Overcoming the Lion.

Canoeing to Zamcity along the Zambezi river. We’re grateful that none of us ended up in the water.

Good morning to loved ones at home,

Happy Monday from Zambezi. Today required more willpower than usual to roll out of bed after our weekend in Dipalata. Hattie’s peaceful alarm (if you heard my alarm, you’d understand why I’m calling hers peaceful) rang at 6:40 am for our regularly scheduled run. Here’s how my conversation with myself went:

“Should we skip today?”
“But we’re absolutely still exhausted.”
“It’ll be good for me.”
“But you’ll be back to your 5 miles in 2 weeks. And we’re EXHAUSTED.”
“I’ll stress if I don’t go. And I’ll feel better.”
“Ok. Let’s go.”

Should I have let my body rest one more day? Perhaps. But I am thankful I rallied to join Hattie, Claire, Grace S., and Bella on our run on our new route, which I have to say I prefer. It was a beautiful morning and I know that my mind will thank me for going later.

We enjoyed another wonderful breakfast prepared with so much love by Sierra, Lauren, and Grace E., which included my favorite food in the whole world, avocado toast (I’m surprised I didn’t eat all of the guacamole last night) and delicious granola cookies that have been crafted on the duration of this trip, a recipe I’ll be bringing home. Shortly after, our health team headed for their day-long excursion to the remote village of Kalondola, the education team to their respective schools, and my Business and Leadership friends and I prepared for our class today.

Today’s class was certainly interesting as our topic was Women In Business. As a class, there are more male students than female students, so it was interesting how most of the discussion was driven by the men. Megan, Bella, Kendall, and I kicked off class by describing important women leaders in our lives. I started by describing my karate sensei, one of the most powerful women I’ve ever met, and someone who has been incredibly influential in my life and how I’ve grown as a person. We continued, and members from the class also shared. The class grew lively, in the words of our student Hendrix, when we moved on to our discussion questions. As we asked our students about gender roles in Zambezi, the group erupted into a passionate conversation about why women work or remain in the home. While I expected coming in that gender roles would be very different from those I am used to in the States, it was definitely a different experience to hear from those who experience these gender roles themselves. There was much to consider, but I’ll leave with something one of our students said that I appreciated: “Anything a man can do, a woman could do better.”

We made a quick market stop before lunch, where we deeply missed the presence of our health team and Kris. I achieved a big accomplishment after: I finished the 751 page book that I started when we initially left the US! Thank goodness. I’ll be moving on to a book entitled Confess, which my mom raves about.

Later, Jeff informed us that we would be taking a ride on an ox cart to the river at 2:30. It wasn’t until 3:34 when we concluded that there probably would be no ox cart. But this didn’t stop us! On Monday and Wednesday evenings, we go to Zamcity, a program run by our good friend Debby that introduces sports to kids. With the white pickup truck—that has definitely seen some things, iykyk—in Kalondola, we opted to canoe down the Zambezi near where Zamcity takes place. Joined by Mama Katendi, Jeff, Kylie, Hattie, Bella, Megan, and Lauren, we tried our best not to tip the small, narrow canoe. I was screaming on the inside the entire time.

All smiles at Zamcity after an hour and a half of friendly competition.

At Zamcity, we threw around a frisbee with some of the kids, who clearly have been practicing since our last match, then Debby had us “warm up.” Little did we know that “warming up” was playing lions and children (?), a game equivalent to sharks and minnows. With Jeff as the first lion, he called to us, “children, come over!”

“We’re scared!”


“Because of the lion!”

“The lion is dead!”

Commence the running. While this “warm up” could have easily worn us out, our spirits were high as we transitioned into another game of ultimate frisbee. I am proud to say that my team—Team Girl Power + Jeff and David—won with a close score of 9-1. I even scored once. Hooray!

Members of the health team intercepted us at the field after a long and interesting day. While some drove home in the tough as nails pickup, a few of us walked back to our cozy convent, meeting our other friends with love and joy and excitement to see each other after the day’s events.

Today was a brighter day compared to the last three for me. In an ideal world, we leave our struggles from home when we travel. But sometimes they end up in our suitcase, anyway. I’ve done so much reflecting over the last few days, and I put pressure on myself to forget it all, to not let it interfere with my incredible experiences here in Zambezi. But these struggles are not something you can just shut off, even when you know you’re in a position of great opportunity. As a chronic over-thinker, I’ve reflected a lot and as we played Lion, the silly little dialogue struck me. We are called to cross—to safety, to prosperity, to a new place—but we say we are scared. Scared of the things we carry getting in the way. “But the lion is dead”—we try to forget about it, but we simply can’t. But we run anyway. Despite the tough things we might be carrying and the potential risk along the path, we still choose to take the run, making the journey to a new spot in life. Yes, we have to navigate these struggles, but with enough resilience, we don’t let the baggage prevent us from running into a future that has so much potential.

Woo. Okay, enough contemplating life. For those I love at home, I miss you all so much and look forward to seeing you. Yes, I’m staying safe. Yes, I’m wearing sunscreen. And most definitely, yes, I think I’m growing. Dios vaya contigo.

Dee Leyba, ‘24

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Dipalat-amazing Overnighter

If you look really closely you can spy a disheveled Jeff at the wheel.

Hello again to all my bloggers. I’ve missed you! Grace S. and I just went for a delicious morning run. Taking advantage of the cool air and cloudy skies, we followed the same route that Jeff showed us yesterday. (Maybe I should keep that part a secret because we didn’t know if we could go that way alone) (sorry Jeff). I would like to take this moment to acknowledge the elephant in the room, or should I say the CREATURES in the ROOMS! In the past two days I have counted three cockroaches, one frog, one lizard, and more mosquitos than countable traverse the ground and walls of Grace S.’s and my room. I think there may have been a public service announcement made to all wildlife that Noah’s Ark was soon arriving in our room.

“They always come in twos” (Grace Sikes). How prophetic and slightly terrifying.

After a quick breakfast at the convent we packed up to head to Dipalata. Kris suggested we make some peanut butter and jelly sammies for the trip (genius status). While making these sandwiches, I felt just like Goldie Hawn in Overboard (post memory loss) when she is making school lunch for her newfound children (they are not actually her kids, if you haven’t seen the movie). I just wish I had that silly banjo tune playing in the background of my sack lunch making moment. We set off in two cars, one commandeered by Jeff and the other by Father John. The ride was “forty minutes long.” Two hours and a bumpy, swervy ride in the sand later, we were at the church. Father John may have had a secret aspiration to be a Nascar driver that was uncovered on our racecar drive (in a Land Cruiser).

Upon arrival, there was a crowd of children that followed us down the road. Apparently, the community was not expecting us until evening, and so our morning arrival was quite the surprise. The hospitality is off the charts, and quickly members of the Dipalata community were rushing around us to prepare our space and gather people for the small classes we planned on teaching on health and leadership. We scarfed down the pb and js and immediately went to play with the children as the adults scrambled to accommodate us. The thought of this does make me a little uncomfortable, as we showed up way earlier than expected and threw off their day. Despite this surprise, community members were coming up to us and hugging us, celebrating our arrival anyways. Kris, Megan, and Hattie began demonstrating how to chase bubbles, and the children immediately joined, crowded around these ladies and the two small bottles of bubble soap we brought. I tried to read a book to a few kids but they immediately ran away from me. I don’t have the same charm as some of the other girls yet. However, beautiful Maddie expertly began giving a music lesson to the kids using small Easter eggs filled with sand that sounded like maracas. Our future music teacher is already a star. Jeff began pelting small children with a ball, he called it a game, I called it unleashing his anger that the kids were jumping on the truck while he was driving. To my surprise, the children seemed to enjoy this game[editorial insertion by Jeff: “It’s actually a game! Similar to dodgeball. And I am the champion.”]. I still have oh-so-much to learn about Zambia.

Lunch was prepared for us while we played with the children. A game of “duck, duck, goose” was attempted and I would say the kids had fun, even if I couldn’t quite call what they were doing “duck, duck, goose.” Some kids had a woven string circle that they were doing a magic trick with, where they stuck their hand into the circle and then with some fancy twist of their arm, pulled down and were free of the string. I watched a few times and a boy handed it off to me. My time to shine! Just kidding. Rather than a round of applause I got a cacophony of laughter as I became messily intertwined with the string. Eventually I got it, but not without the kids physically leading my hand through the trick.

After a plentiful lunch of nshima, chicken, oranges, potatoes, avocado, and bananas, Jeff announced that we needed to prepare for our group presentations that the health and business leadership teams had planned. Turns out he was giving us a much needed break from the children after a long morning. We were all grateful for this short dose of rest, and relaxed on the floor of our sleeping quarters. Our classes went fairly smoothly, with Mama Katendi and Mama Josephine translating for both teams. Unfortunately, some of the topics discussed were a little controversial in reaction. You know that anxiety we’ve all had before a presentation, that lingering irrational fear that everyone will laugh at you? The sexual health and STI portion of our lesson was this fear incarnate. The women were hiding their faces from the men and laughing, the men were staring at the women, all while we were awkwardly trying to explain what certain symptoms might mean. While I felt embarrassed and frustrated at the adults not taking this seriously, I also had to take a moment to see it from their side. These topics are not commonly discussed in rural areas, and they probably felt just as awkward as us. However, Mama Katendi later said they were interested but embarrassed to discuss such topics in front of the opposite sex. Other topics gained more positive traction, such as nutrition, the Heimlich maneuver, heat stroke, and wound care.

As the sun began to set, we set up our beds in a small building next to the church. Sleepover parYAY! I was lucky enough to lay my sleep sack between Kris and Kylie. We then congregated for a yummy dinner by headlamp light.

After dinner the local Dipalata choir joined us for a bonfire. This felt like the first time we’ve done something with the community around us, not just in it. Clustered together, we sang songs that Mama Josephine taught us in preparation for Dipalata. When our “Choir Mistress” Kendall led us in Twaya Mwanta we realized that our pronunciation needed some work after the crowd started laughing. Mama Josephine twirled around the campfire, pulling up members of the choir to dance. I could feel the beat of the drum thumping in my chest, and the hum of the guitar pulsing in my fingertips. We all tucked into bed around 10pm and fell right asleep after a full day.

We woke up to the Mamas boisterously chatting and taking calls at 7:30am. Phone calls wait for no Mama. Breakfast consisted of yams, fruit, and potatoes. I’m beginning to notice a theme. It was smashing. The church bell rang soon after and we packed into the Saint Clera Catholic Church in Dipalata. A lovely older woman named Anastasia came and sat next to me for the beginning of mass. When the choir sang she loved to do a yowl that went sort sort of like “LELLELELELEHELELELE” to show her support for the singers. Kylie liked it so much she joined too, right in my left ear! Love you Kylie. Anastasia also translated for me when a man announced some instruction before mass. She said he was telling parents to “get their kids to shut up.” Mass went on for a Zambian thirty minutes, so three hours. It was beautiful though, and the singing never fails to make me believe in magic. We packed up and had our last lunch in Dipalata. The community was very welcoming and I’m thankful for the experience.

Mid Bridge! (prayers and meditations please)

After driving an hour to Chinyingi we arrived at the legendary bridge across the Zambezi River, the one that headlines most advertisements for this program. Father John instructed us to keep our eyes forward and to not look down. It was a little spooky but felt secure. Once we crossed, he showed us the missionary hospital and his home. Chinyingi was very beautiful and extremely quiet. Ghost town vibes. Father John told us that the bridge was built in 1974 by a priest. Not an engineer. He was careful to add that the bridge was built on “prayer and meditation” before we crossed back over it. Let’s just say I was calling upon my own prayers and meditation on the way back after realizing that the bridge may not be as sturdy as we presumed.

Exploring Dipalata and Chinyingi led me to reconsider my expectations on what “rural” looks like here in Zambia. When we first embarked on our plane ride from Livingstone to Zambezi I think I was subconsciously expecting a significant decline in resources, education, healthcare, and connection to the outer world. I was dead wrong. The majority of people I see in Zambezi have cell phones and there is reliable service, most of the technology that we have readily available to us in America is also available here. Speakers, AirPods, tvs, phones, etc. Children and adults alike are fluent in multiple languages, mainly Luvale, Lunda, and English. Healthcare is freely available to the public and routine vaccines are commonplace to anyone that can make their way to hospitals. Zambezians are often more knowledgeable about American politics than I am. And even more so on Zambian politics. Zambezi is really only rural by location. On our way to Dipalata and Chinyingi we were told these places would be the most remote experiences of the trip. Father John’s house had a huge living room where two children lounged around watching a tv show they like to follow. The real eye opener in Dipalata was the difference in language priority. It seemed Lunda was the number one language taught to children and this made it slightly difficult to converse with the community. That being said, I wasn’t dismayed that a lot of people didn’t speak English. I was able to use my charade skills to talk back and forth with the kids, and they taught me a lot of phrases in Lunda. I respect that the original languages are still so alive within these communities, and English hasn’t dominated. We are lucky to be able to easily communicate with Zambezians, but this is an accommodation for English people and I often hear more Luvale or Lunda than anything in conversations that don’t involve Americans.

We drove back from Chinyingi and finally we were home. This trip felt like the longest one yet. Hattie, Grace S., and I immediately threw on the running shoes and pounded out a quick mile before it got too dark. Then Grace S and I played electrician while we switched out our broken lightbulb. Our room is so lit now!! I’m going to end my very long-winded blog post here. I love and miss my family and friends!!

With Love,

Clare Cibula, ’24

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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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Becoming Inspired by the Leaders of Zambezi

Mama Katendi preparing a delicious tomato sauce for lunch!

Hi to all of those keeping up with the blog and this amazing group of people! (Happy birthday Clare’s mom!) 

Today was a slow, routine day in Zambezi with one exception: it was Grace Sikes’ birthday!!! To celebrate, we hung a few birthday banners around the convent, made her a card with a message from her family, and gave her soooo many birthday wishes! Keep reading for a few more special moments throughout the day. 🙂

Now returning to our regularly-scheduled blog post! After a one-mile sunrise run, which felt much longer because of our sore legs from playing Ultimate Frisbee yesterday, we settled in for a quick breakfast so the education team could leave for their morning classes. Lauren and Maddie got to participate in yet another field day, Hattie sat in on a chemistry class, and Kylie successfully taught an English class. We’re happy with the 25% classroom-teaching success rate today! Meanwhile, the business team led a fantastic class discussing participants’ business proposals. Mama Violet raved that this was the best part of her morning! Everyone decided to wear the gorgeous pants and skirts they have had tailored here in Zambezi using chitenge, local fabric, and I was living for all the fashion slays. 

Grace S, Grace E, Clare, and I left a few minutes later for the pediatric ward at Zambezi District Hospital. Today was challenging because, for the first time here, all of our patients were sick and suffering (most from sickle-cell anemia, malaria, and/or deep wounds). We were introduced to the doctor in charge and the handful of nurses on the unit. They assessed patients and then administered medications, both oral and IV, and one nurse performed wound care by dumping alcohol into a deep wound before wrapping it. We heard cries and screams as the kids tightly shut their eyes and pulled away, while their mothers physically held them down. It was painful to watch and we left with heavy hearts. 

I’ll list some of the differences between healthcare in Zambia and the United States that I’ve observed for those who are curious. First, healthcare is free! Second, there is a lack of resources (which we were expecting). There were a total of 19 beds in the pediatric ward for the entire town and surrounding rural communities, one doctor, five nurses, a handful of malaria medications and oral vitamins for treatment, and one blood transfusion machine. And this is the largest public hospital in all of Zambezi district! In the labor & delivery unit, mothers are expected to bring their own gloves, forceps, and linens to lay on as they give birth. It’s been fascinating to see how nurses are adapting to this challenge. Third, many people seek healers rather than medical treatment. Fourth, nurses can receive training at hospitals rather than higher education if they choose. Fifth, there is very limited access to medical care because of the distance many have to travel and the cost of said travel. For the sake of time and space, I’ll end the list there! 

These differences remind me of a theme we discussed last night: guilt. Throughout our time here, we’ve been hyper-visible. The locals see us as wealthy experts who know best. In fact, we often feel reduced to these labels because people remind us over and over (both indirectly and to our faces) that this is how we are seen. I think there is some truth to these viewpoints—our group of students is wealthier and more educated than most of the people we have met so far. However, that does not make us more wise, capable, or intelligent than the incredibly resourceful families here in Zambezi. I’ve found this community spiritually-rich, vibrant, connected, and self-sustaining, so my goal to release guilt is to dive into the relationships I’m building and the new experiences I have. 

Moving onto a more light-hearted subject, I had the opportunity to interview a local nurse, Eucharia, for a leadership piece I’m doing. Everyone else has conducted similar interviews this week, and I’m realizing just how many unsung heroes there are in Zambezi. I’m inspired by their passion and drive to create a better community for the next generation as they balance leadership roles at their jobs, in their homes, in the community, and through passion projects. This has caused me to reflect on the legacy I want to have as a leader and given me ideas on how to help my community back home! 

Once we were all back from our respective projects, we shared a fabulous lunch. Similar to this morning, the education team left for a local boarding school, the health team taught a class about the Heimlich and disease prevention, and members of the business team had a few hours to read (and watercolor if you’re super talented like Megan!). 

We ended the night the same way we started this morning: making Grace S. feel loved on her birthday since her family isn’t here with us (though I think & hope we’ve become her family too). We visited a nearby hotel and watched the sunset. On our way back to the convent, we packed into the back of a pickup truck and screamed lyrics at the top of our lungs while star-gazing, laughing when our singing turned into screams when we hit particularly large potholes. 

Tomorrow, we’ll try to visit a century-old missionary hospital in Chitokoloki, and we look forward to a traditional Makishi performance in the evening. On Saturday we leave for the nearby town of Dipalata. We are excited to end the week with a bang and experience more this wonderful country and its people have to offer! 

I’ll end this lengthy blog with a little note to my loved ones back home: I love and miss you so much and I can’t wait to see you in two short weeks! I have so much to share with you. Please be safe and stay healthy! 

With love,

Sierra Martinsen, ‘24

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Challenging stereotypes and seeking clarity

Our dedicated students in the Business and Leadership class, including our precious Mama Violet on the left.

Musana Mwane! Another full day wrapping up here in Zambezi!

Earlier this week, Kris and Jeff made the executive decision to now have breakfast at 7:30 instead of 8:00. This news hit us hard, especially those of us who stayed up until midnight chatting last night. When I hurried out of bed at 7:45, I anticipated being the last to sit at the table. However, everyone else took this “7:30 breakfast” pretty loosely, too. Kris stunned us with amazing cinnamon toast and Jeff made the switch from our usually scrambled eggs to fried eggs today.

The business team headed to the gazebo at 10:00 for class. I think we waited about 20 minutes to begin to allow for all our participants to arrive. And that’s on #ZambiaTime. Today’s lesson was about Root Cause Analysis. This lesson asked the class to look for problems in the community, identify the causes of the problem, and then find the institutional source that creates this cause. Some of the topics mentioned by our students included early marriage, flaws with the education system, lack of clean water, and prostitution.

As an outsider, it was easy for me to feel an initial shock of how foreign and large these problems appear to be. However, it challenged me to think about issues that exist within my communities. I reminded myself that if someone were to come to the United States, there would be many things that would seem foreign to them. Bella gave an example about the houseless population in Seattle and anti-homeless infrastructure. A default issue I go back to is the presence of mass shootings and gun culture back home. While it’s easy to critique others, it’s important to also look inward with a critical eye.

After class, we had our language and culture lesson with Mama Josephine. We went through our Luvale phrases and vocab words quickly, leaving lots of time for music. Thanks to Bella nominating me on the first day of lessons, Mama Josephine has me assist her with leading the songs we sing. Today, I was given an official title: Choir Mistress. Mom and Dad, you’ll for sure be hearing “Twaya Mwanta” once I’m home.

I had some free time in the afternoon allowing me to attend the health class. Today’s topic was mental health taught by Professor Ehler. Grace did a wonderful job guiding the conversation surrounding mental health and leading meditation exercises. Along with the rest of the health team, she answered some really tough questions. I was very proud of the entire team for the way they responded to the questions and challenged stereotypes. Woohoo for women in healthcare!

Coach Debby Kasoma (center) with Coach Sikes to his right after a spirited game of ultimate, which was new to most Zags and all of the ZamCity crew.

Many of us piled in the truck and headed to ZamCity. Grace S. taught us some fundamentals of Ultimate Frisbee before we broke off into teams. Half put on red pinnies, half green, and Jeff put on his game face. He really showed off his skills today, leading his team to victory with the help of the ZamCity kids. As for me, I had a few good moments but I’ll stick to rugby.

Kendall Adams, 2025

PS: Adams fam, safe travels to New York this weekend and have an amazing time at the wedding! Please take videos of Dad, so sad to be missing out on such a big family moment. Meg, drive up to Pacifica for me. You know where to go. Aidan, give Rafa an extra big hug tonight.

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Highlights from a joy-filled day in Zambezi

Sunset photoshoot at the canoe landing.

Unlike Bella I’ve almost been dreading the day I write blog. Writing isn’t my favorite. But today turned out to be the perfect day for me.

It’s a beautiful morning when I wake up right before breakfast here at the convent. Lauren, Sierra, and Dee are in the kitchen furiously cooking up a delicious breakfast with some fun tunes in the background. I come and join Grace E. and Maddy in the living room reading.

Lauren interrupts singing breakkkfassst!

Breakfast starts with a discussion of who’s swapping books with whom and a heated grilling of Lauren about what she thinks of the book she just finished 

Bella declares these the best eggs yet.

I’m sitting in the living room reading my book and Maddy and Kendall are on dishes. Maddy’s playing country music that is making me so happy, and I feel even more at home. I have a good feeling about today.

Clare and Grace S. are in their first roommate fight because apparently a lizard crawled out of Clare’s backpack after Grace teased her, saying “I hope it crawls into your bed” when they saw it in their bathroom last night.

Class time! We gather in the gazebo for another class today to discuss leadership styles. We got into a really great discussion with an example scenario featuring three types of leaders: one laissez faire, one democratic, and one authoritarian. One of the students attending our class, Rickson, began challenging the original consensus, which led to some passionate beliefs from some other members of the group. It was amazing to hear what they thought about the qualities that make a good leader, and I really agreed with a lot of them whole heartedly. 

In the afternoon we made a trip to the market to look for some chitenge, and it was very successful. I found one for a gift, made a stop by the tailor’s to drop off a skirt order to sweet mama Mary, and headed to Wendy’s shop where I found the perfect pink chitenge for a skirt I want made!!

We made it back to the convent just in time for a delicious lunch prepared by Mama Katendi, Mama Violet, and Hattie. Then the health team went off for their class and the education team headed to the school. 

I felt loved, and a bit smothered, by these children.

I wanted to relax and enjoy the sunshine so I went to sit outside and read. I was off to a rocky start, as the chickens were wandering a little too close for comfort and one of the chicks kept attempting to peck my foot. Then I was swarmed by about 15 kids—Sharon, Gracious, Gabriel, and many more. They at first were shy and quite worried I would tell them to leave, but then they warmed up and started playing with my hair and asking me lots of questions. I learned their favorite movies, foods, etc. They were very interested in just about everything; my book, my bracelet, my rings, etc. They were sweet and though they crossed some boundaries, first of all by being in the convent walls, I enjoyed getting to know them. We shared lots of laughs and they were repeatedly trying to get me to play games with them, which I was very much not up for. They kept plaiting my hair and asked to take pictures, so we took lots.  Eventually, I could tell they weren’t ever going to leave, so I had to make up an excuse to go inside. I gave lots of hugs, and we said goodbye. The kids here are beautiful and very interested in us, but it is sometimes a challenge to draw productive boundaries for how much and what kinds of interactions we should have with them. If given the chance, they’d be with us non-stop, but that would limit our time to grow as a group and to develop relationships with Zambian adults.

Once I moved back inside to read, I realized it just wasn’t in the cards for me today. Grace E. said we should play B.S. (a card game in which every player has to lie about the cards in their hand and the purpose is to not be found out) and I couldn’t resist. Kendall, Dee, and Sierra joined us, and this was probably one of my most fun experiences playing B.S. We all got really invested and there was some beef between Grace E. and Kendall as we discovered that Grace may have a not-so-honest side.

We finally decided to stop playing after countless rounds, and the education team returned from their time at the boarding school. We then somehow ended up in a circle all sharing pictures from our freshman year of high school and other small mementos. I have felt close with these girls almost everyday, but today felt just a little more comfortable. I think we all brought out more of our authentic selves, whether that be in terrifying old pictures or slightly mean jokes we probably wouldn’t make to anyone else who wouldn’t know we were kidding. We truly feel like a family here, and I couldn’t imagine this experience with any other group of girls.

We ended the day with a walk down to the Zambezi River to watch the sunset. This ultimately led to some 0.5 photos and making a Video Star to the song “Space Unicorn,” which was truly a masterpiece and quite the throwback. There were some fun moments out by the river such as a conversation between Kendall and Clare that went something like this:

“Clare, who sings that song?”

“The Carpenters”

“Let’s keep it that way”

…. ouch

“You’re a bad egg”

“No, I’m Kendall”

Followed by some giggles.

Overall, today was probably one of my favorite days yet. I had a few great connections with Zambians, but I also really cherished my time with all of the girls today (+Jeff). 

The small joys of my day:

  • Lulu’s random singing outbursts.
  • The attendees at our business and leadership class sharing out their brand logos they designed for themselves based on their personal values.
  • Teeny tiny baby chicks.
  • Mama Wendy’s adorable one-year old, Melanie.
  • My guava juice and Red Bull combo.
  • The uchi bars Mama Katendi and Mama Violet made for us as a snack.
  • The chitenge I bought today with adorable elephants on it. (Might just wear it everyday from now on.)
  • Laughing with each and every one of these girls.
  • Maddy playing country music this morning. 
  • Hugs and lots more hugs.
  • Kris’ smile.
  • Making cold brew.
  • Watching the sunset over the Zambezi River with all of my family here.
  • Jeff grabbing a stick and pretending to be an elder to tease the Zambian kids.
  • Conversations with Sierra and Dee on the walk back from the river.
  • A game of Sardines.
  • S’mores and reflection by the fire.

So. Much. Joy.

P.S. Hi to all my peeps at home reading this! I miss you so so much more than you know and hope you’re all doing well. Can’t wait to see you all and give you the biggest hugs when I get home. Love you more <3

Megan Benham, ’23

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Learning to relish deeper conversations

This gallery contains 12 photos.

I woke up to my alarm, and immediately pressed “snooze,” hoping to relish a few more minutes of sleep.  But as I rested my eyes, I suddenly remembered: I’M ON BLOG TODAY!!! Hi, my name is Bella, and I’ve been waiting … Continue reading

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Going beyond the market

Our crew helped coach a Sports for Life festival featuring a host of individual sports
and a health talk for a few hundred local youth.

Saturday, June 3rd.

Peeling away the safety of our trusty mosquito nets to journey to the convent’s jack-and-jill bathroom and the intensely cold showers.

Breakfast, seemingly more and more extravagant every day, prepared by our pals and shared family-style around a makeshift collection of wooden tables and chairs.

The monotonous sound of running water accompanied by the hard work of Bella’s JBL as it supplements our dishwashing with pumpin’ jams.

And the hustle and bustle of preparation for the day’s work: the health team organizing lessons and pamphlets, the business and leadership team putting on their name tags and practicing their lessons, and the education team preparing their hearts to observe the students at both Chilenga School and the Zambezi Secondary Boarding School. 

These are glimpses into the simple morning routine that we have quickly grown fond of and found comfort in. These daily occurrences are quite homey and contribute to the overall greatness that is Zambezi, Zambia.

This morning, however, disrupted our routine. For the first time in Zambezi, we weren’t working on our projects or exploring the market.

We woke up this morning with 1/13th of our heart travelling to Solwezi as Genesis makes the trip back home to Spokane. We will miss her insightful commentary, her vast knowledge on what seems like everything under the sun, and her zealous heart for adrenaline. Our group has been forever impacted by Genesis’s positive influence, and we will be thinking of her every day.

Things are not the same without you, Genesis. We love you!

In contrary to our typical Zambezi morning routine, our Saturday looked like this:

Quick brekky.

“What’s the time?” says Jeff grumpily? 

“It’s 8:00 AM”

“Let’s go! We are supposed to be there at 8:00 AM.” Yes, grumpy.

Soccer, rugby, and volleyballs

Frisbees, the JBL, water bottles, fanny packs

and fourteen sleepy Zags piled into the back and the bed of Father David’s trusty white Toyota Hilux.

Kris in the driver’s seat, obvi. 


Hundreds of kids, 12 sports stations, controlled chaos. 

I revisited one of my first loves, soccer, as a ZamCity football coach! I am certainly out of practice, but it was an incredible experience kicking the ball around and playing 5v5 games with young athletes. We worked alongside Zambian athletes to help coach a variety of sports. While Hattie and I coached football (soccer), Dee coached martial arts, Kendall coached rugby, Sierra and Megan coached yoga, Clare and Lauren coached XC running, Grace E. and Maddie coached volleyball, Grace S. coached ultimate frisbee, and Bella coached dance. We are quite the athletic bunch!

Following our long morning with ZamCity, we nervously prepared to leave for the night for homestays. It is hard to encapsulate the individual experience of each of my peers as we all traveled to different homestay families. But I will say that after our Sunday lunch debrief, each and every one of us has a fabulous time.

Lauren and me with the Saviye family: Kelly, Janet, Mwana, Fatima, and little Ben (clockwise from left).

Lauren and I visited the home of Kelly and Janet Saviye (also the home of Audrey, Fatima, Mwana, and Ben), and after our 5pm pickup, we walked to the Zambezi river to watch the sunset. When we returned home, we were given a quick house tour and were served a literal silver platter of tea and all the fixins. For dinner, we assisted Mwana as she prepared chicken (fresh from the coop, eek!), chicken soup, nshima, cabbage, rice, and sweet potato fries; it was quite the delicious spread. Through thoughtful conversations with Kelly and his family, I left feeling welcome and inspired by their ambition and hospitality and challenged to think more deeply about my world view. Lauren and I both left this morning with full tummies, chitenge, a Lunda dictionary, and even four meat pies made by Mama Janet. Lauren and I are so excited to get our chitenge tailored so we can show Kelly and Janet our fits.

To my family and friends at home, I love you so much and I am excited to tell you EVERYTHING! If you know my mom, please text her to make sure that she knows how to find this post; you might even need to give her a little Facetime tutorial, whoopie! Thank you for reading. Happy birthday in heaven, Brooks. 

<3 Kylie Mukai, ’25

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Full Hearts

Impromptu 80s dance party while doing
the brekkie dishes.
(L-R: Dee, Bella, Kylie, Clare, and Grace S.)

Musana Mwane blog readers!  

Yesterday was a hard day for many, so we woke up today with hope for more positivity in this beautiful Friday! Clare, Dee, Grace S., and I woke up early to go for a run. While we ran, Sierra, Grace E., and Bella cooked up some eggs, oats apples/oranges/bananas, and French toast. It was DELICIOUS!! This fueled us and got us prepared for the day.

The vibes continued to be good as the dishes were washed and Taylor Swift was played all throughout (friends and family at home please keep me updated on the Eras tour). Today is also our 13th day of this trip, which is Taylor’s lucky number so things are bound to go right.

Next on the schedule was the business class led by Megan, Bella, Kendall, and Dee. They talked about core values and everyone was very engaged and excited about all of the discussions. They also took some personality tests and talked about social styles. While they taught, Kylie, Genesis, Hattie, Maddie, and I all went to the market to pick up some skirts that Genesis had made and to buy some chitenge (fabric). At 12:00 Mama Josephine came to teach us Luvale/Lunda. We learned a lot of common phrases and two songs. Mama Josephine is a great teacher and did a wonderful job of being patient and elegantly explaining the pronunciation of words. Once class was done, Clare, Bella, Kylie, and Kendall immediately broke into improv song and dance performances that were so good you would think they were actually choreographed.

For lunch, we had a quinoa salad and a fruit salad that was so lovingly prepared by Mama Katendi and Mama Violet. We were all silent because it was so good. The Mamas never miss.

After lunch it was time for dishes once again and the playlist for this dance/cleaning party was 80s music. We heard songs like Super Trouper, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, and One Way or Another. Is there a better way to bond than to boogy? The answer is no. By now it was 2:30 and it was time for Kris, Jeff, Hattie, Maddie, Kylie, and me to head to the Zambezi boarding school and for Grace E, Clare, Genesis, Sierra, and Grace S to teach their health class. We had so much fun at the school observing a spelling class, drama class, and a debate class. Getting to see how Zambians run their school system was really cool and all of the teachers that we met were incredibly passionate about education. At the same time, the health class had 14 attendees today and their focus for their lesson was sutures.

Once we were all back together we played fun games like Slap Jack, drew, and danced some more (because duh) while we waited for dinner. We had a dish with potatoes in eggs (like a french-fry quiche) alongside rice, apples, oranges, and leftover quinoa with a newly purchased and very popular chip seasoning sprinkled all over.

Today was overall very good, but we did find out some pretty sad news. Genesis will be leaving us tomorrow to head back home due to a family emergency. We will miss her so, so much and wish she could stay, but also wish her the safest journey home. We were able to say goodbye to her by getting all sappy and partaking in a very sweet group hug. We spent a lot of time together as a group today and I think that it was really nice after having such a hard day yesterday. One recurring theme that I have noticed with this group is that no matter what any of us are going through, we are there for each other. We check in with one another and allow ourselves to be unapologetically vulnerable. This to me, is a very rare and special group of women (+Jeff) and experience that we get to share with one another.

To my family/friends and boyfriend at home. I miss you all terribly and can’t wait to show you all 1000000000 pictures when I get back. Please prepare yourselves. I’m thinking of making a slideshow. Attendance is mandatory. I love you all!! 

Lauren Benham, WSU class of ’25

PS for those following us from afar. Tomorrow night we will be away for our homestays, so check back on Sunday for the next update!

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Ups and Downs

The Gonzaga-in-Zambezi education team meets with the English Department at Zambezi Boarding School

Good morning from Hattie and the rest of the Gonzaga-in-Zambezi crew! I
apologize for the delay in this blog post—right when we went to post it at
about 11 o’clock last night, half of it deleted, and we decided to call it for
the night. This unfortunate end to the day was one of a few lows in our first
day of the health, education, and business programs—a day of ups and downs.

The morning started off strong with a group of runners and a nutritious
breakfast provided by Kylie, Kendall, and Genesis. After breakfast, Kris drove
Kylie, Maddie, Lauren, and I to Chilenga school in time for 3rd period at 8:40
a.m. I had the privilege of sitting in on an 8th grade math class, where the
teacher uncomfortably joked about how he still used chalk “like in the
19th century” instead of a Dry-Erase marker. Overall, however, the content
and structure of the class was similar to math classes that I’ve assisted in at
my former primary school, and I enjoyed watching and helping as the students
practiced problems on inequalities and solving for variables.

After the class ended, I wandered past the school buildings to a dusty field
on the schoolgrounds where there was a ton of activity. Apparently, the primary
school had cancelled classes for the day and was hosting a sports day instead.
Students played volleyball, soccer, and net ball, a game similar to basketball.
I found Lauren and Maddie, who will usually teach 6th grade English and Music
classes, engaged in an intense game of net ball with other girls. I joined in
and tried to adhere to the confusing rules. I look forward to playing more
games with these students and other locals throughout our time here.

At 10 a.m. Kendall, Dee, and Bella started their first business and leadership
class. Though the turnout was smaller than expected today, Mama Josephine and
her friend Mama Christine, who both attended the lesson, raved about the session when we came across them later in the market. The business team also shared that the attendees seemed engaged and were happy with the ratio of male and female community members in

Clare, Grace S., Grace E., and Sierra headed to the Mother and Child Clinic
this morning. Unfortunately, they were not able to do much today because of a
lack of supplies, the language barrier, and merely the lack of activity going
on in the clinic today as they were mostly scheduling patients. Nevertheless,
the health team did a great job observing and asking difficult questions. I
felt privileged to join them, along with Jeff, Kris, Lauren, and Maddie, at one
of Jeff’s “secret” spots—an open-air shop where we bought cool drinks
and muffins and debriefed our mornings under the shade of the thatched roof. I
look forward to learning more about the health system here through the
experiences of my peers.

Originally, I was going to take a different approach with this blog, but
after reflecting with the whole group and learning about other’s experiences, I
realized that today unraveled many of our idyllic expectations and illuminated
the challenges of our programs and the difficulties of navigating uncomfortable

Despite these bumps in the road, however, joy and inspiration persisted. Kendall,
Bella, Kylie, and Lauren did some bomb reenactments of a Taylor Swift concert.
The group shared a ton of laughs while playing Best Story Wins before dinner. Mama
Katendi, Mama Violet, and Dee prepared a delicious traditional Zambian meal of
cabbage, nshima, and fried chicken (RIP Norman and Rockwell). The education
team was inspired by students’ engagement in drama, debate, spelling bee, and
writing projects at Zambezi boarding school.

The shiny veil of our expectations has been torn away to reveal a more
complicated and nuanced reality. We are settling into this unfamiliar place.
The sound of the rooster crowing early in the morning… and at any and every
other time of day. The flickering shadows of laundry hanging on the line. The
sight of Mama Katendi and Mama Violet cooking in the kitchen. The pungent smell
of fish in the market. The cold shower to rinse off several layers of sweat
before bed. The feeling of small sweaty hands held in our own. This place is starting
to feel like home.

And yet, I know that many of my peers are hitting a stage of slight homesickness,
and that the only reason I’m so content here is because I know I will return to
my comfortable life and loving family in a few weeks. I am so thankful for this
incredible opportunity and for the thoughts and prayers from family and friends
back home. Know that I am embracing this experience and look forward to sharing
it with you when I return. The group is doing well and greatly appreciates your
support and comments. Keep the love coming, and we’ll keep thriving!

Much love,

Hattie Harrold, ‘23

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