Friendship that empowers

The past five days in Zambezi have been filled with the most incredible individuals and the warmest of welcomes. There is no way that I could have expected or prepared for the experiences that were about to follow stepping off the bush planes in Zambezi. I am learning very quickly that the people here in Zambezi are very good at making people feel comfortable and at home, even though many of us are three long plane rides away from the place we call home. They do this through large displays of how excited they are to have us here or by simply sharing and explaining small pieces of their personal stories, cultures and traditions with us.

As the bush plane started the descent into Zambezi I was filled with nerves about what was waiting for me and my fellow Zags but also excitement for the new culture and experiences that I was about to encounter. But as soon as we got close to the dusty airstrip in Zambezi my nerves quickly went away as I saw the large groups of children and adults of the Zambezi community waiting for us. As soon as we stepped off the plane tons of tiny little hands reached for mine and put the biggest smile on my face. After repeating my name to each child that came up to me we were brought over to watch the Chilena School Choir sing and dance for us. Needless to say, after this my peers and I were on a high and ecstatic to finally be in Zambezi.

The next day we all left for our homestays and Regan and I got the opportunity to stay at the home of Mama Violet (one of the women that cooks for us in the convent) and her husband Steven. Before leaving for our homestay Josh told Regan and I that staying at Mama Violet’s would be a “true bush experience”. Regan and I immediately agreed and said that we would love to stay with her and were up for a challenge. Part of this even included carrying a mat on my head the whole 30-minute walk to her house, which received a lot of funny looks when we walked through the market. We arrived to see a small home with tin over the windows. There was no electricity or running water and a bathroom that was a basic hole in the ground with a 5-foot-tall thatch fence around it. As soon as Regan and arrived, we were a bit uncomfortable as we were instructed to sit down on a mat and then were immediately surrounded by at least 25 kids staring at us with curious eyes. Both of us tried talking and interacting with them but quickly realized that they did not speak any English. Once we asked them to teach us a song they immediately got super excited. They jumped up and started to sing and dance with us to “Chitomato” and “Do as I Do” (both involve LOTS of poses), which are songs that they all sing and dance to regularly. Regan and I soon realized that our dancing skills were no match for theirs but the laughs that it brought to their face were so worth it. We were both so excited to be welcomed into their culture and have them show us some of their traditions that our discomfort was quickly replaced by a love for this place and these people.  

Later that night we met Mama Violet’s husband, Steven. Right after meeting Regan and I he immediately followed with, “This is your home! Feel at home!” I cannot even begin to tally how many times he told us this throughout our homestay in order to ensure that we knew how welcome we were in their home. What truly displayed Steven’s love for the Gonzaga in Zambezi program was when he brought out his envelope with pictures of all the past Gonzaga students that have stayed in their home the past 10 years. This made us feel even more comfortable and relaxed in a place that was so foreign and new to us. Steven and Violet shared with us their family’s traditions such as telling stories by the fire after dinner every night. Even with such a large language barrier and difference in culture they made us feel secure and right at home.

The next morning, we awoke early to the sound of roosters crowing, pigs snorting and goats eating. We ate a tasty breakfast of ground nuts and sweet potatoes, took tons of pictures of us and their family, and then went to church with Mama Violet and Steven. Gonzaga has a long-standing relationship with the Catholic Church here and that was quite apparent during the service. The people of Zambezi welcomed us into their church with open arms, many songs and many dances. During mass each Gonzaga student was brought up to the stage to share their name with the community and then we were all invited to a barbeque dinner at the priest’s house to welcome us into their community.

We expected the dinner at the priest’s house to be low key but we soon became aware that it was more like a huge party. Father Yona invited the Zambezi youth (community members ages 15-25) so that we would be able to interact with others in the community our own age. They brought huge speakers and microphones so that they could sing and dance with us. We each got to share a piece of our culture when they shared with us a popular dance in Zambia that involved A LOT of dancing with your hips and we in turn taught them the Cupid Shuffle and the Electric Slide. This sharing of traditions was such a fun way to allow us to meet even more friendly faces from the Zambezi community. The night continued with lip sync battles and dancing to Post Malone as well as One Direction with a Catholic Church Youth group. I can honestly say this was something that I never expected to do in Zambezi, or even at home. To quote Ethan, “That was the sauciest youth group I have ever seen.” Megan wanted me to add that she even got pulled up on stage and was serenaded to and even received a “proposal!”

When classes began on Monday my team and I wanted to repay the favor and ensure that we made our students feel just as comfortable in our class as they had all made us feel in their community. Gonzaga’s longstanding relationship with the Zambezi community has provided all of us the opportunity to be welcomed into this community and learn and grow from the people here. I am in awe of the way that individuals here are able to make a large group like us feel so welcomed and so loved in such a short amount of time. Many people in Zambezi live their lives focusing on their relationships and interactions with others. They provide kindness and a friendly face to almost everyone that they encounter. This is something I have learned and admire about the people here even in just a short amount of time. I truly aspire to take these lessons and apply them to my own life at home. I am beyond excited for what the next three weeks have in store for me and my other Zags here in Zambezi!

Lots of Love,

Annika Helgesen ’21

P.S. To my friends and family: I miss you all so much and cannot wait to share all of my stories and experiences here with everyone! Love you all!

Katie – Ellie and I love your comments, they make our day J We love and miss you!

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Hello all!

This is Leila, writing to you from a bench next to some windows at the back of a large conference room. The space is one we use to teach the Business and Leadership class. Outside the window at my right cheek is a large tree whose foliage is shading me from the sun that the Zambians laugh at me for calling “SO HOT.”  In its after hours vacancy, this favorite spot of mine has become a refuge for retreat when I feel the need for the soft quiet of solitude. Before I really begin, I would love to assure you of our well-being here in the wonderful community of Zambezi. I know my family and friends at home have felt some sense of uneasiness as I have walked into an experience that is new to the both of us. I have a strong feeling they are in good company with many of the people keeping up with our blog. This community has opened itself so joyfully to the new zags who are continuing a story of friendship that has endured the past 12 years. I will not speak for the whole of my peers, but a quick survey of my classmates can reveal many of us are eager to feel the rhythm that a routine will bring as we begin our classes this week.

The first day of school has always been one of my favorite days of the year, so really it was no surprise when I ended up choosing to study special education at GU, and then placed on the Chileńa Literacy team during our time abroad. The first day of school has always carried for me some a distinct sense of excited anticipation unlike any other. The day seems to hold some promise of a fresh start, a clean slate. There does seem to be a special weight that is the companion to any new beginning. This weight is less of a burden, and more of a  powerful yet precious responsibility. In this new home, that responsibility has everything to do with friendship, and nothing to do with lesson plans. On the wall of our common area rests the words from Aaron Ausland: “Friendship, real and deep, is the foundation of giving that empowers.” These words haven’t stopped making rounds through my mind, and I don’t have much of a plan to stop them.

This first day is unlike any other first day I think I will ever experience. At Chileńa, they have been adjusting to their second term schedule for a couple of weeks, this leaves me holding the truth that this is only my first day, not theirs. As I step into this fully filled and new to me space, I am reminded that the paramount goal of this trip is to remain not in the pursuit of objective success but the pursuit of sincere companionship. This dream of true companionship or accompaniment has been a theme in conversations of reflection and a signature left on hearts of all leaders I’m with on this trip.

The most striking evidence of this spirit of accompaniment has come from our walk to the Chileńa Primary school this morning to meet the head master and observe the English teacher. Before we were welcomed in with hands outstretched and wide toothy smiles mirrored by our own, we were greeted by the sign. Yes, a sign. A large, concrete, sign. On the front, this sign reads “Welcome to Chileńa Primary School” (or something like that), but on the hind side of the sign lay the words in bold red paint, “LONG LIVE CHILEŃA GONZAGA PARTNERSHIP.” Wow. What a welcome.

These 5 words tell a much bigger story than just that of my showing up here to learn and teach for 15 short days of class.

Earlier this year in talking to a friend of mine, Sanna, she said to me, “Nothing can prepare you for what will happen once you step off that bush plane” and oh my was she right. Zambians are absolute PROS at giving a warm welcome. We were received off the planes last Friday to the mighty Chileńa choir dancing and singing in celebration of their reunion with Gonzaga. Might I add that this choir has won national championship titles? In trying to reconcile this regal welcome we have experienced, I have come to realize that we are not only being welcomed so grandly as individuals new to this community, but as a limb of the greater body of Gonzaga University that they have come to know well. Does this feel a little meta yet?

The sign that greeted us at Chileńa told a story of mutually indebted gratitude towards this unique partnership between our schools; with the greater body of humans called Gonzaga- Zags who come back year after year to build friendships that extend beyond the four walls of the Chileńa classroom and beyond the three weeks of our stay. The sign tells tales of how these individual relationships contribute to the creation of one larger composition of trust, mutual respect, and friendship grounded in curious love. These crucial signatures of accompaniment are not only an account of the relationships we’ll continue building here in our time, but of the relationship that has grown between GU and the communities in Zambezi. Even this relationship between GU and Zambezi can tell us something about the connection that Zambia has with the US. Pretty meta, right?

My hope for the following weeks is that we commit to being surprised by this community each and every day. I hope we allow ourselves to be served where we are serving. I hope we give way for our classes to be vehicles for the fostering of life-giving friendships with Zags and Zambians, and we commit to making this month full of deeply rich dialogue around self awareness, intercultural leadership, and the meaning of global citizenship. The three-ish weeks that we have left to spend in Zambezi will no doubt be very focused on building relationships grounded in curiosity and care with those in and out of the classes we are teaching. These individual relationships are only paragraphs in the chapter titled 2019 in a book titled Gonzaga Staying for Tea in Zambezi, and I can’t wait to be a character in them. TOTALLY META.

You have my heart,

Leila Lewis ’21

Family, I miss you all so very much. Each of you carry a special piece of me while I’m on this journey, and I can’t wait to share with you all the special moments I’m collecting on this trip. Kisu Mwane. I love you!!!  – Leilou 

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Becoming Real to Me

“Staying for tea helped us become mutually indebted. I call this operating at eye level with the community, and this made all the difference in the quality and impact of our time together.”   — Aaron Ausland

The market in town is an all-encompassing site of various colored shops and vendors, overstimulating our senses with smells of fish, chicken, vegetables and fruits. Music played as a background noise to conversations; greetings across the street, laughter in the shops and many kids chattering with Ethan and I as we made the sandy walk to the hot spot of shopping and conversation in Zambezi.

Often our group has had discussions of transactional vs transformational relationships, struggling with the desire to make deep connections, yet not always being in the time and place to develop them. Here at the market, while there were transactions with the needs to buy chitenge and flip flops, the purchases were accompanied by language lessons from shop owners, mentions of past Zags and friendships made, and friendly welcomes into the community. While American grocery stores exhibit quick in and out transactional moments and the need to be efficient, there was a continuous beauty in the slower paced walking moments of the Zambezi market. Instead of the regular transactional relationship, small conversations and introductions have allowed us to recognize familiar faces on the streets and at church- potential friendships are developing, allowing for the true exploration of accompaniment.

A beginning to these talked about “transformational” relationships has started with our homestays. Because of kind and gracious families within the church community, all 18 of us were able to stay the night in pairs or little groups with hosts. Ellie and I stayed with a wonderful couple Winafreida and John. John sitting at a tall 6’2 is a retired school master and teacher, exhibiting patience with a kind heart and gentle voice. Complimenting John is his firecracker wife, Winafreida. What she lacks in height (being half as tall as John) she makes up for with tenacity and passion. As a health counselor, she advises women and children living with HIV. Their life, starting in the Northern Province of Zambia has resulted in 6 kids, 22 grandkids, 1 great-grandkid and 250 young chicks (yes chickens). Throughout the night, neighbors, friends and community members came to greet and chat with us. Nshima was eaten, babies were carried and amazing memories were made.

John carried a world atlas into the living room later in the night. Pointing out his village that he grew up in and explaining the different provinces of Zambia, we were able to gain an abundance of knowledge, not only about the present culture of Zambia but also years of its history. In exchange, Ellie and I flipped to a map of the United States and were able to point out exactly where we grew up in California and Oregon, where we attend school in Spokane and how exhilarating (yet draining) of a journey it was to get to Zambia with three plane rides and a bus ride.

I have found the most special and genuine of moments, not at the big welcoming celebration or the church ceremony, but rather the small dinner conversations and morning coffee. While the big gatherings were heartfelt and definitely unforgettable, the stunning hospitality tends to overwhelm me in moments. Intimate settings have impacted me most profoundly, providing a space for me to breathe and form authentic conversations and bonds.

Veronica, the first of Winafreida and John’s grandchildren, also with a baby of her own, taught us how to make lemonade and orangeade. Conversing about the shared lemon trees that both my family and hers have in our front yards, we compared amounts of sugar that are supposedly put into the specific drink. (Dad, apparently, we don’t use nearly enough). Sharing her love for nursing and kids, Veronica, Ellie and I bonded over passions for jobs in healthcare and potentially working in pediatrics. Nervousness about a new environment and household was nonexistent by the end of our stay, leaving for church with full hearts and semi-properly wrapped chitenge skirts around us.

While many of our homestay experiences were unique between groups, there was a general consensus that lives lived here in Zambezi greatly differ from us in terms of routine and environment. Roosters crow before sunrise contrarily to popular belief, and from what Ellie and I experienced do not care if they are making noise at 3 in the morning. Rachel Walls experienced that when given a warm bucket of water to bathe in, its most likely boiling hot and would be beneficial to wait a few minutes before cleaning your body. Preston and Isaac learned that when freestyle rapping, it is best to just go for it and see what comes out in the verse.

There are a long list of differences existing between our normal routines and that of Zambians. However, there is one prevalent and common thread existing between Zambezi and our home communities. Love. A love for food and shared dinner that reminds me of meals that I cook with my family paired with storytelling and smiles. A love for neighbors like family that remind me of college friends that have become my second home in Washington. An abundance of care and compassion just seems to ooze from almost every aspect of this community and provides a supporting basis for authentic and true relationships.

Hopefully a snapshot of homestays has allowed readers of this blog to feel and share some of these unique and personal experiences with me and my fellow zags. Whether it was tea, coffee, or other beverages shared in the early morning, genuine connections have begun to form and I, along with all my fellow zags, cannot wait to dive deeper into this community, as well as ourselves, with the hope to grow and flourish.

“After some time, I realized that something else was happening over tea. My title and position were being eroded; I was becoming real to them. At the same time, my simplistic stereotypes of them were melting away; they were becoming real to me. –Aaron Ausland

Emma Cheatham, Class of 2021

To my loved ones: Miss you with all my heart. Filling my mind and notebook with memories and stories to share. Lots of Love. 

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Here we are… and here we go!!

Hello to all reading the blog, hope you are having a fantastic day.

After a violent reminder of my previous intestinal problems on a 5-seater Busch plane, and 2 ½ hours, we arrived in Zambezi. Smiling faces of Zags and Zambezians lined the runway to create a scene I’ll never forget. After dancing and listening to the Chilenga School choir, Daniel Li and I were led back to the convent by a group of 25 Zambezi children who I ‘presumed’ knew the way.

Once we all arrived to the convent, a quick volleyball session followed, the value of the term ‘Yaco akusi’ was learned, a few large spiders were named, and it was time for dinner! Mama Violet and Mamma Katendi treated us to a nshima, fresh chicken (shout out to Isaac and Caitlyn), Chinese lettuce, and some properly sliced apples. While the food was great and did wonders at settling my stomach, I could not help but notice a newly formed tension in the atmosphere. The conversation was smaller, camaraderie was at all time low, nerves were at all time. I, and many of my peers I learned, were uncomfortable. The unconditional love and praise we received was overwhelming and challenging to come to terms with. Father Baraza reminding us instead of trying to understand the high praise we received, but to be reciprocal of the excitement and appreciation that we were receiving. Many of us are in a setting that is completely unfamiliar to us. No longer in the tourist location of the Livingston, this feels more real than ever. As a group, I call us to return much of that praise and curiosity that we have received. The saying goes, “I can learn as much from you, and you can learn from me’ -anonymous. Keeping this in the back of our mind will enable us to be in accompaniment and to create those relationships with Zambians that we desire.

The following morning, I went to the kitchen just in time to see Josh and Ethan heading out for a run; I was able to jump on this train with two brilliant leaders who combined have nearly 20 years of experience in Zambezi – I was excited. I was quiet as I observed my new environment for the next three weeks, unfamiliar sights and sounds stole my attention – the voices of choirs around each block was quite the touch. I was amazed that even after two years, Josh was being greeted hellos from local. Furthermore, Josh mentioned a story about a Zambezi man that had a polaroid picture of himself with a Gonzaga student in his shirt pocket who hadn’t been on the trip for 6 years! This made me excited for our potential to make a lasting impact in Zambezi through a commitment to relationships and endless learning.

Returning from the run, I was met with a wonderful oatmeal bar put on by Zags who woke up early in the morning to prepare the feast. In the moments following splitting into our teams (health, business/leadership, education, computers), I witnessed a great sight. A majority of my classmates were journaling and reading away, which was sweet! A reminder that I am surrounded by a bunch of curious students that are in the process of growing themselves.

After a 45 min meet up with the health team, the excitement and nervousness for our first class is officially brewing. Today fellow students got the opportunity to check out the market, read + journal, and play basketball at the nearby court (we even have a game set up for Tuesday!). In a couple of hours, we live for homestays, were we will be staying with a local family for the night. Exciting times of tension and growth are upon us, here we go!   

Preston Matossian ’19 

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Kindness Matters

Howdy fellow Zag Family and Friends!

Regan Corley coming to you from our final destination of the trip: Zambezi! We have finally made it to the province we have been much anticipating and dreaming of since first applying for this amazing opportunity.

Today’s journey was taxing for everyone but with much reward waiting upon our arrival on the gravel runway here in Zambezi. Other than Josh, Father Baraza and Ethan, I do not think that any Zag could have truly pictured the experience we were about to step into when coming off the 6-seater bush plane. Everyone that stepped off the plane was immediately greeted with a charged buzz of excitement and hundreds of tiny hands grasping for theirs. The pure joy was contagious and not a single face didn’t have a wide grin plastered to it. Song filled the air and rhythm was in everyone’s feet as we took in the scene we had been counting down to for months. It was completely and utterly exhilarating and many had tears streaming down their faces.

Today marked a week and one day since we embarked on our journey to Zambezi and there has been quite the roller coaster of emotions to get here. As a group we have faced trying times of fatigue, illness and searching for understanding of our role here in this country. How we have handled these situations are telling of who we are as people and what each individual hold in their hearts. One theme that has continued to stand out to me as a continuous pattern with not only the people in our group, but also the people I have encountered along the way is kindness.

Kindness is something I have been taught from a very young age and is something that I have valued greatly in my life since it unfortunately is not a trait that all people share. Growing up, like every kid, I faced challenges of bullies and unkind words every day. At the time, I would come home defeated and confused as to why someone could be so hurtful. Every time without fail my Mom would remind me to think about it from their point of view. Maybe that kid woke up and wasn’t able to eat breakfast because they couldn’t afford to. Maybe they had parents that didn’t care enough to ask them how their day at school was. Maybe they were tired from staying up to watch their siblings until an adult came home. At the time I would grudgingly say, “Yeah, yeah, you are right Mama.” I didn’t fully grasp that she had been instilling within me a deep empathy for other people and to treat other people the way you wanted to be treated. Empathy should not be mistaken for pity as they are two separate things and that is very important for every person to remember on this journey we call life.

At home in California and Washington, there are a lot of kind people don’t get me wrong, but the kindness that has been shown in and to our group has been remarkable. The people on this trip and here in Zambia seem to ooze kindness from almost every pore of their body. This began with simple things like a Zag holding a bag for someone else in the group or sincere complements on outfits or achievements such as someone not throwing up for 24 hours. These small things began to work themselves into bigger ones such as providing an intentional listening ear to someone in need or being understanding that everyone may be having different emotional responses to the journey we have been on thus far.

While every small act of kindness is important there have been some individuals that have stood out to me in particular who seem to carry this trait with them where ever they may go.

The first individual who has come to mind is Father Dominic. While coming to a country so far from home can be scary and intimidating, Father Dominic made Zambia feel almost just like it from the moment we stepped foot out of the airport in Lusaka. We were immediately greeted by him with the biggest, most genuine smile I had ever seen upon a stranger’s face as well as the warmest hug imaginable. He continued to show his kind heart throughout our week together through his actions and wise words. While we only had a week to spend with him, the mark he made on the rest of the group and I will be carried with us forever. Father Dominic, if you are reading this I wanted to personally thank you from all of us for starting our journey here in Zambia on such a wonderful note. I do not think you can fully comprehend the impact you have had on all of us in such a short amount of time and people who can have this effect on people are special souls that should be cherished by everyone around them.

The second individual who came to mind when thinking about who exemplifies the trait of kindness is Janeen. The kindness I have experienced from her is one that is very rare to come by. She is also one I have not had the pleasure of knowing for very long, but she has already had such a profound impact on who I am as a person. I have watched Janeen find the brightness and positivity of every moment. When the Emirates Plague was sweeping through our group she was there to offer any support she could to make the experience even a little bit better. When we were sitting on a broken bus with no air conditioning she offered notes of positivity and reminded us of the memories we were making and to soak in every second. When any person has needed a listening ear to talk about the deeper questions of life she has been there to offer them support and feedback. While these are all phenomenal things, what truly makes Janeen special is her fierce compassion and love that she has to offer to every one she encounters.

Lastly, Father Baraza has exemplified kindness on a new level. With every story he tells and relationship he builds he inspires others to treat people with respect and kindness the way he so does. In this way, he has reminded me greatly of both my Grandfathers, as they also provide me with such wisdom that I will carry on with me forever.

While I could go on about how Baraza is so wonderful that he receives emails from former students explaining how wonderful he is, has songs sung in his honor, and has babies named after him, I am going to discuss something he has said that has had a profound impact on me personally. “Good thoughts. Good words. Good deeds.” These three simple phrases hold an abundance of power. If every person can work to better their thoughts, think about their words and how they can affect people, as well as preform acts of selflessness and kindness than the world will ultimately become a better place than it is now. While all three of these are the dream, we are human after all. If we can focus on even just two of these, then the world will be better off than it is now.

While these people are all fantastic human beings, I am most looking forward to experiencing the kindness that the people of Zambezi have to offer. These individuals I have had the opportunity to connect with on a deeper level and I am excited to continue to build connections with not only my fellow Zags but also the people of the Zambezi community through things such as our home stay tomorrow night, working in the local school and working to be intentional with relationships I want to pursue.

After reading this post, I hope that you all can have the opportunity to reflect on how what you say and do does matter and will affect people. Kindness matters. I challenge you all to be present and intentional with your kindness. You may not see the immediate effect of your actions, but I can promise that you are having an impact on at least one person’s day and life.

Much Love,

                        Regan Corley

To my friends and family: know that I think of each and every one of you every day and you are walking alongside me on my journey in Zambia. I love you all dearly and can’t wait to share many stories with you when I get home.




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The In Between

Hello Zag family and friends!

The last couple of days in Livingstone have been a much-needed reset after our long period of travel. Our time has been filled with bartering at the market, taking a second trip to Mosi-Oa-Tunya for ‘adrenaline junky’ activities, sitting by the pool, and very serious pool tournaments (S/O to Daniel). Tomorrow, we leave for the main event, our time in Zambezi.

I titled this blog “The In Between” because this represents my existence in Zambia thus far. The in between can be interpreted in many ways depending on the situation. I define it as the space where tension exists because conceding to one truth or the other does not accurately represent the full truth. This can be said in regard to a moment, relationship, feeling, etc.

Transactional versus transformational relationships.

Coming in to this experience, many of us geared up for the cultivation of deep, meaningful relationships with Zambians. However, this proved to be tricky when it came to a market setting, where relationships are assumed to be transactional. But why is it not possible for them to be both? For example, this man named Ice Cream, yes, Ice Cream like the food, on the bridge most of us jumped off of today (hence, the ‘adrenaline junky’ activities mentioned earlier) was there to sell trinkets to tourists like ourselves. The foundation of our existence in relation to his was completely transactional. Until, he saw one of our group members, Ellie, freaking out about the fact that she was about to jump off of a 364 ft. bridge. He offered her an empowering pep talk which brought her peace and courage amidst the nerves. That is totally transformational even though he was still there to get us to buy his overpriced knick-knacks.

Bungee jumping – the waiting period.

Eight of the people in our group decided to bungee jump. Two others ziplined and four went on the swing. I decided to bungee jump mostly just to say that I have bungee jumped at one of the seven natural wonders of the world (which is also why I bought the overpriced T-shirt), but also because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. My classmates and I spent the half hour waiting period suspended between suppressed nervous energy and elation.

There is no one truth to history.

This morning we visited the Livingston museum and were presented with the opportunity to hear about the history of Zambia from the Zambian people. Too often, we are exposed to the history of Africa from the perspective of the colonizer, with little to no consideration of the fact that there is another party involved. Exploring this museum offered us a unique chance to gain access to another, less common perspective. Reconciling these two truths proved difficult at times; this difficulty brought me to the realization that, sometimes, understanding history requires the acknowledgement that there is no one truth. The truth exists within the tension of multiple truths.

The bittersweet departure of Father Dominic.

I could go on and on about Father Dominic and never truly capture his essence. There is a unique, exuberant light about him which I have never witnessed. His heart for service and tenacious faith cannot be contained. I have gained more wisdom from our conversations than I realize, and I find myself in another space of tension regarding my feelings toward his departure tomorrow morning. On the one hand, it brings me hope to know that other people will feel the warmth that is his nature and the joy that is his spirit; I also cannot help but feel the empty remnants of loss due to his leaving. Father Dominic, if you read this after your long, and hopefully less bumpy, bus ride back to Lusaka, know that you are a true inspiration to me and many others. You represent the divine mission unlike anyone I have ever met. Thank you for taking the time to welcome us into this beautiful country and spreading joy and laughter among our group. You will be missed, and we look forward to your return.  

Learning to live in these moments of tension has proven to be a process of denial, resentment, curiosity, and frustration. Black and white is easy and superficially preferable to people like myself. Grey area forces thought.

As of tomorrow, we will begin to leave our footprints in the Zambezi community. We are eager to see what this journey holds.

“The footprints – marks we leave behind as we go about our busy lives – serve as a metaphor for the journey each of us takes during our time on this planet…The more I interacted daily with Livingstone’s people, both real and imagined, and left my own footprints in the sand, I found that this beautiful, unfamiliar land had begun to feel like home.” -Ruth Stanford.

Stay tuned!

            Alea Chatman

P.s. To my family and friends, I hope you know how much I love and care for you. See you later love:) 



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An Alley of Angry Elephants

Hello again dearest friends and family. Our Gonzaga in Zambezi family has just returned from our two-day safari adventure and I hope that this blog entry will prove sufficient following the quick break we have taken from daily updates since we set up camp out in the bush.

First, an update:

Since our nine-hour bus ride into Livingstone, you will be happy to hear that our group has taken tremendous strides in tackling the various automotive difficulties we have been faced with. During our safari, one of the safari trucks ended up getting caught in sand some ways away from a pond full of enormous hippos – yet far enough away from the pond to pose no actual danger. The rest of us at the midway point to the campsite were eager to hop back in our own trucks at the thought of a rescue mission. In the end, everyone and every truck ended up unscathed with no morale lost.

Now, the nitty-gritty:

The safari was nothing short of incredible.

We started our day awaking in Fawlty Towers at the early hour of 6 a.m., yet everyone was incredibly enthusiastic with what was expected to come. We were given just enough time to chow down on our breakfast of eggs, beans, yogurt, and delicious dough balls before we all gathered into the resort bus and made our way to the first boat ride. The boat ride was brief and Father Dominic put it best when he described aloud exactly what everyone was feeling:

“Oh yeah, this is happening.”

Post boat ride, the gargantuan safari trucks and our safari guides; Percy, Richard, and Kennedy, awaited us. We crossed the border into Botswana via safari truck and embarked on the first part of our safari, a boat ride on the Chobe River. It is on this leg of our adventure that we were all made speechless by the sight of live water buffalo, crocodiles, hippos and elephants to name a few animals – all in what seemed like leaping distance from the edge of our vessel. Following the river voyage, we quickly reconvened for an amazing lunch before yet again hopping back into our trucks for the next part of the safari, making our way into the bush to camp out for the night all while navigating the nearby wildlife park.

After being jostled and thrown about by the high speeds of the safari truck racing against the rugged terrain of the park, we had our breaths taken away by miles and miles of elephants which, in fact, made up only a small portion of the 80,000 elephants taking residence in the area. From there, we saw all one could probably hope to see, elephants, impalas, kudus, giraffes, hippos, baboons, water buffalo, and leopards.

The part of the journey that I have taken to heart the most, which is the namesake of this blog post, involves our safari truck of nine. As the sun was setting, we were pressed to quickly make it to our campsite before the sun dipped entirely below the horizon. The elephants at the park had a similar idea, as they conveniently all – and I mean all – decided to trek past the roads we were traversing. They must not have liked the fact that their ingenious planning had been made a minor inconvenience by nine small and probably easily-squishable humans in a truck, because we were then surrounded by a volley of frustrated trumpeting. In the moment, I felt two things immediately: a selfish gratitude that I had two human shields sitting on either side of me, and also a very real fear of the volatility of nature. As our driver Percy put the pedal to the metal, however, I was struck with an appreciation for our circumstances and the astronomically low chances we had being so close to these magnificent although terrifying creatures. It further cemented for the fact that my life is something I need to more grateful for because it is in all facets a gift I have been given.

I have struggled with mental illness since the beginning of my teenage years and I continue to struggle with them today. In my life, I received the same message about the gift that is life when, in my freshman year of college, I was placed in the protective care ward at Spokane’s Sacred Heart Hospital due to suicidal ideations I was having at the time. Looking back at this moment and forward to yesterday, I can honestly say that I did not anticipate receiving the same message in one of my lowest valleys and one of my highest peaks. I am incredibly grateful for this gift that I have been given to not only be resilient, like the human fearing for their life amidst an alley full of elephants, but also the opportunity to be in this moment and have it leave a lasting impact on my outlook.

The safari only got better into today. Most of us were surprisingly able to hit the sack at 8:30 at night. We woke up at five in the morning, enthusiastic to hit the road again for the last portion of the safari, although not before we awoke our incredible staff leader Janeen Steer to an early morning rendition of “Happy Birthday.” In the hours we remained in the park, we tracked a pride of lions and took some incredible pictures, some of which you may see at the top of this post. Afterwards, our safari guides brought us across the Botswana border and waved us goodbye as we boarded a boat to the resort bus one last time.

Of all the things to have an impact on my life, I would have never suspected it would be a pack of furious elephants. Again, life is a gift. I am so glad to have had this revelation again and I hope that you reading are all in a place where you can see this too. Tomorrow, we will be spending the day shopping at Curios shops, ziplining, and bungee-jumping among other activities. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog, I hope it has been giving you as much joy to read as it has for me to contribute to.

Very Grateful,

Spencer Weiskopf, Class of 2020

PS: Mom and Dad, I love and miss you lots and wish you could be here. You two deserve the whole world I hope to one day be as incredible of a parent as you both have been for me.

Harris, keep on shaking your groove thing. I know you are busy and I hope that you remember to realize the gift that is your own life as you participate in your craft. Love you bro.

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The Smoke that Thunders

“It hurts worse to be taken advantage of by someone you love, and by that I mean Emirates Airlines.”  -Bryce Kryser

Our beloved airline is the speculated cause of the less than beloved illness that spread through our group once we landed in Lusaka. A few of us even gained throw up stories of glory–out of a bus, into a sink, not a toilet was spared. It seemed as if the only thing that could protect you was the sheer joy of graduating as our two seniors, Ethan and Daniel, escaped unscathed. Or possibly if you were Ellie and had an Irish connection with a flight attendant (yeah we’re suspicious). This is a less than unique travel experience, and I’d also like to say for the parents reading that only like six of us actually vomited, mostly people just felt off and queasy.

I write this blog sitting in the sun next to our hostel pool. Isaac, Preston, and Bryce are playing freebee in the grass. Sami and Catelyn are talking with their feet in the water. Chloe is napping next to me while Lelia, Avery, Emma, and Megan read their books. I also hear in the distance what’s beginning to become the familiar sound of Father Barraza telling a story. We’ve started to fall into a group rhythm, or using my professional leadership lingo—forming. After some long days of travel, it feel nice to settle for a while. Staying in Livingstone is allowing us to not only dive into our relationships with each other but start our relationship with Zambia and some Zambians.

We started grand and viewed the famous Victoria Falls. Picture after picture was snapped of the thunderous 3 kilometers of free falling water rushing out of the Zambezi River. As we took photos together, it felt obvious how tightly people wanted to hold onto the memories they were making. Many smiley selfies made it out the spray, and I’m sure we’ll look back on them fondly. I hope you enjoy the one I included at the top of my post, for sure a crowd favorite.

As we’re only a couple days into our time in Zambia I find myself having learned some small lessons. Mostly though, we’re looking forward to Zambezi. How will our classes go? Who will be our host family? Will the views from the bush planes be as cool as Ethan has described? While waiting we’re definitely enjoying our time here. The first sights of giraffes, zebras, and hippos has brought an excited smile to all of our faces. Tomorrow we head out to a two day safari, so expect a day off from the blog but some literary heat to come your way soon.

I want to leave you with our first tension that arose from the group today, and that I’m guessing will continue with us. How do we hold both names that exist for the falls we saw today? Look at the seven natural wonders of the world and the Victoria Falls are listed. Ask Father Barraza and he’d tell you their real name is Mosi-oa-Tunya, “The Smoke that Thunders.” This is what a google search won’t tell you. This is what we can easily turn away from and not lean into. This is balancing how we see colonialism having shaped Zambia and how we interact or understand Zambian spaces.

This is a tension we are not able to fully articulate. As we continue our time together I hope we can treat these goals of complete understanding more like the fabled Ithacas they are than the facade of a landing that can exist. As we all know, our journey will be what shapes us the most.

“As you set out for Ithaca                                                                                                                hope your road is a long one,                                                                                                              full of adventure, full of discovery.

Keep Ithaca always in your mind.                                                                                            Arriving there is what you’re destined for.                                                                                    But don’t hurry the journey at all.                                                                                                Better if it lasts for years,                                                                                                                     so you’re old by the time you reach the island,                                                                                  wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,                                                                                    not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.

Ithaca gave you the marvelous journey.                                                                                    Without her you wouldn’t have set out.                                                                                          She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca won’t have fooled you.                                                                  Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,                                                                  you’ll have understood by then what these Ithacas mean.”

-C. P. Cavafy


Rachel Haas, Class of 2021


Also, hi family!!! I love and miss you! I’ll be writing one more time, so wait about 21 more days and you’ll hear from me again. A piece of my heart is with you always.

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Every road has a story

Allow me to reintroduce myself to the Zag family. This is Dominic Mizhi Sandu, many like to call me Fr. D. I am  a long time partner of Gonzaga in Zambezi program going to way back in 2007. Am happy to save some time again to accompany the 2019 team and share with them the Zambia hospitality because of the bearing the leadership program has offered to my personal life. 

Today the 19th May, 2019  our journey begun at 07:00 hours from Eureka Farm Camp that hosted Zag team us for our very first night in Zambia. Eureka was a place warm enough to soothe the motion sickness that just need a bed to sleep in order to regain the energy to traverse the African soil and roads.  It took us nearly nine house to travel from Lusaka to Livingstone, a journey that should only take 6-7 hours.

Traveling on a public bus has many conditions especially how one express his or her faith, but on this trip our bus host Mr. Nkoma invited one of the passengers  to offer a prayer for a safe journey. One of the Zags offered to pray and even when she was not loud enough for every person on the bus to hear, the host summed up for us saying,”if you were not praying along then you’re were traveling alone on the full bus.” Our journey was a journey of faith and we are grateful to God for the traveling mercies.

We were almost getting used to the sleeping on the bus, and the potholes on the Zambia roads, when the host woke us up to an announcement about a break down. What came to my mind first was the thought of a tyre puncture but it was not.  The fan belt of the Marcopolo bus had cut and the driver and the host were resolved to replacing it with a new fan belt.

We began to explore the options for ‘plan b’ for travel,  recognizing that we were in the middle of Lusaka and Livingstone cites.  The only option left was to exercise patience. Despite the effort to fix the new fan belt,  the driver and the host of the bus struggled to put it in its right place.

We had many ‘bush automotive engineers’ but they all failed.  Dr. Josh Armstrong, who’s not known for his automotive insights, was asked to offer them his iPhone to help “google the solution” on how to fix a fan belt on Marcopolo bus.

Wisdom tells us never, ever under estimate any person that we have met for the very first time. The person that helped fix the bus was actually a humble passenger that came to our aid and helped the driver to repair the bus. Thankfully google machine and the passenger repaired the bus. One other lesson I learnt from the bus experience is be good to people I meet on the road because they may be of help to me at some point or the other as the saying goes, “stranger is only a friend you don’t know.”

The break on the bus had taken close to two hours. The trip after the breakdown became even more enjoyable– the noisy tv was switched off, people begun to talk freely to one another. Many  fellow passengers slept peacefully until we reached Choma town. when most passengers were asleep the man who helped repaired the bus disembarked at Choma without even thanking him.

The story of this experience has just opened our awareness process of this journey we has just embarked on in Zambia. We know we shall be here as a team but we do not know each other giftedness when it may be applied to help the Zambezi Zag team.  Thank you entrusting your loved ones to this country – we look forward to the next journey and lessons.

Dominic Sandu


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Arrived safely in Zambia

We are tired, but this is a quick posting to let all parents and friends know that we have arrived safely in Lusaka.  We will write a reflection once we settle into Livingstone tomorrow.  

Josh & Zags in Zambia

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