Once again, the Zags are in Zambezi! And at long last, Zambezi is more than an abstract prediction or our final destination, but rather a new reality and home. Our group remains in shock and awe of the community we are beginning to accompany.
If today, our first full day in Zambezi, is emblematic of the rest of this trip, I may just stay. It started with a run to the airstrip, where we welcomed our straggling faculty members Abbey and Catherine. Eva then a led a full abs circuit in the courtyard as our adoring fans, the children of Zambezi, watched on. After a full breakfast I walked 100 yards down the road to play soccer in the sand and the sun with the best 12-year olds I have ever seen. After my team casually lost 8-0, I searched for Jazmine unsuccessfully in the markets, so that we could buy needed but elusive tomato paste. We met and organized our search at lunch, but before I left, Mama Katendi handed me a knife, a bowl, and pointed to three chickens. As instructed, I quickly cut the heads off our dinner. Jazmine and I finally found our desired tomato paste in the ninth store we visited. After a long day, homework continued with reading about the principles of accompaniment and the drawing of a personal map of Zambezi. I can only hope to offer something in return to the glorious welcome we have received from this wonderful corner of the world.
We may have only seen the tip of the African iceberg called Zambezi, but we have already begun reflecting upon our early experiences here and the continued realization that we are on display: our culture, our skin. The children flock towards us in hopes of studying and feeling our strange hair, the skin of our hands, and even our ability to have fun. Only one thing is for certain; we cannot match them on the football field. Adults watch us and greet us or call out “Chindele!” or “white person.” Some occasionally inquire about the upcoming classes we’ll be teaching or eagerly beckon us into their shops. At all times I feel the need to represent where I come from but also try to adapt to this very new place. The overwhelming overstimulation of constant attention drags my consciousness in new directions, searching to find a solid base to work from.
Life within the compound and the lessons we learn from classmates and professors are hopefully beginning to build the base we need to thrive in Zambezi. We must begin to adapt to this small home to make it our own. We now rotate through needed duties like cooking and writing this blog, among other things. Our first reflection in Zambezi asked us what our hopes, fears, needs, and intent were for the next few weeks. While the answers differed, I could empathize with answers of each one of my classmates. There is so much we do not know or understand. Yet, we carry on and while each day brings new adventure with new people, we face adversity as a group and I am confident we are capable of accompanying this Zambezi community towards a hopeful future.
As we orient ourselves to this new reality, I am forced to ask myself what my purpose really is here. What gives me the right to teach something here in the first place? Our groups are meant to provide something needed in the community, but I ponder what I can teach people that I know so little about. I do not feel as if I have the answers to my questions, and many times even what questions to ask. There is still time to navigate and potentially answer these questions in our new home, but who knows where they will come from?
My first full day in Zambezi was wonderful, but I know we are here to accomplish something more than that. I hope to find it. I know we are here to accompany a community in hopes of learning and maybe teaching something new, but I and maybe others, must continue to search for our place in that process.
Our “vacation” in Lusaka and Livingstone is officially over as we begin to experience something we were always committed to but never fully believed would arrive. The nervous tension, ever growing as we neared Zambezi, shattered the moment we landed at the airfield and is now replaced by the vibrant vibration of Zambezi and our excitement to begin our work here. The grounding forces of the experiences and people that led us to this special place will hopefully lead us to new ones as we learn and adapt to Zambezi.
Paal Bredal, Gonzaga Class of ‘22