Discovering that Profound Secret

Sunset in Zambezi, captured by: Emily Bundy

Today, Friday, June 3, 2022, marks exactly one week since arriving in the vibrant community of Zambezi. As each day passes, we have begun to understand our roles in this beautiful place. Most mornings, I head out for an early run with a large group, Paal, or sometimes just by myself, and, if I’m lucky, I catch the sunrise. Along with the breathtaking view of a fiery red sun breaking through the horizon and shedding light on the trees and plains along the Zambezi River, waking up early to explore the sandy streets of this community offers an opportunity to see an aspect of life here largely unseen, yet equally important to be shared.

After lacing up my shoes this morning, I quietly slipped out the convent doors to be welcomed by the noise of roosters both near and far. The sun hadn’t quite risen, but the light from its upward movement caused a grey-like illuminating effect on the sky, enough to see well enough in front of me and the perfect time to start running. Already, adults and children had begun biking or ox-carting goods towards the direction of the Zambezi market, and kids outfitted in plaid uniforms were walking in couplets towards the Zambezi Basic School. Returning from my run, three kids on their way to school waved hello and began running with me. Catherine, Robby, and Tina, fully suited in formal attire, found it perfect for running a mile or so with some random guy like myself before their day of school. They were on their way to the Basic School, where I happen to work at teaching physical education with Debby Kensoma. While they weren’t students I was familiar with, they expressed their excitement for their upcoming day. Parting ways, I couldn’t help but think that the people of Zambezi—just like some of you reading—get up early to provide for their families or livelihoods by working towards a goal or future with hopes of being in a better place than the day before.

As more time is spent here in Zambezi, unique opportunities to shed light on the lives and ways of living here seemingly emerge from nowhere, whether or not you’re ready. In my free time here, inspired by the casual nagging of my little sister (Hello, Mary, I hope you’re doing well), I carried along and read the book, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickins. In this novel, I found a particularly significant line: “That every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.” This quote fits this trip as we have begun to explore that mystery of people who lead lives far different from our own in Eastern Washington. Additionally, I believe this quote highlights the focus of our purpose, accompaniment, walking alongside the Zambezi people with hopes to understand their way of life, or simply, their mystery.

Yesterday, after expressing interest in the trading methodology, I wandered to the river with Josh, seeking to understand the lives of the boatsman on the Zambezi. I met Gilbert, an angler who has been working for thirteen years catching Kapenta—a tiny type of fish, commonly seen dried—to provide for his family of three children. Every morning, he boats his wife across the river with the Kapenta caught from the day before to sell at the market and then proceeds to set his nets along the Zambezi River to later collect in the evening and repeat the process the next day. I also had the opportunity to meet Stewart, a man who provides a ferry service to cross the river from seemingly all times of day, primarily to deliver individuals looking to buy or sell items or goods at the Zambezi market. Crossing the river upwards of twenty times per day—no easy task—on a carved and chipped boat of Mukwa wood, Stewart practices a tradition of the Luvale Tribe, wherein the old teach the young the ways of crossing the Zambezi River through traditional practices.

Being an outsider, it could have been easy to see both Stewart, Gilbert, and all those trekking towards a day of work or study as mere conduits to a small-town economy and not offer much thought to their individuality or their livelihood. While their work may differ from ours, they too have experiences worth exploring and learning from that can contribute to our understanding of the Zambezi life and culture. While my insights are but a fraction of the group perspective, I believe we are all continually unfolding the mysteries and profound secrets of many individuals in this community. Tomorrow we depart the convent for our Home-stay, in which we spend a night with an unknown member of the Zambezi community. This blog will not be updated until Sunday afternoon (PST). If you’re reading this and a loved one you know is on this trip, leave them a note of encouragement as we continue on our journey. 

Ufuku Mwane,

Brendan McKeegan ’24

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14 Responses to Discovering that Profound Secret

  1. Wyatt Buller says:

    Thank you Brendan for yet another glimpse of your experience there.
    As suggested, I am sending my love and encouragement to Audrey. I hope your home stay is special-please share our HELLO with your host from us. We miss you tons!

    • The Rosenwald Family says:

      Your lives become richer by every person you meet and whose story you begin to understand on this trip. It sounds magical.

      No way! Home stays?! Wow. Best wishes to you all and to your host families! Xox

  2. Bundy Family says:

    Brendan, Thank you for your beautifully written description of dawn in Zambezi. Sending prayers for a wonderful time of discovery and camaraderie for all on home stays. A special hello and loving thoughts to our Emily. We hope your homestay will add more wonderful memories to those you are already holding in your heart! Blessings to you all!

  3. Gloria says:

    I’m hoping your home visits go well. You’ll get a real “taste” and feel of the culture. Everyone stay healthy and happy Lots of grandma LOVE to Kalie

  4. Meg and Ed says:

    Thank you Brendan for the picture you painted for us with your words. It is beautiful how even in different parts of the world we have so much in common…loving and providing for our families and taking in the mystery of one another.
    Enjoy your Home-stay family. Take it all in!
    We love you Brendan and can’t wait to hear more of your adventures.

  5. Nathalie Bergeron says:

    Thank you for the breathtaking picture and description of the daily activities of families providing for one another, and sharing their craft for generations to come. Sending each of you warm wishes for a memorable home stay with your host families. Can’t wait to read the next chapter of your Zambezi book of life!

    Doux bisous à Sarah-Jeanne!

  6. Suzanne Rettenmier says:

    What an illuminating description of daily life in Zambezi. As we read your stories we are allowed to walk beside you a bit on this journey ~ FABULOUS! Thanks to all the writers. We so enjoy the stories. Blessings to all for health and strength and joy. I’m off to check “Tale of Two Cities” out of the library, it has been far too long since I read it last. Much love to all. Momma Rett

  7. Jonathan Barsky says:

    Thank you for such a detailed and thoughtful blog. I wish I could join you on your early morning run and experience the fiery sun, roosters and children on their way to school! What a great experience to go to the exchange market – a real window into their way of life and place in our world. We look forward to hearing about your home stays. The Barsky family sends our love to Sarah, thinking of her every moment in this wonderful adventure.

  8. Watts Family says:

    Well said, thank you so much for sharing. The Watts Family wishes you all strength and perseverance – and think you daily.

  9. Molly Watts says:

    That sunrise is so amazing! And so wonderful to experience home stays…I know you all will soak the experience in as you have been everything else.
    We’re double dipping the support here from Team Watts…and even though he told me not to be specific before he left, Brendan kind of gave me permission didn’t he?
    XO Doog.

  10. The Flesch Fam says:

    Thank you for your beautiful and insightful words, Brendan. Mackenzie, we love you and miss you. Thinking of you and praying for you everyday! Such an amazing adventure you’re all on! Scout fell in the lake – he was surprised but turns out he knows how to swim! Whew! Love you!

  11. Theresa McKeegan says:

    Dearest Brendan,
    Spectacular sunrise! Thank you for sharing it with us. I feel like we can go on a run with you in our minds. I hope and pray you have a wonderful home stay! That is the best way to get to know the culture as you get to know the family you stay with and find out about their deep-held values and dreams. God has provided you with such a wonderful opportunity to learn from the people of Zambezi and find the “profound secret” of what makes their beautiful lives so significant. What a great gift!

    We love you dearly!

  12. John McKeegan says:

    Good morning, Brendan! Just past sunrise here in Cushendall, and your exquisite post has connected us across all the miles. Hoping that all of you will soak up the secrets and mystery of every encounter – God’s fingerprints are everywhere. Oh, and son (no pun intended) – you make us proud! Go Zags!

  13. Jack McKeegan says:

    This sounds so spectacular Brendan. Good for you getting out there and exploring. Really appreciating your insights and living vicariously through you! Very happy for you and all the other GU students getting to experience this. Keep on living the dream and unfolding those mysteries!

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