Laughing Through Zambezi

As I sit down and reflect on my experiences in Zambezi, the moments in which I find comfort, purpose, and connection are through the shared laughter that I am experiencing so consistently during my time here. Yeah, yeah, I get it, I laugh a lot so clearly it doesn’t take much to get a giggle (or cackle) out of me. But bear with me here for a moment.

Today, Tuesday May 30th, marks the two-week point in our trip- we are halfway through. During these short weeks we have been some busy bodies. The Zags have seen the Burj Khalifa and toured the over-the-top city that is Dubai. We have successfully traveled from Lusaka to Zambezi in six person bush planes that reminded me of the size of a Honda Civic, to be embraced so hospitably by the Zambezi community. I am not sure I will ever feel more welcomed in a place that is so foreign to me. We have been given the opportunity to witness and learn from the strength the Mamas here uphold with such poise and pride. We have been given the role of teachers in various classrooms in order to learn more about this community and about ourselves and how we communicate. We have ventured on very low riding boats across the Zambezi River (very fearful of falling into waters which may or may not contain crocodiles). We have taken an ox-cart “shortcut” road to Dipalata, which took a major toll on our three cars as well as our bodies. We have partaken in circumcision celebrations, and attending a “Welcome Home From the Hospital” celebration for mother and child, which included baby powder being dumped on our heads. We have been confused and frustrated and we have been shown authenticity and genuine love.

Mwamba, her two children Natalie and Emmanuel, and her niece Given who welcomed me for a homestay.

I am not much of a journal-er, maybe due to laziness or maybe due to just wanting to take in the moment instead of feeling obligated to document it. But I have been working to be intentional about writing about my experience here as this is something I will want to remember. I want to remember not necessarily the specific day-to-day events but how I was feeling and the questions I was struggling with. Will teaching storytelling to these seventh graders be relevant in their lives? What am I getting out of this and what are these community members? Could I have been more present in that moment? I want to remember where I was taken aback or where I was reforming my thought processes or my beliefs. I have been flipping through my journal to look for words to express how I am feeling, and reading notes I have been given by some of the children here as well as reading though student work from my grade seven class at Chilenga. And I am sitting here smiling and laughing at the moments I have had and how much I look forward to the many more outbreaks of laughter there are to come. There are countless moments I could share now, but here are some that come to mind:

  • Feeling as if we were sinking into the Zambezi River with an overloaded boat as the man rowing us along had beads of sweat dripping down his face

Even with the risk of falling, look at that sunset

  • Morgan Green’s bloodcurdling scream in the backseat of our Land Cruiser after Fr. Baraza was inches away from hitting us in the beat down Suzuki (it’s funny now… I promise)
  • The narration of animal planet as we analyze the enormous bugs on our ceiling each night
  • Dishwashing dance parties to Peanut Butter Jelly
  • Lydia’s sailor’s mouth coming alive as she trips on the not-so-stable metal suspension bridge at Chinyingi
  • Taylor’s incredible, ridiculous laugh as she falls once again in an attempt to dance and learn the Charleston
  • Asking the question What is your favorite place? and reading a student’s written journal answer as “a little bitch” when his verbal response was “at the beach” (We are still working on spelling…)

I had hold in some laughter as I read this over his shoulder 🙂

I am constantly overwhelmed with thankfulness for the people around me who make me laugh and who laugh alongside me. These days can take a toll on you if you choose to sit in the discomfort and the feeling of privilege instead of asking questions, listening for answers (which may not always come), having a laugh, and moving forward. That is where I have found the most growth.

This experience is one of the best decisions I have made while it has also not been the easiest one. As I boarded the 14 hour plane ride from Seattle to Dubai I felt doubtful of myself and my abilities and wondered if it would have been better to just return home to Minnesota instead of such an unfamiliar place. Yet that doubt has slowly been fading through the shared laughs alongside Zags and the Zambezi community. I do find it difficult to contextualize my experience because I have never been a part of a community such as this. I am not finding all the answers at this moment, but I am learning that it is not as simple as finding an answer. I am questioning and I am struggling, but I am laughing along the way.

Kisu Mwane,

Anna Yeung (Class of 2019)

Mom I made some new friends.

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Take Me To Church

Before starting the long journey to Zambezi, I had a small flutter of fear cross my mind about how completely unprepared I felt. Thirteen days later I know that no matter what I did to prepare, I still would have felt this way, but I’ve learned there really is nothing that will prepare you for the people you meet, the emotions you feel, and the things you learn. For me this journey has been a long process in the making, a process that has taken almost two years.

When we finally landed in Zambezi, the last bush plane to touch the sandy runway, I was overwhelmed with emotion, but the only words running through my head were that I had finally made it. All of my fears about being unprepared disappeared right then and there. I was told landing in Zambezi could be quite emotional. Crowds of shouting children run to you to hold your hand and grab onto you, and the beautiful school choir begins to sing. As I looked around I could feel my throat get tight, and my eyes start to water; I was on the verge of a full crying breakdown. Tears of joy are just as normal as tears of sadness for me, but for some reason, I wouldn’t let myself have this emotional release. I continued to smile at the children and the beautiful voices that must have rang all the way across the river. I was so happy, but I wouldn’t let myself commit fully to the emotion.

Nearly two weeks in, I still haven’t let myself cry. In many ways this past year I have grown, but I have also taken several steps backward. In some ways, I am more honest, stronger, and vulnerable, but I also fear letting myself feel emotions to the fullest, both happiness and sadness. This emotional block is something I hope to work on and move past.

In the business and leadership classes, we are teaching the concept of authentic leadership and how important it is to be authentic in everything you do. However, a small part of me wonders if I’m truly being my authentic self with the people of Zambezi.

I’ve discovered that Zambezi is a place of religion and faith. Everyday before breakfast, lunch, dinner, and before every class, we say a prayer. I’ve drawn the sign of the cross along my body and said amen, and I’ve even been to mass twice now. (The longest at 2 ½ hours, so far). Growing up, my family never did such things. I never went to church on Sundays and never considered myself religious or really even spiritual. I’ve questioned whether I am being respectful or inauthentic when I draw the cross or fold my hands in my lap and bow my head down.

The first time I began to try and understand what faith and spirituality meant to me was when my mom was sick, and I felt like I needed something to hold me steady. When I told people she was sick, many of my friends in the Gonzaga community shared they would pray for her. Looking back, I realize that what kept me (glued) together were the people who told me they would pray and the support within these prayers.

Faith is one of the most challenging concepts to understand–abstract and beautiful. It is a mystery to me, and talking about why people have faith and spirituality always leads to some of my favorite discussions.

Zambezi has refreshed and renewed the beliefs and values I do hold and has reminded me of the power people can have. I believe in people. I believe in the goodness that others do for each other every day. I’m thankful for the days we have created here together, and the way that somehow, and in someway, I was meant to be here today. I know that I was happy, singing and dancing even in the two-and-a- half hour mass in Dipalata because I could hear the raw power and emotion behind the words I did not understand. The people packed into the pews and the open spaces believed in something. Every Sunday people came together and praised God. I’m refreshed by seeing people stand up together and sing with loud voices and full hearts. I may not understand whom they are singing to, or the power behind their belief, but I am captivated.

This spring I studied in Florence, Italy, and visited countless cities and countries. Each place I visited projected a different energy and a different feeling. Some felt more welcoming than others, but no place compares to the complexity of emotion I have felt in Zambezi. I have experienced the energy from standing in the church and on the tarmac, listening to people sing with their whole being. Zambezi has a different light like any other place, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to have stood in it, even if for a short time. Zambezi has shown me the power of community and that it takes time to ask questions and time to know someone. It will probably take me time to share that maybe God isn’t a part of my life, but community is, and someday soon I will learn to sing that loudly.

I stood in the church in Dipalata on Sunday morning directly behind the chorus. the men dressed in their fine, white button downs that quickly became pockets of heat, trapping sweat from all of the dancing and singing we did. One man from the chorus stood in the same row with Val, Morgan and I. His bright yellow pants matched his demeanor, and you couldn’t help but watch him sing in his deep voice the church songs the choir had prepared. I stood when he stood, and attempted to dance the same moves he danced. While I couldn’t sing the songs or even get the footwork quite right, I couldn’t help but smile. To see such a hospitable, kind group of people welcome us into their church and be with them was a blessing and a moment I will never forget.

I still have yet to tell anyone who lives in Zambezi I am not religious, and maybe that day will come soon. I needed to write these things out. I don’t know how to name the fear that has held me back for so long, and the fear that has kept me from crying, and maybe the fear of feeling too deeply. The people in Zambezi are not afraid to share if you ask them. The people in church are not afraid to sing fully and loudly. Ask the right questions, and you will end up hearing the most interesting stories.

I like asking the questions, but I never know how to answer them myself. Sometimes I think the questions are even more important than the answers. I don’t feel incomplete or like I am missing any part of me because I am not spiritual. Maybe someday, I will find that faith, and my heart and mind will grow even bigger. For now, I am happy to hear the singing on church Sundays and be thankful for everything we say we are in our blessings. So I’m giving myself patience and grace.

Peace be with you, and Kisu Mwane (blessings)

Grace Underdahl


how do all of these P.S.S.? or P.P.S.S work??

P.S. 1. My Portland family I am sending you so much love and big hugs, I can’t wait to see you. Mom and Dad, Grace has turned to be out a perfect easy to pronounce name here in Zambezi and I have met many other wonderful people named Grace, so thanks.

P.S. 2.. To my Gonzaga and my GIF fam, I love and miss you and think of you all often.

P.S.3..  Zam fam of 2016. The relationships you’ve created here are clear as day, and I can even picture you all walking outside the convent and roaming around the market. I’m so happy to be able to share this experience with you in this new way.

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BYOB – Bring Your Own Bridge


This past weekend sure was an adventure; I think I could almost write a short story on all the events of Saturday. Although I really only wanted to write a short summary of our adventure, anything less than the full story simply wouldn’t do it justice.

It all started Saturday morning around 10:30 when we left for Dipalata. We loaded up into three cars, two trusty old land cruisers and a rickety Suzuki SUV that already looked like its days were numbered. Despite the condition of our cars, we were determined to make it to Dipalata so that we could teach a few classes to the locals and enjoy a Sunday mass at a church this program has supported.

On the way to Dipalata, we made a side trip to Chinyingi to see the famous suspension bridge that spans nearly 1000 feet across the mighty Zambezi River. The bridge, constructed in the 1970s by a Capuchin priest with no formal training, gives access to the Chinyingi mission and hospital that serves the people living throughout the nearby bush. It is a critical structure for all who live nearby. The bridge towering above the river sways and dips with every step you take. It is certainly not for the faint of heart. I think I speak for many of us in the group when I say that I surely wouldn’t have crossed the bridge on my own. But together with people who I have grown to love and cherish, the fear and impossibility of conquering my fear of heights vanished and was replaced with a sense of security and belonging. Together we made it across the bridge and back again after having a look at the village and mission.

After our journey across the bridge, we loaded back up and headed for Dipalata along a primitive “road” that was supposedly a short cut to our destination. We would later find out that the “road” was actually a seldom-used ox cart path, and, although it was a shortcut, it certainly wasn’t made for motor vehicles. It wasn’t long before we hit our first major obstacle, a large mud pit probably 50 feet across. After a short search for another route that turned up empty, we decided to attempt a crossing. To reduce our vehicle’s weights, we all exited and watched with crossed fingers as Josh piloted the first land cruiser through the pit. It was a success! The mighty land cruiser made it through with ease, as did the second land cruiser, piloted by Kris. We weren’t out of the woods yet though as we still had to get the dilapidated Suzuki across. Despite Father Baraza’s best efforts, the Suzuki didn’t have the muscle to get through the pit. Despite this set back morale was still high, and we decided to leave Father Baraza and Mama Katendi with the Suzuki, a bag of water, and the promise that we would come back with a tow rope and men from Dipalata to drag the Suzuki out of the pit. This turned out to be easier said than done.

Not long after we left Father Baraza and the Suzuki ,we ran into our next problem. The land cruiser being piloted by Josh suddenly died and would not start again. I think at this point we all collectively thought to ourselves “Oh boy, what next?” However, through some translating from Mama Violet, we learned that Dipalata was nearby. With one land cruiser still operational, Josh and Kris loaded it with as many people as it could hold and started down the trail again. The remaining members of our group decided to walk to a nearby church to wait while Grant, Mama Violet and I volunteered to stay behind with the broken down land cruiser. After some time, the locals living near and along the “road” came to see if we needed any help, and one young man, probably around the age of 17 kindly offered us fresh Tangerines from his family’s nearby orchard. Grant and I were blown away by this young man’s generosity, as we were just strangers to him, and communication with him was difficult due to his limited knowledge of English and our nearly nonexistent knowledge of Luvale (Local Dialect). I found myself wondering how many people would do the same back home.

After waiting in the truck for nearly two hours, Josh finally returned, and we decided to try and fire up the other land cruiser, hoping that it had merely been flooded. Our prayers were answered when we turned the key and the truck miraculously fired up! Josh handed the Cruiser off to Kris, who loaded the vehicle with the others who had been waiting at the church and headed toward Dipalata. With everyone else either already in Dipalata or headed there, Josh, Grant and I hopped into the other Land Cruiser to work our way back toward Father Baraza, so we could tow out the ole Suzuki. To our dismay the truck would not start. Fearing a dead battery, Grant and I started back down the road toward the Suzuki to check on Father and Mama Katendi and grab the battery, so we could jump-start the Cruiser. After walking about 500 feet down the road, our jaws dropped as none other than Father Baraza and Mama Katendi came chugging down the road in the Suzuki. They had enlisted the help of several young men living nearby and spent approximately two hours digging out the car. But the Suzuki was battered and beat down from the rough road. We ran back to the stranded Cruiser and tried jump-starting it to no avail. Seeing no other option, with the help of some locals, we got the battery out of the car and with my trusty leatherman cleaned the terminals of the battery as best we could in the hope that maybe that was the problem. It worked! The Land Cruiser fired up, and we started back down the road. Once again the Zambians had proved just how caring and willing to help they were.

Now you might think the story ends here, but unfortunately it doesn’t. We had about another three or four hard miles to cover and given that it was nearly 5, we only had about an hour and a half of light left. The trusty land cruiser had no trouble crossing the remaining creek, but we dared not attempt a crossing in the Suzuki. Already not running smoothly before we left, the “road” had taken a toll on the little car, and it was on the brink of over heating. Rather than risk getting the Suzuki stuck in the muddy creek, we decided to build a build a bridge across the ditch. Luckily there was already a narrow footbridge across the ditch. With the help of about 10 men who had came from surrounding homes, we cut several small trees and limbs, laid them across the gap, pilled some sod on top of it and within 20 minutes we had a bridge wide enough to drive the Suzuki across. With a sigh of relief, we piled into the cars, drove the remaining mile or two and made it to Dipalata around 6 o’clock. After hours of bad luck, muddy vehicles and many prayers, we had all made it to Dipalata safe and sound.

At Dipalata we were greeted by what seemed to be the entire village. We were welcomed with warm food, good music and a large bonfire. As we sat enjoying the warm fire and beautiful music I knew that this was truly a day none of us would ever forget.

Someone once told me that nothing worth having in life comes easy, and I guess that applies to our adventure Saturday. Through all of our struggles to make it to Dipalata, I learned one of the most important lessons of my life. Life can be hard, scary and downright awful at times, but when we walk with others we gain strength and anything becomes possible.


Kisu Mwane,

Joseph Hale




P.S. To Mom and Dad, I cant thank you enough for all you have done for me. I love you both and miss you lots. I’m doing great and loving my time here in Zambezi. Dad, I couldn’t help but compare this adventure to a few times you and I got stuck in some sticky situations, remember that time we got stuck in that storm outside Loreto? We need to plan another adventure soon. Mom, try not to worry about me, I’m staying healthy and haven’t forgotten my malaria meds once. Tell Zoe I said hi. Hannah, I miss you lots and I hope you got a little time off after school finished, tell Aaron I said hello!

P.P.S. I tried to upload some pictures but the internet is too slow and I’m too tired to keep trying

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Humans of Zambezi

We are off to Dipalata, a rural village community with a long history of partnership with Gonzaga — so no new blog posting.  However, we are starting a new blog series, Humans of Zambezi, where we introduce you to some of the living saints making a difference in Zambia.

Mama Josephine

“Politics was in me.”

As a young woman in Lusaka, Zambia, in the early 1960s, Mama Josephine (Kakuhu Josephine Lipako) worked as a freedom fighter, running messages between leaders involved in the nation’s fight for independence from Great Britain. Working-class people were not allowed to congregate, so Josephine helped them organize.

After Zambia gained independence in 1964, the government offered to pay for Josephine’s training, and she chose secretarial school. She returned to her home in Zambezi and married. Her husband discouraged her political ambitions, but she persevered. “I was doing it even if he was against it,” she says. She worked as a secretary for the government and lobbied on issues such as immigration and women’s rights.

Few women were involved in politics, but that didn’t deter Josephine. “Whatever a man can do, I can do as a woman,” she says, her steely resolve undiminished at 69. It is not hard to see why Zambia’s first president, Kenneth Kuanda, once called Josephine the “small Iron Lady.”

“I am very frank,” she said. “I stood for what I know is right.”

In 1987, she and her husband separated, largely because she wouldn’t give up her political work. She dedicated herself to organizing and leading women’s groups and raising her nine children.

These days, she tells young women to go to school. “When you are educated, you can do anything,” she says. “You must not confine yourself to just being in the kitchen.”

“I just want women to be self reliant. As women, we have to be self reliant. Time will come when you lose a husband. This is what I am encouraging as a woman.”

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It’s Always Sunny In Zambezi

Henry Nouwen beautifully wrote, “Our life is a short time in expectation, a time in which sadness and joy kiss each other at every moment. There is a quality of sadness that pervades all the moments of our life. It seems that there is no such thing as clear-cut pure joy, but that, even in the most happy moments of our existence, we sense a tinge of sadness…behind every smile, there is a tear. In every embrace, there is loneliness. In every friendship, distance. And in all forms of light, there is the knowledge of surrounding darkness.”

These words perfectly embody the way I perceive the human experience of living life. And these words also hold true for the way my heart feels here in Zambezi. This place makes my spirit sing and dance in ways I have never felt before. But there is a heaviness that lingers. It tip-toes around my heart. Yet with every step, a sharp pang fills my chest, and for a moment, I lose my breath.

“Suuuuuunn-y.” Mischel’s sing-song voice fills my ears every time he calls my name.


“Can I ask you something?” His mischievous smile is so big that it crinkles the corners of his twinkly eyes.

“Anything.” I give my best cheesy wink. He laughs, but after a moment, he intently looks at me, and whispers into my ear.

“Will you remember me?”

When those words escape his lips, I feel my heart lift upward in an indescribable way. There is a certain immeasurable warmth that inches its way from my head to my toes—it makes me feel as if I am almost floating. As I look deeply into his beautiful brown eyes, I am overcome with a sense of longing to understand him. Truly understand him. But in that moment, I see in Mischel’s eyes the same fervent longing I feel inside of me. A longing to be understood. A longing to be remembered in the same way I hope to be remembered.

My fears have chased me to Africa. I am consistently filled with doubts and insecurities that have plagued me long before I got onto the plane. And because I know that my worry that I am never quite ‘enough’ has seemingly found a way to creep into every aspect of my life, I have also come to truly understand that the greatest obstacle to love is the hidden fear of being unworthy of such love. There is a fear that all humans experience that amidst our most difficult nights, we may never amount to more than our suffering. I find that this fear, a valid fear and one that we may all continue to face, is extinguished when we recognize that love—true love—lifts us up out of what we think we deserve and recognizes the intrinsic value in ourselves—that we are worthy of love independent of everything we do.

During my time here, I have seen and heard a battered community that still struggles to breathe because of what was taken from them centuries ago. And this numbing reality will never become easier to process. How could anyone possibly dare to take away the breath of a people that God so lovingly breathed life into?

Father Baraza told us that when the missionaries first arrived in Africa, the missionaries had the bible, and the people had the land. After the missionaries prayed over them, the people opened their eyes. The missionaries had the land, and the people had nothing but the bible. Stories like this make me fear religion and feel such anger that I can hardly speak about how ashamed I feel. But within a few days, Zambezi has gently pushed me to take my focus off of the circumstances that have been imposed upon its people and instead fixated on a different idea—the life-giving spirit of Zambezi. I have struggled all my life with not letting my suffering define me. And so I refuse to let Zambezi become defined by the suffering that happens within the community. To make the hardships of a people become their single story is to rob them of their colorful, fruitful, beautiful identity. If I could dare to describe the spirit of Zambezi through a single image, it would be of the moon. And if I were to have a conversation with this spirit, I would imagine it would go somewhat like this:

Watch me shine, the moon says. Amidst the darkness, the fear and the pain that the night holds—that by its very nature is powerful and consumptive—lies the most effervescent light, in peaceful kinship with millions of stars that are bursting with passion at its edges—allowing them to shimmer and glow like never seen before. I am resilient. I am strong. I am beautiful. I am light.

I am not here because of myself. I am here because thousands of intersections have intertwined the fabric of my life with the lives of others. In the words of a wonderful human being I know, “Our lives have been braided with love. Infused in our breaths is connection.” To be quite honest, I have not really done anything in Zambezi. I’ve quickly realized that I’m as useful as a rock when it comes to doing just about anything. And I’ve come to see that if one asks me about my accomplishments on this trip, I won’t be able to give an answer. Ahh, accomplishments…so often, they may make us feel enough, but could it be that we are not defined by what we have done? And this is the belief I desire to hold onto in everything I do—the notion that our worth lies not within the things that we do and accomplish but simply within our very being.

So I will do the only thing I am unmistakably compelled to do—the only thing I imagine may make a small difference. I will strive with all of my heart and my soul to gratefully devote myself to the lifelong vocation of love…a love so effervescent, it inspires us deep within, breathing passion and life into our lungs, touching the untouchable parts of ourselves, burning our heart with the fire of a thousand suns, bringing us endless hopes, and never letting go of the dream that the day will come when every single person can carry this kind of love within their souls. It speaks, “I love you not because of anything you have done, but simply because of who you are.”

At times, I feel like a zebra walking in a pack of lions. Sweet, joyful, hospitable lions. J But regardless, I find myself consistently trying to be myself within a community where I feel like I could not possibly stand out any more than I do—and then I just get lost within the vast differences that lie between us. But in the words of Nouwen, “Every human being has a great, yet often unknown, gift to care, to be compassionate, to become present to the other, to listen, to hear, and to receive. If that gift would be set free and made available, miracles could take place.” It is ubundu, the essence of being human (an essence so evident in the Zambezi community)—to be kind, compassionate, and loving, because we understand that we are a people who belong to each other. Here in Zambezi, every single afternoon, a relentlessly jubilant crowd of children call us to watch the sun fall. We hold hands, and we run towards the sunset, our breaths taken away by the beauty of the sun, yet ready to embrace the night with open arms.


Admit something.

Everyone you see you say to them,

“Love me.”

Of course you do not do this out loud,


Someone would call the cops.

Still though, think about this,

The great pull in us to connect

Why not become the one

Who lives with a full moon in each eye

That is always saying

With that sweet moon language

What every other eye in this world

is dying to hear

I love you. Take my hand. Let us run towards the sun, the moon, and the stars together.

the sunset over the zambezi river
thanks josh 🙂

Kisu Mwane,

Sooyoun Park, Class of 2018

To Mom and Dad, I am doing well. You don’t have to worry about a single thing. I am thinking about you everyday, and I love you so much. Stay healthy.

Juju, I am so excited for you to graduate, my dear. I am praying for you and thinking about you. Embrace these last few days and get ready to spread your wings and fly. I am so proud of you—know that I am always with you.

Birdie, in a couple of hours, it’ll be your birthday, and I’ll be doing a midnight celebratory dance here in Zambia underneath the stars. The moon here is the loveliest, and I think of you every time I see this breathtaking night sky.

To all my dear friends and Zags—wherever you are, I am thinking about you and missing you deeply. Remember that we are always looking at the same moon, no matter where we are. And in the same way, if we all hold hands, we can all run towards the same sun.

P.S. Sunny, or Sun has become my name amongst the children here, and strangely…I am immensely grateful for it <3

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It’s Not Easy Being Ms. Green

The education team with our friend Joshua who walks home with us from school each day.

The [Wo]man in the Arena

“It is not the critic who counts; not the [wo]man who points out how the strong [wo]man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the [wo]man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends [her]self in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if [s]he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that [her] place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

-Theodore Roosevelt


This last year of my life leading up to Zambezi felt like a boxing match, me vs. me, where I was ready to pronounce myself KO’d on multiple occasions. Broken, marred, and bloody, I somehow managed to lift myself back to my feet each time I fell and sometimes I couldn’t even get my hands up in front of my face before I was hit with the next punch of failure or shortcoming, sending me to the floor again. Somewhere amongst the self-loathing, pockets of depression, self doubt, numbness, and loneliness I lost pieces of myself that once seemed so innate. Relationships became distant. Apathy kicked in. I left my senior year feeling mediocre about my year and the direction I was headed. I was relieved to depart for Zambezi, to get out of the boxing arena, and give myself an adventure filled with new growth.

We are now 11 days into our journey, and I’ve been unable to escape the boxing arena. How naïve of me to think it would be that easy. Each morning as I finish my final bites of breakfast, the all-to-familiar fear and anxiety settle in as Anna, Lydia, Ethan and I prepare for our drive to Chilena Basic School where our grade 6 and 7 students await our storytelling lesson for the day. My chest clenches; hot tears swell deep behind my eyes in the place that I have learned to store them so well. My body feels out of sorts as I begin frantically running the lesson plan through my head. Start with the song. Then hand out journals. Then read the book. Wait…are we reading the book before or after we hand out journals?? You don’t even know what you’re doing. Why am I teaching? I don’t want to do this. I’ve never been one to enjoy running, but I’m convinced that my mind could beat Usain Bolt in a 100m sprint.

I just finished student teaching last semester and am now graduated with a B.A. in Mathematics and a teaching certificate, but I don’t know if I will ever be “ready” to teach. It still does not seem real to me that I could have my own classroom and be trusted with the lives of 150 students on a daily basis. I am hyper aware of my lack of experience, and if you ask any wise teacher, the limit of growth as a teacher does not exist. There is always new research, new methods, new theories to keep up on. I am left wondering how I will ever feel good enough in the profession or as though I am providing my students with the education they deserve.

“Who is important in your life?” I ask the grade 6 students as their eyes intently focus on Lydia and I in front of the dusty chalkboard at the front of the classroom. We received an array of responses–mother, father, grandmother, doctor, teacher–amongst a list of answers you would expect to hear. I walk to the second row on the right of the room full of creaky wooden desks and point at Edgar who is squeezed between two of his classmates on a shared bench. “What about Edgar? Why is Edgar important?” My question was met by a sea of perplexed looks on the faces of the other 45-plus students as they were caught off guard by my question. The moment of silence and no response was all too familiar from my student teaching days. But this time, I didn’t cringe. I stood tall in the discomfort.

Seated at the desk just behind Edgar, a girl slowly lifted her hand into the air as the corners of her mouth simultaneously lifted slowly into a soft smile. “To play with,” she answered softly. The class agreed with affirming nods, and I thanked her for her answer. I continued to scan the classroom to find another hand up in the front row, confident and firm. The kind of hand raise so full of eagerness that the student might burst if not called upon promptly. I point at the enthusiastic young boy just in time to relieve his anticipation and he answered with conviction, “Because Edgar is a person.” Wow. There was a prolonged pause as I scrambled to get on this student’s level. “YES,” I said as I grasped onto his profound answer. I pointed to 3 or 4 other students in the crowd one by one asking, “Is he important? Is she important?” with each prompt being answered with a firm and resounding “Yes!” from the class. We concluded together that all people are important, simply because they are people.

I have held this small, yet impactful moment in my heart and will cling to it as I step in front of the class tomorrow morning with the lovely Miss Lydia by my side remembering that our students, Lydia, and I are all important people just by being who we are. Again I will lift myself to my feet, eat my breakfast, hop in the back of the Land Cruiser, and step into the arena as Ms. Green.

All my love,

Morgan Green

Thank you to everyone who has left comments on posts! They keep us going and keep the tears flowing. Your words and love are so valuable.

P.S. Maddie, KP, Leigha, Moogs, Linds- Thank you for helping me get back in the arena again and again. I could not have done this year on my own. I miss and love you all dearly. I think of you all daily. I am guessing this first bit of post grad hasn’t been easy. Did you hear what the grade 6ers said? You are important. Stay green as you each start your new adventures.

P.P.S. Mom, Dad, P-man, and Bailey- Holding a special place in my heart for you all at Great Grandpa’s funeral today. Thanks for hanging in there on graduation/move out weekend. Thank you for all the things I never say thank you for. Bailey, I bet you are kicking butt at work. Can’t wait to hear about all of the things you are learning. Payton, finish 7th grade strong bud! Much love.

P.P.P.S. To any Ferris students who may read this, I miss you all! You too Charlie and Chad. You have brought so much joy into my life. I am so thankful for the time I got to spend with you! Enjoy the last month of school and I wish you all restful and adventurous summers.



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Broken, confused, yet happy as can be.

Today I showered. I have showered a total of three times in the past eight days (sorry mom), so this was a pretty monumental event. It meant that my hair and feet were clean, and I was ready for the day ahead and whatever it threw at me. I love the feeling of kinda having a plan but still not really knowing what exactly is going to happen. It is exhilarating and is a feeling that I have missed in the past semester. As many of you know, I spent the whole of last year wandering (some may say stumbling) across the world during a study abroad semester that at some point turned into a year. I started off in Scotland, worked my way to Turkey (for a total of 17 days because of that whole military coup incident), and finished off my semester in Ghana. I never went home between programs, so I stuffed as much as I could into my backpack and just went exploring by myself until each of my programs started. It was an incredible experience that challenged me and shaped me in different ways almost every single day.

Once I came back though, something happened. After a while the joy of being back in the States faded. All of the sudden, I felt like I had this pit in my stomach and that I was missing something. I did not understand why I felt like this. I was technically home, with my own bed, with my family and friends, and had all the Hot Cheetos and yellow Gatorade I could ever want. I was broken. I left a piece of me everywhere I went and when I got back to school, I started to feel the loss. All of the sudden my mind decided to process a year’s worth of experiences, good and bad, and I felt lost in a place that was supposed to be my home. As the semester went on, things got better, but there was never a day where I did not think about my time away, the experiences I had, and the people I met. I felt alone and frustrated because there was nothing I could do to make the feeling go away other than to push the thoughts away in order to try and be present in what was happening around me at Gonzaga. However, every night, the memories flooded back into my mind, and I was forced to think and come to terms with my experiences and accept that they all really did happen, and that it was okay that I was back. I had the year of my life, and I had to move forward in order to create more incredible memories. The experiences and the people I met changed my life, and I will always recognize that. I need to accept this feeling of brokenness and challenge myself to use it as fuel to make me feel whole again. It has been a journey, but as the semester started to wind down, I did start to feel whole again.

You could probably guess the hesitation I felt when I dusted off my backpack and started to pack for Zambia. I was scared that I was going to break myself all over again, but I was also so excited. I was going on another adventure and had no idea what was going to happen, who I was going to meet, and how I was going to be challenged. Within that excitement I was also afraid that I was going to close myself off because of the feelings I know I will have once I get back. So far Zambia has been good to me. I have laughed, have had some pretty solid doxycycline dreams, and have enjoyed exploring this place that feels so familiar. My heart has been feeling full, and my fears of being broken again were pushed to the back of my mind. Something strange happened during our homestay though that challenged me more than I expected. When we were playing outside with Daniel’s daughters, Natasha (the sassiest two-year-old you will ever meet) gave me a coin to hold in my pocket for later. When later came, she asked for the Kwacha coin, and when I reached for it, I also pulled out something else that I never expected to have in my pocket. I pulled out a 20 Cedi note (Ghanaian currency) and all of the sudden I was overwhelmed with joyful memories.

I started to think about my time thus far in Zambia, and how I have felt so at home because it reminds me of all the great memories I had last year, especially the memories I made in Ghana. The welcome we got once we arrived in Zambezi reminds me of the huge hug Auntie Theresa gave me when I finally arrived to where I would be staying in Ghana. Sitting at the big dinner table for every meal reminds me of those red tables in ISH1 where we would gather for every meal and laugh at the complex stories Dwight would come up with to keep us entertained and to explain the things that we did not understand. Waking up when the sun comes up and going to bed after the sun goes down reminds me of how I would stretch my days into the night as much as I could, just to make sure I saw and did everything I needed to see and do. Sitting in the common room in silence reminds me of all the times that Karmen and Dwight would come into room 85 to just sit with me and Trevor (Trevà) just because the silent company was always welcome. All of the conversations remind me of all the conversations that I had with complete strangers who soon became close friends. I feel so connected to those memories, even though they are so far away.

It is strange to feel nostalgic in a place that you have never been before. Zambia has reminded me of a lot of the joys I felt in my heart last year. The other night we watched a TED talk about the importance of having multiple stories to see the full picture. This resonated with me because I think it is so important for me to acknowledge and accept that I am processing Zambezi with all of my stories and experiences, and that it is okay for me to do that. Although I will probably never feel fully complete, I am happy to give another piece of myself to stay here in Zambezi. My old experiences are allowing me to cherish my current experiences because I know that this month is going to fly by in the blink of an eye, and when we look back on it in July, it is going to seem like this month was just a dream.

Now I am sitting in the common area with my dirty feet, my hair in some chaotic mess on the top of my head, and a big smile on my face. I am so glad I have been given this opportunity to have a full heart again. Given the chaos and pressures that come with being a senior and running into the adult world, I am not really sure when I will get the chance to do this again. I do not really know how I will move forward with all of my broken pieces, but I do not think that there is a perfectly right way to do it anymore. I just got to feel it out and see what works in the moment that I am in. I’m pretty good at figuring out things along the way anyway.


Lydia Lopez

Class of 2018

P.S. Karmen, Trevor, Dwight and the rest of the Ghana fam. I have shed quite a few tears thinking about how much I would love for you guys to be experiencing this with me. This is a big deal since you know I don’t cry often. It is so incredible. I hear your nagging and loving voices in the back of my head often and it makes me laugh. It makes me look pretty crazy when I am laughing to myself when nobody else is around. I love you all so much.

P.P.S. There is a bug in the living room that is bigger than the lizard that is on the wall. I don’t like this situation. It is kinda like animal planet and I have no idea how this will unfold.

P.P.P.S. Shoutout to my family, especially my mothership and father for loving me, especially when I tell them that I am going on another trip across the Atlantic after only being home for a few days. Los quiero mucho. Happy early birthday Tina.

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One Week

So it has officially been a week. One week filled with laughter, hospitality, bug bites, singing, learning, butt-pinching chairs, and, most of all, an over abundance of taco seasoning. I must admit, I never really understood the saying “the days feel long but the weeks feel short”. However, after these last few days, I can see it starting to resonate with me more and more. It feels like yesterday I was sitting anxiously in the SeaTac airport ready to embark on this journey.

Zags arrive in Zambia with Father Dominic, our escort through Lusaka.

I can remember everything so vividly, except maybe that one time I apparently fainted within the first hour of our flight to Dubai. (Don’t worry, mom. I’m fine… really!) Over the course of last semester, people would come up to me asking if I was ready to go to Zambia. I would say, “Yes!” very excitedly except it never felt so real until the moment when we watched our first sunset in Zambezi. I have seen many beautiful sunsets in my life; however, that first one across the Zambezi River was incomparable to the rest. I stood and watched the sun slowly sink into what seemed like an infinite horizon as my new young friends, Keith and Sombo, held both my hands.

In some ways, time here is like an African sunset. You look out into the distance and take it all in. After a few moments you then start to wonder when the sun is actually going to set. You’ll then feel a small tug on your hand and start to engage in the little chatter. Then you look back up and the sun has almost completely vanished and you start to wonder how it slipped away from the sky that quickly.

Sunset over Zambezi River
PC Easy Money (Elly Zykan)


Time here is similar in this sense. Between the teaching, running down to the market, conversing with so many new people, and trying to find time to reflect, I’ll often find myself feeling lost within the day. The moment from when I wake up and go to bed seems much more distant in Zambezi than when I am at home. However, with this being said I woke up today and was able to look back on this week as a whirlwind of events.

I think the combination of these two feelings causes me perceive time here as quickly moving, yet so still. There are many moments that I know will pass by in a few quick beats, yet I desperately want them to remain imperishable in my mind.

Last Saturday Mckenzie and I got to stay overnight with Janet, a Zambian woman who welcomed us into her little concrete house with the most open arms. As we sat down and ate nshima, chicken, and what seemed to be some fish puree (sorry again mom, I will still never like fish) on the floor of Janet’s living room with her family, I thought to myself and wondered when the next time I will be able to experience this again.

This past week, I have found myself having many of these moments. There are times when Keith and Sombo, along with other kids, will laugh at me when I completely butcher a word or saying in their beautiful tribal language of Luvale. I want to remember these laughs five years from now with the same clarity as today. I want to remember Mama Violet’s enchantingly raspy voice, the games that Zambian kids will show us, the sweet taste of a small banana, the chanting of “chindele” by the children, the deep contemplation of which chintenge to buy, the lively celebrations I can hear outside my window each night as I go to bed, the beat of the drums during church, and the insurmountable joy everyone gets when another victim falls to the butt-pinching chair. I want to remember all these ordinary moments just like the seemingly infinite horizon that lies across the Zambezi River. If this is what the first week has brought me, then I can’t express in words how eager I am to see how these next three weeks unfold before us. Stay tuned, I can assure you that it’ll be quite a story to tell after the long days and short weeks here in Zambia come to an end.

Valerie Fetzer

Class of 2020

P.S. Happy early birthday to you Mom! I love you more than you know and am sorry I won’t be there to celebrate but I can assure you that I’ll be bearing some super cool gifts from Zambezi when I see you. Good luck to you and Kurt as you move out of the house. Can’t say I’m too bummed to miss out on all the fun unpacking but nonetheless I wish you guys the best. I hope you enjoy your last few weeks in “The Creek” and be sure to eat a Morrucci’s sandwich for me.

P.S.S. Don’t worry I didn’t forget you and everyone else Dad. I love you guys too and miss you so so much. I see both James and Logan in many of the kids here. (Except I haven’t come across a kid who is as crazy as Logan although I have come close a few times).

P.S.S.S. To the people who know who they are, thank you for supporting me through it all and always making me laugh. I carry that same laughter here and miss you all very much and cannot wait to be able tell more stories.

Goodnight, I’m really tired.

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This Mosquito That is Flying Around My Head Right Now I Hope Dies a Painful Death

Zambezi Sunset

Where do I start? In the past few days I’ve laughed, cried, made new friends, learned a new language, held my friends while they cried, taught a computer class, made nshima. Hell, in the past few hours I’ve bought Chitenge, danced, laughed, had an anxiety attack, listened to John Mayer, and dabbed. Life is moving at an extraordinary rate, but at the same time it seems to be almost still. While eating dinner a few hours ago, I felt enjoyably peaceful. There was no pressure or rush to do anything except tally up Surprise Butt Pinch’s attacks (context later). Perhaps this is the Magic of Africa Shakira so fondly talks of in her song Waka Waka (This Time for Africa).

If you ever want to feel incompetent, hang out with an African family for a day. Two days ago we all went to homestays with various families throughout Zambezi and mine sure was humbling. As soon as we got there Morgan Green and I started watering the family’s garden with the brother of our homestay mom, Vernon. After finishing, we gathered on the porch to make dinner. They had set up two outdoor charcoal stoves that we used to prepare, among other things, nshima (SHEE-muh) – a thick corn mush that the Zambians use to scoop up and eat their food. You start with boiling water and a few scoops of corn meal, and then begin stirring. Morgan and I were feeling pretty good about ourselves, stirring and scooping at our leisure, but when the water boiled, ohhhh when the water boiled, our character was tested. A one hand casual flick of the wooden spoon turned into a two handed mêlée with this corn meal beast. Grunts and snorts evacuated our body. As the children suppressed their laughter and mom frantically tried to reassure us, Shelly, the 13 year old wonder woman, ripped the spoon out of my hand and, full savage status activated, grabbed the red-hot pot with one hand and whipped the nshima with the other. Upon this display of pure authority and force you can’t help but feel useless. The next morning we had a similar experience as Shelly cleaned three dishes for every one of Morgan’s and mine. Shelly is the real MVP of Zambezi.

I think jet lag and post mono is hitting me in full force. I’ve slept three nights in a row in my day clothes and Chacos because by bedtime I’ve been so tired I didn’t care to take my shoes off, let alone change into something more comfortable. This was no different at my homestay. I’ve never been in such a new and stimulating experience before and physically not been able to stay awake. As we sat and made food and talked about our respective cultures with our homestay family I could not for the life of me keep my eyes open. I was mixing “Yes’s” and “Mmmhmm’s” with bouts of falling off my chair. It’s a miracle no one noticed because I imagined I looked drunk. I guess I held it together though because Shelly never intervened. The only comment I got was one from Morgan just before bed when she told me she was wondering why I suddenly stopped talking for 30 minutes.

Despite the fights with nshima and struggles to stay conscious I managed to have lovely time at my homestay. I was blessed with a beautiful family and a mom and dad who seemed to love us as much as they love their family and their culture. I have never been welcomed into a home so graciously and lovingly (except maybe my own home, mom you have stiff competition). A sign of hospitality in Zambia is to kill a village chicken and prepare it for your guests who come to dinner and they did this for us. As explained by my homestay mom, this is done for important guests so knowing that they did that for us made me feel very loved. We talked into the wee hours of the night as we gathered in the living room and de-kernelled the corn for tomorrow’s nshima. Previously mentioned Vernon and up and coming Zambezi rapper collaborated with Jimmy Mac as we tandem beat boxed and rapped. I learned lots about their culture and their politics and they were ever so full of questions for us. I felt a part of their family and a part of their culture and leaving the next morning was like leaving my cousin’s house when I was five years old. I will be visiting my homestay a lot during my three weeks here.

I could go on and on about all the experiences I have had recently and the trials and tribulations I have faced, but I simply will not write a 2000 word blog while falling asleep. Zambezi is a place full of immense joy and love amidst much pain. I hurt for myself who is so desperately trying to open my heart up to the people around me and I rejoice in the love and friendship the Zambians have shown me. I am in a beautiful place with beautiful people and beautiful friends to experience it with. A cracked chair that pinches your butt cheeks as you sit in it (aka Surprise Butt Pinch) has become a joke and lasting memory because of the joy my friends insist on showing around me. The tears will continue to flow and the love will continue to be poured out because we are in a good place, a place that I already know I will love and cherish until the day I die.

P.S. Love you mom and dad and all my fam bam hope you’re kicking some serious a$# over in America. I miss my dogs.

Me at my homestay with baby Grace

Morgan vs. Nshima

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It takes a village

Fr. Baraza asked me the other night at supper if I forgot that we were in Africa. While these days somehow manage to be both never-ending and over before they seem to begin, my answer was “Yes, Fr. B. It is difficult to believe we are finally in Zambezi” and tomorrow we begin teaching classes. Many of us still question if we are qualified to teach.

Within our first few steps off the plane, we were greeted by Jesse and the Chilenga Basic School Choir. Within a couple more steps came John, the church elder, who coordinated much of our arrival, and countless others whose names have already escaped me. Along the walk to the convent that has quickly become home, we were greeted by numerous townspeople. Once inside the chain-link fence that marks the beginning of our home, we found first the smells of lunch being prepared by Mama Violet and Mama Katendi along with the sounds of Gilbert making last-minute preparations for our stay. After practicing our best, almost nonexistent, Lunda greetings and introducing ourselves to each of the individuals, I overheard Josh quietly remark, “It really does take a village to bring Gonzaga to Zambezi.”

Zambezi road waiting to be explored…

Over the next two days as we explored and met more community members, I have begun to see all that Zambezi is doing to truly make this place a home for each of us.

After rounds of singing and a little dancing during this morning’s much anticipated mass, we were reminded of the way Socrates divides people—those who watch things happen, those who are oblivious to what is happening around them, and those who make things happen. From the excitement of the community members and children who accompany us as we journey out into Zambezi to the hours of work our host Mama’s put into cooking us a “truly Zambian” meal to the Mamas in our own home and even to our own faculty, I am surrounded by and in awe of those who make things happen here.

And as I think to my own place in this community, I find myself wedged in a space between stopping, observing, and watching things happen around me and jumping in, creating relationships, and making things happen. I have found I am not completely comfortable with either just yet. In front of me is Zambezi, which does not need me to do anything or need anything from me. Beside me I have the mindset many Zags carry close to us at home and at school. Make a difference. Get things done. Within me lies a tension between the two. Between being someone who observes the interactions between Zambians, forming questions and struggling with what I have observed, and finding my place to ask those questions and discover what it means for me to be a person who gets things done here.

Kisu Mwane,

Morgan Smith

Class of 2019

P.S. To Molly and Sam: Daniel and the Family (especially Shalome, Ester, Sepiso, Natasha, Mapilo, and new Baby Immaculate) say hello to their best friends in America and were happy to hear that you are both doing well! I can’t wait to talk with each of you about the unique experience of becoming a part of this family.

P.P.S Mama, Jim, Alexa, Cali, and Kirill, there are little things in Zambezi that remind me of you everyday. Mama, as the “be good bells” rang in church this morning I looked around at all the little kids surrounding us and felt you next to me. Lex, I could see you here walking with the kids from place to place and loving the women of the town. Give Bug a big hug for me!

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