What does it mean to just be?
I look back to the moment I raised my hand at that breakfast in Lusaka. Now here I am three weeks later, sitting in the living room of the convent, looking at the array of pictures and posters covering the once blank walls, smelling the aroma of the mama’s (and Jazmine’s) cooking wafting into the living room, and listening to the laughter and chatter of my classmates in the background. A place that once seemed so foreign has quickly become our home.
Writing that first blog post of our journey both feels like yesterday and like it was an eternity ago at the same time. I remember the anticipation I felt, ready to leap into the unknown while fear of not knowing what that was. As we are just getting into our last week in Zambezi, that fear has turned into so much joy, joined by sadness. I can’t stop wondering how I am going to leave a place that has given me so much.
In our time here, we’ve talked a lot about the act of being present. In a community that is so different than the culture that we grew up in and are accustomed to, it’s easy to let the guilt and discomfort we feel pull us away from truly appreciating the raw beauty of this new environment. I’ve found being present increasingly difficult approaching this last week here, with a constant feeling of dread, deep in my gut.
This dread has slowly crept into my days here. I find myself sitting in computer class or my classroom at the basic school and I can’t help but let my sadness overcome my thoughts. All I want is to hold onto this week and never let go, yet all I’m doing is thinking about the inevitable departure on Saturday. When do we let go of everything preoccupying our thoughts and just be, and what does that even mean?
We come from a culture of doing. Success is measured by the job you have, the number of activities you do, your intelligence, etc. We are trained to spend our days filled with back-to-back programs, normalizing a lifestyle that allots little free time. It leaves no time to learn how to just live.
In reflecting on this, I’m realizing that I’ve let so many moments of real-life pass by me because I was so caught up on events of the future or even the past. These last two weeks in Zambezi have taught me so much, but the number one thing I want to bring back to my life in the U.S is starting to just be present and live, as embodied by so many of the Zambians we’ve encountered on this journey.
I want to be like Philip, eyes glistening in awe as he sees all the font options on a computer. Like Eddie, dancing in joy as he solves a problem he was stuck on. I want to be like Marry, Jessie, Ben and Jasper, the pure smiles on their faces as we enter their shops in the market. Be like the people of Dipalata, with music and faith carrying them through all the difficulties of life. I want to be like 12-year-old Rosa who wants to be a pharmacist because she “just wants to help people”.
I will forever cherish the moments sitting outside the convent in the morning before the day starts or the walks in the market, smiling at all the familiar faces; moments where I felt truly human. While these are moments that will always be in my heart, they aren’t glued to Zambezi. I still have a lot to learn about the simple act of living that I look forward to continuing to explore when I’m back home.
The act of living in the moment and taking in all the little precious moments in life you can seems simple, however in retrospect being able to take in these moments as they come is one of the hardest things I’ve encountered on this trip. Whether it’s the various illnesses or the unavoidable homesickness, I’ve found myself so preoccupied by outside factors that I forget to just look around me. Sometimes in these situations, all you need is to just be.
What does just being even mean when I go back to the fast paced, individualistic culture that is the U.S? I don’t know, but if there’s anything that this trip has taught me that I will treasure coming into my last week here is to just take a moment, take a deep breath, look around and just be.
Ufuku mwane as I’m writing this here in Zambezi, and a chimene mwane to all reading in the United States.
Sarah Barsky ‘24
What a wonderful group photo. So much joy captured in that!
Being present is such an important lesson and one that all of you will benefit from so much as you move on in life. I sure wish I had understood it more at your ages!
Thank you all for your continued sharing and try not to let the sadness of your goodbyes dampen the beauty of your journey.
Being present, in the moment and learning to be comfortable with your thoughts, whether happy and sad, is a skill that one must often perfect over the course of a lifetime. It is that much more challenging with our lifestyle, easily filled with tasks, to-do lists and distractions – to take the time to pause, be genuinely “in the moment” and, as you so rightfully state, just let it be!
You all have the good fortune of being a part of this adventure which has given you so much to process and now integrate in your daily lives, in whatever capacity you can, upon your return.
You also have the good fortune of youth, and thus numerous years ahead of you to make the most of what you have learned and pay it forward.
May each and every one of you be “in the moment” for the remainder of your Zambezi journey and recognize how much you have grown and learned.
Much love. A très bientôt xxx
I have a t-shirt that says carpe diem (seize the day.. being present). You describe this as appreciating the simple acts of living where you truly felt human. OMG, that’s worth the trip by itself! This is a philosophy of life that helps you live with passion and purpose and lifts people up. Being present is not limited to living for the moment. It can also mean tackling a project now, reaching out to someone or acting on your dreams, instead of procrastinating and doing it later. Thank you for your thoughtful and inspiring post!
Thank you for your beautiful reflective post and for the lovely photos. Being in the moment takes practice when there are a million things to do, but it sounds like you’re on the right path.
Enjoy the final days and continue to be in the moment and cherish the beautiful memories being created while on this trip.
God bless you all.
Sarah BARSky! What a writer, once again. Thank you for your thoughtful reflection.
The recurring theme during my weeks in Zambezi was Josh’s reminder to “feel free.” As I recall, somebody in the Zambezi community had shared that piece of encouragement with someone in our cohort, and it puzzled me in its simplicity. I wrote my blog post about it. I have a hard time just being; I want to engage meaningfully in every moment. A key lesson I learned in my market walks and conversations in Zambezi was the value of what I so easily ignore in the flurry of my Californian life: there is a deep peace in letting my heart lead, rather than my overactive head.
Your writing about what it means to ‘just be’ has reminded me of that gift. I am pleased that you are experiencing such a revelation too. Re-entry to pace of life here was difficult for me. Whatever it looks like for you, I implore you to keep hold of this great lesson!
Peace to you. Kisu mwane / blessings,
Bryce Kreiser (Zam Fam 2019, Class of 2021)
Quel beau texte Sarah-Jeanne. Bisous. Tatie.
The photo is so telling.
Your post is illustrative and helps us capture a slice of wonder you’re all exploring.