Hello all!

This is Leila, writing to you from a bench next to some windows at the back of a large conference room. The space is one we use to teach the Business and Leadership class. Outside the window at my right cheek is a large tree whose foliage is shading me from the sun that the Zambians laugh at me for calling “SO HOT.”  In its after hours vacancy, this favorite spot of mine has become a refuge for retreat when I feel the need for the soft quiet of solitude. Before I really begin, I would love to assure you of our well-being here in the wonderful community of Zambezi. I know my family and friends at home have felt some sense of uneasiness as I have walked into an experience that is new to the both of us. I have a strong feeling they are in good company with many of the people keeping up with our blog. This community has opened itself so joyfully to the new zags who are continuing a story of friendship that has endured the past 12 years. I will not speak for the whole of my peers, but a quick survey of my classmates can reveal many of us are eager to feel the rhythm that a routine will bring as we begin our classes this week.

The first day of school has always been one of my favorite days of the year, so really it was no surprise when I ended up choosing to study special education at GU, and then placed on the Chileńa Literacy team during our time abroad. The first day of school has always carried for me some a distinct sense of excited anticipation unlike any other. The day seems to hold some promise of a fresh start, a clean slate. There does seem to be a special weight that is the companion to any new beginning. This weight is less of a burden, and more of a  powerful yet precious responsibility. In this new home, that responsibility has everything to do with friendship, and nothing to do with lesson plans. On the wall of our common area rests the words from Aaron Ausland: “Friendship, real and deep, is the foundation of giving that empowers.” These words haven’t stopped making rounds through my mind, and I don’t have much of a plan to stop them.

This first day is unlike any other first day I think I will ever experience. At Chileńa, they have been adjusting to their second term schedule for a couple of weeks, this leaves me holding the truth that this is only my first day, not theirs. As I step into this fully filled and new to me space, I am reminded that the paramount goal of this trip is to remain not in the pursuit of objective success but the pursuit of sincere companionship. This dream of true companionship or accompaniment has been a theme in conversations of reflection and a signature left on hearts of all leaders I’m with on this trip.

The most striking evidence of this spirit of accompaniment has come from our walk to the Chileńa Primary school this morning to meet the head master and observe the English teacher. Before we were welcomed in with hands outstretched and wide toothy smiles mirrored by our own, we were greeted by the sign. Yes, a sign. A large, concrete, sign. On the front, this sign reads “Welcome to Chileńa Primary School” (or something like that), but on the hind side of the sign lay the words in bold red paint, “LONG LIVE CHILEŃA GONZAGA PARTNERSHIP.” Wow. What a welcome.

These 5 words tell a much bigger story than just that of my showing up here to learn and teach for 15 short days of class.

Earlier this year in talking to a friend of mine, Sanna, she said to me, “Nothing can prepare you for what will happen once you step off that bush plane” and oh my was she right. Zambians are absolute PROS at giving a warm welcome. We were received off the planes last Friday to the mighty Chileńa choir dancing and singing in celebration of their reunion with Gonzaga. Might I add that this choir has won national championship titles? In trying to reconcile this regal welcome we have experienced, I have come to realize that we are not only being welcomed so grandly as individuals new to this community, but as a limb of the greater body of Gonzaga University that they have come to know well. Does this feel a little meta yet?

The sign that greeted us at Chileńa told a story of mutually indebted gratitude towards this unique partnership between our schools; with the greater body of humans called Gonzaga- Zags who come back year after year to build friendships that extend beyond the four walls of the Chileńa classroom and beyond the three weeks of our stay. The sign tells tales of how these individual relationships contribute to the creation of one larger composition of trust, mutual respect, and friendship grounded in curious love. These crucial signatures of accompaniment are not only an account of the relationships we’ll continue building here in our time, but of the relationship that has grown between GU and the communities in Zambezi. Even this relationship between GU and Zambezi can tell us something about the connection that Zambia has with the US. Pretty meta, right?

My hope for the following weeks is that we commit to being surprised by this community each and every day. I hope we allow ourselves to be served where we are serving. I hope we give way for our classes to be vehicles for the fostering of life-giving friendships with Zags and Zambians, and we commit to making this month full of deeply rich dialogue around self awareness, intercultural leadership, and the meaning of global citizenship. The three-ish weeks that we have left to spend in Zambezi will no doubt be very focused on building relationships grounded in curiosity and care with those in and out of the classes we are teaching. These individual relationships are only paragraphs in the chapter titled 2019 in a book titled Gonzaga Staying for Tea in Zambezi, and I can’t wait to be a character in them. TOTALLY META.

You have my heart,

Leila Lewis ’21

Family, I miss you all so very much. Each of you carry a special piece of me while I’m on this journey, and I can’t wait to share with you all the special moments I’m collecting on this trip. Kisu Mwane. I love you!!!  – Leilou 

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Meta

  1. Taylor Dawley says:

    Leila Lewis writing a blog post titled “Meta” is about as meta as it gets…best of luck to all of the Zags in Zambezi! To Leila specifically, but also to all the members of this trip I know personally as well as the members I have not met yet, I can’t wait to hear all of the rich stories you all bring back with you.

  2. Mia Campbell says:

    H E L L O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O Efin!
    Just wanted to say that I am finking of you and sending you love. Hope that the baby wipes were *in fact* the move. I miss ya out here.
    Pozzy vibes to everyone and hope that the transition has been only good things!!

  3. Dana McElligott says:

    It’s an absolute treat to read your thoughtful and well-written blogs! Not only an insight to your experiences and perspectives, but an insight to the personalities and group dynamics- what a special group of Zags! Keep sharing your stories, every little detail helps paint a picture.

    To Ellie, we miss you terribly but are so excited for your experience! No need to send any more bridge jump videos- I’m still recovering and Luke and Grace can’t believe you did it- you’ve earned some major sibling stripes!

    Embrace it all and fill your heart! I love you! Mom

  4. Christina Sciammas says:

    Thanks for your heartfelt post. I can see how the relationships that are happening in and outside of the classroom will be rich and remembered forever. I look forward to hearing more about how the classes are going and how your Zambezi experience unfolds. On a lighter note….. do you know this Zag yet? She’s got a wildly curly mane that shapes her face, green eyes that hypnotize, a power stance, a heart for romance, She’s a game changer and a change-maker, she fights the good fight and speaks truth that can bite, She’s sassy, classy and totally bad-Assy!
    Is she blushing yet? Chloe I miss and love you! You’re gonna be great as a teacher!!
    Love , xoxo Mom. PS we missed you at Patrick’s graduation

  5. Sanna Darvish says:

    Sweet Leila, it makes me so happy to know you and the rest of the Zambezi crew are learning and growing in your first couple days. You are so right: teaching isn’t supposed to be a burden, but should be rooted in friendship and encouragement. Your relationships with your students aren’t quantified by the number of hours you spend with them, but qualified by the warmth and support you bring to them each day. And I know you are doing just that at Chilenga, because of the compassion you constantly radiate. But also remember, it is okay to need support from your students, as well as the other Zags sitting around that mumbled-jumbled breakfast table (let me guess, your either eating scrambled eggs with loads of PB or Jungle Oats with boxed milk?). Accompaniment should be mutual. You are an educator, but forever worthy of being educated.

    I am so excited hear about your successes, challenges, times of frustration and times of growth. Sending you lots of patience and love. Give an extra squeeze to Maurie, Bryce, and Emma!

  6. Kelen says:

    LEILA YOU’RE SO CUTE! Man am I glad you’re in Zambezi. I can so easily see you walking with 4 kids holding your hands, beaming with such joy and peace. Your presence and heart are so so radiant – you are meant to be where you are, I am sure of it. Pursue the surprises and have such a fun time!

    Emma thanks for an awesome post! I’ll be thinking of you as you continue to be fully engaged in conversation and relationship with those in front of you. I’ve always been thankful for how present you are with me, and can only imagine in what ways you are this way and curious to what unites you among those around you.

    Chloe 1. I really don’t understand how you like watching Jeffree Star. I watched a video and really hated it 2. I heard you (and all of y’all) met Debby. He’s keeping me updated on his visits with all of you and it’s really cute and 3. I watched the video Chad made you where he calls you an old lady and a naughty girl today and laughed – I miss you both. I hope you get some good laughs out of today, I love you!

    @ Everyone – happy beginning of classes! You’re in my thoughts as you ease into what it’s all like. Zambezi is so excited to have you

  7. Dayna Jones says:

    Leila! Beautifully written my friend. Absorb it all! So glad you’re there!
    Dayna Coleman Jones

  8. ZagFam in Auburn WA says:

    Hello sweet Leilou! Thank you for the update and the special family message. I can very much picture you in that conference room, with the Sonshine upon your face! Wow! You are all such incredible writers who are able to convey your thoughts, reflections, ponderings and anticipation of what is still yet to come. I am so grateful for GU and the professors who possess the intellect, creativity and commitment to provide experiences such as Zambezi. You are all on such a meaningful and purposeful adventure. Embrace it all. (As I am sure you are!) While your families are so excited to wonder what each day in Zambezi brings to you, we are also counting the days till your return (21) because we want to hear your stories and know of the relationships you have built. I hope the first day of school met with success. I wonder if you had some nicely-sharpened Ticonderogas? Looking forward to continued words from the Zags in Zambezi! Long Live! Leila: Lots of hugs … We LOVE YOU … like META love! Kisu Mwane!

  9. Rob Lewis says:

    Leila, I was so impressed reading your post. The way you strung those words together makes it obvious to me that you took after mom in that regard. I can easily see that you are all-in on this trip, as you are with every undertaking you pursue. How you are not exhausted 20 hours a day is a mystery to me. We will plan a Zambezi night upon your return, where you can regale us into the night. By the way, as far as that bungee jump: 1. I really hope you have video, and 2. Thank you for not telling mom and me until after you had already done it. With you sitting safely beside me at home, I will probably be able to watch the video. Probably. Be safe, and radiate, as only you can. I love you. Dad

  10. Randy says:

    Hey Leila, I hope you’re having a good time. I’m excited for you to come back so we can hang out again. I’ve got some ideas on fun things to do, but i’ll have to wait to tell you when you get back. Check your snapchat as soon as you get the chance during your way home! I didn’t actually read this thing because i’m lazy, but i’m sure your writing is great!
    See you soon. Randy

  11. Dena says:

    Oh, Leila. This adventure you’ve embarked on is unlike any other and the memories you are capturing will be a lifetime treasure. I love that you are sprinkling your joy all over Zambezi! Reading your post made me smile and cry at the same time. I can picture you there and it’s wonderful. I am SO proud of you for having the desire, wisdom and confidence to do this. How enriching in every possible way! We miss you and are so excited to see your pictures and hear your amazing stories. See you soon for Zola’s and Menchies! Go Zags! All our love, The Pinards

Comments are closed.