Zambezi Sunset Cruise

“You can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself” – Desmond Tutu

As we are starting up our second week of classes here in Zambezi, we have been discussing the transition from being women and men ‘for’ others, to being men and women ‘with’ others. We have been making connections, sharing emotions, and learning joys and hardships that give us the ability to be one ‘with’ Zambezi.

Freshman year, I lived on the Women for Others floor of Coughlin Hall. I feel conflicted because of the name, and which is really more valuable in a relationship. During reflection the other night, Caitlyn, Spencer, Sammi and I discussed how we think the first step to becoming real to other people is being one ‘for’ others, but eventually, through intentional conversation and walking alongside someone, you can begin to walk ‘with’ them.

The first week of our Health Ed class was hard. It was hard to truly connect with the class. We had new people coming every day and our lecture style format made it difficult to truly engage in meaningful conversations with our students. It made me feel like us teaching was being ‘for’ the students, but what I wanted was to be ‘with’ them on a common level.

We had our first class of our second week today. We are now in dialogue. We are learning from one another. We are laughing with each other. We feel connected. We even found ourselves engaging in conversation about conspiracy theories. Preston describes one of our students as he “blasted out the legumes”, bringing actual beans to class to help us teach nutrition. By learning from one another and engaging in conversation, we are able to be ‘with’ others rather than ‘for’ others. They were becoming real to us, and we were becoming real to them.

We have found the most valuable lessons and connections in the unexpected. In class, our students consistently ask unexpected questions about a wide range of topics. Today, we got asked if you can cross breed fish. Does that relate to Health Ed? Nope. But, it is a conversation starter. The unexpected is valuable, and I am starting to love it. The unexpected friends we’ve been making and the unexpected memories.

As most of go through each day, we still question our why. Why did we choose to apply to go to Zambia? What is it that we are looking for while on this trip? Through reflection each night, our group has the opportunity to consider these questions and engage in conversation with each other. Recently, Father Baraza has introduced us to the concept of Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is an African philosophy that offers us an understanding of ourselves in relation with the world. It considers the success of the group above that of the individual. I’ve seen this philosophy in play several times within my last 10 days in Zambezi. This sense of togetherness and feeling truly human through other people is shown all throughout this community – children taking care of their younger siblings, Zambians welcoming Zags with open arms, us balling up with some Zambian basketball players, and so much more.

Before dinner today, some of us walked down to the Zambezi river in hopes of seeing the beautiful Zambian sunset. For those of you at home, the Zambian sunsets are like nothing you have ever seen. Words can’t even describe them. When walking to the river, we saw one of our students, Milan, who crosses the river by boat each day to come to our class. Following Milan, the 7 of us hopped in the boats and made our way across the river. As we approached the far side of the river on our ‘sunset cruise’, I felt at home. With our bare feet on the weirdly squeaky sandy beach, us West Coast kids were thriving. From Preston racing the kids on the beach, to us attempting to play hacky sack, I could feel the togetherness that Ubuntu resembles. A person is a person through other persons, and we have discovered just that.

In the book I’m reading right now, “Everybody, Always”, Bob Goff emphasized that to become love, we need to be constantly seeking out the people different from us. I see Ubuntu and being someone ‘with’ others as seeking out those we may not instantly be friends with, but understanding their thoughts and their ways of life, because we are all similar in so many ways.

My goal for everyone both here in Zambezi and for you all at home is to find your Ubuntu moments. Where do you see yourself engaging in ‘with’ others activities rather than ‘for’ others activities? Where do you feel a sense of togetherness?

P.S. To our families and friends at home: we have made friends with not only people, but spiders and flies too. We’re a bit gentler to the spiders though, we even give them names. Wendy hangs out by the bathroom light, and Glenn, still not discovered by me, hangs out by the toilet. The flies on the other hand, we don’t appreciate their presence. Janeen is on offense and strategizing attack with a bottle of poison, and Annika just drank a fly. Now I know this may be a stretch, but I see some Ubuntu happening right here, right now.

Kisu Mwane,

Rachel Walls


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8 Responses to Zambezi Sunset Cruise

  1. Chrissy Middleton says:

    Rachel – I’m in love with this concept of Ubuntu! What an amazing experience for all of you. So excited to hear more from you when you get home!!

  2. Patty Helgesen says:

    I love the concept of Ubuntu as well! Not so sure I could get there with the spiders and flies! Each of your descriptions of your experiences are so fun to read! Thank you for sharing each day with us back home! Annika- Hope the fly went down smoothly..yuck!

  3. Jeff Dodd says:

    Rachel, we don’t know one another, but I help lead this trip on alternate years with Josh. I have one small bit of advice. Follow Milan across the river. He lives “next door” to Chiwala on a small farm, and his wife is THE BOSS. Like could-beat-Ethan-Kane-in-a-foot-race-THE-BOSS. For reals.

    Also, week two! Don’t let routine turn into busyness. Take a chance to explore. Have you found the bookstore? The ice cream? Had a picnic on the old tennis courts? Go say hi to the goats by the power transformer. Find the son of the former Zambian ambassador to the USA (yes, that’s right). You have almost two full weeks left. That’s a lifetime of rich dialogue.

    To those of you I know, those I have only met, and the ones I hope to know soon: dig in little zaggies! This is when the tensions start to tighten, and the relationships deepen. Look out for one another, and go be “with.”

    Ethan, Rachel H, Spencer, Maurie: can’t wait to catch up when you get back. Chloe: after consulting with Ethan, I am adding piercings and compassion so I can be half as cool as your fan club thinks you are. Kellen: I know you are reading this, so “hi.” To the rest of you: one random professor is as proud as ever to be connected to you.

  4. Juju Ruiz says:

    An endearing post! My family and I hope that you have many more Ubuntu experiences!

  5. Katie Newman says:

    Rachel! This was such an amazing post!! I’m so insanely jealous of all of you guys over there!! You are such an amazing writer, I felt as if I was able to visualize the sunset and the beach! You are doing amazing things, I love the idea of being someone with others, not just for, and walking alongside them. I also loved reading about your Ubuntu experiences and hope you have so many more!

    Annika – I realized I forgot to comment on your post, but I love you and you are such an amazing writer, and even better human being. I love you so much and miss you way more than words can ever begin to explain. Miss being within walking distance 🙁 ps I hope the dancing has improved, we can compare to the videos I have on my phone from school.

    Ellie – I cannot wait to read your post!! I check everyday with anticipation for it. I miss your smile and laugh!! I’m so blessed I met you this year (shoutout Annika and old dominion)!! You are doing amazing things and I cannot wait to read about your experience! I hope you are capturing some pictures of elephants for me!

    Miss you guys like crazy!! All I do everyday is sit and watch Netflix with my dog, so thank you all for letting me live vicariously through these posts!

  6. Stephanie Walls says:

    Rachel, what a beautiful post! Your dad and I are so thankful for the daily posts being writing. We anxiously await each new post, hoping to connect with you and all the Zags just a little.

    I can tell by your post how deeply you are being affected by your experiences. You have such a big heart and so much love and kindness to share with others. My hope for you is that you continue to emerge yourself within the community. Find the simple pleasures of holding hands with the children, finding a pick up game of soccer with the locals, worshiping with the families and exploring the breathtaking landscapes that surround you. Your description of the sunsets brought tears to my eyes. Your dad and I sat outside last night watching the sunset together, feeling your presence in our hearts. I am praying for you and your fellow Zags daily. All my love sweet girl!

  7. Ginger says:

    1) Annika drinking a fly is HILARIOUS

    2) this is beautifully written, sweet friend!! I love you & cannot wait to see ya in January & can’t wait to talk about Everybody, Always either!!

  8. Emily Lovchik says:

    I loved what you wrote Rachel! It seems like you have learned so much from this trip and watching you grow into the beautiful human being that you are has been such a blessing. I am so proud of you for going on this trip and I am so excited to see all the pictures and hear all the stories! The concept of Ubuntu is beautiful and I think a good life lesson everyone needs to hear.
    See you soon! Love you!

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