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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Privileging Struggle

Yesterday Abby (left) and I struggled with privilege. Today I had the privilege of teaching girls how to use their new menstruation kits so they don’t miss school during their periods.

Preparation for this trip was incredibly exciting.

I am a nursing major and was assigned to the health team, so my spring semester was filled with anticipation for sharing my newly acquired health knowledge from the anatomy classes I took with the people of Zambezi. Like Lexi blogged about yesterday, I had great expectations of sharing the knowledge I worked hard to learn all year. Keeping the values of servant leadership in mind, our team planned to have our first lesson mostly spent with students giving us topics that they would like to learn about. When we got to class, there were questions about topics that I felt confident about, including blood pressure and sexually transmitted diseases, but there was one that I had no clue about. A student asked about Bilharzia, and what we later found out with research was that it is an incredibly prevalent water-borne illness that is also called schisto. When you swim in any fresh water, you put yourself at risk of having microscopic worms burrow into your body and grow in your bloodstream. You can carry these worms for a long time without having any symptoms, but if they are in there for long enough they can lead to kidney failure, and other potentially fatal responses.

I said above that we researched this illness, but really our “research” was a simple Google search where we read one website and a Wikipedia page about it. With that minimal “preparation,” we showed up to class and taught a lesson on water borne illnesses, including bilharzia. Even though in the previous class we said we knew nothing about it, we showed up to the next class as “experts.” In the moment, teaching them about bilharzia and everything else made me feel really good. I was “teaching” people the information that they needed to hear to potentially keep them safe from waterborne illnesses. I was almost blissful that I finally had found my purpose here.

After the hustle and bustle of the busy class day was over, I was able to reflect on my day in the classroom. The bliss faded away and I realized that I felt gross. My expectation of sharing knowledge that I felt I earned was shattered, and instead part of my lesson was based on one thing that our group was able to Google search. We did not “earn” this knowledge, we used the privilege we were born into and bought this information with our computer and WiFi that we brought with us to Zambezi. The information that we got on bilharzia was basic, and the way we found it was something that is done all of the time in the States. I can’t count the times that I have been at dinner where someone asks a question that no one knows the answer to and Siri saved the day. This leaves me with a series of questions: If all of the students in our class were able to access the information that most Americans have at their fingertips all of the time, would the world would be a much different place? Would Zambians be living at levels or rates of poverty? Would inequities between the Global North and Global South be erased or lessened? Can any of these questions even be answered?

Yesterday, I found myselfundeserving of the information that I have available to me at all times, and I feel guilty sharing this with my students as an expert. I thought class was going to give me purpose, but half of the content we are teaching is attained through the wealth that we brought with us from the States, and the other half is from the systemic privilege that I have from being born in the States and through attending university. My purpose here is even less clear when I think about the fact that there are many people in Zambezi who are highly educated and would be able to teach a more informative lesson in the native Luvale. I am struggling to fully understand why I am here, and why the money that I spent to be here is not instead being used to buy WiFi and a computer for the passionate and attentive student that asked about bilharzia, as well as all of the other students in our class.

Don’t get me wrong, I am loving Zambezi. I have never felt so much love from complete strangers on a day-to-day basis. But, I have also learned so much about the privileges I have because I was born a white, middle-class woman from the United States. I will continue to search for a clue about what my purpose is here and ask the tough questions.

Tunasakwilila mwane (Thank you!),

Holly Ebel

 

PS: Mom and Dad, thank you so much for supporting me on this big adventure. I am making the most of every moment, and smiling like always. Mags, good luck with the last month of SW. Even though it seems like it’s dragging, you will look back at this and miss SOME of the moments. Keep on working hard and treating yourself! You are the best and I am so proud of you! I miss and love home so much!

PPS: Still haven’t found butt-pincher chair but we are all very scared for its eminent reappearance.

PPPS:  From Alyssa: To my dear Shells!  Thank you for being born because of it I get to be here on this earth to experience Zambia for all that it is. Happy Birthday! I bought you gifts don’t you worry! I am sunburnt oops sorry I never learn. Love you momma!

The outside of Malola Primary School, a two-room rural school that serves 540 students. The incomplete brick structure on the right will bring the total number of rooms to five.

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Lumbanji finds a knife, and other tales from the front

Photo credit: Devon Smith

I prefer not to think too much about an experience beforehand.

Nevertheless, many romanticized thoughts snuck into my head as well as resided there as our class met to prepare for our moments in Zambia, every Monday in the spring semester. Of course, my reoccurring hope for anywhere I go, is that I will notice an older woman sitting somewhere by herself, plop right on down next to her, exchange greetings and introductions, and after asking her a few too many questions about her life, proceed to sit in mostly silence, with an occasional wise or absolutely hilarious (certainly nothing in between), comment spoken by my new friend. Those who know me well know that I enjoy sharing conversations and silence with older folk. 

Another reoccurring hope I did not realize I was harvesting until later related to my homestay. It is not that I had planned out the entirety of the moments we would share in detail (that would just be crazy), I simply planned out what I thought was a fairly obtainable situation. Obviously, I would be nervous at first, then—immediately upon meeting the host family—be welcomed into their modest home, sit with them (we would all gather around and probably sit in a circle at a table or on the floor, who cares) and have beautiful conversation. There would be wonderful moments of silence, they would ask me all about me, as I they, and most importantly we would discuss the things of faith and the soul within the first half hour. We would laugh, we would sit in silence and fellowship with one another comfortably. I would never want to leave Zambia afterwards probably and they would wish me not to go and demand I come back. We would be kindred spirits forever, easily.

Yes, I knew not all families were like this in Zambezi. I did. I had heard people that had gone before me tell me about countless families who have television and phones. Families who have beds, parents with college degrees, and etc., sure. Even though I told myself I knew this, I could not help but hope my experience would be the one in which the grandma crawled into bed with me (that was a moment that happened one year).

But, as Sylvia, me and Josh’s homestay mom, showed us her one-room home, with a big television flashing at us as she told us about her love for Disney Channel and as she was fixated on her phone while Josh and I invited her seemingly timid cousins, Chikaninu and Likoji, into a game of go fish (thank goodness I brought cards J, sorry family I took the star wars cards, I did not ask, and those will not be returning, yes my apologies), I could not help but feel a little disappointed. That is where I began to realize the image I had painted in my mind of how the homestay would go. This disappointment lingered and grew as the television in her aunt and uncle’s living room blasted United States pop songs, during our card game with their kids and during breakfast with Mr. and Mrs. Micheyi. I could not help but feel the deep relationships I was hoping to develop from this experience were tainted by stupid stupid Cardi B. I did not realize it fully then, I was trying to make the best of the situation and to get to know the wonderful people who were hosting us. But it was not what I had imagined. And although I ‘knew’ better, I still allowed those thoughts to develop into hopes and excitement that soon led to disappointment. 

Overall, there were many wonderful moments created during the homestay. The  munchkins warmed up to Josh and me, we played many rounds of cards, Mrs. Micheyi helped us out with our Luvale, I had to quickly disarm one-year-old Lumbanji from the huge knife he was holding, we laughed with Sylvia at her love for Disney, we discussed the similarities and differences of the northwest and Zambezi, and I must admit my body was filled with warmth when we introduced ourselves to the congregation our first Sunday and I spotted Chikaninu say my name and smile and wave at me. After mass, our host family asked us to return and Josh and I are planning on going tomorrow to visit with them and hopefully Sylvia will teach us a new card game as she promised.

My hopes and expectations both encouraged preconceived notions about a family I had not met yet and led to my own disappointment. While such thinking can be detrimental, it is impossible to avoid such thoughts. Likewise, my host family certainly had ideas about me before I arrived. Furthermore, one’s power resides in the ability to recognize that one’s own expectations are unavoidable and observe that their disappointment most likely derives from expectations. I knew this concept in theory before this experience and yet I fell into the same trap. Therefore, this experience serves as a beautiful reminder to continue to guard my heart, disengage silly thoughts, and question my feelings. Fortunately, this is a lifelong process J.

Kisu Mwane,

Lexi Buhler

 

 

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Tunasakwilila mwane, Mama Violet

“It is possible to speak with our heart directly. Most ancient cultures know this. We can actually converse with our heart as if it were a good friend. In modern life we have become so busy with our daily affairs and thoughts that we have lost this essential art of taking time to converse with our heart.” –Jack Kornfield

We walked the path Mama Violet walks every day to get to the convent, where she lovingly makes our lunch and dinner. We walk through the market, everyone greeting Mama with “Munoyoyo mwane” as she responds with “kanawa mwane,” with Bridget and I following in her shadow as she bought dinner ingredients. Bridget carried the reed mat on her head and suddenly the town is cheering her on, no longer yelling “chindele,” accepting her. Mama guides us, making sure we don’t lose our way, while asking if this is what America looks like. Mama asked what the paths look like in America. After taking a moment to think, I told her that most walkways are concrete, not sand or dirt, industrialized, hard, and encompassing concrete.

The walk to Mama’s home village was beautiful. Tall grass, large fields, goats, green, everywhere. Beauty in every step we took, walking together. She guided us into the village of her youth and sat us on a log in front of her brother and sister, telling us that sitting is “tradition.” She led us flawlessly through a culture thriving on respect, a culture we are just coming to know, and not nearly understand. By telling us sitting was tradition, she helped us show the level of respect to her family as they showed to us. Instinct told me to stand, and Mama knew our insecurities and helped us immerse ourselves in her culture and thrive on respect with them.

Mama held our hands and told us it was time to “go to our destination.” We ended our journey at Mama Violet’s village where she lives with her husband and children. Mama’s husband, Steven, came out and greeted us as we sat outside in their village. He told us that this was our home and our family, always. This statement filled me with an emotion I can only describe as pure joy. I felt accepted, loved, welcomed and everything in between. In a place so far from where I call home, as I struggle with having just graduated, moving out of my house and soon moving to a new home, having a home and a family in Zambezi made my heart open in ways I never knew it could.  We saw a book with names of past Zags who have stayed with Mama Violet and Steven, trailing back 9 years.

Mama Violet’s joy to show us her home and for us to meet her family was so humbling. She placed us at the center. She made our bed, comprised of a reed mat on a concrete floor with 2 blankets, feel like home. Mama let us physically walk in her footsteps, live a day in her life, while giving a lifetime of family and home in Zambezi. Every step Mama Violet took she held our hand, she fed us, gave us a bed, and made us feel her love. Mama has told me a few times that she is proud of me. But I am honored to have been welcomed and accepted into her home, a room given up so I could sleep, meals shared, all with nothing but open and loving hearts. Hearts filled with intentionality and authenticity.  She conversed with me through her heart, her actions, she spoke directly to my heart by using hers.

I have learned so much from Mama Violet in the past few days that I cannot fathom putting into words. What I can do is tell the stories, share her joy and follow her footsteps in caring for others. I can open my heart, mind, and soul to the stories of others, and loving with my whole heart through it all. Mama Violet showed me the most vibrant image of love and that opened a part of my heart I thought was unaccessible. Love fully and love well.

Kisu mwane,

Morgan Schindele

P.S. Bug bites are at a minimum, I miss you all dearly and think of you often, spiders aren’t that scary, and we are all so thankful for you’re wonderful comments, keep them comin’.

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Expectations and Reality

Zambezi is more beautiful than I could have ever expected. I have already experienced so many things for the first time.

I have never identified as a white person before. I have always seen myself as black or as mixed, but never just white. However, just like the rest of the group, I am called “Chindele” everyday by the children of Zambezi. Each day in Zambia makes me question my heritage and my privilege in a new way. Being a minority in the U.S. is different from being a minority in Zambezi. In the U.S. being a minority serves as a route to experience judgement, missed opportunities and, often, violence. In both Zambezi and the U.S., I appear as the odd one out in a crowd, but in Zambezi, being a minority does not mean that you are lesser. Here, I am constantly celebrated. I am given priority at every event. I am fed first and am offered the seats of the Zambezi people. At times I am so overwhelmed by the attention that I find myself hopping over the back fence of the convent, dodging the children of the community as if they were paparazzi. I am not yet sure what to make of this distinction. Perhaps it is only because I am identified as a “chindele” that this is the case. I am still questioning if I receive this attention because I am a minority in this community or because I am considered white. I have never reaped the benefits of being white before now. My experience so far has already added so much perspective but in different ways that I could have imagined.

I was hoping that once I got to The Motherland that I would be removed from all of the stereotypes and generalizations surrounding African Americans in the U.S and be able to feel more accepted while I learned about my heritage. This was an ignorant expectation to have. I thought that because Zambezi was so remote it would be removed from the racist culture of America. I was wrong. During my homestay I started to pick up on the subtle nuances of the same hierarchy of skin colors that I experience back home. My host was only 19 years old and hinted at the impact that lighter skin can affect how other’s see your beauty. This concept of colorism is prevalent within black communities in the U.S and has negatively impacted so much of my life. In another moment, I learned that the weaves and wigs that women and children sometimes wear is the only way to have “good hair.”

I am not sure how to connect this revelation of racism with the superiority with which I am regarded. I can’t help but feel a wave of disappointment after realizing that no matter how connected I think I am to the community of Zambezi, I will always stand out as different. Despite how much I think that my family history originated here, I still feel like an outsider in the community and can’t escape the pedestal I am placed on.

In another breath Zambezi already means more to me than I could have ever expected. We attended the braai yesterday evening and were amazed by the welcome we received. A braai, for those of you who don’t know, resembles an open mic night / talent show but also incorporates elements of a barbeque. The youth of the community danced and performed poems and songs for us in attempt to introduce us more to the culture of Zambezi. In return, we were asked to show them our best dance moves (which took the form of the Macarena) and also sing them some cultural songs from America (“Lean on Me” and also “Zombie Nation”). The braai was one of the first times I felt connected to the community and truly relaxed. I am so excited for the fun times to come and more revelations about my role in this community.

– Olivia Antoine
Class of 2020

Message for Mom:
I’m seriously fine. I hope you figured out how to access the blog. Your lack of embarrassing comments is worrisome. Other than a ton of mosquito bites and living with giant spiders, Zambezi is amazing. I am safe and happy and have been using the skills I learned binge watching “Survivor.” I lived through the flight in the bush plane and even got to fly it! Hopefully I can email you soon.

Update on butt chair:
The location of the butt pinching chair is unknown at this point. Few have encountered it. More updates to come.

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“Mwane” is earned, not given

“Mwane” is a Luvale term with infinite meaning. It’s said at the end of almost every phrase (“Chimene mwane” means “Good morning”, “Kanawa mwane” means “I’m fine”), and is sometimes used to say “yes” or “thank you.” However, I’ve noticed in my time here that “mwane” can be dropped from a normal phrase, so people may just say “Kanawa” for “I’m fine.” When I first heard of this, I realized that “mwane” is more of a term used in a sentence for respect, which seems to be a reoccurring theme for me on this trip. As I dive deeper into the language, my use of this word becomes increasingly meaningful to my experience.

Landing in Zambezi was a waterfall of emotions. The smiling and waving kids rushing to the plane made me feel welcomed and special. Their blank faces and staring eyes when I said “Hello” made me feel like I was wandering through an alien planet and I waded my way in a sea of children. The choir singing songs with the word “Gonzaga” thrown in to honor us made me feel blessed to be in the presence of such caring people. Walking to the convent in silence with the students who don’t speak much English made me feel out of place.

Everything I’ve experienced since then has made me realize that there are a lot of firsts for me on this trip. First time in Africa. First time eating goat. First time sleeping under a mosquito net. First time attending a wedding, not to mention my first Zambian wedding. First time using a language so rare that Google translate can’t even find it. First time flying in a 6-person plane manned by a student pilot (thanks to Captain Olivia Antoine, we all flew safely). First time being served in a community where I didn’t expect to gain so much friendship, gratitude, memorable moments, and hope for my future as well as the future of Zambezi.

While attending Father Yona’s wedding service (a mix of strict Catholicism, upbeat singing and dancing, and party lights that I think I had in my dorm last year), I finally understood one certain truth about this uncertain experience I’ve had so far: respect is earned, not given, but the love of the Zambian people is given eternally.

Before I left the States, I had a brief exchange with Dr. Josh Armstrong in the basement of Tilford. I told him I was slightly stressed about going to Zambezi, and he offered me advice that has stuck with me. He told me to not get stuck in my own head so much, which I tend to do all the time. Being in Zambezi has challenged me to act without overthinking. I’ll see a Zambian walking down the road toward me, and rather than questioning my ability to speak Luvale, worrying about making proper eye contact, or potentially disrespecting their culture by inappropriately shaking their hand, I don’t think too much anymore. I get out of my head and into the moment. To my surprise, they laugh and smile understandingly when I butcher the language. They can make equally improper eye contact with me as I can with them. They help me improve my Zambian handshake skills so I don’t screw up in the future. By acting before I start overthinking, I can be comforted by the fact that the culture here will provide a safe environment for my learning experience. All the people here need to know is that you’ve made an effort to learn from them, and that’s all you need to earn their respect. I’ve come to know that my mistakes here will eventually earn the respect of the Zambezi community. This process won’t be short or easy, but I didn’t come halfway across the world to learn a new culture from inside my mind. In the time between now and the end of the trip, I will try my best to show endless amounts of love for them as they have for me. They show interest in my life, give up beds for me, and offer me more than I deserve. The love we’ve recently received at our homestays have opened the door to show some of that love back in way that allows us to respect them as well. I never knew how hard it was going to be to be served by others.

Zambia has surprised me in many ways. It’s much more similar to the States than I imagined. In Lusaka, there are houses in walled areas and paved roads throughout. There are telephone wires and bustling traffic. People sell things and beg on the side of the road. Teens walk through the mall shopping and causing havoc. People in parking lots help each other with locked keys and broken down cars. People have smartphones and listen to Migos, Drake, and Justin Bieber. It wasn’t until I began talking to Father Dominic and Harry that I realized everything I’ve seen so far is also something that I’ve seen in America before. We have beggars on streets, rebellious teens in malls, and helpful hands on the road. When some people think of Africa, they believe it’s all AIDS, starvation, dusty roads, and huts. Zambia, like many other African countries I’m sure, is not like this, and deserves the same amount of respect as America does for what it’s worth.

In other news, everyone here is doing very well aside from the occasional sunburns and multitude of mosquito bites. We just got back from our homestays where we spent a night with a Zambian family to learn more about the community from inside the homes of the locals. Classes start tomorrow, so expect to hear more about both of those in the days that follow.

Kisu mwane,

Josh Bulawa

 

P.S.: Much love to my family, friends, and anyone else who helped me get here. Mom, happy early birthday! I just bought you a gift from the market today and can’t wait to be back home after spending so much time away. To my friends who told me not to get a haircut before leaving for Zambezi, I’m never listening to you guys again.

P.P.S.: From Alyssa, @T. Big soccer kicks!

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