Challenging stereotypes and seeking clarity

Our dedicated students in the Business and Leadership class, including our precious Mama Violet on the left.

Musana Mwane! Another full day wrapping up here in Zambezi!

Earlier this week, Kris and Jeff made the executive decision to now have breakfast at 7:30 instead of 8:00. This news hit us hard, especially those of us who stayed up until midnight chatting last night. When I hurried out of bed at 7:45, I anticipated being the last to sit at the table. However, everyone else took this “7:30 breakfast” pretty loosely, too. Kris stunned us with amazing cinnamon toast and Jeff made the switch from our usually scrambled eggs to fried eggs today.

The business team headed to the gazebo at 10:00 for class. I think we waited about 20 minutes to begin to allow for all our participants to arrive. And that’s on #ZambiaTime. Today’s lesson was about Root Cause Analysis. This lesson asked the class to look for problems in the community, identify the causes of the problem, and then find the institutional source that creates this cause. Some of the topics mentioned by our students included early marriage, flaws with the education system, lack of clean water, and prostitution.

As an outsider, it was easy for me to feel an initial shock of how foreign and large these problems appear to be. However, it challenged me to think about issues that exist within my communities. I reminded myself that if someone were to come to the United States, there would be many things that would seem foreign to them. Bella gave an example about the houseless population in Seattle and anti-homeless infrastructure. A default issue I go back to is the presence of mass shootings and gun culture back home. While it’s easy to critique others, it’s important to also look inward with a critical eye.

After class, we had our language and culture lesson with Mama Josephine. We went through our Luvale phrases and vocab words quickly, leaving lots of time for music. Thanks to Bella nominating me on the first day of lessons, Mama Josephine has me assist her with leading the songs we sing. Today, I was given an official title: Choir Mistress. Mom and Dad, you’ll for sure be hearing “Twaya Mwanta” once I’m home.

I had some free time in the afternoon allowing me to attend the health class. Today’s topic was mental health taught by Professor Ehler. Grace did a wonderful job guiding the conversation surrounding mental health and leading meditation exercises. Along with the rest of the health team, she answered some really tough questions. I was very proud of the entire team for the way they responded to the questions and challenged stereotypes. Woohoo for women in healthcare!

Coach Debby Kasoma (center) with Coach Sikes to his right after a spirited game of ultimate, which was new to most Zags and all of the ZamCity crew.

Many of us piled in the truck and headed to ZamCity. Grace S. taught us some fundamentals of Ultimate Frisbee before we broke off into teams. Half put on red pinnies, half green, and Jeff put on his game face. He really showed off his skills today, leading his team to victory with the help of the ZamCity kids. As for me, I had a few good moments but I’ll stick to rugby.

Kendall Adams, 2025

PS: Adams fam, safe travels to New York this weekend and have an amazing time at the wedding! Please take videos of Dad, so sad to be missing out on such a big family moment. Meg, drive up to Pacifica for me. You know where to go. Aidan, give Rafa an extra big hug tonight.

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Highlights from a joy-filled day in Zambezi

Sunset photoshoot at the canoe landing.

Unlike Bella I’ve almost been dreading the day I write blog. Writing isn’t my favorite. But today turned out to be the perfect day for me.

It’s a beautiful morning when I wake up right before breakfast here at the convent. Lauren, Sierra, and Dee are in the kitchen furiously cooking up a delicious breakfast with some fun tunes in the background. I come and join Grace E. and Maddy in the living room reading.

Lauren interrupts singing breakkkfassst!

Breakfast starts with a discussion of who’s swapping books with whom and a heated grilling of Lauren about what she thinks of the book she just finished 

Bella declares these the best eggs yet.

I’m sitting in the living room reading my book and Maddy and Kendall are on dishes. Maddy’s playing country music that is making me so happy, and I feel even more at home. I have a good feeling about today.

Clare and Grace S. are in their first roommate fight because apparently a lizard crawled out of Clare’s backpack after Grace teased her, saying “I hope it crawls into your bed” when they saw it in their bathroom last night.

Class time! We gather in the gazebo for another class today to discuss leadership styles. We got into a really great discussion with an example scenario featuring three types of leaders: one laissez faire, one democratic, and one authoritarian. One of the students attending our class, Rickson, began challenging the original consensus, which led to some passionate beliefs from some other members of the group. It was amazing to hear what they thought about the qualities that make a good leader, and I really agreed with a lot of them whole heartedly. 

In the afternoon we made a trip to the market to look for some chitenge, and it was very successful. I found one for a gift, made a stop by the tailor’s to drop off a skirt order to sweet mama Mary, and headed to Wendy’s shop where I found the perfect pink chitenge for a skirt I want made!!

We made it back to the convent just in time for a delicious lunch prepared by Mama Katendi, Mama Violet, and Hattie. Then the health team went off for their class and the education team headed to the school. 

I felt loved, and a bit smothered, by these children.

I wanted to relax and enjoy the sunshine so I went to sit outside and read. I was off to a rocky start, as the chickens were wandering a little too close for comfort and one of the chicks kept attempting to peck my foot. Then I was swarmed by about 15 kids—Sharon, Gracious, Gabriel, and many more. They at first were shy and quite worried I would tell them to leave, but then they warmed up and started playing with my hair and asking me lots of questions. I learned their favorite movies, foods, etc. They were very interested in just about everything; my book, my bracelet, my rings, etc. They were sweet and though they crossed some boundaries, first of all by being in the convent walls, I enjoyed getting to know them. We shared lots of laughs and they were repeatedly trying to get me to play games with them, which I was very much not up for. They kept plaiting my hair and asked to take pictures, so we took lots.  Eventually, I could tell they weren’t ever going to leave, so I had to make up an excuse to go inside. I gave lots of hugs, and we said goodbye. The kids here are beautiful and very interested in us, but it is sometimes a challenge to draw productive boundaries for how much and what kinds of interactions we should have with them. If given the chance, they’d be with us non-stop, but that would limit our time to grow as a group and to develop relationships with Zambian adults.

Once I moved back inside to read, I realized it just wasn’t in the cards for me today. Grace E. said we should play B.S. (a card game in which every player has to lie about the cards in their hand and the purpose is to not be found out) and I couldn’t resist. Kendall, Dee, and Sierra joined us, and this was probably one of my most fun experiences playing B.S. We all got really invested and there was some beef between Grace E. and Kendall as we discovered that Grace may have a not-so-honest side.

We finally decided to stop playing after countless rounds, and the education team returned from their time at the boarding school. We then somehow ended up in a circle all sharing pictures from our freshman year of high school and other small mementos. I have felt close with these girls almost everyday, but today felt just a little more comfortable. I think we all brought out more of our authentic selves, whether that be in terrifying old pictures or slightly mean jokes we probably wouldn’t make to anyone else who wouldn’t know we were kidding. We truly feel like a family here, and I couldn’t imagine this experience with any other group of girls.

We ended the day with a walk down to the Zambezi River to watch the sunset. This ultimately led to some 0.5 photos and making a Video Star to the song “Space Unicorn,” which was truly a masterpiece and quite the throwback. There were some fun moments out by the river such as a conversation between Kendall and Clare that went something like this:

“Clare, who sings that song?”

“The Carpenters”

“Let’s keep it that way”

…. ouch

“You’re a bad egg”

“No, I’m Kendall”

Followed by some giggles.

Overall, today was probably one of my favorite days yet. I had a few great connections with Zambians, but I also really cherished my time with all of the girls today (+Jeff). 

The small joys of my day:

  • Lulu’s random singing outbursts.
  • The attendees at our business and leadership class sharing out their brand logos they designed for themselves based on their personal values.
  • Teeny tiny baby chicks.
  • Mama Wendy’s adorable one-year old, Melanie.
  • My guava juice and Red Bull combo.
  • The uchi bars Mama Katendi and Mama Violet made for us as a snack.
  • The chitenge I bought today with adorable elephants on it. (Might just wear it everyday from now on.)
  • Laughing with each and every one of these girls.
  • Maddy playing country music this morning. 
  • Hugs and lots more hugs.
  • Kris’ smile.
  • Making cold brew.
  • Watching the sunset over the Zambezi River with all of my family here.
  • Jeff grabbing a stick and pretending to be an elder to tease the Zambian kids.
  • Conversations with Sierra and Dee on the walk back from the river.
  • A game of Sardines.
  • S’mores and reflection by the fire.

So. Much. Joy.

P.S. Hi to all my peeps at home reading this! I miss you so so much more than you know and hope you’re all doing well. Can’t wait to see you all and give you the biggest hugs when I get home. Love you more <3

Megan Benham, ’23

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Learning to relish deeper conversations

This gallery contains 12 photos.

I woke up to my alarm, and immediately pressed “snooze,” hoping to relish a few more minutes of sleep.  But as I rested my eyes, I suddenly remembered: I’M ON BLOG TODAY!!! Hi, my name is Bella, and I’ve been waiting … Continue reading

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Going beyond the market

Our crew helped coach a Sports for Life festival featuring a host of individual sports
and a health talk for a few hundred local youth.

Saturday, June 3rd.

Peeling away the safety of our trusty mosquito nets to journey to the convent’s jack-and-jill bathroom and the intensely cold showers.

Breakfast, seemingly more and more extravagant every day, prepared by our pals and shared family-style around a makeshift collection of wooden tables and chairs.

The monotonous sound of running water accompanied by the hard work of Bella’s JBL as it supplements our dishwashing with pumpin’ jams.

And the hustle and bustle of preparation for the day’s work: the health team organizing lessons and pamphlets, the business and leadership team putting on their name tags and practicing their lessons, and the education team preparing their hearts to observe the students at both Chilenga School and the Zambezi Secondary Boarding School. 

These are glimpses into the simple morning routine that we have quickly grown fond of and found comfort in. These daily occurrences are quite homey and contribute to the overall greatness that is Zambezi, Zambia.

This morning, however, disrupted our routine. For the first time in Zambezi, we weren’t working on our projects or exploring the market.

We woke up this morning with 1/13th of our heart travelling to Solwezi as Genesis makes the trip back home to Spokane. We will miss her insightful commentary, her vast knowledge on what seems like everything under the sun, and her zealous heart for adrenaline. Our group has been forever impacted by Genesis’s positive influence, and we will be thinking of her every day.

Things are not the same without you, Genesis. We love you!

In contrary to our typical Zambezi morning routine, our Saturday looked like this:

Quick brekky.

“What’s the time?” says Jeff grumpily? 

“It’s 8:00 AM”

“Let’s go! We are supposed to be there at 8:00 AM.” Yes, grumpy.

Soccer, rugby, and volleyballs

Frisbees, the JBL, water bottles, fanny packs

and fourteen sleepy Zags piled into the back and the bed of Father David’s trusty white Toyota Hilux.

Kris in the driver’s seat, obvi. 

ZAMCITY! 

Hundreds of kids, 12 sports stations, controlled chaos. 

I revisited one of my first loves, soccer, as a ZamCity football coach! I am certainly out of practice, but it was an incredible experience kicking the ball around and playing 5v5 games with young athletes. We worked alongside Zambian athletes to help coach a variety of sports. While Hattie and I coached football (soccer), Dee coached martial arts, Kendall coached rugby, Sierra and Megan coached yoga, Clare and Lauren coached XC running, Grace E. and Maddie coached volleyball, Grace S. coached ultimate frisbee, and Bella coached dance. We are quite the athletic bunch!

Following our long morning with ZamCity, we nervously prepared to leave for the night for homestays. It is hard to encapsulate the individual experience of each of my peers as we all traveled to different homestay families. But I will say that after our Sunday lunch debrief, each and every one of us has a fabulous time.

Lauren and me with the Saviye family: Kelly, Janet, Mwana, Fatima, and little Ben (clockwise from left).

Lauren and I visited the home of Kelly and Janet Saviye (also the home of Audrey, Fatima, Mwana, and Ben), and after our 5pm pickup, we walked to the Zambezi river to watch the sunset. When we returned home, we were given a quick house tour and were served a literal silver platter of tea and all the fixins. For dinner, we assisted Mwana as she prepared chicken (fresh from the coop, eek!), chicken soup, nshima, cabbage, rice, and sweet potato fries; it was quite the delicious spread. Through thoughtful conversations with Kelly and his family, I left feeling welcome and inspired by their ambition and hospitality and challenged to think more deeply about my world view. Lauren and I both left this morning with full tummies, chitenge, a Lunda dictionary, and even four meat pies made by Mama Janet. Lauren and I are so excited to get our chitenge tailored so we can show Kelly and Janet our fits.

To my family and friends at home, I love you so much and I am excited to tell you EVERYTHING! If you know my mom, please text her to make sure that she knows how to find this post; you might even need to give her a little Facetime tutorial, whoopie! Thank you for reading. Happy birthday in heaven, Brooks. 

<3 Kylie Mukai, ’25

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Full Hearts

Impromptu 80s dance party while doing
the brekkie dishes.
(L-R: Dee, Bella, Kylie, Clare, and Grace S.)

Musana Mwane blog readers!  

Yesterday was a hard day for many, so we woke up today with hope for more positivity in this beautiful Friday! Clare, Dee, Grace S., and I woke up early to go for a run. While we ran, Sierra, Grace E., and Bella cooked up some eggs, oats apples/oranges/bananas, and French toast. It was DELICIOUS!! This fueled us and got us prepared for the day.

The vibes continued to be good as the dishes were washed and Taylor Swift was played all throughout (friends and family at home please keep me updated on the Eras tour). Today is also our 13th day of this trip, which is Taylor’s lucky number so things are bound to go right.

Next on the schedule was the business class led by Megan, Bella, Kendall, and Dee. They talked about core values and everyone was very engaged and excited about all of the discussions. They also took some personality tests and talked about social styles. While they taught, Kylie, Genesis, Hattie, Maddie, and I all went to the market to pick up some skirts that Genesis had made and to buy some chitenge (fabric). At 12:00 Mama Josephine came to teach us Luvale/Lunda. We learned a lot of common phrases and two songs. Mama Josephine is a great teacher and did a wonderful job of being patient and elegantly explaining the pronunciation of words. Once class was done, Clare, Bella, Kylie, and Kendall immediately broke into improv song and dance performances that were so good you would think they were actually choreographed.

For lunch, we had a quinoa salad and a fruit salad that was so lovingly prepared by Mama Katendi and Mama Violet. We were all silent because it was so good. The Mamas never miss.

After lunch it was time for dishes once again and the playlist for this dance/cleaning party was 80s music. We heard songs like Super Trouper, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, and One Way or Another. Is there a better way to bond than to boogy? The answer is no. By now it was 2:30 and it was time for Kris, Jeff, Hattie, Maddie, Kylie, and me to head to the Zambezi boarding school and for Grace E, Clare, Genesis, Sierra, and Grace S to teach their health class. We had so much fun at the school observing a spelling class, drama class, and a debate class. Getting to see how Zambians run their school system was really cool and all of the teachers that we met were incredibly passionate about education. At the same time, the health class had 14 attendees today and their focus for their lesson was sutures.

Once we were all back together we played fun games like Slap Jack, drew, and danced some more (because duh) while we waited for dinner. We had a dish with potatoes in eggs (like a french-fry quiche) alongside rice, apples, oranges, and leftover quinoa with a newly purchased and very popular chip seasoning sprinkled all over.

Today was overall very good, but we did find out some pretty sad news. Genesis will be leaving us tomorrow to head back home due to a family emergency. We will miss her so, so much and wish she could stay, but also wish her the safest journey home. We were able to say goodbye to her by getting all sappy and partaking in a very sweet group hug. We spent a lot of time together as a group today and I think that it was really nice after having such a hard day yesterday. One recurring theme that I have noticed with this group is that no matter what any of us are going through, we are there for each other. We check in with one another and allow ourselves to be unapologetically vulnerable. This to me, is a very rare and special group of women (+Jeff) and experience that we get to share with one another.

To my family/friends and boyfriend at home. I miss you all terribly and can’t wait to show you all 1000000000 pictures when I get back. Please prepare yourselves. I’m thinking of making a slideshow. Attendance is mandatory. I love you all!! 

Lauren Benham, WSU class of ’25

PS for those following us from afar. Tomorrow night we will be away for our homestays, so check back on Sunday for the next update!

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Ups and Downs

The Gonzaga-in-Zambezi education team meets with the English Department at Zambezi Boarding School

Good morning from Hattie and the rest of the Gonzaga-in-Zambezi crew! I
apologize for the delay in this blog post—right when we went to post it at
about 11 o’clock last night, half of it deleted, and we decided to call it for
the night. This unfortunate end to the day was one of a few lows in our first
day of the health, education, and business programs—a day of ups and downs.

The morning started off strong with a group of runners and a nutritious
breakfast provided by Kylie, Kendall, and Genesis. After breakfast, Kris drove
Kylie, Maddie, Lauren, and I to Chilenga school in time for 3rd period at 8:40
a.m. I had the privilege of sitting in on an 8th grade math class, where the
teacher uncomfortably joked about how he still used chalk “like in the
19th century” instead of a Dry-Erase marker. Overall, however, the content
and structure of the class was similar to math classes that I’ve assisted in at
my former primary school, and I enjoyed watching and helping as the students
practiced problems on inequalities and solving for variables.

After the class ended, I wandered past the school buildings to a dusty field
on the schoolgrounds where there was a ton of activity. Apparently, the primary
school had cancelled classes for the day and was hosting a sports day instead.
Students played volleyball, soccer, and net ball, a game similar to basketball.
I found Lauren and Maddie, who will usually teach 6th grade English and Music
classes, engaged in an intense game of net ball with other girls. I joined in
and tried to adhere to the confusing rules. I look forward to playing more
games with these students and other locals throughout our time here.

At 10 a.m. Kendall, Dee, and Bella started their first business and leadership
class. Though the turnout was smaller than expected today, Mama Josephine and
her friend Mama Christine, who both attended the lesson, raved about the session when we came across them later in the market. The business team also shared that the attendees seemed engaged and were happy with the ratio of male and female community members in
attendance.

Clare, Grace S., Grace E., and Sierra headed to the Mother and Child Clinic
this morning. Unfortunately, they were not able to do much today because of a
lack of supplies, the language barrier, and merely the lack of activity going
on in the clinic today as they were mostly scheduling patients. Nevertheless,
the health team did a great job observing and asking difficult questions. I
felt privileged to join them, along with Jeff, Kris, Lauren, and Maddie, at one
of Jeff’s “secret” spots—an open-air shop where we bought cool drinks
and muffins and debriefed our mornings under the shade of the thatched roof. I
look forward to learning more about the health system here through the
experiences of my peers.

Originally, I was going to take a different approach with this blog, but
after reflecting with the whole group and learning about other’s experiences, I
realized that today unraveled many of our idyllic expectations and illuminated
the challenges of our programs and the difficulties of navigating uncomfortable
situations.

Despite these bumps in the road, however, joy and inspiration persisted. Kendall,
Bella, Kylie, and Lauren did some bomb reenactments of a Taylor Swift concert.
The group shared a ton of laughs while playing Best Story Wins before dinner. Mama
Katendi, Mama Violet, and Dee prepared a delicious traditional Zambian meal of
cabbage, nshima, and fried chicken (RIP Norman and Rockwell). The education
team was inspired by students’ engagement in drama, debate, spelling bee, and
writing projects at Zambezi boarding school.

The shiny veil of our expectations has been torn away to reveal a more
complicated and nuanced reality. We are settling into this unfamiliar place.
The sound of the rooster crowing early in the morning… and at any and every
other time of day. The flickering shadows of laundry hanging on the line. The
sight of Mama Katendi and Mama Violet cooking in the kitchen. The pungent smell
of fish in the market. The cold shower to rinse off several layers of sweat
before bed. The feeling of small sweaty hands held in our own. This place is starting
to feel like home.

And yet, I know that many of my peers are hitting a stage of slight homesickness,
and that the only reason I’m so content here is because I know I will return to
my comfortable life and loving family in a few weeks. I am so thankful for this
incredible opportunity and for the thoughts and prayers from family and friends
back home. Know that I am embracing this experience and look forward to sharing
it with you when I return. The group is doing well and greatly appreciates your
support and comments. Keep the love coming, and we’ll keep thriving!

Much love,

Hattie Harrold, ‘23

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Lauren and I playing duck, duck, goose with several children near the convent.

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.

The sunset from our spot celebrating Kris’s birthday.

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 🙂

Much love,
Maddie Ford, ’23

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The proof of love is in all of us.

A view down one of the main roads to the Zambezi market.

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. 

With love,

Grace Ehler, ’24

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Time has come

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.

A pair of birds in call and response while in Lusaka. Our students singing on the bus to Livingstone. Life inside Livingstone National Museum on Africa Day. A few small sounds from the Safari. Everyday business at the jumpsite on Victoria Falls Bridge. A member of the Fawlty Towers team raking leaves that fell overnight. A woman in the Livingstone Public Market teaching us how she operates a knitting machine. Our pilot, Lukas, walking through his pre-check and engine start for our flight to Zambezi.

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.

Jeff Dodd, Gonzaga University English Department

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Taking the dive

The bridge over the Zambezi at Mosi-oa-Tunya (Victoria Falls), completed in 1905.

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

Genesis Middlebos, ’26

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