Kalundola Bound; Liberations Bound

In the words of Nasir Jones, “I don’t know how to start this [thing],” so I’m just gonna type whatever comes to mind.

First, a preface. To friends, future friends, family, and as a reminder to myself, the purpose of this trip is not aid, vacation, nor cranking out a couple extra credits. As stated in previous posts, accompaniment is why we are here and at the end of the day, the friends we make, trips we take, and amount we grow are products of the process towards that goal. An important quote we continue to ponder, and I encourage readers to dwell on as well, is as follows:

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” -Lilla Watson

I know Janeen has already included Dr. Watson’s words in her post but I only repeat them here because of their importance and the implications they have towards intent behind action. Please send prayers, thoughts, and/or posi vibes this way for us to make the right moves supported by the proper intentions.

Anyway, yesterday the health team (Annika, Ellie, Megan, Preston, Rachel Walls, myself, plus honored guest Bryce Kreiser) as well as Mama Kitende, Mama Josephine (Josie Bada$$- I’m starting that, let’s make it stick), Josh, Br. Sitali, and Fr. Baraza, were invited to Kalundola to teach a brief bit on nutrition. We packed into our “trusty” land cruiser, six in the front, six in the back, at 9:15 and embarked on our journey to Kalundola, a village that is as rural as rural gets (don’t bother googling it). After an hour of smooth tarmac and an hour of off-road jumping and jostling through the Zambian bush, we arrived to a celebration of arrival, similar to the one we received upon touching down in Zambezi. After dancing and singing with our gracious hosts, we began a lesson covering macronutrients, micronutrients, hydration, and appropriate portions, which Mama Josephine translated to Lunda. Once our lesson concluded, we learned from some residents of Kalundola about how they treat venomous snake bites! This includes application of a topical ointment made from local plants to heal the bitten area and prevent spread of venom and consumption of some sort of antivenom made from the culprit snake’s blood and local ingredients. Super cool!!

Afterwards, we were treated to a delectable lunch of pumpkin, chicken, fish, rape (rapeseed), and nshima and then hung out with our hosts. English was limited but many polaroid pictures were taken and shared before we made our way down to the Kabompo River. Amidst the picture sharing, there was a gift exchange- we had brought mealie meal (for making nshima) and oil but to the surprise of the health team, we were presented with a live goat, an overflowing sack of maize, and a rooster! Before heading down to the river, we managed to stuff 16 people, pumpkins, maize, a rooster, and goat on board the good old land rover. After a slightly stuffy ride to the Kabompo, we were astonished at the untouched beauty of the crocodile-infested river. Unlike many “wildlife areas” in the states where powerlines can be spotted from afar and the muffled blustering of traffic can be heard from a distance, we were truly away from the pollution of an urban lifestyle (see above).

We began our trip back to the Zambezi convent we call home, with tummies full and spirits high, waving goodbye to the men, women, and children we had just met and created memories with for the past few hours. The bush road felt just as bumpy as the first time, but belting out “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “You Make My Dreams” with occasional embellishment from our new goat (g.o.a.t) friend (we couldn’t decide whether to name him Cassius or Michael) made it a bit more bearable. We reached the paved road after only one wrong turn and were well on our way to Zambezi when the engine started sputtering and we pulled over to give ole reliable a little break. Without missing a beat, Bryce, Sitali, and the health team hopped out and started kicking around Preston’s hacky sack (not in the middle of the road and definitely not next to grassy snake territory). Some passing military members were kind enough to stop and help us jump start ole reliable and continued to trail us in case of another automobile mishap. Good thing. Within thirty minutes spewing and sputtering began again and we had to make another stop and the hacky sack was once again broken out, this time with cookies (compliments to Rachel). The plot thickened when our rooster buddy broke free and took a poop in the back of the land rover. When nature calls, she really calls I guess. At least he was considerate enough to face away from everyone still sitting in the back and drop his gift on the rover’s back bumper. After getting back on the road not-so-old-reliable broke down one last time and we had to call Fr. Yona to come rescue us, 25km or so from home. All 13 of us managed to squish into Yona’s Toyota Hilux and got home only a couple minutes after dinner. I know what you’re thinking but don’t worry, Cassius/MJ, the rooster, pumpkins, and maize were towed back by the military dudes (talk about a godsend, we really are indebted to them)- bag secured.

So that was yesterday, May 30, and under other circumstances I’d do a little reflecting and sign off. However, the health team, Emma Cheatham, Sammi Rustia, Fr. Baraza and I had a very unique and thought-provoking experience today visiting the local hospital here in Zambezi and I feel like not sharing our thoughts and experience would be remiss.

I don’t think any of us had clear expectations of what the Zambezi District Hospital would be like, so after being able to tour the facilities and talk with the nurses, patients, and administrator, we left feeling a whirlwind of different emotions. Without going into excessive detail, we interacted and chatted with incredible nurses who operate under great odds to attempt the provision of proper patient care to the people in the Zambezi district. There are a whopping 2 hospitals in the district, home to 64,963 residents and both are only level 1 hospitals. One part that especially stood out to us were the pregnant women (some of whom are borderline children) and the minimal amount of space and outdated technology in their particular ward (not that it wasn’t a widespread issue through the hospital but this really stood out). We witnessed the care for four premature babies (formerly five) who were being cared for in an incubator meant for one. They were triplets from one mother and one child of a twin pair from another mother. Each baby was separated by cloth and cardboard. Now I don’t include this for the sake of trivial evoking of emotion or making this experience seem profound but because it was surprising to me and made me think deeper about what sort of change needs to happen and whether or not I have the ability and responsibility to create such change. Now obviously, immediate change such as providing better facilities and equipment should be any person’s responsibility should he/she/they have the means but this goes deeper than being able to write a check or build a hospital. As an aspiring doctor, a student of Jesuit institutions, and someone with a goal to simply be better than I am now (and in every future “now”), this made me think about accompaniment. Sustainable change, regardless of where in the world you are, takes time and can’t just be a top down, or even a bottom up sort of deal (and especially not one catalyzed by a Western savior figure). I believe it has to permeate through every bit of society and must occur naturally, with people bought in on the idea. This change can’t be forced but takes a lot of time and can be worked towards with accompaniment, when liberations are bound together. I have only a limited idea of what role I can play in this grandiose scheme of human empowerment and world betterment but I’m certain being a responsible ally and/or partner is part of the equation. Call it generation Z naïveté or whatever, but Dale Carnegie said something pretty relevant and he’s old so… “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who kept on trying when there seemed no hope at all.” Anyway, coming back down to Earth, that hospital trip was really something and I’m sure I’ll continue to digest it for a while. I hate to use the word struggle because what struggle is there really that we personally faced by witnessing a lack of appropriate access to/means of healthcare, but this was definitely a challenging experience for us all and left us with more thoughts on our minds than I can accurately or succinctly articulate.  

Well, I better wrap up because it’s pretty late, I need to shower, and some readers probably already stopped reading. The past 24 hours have been full of incredible experiences and these have only been my thoughts. I heard that while some of us were Kalundola bound, many deep and insightful conversations and moments were held back in Zambezi. As Janeen and Josh mentioned tonight during our reflection, I think we’re all hitting the point of this trip where the initial nervous excitement has died down, people are really hitting personal reflection in stride, and the reality of what we’re doing and why we’re really here is finally setting in. Thanks for sitting through my word vomit and I can’t wait to recount and unpack these experiences with many of you in person!


Peace and love,

Daniel Li

Gonzaga Class of 2019

A lil message from Ellie: Grace!!! Congrats on your graduation! I am incredibly proud of you and everything you accomplished in high school! Been thinking about you and the family all day today, sending lots of love your way! Can’t wait to share all my experiences with you 🙂 

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14 Responses to Kalundola Bound; Liberations Bound

  1. Georgia says:

    Daniel!!!!! Usually I have a hard time finishing anything that is longer than a paragraph because my attention span is so short. But I was so excited and intrigued to read about your experiences and the many ways everyone is growing and reflecting during this awesome opportunity, that I actually finished it!! I was constantly laughing throughout the post just picturing it all in my head. I am so excited for you and I cannot wait to hear about your amazing experiences. Praying for you always and I’ll see you at home. Love you lots!!! xoxoxo George

    P.S. My whole family says hello, they are praying for you, and that we all are going to miss you at Charlotte’s big 8th grade graduation party (and like mine too??)

  2. Bridget Shoenberger says:


    I am wiping away tears as I finally get to read your long awaited post. I am picturing being in that damned land cruiser right next to you, driving through the bush and trying to push back waves of nausea- and probably singing something mama josephine taught us but we can’t quite get right. But instead I am many miles away, just know I have been thinking about you, praying for you and keeping you in my heart the time you have been gone.

    I am so so happy that you get this experience, and it seems the health team is treating you well! You truly seem to be evoking and embracing the ideal of accompaniment, and I love reading about your trips, and how they make you think so hard about what should be done. I remember having similar feelings, and it is so frustrating and eye opening to be faced with these questions. To know you are going into the medical field makes reading these posts so much more real for me, and I hope these experiences help bring clarity to your path in the future.

    I am just so excited for you to continue being faced with these moments of reflection, and I can’t wait to talk to you when you get home.

    Missing you and I hope you are enjoying breakfast!

    P.S. Chloe I am thinking of you and sending love your way! I can’t wait for your post and hope you are taking it all in.

    • Bridget says:

      Ethan- I know you are killing it as the TA. Hope this time around is everything and more, and I know you are instilling your wisdom on all the kids around you. I wish I could be in that reflection circle with you all, hearing you debrief your time, and trying to avoid the ants crawling everywhere.
      Lots of love

  3. Grizzly says:

    Daniel, son of Li, son of Fit,
    Amazing piece! As Nasir would also say, “If you scared to take chances, you’ll never have the answers”, but clearly you are taking those chances. Can’t imagine what Zambia is like but your shared experiences so far give me some idea. Look forward to hearing more and I”ll be sure to listen to all these albums you’re missing ;).



  4. Mia Campbell says:

    Daniel Li:
    You are nothing short of amazing. I can picture you so vividly in the back of the car, singing and taking in every moment. I hope this group you’re surrounded by knows just how lucky they are to share space with you.
    Your writing/ message is what we need in this world. I was talking to Jean ( cause ya know, it’s Jean) and read part of this to her. This is what she has to say “Daniel, you have an energy about you, even in your writing, that is subtle and thought provoking. Don’t lose that, hold tight. At the risk of being judged by any number of people, your wholistic attitude and ability to consider systemic solutions is the mindset we need out here. Hurry up and get that degree already!! Only kidding, take your time. Hope you’re enjoying it!” -Jean

    I echo all that and more. D. Li I am so excited to see the way your energy takes form for you and the people get to connect with you. Thanks for everything you are. I’m thinking good things for you. Much love.

    Ethan: I read the third letter yesterday, no I did not even peak!! It was everything I could ask for. I miss you in the tiny ways, like shuttling unwanted food into your backpack or some good old Hemm time (#secondfloorstandingdesk4life). But I’m reminded how amazing this experience is for you every time I read this blog and I am so so excited for you. Hope you can feel me thinking of you and hoping that you feel comfort, growth and peace within yourself as you take all of this in. I love you and can’t wait to squeeze you.
    PS BUP is parked at Bruce and Fran’s condo to ensure that she is not subjected to any scratches or dings or any rough and tumble play on these Seattle streets. She’ll be back in your care in tip top shape!!

    Hope everyone is soakin all this up, so proud of you all!!!


  5. Heather says:

    Daniel- so thankful for your reflections and recounting of gnose 2 BIG dsys for your team. Enjoy being present in each moment…further revelations will come after the trip as well! Blessings & hugs, the Kreisers

  6. Cam McDermott says:

    I was holding back tears until I read all of our dear friends sweet messages to you. None of them could have said it better. Daniel, I laughed, I cried, I had a really really good time… reading your day in the life of D Li Fit. I am so incredibly proud of you and all the Zags experiencing and reflecting on these precious moments in Zambezi and beyond. Your words are what I needed to read and please know that I am amazed and inspired by your writings and thoughts. I still can’t get over that this post is just 24 hours of your time spent there, so I can’t wait to hear about all the other hours. Thank you for sharing and thank you for being you! Sending hugs and lots of love from California! As I’m writing this Michaela just walked in and I told her I’m writing to you and she says, “You’re writing to MY Daniel! Tell him I say I miss being your housemate and hope you’re having an incredible time, my sweet sweet Daniel. Thank you for taking care of me at 1608!”

    Chloe: haaaaay girl! I love you and am wildly proud of you. Can’t wait to read your post and hear about everything. Always praying and loving you from afar. Stay golden sis.

    Ethan: you rockstar! You always amaze me and your heart goes unmatched. I know you are serving this group incredibly. Sending you a hug from across the pond!

    And to all the Zags! I’m the stranger that loves each and every one of you and am praying for all of you and the communities you are accompanying. I’m sure you miss home and home probably misses you even more, but soak these moments in. Do your thang and set the world on fire, my friends! Massive love from LA and an unemployed post grad Zag.


  7. Kelen says:

    Daniel lezzgoo!! What a day, a what a beautiful thing that there is so much to consistently unpack and cherish with what you’ve experienced. I am so happy you are there. It’s been really cool to do GU in some sort of parallel way with you. Similar friends similar loved spaces, and only sometimes have we experienced them all together. But ultimately know that it has been an honor to see in which ways you value and love the people that I have loved at GU, and what a cool thing that we have experienced and loved and questioned Zambezi as well. You’re doing great things D.Li., keep on hugging and loving and enjoying where you’re at, you inspire me!

  8. Dana McElligott says:

    Daniel- I haven’t met you but I feel like aI know you! Thank you for your beautiful post and reflections. I laughed and I cried at the pictures you painted with your beautiful words! And thank you for including Ellie’s message. Please give her a huge hug for us!

    Ellie- Grace has officially graduated and everything was great! She was honored with several accolades (I let her share when you’re home) this week, looked beautiful (wore your white dress, which btw was SUPER short-not sure how you pulled that one off), and is bursting with excitement for the weekend festivities! You’d be delighted with the Zag ware party decor! We are missing you terribly but feel your presence!

    To all the Zags and your amazing admin team- you are ALL unbelievable! Proof that Gonzaga is doing so much right!

  9. Grace McElligott says:

    Thanks so much Ellie! YAY I’M DONE WITH HIGH SCHOOL WOOP WOOP! I hope you are having the best time ever. I miss you so much and cannot wait for you to tell me about your experience!

    Love, Grace

  10. Katie Newman says:

    Annika and Ellie: you guys look so genuinely happy in that picture it made me so happy!!! Life updates for you guys: back working at my “favorite” place! On my first shift back an old man spilled his whole martini on me and I tripped in the dining room in front of guests. So in other words, I’m so insanely jealous of the experience you guys are having. I cannot wait to hear your beautiful voices and to continue reading these posts everyday!!

    PS I have been talking about you guys and how cool you are to everyone I know so now you guys have to come visit me cause you’re basically famous.

  11. Rosalind says:

    Hi Daniel,

    I think you could write a book about the four premature babies (that used to be five) sharing an incubator for one. The events that led up to this story of life and death, as well as the lives sure to thrive as a result, seem worth following. May these babies and their caregivers feel nurtured and well-provided-for in the difficult days ahead.

    Access to life-saving health care is such a gift. You’ve written a great reminder.

    Can you tell Chloe we are so proud of her passion and talent, her ability to teach and empower students and adults alike. And maybe one day bring hope and relief by aiding in the resolution of at least a couple of the problems you describe.

    Enjoy and stay healthy!! Rosalind Sciammas

  12. Jeffrey Kreiser says:

    Daniel! You are a great writer. If that is word vomit, vomit again sometime. Very evocative words and pictures. Thank you. Your stories brought me back to my experiences in similar environments in Malawi and Mozambique.
    I offer the thought that maybe it was injustice that you grappled with after your conversation about the stipulations for aid from WHO or the time at the hospital. Things “not as they are supposed to be” bring disquiet to the heart of the one who has met the God in whom all things are right. It is my prayer that the God of love and justice be more real to you and to the whole team through these experiences.

    Jeff Kreiser (father of Bryce)

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