Over the last couple of weeks, I have thought often about how I am going to describe and articulate my time in Zambezi to friends and family. There could be no string of words to do my full range of thoughts, feelings, and actions justice. But nonetheless, I will try.
Perhaps the best way to start is by describing my favorite parts of the day in Zambezi. We all have settled in nicely and developed somewhat of a daily routine. Of course, there are slight shifts and opportunities for travel that change the course of the day, but most of these core moments stay relatively the same throughout the week. These daily experiences are how I will remember and center my memories of Zambezi.
During the week, my day normally starts with a run. My running partners vary by day but Josh, Tyler, Andie, and I have formed a consistent group to exercise, chat, and see different parts of town. There is something about seeing a place in the early morning—before kids are off to school and the market vendors are set up—that provides a sense of peace and depth. I am going to miss my running crew and the breathless “Chimene Mwane” (good morning in Luvale) we say to anyone passing by.
Our business and leadership class has quickly become one of my greatest sources of joy throughout our time here. The students are spirited, determined, and engaged with the material and class activities; they often stay after class to further discussion and connection. I always leave the class energized by their enthusiasm and commitment to education. Our diverse range of students (ages ranging from 74-21) inspire me daily; I feel very lucky to facilitate conversations about leadership and self-discovery—it makes me long for a Comprehensive Leadership Program in Zambezi.
Our daily routine here in Zambezi is built around mealtimes. Some days, the only times we are all together is for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Squeezing 22 (or sometimes 23, 24, etc.) around the table(s) has quickly become a highlight of my day. While the food is delicious and prepared with love by our Zambian Mamas, it is the conversation and reflection that occurs at this time that brings me the most joy. Each meal, I usually sit next to someone different, but there always seems to be an interesting thing to talk about. It’s often loud, chaotic, and messy, but it reminds me of home and family. There seems to be a never-ending stream of chatter, laughter, and sarcastic remarks (usually made by our fearless leader, Jeff).
While I have come to love and look forward to our daily routines and habits, I find the most joy in the random, unplanned moments throughout the day. Every day, after lunch, I (and usually 3 or 4 others) venture down to the market for a coke, chitenge, or conversation. While that walk has never changed, the run-ins and moments of connection shift daily. I truly never know who we might see or talk to—and I love it. However, I do have some constant people I must say hello to on my journey through. Jasper—a local shop owner—is often my first stop. His friendly smile and loving “hello” brightens my day and welcomes me into the shop. Patrick and his wife Edith—also shop owners—are usually my second destination. I come in for the chocolate and stay for the conversation. After those initial visits, I usually just wander until I find another home base. Today, I found myself in an open-air restaurant talking to Judith—the sole employee. She is a hardworking single mother who dreams of becoming a nurse; I have a feeling she will be another consistent stop in the market.
I’ve also come to love the chaos of the market. Walking along the main stretch of vendors brings unique smells, sights, and feels—I don’t think I will ever be able to look at or smell dried fish again after this trip. However, I will miss the women selling bananas and avocados at the entrance of the strip, the men encouraging me to buy their watches and chitenge, and the children running up to us for a fist bump or high five. Anytime we leave the comfort of the convent, beautiful, unexpected, and seemingly meaningless moments occur at every turn. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
My days in Zambezi are numbered, and I am not sure I am prepared for the fast-approaching goodbye, but I know that these are the moments I will hold most deeply when reminiscing on my time here. I can’t wait to tell people about the beautiful and at times challenging parts of this experience: the smell of burning plastic in the air, the feeling of nshima on my hands, the sound of Jasper’s laugh, and the strength of Mama Katendi’s hugs.