Piled on top of each other in the back of Father Yona’s pickup truck, Mama Katendi taught us a new word: Munone. Used in Luvali  to describe the feeling of butterflies in one’s stomach when driving over a bump in the road, we learned very quickly just how much Munone one can get while on a trip to Dipalata. Situated roughly 45 minutes away from Zambezi, Dipalata is a more rural community that Gonzaga started visiting in 2007. I am happy to report that all of our vehicles made it into the town limits without any hitches, and an excited crowd welcomed us in with song 

and celebration. Our group ate a quick PB&J lunch, and then headed to a house belonging to missionaries -the Speichinger’s- that have lived in the area for many decades. Thoughsensing some skepticism of what this missionary experience might be like, our group came away with some amazing insights on how life looks in rural Zambia.

Of most personal interest -and I presume that of many of our pre-med dominant group- was Janelle Speichinger’s experience as a midwife in Dipalata. She explained that as the Zambian government has become more dependent on foreign aid, many stipulations related to this aid have shackled the country intoa technocratic health system that frequently fails to meet the needs of the community and acknowledge the wisdom and experience of more wholistic practitioners in rural communities.

More specifically, in order for Zambia to received funding from the World Health Organization (WHO), government officials must commit to enforcing policy that allows for only certified midwives to birth babies. In a country that is only registering as average of 30-50 new midwives each year, this is clearly an impossible demand, yet one that has struck fear in communities across the country. Though only a microcosm in the history of Zambia, the experience of Janelle reflects much of the larger sentiment that keeps this region of the world shackled in poverty.

On a macro level, larger nations such as the United States, United Kingdom, and China have strong-armed Zambia and other less developed countries into signing predatory investment deals that open up land and people to exploitation. Such arrangements effectively trap entire populations in cycles of poverty and service to the “more developed” Western world and the economic systems that govern it. In Dipalata, you do not have to look far to see the effects that this legacy of oppression has left in its wake: roads strewn with trash, children with bloated bellies and yellowed hands from protein and fat deficiencies, etc.

It is easy to get discouraged amidst the constant reminder of how certain groups in history have contributed to the harsh conditions seen not only in Diapalata, but far beyond in Asia, South America, and even our own home in the USA as well. But what transpired during the our evening in Dipalata gave me new hope.

A hardworking community prepared a feast of chicken, bananas, oranges, rice, beans, cabbage, and nshima followed by a bonfire -complete with guitar, amplifier, and some of the best voices you can imagine. While singing in the circle, a young girl named Patience -maybe 9 or so- took my hand. Now if you have read the previous blog posts, you will know that children holding our hand is no rare occurrence. But there is a difference between a playful hand hold, and a hand hold that communicates interdependence, intimacy, and love. Patience was a hand that lent this interdependence, intimacy, and love.

In this moment I closed my eyes, listened to the beautiful voices around me, felt the warmth of the fire on my skin, and found peace in dancing with something greater; something that transcends skewed trade contracts, global politics, and local turmoil. Whether you call it love, peace, God,Allah, or something else, there is something that can be felt when joining hands in relationship and love with those around you.

We are all grappling with the sights, smells, and sounds that envelop us each day; the inequity of the world is apparent it its most overt forms, and complex beyond imagination. It makes your stomach uncomfortable. But sitting around the campfire in Dipalata is a reminder that maybe the solutions to our surroundings are not as complex as we sometimes make them out to be. Maybe the bumps in the metaphorical road are not as scary as feelings of Munone tell us they are. Maybe it all starts with a hand held and a song sung. In this, I think there are answers.

I am trying to post this ASAP because we have left our fans short handed the last few days, so I am going to cut out soon. BUT I will end by saying that although we are thousands of miles apart, we can still look up at the night sky and see the same Big Dipper that you see -though slightly contorted and not to brag, but likely way brighter and more miraculous; thanks Southern Hemisphere and low light pollution. I find this to be a beautiful reminder that none of us -whether family, friends, or new-found acquaintances in Zambia- are ever that far apart. There is something brilliant in this. So today, or whenever you read this, I challenge you to hold a hand, hug a stranger, or simply tell someone you love them, because Dipalata taught us that it is in tiny actions made with intentionality that we develop a foundation for true unity, changed and joy.

Lots of hugs and love,


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9 Responses to Munone

  1. Christina Sciammas says:

    Thank you Isaac for your post. I never knew about the predatory
    agreements between nations that keep Africa in poverty.
    But just today in The Guardian an article highlighted how there is going to be a new
    policy for Africa to undermine predatory agreements from China and Russia. So I hope there is hope. And in the same article it stated the US gave more to Africa between 1995-2006 then all the other countries combined. Seeing such poverty must truly leave lasting effects on you. Maybe your generation will turn things around.
    Shout out to Chloe! Love and miss you! We r in Seattle and I am taking Kelen to breakfast tomorrow. We’ll be thinking of you xxoo. Mom

  2. McKenzie Gallagher says:

    Isaac…… wow what a beautifully written post! First of all I am so happy to hear you survived the road to Dipalata Hahha It can be an adventure for sure! I think it is safe to say Dipalata teaches you a lot and from your post I can see you realized this as well. When you described the fire and the music I was instantly taken back. Take a mental memory in you head of that moment and cherish every single sound you heard around the campfire that night. You’ll go back to those memories almost everyday after you leave. I have been keenly following along On the blog and been patiently waiting for your post. Everyone who has written before you have been equally amazing. I have been brought to tears more than once. I knew you would write something amazing and you are the perfect person to be on this journey. Soak it all in and take advantage of every opportunity you get, but knowing you I am sure you already are doing this. What you wrote about never been far apart from our loved ones was just what I needed to hear today. I’m in DC for the summer interning and have felt a little lonely and far away from my loved ones this past week, so reading this was a heaven sent. I am so excited to grill you with all questions about Zambezi when you get back so get ready! Haha and also be ready for me to look at all your pictures! I wish you and the all of the zags the best on the rest of your journey.

    Josh, Ethan and Father Baraza I Hope you are enjoying and embracing your time in Zambezi. And Ethan I really hope you have been actively seeking to attend every celebration of life this time around too. Haha Tell the Mammas and everyone else hello for me. I am also very curious if the butt pincher still lives on and also if Father has found a new dog to replace security yet?

    Lots and love and hugs back to you Isaac and the rest of the Zambaes

    Kisu mwane

    Mckenzie G

  3. Maureen Hayes says:

    Isaac and all the rest,

    Thank you so much for taking us along as much as possible on your journey. The descriptions have painted such a vivid picture. I only wish we could also experience the sights, sounds, smells and the touch of hand in ours. Thinking of and praying for all of you.


    We miss and love you. I’ve been thinking of you non-stop and hope all is well. I’m sure your experience in Kalundola and at the hospital were beyond measure. We can’t wait to hear all about them from you. Sending lots of love and hugs.

    Maureen Hayes (and Megan’s mom)

  4. Patty Helgesen says:

    Loved reading the post! It is so great to hear about your experiences! You all have done such a great job of putting us there through your words! Thank you!

    Annika- we love you and miss you!! I sent a few of Alyssa’s prom pictures to Megan via FB messenger so hopefully you can see them! Sending hugs to you! Love you!

  5. Kelen says:

    Isaac, what awesome insight. You are so curious and consistently seeking insight and story from those around you. It is evident that you have been able to process and piece through everything in front of you in a way that has brought peace to how you are pursuing your Zambezi experience.

    It’s awesome to hear that you all enjoyed your time in Dipalata and made it to and from safe and sound. I hope a quick detour the the bridge was a fun excursion as well! The campfire is an event to hold onto – what a space that makes you feel so so alive and a part of something great. It’s cool in which ways it is so unifying. Last night I went to the Gonzaga Mariners game, and following found myself staring at the big dipper for a long long time from my friends’ hot tub. I don’t mention that to brag about being in a hot tub when you’re so far from one, but it’s funny and cool how you mentioned the stars uniting people like us that are so far away. The big dipper looked awesome last night, I hope it did for all of y’all too. Cheers to rhythm and week 2 of classes, best of luck today!

    Chloe, tonight I went to church with Ashley and Colleen, and it was pretty great. One of the passages reads like this: “The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being” (Matthew 6:21). It speaks to this idea that in all that we ultimately hope of where we are at, it will be as it is desired. However your time has been thus far in the small and large moments, I hope you feel secured in the fact that at the end you will be fulfilled and know that you gave and received just as you were supposed to. Love you hecka, peace out

  6. ZagFam in Auburn WA says:

    Isaac: “In this moment …” from then on, your words communicate how your soul is being fueled by the people and the place and this awesome experience. Thank you for sharing so personally. Leila has always loved star-gazing and it made me smile (and miss her even more) to know that she is able to see the glory of those constellations and so many wishing stars under such perfect viewing conditions. I wonder, is there a word like Munone that describes the butterflies in a mother’s stomach when daughter says she will be bungee jumping from a bridge or tent-sleeping with angry elephants nearby? All is well and so very thankful to all of you for sharing your recounts and reflections!

  7. David Kane says:

    Isaac I enjoyed your post as I have all of the posts. Maybe we should bring all the world leaders together not in a plush location but a camp fire in Zambia with children holding their hands to see and feel what is really important.
    Each day I look forward to the next chapter.

    Ethan: good to see your picture today and know you are well. I am happy the drive to Dipalata was not as “interesting” as two years ago but still a great memory. Get home safe and enjoy every moment. Crap swim. Dad.

  8. Hikaru says:

    Isaac – I love that imagine and peace of knowing that we are all looking at the same stars at night. It reminds me that we are all in this world together, all human. So pleased to see you and some fellow ambys smiling in the photo you shared. Mama looks beautiful, too. Absorb the love, friendships, and the people that surround you because they will leave a mark in your heart.

  9. Dad says:

    ISAAC! So great to read your post. As we were looking at the stars in Bermuda I was thinking about you and the stars that you also see that connects us from such a long distance. I/we loved hearing in your own voice your experience and insights on this amazing journey. I know there is so much more to tell and we are all looking forward to sharing the experience through your story telling. Know you are in our thoughts as we send you positive energy from Colorado along with lots and lots of love!

    On a Chile logistical note…your Visa application has been approved, the appointment is scheduled for July 3 at 11am, and plane tickets have been purchased…you are all set!

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