Letting Go of Expectations

Prior to coming to Zambezi, I think that we all had a variety of expectations. Although we were encouraged to not hold onto these expectations, I’m sure that each one of us came here with at least one or two. I too came to Zambezi with expectations in mind as a student in the health section. For example, when thinking of a traditional Zambezi hospital I was under the assumption that it would be structured similar to an American clinic. With this in mind, I had further made the assumption that the hospital would be under resourced and too small for the amount of patients that it would receive. My first week here in Zambezi has both challenged my expectations, and in some ways has confirmed them. In this post, I hope to illustrate this understanding to loved ones back home and to personally unpack my experiences. 

This morning marked day four of daily trips to the hospital for myself, as I took yesterday off to conduct an interview. Each day in the Zambezi Hospital presents new and astounding learning experiences for myself and the rest of the health group. On day one, we followed Dr. Impande around the hospital as he did rounds in each ward. This first encounter with the patients of the Zambezi Hospital was somewhat overwhelming, while also exciting. We had no idea who these people were, yet their medical information was handed to us. Furthermore, the majority of the patients were excited to see us there, and were happy to see our smiles and have small conversations with us. The following day, we spent more time in individual wards, as we were hoping to build relationships with some of the staff. In my case, I was with Brynn in the pediatrics ward. The nurses were very welcoming and gave us some ideas of what to discuss in our classes. On our second day, we also had an introduction as to how things worked in the hospital. While having a conversation with the nurses, an emergency came up, as a young girl was hit by a motorcycle on the way to school. The nurses were prepared within seconds, and moved as fast as possible. Within ten minutes, a plan was set to care for the girl, and the children’s ward returned to its calm afternoon. The following day consisted of a similar experience as the first, as we continued to follow Dr. Impande and learn more about the inner workings of the hospital. These first four days gave me a surface level understanding of the set-up for the hospital. Today, in the experiences that I had, I dove deeper in this understanding. 

Our visit to the Zambezi Hospital started as normal, with the six of us walking to Dr. Impende’s office to great him, and then moving on to different wards within the hospital. Katie, Ana, and I were invited to watch a procedure in the female ward, while Brynn and Jackson went to PT, and Ani headed to maternity, where she met an amazing teacher and nurse. During the procedure, I think that the three of us felt privileged to be there, but also a deep disdain for bedside manners. As someone who is entering the medical field, I felt that the experience was the exact opposite of what I want to bring to the table when caring for patients. In this moment, I began to feel the complexities of Zambezi. My initial expectations of healthcare in the developing world were coming back to the forefront of my brain. I further felt the need to pushback against a system that allows for such oppressive and demeaning attitudes to be present in such a vulnerable place. With the emotions that I was feeling, I was struggling to accept that the situation was normal. We then left the female ward, and as I turned to share my feelings with Katie and Ana, we were immediately welcomed into the operating room to watch a wound redress. I would say the environment in the operating room was the exact opposite of our prior experience. In this space, the patient was excited to see us and talk to us before he was put under. The doctor and assistants were kind, caring, and respectful of the patient’s circumstance. In this space, there was mutuality between the patient, staff, and ourselves. We were all experiencing this together, and no one was left to the side. It was exactly what I strive to be in the future. 

After leaving the hospital and discussing my emotions with Katie, Ana, and Jeff, I felt that I was just running in circles. On one hand, I was completely condemning the hospital for its lack of respect and care towards the women. On the other hand, I was applauding the staff for the meaningful and superb care of an elderly man. Today has been my first real introduction to the complexities of healthcare in Zambia, and the first time I have been met with such a challenge. As I continued to mull this over, I tried to see from each perspective. The doctor who I felt was cold and cruel, was probably emotionally numb to the situation and very efficient. Then, the doctor who I felt was sweet and understanding, was also efficient, but had a more emotionally effective attitude about his work. While I continued to reflect, I could not help but to think of my expectations and how they were being exposed. Yes, the healthcare system in Zambia is understaffed and under resourced. Yes, not all of the patients are able to be properly cared for due to these circumstances. However, despite this the doctors and staff here are adaptive and multi-specialized. They have the means and ways to care for each person who walks through the door. The two doctors work exceptionally hard to provide for every member of their community, and should be an inspiration to each and every one of us. 

My experiences today taught me the dangers of my expectations. Now, I am not condemning myself for coming to Zambia with standards for how people ought to be treated in a medical facility. However, I am learning to accept that holding these expectations with me does not allow for personal growth. I came to Zambia to get a better understanding of healthcare around the world. By carrying my expectations with me, I have not allowed myself to be fully immersed into a culture that has faults, but is also so welcoming and beautiful. Last night in reflection, we read an article titled, “We See from Where We Stand”. In recollection of this article, I understand that by looking at Zambia through my American viewpoint, I am not integrating myself into the culture. My substandard viewpoint has allowed me to find everything wrong with the healthcare system, and has robbed me of experiencing the culture as an insider. Thus, as I continue on my adventure in Zambia, I hope to leave my expectations behind, and move forward with appreciation for everything this experience has to offer. 

Dear family, I love to all so much and cannot wait to give you all the gifts I got you! I miss you all and am looking forward to future lake days! Logan please do not forget to download “Bridgerton” for me, so I can watch on the plane. 

With love to all families, 

Julia Stanhope, Class of 2027

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Letting Go of Expectations

  1. Allison Croft says:

    Julia, I am so glad you are having an experience that is opening your eyes to the big world around you. I’m so proud of your personal reflection and growth. You got this girl! Bronson, Sadie, Roofus, Pupper and Corry all say hello!! Miss you so much!!

  2. Dugan says:

    I had a very similar experience in Zambia in regards to how my expectations impacted my ability to let go and lean in to every experience. As time went on, the more I opened my heart and mind to the people of Zambezi, the more I was embraced there. It’s beautiful to see such a wonderful place have the same impact on you.

    Much love to all, especially Jeff and Josh 😛
    Dugan Charles Early Watts – Zambia 22

  3. cam bechtel (super fan) says:

    hi i loved the way you unpacked your thoughts and i have some of my own (just spitballing as a girl who has never been to a hospital)

    i wonder if there is some difference in the cultural attitudes toward respect for women/girls and respect for community elders. Not that women are treated flawlessly in the American healthcare system (duh) but i don’t think we always maintain the same reverence for elderly patients or family members that others do. it’s sad that the female patient you saw was treated poorly, but i’m sure it made a world of difference to have you there just like ani was there for the female patient the other day.

    idk if that was a good take at all, but i think you’re all very cool and i’m glad there’s people like you who enjoy caring for others in such a vulnerable place

    <3 cam

  4. Kylie Mukai - ZamFam '23 says:

    Similar to Dugan, I also had quite an experience regarding my expectations impacting my ability to let go and lean in– developing relationships with the incredible people of Zambezi, leaning on my Zag pals, and soaking up moments at ZamCity and in the classroom (I was in the education group) definitely grounded me when things got rough! Truthfully, I am still wrestling with the complexities of my trip to Zambia, and these blog posts have been so lovely as I continue to reflect.

    Julia, I admire your thoughtful processing of your feelings and experiences
    ; I hope that you, Katie, and Ana were able to continue the conversation that was started pre-wound redress, and that you all are taking time to process and unpack your days in Zambezi. Winding down with a coke, *refrigerated* cadbury bar, or Mutcal bakery twist also never hurt a Zag!

    I have loved implementing Gonzaga in Zambezi blog reading into my daily routine.
    Emily, Lucia, and Ellie– I miss you and I am thinking of and praying for you every day!

    Sending my love from Spokane <3
    Kylie Mukai

  5. Colleen Schmidt says:

    Julia, such a beautiful reflection, and a humbling and impactful reminder for all of us as we follow your collective learnings and amazing growth experience. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Colleen Schmidt (Jackson’s mom) says:

    As it is already the afternoon in Zambezi, and I don’t know exactly when you gather to reflect and read comments to your posts, I am about to shamelessly use this to send a message to Jackson.

    As you wake up tomorrow, June 2, and celebrate your 20th birthday, know that Dad, Kathryn and I, along with the rest of your extended family, are thinking of you and wishing you not only a special birthday, but another incredible year to come of growth and memorable experiences. We love you SO SO much and are immensely proud of the man you’ve become. Can’t wait to see you in a few weeks and celebrate in person!

    Zambezi Zag family, please give Jackson a big hug for us, and thank you for being such a wonderful local family, celebrating this special day with him!

    • Sherri Lynch says:

      Colleen – Your son is SO loved and I have no doubt he was surrounded with all of it on his birthday. I had the pleasure of enjoying him for his freshman CLP class and I’ve enjoyed watching his journey at Gonzaga. You raised a great young man and it’s a blessing to know him!

  7. Natalie Taylor says:

    thank you so much for sharing this experience with us julia! i appreciate your willingness to unpack the complexities and the nuance of the situation you were presented with and your recognition of the adaptive and talented actions of the doctors within the facility that we should continue to recognize and each can learn from.

    i am so grateful that you shared this example because being able to reflect on your specific experience and put it into the context of the all the reading i did on the african health care system in preparation for this trip helps me recognize the innate gray areas that serving others has. i miss you guys a lot and i’m sad i’m not able to be there experiencing this with you but as i look on your experience and reflect my experience as i’m back in my childhood city it’s a reminder that every context i work in during my future is going to be different and that it will take time and integration to be able to adequately affect social services. we can’t have the answers all by ourselves to these huge system problems, but we must continue to talk about them and learn from the moments that might seem little. i think that’s where and how the fuel for true change begins- with the caveat that it must be informed and enforced by those it is most going to effect.

    sending all my love!

  8. Jay Stanhope says:

    Great thoughts Love. There is a great freedom in life when we drop our expectations and trade them for appreciations. It allows us to learn, grow, and enjoy the time and place in which we are present. Very proud of you and thank you for sharing your journey.

Comments are closed.