Hello! My name is Maddie and I’m very excited to write to you from Zambezi
Hattie and Kylie rushed off to the secondary school to make it there before school started. The rest of us started off with a lovely breakfast made by Dee, Megan and Lauren.
Afterwards the health team (Sierra, Grace, Grace, Clare, and Genesis) went to visit the local hospital where they got a tour. The business and leadership team (Dee, Bella, Kendall, and Megan) continued to plan their classes.
I had the morning free and, being someone who is not used to Zambia time, I offered to go with Mama Violet to the market to pass some time. Unlike the grocery trips I was used to where I could grab some random shoes and run into one store to grab a few items, going to the market was a full on extravaganza. First, Mama Violet is very known here. We stopped to talk to several of her friends on the way to the market. I mentioned that I barely even knew my neighbors at home and she said it is necessary to stop and talk because that is how communication works here. We had a list of around 10 items to get and we went to several stands to gather what we need. At one end there was bananas and oranges and in another shop we grabbed cereal and hot sauce. We also went on a wild goose chase for eggs due to the shortage in Zambezi. After 5 stands we finally found some. My favorite part of the market was the chickens. Mama Violet bought 2 live chickens and carried them home upside down. I wanted to carry one home but I was afraid I would lose him and Mama Violet would get mad, so I offered to carry the eggs instead. Going to the market with Mama Violet helped me understand Zambia time even better. The market is a boisterous place where everyone knows each other. People take the time to ask about one another and their families rather than bee-lining from shop to shop. It is a major hub where people can continue to grow the relationships that they have.
After I got back, Lauren and I met with the primary school and found out we are helping in 6th grade classrooms. We officially start tomorrow!
Mama Josephine came to teach our first lesson on Zambian culture. She taught us simple phrases and greetings we can use in the markets and around town. She also taught us a beautiful song. It was a call and response song that lifted our spirits and energy.
The electricity in the convent went out this morning. Whereas most people would accept that they are going to eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches until it’s fixed, Mama Katendi and Mama Violet made a delicious lunch over a fire. I am in awe of the way they can adapt.
After lunch, the health team and business and leadership team promoted their classes by talking to local business owners and hanging up flyers. The education team tagged along and did some shopping as well. I forgot to buy my usual orange Fanta for the day, so hopefully someone will drink one for me.
On the way back, Lauren and I got roped into playing duck, duck, goose with some of the children in the neighborhood. We had a blast and a half giggling with all the children.
We ended the night at the Royal Kutachika for Kris’s birthday. We watched the sun set over the captivating Zambezi river. Pictures could not capture the glowing red and orange rays on the horizon that we saw tonight
To my family and friends I love and miss you so much 🙂
Good afternoon to everyone following along! We have enjoyed your comments and appreciate you keeping up with our time in Zambia.
After receiving the warmest welcome yesterday, the group woke up feeling excited for our first full day in Zambezi.
My alarm went off bright and early at 7:00am, so I was able to catch the final colors of the sunrise. An orange glow rested on the wall that surrounds the convent, and rays of sunshine poured into the room where Bella and I did a morning workout. While the two of us sweated it out—laughing all the while at how squeaky my shoes were—others from the group went on a brisk run, and others wisely caught on some sleep.
Breakfast was “bussin,” a term we’ve become very fond of. We devoured a delicious array of cereal, eggs, and jungle oats (Thank you Bella, Clare, and Hattie!). As the table began to clear, a heated conversation about Lin Manuel Miranda, and whether or not he gives us the “ick,” boiled the air. Kendall ferociously defended him. Way to stand up for what you believe in, Kendall.
The rest of the morning was slow but productive. We first sifted through Mama Violet’s beautiful fabrics, which Genesis so kindly ironed for us. I was quickly informed by Mama Katendi that I would need not one but two fabrics if I wanted a dress to fit my 6’1″ frame.
A few of us also participated in some much needed “floor time.” This simply consisted of laying on the floor of an empty room together (I can’t explain it, but something about laying on the floor just hits different!). During this time, Dee and I bonded over our shared interest of Psychology. Her desire to help others through her knowledge of the mind inspires me.
At around mid-morning, floor time came to an end so that we could attend to our group duties. The education team headed off to Chilenga school, the business team got to work on their leadership curriculum, and the health team—my team—began preparing for our lessons. We folded about a million pamphlets and created a schedule for what health topics we are going to teach on what day.
I use the word “teach” loosely; perhaps we are going to be sharing some valuable knowledge with the community here in Zambezi, but the real purpose of us being here is to build relationships. We saw glimpses of the friendships in store for us as Jeff led us through the market, a bustling and lively place with a variety of products being sold. Jeff introduced us to Mary, Jessie, Jasper, Edith, and several others. Mary and Jessie are tailors, who I am very excited to get some skirts made from, and Jasper and Edith are shop owners.
After a fantastic lunch made by Mama Violet, Mama Katende, and Grace S., we were sent back to the market in small groups. Each group had a special task to complete. Grace S., Dee and I were on a mission to buy some peanuts and get them crushed into peanut butter. We got the peanuts, but had no luck finding someone to crush them up for us. Hustling from shop to shop was no use, and eventually it was time to head back to the convent. Peanut-butterless. Our attempt at making peanut butter on our own by smashing the peanuts with a spoon was… humbling, to say the least.
But no matter, because more friendships flourished during our time at the market and on the way home (aw, home). We met a student named Justin, who said he would come to our health class on Thursday! We also stopped by Jasper’s shop, and said hello to the women I bought a yummy fried sweet potato from this morning. The stroll back was an unexpected gift, as children began running from their backyards to walk with us. At first there were just a few kids at our side—including Grace, a young girl I met yesterday who was very excited to have a name buddy—and then suddenly there were dozens. They were wide-eyed and smiling up at us the whole way. The sounds of their laughter mixed gracefully with the choir rehearsing just across the street, and it made my heart sing.
At the end of the day, we finally got to meet Debby, Eucharia, and a little bit later at dinner, Mama Josephine. Debby is in charge of ZamCity, a youth sports and development program, and Eucharia is a nurse at the district hospital. The health team and I got to ask her a load of questions. I, in classic psych major fashion, was particularly interested in the culture surrounding mental health here in Zambezi. Eucharia explained to me that despite its value, not many mental health resources are in place, and it is not often talked about. I look forward to working with her so that we can spread information about this mysterious and powerful thing we call the mind.
This brings us to Mama Josephine (holy moly, we met a lot of incredible people today). Over an exquisite dinner, Josephine told us her story, describing her involvement in the fight for Zambia’s independence. She emphasized the importance of women being active participants in political leadership because, well, we simply “do it better” (so true, Mama Josephine, so true). I am continuously in awe of the women here and their leadership, as well as Kris and the 12 young women I have the privilege of living with.
Mama Josephine said something else that resonated deeply in me; when asked about her values as a leader, she said that love is the driving force behind everything. The proof of this is in her commitment to her community. It is in Lauren, Kylie, Hattie, and Maddie, and their eagerness to teach the next generation. It is in Megan, Bella, Kendall, and Dee, and their excitement about engaging with local leaders. It is in Grace S., Sierra, Genesis, and Clare, and their dreams of changing lives through healthcare. It is in Kris and Jeff, who have guided us so passionately and with great care.
To my family and friends, I miss you dearly and hope you are doing well. Please know that I am in good hands, surrounded by the most thoughtful, funny, and generous group of people.
There is no photo anchoring this post. I’ve chosen to take a different sensory approach to my addition to this chorus of reflections on our time in Zambia.
I’ve returned to Zambezi over half-a-dozen times, and I still remember that first trip a decade ago. As support staff that first trip, I experienced all of the tensions and joys of landing in a new community on the other side of the globe.
I recall the cognitive and emotional dissonances of feeling simultaneously at ease and unmoored, and the struggle both to want to prepare for and record every detail while also remaining free to simply live in the moments.
In time, my experiences here have changed. The tensions tug at me in new ways; the people whose radical welcome was an almost inexplicable miracle are now in many ways family to me. And, the customs that seemed so, well, foreign to me are now hard-wired into my way of being here. A three-step handshake, a pull-in hug with attention to both cheeks, one obligatory question to check in on the family of someone I haven’t seen in a year: all things I learned as markers of how Zambians express their care and warmth.
As these once new customs became familiar, I returned each year wanting to deepen my friendships, broaden my understanding of the communities in this country, and expand the ways I might share why Zambia has come to mean so much to me. And, as I’ve become more comfortable, I’ve also been able to slow down and see, and listen to, more of what’s around me.
This year, I wanted to set myself the goal of capturing some of the sounds of Zambia. Some of this will come in interviews we conduct with leaders in this community and some in the videos of obviously significant events that our students will share when they return home. Others, however, are more mundane.
The constant “beep” of taxis trying to hail a potential fare. The trumpet of a juvenile elephant in Chobe. A karaoke cover of Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” as I walk past a night club in Livingstone. The Fajr Adhan broadcast at first light this morning from the nearby mosque after I sent students to board the first flights to Zambezi. The more-audible-than-she-expected “eeeeellpp” Clare let escape her throat as we awaited our pilots this afternoon.
These sounds are both the backdrop to, and the voice of, our experience here in Zambia. So, if you want to know what life can sound like in this little pocket of our planet, here are a few glimpses.
Amid all the sounds that have formed the backdrop of our first week here, there is one I’ve been waiting for most. The Chilen’a school choir, directed by our longtime friend Jessy Mukumbi, welcoming our arrival at the Zambezi airstrip. I’ve often tried to explain to friends and family what it’s like to be welcomed by a full choir, but words aren’t made for such a task. So, just as the time has come for us to settle in to our life here in Zambezi, I share with you the song “Time Has Come,” which welcomed our students here to their new home in Zambezi.
I can’t wait to see how this group of women grows, learns, and builds new relationships in this town. Parents and loved ones, your students are digging deeply into this rich experience and caring for one another in profound ways. Past Zags in Zambezi, they are carrying your legacy of accompaniment with curiosity and joy. To all who follow along, we are excited to make this pivot to the true purpose of our journey. The time has come to be here in community with the people of Zambezi.
The break of our dawn came just a little later today, the morning of the 28th of May. Compared to rising before the sun on safari, the group took a few more moments to convalesce today before catching a taxi, onward to new adventures. Exhaustion is present always, but the few extra minutes made a difference for many of us. Although we knew the tempo would be fast here, the expectation was more on par with a foxtrot, but we have been met instead with an outright quickstep! However, I think there would be agreement that our choreography is coming together and the group is finding its frame. Fortunately, we are a party that laughs off the toe stepping that inevitably happens when learning any new discipline.
The rhythm continued as it has and today brought forth a new challenge, a new adventure along the path of discovery. Most of us threw our self preservation instinct to the wind and took on what the entirety of the tourism industry here in Livingstone buzzes about: Victoria falls, and more specifically, its infamous bridge, where mettle is tested in front of one of the seven natural wonders of the world. (It’s all harnessed, trained and frankly very safe, but it doesn’t sound as impressive to say that, so I’ll stay with my ambiguous introduction.) Long story short, there’s an offering for 111 meter high bungee jumping, bridge swinging and ziplining with a view that can’t be put into words, and the enthusiasm (as well as the anxiety) was tangible.
First, though, a border crossing; this Victoria Falls bridge serves as a border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and even for a short, thrill seeking excursion one requires a quick check through at the border. I’ve found quickly that border crossings here differ significantly from what I’ve encountered at home; rather than a formal, security-heavy affair, the border was an intriguing blending of commerce, tourism and local life in a state of cheerful entropy. As usual, we stood out like a sore thumb, with boisterous excitement and plenty of unwarranted TikTok dances. (Although does it need to be warranted? Dance like no one’s watching… right?) In the immigration lobby’s window, one could watch dozens of commercial transit vehicles awaiting their check in, souvenir salesmen and a tall, poised woman strutting by with a basket of fruit balanced delicately. The souvenir salesmen were offering “fifty billion” bills on the Zimbabwe side, with a wink that for just 5 USD, I could be a billionaire. The temptation was real to purchase one and just see how many people at home I could convince that it was authentic, and that inflation was real.
At any rate, the clearance itself was quick, and we weren’t regarded with much suspicion. I’m not sure if all of our passports were even checked. I imagine the turnover rate of excited, squealing tourists must be outrageous and I suppose it was a case of seen one, seem ’em all. And so, it was onward and… downward, I suppose, off to the bridge jumping outpost.
The wait felt like hours, although it was likely not more than 20-some minutes. We signed our last wishes, aka insurance waivers, chose our activities, paid and stepped out onto the bridge to get harnessed up.
The majority of the group opted for ziplining, and who could blame them? It was a stunning setup in which adventurers began on the towering edge of the ravine overlooking the valley and ended their ride on the bridge, where a trusty guide would wait to retrieve and tug us in the last little bit to the receiving ledge. Then, there was the bridge swing, which was essentially stepping straight off the platform in tandem and experiencing a massive rope swing like many of us would use as children to catapult into creeks and streams–although luckily, that wasn’t the ending for our tandem swing girls today. Clare and Sierra made it look gracefully easy.
Stepping onto the bridge was an exhilarating feeling in itself. In hind sight, I realize it was almost as jolting as the jumps that followed. For that first step onto the border bridge was the first iteration of literally facing fear: laying eyes on the thunderous falls that crashed beyond and caressed students with a gentle mist that so contrasted the sheer force of its cascading water. That mist was so refreshing on the breeze but on the same breath, it was somehow a distant warning, a threat, a promise that below the bridge where we walked and would soon step off of, the river indeed flowed and the waters crashed.
And yet, we did it. Grace E., Maddie and I opted for the good old fashioned bungee jump, which we found out on the fly had to be done barefoot. That was an experience that will forever make my heart flutter. Before jumping, you’re strapped up and guided to a grated platform. Grated is relative, in that it was built in a way that you could see directly below you. Somehow, the moment this all became real was the instant where they told me, I couldn’t just stand on the edge and wait to jump. I had to hang my toes over the edge. Soon, the front half of my feet were no longer on the grate, and only my heels kept me in safety. Before I knew it, though, it was 3, 2, 1, bungee. There was no backing out now.
Free fall, despite being the most literal iteration of falling victim to gravity, is somehow the most weightless feeling in the world, and the view of every angle of that glorious place made every hesitation, every worry melt like hoarfrost as the sun rises. However could this have been intimidating? This beautiful, stunning perspective that so few will ever enjoy, of one of God’s greatest gifts: the majestic world we live in.
At the time of writing, I’m sitting in a lovely restaurant, the Golden Leaf, which was our rendezvous with our wonderful pilots who will soon carry us upon their trusted birds of steel, off to Zambezi. Somehow, the entire experience is hitting me most now, as evening has fallen and my hot curry is simmering before me. My thoughts have wandered and brought me to the conclusion that this experience, commercialized and tourist centered, was somehow under the surface a deeply connected, nearly spiritual metaphor that has told the story of us thirteen college girls here in Zambia. We arrived at this border not knowing what to expect, with not much but rucksacks and apprehension. Our instructors have carefully wrapped us up in our harnesses of reflection, fellowship and trust in our fellow adventures. We have staggered across the platform of uncertainty, hung our toes over the edge of the decision to make the memories and relationships of a lifetime, and then, we jumped. And now that the initial shock has worn away, we are left with the core of the experience–a wonderful, beautiful view that we are privileged to live through together; a first person, rare opportunity to be vulnerable and become one with one of the most indescribably breath taking, multifaceted and richly developed cultures anywhere in the world. We took the dive, and what an incredible place we have found beyond the apprehension, beyond the inhibitions. Onward, and now, upward, to Zambezi early tomorrow.
“TAKING THE DIVE”
I stood at the edge of the falls today and the breath, it left my chest My brain it told me, step away But my heart knew what was best
For when you’re unsure is the moment you know That its time for free fall, time to let go For fear controls only those who are afraid And regrets preys on those who never jumped but stayed
So friends I urge you onward, Take the dive while you’re stil able For the harness catches you every time And impossible is merely a label
Own each moment firm and true For regret is so unforgiving- Go not to your grave one day knowing That you’ve died without ever living
Good morning to our lovely friends at home as we prepare to hit the hay back in Livingstone,
My inner zoo camper heart (Yes, that’s a thing. My parents let me go each summer and I even was a camp counselor) is bursting! No bus this time, but two vans transported us to Botswana promptly at 7 am. Crossing the border ran smoothly unless you had fruit in your bag. Pro traveller advice: You cannot take fruit across borders, no matter how delicious it is. After disinfecting the bottoms of our shoes and collectively eating all of the strawberries, bananas, and cucumbers that were present, we continued on to Kalahari Tours, where we were kindly welcomed with coffee, tea, fruits, muffins, and the most heavenly donuts I’ve probably ever seen.
Here, we met our safari guide, George, who made an incredible tour even better with his witty humor and vast knowledge of the Chobe River. We had the privilege to board his boat, and we were off, hoping that no one would get sea sick or decide they wanted to go for a swim. George noted that we didn’t want to end the tour with “sad smiles” should something go awry.
I’m thankful that El Capitán George (as he calls himself) has probably the best eyesight in the world because I am sure I don’t, and I’m not sure about my peers (Why, oh why, did I think not packing my glasses was a good idea?) At first, George pointed out various animals, including guinea fowl and a type of reptile whose name I don’t remember. As the boat tour continued, George and his perfect vision spotted our first elephant. Yes, I said our first. We slowly approached it, growing ancy that it would move before we reached it. However, after rounding the corner, we came across an entire herd of elephants! But this was only the beginning.
After seeing a wild community of crocodiles, elephants, hippos, and many birds, we arrived back for lunch, then took off again in the safari trucks with George and his colleague, Lance. Our bodies may or may not have been tossed up, down, and all around by the bumps on the road, but throughout the rest of the afternoon (we literally didn’t stop until 6:29 pm), we were able to see many of these incredible animals even closer, with the addition of a pride of sleeping lions. I think my cherry on top, however, was a moment at sunset. A solo elephant had been eating and decided it wanted to get very up close and personal with us. It was both a slightly scary and amazing sensation. We drove on a bit more, but shortly after, the elephant crossed directly in front of George’s “Safari Ferrari,” right in the glory of a sunset that rivaled one from my hometown. (Yes, I am a firm believer that NM has the best sunsets in the world). We were all silent, and the moment was genuinely so serene I could have cried.
Our safari was not just about looking at cool animals, though. While there was no direct theme or lesson, I made many observations on the power of teamwork and support.
One: Baboons and impalas. Lance pointed out that we saw often them together. He said the reason for this is they share a common enemy so they tend to band together. I thought of this as a beautiful alliance, and after all, the definition of leadership is working together toward a common goal, right?
Two: Elephants. We were certainly entertained for at least 20 minutes as we watched a family of elephants—a mom and her two babies—playing in the mud. The smallest baby kept toppling over and the poor thing had trouble getting up. While the three certainly struggle-bussed, together, the mom and the older baby were able to get the youngest back on their cute little (but not really) feet. This is an example from nature on how teamwork makes the dream work, and support makes all the difference. I’m so thankful that I am surrounded by the most supportive group as we finish off our first week in Zambia (+Botswana) together.
Three: Pride. As we sat watching a pride of lions sleeping peacefully (thank goodness), I made a silly little analogy in my head and thought of our group as our our own little lion pride. A group of strong, powerful women, and our source of guidance and leadership, Jeff (+Kris). We all work together, and we share in each other’s emotions, achievements, jokes, the works.
I continued to think of these values of union and friendship as we rose from our “skyscrapers”—I mean, tents—at 5:45 am and jumped back into the vehicles for our game drive, where we were even able to see a leapord in a tree.
Our safari was incredible, but this was made possible by the people present. To our tour guides, George and Lance, who so kindly took the time to answer all of our questions, engage in meaningful conversations, and kept us safe on this journey. To the crew, Amos and Jiggaman, who thoughtfully set up our camp and gave us delicious meals. And of course, to our own little pride.
To finish off, upon our return to Livingstone, as a lover of running, I wanted to commemorate my first run in Zambia. Joined by Claire, Hattie, Bella, and Grace S., we went for our first brisk jog together immediately after arriving back through a Livingstone neighborhood. Our endorphins definitely were released, and I am so impressed at the energy we somehow mustered up to get our bodies moving, especially after spending so many hours in a safari car. Running is cool, y’all.
To everyone I love at home, I miss you dearly, but always remember we sleep under the same stars, even if yours aren’t as numerous and brilliant as those constellations that George pointed out to us with a lightsaber.
With peace and love,
P.S Mom and Dad–You would be so proud of me as I used my Spanish miles away from home. George was muy curioso about Spanish vocabulary, and I may or may not have taught him a few slang words we use in Burque.
This is Clare Cibula reporting live from outside the Basil Cafe in the Fawlty Towers Lodge. The time is 7:37 pm, and I am sitting at a table with a few fellow zags (Hattie, Grace S., Kylie) eating our dinner that we snagged from a nearby Shoprite grocery store. Today was a full and exciting day. We are beginning to fall into a general breakfast and dinner routine. This morning, we received delicious scrambled eggs and porridge from the cafe. We then sat in a bright clearing of grass and shared a few reasons why we decided to come on this trip. Hearing the stories of how other students and our lovely professors came to be on this trip is a wonderful and inspiring experience. Today, we were blessed with Genesis and Dee’s stories, and I’m lucky to say that I learned more about their lives and goals. I also was able to share one of the reasons I decided to apply to come on this trip, and honestly it felt relieving to finally put effort into articulating both a fear and a purpose of mine. In the excerpt we read from Aaron Ausland’s “Staying For Tea,” an important part of being present with others is listening and opening your mind to understanding others. In a situation like this, it is important to do this both inside and outside the group we travel with, and I’m thankful that I got this opportunity along with my two buds, and am excited to hear more.
After our morning routine, we had a little break before heading to the Livingstone National Museum. To fill the time, Grace S. and I attempted washing our clothes in the hostel sinks for the first time. The louder you grunt, the easier the water comes out of the clothes when you squeeze them. When we arrived at the museum, we met Mwewa Mwaba, our museum guide. We learned so much about the history of Zambia, including traditions, village life, the transition to city culture, and how colonialism has affected the country. We also learned about the wildlife of Zambia, displayed with some very interesting and graphic taxidermied animals. The museum curiously smelled like my Papa Al and Grandma Glenda’s house. I have no further comment on that point but I felt it necessary to include for background. When discussing the wildlife, Mwewa emphasized their efforts to protect all parts of the environment. She explained how if you kill one animal, the rest of the ecosystem suffers, listing vultures as an example. Just because we don’t like something doesn’t mean it has to die. This reminded me way back to day 2 when Father Dominic told us that the dead snake in the road was “brother snake” and he was actually our friend. Mwewa and Father D, for you guys I will not smush Sister spider as long as she doesn’t climb into my bed. The tour itself was very long, but extremely informative. I maintained a healthy half squat position to avoid my signature knee lock.
After the tour, we perused the gift shop in the museum. Unfortunately, at this point many of us realized that we had been slightly pranked at the Victoria Falls markets, and the people selling us souvenirs there likely did not in fact hand-make their items, nor were they “the only of its kind.” We can still pretend.
Next, we went to high tea at the Royal Livingstone. This was an extremely fancy experience, for which none of us had the clothes. We showed up, fanny packs and chacos/crocs/tevas/birks a blazin’. We were told if we were lucky, we may see some giraffes meandering about the lodge. We drank delicious tea and tried a variety of small treats. I still think my Grammy makes a meaner cucumber sammie. We then grabbed some drinks and wandered the property. Bella, Grace S., Kylie and I set off in the search of giraffes, and found horses instead. Kinda close? As we were walking back, an employee named Nmoya rolled up alongside us in a golf cart and told us to hop in. We let him know what we were searching for and he immediately revved that little golf cart engine to the max. We went around the entire lodge grounds, asking people and keeping our eyes peeled but no sign. Nmoya dropped us back at the main building. The golf cart experience itself was so much fun, and we let Nmoya know this so many times, but he was still dedicated to our mission. We walked back to the bar and we were just about to go to the bathroom when Nmoya came running in from a different door, telling us to follow him. We all put our heads down and took off. Silently we hopped back in the cart and he zoomed us to the giraffe. What a cool experience, and what lucky gals we were to have happened upon Nmoya and his cart. This experience also may serve as a reminder of the willingness of local people to bend over backwards to help us simply because of the way we present and exist here. The feeling of both discomfort with the fact that Nmoya was probably only catering to us because we were paying guests, alongside the gratitude and excitement of seeing something new, is confusing and I am still trying to navigate how to deal with moments like these.
After watching the sunset at the lodge we headed back to our hostel for dinner, which brings me back to the present. We just had a very fruitful conversation about what we experienced today. We learned a lot about how colonialism has affected Zambia and how this persists today. This was what the majority of our conversation revolved around tonight, whether we are responsible as Americans, as a predominantly white group, and as people. I really, truly am grateful for every person in this group and their willingness to converse openly about these things and see other viewpoints. I think while we didn’t even reach the tip of the iceberg in this conversation, we made important strides individually and as a group that may help to prepare us for Zambezi. I am incredibly lucky to be on this trip.
I’m sure everyone at home is wondering how their loved ones are doing. Rest assured, they are quickly becoming a part of my family as well. Hope that doesn’t make you too jealous. Hattie is still cracking infrequent but hilariously blunt jokes. Genesis is staying 100% true to herself and rocking some epic new jewelry. Dee has promised to continue to lead us in Zumba classes (maybe we call it Zumbia)? Grace S. is a ray of sunshine and brings effortless happiness to the group. Maddie actually pretended to be interested in the dead spider that I made her look at on the museum tour, and that takes some serious grace. Megan has beautiful style and a very calming presence that has not gone unnoticed. Bella is still Bella’ing, LAG! Sierra consistently impresses me with the things she notices and thoughtful things she says in discussion. Kendall has begun calling me Klaere (I tried to write it as best as she pronounces it), which oddly reminds me of home. Lauren’s exuberant dance moves have the power to turn a storm cloud into a rainbow. Grace E is still looking for a memento to put in the group journal. I also envy her thoughtfulness. Kylie and her Taylor Swift knowledge have been a whole different learning experience, one that I never expected when coming to Africa. Kris’s smile and wink never fail to make me feel safe and seen. And finally, Jeff brings me back down to earth every time I speak with his sarcastic comebacks. Thanks, Jeff.
To all my loved ones, I miss you! Sending love from Livingstone.
Clare Cibula, ’24
P.s., We’re heading to Botswana for our overnight safari in the morning, so don’t worry about us if you don’t see a post tomorrow. Look forward to Dee Leyba’s post Saturday night!
At 5:20am my Nintendo Wii (Hip Hop vine remix) alarm goes off. GOODMORNING for us here in Lusaka! Room 17 slowly starts waking up, climbing down their bunks and getting ready for the day ahead of us. Our bus to Livingstone leaves at 6:00am (hypothetically) so we all start to put a little hustle in our bustle.
Before we leave, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are made and coffee is slurped down. The breakfast of champions.
We all put our larger bags at the back of the bus and went around the side to get a seat. Courtesy, a friend we met at the beginning of the trip will be our driver and his best friend Andrew joined us on our journey as well.
Something I have noticed from our short time here so far is how important introductions are. Andrew was introduced so well by Courtesy, ensuring that he felt welcomed and comfortable with us on this journey. The introduction was so well that Grace Ehler barely made it on the bus as she was stuck outside while they were blocking the doorway.
Soon enough we are off on our 8 hour journey to Victoria Falls! Sights included a cement factory, a zoo with Ostriches and Zebras, and many small vendors along the roadside.
The only stops we made along the way were for toll booths, police stops, and a single bathroom break. K3 per pee and it couldn’t have been more worth it. The plan was to break for a restroom every 2 hours, but us women understood the assignment. We wanted to get to Victoria Falls ASAP so we drank minimal water before and after the bus ride. Dee also led us in a dance during our bathroom break. Thank you for getting us moving Dee!
As we were riding on the bus, people started shoving sugar cane stalks onto our bus. It was simply crazy! We got enough stalks for everyone to have. We were peeling the stalks and chewing on the sweet sugar cane. Dee and I were chewing it but it took forever to eat all the way. We ended up putting some in trash that we just simply couldn’t chew any longer.
Bella soon came in clutch when she pulled out her JBL and started queuing up absolute jamssss! The set list was complete with Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Sean Kingston, and more! We started singing along and it kept the mood lively.
After around 8ish hours we made it to Livingstone! We checked into our hostel at Fawlty Towers and split our group into a group of 6 and 8 zags. We all quickly changed to “get absolutely soaked” as Jeff warned us. We got back on the bus and headed to Victoria Falls!
Before we entered the gates to the falls, we saw a baboon!!! It looked huge from the bus.
We left the bus and started walking around the falls. Jeff joined us for the first part and we looked at Victoria Falls from afar. The beauty of the falls can’t be captured in pictures, but we attempted as Clare set up a 10 second timer photo of us all.
The second part of the falls Jeff collected all of the items that we wanted to stay dry and sent us all with Kris to get “soaked” by the falls. Ok sureeee Jeff, the only thing he needed to worry about was getting robbed by the baboons because apparently they like to take shiny and loose things. Jeff was surrounded by shiny and loose things.
Jeff was right, per usual. We got SOAKED. A natural shower if you will. Grace Ehler brought her phone to take pictures while the rest of us left ours behind to be bait for Baboons to attack Jeff. Rainbows, Bridges, Waterfalls, oh my! The sights were UNREAL. Grace was able to capture some beautiful photos and we are so thankful she brought her phone with us, although it definitely did get a little wet.
As we made our way back up, I for one was relieved to see that Jeff appeared to be healthy and had all of our stuff with him. No bamboo attacks today!!!
After Victoria Falls, we stayed around the area and checked out the small curio vendors that were selling stuff. They were very passionate in wanting us to purchase their goods. Some of us stayed strong and some of us gave in.
On the bus ride back we all sat in our drenched clothing dreaming of the Italian restaurant that Jeff had made reservations at for 6:30. We walked over at around 6:15 and started scanning the menu. We all ordered our food and in classic Zambian fashion, it came out about 2/2.5 hours later. We all enjoyed the meal and the company that came along with it.
After dinner we went outside to order some gelato! There was a man at the gelato shop who we met that couldn’t figure out what he wanted to order. Therefore, Jeff ordered him a huge bowl with one of every flavor. We had a fun conversation with him and learned it was his birthday tomorrow!! We all wished him happy birthday and sent him off in his cab.
We then took our turn and ordered some gelato! So yum!! Time to hit the hay.
(hello to all of my friends at home I love and miss you all <3)
Hello to everyone keeping up with the GIZ blog and the thirteen of us students!
We have collectively agreed that today counts as our first “real” day in Zambia. Yesterday, we were a pitiful sight with our rumpled clothing and greasy hair, and many of us were so exhausted we could barely form a coherent sentence. After about 10 hours of sleep—which was unfortunately disturbed by some enthusiastic roosters and dogs around 2 am—there was a tangible shift in our energy when we met for breakfast at 9 am. As we munched on eggs and toast (kindly home-made by the hostel staff), we reviewed Kendall’s charming blog post from last night (thank you to everyone who left a comment—we thoroughly enjoyed them!) and discussed our plans for the day. I appreciated that this was a screens-free meal as I got to know everyone better. For example, I had no idea Kylie is obsessed with Dance Moms or that about half of the group has an odd connection to a random celebrity! We also explored the plans for the rest of the week. Of particular interest was the range of adventures available at Victoria Falls—I’m sorry mom, but I’ve committed to going bungee jumping! Does it make you feel better that I’m doing it with Clare?
My favorite moment of the day occurred in the two hours of free time between breakfast and leaving the hostel. In true introvert fashion, I was so excited to grab a book and find a cozy chair where I could enjoy some peace and quiet by myself. As I made my way to my dorm with Bella, we stumbled upon Grace E. and Maddie on the balcony just outside the door. They kindly informed us that the lock to our dorm had broken and there was no indication when it would be fixed. One look at the gaping hole and splintered wood where a lock once stood, and Bella and I decided we were out of luck! Grace and Maddie invited us to join them on the couch, and in the two hours I chatted with them, I learned so much about everyone’s personal lives, our shared Gonzaga experience, and how to properly use BeReal 😊. This experience highlights the idea that some of the best memories are made when you decide to slow down and roll with the punches—and when you are in such great company!
Today also marks what I’m told is a recurring theme here in Zambia: having expectations for how the day will go, and them being entirely abandoned soon after said plans begin. Zambians work on their time, not ours. Around noon we set off for the day! On the agenda: explore the local mall for an hour, have a group lunch, head to the University of Zambia around 3 pm for a tour from two Zambian students at the university, have dinner, and head back to the hostel for our nightly debrief.
Lunch was a slight train wreck, but we left with full tummies and a bright spirit. The restaurant we ate at is situated across from the University of Zambia where they were hosting graduation. As students left graduation, they ended up at our restaurant. Our large group, along with a handful of groups even larger than ours, overwhelmed the staff and not everyone received the food they ordered. We all decided to share the food we did receive along with some delightful conversation to keep everyone in good spirits. Though this experience could be negative, I think it demonstrates the resiliency of this amazing group of women who want to be here and are willing to let go of American standards to enjoy this trip. I can’t wait to see in what other situations this spirit endures!
Our next stop of the day—the one we were all waiting for—was the University of Zambia! Last night during our debrief, we all explored our expectations of what it would be like and what questions we had. What resources would these students have? How many women attend the University? How many students get the opportunity to attend higher education? What are these students’ dreams? We were given a tour by three students at the University of Zambia. Micheal is studying civil and environmental engineering, and he was so eager to answer our questions! Harmony is studying public health, and I really appreciated her perspective (given that I’m a nursing major) and her warm attitude! Saint is an accounting and computer science major who was very knowledgeable about campus! We were excited to learn the percentage of women attending UZ is substantial, though it varies depending on the year and major, and that more people now have the opportunity to attend university since K-12 education recently became free nationwide and more students are graduating. I also learned that while a degree opens doors here in Zambia, it is much harder to find a professional job than in the United States. This has led me to reflect on my privilege as a nursing major who is guaranteed a job post-graduation.
I do feel the need to write about an event that occurred today during the tour. It was confusing and uncomfortable, though none of us feel too negatively about it. It highlights this idea that we have become the outsiders, and that we are quite obviously different from the locals in our appearance and culture. As a group of mostly white women in particular I think we drew attention on the college campus that we wouldn’t have if male students accompanied us. Micheal and Harmony gave us the chance to visit the dorms which are divided into male and female. As we walked through the female section, the women pointed and whispered and a few waved. As soon as the men got sight of us, however, they all flooded their balconies and began shouting in various Zambian languages, pointing, waving, and recording us. During our debrief, we described feeling like celebrities as we passed through the dorms. Kendall shared an interesting thought that regardless of the fact that we’re trying to blend in and make ourselves small to avoid unwanted attention, we are noticeably different and we can’t escape that.
Overall, we all discussed how lovely the UZ tour was and how our day was both chaotic and exactly what we were expecting in signing up for this trip. We are happy and safe, and looking forward to our adventure at Victoria Falls tomorrow! Waking up at 6 am for an 8-hour bus ride to Livingstone before we do that, however, not so much!
Good Afternoon for all of you and Good Evening to us here in Lusaka! We have finally finished our initial journey, so no more planes and airports for at least a few days.
Although, all our travel has already laid the foundation for some new memories. Like when we were waiting at the gate in SeaTac comparing what took priority on the packing list for each of us. For Bella and me, it was lots of plane snacks, while for Genesis it was wilderness survival gear. Pretty similar in importance if you ask me. Boarding the plane was a bit like Christmas morning for Claire, Grace S, and me in row 36. We explored all the games and movies available to us for our 14 hours in the air. I also learned the hard way that when Malaria pills are supposed to be taken with food, a Crunch bar doesn’t really count.
Once we landed in Doha, the group had a luxurious 9 hours in Hamad International Airport consisting of “detox water” and some light stretching led by Hattie. Some of us chose a quiet and restful layover, while others chose the airport-exploring route. Kylie (and Lotto, of course) took a quick nap despite Jeff’s recommendation not to. Maddie and Grace E. enjoyed the indoor playground, though it was definitely designed for children and probably not for a D1 volleyball player.
Then we boarded our final flight and were ready to complete the last leg of today’s travel. Megan, Lauren, and I felt some disappointment when we realized our row on the plane didn’t get a window, so we didn’t get to see all the views we were hoping for. But it was mostly for the best because we all had intentions of trying to squeeze in a few extra hours of rest before landing in Lusaka and packing in a full day of activities.
We were enthusiastically greeted by Dominic, a friend of the program and the former priest in Zambezi, the second we walked out of the airport. He eagerly learned all of our names and quizzed himself as we got on our bus to the hostel. More than one of us made the joke that we were driving on the wrong side of the road as we pulled out of the parking lot. At the hostel Sierra spotted the first spider of the trip as we were setting our bags down. Dee and I shared our hatred for spiders which we will hopefully (and probably need to) overcome within the next few weeks. We all did a quick change into clean clothes and sandals and headed off again for the day.
Our first stop was exchanging currency, which was way easier than I anticipated. I’ve inspected my new Kwacha to see all the different designs on the bills. At lunch, Dominic wasted no time and asked if we could talk politics. We covered all the bases from the 2024 election, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and the impact of colonization on Zambia. I expected these types of conversations to happen at some point but I will admit it caught me by surprise only being here for 4 hours. It was cool to hear Dominic’s perspective on things and begin the process of cultural and social immersion here in Zambia. After telling him that I was a broadcast major, he was very happy to share with me that he has was a guest on GUTV when he visited Spokane. I filled him in on all the updates regarding the Integrated Media department since he’s been there. After lunch, we went to an art gallery and the longer drive exposed us to more parts of the city. We had some solo time to shower and rest once we got back to our temporary home base. Then, we finished off the day with reflection time as a group.
Our ankles are still a bit swollen, our necks are still a bit stiff, and eyelids are getting heavier by the minute. However, we are very excited for what’s to come!
For those of you who’ve followed this Gonzaga-in-Zambezi blog over the years, you understand the Jesuit posture of accompaniment that animates our annual return to the town of Zambezi in Northwest Zambia.
For those of you who will are seeing it for the first time, some context. Since May 2007, Gonzaga University and the community of Zambezi have been co-authoring a story of solidarity, reciprocal learning, and personal growth. On Saturday, May 20, thirteen Zags and two faculty will join the 300+ who’ve gone before them in an earnest desire to operate at eye-level with this rural community in opposition to the “savior complex” of many short-term international tours. This year, long-time leader of the program, Dr. Josh Armstrong, will be remaining in Spokane, but his spirit animates every aspect of the program. Professor Kris Morehouse and I look forward to building on the foundation that he, past students, and previous faculty and staff have established.
We hope you will follow along during the next five weeks as Gonzaga students reflect daily on their experiences in Lusaka, Livingstone, Botswana and Zambezi. We invite you to comment below each blog post (we will read each one) and let us know what you are learning through our words. If you are an alumni of the program, we hope you will share a memory or greet a friend in Zambezi.
As we make final preparations, I’m inspired by these closing lines from “The Journey” by David Whyte, a poet near to Josh’s heart:
You are not leaving. Even as the light fades quickly now, you are arriving.