Looking up, looking down

Hello loyal blog readers and followers!

Since it’s been a while here’s a few updates for those following along at home:

  • Although the flies and spiders are still a problem, we have ventured into the world of cockroaches. So, we are currently exploring various methods of removal.
  • The peanut butter is a staple of our diet here and no matter what we have for breakfast it is always brought out, but we have just run out so there may be some tense moments at breakfast tomorrow.
  • Leila is in the lead for the best Chaco tan, but there is stiff competition for second place.
  • We watched Black Panther with the “saucy” youth group at the Priest’s house. It was quite an experience, with lots of clapping, cheering, and whistling during the movie.
  • Sunday mass this morning clocked in at about 3 hours. There were 3 collections, lots of singing, and some impressive dancing

 

 

I find myself looking down quite often here in Zambezi. Many of the roads here are dirt or sand and I look down to help navigate the deep sand, rocks, thorns, pieces of trash, or feet of the little kids that are (always) around. As a result of looking down when I’m walking I have found that I have a horrible sense of direction in Zambezi. I get so lost and I can never understand where I am or how I got there. Looking up, I can see the surroundings, so I can navigate easier, and I can share smiles and musana mwane’s with the people passing. But, then I run the risk of tripping so I normally put my head down and keep walking. I definitely keep my head down during the morning aerobics class as well. Debby, the leader, likes to call us up individually to lead the group in a few of our own moves. I try to avoid this part as much as possible.

 

I put my head down at other times here in Zambia when looking up is a little more difficult than looking down. Looking down has become a way to center myself and have a moment to not fully take in all that is around me. For instance, I looked down when we visited HIV patients last week and it became a little too hard to look at their faces when they were listening to our words of encouragement. It was difficult to look up and acknowledge the hardships they face every day that I can only dream of. Like Ellie discussed it was an intense feeling of discomfort because I could not relate to their struggles. Looking down allowed me to avoid the feelings of discomfort in this moment.

 

On Thursday the Health Team traveled to Mpidi and distributed Days for Girls Kits (reusable menstrual pads). We had 97 girls packed into a small classroom to hear our lesson about menstruation and how to take care of yourself during it. I looked at the ground when 72 of the girls had to leave after the lesson because we had only brought kits for 25. It was made more difficult because the teachers had chosen the 25 girls because of their good grades and good standing at the school, and they thought that these kits would push them further to excel. I didn’t want to see the faces of the girls, as they walked past me to leave, who need these kits just as much as the others, but don’t get one because their grades aren’t high enough.

 

On Saturday, we went to visit Faulkner – an orphanage about 100km away from Zambezi. I felt many emotions on this day, many of them I am still unpacking. Looking down I could isolate myself and only allow myself to think of the pain that the children have and not see it with my own eyes. But, looking up I can experience the whole picture of the orphanage. Although there is pain, there is beauty in the community and so much love that is present there. Looking up allowed me a glimpse of the beautiful love the children have for each other and the love the caretakers had for their children.

 

Looking down, the world is a little simpler. I can be in my own world and in my own thoughts for a little bit.  But, I have to remind myself that I cannot explore the complexity of the world by looking at my feet. It can become easy to think I am alone and forget about the community around me. Last week, I was looking down at the Land Cruiser 2 feet deep in sand. Looking down, the problem seemed daunting and another moment of “oh no what are we gonna do?” But, looking up I could see the 15 men, women, and children from the community that came to help. People were pushing the car, shoving branches and leaves under it, and shoveling sand out of the way. I felt an intense feeling of gratitude and a moment of community in a place we had visited for only 30 minutes. Once the car got unstuck, there was such joy and celebration and a moment of intense satisfaction for the group that literally lifted the Land Cruiser out of the sand.

 

Looking up requires acknowledging the world is more complex than what is at my feet. Looking up is so much more compelling and helps me to begin to navigate the world around me. Looking up brings questions that may not have answers, but looking down I don’t get the opportunity to even realize the questions that might come up. It is not easy to not have all the answers, but I have found value sitting in that feeling of confusion and come face to face with complexity of reality.

 

Like the name of the shop in the market, our “Days are Numbered” here in Zambezi. We leave for home a week from tomorrow and although I am looking forward to coming home, I know that my time of looking up at the complexities here is coming to an end soon. Although it is not easy, I’m going to keep pushing myself to look up, even at the risk of not having all the answers. Walking around Zambezi with my head up high will be difficult at first, and I am really risking the possibility of tripping and falling, but the view will be worth it and I may be able to start navigating around here.

 

Mwane, mwane, mwane

 

Megan

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24 Responses to Looking up, looking down

  1. Kelz says:

    Beautifully written meg. Love and miss you so much! Can’t wait for you to come home

  2. Barb Haas says:

    Wow! This was very beautifully written and impactful. Made my heart ache….

    (Miss you Rachel girl!)

  3. Kathleen Thomas says:

    What a great mind opening experience, Megan. I do hope you can see the hope and love and joy these people have. Wealth is relative. These people feel joy for every meal. While there are people living with terminal illnesses they are still joyful to be alive. I am so happy for you to have this experience. Don’t be afraid to look up and to see. Greet each glance with your warm smile. Hold the hand of a child or elderly person. Hug the sad and lonely. It will mean the world to them. We all need to know that people care, that we are seen in this world. The look in their eyes will give you a life long perspective.
    Thanks for your beautiful blog. Kathy

  4. Carolyn Wolcott says:

    Happy 20th Birthday Annika! Alyssa had a great party! We missed you! Can’t wait for you to get home and tell us about all of your adventures! Miss you and love you! Love Grandma

  5. Jerry Hayes says:

    Thank you Zags for all of your beautiful and thoughtful comments in these awesome blogs. I can hear your voices from Zambia and wasn’t prepared to get a glimpse into how each one of you is writing a page (or chapter) in your lives and how Zambia is coloring that page or chapter. I keep recalling the words of Father Vince (our local Jesuit priest) about how the color of my thoughts paints my heart, and what paints my heart paints my soul. Thanks to the staff and teachers for taking such good care of everyone. Meg: Great picture of everyone and I’m so glad you are enjoying the whole experience of Zambia. We will go canoeing when you are home – but I’m thinking you will look at that a little differently now. Love you alot and miss you and will keep you in my prayers (along with all the Zags). I also pray you won’t be bringing a goat home as I don’t think he (or she?) will fit in the back of the car. We could make room for a rooster though. Love DAD

  6. Patty Helgesen says:

    Megan! I loved your thoughtful post! I could feel your emotion in those situations. Your eyes have been opened wide to the world around you and you all will forever be touched by this experience!

    Annika! Happy Birthday! I can’t believe you are 20 years old today (hopefully you are reading this on the 10th!) I hope you have a fabulous day!! We miss you so much and can’t wait for you to be home to hear about all of your adventures! Love, Mom

  7. Abby Freimuth says:

    Mama megs, I am beyond proud of who you are!! It’s so good to hear about your experiences! I’m sending you all my love and directional ability (a lot of the former, very little of the latter) and I miss you so much!! Also I’ll send emergency peanut butter to you as fast as I can 🙂 love you mama!
    P.S. whenever the cockroaches get you down just put Gone by JRJR on full blast

  8. Katie Maxfield says:

    Megan, this actually made me tear up. I can hear your voice so much in this. Selfishly, I miss you so much and I want you to come home right not, but more than that I am so proud of you for opening up your heart and recognizing your shortcomings and working to be as present as you can be. It’s going to be your turn to talk to me for hours about your trip and what you learned when you get back and I cannot wait! I love you so so much and will continue to pray for you guys!

  9. Dana McElligott says:

    Thank you for your beautiful post Megan. And thanks for the group photo! Happy 20th Birthday Annika! What a special place and special way to enter your next decade! See Ellie for peanut butter, she may be hoarding:-)
    Dana

  10. Kelen Ahearn says:

    Megan,

    It’s awesome to finally hear your voice! Although you probably can’t walk backwards too well through the sand, I bet you’re leading your crew and Zambian friends through your heart and willingness to just be – even more than you do any prospective zag. In being a fellow amby and hemmingson diehard, i can only imagine what Zambezi looks like on you, and what you like on Zambezi. I’m sitting in the back of a van in Arizona and my sister just queued up a song by Lauren Daigle that goes, “look up child” – fitting as I’m reading and writing this. God wants us to keep looking up to him, whether that be literally up at those sunsets or up at the hardships and joys around you. Keep looking up dude. You are SUCH a light meant to see more to share more. I’m praying for you.

    Also I will never forget when you, Ellie, and Emma came up to me at the amby banquet, fully surrounding me, shouting “KELEN GUESS WHAT” as I was so frazzled and you each were SOO excited that you left for Zambezi 10 days from then. I told Chloe and she was probably like “I know, I wish I was that excited” lol, look at y’all now! Adding some more content for hemmingson yeah, but also it sounds like you are all doing so well. I’m proud of y’all!

    Bryce my brother asks about you – he loves your stickers! You rock

    Chloe you’re so cute in that pic!! Looks like those adidas are treating you well, stay succulent and powerful.

    Kelen

  11. Audrey Helgesen says:

    Reading your Blog today, reminded us of the time when you came for Easter to visit Annika. It was a pleasure to meet you and to know you are one of Annika’s good friends. Looking up gives us many opportunities to observe all the wonders that was given to us on this amazing earth. Your Blog was so well done Megan! To Annika, we are thinking about you today Annika and how we would have enjoyed celebrating your 20th Birthday with you!! We wish you a happy and fun party with your friends in Zambia. Now we are looking forward to the day you are back home and hearing about all your many experiences in Zambia. We love you very much Annika and wish you a restful trip home! Farmor and Farfar.

  12. Margarett Qaqish says:

    Megan!!!

    What a beautiful reflection. It can be so easy to look down in times of hardship and uncomfort, I find myself doing the same thing time and time again. Thanks for the reminder to look up. I think we all can be reminded of that.

    I am so glad you are challenging yourself, stepping out of your comfort zone, and looking up. I remember bugging you maybe every time I saw you or for way too long in CLC about this trip – haha! Crazy to think you all have one week left. It can be hard, but try to be present in these last days.

    I cannot wait to catch up in the fall and hear more all about your time. I literally laughed out loud at Katie’s comment about her letting you talk for hours this time. Haha! Miss you and sending my love.

    Give Mama Katendi and Mama Violet a hug for me!!

    Margarett

    PS hi Rachel miss ya!!

  13. Joey McCloskey says:

    Hi Megan, I am glad everything is going well for everyone. It was awesome reading your perspective on the experiences that you have encountered so far. Katie and Abby wouldn’t stop talking about how awesome the blogs have been. When you get back to Spo we’ll have to get lunch and catch up. (I’m sure I’ll see you, Sophie, and Abby eventually…). I hope you get to make the most of your remaining time.

    PS. Denver’s not bad I guess

  14. Jeffrey Kreiser says:

    Megan – I can’t pick you out in the picture. I wish I could so I could know who to thank. I cried as I read your post. It is as if you wrote my experience in Mozambique in 2006. May the Lord bless you as you look up in this final week. Every person matters to God. I had the privileged of preaching this reality in a church this morning in Fair Oaks, California. John 3:16, I John 4:8, 10 and 16.
    Jeff Kreiser (Bryce’s dad)

  15. Alyssa Helgesen says:

    Awesome job meghayes!!! Sounds like you guys are having an awesome time and I can’t wait to hear about it! I missed you guys at my grad party today but I know you are having a great time! Also… a big happy birthday to the best sister ever!! I love you so much Annika and can’t wait to hear about this awesome experience! I will be thinking about you extra today and will eat lots of cake for you 🙂 Love you lots sistaa!!

  16. Finn Helgesen says:

    Sounds like some challenges in coming to terms with inequalities that are so much more apparent living with hardship every time you look down, hardship that may not offer a counterbalance of hope. Reminds me that we all need to do more to look out for people around us. Hope your last week in Zambia brings some answers with rewarding and uplifting experiences.

    Annika I wish you a bug free happy birthday and look forward to hear more about your trip when are home. Much love, Uncle Finn!

  17. Christina Sciammas says:

    Megan,

    Thank you for your heartfelt share. I am sure you have as sincere a heart , as you have sincere eyes that people appreciate. I agree with Kathleen, look into their eyes, hold their hands . The only true wealth is love and I am sure that is what you are all making them feel when you look and listen with empathy and care. That classroom situation sounded rough but you did your best and that’s all you can do for now. This trip I am sure has changed you all in such a positive way. Wish I could provide the team with endless cupcakes and juice boxes for a trip debrief. Enjoy your last week.
    Chloe your brother came to the dinner table tonight wearing a T-shirt that had in big bold print , ‘Man by birth, Feminist by Choice’ I knew you’d be proud xxoo ( ❤️❤️) mom

  18. Sophie Marks says:

    Wow Megs thanks for making me cry.

    I miss you babe! This was absolutely beautiful! So heart felt! So real! You amaze me! Be prepared for the longest phone conversation of your life when you get home, because I want to hear everything!

    Also way to wait to be one of the last people to post, you were really keepin me on my toes lol. This was definitely worth the wait tho! I’m also glad to hear you can eat peanut butter again! Only took a few years to get over the trauma hahaha.

    I wish I could talk to you! I’m currently living on the river essentially, it’s pretty epic! I’ve got quite a few bumps and bruises, but I was thinking about if it was you here and with the way you bruise you’d be 50 shades of purple by the end 🙂 just a random thought I’d share hehe. Please go show off your dance moves to the aerobics class for me! Carpe the diem baby! You could even throw the wobble in there *smirky face*! Also can we just talk about how cute it is that Joey commented…precious! Anyways I could keep going and going, so I’ll stop and save it for when I get to talk to you! If you can’t tell I miss you!

    Love you Megs! Sending prayers your way!

    Love,
    Sophie Marks

    P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY Annika! Love you girly!

    P.P.S. I’m currently listening to reckless love…missing you even more!

  19. Sophie Marks says:

    Wow Megs thanks for making me cry.

    I miss you babe! This was absolutely beautiful! So heart felt! So real! You amaze me! Be prepared for the longest phone conversation of your life when you get home, because I want to hear everything!

    Also way to wait to be one of the last people to post, you were really keepin me on my toes lol. This was definitely worth the wait tho! I’m also glad to hear you can eat peanut butter again! Only took a few years to get over the trauma hahaha.

    I wish I could talk to you! I’m currently living on the river essentially, it’s pretty epic! I’ve got quite a few bumps and bruises, but I was thinking about if it was you here and with the way you bruise you’d be 50 shades of purple by the end 🙂 just a random thought I’d share hehe. Please go show off your dance moves to the aerobics class for me! Carpe the diem baby! You could even throw the wobble in there *smirky face*! Also can we just talk about how cute it is that Joey commented…precious! Anyways I could keep going and going, so I’ll stop and save it for when I get to talk to you! If you can’t tell I miss you!

    Love you Megs! Sending prayers your way!

    P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY Annika! Love you girly!

    P.P.S. I’m currently listening to reckless love…missing you even more!

  20. Stein Helgesen says:

    Hi Megan. I’m constantly amazed at your daily experiences that are so different than mine at home. You’re making memories that will last a lifetime. And I loved the picture of the entire group. All of you look amazing and happy!

    P.S. Happy Birthday Annika!! I miss you so much and hope you have a great day tomorrow and find some time to celebrate your special day. I can’t wait to celebrate your 20th birthday when you get home. I love you so much! Dad

  21. Maureen Hayes says:

    Dearest Darling Daughter of Mine…
    I loved your post so much. Many others have commented in previous posts how they can hear their loved one’s voice in the blog. Today, I can totally relate. I could so hear your voice, your sincerity and your sense of wit. I could hear your big, empathetic heart and your strong sense for injustice as those, perhaps more deserving, girls were turned away. I can hear your sense of doubt in yourself and your abilities and I can hear a growing voice of confidence and wonder and passion that we’ve always known was there.

    I absolutely LOVE the picture. It’s stunning! as so many included in the blog have been. What a beautiful group inside and out…a lovely ZagZamFam. I know you’ll continue to encourage and challenge and save each other from unwanted “critters” for a long time to come.

    The end of your trip is just a “hop, skip and a jump” (get it?) so keep looking up and feel the fullness of what God has planned for you.

    Annika, Wishing you a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY! What a profound setting to say goodbye to your teens and usher in the next decade with all its possibilities.

    Much love to you all!

  22. ZagFam in Auburn WA says:

    Leila!! Where are you?? We are so sad you are not in that group photo. Were you out “working” on your chaco tan?

  23. momma K says:

    I agree with everyone’s comments… beautifully expressed and I am deeply moved again by the enormity of problems on this planet. But, thankful for the balanced perspective to LOOK UP… queue Lauren Daigle’s “Look Up Child”. Just so good.

    ps I really do not like cockroaches ;/
    pss super excited for you all to be home… and especially the Bryce! I will save some of the house centipedes for you to squash when you get back to Cali. xo

  24. Debbie Gill says:

    Megan…what a heartfelt and sincere post. You are having the experience of a lifetime and it’s impact will be felt for a long time. I loved your view of the families and people you are interacting with. Such an interesting window into your world right now. Enjoy your last week and please give Annika a Happy Birthday hug from her Aunt Debbie.

    Annika…we (Dan, Amy and I) wish you a bug free birthday :). Can’t wait to see you when you get home. Can’t believe you are 20! Seriously!
    Safe travels to all!

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