse and the kids singing “time has come to say goodbye” is 1) stirring up emotions 2) making me consider solo singing the song to my students tomorrow?? I’ll let you know how it goes if it happens. . I also want to hear more about the conversations you had with people in the schools! Sounds intriguing.

    Thanks zags for sharing pieces of your journey along the way. Remember to not stay too far from a bathroom when you get home…you never know.

    Traveling Mercies!(s/o to Anne Lamott and Mama Kris)

    Morgan Green

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