Trucking through the ups and downs

I took this thoroughly unflattering picture of Kris and Jeff today.

At 6:20am the alarm went off in convent room 1 where Clare and I have resided during our time here in Zambezi. Time for our morning run! This morning we were joined by Bella, Dee, Lauren, Hattie, and Jeff. Last night during reflection Jeff said that he could run a 6 minute mile with us and we decide to put him to the test. We started our run earlier this morning so we could see parts of Zambezi that we haven’t visited yet. We saw the police station, the airport (or lack of it), the old market, and Mama Katendi’s home. It was great to explore a new route.

We made it back home, did our routine post-run 100 squats, and then made ourselves breakfast.

Before we knew it we were out the door by 8:00am headed for Chitokoloki. A few of us piled in the front seats and the rest of us jammed in the bed of the truck for a 50 minute ride on roads that weren’t too desirable for those prone to motion sickness or body aches. Legs began falling asleep very quickly and the conversation in the bed went something like this:

Maddie: “Sierra, how long does it take for damage to occur once someone’s leg has fallen asleep?”

Sierra (nursing student during school months, but nurse here): “It would likely take around 24 hours, you should be good!”

With that, our legs stayed asleep and we kept spirits high with laughter on every bump.

Once we arrived at Chitokoloki hospital, we were greeted by Steven, a long-term maintenance volunteer from Ireland, who helped take us around, along with Annie who is a nurse at the hospital. We saw nearly all of the wards and meet with various doctors and nurses including physical therapists, surgeons, eye doctors, and more.

Chitokoloki is a missionary hospital that is well funded by health care facilities in Ireland, the UK, the United States, and other countries willing to donate. In comparison to the hospital that the health care team and I have been visiting since our time in Zambezi, this was an extremely well staffed, equipped, and well managed hospital. However, many beds were in the hallway, many people where extremely ill, and it still differs largely from the hospitals in the United States.

People who weren’t on the health team had a harder time with taking a tour of the hospital. For those of us who see the hospital everyday, this experience was really nice and we found this hospital almost incomparable to the one we have been observing in Zambezi. However, many others, for good reason, chose to sit in the truck and wait while the health team saw an operation and toured a bit more of the medical facilities.

Before we left Chitokoloki we visited the book store, visited the market, saw the maintenance area, and walked down to the Zambezi River.

We then set off on the journey back to the convent. A good portion of us hopped in the bed of the truck (including Jeff!) and then a few piled in the front. We soon headed off to the convent.

All of a sudden, all of us in the bed of the truck jump an inch or two up and the truck stops. Jeff hops out first and realizes that we have a pretty bad puncture in the tire. We pull over to assess further. There was no hope in patching this tire.

The rest of us jump out of the truck and we all take it in that we might be here for longer than we thought. We were rushing to make it home in time for the health classes at 2:30, but we soon realized that we might not make it.

Jeff took over and started pulling out the spare tire and unscrewing the lug nuts. A few of us helped him, but once the tire was pulled off we realized the truck wasn’t lifted up high enough to put the new tire back on. Ack. The bugs were swarming, the heat was hitting us, and many of us were hungry. However, we kept in as good of spirits as we could.

Eventually we made the call to get help as we realized we couldn’t do this job by ourselves. Luckily, a car came by. Clifford and Godfrey could see we were in a bit of a pickle, and used their jack and obvious experience to help us lift the truck and put the tire back on ASAP.

This whole event made me reflect on just how much we rely on people here. We spent 30-40 minutes trying to do it on our own when we should have called for help right away. Moreover, at the convent we couldn’t do any of our cooking without Mama Katendi and Mama Violet. It was foolish of us to try and take the tire fixing in our own hands. We need to rely on the help of others.

When the tire was fixed we all piled back in and headed back to the convent. By this time it was around 3:20pm and we were sure that everyone in the health class would have left already. However, we pulled up to the convent and saw our students awaiting our arrival.

Sierra, Grace E., Clare, and I jumped out, hustled over to the gazebo and started teaching our planned lesson. They had been waiting around 45 minutes in the hot sun for us to come and they weren’t even mad. Their patience was admirable after such a chaotic day.

Sierra taught a great class about wound care and the students were engaged and asked questions throughout. Success! We then went back to the convent for some delicious lunch made my Mama Violet.

This likishi, Mwano Pwewa, is intended to portray a beautiful woman as part of a traditional boy’s initiation ritual.

We then had a quick turn around as we headed to watch a group of Makishi dancers perform for us in a outdoor venue area. It was an interesting performance and I personally was a bit uncomfortable while watching it. Ours was a private performance, and seeing feet under the gate of the venue we were in–presumably of people hoping to see the show–and knowing that this performance was put on solely for the 14 of us made me feel many mixed emotions. Mostly I felt angry that the people around us felt they couldn’t enjoy or take part in the performance like we could because the dance was tailored to us and our opinion was more valued than their engagement in cultural practices. Despite this, it was nonetheless a good opportunity to learn more about Zambezi cultural practices, gender values, and customs.

At the end of the day we came back to a dinner made kindly by Mama Katendi and we debriefed about our day. Difficult conversations happened, but we are all facing this trip with grit and a willingness to get uncomfortable. I personally can’t wait to see where these last two weeks take us.

For those of you at home, thank you for continually following along. Know that your loved ones are doing well and we can’t wait to see you all soon.

As Clare did in her last blog, here is how everyone is doing:

Clare has forgiven me (I think) for the lizard in her bag and continues to be the best roommate and running buddy ever.

Bella has discovered a new addiction to chip spice which will likely make its way back to Washington, so get excited for that. Her energy continues to lift others up around her and makes others feel loved.

Kendall’s Teva tan is forming quite nicely and she uses her sense of humor to connect with others here and get to know everyone on a deeper level.

Jeff is doing well and somehow is surviving off of around 4 hours of sleep each night. However, not sure how trustworthy he is after his 6 minute mile attempt this morning.

Lauren’s dependable smile and willingness to go out of her way for others is never unseen. She is such a light to be around.

Megan is keeping her spirits high despite being on antibiotics for a painful sore throat. I seriously haven’t heard her once complain. Her ability to push through and stay positive is so admirable.

Hattie continues to be selfless in all she does in helping around the convent. It is a joy to see her every morning on our runs.

Dee’s dance skills and willingness to go on random outings throughout the day are always appreciated. Her intentionality in reaching out to others is so so beautiful.

Kylie’s laugh is still present at nearly all hours of the day. Her smile and ability to make others feel comforted is felt big time here.

Sierra has taken her new role as convent nurse to the next level as she has treated and diagnosed multiple people already. Her knowledge and calming presence is the best.

Kris is doing well and I can’t wait for everyone to see her elephant pants when she gets home. She looks stunning in them. Her kindness and work ethic is always noticed.

Grace E. always has a positive attitude not determined by where we are going or what we are doing. She is such a light here in Zambezi.

Maddie’s Chaco tan is popping and she continues to be a calming and sweet presence here. Conversations with her always make my day.

To my friends and family at home, I miss you more that words can say. Please go on all of the walks, pick all of the wildflowers, jump in all of the bodies of water, and hike all of the mountains for me. I cant wait to see you all in 2 weeks. Sending my love from Zambezi.

All of my love,

Grace Sikes ‘26

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4 Responses to Trucking through the ups and downs

  1. Elizabeth ford says:

    Never a dull moment! Love to hear everyone is managing the unexpected so adventurously!

    Thank you for the update!

    Maddie, can’t wait to see your Chaco tan and enjoy the last couple of weeks there! Can’t wait to see you!

    Love you lots!! Mom

  2. Audrey Buller says:

    Hi everybody!

    Grace—you captured such an important idea here that we are always better in the presence of others. Zambians do this really well, and what a testament that you had two strangers stop to help you. The private Mikishi ceremony does sound like a unique experience that hopefully can bring some fruitful conversations.

    Maddie—I’m missing you lots today. Like Grace, my day is always made when hanging out with you. Love you tons, friend!

    Keep being your lovely selves folks!
    Kisu mwane,
    Audrey Buller

  3. Heather Sikes says:

    Hi everyone,

    So glad to hear that you are all doing well.
    I look forward to reading all the blogs. It’s a real treat!
    You sound like such an amazing group of women & Jeff!
    I hope Megan’s throat feels better soon & there are no more hiccups with the truck. Stay safe, healthy & keep up the good work.
    Grace S., I love and miss you dearly! Can’t wait to see, hug you & hear all about your adventures! The purple lupine are in bloom here in Juneau. I will take photos for you.

    Love always,
    Mom XOXO

  4. Jennifer W Akins says:

    Thank you to all of you for all the updates and reports on your own growth and reflection. I love hearing about the moments of discomfort that lead to the aha of a new insight or the affirmation of deeply held but perhaps not-yet-recognized value. You will never unlearn some of what you are learning in this month – one of the many blessings of border-crossing. Enjoy! Love to Katendi, Violet, Josephine and anyone else in Zambezi who remembers me! (and of course Jeff and Kris)

    Kisu mwane,

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