Some of the women in our business and leadership. From left: Margarett, Colleen, Cleopatra, Grace Lombardi, Crescencia, and Bridget.

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.


Grace Lombardi


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




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Questioning My Fears

As we enter into our final days in Zambezi, I am experiencing so many emotions. I am filled with mixed feelings of happiness, gratefulness, and sadness. These past two weeks have been amazing; however, my experiences here were nothing like I expected them to be.

Prior to arriving in Zambezi, I shared my excitement with many friends and family members and attempted to explain what the program is all about. Most people responded with confusion as to why I chose to spend part of my summer in “Africa.” Some joked, with subtle seriousness, about how they thought I would not survive here. Even someone who was familiar with this program stopped me one day to talk to me about how worried they were for me to come here. I could go on about comments many family members and friends made to me sarcastically about this trip. But before I continue, I must recognize that I too had many anxieties and worries before arriving in Zambezi.

The first two days we were here, I found myself standoffish and not willing to engage. The anxieties I had gradually worsened, especially prior to my homestay. I was so nervous; I did not know what I would eat, where I would sleep, or really what I would do. As families arrived to pick up students, I spent the first hour trying to avoid getting sent to a homestay, thinking that if somehow I were last to leave, all would be well. It was not until I had a small conversation with Hannah regarding my fears that I realized I just needed to go for it and stop sitting around in the convent stressing about all the things that could happen that night.

I was eagerly welcomed by Elizabeth, my homestay mother, who was very excited to take me to a women-only event. For some reason I heard her say, “Kitchen Bath” instead of “Kitchen Party” when she was explaining to me where we would be going. For about five minutes, I found myself freaking out, thinking I would be entering a communal bath. I insisted I did not have to attend, but she was not taking no for an answer. Once I heard her say “party,” I knew I had it all wrong. She was actually taking me to a wedding reception, also known as a Kitchen Party. That party was so much fun, and it was definitely an experience I will cherish for a long time. I cannot believe I almost did not go because of my irrational fear that I would be soon bathing in a communal setting. 

As much as I hate to admit it, there have been many experiences like this. Coming into this trip with a negative lens only allowed me to be slapped in the face by the realizations of all the stereotypes and stigmas that lived in my brain. I often find myself questioning all the preconceived notions I have, along with those of my family and friends, and where they stem from. Why is it that almost everyone I talked to found it shocking that I chose to go to Zambezi or thought I could not survive? Why do we generalize a whole continent as somewhere that is unlivable? What do we know?

I have seen many commercials, fundraisers, and more that depict “Africa” as a place where everyone is famished. In no way am I proclaiming that I am not seeing real hunger. Simply, I would like to shine light on some things the media does not always bring attention to. That is how much so many people I meet value education. I have heard so many stories of individuals who are unable to finish or continue school because of financial issues. There are so many stories about people who have tried their absolute best to continue their educations, but they are unable to because of their situations and find themselves stuck and not able to improve their lives. I cannot count the number of times I have heard the phrase, “Finish your food. There are starving children in Africa.” Why do we not shine light on the desire for education many individuals here have? What about the desire to improve their cities, countries, and even continent? Why do we dehumanize so many by calling them a lost cause that only our benevolence can help? What do we know?

What I do know is that in the more than two weeks I have been here, I have seen stronger values and richer culture than I have ever experienced in the states. I know that each student in the Business and Leadership class has a desire to change their communities with their business proposals. I know that the students in computers are motivated to continue to develop and improve their communities with technology. I know that in the health class, the students have a strong desire to see change in the health issues they face. I know the students at Chilenga Primary School are eager each day to learn a new lesson.

Ultimately, what I know is that I have a lot to learn. My three short weeks in Zambezi will not even begin to allow me to understand an entire continent. However, I would like to say that in my time here I have learned so much. Many of my new discoveries have left me more confused than before, but I know these questions will be things I find myself pondering for the rest of my life. My time here in Zambezi is not supposed to give me all the answers. It is giving me the right questions that I will continue to struggle with.

Kalunga Akukisube, 

Margarett Qaqish

P.S. – To my family and friends, I miss you all so much. Please know I am thinking of you daily and cannot wait to share all my experiences with you. And yes, I love the food. See you very very soon. 

P.P.S- For all those wondering, Friday night we entered a choir concert competition and performed a mashup of “Where is The Love?” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and “Don’t Stop Believing.” We even danced. And yes, it did fulfil my life long dream to be on “Glee.”


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Leaning into the discomfort

Nina, Holly, and Mama Katendi teach at Lwitadi.

It has been a privilege to feel discomfort in my privilege.

I find this happens when I go to the market.

Whenever there’s some free time in our busy schedules, a group of Zags usually find their way down to the market. It’s about half a mile from the convent down sandy roads.  The still, warm air is interrupted with the chattering of locals lining the streets, the sounds of the children in the rickety playground, and Zam pop from the barbershop on the corner. A normal day for the locals in Zambezi is disrupted by our presence. Soon after, we hear, “Chindele! Chindele!” and we have instantly stolen the attention of every person in the market. Their heads turn toward us with confusion and awe, and they stare intently at our bright skin and lightly colored hair. I feel my head fall, and I watch my feet shuffle through the thick sand. At home, staring would be considered rude. Here, stares are a gift not earned because of preconceived ideas about our wealth or education. They stare at our privilege. 

We walk by many shops and finally make our way to our intended destination: a chitenge shop. Colorful chitenge hangs from the walls and ceiling. As each of us enter, we fill the small space and begin our hunt. One chitenge in particular catches my attention, so I ask the storeowner, “How much?” 30 kwacha. I reach down into my wallet and flip through my cash. All I have left are 100 kwacha bills. That is possibly enough kwacha to pay for the storeowner’s tuition bill for her child’s next term at primary school. I’m immediately overcome with embarrassment and guilt for feeding into the stereotype about wealthy snobs from the United States being reckless with their money. I have a perfectly good chitenge back at the convent, and yet I’m still here thinking I absolutely need another just because I can afford it.


It has been a privilege to feel discomfort in my privilege.

I found that this happened when I visited the Falconer Home Orphanage.

There is a world separating Mary and me. For every obstacle she faces, I will have been handed three opportunities. It’s not my place to break down these obstacles for her, and I am restrained by both language and time to give her what she deserves. For now, I share a lemon cookie with her, and whisper, “You are my sunshine” as she slowly falls asleep on my chest. She was so calm and graceful while slipping deeply into slumber, as if she had rarely been given the gentle touch of a mother. My time with Mary wasn’t enough, nor would an infinite amount have been, but my presence will not affect her in the way it does me. It’s a privilege to meet Mary, but it’s simply a disruption to her normal life.

Mary is two years old. She and her twin sister, Sherry, have lived in the orphanage most of their lives and will continue to do so for many years. I can’t help but compare their childhood to my own. I feel guilty knowing that my bedroom is large and comfortable and all mine. I feel guilt knowing that everyday I’m fed more than enough food, and if I ever want more, there’s an overflowing fridge and pantry. I feel guilty knowing that I have more clothes than I know what to do with. I feel guilty knowing that my toys were often new and abundant and never made of repurposed trash left on the ground outside my home. The materialistic differences between Mary and me do not dictate whether one life is better than another, but somehow mine still leads me on a path of endless opportunities. 


It has been a privilege to feel discomfort in my privilege.

I found that this happened when I taught health lessons at schools in the bush.

When the health team arrived at the primary school in Malola, the first thing I noticed was the small size of the two buildings they used for educating over five hundred students. The second building wasn’t yet finished because the school’s PTA ran out of money to finish it this year, and the government can’t offer support, so it lacked a roof or any traditional furniture. Even so, the teachers are willing to be creative with the resources they have.

Our purpose for coming to Malola was to teach a lesson on menstruation to the sixth and seventh grade girls and hand out period packs containing reusable pads, a towel, and soap. Access to feminine hygiene products is rare, and even in places where they can be found in the market, the price is far too high. Because of this, many girls don’t buy these hygiene products but instead choose to stay at home when on their periods.  So, 3-5 days a month may be spent at home instead of in the classroom getting the education they are so eager to receive. In sum, that’s over a month of skipped school per year solely due to menstruation. These girls don’t choose to experience this, and they don’t choose their situation. It is just one of many obstacles adding to the difficulty of excelling in education. Not having a period pack has never stopped me from going to school. I have the privilege of buying my own hygiene products and many extras to keep on hand when needed. I left Malola overcome with shame.

Not all my teaching experiences have ended so sadly. Earlier this week on Wednesday, we had another opportunity to travel to a primary school in Lwitadi. The conditions of this school were similar to that of Malola, with over 300 students in only a handful of classrooms. These conditions, though, were not the focal point of this day trip. The class radiated positive and appreciative energy, which made for a perfect lesson led by Mama Katendi, Holly, and me. All three of us left Lwitadi feeling happy for the students and proud of our work.


I’m humbled by everything that I’ve been able to witness in Zambia. As the days go on, I attempt to organize and understand all that I’m feeling; the tensions between laughter and awkwardness, joy and anxiety, and excitement and discomfort are like a whirlwind in my head. With all of this to feel, I find most experiences hard to fully comprehend. However, I do not believe that the reason I’m here is to find understanding. This trip is a gift that a select few are able to have, so I’m beyond thankful to simply sit in this tension.

It has been a privilege to feel discomfort in my privilege.



P.S. To Mom, Dad, and Nathan, I miss you like crazy and I’m so excited to see your smiling faces when I get home.  I promise I’m safe and having the time of my life, can’t wait to tell you all about it.  Also, happy early birthday ben!

P.P.S. Morgan wants to let her loyal family and friends know that she loves them and is thinking about them, and all the Zags love the Mama Schin comments!





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Starting the Conversations

Abby (left) leading the health team during a lesson earlier today.

My time in Zambezi so far has been filled with teaching classes, canoe rides, 3+ hour masses, dancing, singing, and meeting amazing people. I knew my time here would be short, but I didn’t realize how quickly it would go by. As our remaining time in Zambezi is rapidly diminishing, I’m realizing there is no way to fit in every experience I want to have. I want to revisit my homestay family and eat nshima and caterpillars again; okay, maybe not the caterpillars. I want to dance again with Rebecca, the employee of my homestay mom who taught us some very interesting dance moves. I want to teach my 12-year-old admirer, Patrick, about biology and go to his grandfather’s store in the market. I want to buy more beautiful chitenge and chat with the tailors as they make custom skirts and dresses. Even though I may not be able to do all of these things, I’ve had countless amazing experiences in Zambezi, so I have no room to complain.

An incredible experience that I get to have three times a week is teaching a health class. We teach the class in a little room off the side of the priest’s house. We somehow manage to stuff enough chairs and couches into our little room to fit the thirty or so students that come each time. Class starts at 09:00, but in Zambian time that really means 09:15. The students don’t seem to mind our tardiness and many of them show up at different times, weaving their way through the tightly spaced chairs to find a seat. We begin our class by reviewing material and then dive into new subjects that the students want to learn about.

Each time we teach, I’m overcome by the feeling that I’m not qualified to be teaching a health class to people who are much older and wiser than me. I’m also convinced that there are a few students in the class who could teach it better than us, and it makes me wonder about the benefit of our class. Are we giving them any new information or just telling them what they already know? Does it seem condescending when we explain something like malaria to them? They see it everyday, while all of my knowledge comes from research. I fight with these thoughts as we cover material that I don’t have a deep understanding of or experience with.

I know that I could give the students new information, but that doesn’t mean it would help them. I could tell them that CD4+ T-cells are the specific cell type that the HIV virus attaches to. I could go on to say that these T-cells are responsible for activating plasma B-cells and memory B-cells that produce antibodies to fight pathogens in our bodies, which is why people infected with HIV cannot fight infections as well. This would most likely be new information for all of the students, but it would be too complex and not useful to them. I find myself trying to walk a fine line between giving them new information and giving them information that they will be able to understand. I’m also struggling to take the knowledge I have and translate it to them in an understandable way. In college, I’m expected to have an extremely detailed understanding of material and it’s sometimes difficult to simplify it in a useful way.

I feel like in our classes we’re just scratching the surface of subjects, which is in part due to time constraints, but mostly due to our lack of knowledge on subjects. Students often ask questions that I don’t have an answer to, and I’m instantly aware that I’m just an undergraduate biology major and not a healthcare provider. Yet even so, I’m somehow “qualified” to teach a health class to Zambians who have significantly more experience in some of these topics than me. It’s hard to not feel like a phony, as Bridget would say.

Even though I feel under prepared to teach, there are moments when I can see the benefit of our class. On the first day of class, we had the students tell us what they wanted to learn. We were able to tailor the topics we taught based on their health concerns. We got lucky in that we had prepared for most of the topics they wanted to learn about, but there were some that we hadn’t even heard of, like the parasitic infection bilharzia. Allowing our students to dictate what we taught ensured that the information we shared was of interest to them and not just what we thought they should learn.

We also try to have a discussion-based class where we teach material, but allow our students to talk with each other and us about the topics. These discussions have led me to have a deeper understanding of the challenges the community faces. One of these discussions was focused around malaria and the use of mosquito nets. Jessie, who is a tailor in the market, told us that one of the reasons the nets aren’t used is because of poverty. Some people use the nets for fishing or to protect their gardens from insects and animals instead of using them to protect themselves from malaria. Additionally, she said that attitudes are a big reason nets aren’t used. People may use them for a time, but eventually stop using them because they get tired of it or don’t believe they will get malaria. We also dove into a discussion about the stigma surrounding HIV in their community. John, who is a very intelligent man in our class, told us about the struggle to provide HIV education to members of the community who were unable to attend school. This lack of understanding about the disease can perpetuate the stigma that surrounds the illness and spread fear due to misunderstanding. These conversations and more have given me insight into the Zambezi community.

Often as I leave class students approach me. Jessie tells me that the class is very interesting and that she’s learning new things. Later, when I come to her tailoring shop, she thanks me for a great lesson and conversation in class. I’m thankful she likes the class, but I really can’t take credit because the best parts came from the discussion among the students. John stopped me today after class and told me how much he was enjoying the class. I told him that I hoped some of the information we’re giving them is new or helpful because I’ve been concerned that we’re not providing new information. He assured me that he’s learning new things and we’re doing a good job. These kind comments from the students make me think that maybe I’m not a total fake after all.

I don’t know if our health class will benefit all of our students, but I know that I’ve benefitted immensely from hearing the discussions in class about public health concerns. I’ve learned so much hearing the students talk about their community and the problems they see. I may not be as knowledgeable as I’d like on some of the subjects, but I’m realizing that’s not the point of our classes. We are trying to start a conversation within the community and allow them to initiate the change. We are learning right alongside our students and that’s why we came. I hope that we were able to start a conversation that the students will continue after we’re gone.


Kisu mwane,

Abby Jamieson



To my family and friends—I love and miss you all so much! I can’t wait to share my countless experiences with you when I get home. Mom and Dad, I hope you’re enjoying dinners by the fire pit and giving Choco extra kisses from me. Shelby and Sarah I hope school and work are going well! Also, happy late birthday Shelby…very late, but still. Zach I hope you have an amazing time in Europe! Take lots of pictures, including some of yourself even though I know you hate them. I miss you, but I’ll see you soon!



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My Friend, Geoffrey (Jo-free)

Colleen meets our chameleon friend after lunch. (Photo Credit Bridget Shoenberger)


Each day in Zambezi has fallen into some sort of routine. We wake up for breakfast, read the last blog post and comments, run around to prepare for our first class, teach, eat lunch, teach, eat dinner, reflect, and sleep. For those who have been to Zambezi, the word “routine” is to be taken very lightly. Lunch is often pushed back due to Jeff’s internal clock being set to “Zambia Time,” and some of our students have decided that class starts at 10 a.m. rather than 9 a.m. My sleep is also typically interrupted by the confusion of my roommates yelling at each other in their sleep. (Thanks to Grace K., Bridget and the anti-malaria drug Malarone). As you may see, our “routine” is often shifted around and includes gaps of time that each of us is responsible for filling.

As many Zags would agree, one of my favorite ways to fill these gaps of time is by taking a trip to the market. These daily trips accompanied by the children who grab hands lovingly and locals yelling “chindeles” without missing a beat are something I look forward to every day. I often see our students from the business and leadership class posted at their shops or wandering the sandy roads in an effort to kill time before their next class at the convent. I try to stop and chat or invite them to walk with me, but having a meaningful conversation can be difficult while navigating the language barrier and many distractions of the market.

One day, I caught myself in those distractions. I was with four other Zags when we ran into one of our students, Geoffrey. I invited him to walk with us to George’s shop, our favorite place to buy snacks. (Yes, mom, I found snacks.) I was distracted by the important question, “Which soda should I buy?” when I managed to disregard Geoffrey’s patient presence as he stood a few feet behind me without money to splurge on a cold soda. To those of us from the United States, spending 7 kwatcha (70 cents) on a soda is something we can all afford here daily. But to Geoffrey and many other Zambians, spending 7 kwatcha on a soda just wouldn’t make sense.

The second we left the shop I blushed with embarrassment for my failure to offer to buy Geoffrey a soda especially considering that just a few minutes prior Garrett and I were overwhelming Geoffrey with questions about his life. We discovered that he and his family have little to no means of income. They are completely self-sustained by their family farm. Geoffrey has a wife and three children under the age of 10. They moved to Zambezi over three years ago in hopes to find more opportunities for work. In those three years neither Geoffrey nor his wife, Barbara, have had a job. When asked what he thought about the business and leadership class, Geoffrey’s face lit up as he explained how excited he was to be learning so much and working toward getting a certificate. He continued to explain how he plans on using what we teach him to find a good job or start his own business after completing our class.

We began to walk back through the distractions of the market and back to the convent. Along the way we stopped in a bakery where there was another selection of sodas. I turned to Geoffrey, who again was patiently waiting to the side. I asked if he would like a soda, and he responded, “Yes, but this would be better. I could bring it home to my wife.” I followed the gaze behind his small gold-rimmed glasses to a loaf of bread. 8 kwatcha. I handed him the bread after paying for it, and he thanked me repeatedly.

I learned that Geoffrey walks almost an hour each way to come to our class every day. He acted as if it was no big deal since it meant learning from us. Hearing this makes me question my credibility and ability to teach people twice my age when I don’t yet have my college degree. It makes me think a lot about our students’ tireless devotion to learning, a devotion I cannot say I have felt most of my life. Education has just been a part of my daily routine for as long as I can remember, and I find myself complaining about it far too often. The excitement and passion for learning that the children and adults of all ages possess here is inspiring. A college education that likely leads to an abundance of job opportunities is something most of our students here dream about.

As we continued to walk with Geoffrey, all of these thoughts and more flooded my mind. I could stand in George’s shop and buy a soda without thinking twice. I owe that to the opportunities I have encountered because of a free education and being born in the United States. Buying that soda, let alone a loaf of bread, isn’t a luxury that Geoffrey has, yet he never once asked me or any of my peers for a single thing.

Kisu Mwane.


P.S: Mom- I’m taking good care of your camera and think of you anytime I snap a good pic. Sending you a big hug!! Dad- I trust you’re taking good care of the animals and will give Theo and Calvin a hug for me. Zz- Enjoy your last few days in Florence! Safe travels for wherever you are off to next, which hopefully involves going home? See ya at the airport? Val- I found John and Keith, and they both say hello! I’m still on the lookout for Bridget and baby Shelly. Thanks for the biggest hug in the whole world; Dev and I are sending one right back atcha. The rest of my friends and fam- I miss and love you all!! Can’t wait to exchange stories from the past month.

P.P.S: Happy Birthday Mama Kris!! The big 3-0. Wahoo!! We celebrated her birthday with some delicious nshima dumplings made by Jeff and cake! We will be sure to give her lots of hugs from friends and family at home.




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Remembering our time in stories, not minutes

Sanna (left) and Madelyn share a laugh with some of the youth we met during last weekend’s visit to Dipalata.

“What time is it? What time is it?” This is the question I constantly asked myself before coming to Zambezi. It is as if time is the commodity that our lives function by. 


Something I have come to admire about Zambians is their view of time. They don’t put emphasis on being on-time, and there seems to be no such thing as being “late” in Zambia. Last Thursday Mama Love and her husband Duncan visited us for dinner at the convent. I remember Jeff saying at breakfast earlier that day, “Please be back at 18:00 hours for dinner, which will probably not begin until 19:00 hours.” Food wasn’t actually served ‘til 19:30. During our weekend trip to Dipalata last weekend, we woke up Sunday morning for church at 9:30. But breakfast was still being prepared at the time the service was supposed to begin, so the entire community willingly waited for us to finish our meal to start mass. Even businesses don’t run on a set schedule. A couple of our students, Alex and Wilfred, close their tailor shop every day from 10:00-11:00 the past couple weeks so they can attend our computer class. The fluidity of time engulfs itself in the Zambian culture.


Nothing begins “on-time” and nothing ends “on-time.” I kind of love it.


Even a trip to the market is always longer than expected. It usually goes something like this: we leave the convent and encounter many smiling children who stand under the warmth of the sun waiting to greet us. We exchange handshakes and hugs and maybe even teach them some songs (their favorite is “Boom Chicka Boom!”). The kids may teach us some words in the Lunda language, as others laugh about our poor pronunciation. Then we continue on our walk to the market, down the familiar dirt road, usually accompanied by a few young Zambian children who reach to hold our hands. We may run into some of our students, maybe our dear friend Moses or Peter, and strike a humble conversation about their appreciation for their mother’s hard work at home, or how much they value the education they are able to receive through our classes. We part ways after some time and soon round the last corner of our path that will lead us to our destination. The fishy smells we sniff, the bright fabrics we pass by, the wide smiles we encounter, all these allow us the opportunity to pause and ask questions, to take a moment to wonder about the beautiful culture we have been introduced to for the past thirteen days.


Then we may reach our intended destination of George’s market some 53 minutes later. 


Every day I learn more about what it means to understand Zambia. Our relationship with our Zambian friends is not dependent on whether or not we are on-time to meet with them or fitting as many meaningful experiences into our daily schedule as possible. Our time in Zambia is about slowing down, asking questions, being in the moment, and getting to know the people who’ve welcomed us here. 


Something I have found so beautiful is how willing people are to share their personal stories: Mama Violet sharing with me the story of her first-born’s birth, Jacob speaking about how he works long hours so that he can give back to the family that gave everything to him despite their impoverished circumstances. No one holds back their stories, and that is what I have come to appreciate so much. It goes deeper than just asking “Musana Mwane, munayoyo mwane? Good afternoon, how are you?” Taking the time to hear these stories has helped me to focus on building intentional and meaningful relationships with the people I have met here, thinking of time as more than just four digits on a watch. 


But I am still struggling how to bring back these ideas and thoughts back home and incorporate them into my day-to-day life back home. I have been cultured to always be cognizant of other people’s time. Being late is considered inconsiderate of others’ time. Our daily schedules are structured around time. We want to make sure every hour of the day is filled with some activity. I am learning to ignore the hours and minutes, and instead embrace the experiences as they come.


Back home, we are constantly thinking about the next place we have to be, the next test we have to study for, the next meal we have to eat and who will accompany us. I am so used to stressing about being on time to everything back home that I have realized I commonly forget about the importance of stopping and having conversations with those around me, to hear how their day is going, how their families are, how their classes were. Since being here, I have been inspired to dig deeper than those superficial conversations we feel so obligated to have in order to be more intentional with the relationships I have back at home.


Kisu Mwane,

Sanna Darvish ‘20


P.S. to Mom, Dad, Maleka and Del, I miss you lots and cannot wait to give you the biggest hugs in two short weeks. I am healthy, joyful, and excited to share my stories with you and the rest of the family and friends back home. Mom, you should know that I am taking all the probiotics you sent me with and I have been eating relatively well. I even got gifted a bag of quinoa so you could say I am living high. Maleka, I am so proud of you for finishing your last few weeks of high school, I cannot wait to come home and celebrate all your accomplishments.


P.S.S. I am sad to announce that we lost the annual Zam City Soccer match today after penalty kicks. Sorry to let all you Zambezi alums down. But Jeff Dodd did fashion his knee-high hot pink socks so I’d say it was a win. 


P.S.S.S. We are having some challenges with the local data network. This has caused some delays in our posts. If it keeps up, Jeff has promised to climb to the top of the nearest tall tree, holding his phone up to the sky and gesturing wildly.

Despite our loss to ZamCity FC’s under 13 football team, we were still able to enjoy another beautiful Zambezi evening. Photo credit to Margarett Qaqish.

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Far Beyond the Yellow Walls

Poorly duct-taped poster paper of past classroom lessons nearly cover the soft yellows walls of the convent where we hold our Business and Leadership class. As each student walks in, ranging from as young as 14 to as old as 70, I am greeted with extravagantly long handshakes. The mismatched chairs and benches slowly fill with students eagerly awaiting the lesson ahead.

On the left sits Mama Josephine, a 70-year-old single mother who started a tomato growing-and-selling business after retiring as a political activist. She fought for Zambian independence when Zambia wasn’t yet a country and worked for the nation’s independence.

Next to her sits Hendrix who owns his own cassava-and-meal grinding plant and is known for his good product throughout Zambia. He even took me to the grinding mill to show me how the process works and explained how Zambians turn the ground meal into nshima, Zambia’s staple food.

Frezia sits in front of the opened window, a 20-year-old woman who wants to further her education but is struggling to find a way because of the lack of universities in the area.

I look out at the faces of the people I am expected to teach, but I feel ill-prepared. The people in my class are incredibly knowledgeable and already active in the business community. Many of the students are my age; a few older students have their own small shops. I struggle with what qualifies me to stand in front of them as their teacher. As students ask me detailed questions about problems I know little about, I can’t help but feel like a phony.

This feeling worsens after we take a bumpy ride to Dipalata where we are welcomed with joyful singing and dancing by the locals. Women waving their chitenge and dancing with babies on their backs sing to us as we unpack the Land Cruisers. We look around at the only two buildings; one is the church and the other a hall that is not yet completed. The economic difference between Zambezi and Dipalata becomes increasingly apparent. We are told to break into groups as the people of Dipalata are anxious for our lessons.

Curriculum booklets in hand, we sit in the bright sun on benches they pulled from the church. The language barrier in Dipalata is much larger than Zambezi; we struggle to make our lessons applicable to the students. We are asked detailed questions about fish farming and expanding their market beyond Dipalata when poor roads make transporting heavy materials difficult. I exchange helpless glances with the members of my team as we try to explain through a translator that we do not know the details of fish farming and have no immediate solution to the lack of roads. If they have questions about the qualities of a servant leader, we have lots of information.

For the Leadership team, leaving that class was hard; the problems we discussed and the reality of their situation seemed inescapable. I doubted my role not only in Dipalata but also in Zambezi, and the experience changed my perspective on what I can actually accomplish. I am frustrated every day in class when I hear students talk about their dreams that deserve to become reality but may be derailed by economic hardship or simply a lack of resources. Still, I am inspired to see all of the students, young and old, come to class excited to learn.

Returning to Zambezi and to the yellow convent walls, I am reminded of the progress the two town’s residents already have made, giving me hope for Dipalata and pride in the place we have been able to call home. We are here in an accompaniment role; we are not here to save anyone or change anything. We are here to learn from the local’s experiences and the ones we have ourselves. Our lessons happen beyond the yellow convent walls as I walk beside the people in my classes and learn about their lives. They are learned walking on the yellow sand when I am no longer the teacher, and they are no longer the students. Rather we are two new friends.

Kisu Mwane, Bridget

P.S. Sending love to my Mom, Dad, siblings and friends. I love and miss you all!

P.P.S. Happy almost birthday Bailey!

P.P.P.S. Did you ever think that taking a trip to the beekeeper would land you with a stinger in the eye? Don’t worry, Mom, I found out I’m not allergic.

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I Got it From My Mama


Mama Violet (left) and Josephine taking a break during our recent journey to Dipalata.

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world”

– Mary Anne Radmacher

Prior to opening my journal, I had no idea what I was going to blog about. Our fifteen short days here have been filled with emotion.  I am not the same having seen the moon shine 10,000 miles away from the place I call home. The short time in Zambezi has shown me more about myself than any of the many self-assessments I have taken in my short twenty years. After busy days in our classrooms, many of us take a journey to Zambezi Motel where we take time to soak up the fiery-red sun as it dips below the horizon and gives way to a nearly full moon. This transition ends just another day we have spent understanding what it means forus to be here, as many of us struggle with finding our purpose in Zambezi. This transition is a helpful reminder to spend time taking in the beauty of our opportunity and break down expectations for ourselves. This transition reminds us that tomorrow we will begin again, another day of endless opportunity. Our days hold abundant class time and trips to the market. But perhaps the most prevalent aspect of my daily experience is the role played by our Zambian mamas. Zambezi holds the most colorful sunsets I have ever experienced but also strong women that remind me of the ones I leave at home. Although I have seen the moon shine on the other side of the world, the mama’s that surround us make Zambezi a home away from home.

Around the convent our mamas, Katendi and Violet, keep us both safe and very, very full. Mama Katendi spends her time with Mama Violet in the convent’s kitchen preparing our meals. Each time I pass through the front doors, I am greeted by both of these mamas with smiling faces and hugs.

Each of us gets the privilege of being “Mama’s helper,” one day while we are here. This gives us the opportunity to spend extra time with the mamas and learn about their personal lives, all while preparing food for those who reside in the convent. Last week, I was lucky enough to get to be Mama’s Helper. While carrying three chickens that Mama Katendi would soon kill for lunch, I learned about her life. She moved from Zambezi with her children in 2014, to leave behind a life that she no longer wanted to live. From that moment on, she has provided for her seven children on her own. Mama Katendi travels here from Mufulira (781 kilometers), just to spend the month here in Zambezi with us. Working alongside these women for the day showed me how much work these women put in to get food on the table for us. 

Mama Violet leaves her family home, traveling 40 minutes on foot to and from the convent, to care for us. Mama Violet leaves us here in the evening, only to continue providing for her five children at home. In total, each day Mama Violet provides love and care for twenty-seven children. Of course, none of our meals is worth enjoying unless it begins with  * Mama Violet voice * “the food is as follows… [insert each entrée and side of the meal here].”

Mama Nancy comes to the convent three times a week to assist us in cleaning the home, and doing laundry for us. She raises her granddaughter, who was left at the loss of her daughter, who lost her life in child birth. 

Mama Josephine visits the convent three times a week for language lessons. She shares stories about her life and career as a Zambian politician. Involving herself in politics at the young age of thirteen years, she is well known among those in the Zambezi community. It is inspiring to watch her lead so passionately as a woman, as it is uncommon to be a female politician. These women have pushed the importance of women being self-advocates and being strong enough to live on one’s own. Mama Josephine emphasized this during a past language lesson, as she learned before becoming divorced from her husband.

When I am called a “strong girl,” and “hard-working” from these women I feel a sense of pride, but also undeserving of these affirmations. These women have fought hard to keep their families safe and give those around them a good life. They drop their lives to take care of 19 Gonzaga students that they may only know for 21 days.  These women tell us that they care about us, and they are always here for us. I am humbled knowing that these women share their love so easy, and expect nothing in return. They are passionate, strong, hard-working women that make you feel their presence. Their work is not publicized, but felt by those around them. These are the women that I aspire to be like in different ways. These women in Zambezi are like the woman who raised me, and I see a part of her in each one of them. I have been asked a couple times who has taught me the importance of hard work from, and it is safe to say, I got it from my mama.


Kisu Mwane,

Grace Kinch

To Emmitt: Congratulations on finishing up your senior year of high school! I am very proud of all that you have accomplished and will continue to accomplish at UW. I wish I could be there to celebrate!

To Zach: Good luck in the NWAC’s this week! Cheering for #15 from Zambezi!!

To Mac G: Thank you for the big hug, sending you a big kiss back your way J 

To the rest of those I love: I cannot wait to share my experiences in Zambezi with you all! Thinking of you each step of the way.


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Teaching: A learning experience

My teaching partner, Devon, and I are trying to teach different words for emotions.

It is 9:00 a.m. in Zambezi and I sit outside the convent on a cement surface near the white Land Cruiser that will soon take us to our first official day of teaching English at Chilena Primary School. This cement surface has become my favorite spot here at the convent because I am able to observe all that is happening outside the convent, while also hearing what is happening inside. As I rest on the cement surface, I can feel the warm Zambezi sun peaking through the large tree that creates some shade over the area but also leaves just enough space for the sun to hit my back to slowly air dry my freshly washed hair. There is a slight breeze, and it blows my skirt slightly as I reach to hold it down so my legs are not accidentally fully exposed. I add a few notes to my journal, and as I look up I see three local Zambian women, one carrying a baby on her back, and the other two carrying a plethora of woven baskets they had made. I approach the women as they walk closer toward me with a simple “Hello!” and ask  “How many kwacha?” They point to different baskets to show each of their values. I ask the women how many hours it takes to make one of the baskets and she tells me “a full day if I sit to finish it all.” My mouth drops as I try to imagine myself focusing on something like this for a full day. I continue to look around at all the baskets for a few minutes, then I signal to the women that I will spread the word to the rest of the students in the convent.

I walk into the convent, and the pace of my morning immediately changes. I join in on the usual morning jam sesh for a minute while the dish-washing crew for the day takes care of their task to share the news that we have some visitors, and a few of the students wander outside to check out the basket display.

While I am still inside the convent, I hear Kris’s sweet motherly voice yell, “Okay, Ed team! Leaving in 5 minutes!” I grab the student journals, chalk, and eraser from my room and make my way back outside where I find the rest of my Education team waiting outside on my favorite cement surface. Kris comes out minutes later, signaling for us to load the cruiser. We hop in, and once settled in our seats look at each other with faces that display nerves, excitement, and curiosity all at once. Kris comforts us as we continue start the ten minute drive to Chilena Primary School, and we begin to share all the emotions we are feeling.

During our drive to Chilena, locals wave at us as we pass and we wave back, feeling welcomed as usual. As we arrive at Chilena, we receive long stares from the students, some waving and some unsure how to react. We each hop out and begin to walk toward our seventh and eighth grade classrooms as we wave and hug the kids who greet us.

Devon and I step inside our seventh grade classroom, and a group of about sixty students all stand up in unison as they say, “Goooood morning, Madame.” Devon and I smile and reply “Good morning, how are you?” The students reply again, “We are fine, and how are you, Madame?” This is the routine greeting we receive every morning. This form of respect is something I have never received at my age. It includes an element of trust that I do not feel I should receive, as I am just another “chindele” who has only known them for a few days. There are countless traits that the students at Chilena hold which I am so grateful to witness every day. One trait that continues to inspire me is their sincere love for learning. It is a difficult task to teach in English, but I have come to find it is even more challenging to speak and be taught in English. Despite this reality, the students at Chilena pay genuine attention to what Devon and I have to say, even when we feel like we may not be sending a message the right way to get a point across. The amount of attention the students give Devon and I as we stay attentive to our tone, speed, and clarity gives me the opportunity to be conscious of what I say and how I say it. Additionally, each individual student requires me to adjust my approach.

Not only are the students at Chilena hungry to learn, but they are also creative. In my perspective of the American education system, a laptop, white board, and projector seem not only useful, but necessary in order for a student to continue advancing in the education system. The students at Chilena have quickly helped me realize this is the American consumer culture fooling my brain into thinking technology and knowledge are a necessary correlation.

I have already learned so much from the students at Chilenga and it is an absolute joy to be able to learn from them every day. Chilenga offers a warm, welcome, and loving community and it is a blessing to be a part of it. The people of Zambia and the students at Chilenga have helped me to slow down and think before I speak, a skill I hope to bring back home and continue to practice.

Kisu mwane,

Madelyn Hoban


P.S. hey fam bam, thank you for the sweet notes, I found them at just the right time and they helped me fall right to sleep! Big hugs and laughs when I get home!




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“But we are Different”

Emmanuel’s house rests on a large plot above the Zambezi River. The pink walls and deep red steps blend in with the hot Zambian sun that beats down on the back of our necks, even in the dead of winter.  The large, off-brand, flat-screen television connects to a speaker system, with enough bass to shake the buildings across the dirt road. The booming drowns out the hum from three fridges that line the walls while Nickelodeon cartoons and a live stream of the Royal Wedding illuminate the different colors of chitenge that cover the doorways. Emmanuel’s mother works at the police station specializing in crime scene investigation while his father spends over 12 hours a day at New Generation, a general store in the middle of the market.

Emmanuel helps his friends read the questions I write down. His skill in English allows us to have a meaningful conversation, something that cannot happen with most children, and even many of the adults in Zambezi because of my inability to speak Luvale, Lunda or any of the other local languages. I ask him: “Why do you like to hold all of our hands?”

He says with a grin, “Because we are friends. Your skin is white and soft.” His smile fades as he rubs my arm. “My skin is black and rough. We are different.” His smile disappears and he averts his eyes to his callused hands.

“No, we are the same,” I insist, pleading with him, or perhaps just myself.

“No, we are different,” he repeats.

I want us to be the same. I want to believe that my privilege plays no role in my life. But these are both not true; I suspect Emmanuel would do very well in a place with more opportunity. I want to believe we are the same because it is the easy thing to do. I want to believe that the places we were born have nothing to do with the fact that I am spending thousands of dollars to come to his country, eat his food, and sleep in his bed.  

Emmanuel is correct; we are different. He understands these differences more at 13 than I will my entire life. He more intimately understands the opportunities of the 20 studentswho come to Zambia on a plane each year for one month, who then leave in that same plane. He knows that he will probably never see me again and that our friendship will complicate once I go home, even though I wish it were otherwise. He knows I will go back to my life of privilege and opportunity in the United States

However, we have many things in common. We are both people and deserve the same dignity and respect. He and his family show me this again and again. Emmanuel’s family offers me their home when I come visit, and his father offers me free drinks in his shop. Emanuel and I can hold a conversation about football and basketball or a conversation about why he likes to watch Nickelodeon cartoons over Disney cartoons. We both immediately know how to play hide-and-seek and to not leave the fridge open too long or the milk will spoil.

While I may never be able to identify or define these differences that the two of us possess, the effect that it has emerges. He tells me that he wishes to visit me in America and attend American University. What do I tell him? I think we both know the odds are stacked against him. Should I tell him that, after I leave Zambezi, I think this will be the last time I greet him, Chimene mwane? We don’t talk about these things. Instead, I spend as much time as possible with not only him but also the entire Zambezi community. I visit his father’s general store to buy a Coke and say hello. I cannot do much to dismantle the complex issues that have done so much harm to Zambia, so what can I do?


Whoever you are, written by Mem Fox.

Little one,

whoever you are,

wherever you are,

there are little ones just like you all over the world.

Their skin may be different from yours,

and their homes may be different from yours.

Their schools may be different from yours,

and their lands may be different from yours.

Their lives may be different from yours,

and their words may be very different from yours.

But inside, their hearts are just like yours,

whoever they are, wherever they are, all over the world.

Their smiles are like yours,

and they laugh just like you.

Their hurts are like yours, and they cry like you, too,

whoever they are, wherever they are, all over the world.

Little one, when you are older and when you are grown,

you may be different,

and they may be different, wherever you are, wherever they are, in this big, wide world.

But remember this:

Joys are the same, and love is the same.

Pain is the same, and blood is the same.

Smiles are the same, and hearts are just the same- wherever they are, wherever you are, wherever we are,

all over the world.


Kisu Mwane

Garrett DiMarco

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