In a small yellow room filled with benches and chairs, a group of Zags prepare a stack of certificates to pass out. They sit next to a messy stack of nametags and two plates stacked haphazardly with cookies. Today is the graduation ceremony for the Gonzaga-in-Zambezi classes. This celebration signals that the end of our time in Zambezi is sadly within sight. As the students enter the small classroom and take a seat, the air is heavy with a large mixture of joy and melancholy. As certificates are passed out, hundreds of photos are taken, and treats are exchanged along with congratulatory phrases and heartfelt messages, I begin to question my purpose here.
Not surprisingly I, like many Zags, have struggled for awhile now to understand my presence in Zambezi. While I was told prior to the trip that this would certainly happen, I never expected to be this caught up in the questions. I questioned the depth and value of the teaching I have provided my students in the short 10 days of class I have taught. Instead of the teacher leaving the students enriched in knowledge after their teachings, I can’t help but feel as though everyday the classroom has been reversed, and I have learned more from them. Many in this community have a deep-rooted and rare desire to focus on serving others before serving themselves. In the business and leadership class, many students stated their selfless desire to start a business that would first and foremost employ others while feeding and helping those who needed it, putting profit second. On a separate occasion I questioned a student on why he plans to let people pay for their orders after they are made rather than before, or why if someone doesn’t have enough money he will simply let them pay when they can. His response was a quizzical look followed by a smile that made me question why I even asked the question. The authentic lessons I have learned from my students and the surrounding community about being genuine, honest, and trustworthy people are far greater than any lesson I could possible give on creating businesses that earn profits and knowing how to lead it well.
The end of classes has caused me to pause and reflect on my time in Zambezi. Most of my time here, I have struggled to identify how and what I am feeling. This struggle and the readings we did while preparing to come here, along with our discussions every night and the interactions we have everyday before and after class, I frequently have lifted both my hands to feel for my head and make sure it’s still attached to my body. My desires and dream to be truly immersed in this incredible community seem to be impossible while I am here. I wonder if I even deserve to be immersed because I am only here for a short time. Have I evenfulfilled my purpose of being here?
There are moments in between trips or classes that fill my heart with joy when I see others fulfill their purpose. Just a day ago we visited a local orphanage where we separated into a female group and a male group. The health team was able to educate the adolescent girls on hormones and puberty with an accurate and incredible presentation starring Holly–who I know is destined to be an incredible nurse. They provided them with a reusable period pack while simultaneously chanting, “We are woman! We are strong!” The strength my fellow Zags showed in educating these young woman on adulthood and providing them with the means to attend school on days they normally couldn’t was an amazing display of the positive impact they have had on the Zambezi community.
The type of engaging interpersonal work that we are engaging in while abroad on this trip are ones that we cannot be taught but must experience on our own, outside of a classroom. This has left me grateful for every experience I have had here and even the tension I sit with between balancing my understanding of the world and my purpose here. All I can say is that I am grateful for this opportunity to learn because it has taught me more than about myself than I could ever learn inside of a classroom.
PS- SISTER!!! Congratulations on graduating! I am so proud of you and still look up to you in more ways than one. I love you so much and wish I was there to celebrate with you on your special day-Cal Poly is lucky to have you.
PSS- Brian!!! Congratulations on (almost) finishing and graduating. I wish I could have been there and hope I see you before you leave for Italy or within the next year. Love and miss you- please bring me something fun back!
PSSS- Nonnie! Don’t worry I’ve been going to mass every Sunday and every mass has been 3-4 hours long so I’ve been saying lots of prayers for you an everyone else. Your always in my thoughts and prayers- I love and miss you everyday.
PSSSS- Mom/Dad & Family and everyone else- I love and care about you all please know how dearly I miss you all and have been thinking about you everyday.
PSSSSS- PFC, I can’t wait to see you all soon! Please send updates on everyone and how everything is going! Miss you all