Privileging Struggle

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

Preparation for this trip was incredibly exciting.

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

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

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

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

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

Tunasakwilila mwane (Thank you!),

Holly Ebel


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

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

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

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

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Lumbanji finds a knife, and other tales from the front

Photo credit: Devon Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kisu Mwane,

Lexi Buhler



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Tunasakwilila mwane, Mama Violet

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kisu mwane,

Morgan Schindele

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

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Expectations and Reality

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

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

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

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

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

– Olivia Antoine
Class of 2020

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

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

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“Mwane” is earned, not given

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kisu mwane,

Josh Bulawa


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

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

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Hello, hello Zambezi

I am bathed in sunlight on a remote landing strip in Northwest Zambia. Rumor around here is that the strip will be shuttered and replaced by a new paved runway about 30 kilometers downstream, in a spot closer to a proposed mine on the west bank of the Zambezi. Of course, rumors like these abound in any community: I heard there’s a new mall coming to Hillsboro; if Boeing goes to South Carolina, …? It seems in most places that implications of our livelihoods carry an undue weight in describing the value of our lives. And Zambezi is no different. For the first two years I came here, I heard about the Shoprite coming to town and the bridge that would eventually replace the decrepit pontoon ferry that offers vehicle passage across the Zambezi. Now it’s the airstrip closing. The narratives change, but narrative remains.

And this is one: I am bathed in sunlight on a remote landing strip in Northwest Zambia. Familiar songs of greeting wash over me, and I am welcomed by old friends and new. Tambukenu mwane. How is America? How is your family?I I respond cheerfully and directly. Mwane vulya mwane. Ah, my country is making every effort to destroy itself. My family is good; my son is two; yes he is a very busy boy, and my daughter is compassionate and bright. I will pass along my greetings.

Because of some complications on our first wave of flights, what is normally two main arrival times turns into four, and this ritual of song and greeting is repeated each time. Each time, 24 primary school pupils belt out their songs of welcome and praise for the school’s relationship with Gonzaga. Hello, we welcome you. Hello, hello, we welcome you, Gone-zaga. I’ve heard some version of this song or one of its cousins each time I’ve been to Zambia, and in multiple communities each time. The hospitality of the message, the harmonization of the singer, touches me each time. Each time I have all the feels: the simple joy of a welcome, the sense that I am not grateful enough to burst into song when friends come to visit me, the fatigue and profound tension of being celebrated for work of which I have only been the most minor part.

Today, all those feels were multiplied by four, as each plane landed to a repeat of the same routine…wherever we go, we praise Go-zanga. And after all of the singing, the chores, the wrangling of food for the school choir, I took a small group of teachers from the Zambezi airport back to the school at Chilenga. As we set off, the man beside me points to a shortcut through the bush. By the time he tells me, it’s too late to take the next shortcut, so the women in the back seat tell me to go ahead. They each know another route, and argue about which we should take, cutting off the man when he tries to overrule. In some ways, after four trips to Zambezi, I like to wish that I have some things figured out. However, it’s been a long day, a day mixed with many hugs and smiles, and a day in which I’ve questioned whether we deserve the warmth and gratitude extended to us, a day in which I’ve recalled again that I have warrant to question the manner in which another human expresses gratitude, and a day I remembered again a fairly simple truth about Zambia: this a place that continues to offer delight and tension. There are shortcuts, but you’ll inevitably be taking the long way round. And that complexity, the way it helps me to understand the world and my place in it, is why I continue to return.

Parents and loved ones, we are here, and safe, and well—if a bit tired. I look forward to knowing your students as they get to know bit-by-bit this community that I’ve grown to love. I can’t wait for you to hear about their experiences through this blog and the many reflections they’ll have on their experience.

All our best,
Jeff Dodd
English Department (and the one who feels a terrific responsibility for getting your lovelies back to you).

PS: Ann Burnett: The choir looked spectacular in their new robes, and Jessi Mukumbi was so proud to show them off.

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In the beginning

Friends, family members, Gonzaga Zambezi alums, and every dear reader of our 2018 Gonzaga-in-Zambezi blog,

Hello from Lusaka, Zambia’s capital city! After a long flight from Seattle to Dubai yesterday, we checked into our hotel (provided by the airline, substantial buffet style dinner and breakfast included) and went on a two-hour bus tour of the city. The opulence in Dubai was striking, from the glitter and shine of the airport to the robust shopping scene to the ongoing construction of the new and the fancy. We saw and heard a story of rapid recent development that has created an ultra-modern city funded by oil. We flew into the third busiest airport in the world, took pictures of the world’s tallest building (the Burj Khalifa), and drove by an abundance of five-star hotels with suites that cost up to $30,000 dollars a night in peak season.

Still, there was much of the city we didn’t see, many stories we didn’t even begin to hear – about the workers who are building Dubai and the less-fantastic places where they live, about immigration patterns and personal circumstances that bring people in from all over the world to the city, about the role of the United Arab Emirates and Dubai itself in regional politics..

As we settle in for our night in Lusaka before flying to Zambezi in the morning, we’re already finding much to process. Look forward to hearing more from each student over the coming weeks. For now, here are their one-word reflections on how they are feeling as we continue with our Zambia beginning: intrigued, in awe, overwhelmed, surprised, anxious, yeaaaahhhhh, ruminating, free, excited, earth green, anxious, welcomed, welcomed, almost, excited, ready, deliriously (), humbled, welcomed, refreshed, curious, peaceful.

We look forward to your comments; we thank you for the support that’s gotten us here, and we are excited to share our journey(s) with you.

Hannah Klaassen, the lucky Gonzaga staff member who gets to join this group

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What did you feel in Zambia? – Missioning for learning & service

Passing the peace at the Zam Missioning

With only a week before lift-off, the Zambia Study Abroad programs of Gonzaga (traveling to Zambezi & Chimfunshi) celebrated with a “missioning” service this afternoon.  Through the singing, blessing, poems and reflections we were called to allow ourselves to be served where we serve and engage the experiences with a full mind, body and spirit.

Ethan Kane, Zambezi ’17, shared that when he returned from Zambezi, after “doing” and having so many incredible experiences — a baby shower, a circumcision ceremony, a wedding, a baptism, an exorcism, and even burying someone — he would often reflect on the feelings that Zambia provoked.  He shared about the sand of the roads, the sounds of the choirs, the fear of a spider, and the music that moved his body.  Ethan explained, “Did you feel inspired? Did you feel in love? Did you feel your heart break?  Did you feel passionate?  In the end, Zambia was WAY more about what I felt, than what I DID.”   He challenged the teams to go out and pay attention so that each person can feel Zambia and the lessons she holds.

We hope you will follow along as the Zambezi 2018 group discovers the lessons that Zambia has for them in the coming month.  Most days, a member of the Gonzaga-in-Zambezi student group will reflect on their learning, the challenges, and the transformation that true accompaniment with a community can bring.  We hope you will join us. 


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Kinship on a mourning run

Let me begin by offering my heartfelt appreciation to the families and friends of our Gonzaga students on this Zambezi program. We have felt your prayers, words of encouragement, and challenges to live into the moments of learning that Zambezi provides. In particular, I am thankful for the support of parents and families. You have trusted us with your child, and I can’t wait for you to hear firsthand the relationships that they have built with Zambezi residents, the challenging conversations we have had, and the true moments of kinship.

This is my tenth year of leading this study abroad program in Zambezi. During this past decade, the people of Zambezi have continually welcomed us into their lives. As we strive to practice accompaniment, we see more of the community, both the beautiful and the painful. As you have read in the blog over the past month, students dive deep into the fabric of this community.

Each year, I learn lessons, some new, some that I need to continually learn. These lessons can smack me across the face or be a small still moment that I can’t seem to shake. One lesson that I continue to return to centers on how difficult it is to “do good in the world.” Zambia is littered with those with good intentions who have created more harm than good. In our community work, we are often working against years of colonial relationships that solidified the power dynamic in our favor and didn’t empower communities with an honest mutuality that sustainable change requires. We are often asked (by individuals, churches, and community groups) to fund projects without the necessary relationships firmly in place. My time in Zambezi is laced with explanations of our role in this community and conversations about coming alongside Zambians as they stand on their own two feet.

This was the context for a morning run that Ethan Kane and I took to the local cemetery last week. As we walked through the overgrown site, honoring the dead in a place that buries too many, often too young, we stumbled upon a group of six men digging a grave. We approached them and offered our condolences, sitting in the silence and weight of the moment. Then one of the men turned to me and asked, “Can you give us a couple shovels?” This question went straight to my Western ears, and I thought, are you kidding me? We stop by this gravesite and you are asking me to go buy you some shovels? I was taken back.

We have been talking in our nightly reflections about sitting in the discomfort of a moment, and I listened to his question again though my Zambian cultural lens, can you give us a couple shovels? I suddenly realized he was inviting us into his experience, offering us a chance to join him in the mournful work of burying his sister. So we jumped into the emerging grave and shoveled – Ethan diving into the work with the passion of a heavy heart. As earth was moved, we heard about the 25-year-old women who had passed, about the upcoming day of celebrating her life, about those she was leaving behind. For a moment, we belonged. We were invited to participate in a sacred moment.  The opportunity offered by our mourning friends was one of kinship; as Fr. Greg Boyle says, “There is no us and them; there is only us.”

This morning run will stick with me for a while. Not just for the reminder that I am continually learning to hear our Zambian friends through their cultural lens, but also the affirmation that many Zambians have graciously invited us into the joy and pains of their everyday life in ways that continue to be spellbinding for me.

We are heading out to our international flights home today. We look forward to be in the arms of loved ones, but Zambia’s lessons will be in our hearts and minds for years. Thank you for following along, it is my hope that, in a unique way, you have also been challenged by the poignant moments and will continue to engage our community of Zags in Zambia as we make sense of these experiences.

Kisu, mwane.

Dr. Joshua Armstrong

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Humans of Zambezi: Gilbert Masumba

“I put my faith in God that for sure one day will come that I can go to school.”

Gilbert Masumba loves math, loves it so much he wants to spend his work life adding and subtracting. “I love numbers very much,” he says in his characteristically enthusiastic way. “I want to study accounts.”

In year nine of secondary school, Gilbert traveled to Solwezi for a math competition, earning first place in his district, second in the province. His passion for math and business stuck with him through year 12, and he planned to follow his passion all the way to university after graduation.

Alas, tragedy struck the day before he took his final exams. Gilbert’s uncle, his educational sponsor, died unexpectedly. “I wrote my exams in sorrow,” he says. Even then, he passed with high marks the eight-subject assessments—math, English, civic education, commerce, geography, foods and nutrition, chemistry and physics, and biology.

With his educational plans on hold, Gilbert, 20, is working temporarily at the parish of Our Lady of Fatima. He cheerfully cleans the grounds, sweeps the convent floors, feeds the chickens—all while dreaming of being an accountant.

“I can’t get frustrated. Who would I be frustrated at?” he says. “I know that God is there watching me. He knows what I want.”

Soon, the parish’s permanent caretaker will return, and Gilbert will return to Chilena, the small village near Zambezi where he lives with his grandma, mom, and little sister. He will help his mom raise cassava and maize on their small plot of land while he figures out a plan to pay the 5,000 kwachas (about $535) per year for university. It’s the one math problem he can’t seem to solve.

“If there were more job opportunities, I would raise money so I could take myself to school,” he says. “But there are none.”

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