The Greatness Has Begun!

After a ‘laxed wake up for some, and an earlier morning for others, the Zags prepared to embark on our long awaited trip to Zambezi… ready for greatness.

The first half of the group started their journey to the airport at the crack of dawn, so early that the airport hadn’t even opened yet. Talk about great time management! After a short bit of time, our early crew successfully made it to the runway, and after a couple of slow motion videos to Danger Zone, both planes successfully took off for a smooth sailing flight. Some caught some Z’s and others, well, they tried (sorry Emily).

After a lovely two hour flight above the rural lands of Zambia, Africa, both early planes landed within 20 minutes of one another and were each greeted with a warm welcome, filled with singing and dancing from some of the local Zambian schools that Gonzaga has ties with. There was even an adorable handmade sign! They expressed their many thanks and excitement for our arrival, and even sang Josh his very own song! (Hint: They really… REALLY like Josh).

Eventually, our early crew got settled into the convent, meeting some important people such as Mama Katendi and Mama Christine, names that you will likely hear plenty of times going forward. After a bit of a breather, our crew took a little trip to the markets, guided by Josh and Mama Katendi. They made sure to grab the essentials, plenty of unique foods, fresh produce, and much more. Once wrapped up, our early crew got together to enjoy some amazing lunch consisting of fresh apples, ripe bananas, peanut butter, and bread… talk about a lunch of champions! After some much needed food, Ani decided to make door signs for all of the rooms of the convent, which were adorable by the way, Josh prepared the hotels for our flight crew, and others caught up on some some much needed sleep with a lovely little nap.

While all of this was happening in Zambezi, the “later” crew and I had a lovely day of our own. With some rest on our favorite couches and a much nicer wake up time, we started off our day with a lovely breakfast and some time by the pool. We all got a chance to enjoy some leisurely downtime, with a few of us being lucky enough to get a massage or two. 

(But the winner of relaxation was certainly Brynn, who soaked up plenty of sun while reading an awesome book lended by Katie, the “founder” of our collective Zambian 2024 book club).

After we all got packed up and ready for the day, we took a quick trip back out to the market for some last minute trinket shopping, led by none other than our favorite… Dominic. It was my first time seeing the market, and I was purely amazed at the different groups of people and the plethora of different items, ranging from detailed accessories, wooden silverware, and beautiful paintings made in house. While a little pressed for time, my peers and I made our favorite… connections with the shop owners, and bargained for a few items before our speedy walk home. Through our quick turnaround, we stuffed ourselves and all our bags into the taxi (Tetris style) and said our sad goodbyes to our beloved Fawlty Towers (You will be missed).  

Eventually, we found ourselves at the airport, thankfully open this time. We said our final farewells to Dominic, our hardest goodbye yet, and walked on through with our many bags and duffles. We, like the morning crew, had some incredible time management and found ourselves in a position to kill two hours before our pilots arrived back in Livingstone. We enjoyed a little airport lunch together,  and for the most part, we all got the food we ordered (thank you Ana, Katie, and Brynn for sharing). After a quick bag check, many laughs, and some more slow motion danger zone videos, we finally embarked on our flights to Zambezi.

With a bit of a bumpier ride, as happens on the afternoon flights, we were up in the air experiencing pure bliss (or something real close to it). We all looked down at the vast, beautiful landscape of Zambia, seeing the incredible environment while getting to listen to some groovy music with our lovely pilot Colin.

After about two hours of airtime, we found ourselves on the runway of Zambezi. In our short trip to the ceremony, dozens of Zambians gathered together to wave at us and followed us to where we stored the planes. It was an incredible sight, watching hundreds of Zambians gather together and sing heart warming song. The feeling of gratitude and excitement filled my heart, and I was moved by the whole experience. We got a chance to meet many of the local children, and had a beautiful walk back to our final destination: the convent, filled with many high-fives and hands held. We started group chants, shared plenty of great laughs, and I even found out that I supposedly look like Justin Bieber! A true compliment to a guy who can’t sing, even if he tried.

We got the chance to catch our breath, wash our hands, and quickly settle in. We eventually gathered in the common room and heard some loud music coming from the back of the convent, and with our natural Zam Fam curiosity, we decided to check it out, and I’m so glad we did. We were welcomed to a surprise dance circle, started by some of the local adults and children. Within minutes we were all dancing together, with Will serving some sweet moves and Sarah showing us that she was the real Shakira, because wow, her hips did NOT lie!

Eventually, we had to go back inside to enjoy our lovely dinner of spaghetti and (sausage)balls, cabbage, apples, oranges, and freshly pumped water (Thank you Emily, Charlie, Mama Katendi, and Mama Christine). The power went off right as we sat down, so we shared our meal in pseudo darkness, thanks to our handy dandy headlamps. The food was delicious and the experience of it all was incredibly meaningful. I can’t wait for many more like it.

We are now all prepped for our first reflection together in Zambezi, a truly exciting moment for us. The collective amount of joy and smiles is something purely magical. I, along with the rest of us cannot wait for tomorrow to begin the rest of our journey, one that surely is will be marked by greatness.

Sending love to all our people,

Jackson Schmidt ’24 & the Zam Fam

PROGRAM NOTE: Our beloved faculty, Chris Sloan had a fall and injured her leg in Livingstone. She was evacuated to South Africa for surgery and will be unable to continue with our program. We have her in our prayers and invite you to do the same and hope for a quick recovery. To support our program, Professor Jeff Dodd is traveling to Zambezi as we speak.

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4 Responses to The Greatness Has Begun!

  1. Michelle Doty says:

    Awesome post, JB – hahaha
    Really appreciate it
    You guys are awesome

  2. Kat Franklin says:

    Okay but do YOUR hips lie Jackson?! The people need to know!!

    All my love,
    Kat <3

  3. Colleen Schmidt says:

    So glad the final leg of the trip to Zambezi went well, and love your story-telling update Jax! We love you lots and are so thrilled that you are all getting to have this amazing experience!

    So sorry to hear Chris was injured, sending prayers that all goes well with her recovery.

  4. Sherri Lynch says:

    Jackson – our own Biebs! Love it! Sending lots of love to you all and prayers of recovery for Chris. Jeff is a saint for immediately flying to join you all!

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