We Truly Felt Most Welcome

Pre-departure plane pic. We love and miss you already Mama Katendi <3
The expansive and mighty Zambezi river from the view of our plane.
The view from my seat: Fearless pilot Lukas enjoying the beauty while safely getting us to Lusaka.

Hello dear friends and loved ones,

Today is yet another turning point in our time together and our relationship with Zambezi, the community that we have come to cherish so dearly. I am coming to you live from the cockpit of our bush plane, just having taken off en route to Lusaka and soon the United States. I wish you could see the beauty and immensity of the landscape below-its untouched green purity is remarkable and inspiring.

As you all can imagine, many emotions are present today. Immense joy for the time we have shared together with Zambians and Zags. Resounding gratitude for the people, old friends and new, that have impacted each one of our lives through their stories, generosity, and welcome. Wonderful laughs for the fun jokes, convent moments, open air drives, and dynamic students we have been graced with. Curiosity for how our time here in Zambezi will percolate into our daily lives back in America. Admiration for the sense of community that exists in this special place. Sadness for the apparent closing of this chapter together.

Just twenty three short days ago I sat right here in this same seat. Seat belt fastened tight, I was curious for what lay ahead. Never could I have imagined the depth of love, warmth, challenge, adventure, beauty, resilience, and togetherness that would shape my time in Zambezi. How is it possible that in this short time people and a place can become so incredibly special?

While I have been grappling with this question for the past few days, I am continually reminded of its possibility simply because Zambians care. They care so deeply for themselves, for one another, for each child, each mama, each neighbor young and old, and each visitor. Family is important and no one goes unseen or uncared for. It was apparent to us too, we felt most cared for, we truly felt most welcome.

This sense of care is facilitated by authentic intentionally and pure hard work. No where in my life have I ever seen a community of individuals that day in day out each work so hard with the intention to support each other, provide for one another, and enjoy life together. I am reminded of some poignant words Josh shared with a few of us in the land cruiser on our drive to Dipalata, “In America you can be lazy but still successful. In Africa you can be hard-working but still not offered opportunity.” Wow. Many moments have arisen in which these words have become painfully present for me. In a land where hard work is prevalent and foundational, what could I share to those who yearn for a chance for the opportunities that I am blessed with? Instead of persisting on these thoughts that at one point I may have become stuck on, I now feel that I am called to witness the joy, celebration, worship, dedication, and authentic hospitality of these beautiful people and instead receive their example and appreciation for the goodness of life.

At the accompaniment dinner two nights ago, our beloved friend and skilled tailor, Mary, shared a foundational Zambian sentiment, “Twama Nge Mulya”. In her words, it means that “You should not be seated and want eat. You should instead stand up and be counted, work to eat.” Through the fervor of her speech, the collective desire for all to contribute and provide was articulated. It was clear that she and the other Zambian guests were passionate about this call and it’s representation in society. Let the power and strength of her words and voice be an example for us all.

No one better personifies this Zambian proverb than our beloved Mama Katendi. Dedicated as the Mama of the group, she has worked diligently with Gonzaga in Zambezi for 15 years, starting the very first year Gonzaga came to Zambia. While she lived in Zambezi for many years, she has since moved to Mufulira, however continues to return each May/June for another ZAG crew. Each day, Mama Katendi beautifully prepares lunch and dinner for our group, often using 5 pots at once with stir sticks ablaze as nshima is boiled or greens are simmered. Each day that chicken is on the menu she is in charge of the dispatch, quick and clean, she is the definition of a strong Zambian woman, working hard to put food on the table. While she always says that she loves working with us, internally she is working to support her family as a single mother. She is working so her children can go to university in Lusaka and seek opportunity. She is working to put food on the table for her young children back home. She is working hard in pure love for her family’s survival. Walking through the market with Mama Katendi is so inspiring as she is often stopped by dear friends so delighted and grateful to see her. Her selflessness and passion for serving others has fostered a vast community of love surrounding her in Zambezi. Mama Katendi stands to be counted as a woman of resilience and fortitude, working hard literally for the livelihood of her family. I am inspired by Mama’s selflessness and her steadfast passion to see her children thrive.

ZAGS jumping for joy on the bank of the Zambezi after an exciting crossing in transitional wooden canoes.
Look at all those ZAGS enjoying a beautiful sunset, one of our favorite Zambezi pastimes.

As we journey forward, the lessons and memories are plentiful and deep. Each one of us has a unique piece of Zambezi etched into our hearts that will no doubt impact the course of our life path. While I feel called to dig into being intentional about what it means to work hard in all times, inspired by the example of our fearless Mamas, each Zags heart will individually lead them in growth. For many of us this may be the only time in which we are physically in this place; however, our friends will always be on our hearts and in our WhatsApps, captured memories will be treasured on our cameras and phones, newfound food loves may grace our home tables, beautiful melodies will be on our minds, and we will be able to relive special moments annually through the words and reflection of future blogging Zags in Zambezi. Even if it’s cheesy, this is only the beginning for this group of Gonzambians 2022.

Each morning at the breakfast table sharing the blog post has become a precious routine moment. Through the comments and replies you are there with us. We love and appreciate your support and dedication as faithful followers in this experience 🙂 See you soon!
Before I sign off, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention the EPIC dance party all of us shared after dinner with our Gonzaga longtime friend Dom and mama Katendi’s sons Teddy and Goodson. A memorable start to our time in Lusaka.

Kisu Mwane.

All my love,

Emily Bundy
Gonzaga University
Class of 2023

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First and Last

Big Circle, Many Pushups

Last night, as our Zambezi friends slowly filtered out the door after our accompaniment dinner, I walked towards the familiar sounds of the local choir and the sight of two fires in the sand; all alone in Zambian darkness, the grand vibration of travel and adventure and feeling far, far, from home swallowed me whole. The drumbeats and the swishing of my feet in the sand grew as I walked, and I stared upwards at the stars within constellations hidden away in this continually new hemisphere. For just a moment, I imagined my location on the spinning globe lamp at home in Idaho and felt utterly alone. In that moment, I could not comprehend how I could ever explain what we did here or why we even tried, and the only people who would understand would soon be too far away. I turned and briefly walked back towards the familiarity of the convent before realizing it was time to take a breath and walk into another new situation. I walked again towards the choir fire and the night began in earnest.

The happy fire seemed like a good place to bring friends, with music, warmth and some more Zambian dancing all included. So, I returned to the convent once more and recruited a small crew ready to keep expanding our growing comfort zones.

It turned out someone had died.

This party was a funeral.

However, the mourning choir still wanted us to stay. I asked a few people which individual had unfortunately perished, but they didn’t not know the name. I asked how long they would sing, “all night” was their only response. Brendan, Joci, and I only managed to 3:30am.

We stayed as long as we were able, balancing our feelings of living in the moment and respect for a custom we do not understand. The choir danced and sang with other mourners, stopping only once for tea. Others cooked food or prepared sleeping mats with blankets inside a small building behind the fires, while some sat silently at the adjacent fire covered in blankets or laying in the sand. Brendan, Joci, and I remained among the choir, trying to learn dances and songs our Chindele hips did not understand. They appreciated our effort, and we loved their grace and warmth.

We are all trying to soak in as much as we can before our group says goodbye to Zambezi. I am grateful to be here at all. I planned to come to Zambezi with Gonzaga in the summer of 2020. That trip was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic, and I never thought I would have the chance to experience this wonderful place, but here I am in Zambezi, Zambia. Those words still don’t quite make sense after everything that has happened the past two years. My first blog post was on the first full day we were here, and my second and last post is on the last full day we are here. It seems obvious to say, but I truly believe we have all learned more than we could ever explain in the time between.

I am tiring of saying goodbye to so many good friends and stories. As a group, we must wave farewell to our Mamas, Violet and Katendi who have cared so dearly for us the last few weeks; the students in our class like Julius and Guyauna; the shop owners and tailors in the market like Mary and Jessie; and the leaders who taught us during our stay like Eucharia and Debbie Kasoma. Of course, we will never forget our trusty white truck – despite the bruises on our asses – or the color of the Zambezi River at sunset, despite Jeff’s claims that the sun sets everyday, everywhere. We must say goodbye tomorrow morning to a whole world that has welcomed us with open arms and refuses to let go without a fight. However, I believe we can leave in grace, knowing we have danced, cried, sang, negotiated, taught, learned, and lived and worked towards the high Zambian standard.

Today was our final full day in Zambezi and I am still amazed when the lessons of travel and accompaniment sneak into my brain. I woke up thinking of a sage Abbey observation: that Zambians give what they have. If you eat in their home, they will feed you and your friends, no matter how many you have, and with whatever they have; if you need directions, they will personally take you to where you need to go, no matter their schedule; if you die, they will dance and sing for you all damn night, even if they never knew your name. I hope to embrace the love of life that Zambians manage to hold in their everyday interactions and activities. From the big lessons learned here, we can make small changes that will benefit us and those we meet forever. Thanks for everything Zambezi.

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Becoming Real

Zambian friends at Accompaniment Dinner

There is a passage from the Velveteen Rabbit that I have been thinking about for the past week. I’m not sure if it fully relates to today’s activities but I think it relates to one of the many aspects of being in this special place. In this passage, the Velveteen Rabbit asks the Skin Horse what it means to be ‘Real.’ (For context, these characters are stuffed animals). The passage says:

‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.’”

I think this passage can relate to what we are experiencing here. Like one of the previous blog posts highlighted, we haven’t had a mirror in the convent to brush up on our appearances. Dust and dirt covers our faces, and our hair tangles each and every way when we ride in the back of the truck. Additionally, there have been moments of awkwardness from stepping out into a new connection without understanding of a cultural cue or social dynamic (I’m thinking of our dancing at the Makishi ceremony last week). Amidst our appearances that feel rather unfamiliar and unkept and our total surrender into unknown cultural experiences, we have still been covered in love and connection by both the people in this Zambezi community and each other in this group.

Today has made my heart feel very full. I got to watch the final presentations for the Business and Leadership class that I have been teaching with Andie, Nicole and Dugan. In these final presentations, each student was asked to present a business plan that would benefit the Zambezi community in some way. I was very eager to see the hard work that our amazing class had put into their projects. This class has been one of the biggest highlights during my time in Zambezi because I have grown quite fond of every student and the unique personalities that each of them show. Their presentations were absolutely fantastic, and it brought me so much joy when each student thanked us for facilitating the class.

For the remainder of the day, the Zags prepared for the Accompaniment Dinner that we have so anxiously been anticipating. Each person from our Gonzaga group was asked to invite a community member to this dinner to celebrate the friendships and connections made in our time here and close out the journey. Some people chose to invite their homestay hosts, or students from their classes, or their favorite tailor in the market, or even just a random friend they made along the way.

Abbey and Mama Katendi in front of our photo wall

It was during this dinner celebration that many Zambezi friends gave speeches that touched our hearts. Father John, the priest that guided our trip to Dipalata declared: “You have preached to me before I preached to you.” Mama Josephine, our warrior woman and Lunda/Luvale teacher, told us that each person in our group has become one of her children. Jessie, the choir teacher that first welcomed us into Zambezi, sang us a song about saying goodbye. It was quite an emotional evening with many tears but also many smiles, and it felt really nice to be able to show our gratitude and hospitality to the people who have given us so much.

Throughout our time on this journey, I think it’s safe to say that we have all been made to become a little bit more Real.

Kisu Mwane,

Katy Rettenmier, ‘24

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Moments of Joy

Sunset on Zambezi River

Over the last couple of weeks, I have thought often about how I am going to describe and articulate my time in Zambezi to friends and family. There could be no string of words to do my full range of thoughts, feelings, and actions justice. But nonetheless, I will try.

Perhaps the best way to start is by describing my favorite parts of the day in Zambezi. We all have settled in nicely and developed somewhat of a daily routine. Of course, there are slight shifts and opportunities for travel that change the course of the day, but most of these core moments stay relatively the same throughout the week. These daily experiences are how I will remember and center my memories of Zambezi.

During the week, my day normally starts with a run. My running partners vary by day but Josh, Tyler, Andie, and I have formed a consistent group to exercise, chat, and see different parts of town. There is something about seeing a place in the early morning—before kids are off to school and the market vendors are set up—that provides a sense of peace and depth. I am going to miss my running crew and the breathless “Chimene Mwane” (good morning in Luvale) we say to anyone passing by.

Our business and leadership class has quickly become one of my greatest sources of joy throughout our time here. The students are spirited, determined, and engaged with the material and class activities; they often stay after class to further discussion and connection. I always leave the class energized by their enthusiasm and commitment to education. Our diverse range of students (ages ranging from 74-21) inspire me daily; I feel very lucky to facilitate conversations about leadership and self-discovery—it makes me long for a Comprehensive Leadership Program in Zambezi.

Katy and leadership students

Our daily routine here in Zambezi is built around mealtimes. Some days, the only times we are all together is for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Squeezing 22 (or sometimes 23, 24, etc.) around the table(s) has quickly become a highlight of my day. While the food is delicious and prepared with love by our Zambian Mamas, it is the conversation and reflection that occurs at this time that brings me the most joy. Each meal, I usually sit next to someone different, but there always seems to be an interesting thing to talk about. It’s often loud, chaotic, and messy, but it reminds me of home and family. There seems to be a never-ending stream of chatter, laughter, and sarcastic remarks (usually made by our fearless leader, Jeff).

While I have come to love and look forward to our daily routines and habits, I find the most joy in the random, unplanned moments throughout the day. Every day, after lunch, I (and usually 3 or 4 others) venture down to the market for a coke, chitenge, or conversation. While that walk has never changed, the run-ins and moments of connection shift daily. I truly never know who we might see or talk to—and I love it. However, I do have some constant people I must say hello to on my journey through. Jasper—a local shop owner—is often my first stop. His friendly smile and loving “hello” brightens my day and welcomes me into the shop. Patrick and his wife Edith—also shop owners—are usually my second destination. I come in for the chocolate and stay for the conversation. After those initial visits, I usually just wander until I find another home base. Today, I found myself in an open-air restaurant talking to Judith—the sole employee. She is a hardworking single mother who dreams of becoming a nurse; I have a feeling she will be another consistent stop in the market.

I’ve also come to love the chaos of the market. Walking along the main stretch of vendors brings unique smells, sights, and feels—I don’t think I will ever be able to look at or smell dried fish again after this trip. However, I will miss the women selling bananas and avocados at the entrance of the strip, the men encouraging me to buy their watches and chitenge, and the children running up to us for a fist bump or high five. Anytime we leave the comfort of the convent, beautiful, unexpected, and seemingly meaningless moments occur at every turn. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

My days in Zambezi are numbered, and I am not sure I am prepared for the fast-approaching goodbye, but I know that these are the moments I will hold most deeply when reminiscing on my time here. I can’t wait to tell people about the beautiful and at times challenging parts of this experience: the smell of burning plastic in the air, the feeling of nshima on my hands, the sound of Jasper’s laugh, and the strength of Mama Katendi’s hugs.

Much love,

Nicole Perry

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The Beauty in Being Wrong

Please enjoy this picture of Kalie that has nothing to do with this post, but it is amusing, nonetheless.

Goodnight for us, and good morning to you. I hope all of you reading are doing well, and that you are enjoying the blog as much as we are enjoying your responses. There have definitely never been tears at our breakfast table…

I’ve been struggling with how to write this – or rather, what to write about. There is simply so much happening in the community around us. And unless you’re here, seeing it for yourself, it is difficult to fully comprehend the beauty and complexity of what Zambezi is.

This is exactly the conversation I had with Abbey when sharing my difficulty with the blog. She made a point that in Zambezi, we are experiencing much more than a snapshot glance or romanticized version of reality, as we did perhaps in Lusaka and Livingstone. With that comes amazing moments, connections, and sites that are truly unlike any we have experienced before. But it also comes with an inability to describe the community well enough to do it justice. Hence, my dilemma.

Another influential conversation that has been on my mind is one I had with Jeff while we were in Dipalata. The discussion wasn’t long, but conversations with Jeff are almost always reflective and meaningful. He asked me a simple question: “What goals do you have for our last week?”

After contemplating for a few seconds, I recognized a feeling that I haven’t done enough to immerse myself here, and ultimately said that I would really love to meet new people and to hopefully foster relationships with them. We made a plan allowing me to do so, but I felt a little discouraged with it being the last week. And if I’m honest, a little guilty that I just now realized how crucial it is to act on things rather than pushing them until tomorrow, especially when three days remain.

However, the next day I was very pleasantly surprised. I shared with Mama Katendi my desire to meet more people. She agreed to help without hesitation, and she introduced me to her friend, Katherine. I met Katherine later that day, and she immediately made me feel like family. Funny enough, my middle name is also Kathryn, her and my mom are the same age, and I was born the same year as her eldest daughter. Once we calculated all these factors, she jumped up and exclaimed, “I am your aunt!”

Before this meeting, on my way to meet Katherine, I ran into a young boy who I have befriended. His name is Junior. He’s the same age as my youngest brother and quite reminds me of him, so a natural connection has formed throughout my time in Zambezi. Junior walked with me to meet Katherine and waited outside for an hour so that he could walk me back.

This first day in which I had been actively searching for deep relationships proved to be incredibly successful – not only in the sense that I had started said connections, but also that it truly highlighted some of the most beautiful Zambian characteristics that I can begin to articulate. Such as Mama Katendi’s willingness and quickness to help someone, even when it took time from what she was doing. Or Katherine’s ability to make me feel loved by someone I had just met. And sweet Junior’s consideration for me without a hesitation of thought.

As I’m sure it’s become a theme throughout the beautiful blogs before, the hospitality of the Zambians we have met is unmatched. And even with the way we’ve described this characteristic, it still cannot fully encapsulate the totality of it. How do you describe something that cannot be defined? Hospitality at home means something entirely different than here – in America it refers to setting aside time exclusively for one person, but in Zambezi it means “doing life together in a way that meets the other where they are” – Blaine Atkins.

My discouragement coming into this week truly underestimated both the powerful love of Zambian people and my own ability to connect. I was scared that I had missed my chance to make as many valuable and irreplaceable relationships as possible. But Mama Katendi proved me wrong. Katherine proved me wrong. And Junior, you guessed it, proved me wrong. I can’t wait to see how Zambezi continues to prove me wrong in my time remaining here.

Kisu Mwane,
Eva Palmer ‘23

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“Let it be”

What does it mean to just be?

This past week’s rest stop on the way to Dipalata

I look back to the moment I raised my hand at that breakfast in Lusaka. Now here I am three weeks later, sitting in the living room of the convent, looking at the array of pictures and posters covering the once blank walls, smelling the aroma of the mama’s (and Jazmine’s) cooking wafting into the living room, and listening to the laughter and chatter of my classmates in the background. A place that once seemed so foreign has quickly become our home.

Writing that first blog post of our journey both feels like yesterday and like it was an eternity ago at the same time. I remember the anticipation I felt, ready to leap into the unknown while fear of not knowing what that was. As we are just getting into our last week in Zambezi, that fear has turned into so much joy, joined by sadness. I can’t stop wondering how I am going to leave a place that has given me so much.

In our time here, we’ve talked a lot about the act of being present. In a community that is so different than the culture that we grew up in and are accustomed to, it’s easy to let the guilt and discomfort we feel pull us away from truly appreciating the raw beauty of this new environment. I’ve found being present increasingly difficult approaching this last week here, with a constant feeling of dread, deep in my gut.

This dread has slowly crept into my days here. I find myself sitting in computer class or my classroom at the basic school and I can’t help but let my sadness overcome my thoughts. All I want is to hold onto this week and never let go, yet all I’m doing is thinking about the inevitable departure on Saturday. When do we let go of everything preoccupying our thoughts and just be, and what does that even mean?

We come from a culture of doing. Success is measured by the job you have, the number of activities you do, your intelligence, etc.  We are trained to spend our days filled with back-to-back programs, normalizing a lifestyle that allots little free time. It leaves no time to learn how to just live.

In reflecting on this, I’m realizing that I’ve let so many moments of real-life pass by me because I was so caught up on events of the future or even the past. These last two weeks in Zambezi have taught me so much, but the number one thing I want to bring back to my life in the U.S is starting to just be present and live, as embodied by so many of the Zambians we’ve encountered on this journey.

New and old friends

I want to be like Philip, eyes glistening in awe as he sees all the font options on a computer. Like Eddie, dancing in joy as he solves a problem he was stuck on. I want to be like Marry, Jessie, Ben and Jasper, the pure smiles on their faces as we enter their shops in the market. Be like the people of Dipalata, with music and faith carrying them through all the difficulties of life. I want to be like 12-year-old Rosa who wants to be a pharmacist because she “just wants to help people”.

I will forever cherish the moments sitting outside the convent in the morning before the day starts or the walks in the market, smiling at all the familiar faces; moments where I felt truly human. While these are moments that will always be in my heart, they aren’t glued to Zambezi. I still have a lot to learn about the simple act of living that I look forward to continuing to explore when I’m back home.

The act of living in the moment and taking in all the little precious moments in life you can seems simple, however in retrospect being able to take in these moments as they come is one of the hardest things I’ve encountered on this trip. Whether it’s the various illnesses or the unavoidable homesickness, I’ve found myself so preoccupied by outside factors that I forget to just look around me. Sometimes in these situations, all you need is to just be.

What does just being even mean when I go back to the fast paced, individualistic culture that is the U.S? I don’t know, but if there’s anything that this trip has taught me that I will treasure coming into my last week here is to just take a moment, take a deep breath, look around and just be.

Do I even need a caption for this?

Ufuku mwane as I’m writing this here in Zambezi, and a chimene mwane to all reading in the United States.

Sarah Barsky ‘24

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Mwyanga mwane friends and family and people who fall in to both categories! We are back to blogging after spending last night in Dipalata, a rural village an hour and a half from Zambezi. In Dipalata we taught some short classes and attended a three hour church service, but mostly spent time hanging out with people who lived there through Mama Josephine, Katendi, and Violet as translators, broken English, or just gestures and laughter as well as shared activities like singing or playing soccer together. I read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein to a group of kids, and vastly summarized the last few pages so I could put the book away and go cry. Stupid tree. Mom and Dad, some of the things you did when I was little slowly start to make more sense as I get older.

vroom vroom

As you may have guessed from the above photo, one of our cars got stuck in the mud on a hill on the way to Dipalata. What you may not have guessed, is that we don’t know any of the people in this photo. Our car got stuck in front of maybe 20-30 people walking up the hill that we were driving up. Pretty soon everyone had gathered around the car and we had gotten out to help lighten the load. Very few of them spoke any English, we don’t speak Lunda or Luvale, and Father John (who speaks all three languages and was driving) couldn’t hear anyone very well from inside the car. Thus, there were no introductions and instead instant beautiful chaos of suggestions and gestures and a lot of Lunda all focused exclusively on solving the problem.

What struck me particularly was how communal the chaos was. None of the people passing by were obligated to stop, yet all of them did and most were genuinely invested in helping solve the problem. Each person who called out a suggestion appeared to have seriously considered the situation first, and quickly accepted if their solution was dismissed by the rest of the group. In this way the group quickly moved through several potential solutions, trying the promising ones, seemingly without hurting anyone’s feelings and all the while getting closer to solving the problem. Eventually, the group of young men in the photo jumped in and tried pushing the car first uphill, then downhill, and when that worked, they erupted in to whooping cheers and ran up the hill through all the onlookers and around the bend, cheering all the way. It could have been a scene out of a movie. A few minutes later, we drove past them walking in to a village bar up the street.

This whole interaction was fascinating to me because despite all my frustrations with American culture, I’ve always considered problem solving to be a strong suit: what’s said is exactly what’s meant, people have the social freedom to say most things, and among other things, this moves towards the best solution quicker than most high context cultures. So seeing another way of approaching problem solving that was very effective, and also included so much joy throughout the whole process was really neat. The communal investment made the result seem all the more worth celebrating as the young men did.

Four of the five Makishi we saw

Prior to Dipalata, we attended a performance of Makishi dancers. Historically, the Makishi would be involved in the coming of age ceremony for men and women in the Luvale tribe. Each Makishi had a specific purpose during the several months-long training of the young people (trainer, guardian, etc). At the ceremony, each would dance a specific dance. The coming of age ceremonies are rarer today, but there is so much Luvale culture contained in them through the dancing, incredible drumming, community gathering, and the values for men and women that the ceremony represents. Because of this, they will still hold sorts of “performances” with Makishi like the one we attended to keep all that alive. The performance was specifically for us (and we were all regularly pulled onstage to dance with them!), but the back of the room was full of Zambians who’d heard about the event, and even more kids were pressed up against the windows the entire time. The buzz of the Zambians prior to the event, and then shrieks and general noise of excitement as the Makishi came out made it clear how important this was to each individual in the room.

For the next hour or two, these masked, anonymous, speechless, highly decorated figures commanded the attention, pride, and respect of the room. Everybody participated, most by dancing (however poorly) onstage, and the rest with their voices. Each Makishi seemed powerful and purposeful in a way that felt really special. Watching them and how they energized the room reminded me of playing a sport where your team is just unstoppable: shouting SO loudly in celebration together and working in perfect harmony, crushing every point. Feeling entirely unbeatable. I’m not sure I can think of a place in our culture outside of sports that I can point to a community coming together in a similar way that doesn’t feel harmful. Maybe it’s good that we’re trying to cultivate a society in which we seek to understand others and not presume ourselves to be the best. But maybe in doing it the way we are, we’re missing out on an important emotional experience of being human. After all, the ceremony we attended was pure celebration that wasn’t exclusory in any way. I wonder if the lack of this celebration culture feeds polarization in America. I think we all need to feel like we’re a part of something wonderful, and lacking that, we find ourselves associating with people who tell us we are unstoppable and can do no wrong if we’re part of a certain political party, fanbase, etc. Definitely something I will be thinking about as we get back to normal life. I miss playing volleyball.

Kisu Mwane (I still don’t know what that means, but most blog posts end with it),

Blaine Atkins, class of 2022

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What Will You Do with Your One Precious Life?

Caroline on the Zambezi

About one week ago, a crew of us loaded up and drove to Chingolala a nearby village to visit the home of Michael Sapilinya. Micheal is one of Jeff’s longstanding friends which we have spent quality time with, in Lusaka and Livingstone. As we pulled into the driveway of Micheal’s home we were greeted by the dancing and loving embrace of Lidia, Micheal’s mom, and a big grin and handshake from his father Edward. I was overtaken by emotions as I could clearly see how Micheal’s explanation of his life story was unfolding in front of my eyes as I met his parents. I felt that I got a glimpse into Micheal’s childhood as I asked his mom questions about his youth, values, and what motivated him at such a young age to pursue university.

While it was such a joy to talk with his parents, I could not help but notice a young boy in a light blue shirt who was sitting on their porch. He sat on a wooden stool watching us as the sunlight touched his skin. As I watched him gaze in curiosity, I could not help but question what he would do with his one precious life. Will he take after Micheal’s example and pursue university? Or will he do something totally new? Will he stay in Zambezi? What will his one precious life look life?

I am challenged by this question as I have noticed that life in Zambezi is about the present. About now. And about living for today. Each day is not a given, so how are we going to live for today, and make it count?

I have wrestled with this question because I think the answer is not definitive. There is no answer but choosing to wake up everyday and do something positive with what we have. I have met a few individuals who have taught and showed me what this looks like.

I want to keep loving and welcoming others into my home like Eucharia. Eucharia has a beautiful way of bringing others into her fold. She treats us all like children of his own. When I had the chance to visit her home for the very first time, I noticed how the whole soccer team and some, were running in and out of her home as if it were their own. Eucharia kept saying “Feel most welcome. My home is yours”. When I have a home of my own one day, I hope to do just the same.

I want to keep finding the joy in my passions like Kelly. Kelly was a young man we met at Sports for Life. He was the DJ that was setting up for the event who is an experienced music producer. He shared that both of his parents had passed very recently. He is the second born and is now responsible for raising his two younger siblings at home. I asked him what brings him the most joy. He immediately lit up and said his music. He learned how to produce music from his father and therefore the passion in producing is very special to Kelly. He described that he has no idea where he would be without music. Music is what fills him up and brings him close to his parents. I was inspired by him sharing so openly and honestly with me about some of the hardest things, but also some of the things that bring him the most life. Kelly is a strong human being who is making a living with his music as he provides for his two younger siblings. I hope to live like him as I follow my passions that bring me the same joy and bring me close to family.

I want to keep trying at everything I do like little Sombo. Sombo is the daughter of Eucharia and Debby (the two legends here in Zambezi). I have helped coach soccer to her throughout the past few weeks. She is seven years old and is working on juggling. Each day she comes to show me with that big smile of hers and the soccer ball that is too big for her, but she tries anyway. Sombo keeps practicing one juggle at time. One day she will reach her goal of ten soccer juggles. I too, hope to keep trying, practicing, and not give up just as she does.

I want to connect deeply like all of my Gonzaga friends. As someone who is an observant leader and learner, I am so impressed by this team. I am impressed by every single person’s willingness to surrender to the process and honestly just jump in. It has been so beautiful and cool to see the relationships within the group form but mainly the one’s each person has established here in the community. I want to keep connecting and diving deep like I have seen you all do throughout out time here.

Ultimately, with my one precious life, I hope to wake up, love, and let others in like Eucharia, pursue my passions and find joy like Kelly, keep trying at everything I do like Sombo, and connect deeply like all my new Gonzaga friends. I think this question can be a big question, but if broken down and focused on how one will live out their only and precious life daily, it makes it all the easier. What will you do with your one precious life?

Caroline Larsen ’23

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You Reap What You Sow

Before arriving in Zambezi, I had many ideas and expectations as to what it would look and feel like. One of those expectations, for instance, was that there would not be any spiders. This is mostly due to the fact that back in February when we met as a group, some of us shared that we have a fear of spiders (myself included), to which Jeff responded, “There are no spiders in Zambia.” Though it may have been foolish on my part, I believed him. This was also long before I knew Jeff was an incurable user of sarcasm, and that he loves to keep us guessing. Having been in Zambezi for almost two weeks now, I’ve come to realize that many of my expectations were misplaced, and that there are most certainly spiders in Zambia, and they can be rather large. Thanks, Jeff. 

One expectation I had for myself was that I would really struggle to find comfort in a place that is so different from any sort of familiarity that I am used to. I did not think I’d be able to walk down the roads of Zambezi without feeling wildly out of place with an underlying sense of discomfort. I thought I’d take any chance I could to stay in the convent, and to remain in a bubble of comfort because I’ve never been one to push myself to embrace the unknown. However, I was looking down at my rather dirty feet this morning and realized that I have quite the Chaco tan line going. It made me realize that I have spent much time walking from the convent to the market and spend my days in the blazing sun of Zambia forming relationships with this loving community. What I’ve found after two weeks of interacting and engaging with the people of Zambezi is that I feel more welcomed and accepted than I ever could have predicted. Each time I walk to the market, I find myself meeting someone new and checking in with the people I’ve come to think of as my friends. I see Jasper in the market, and I’m greeted with, “You are most welcome” as I purchase my daily coke. I am welcomed into Ben’s chitenge stand with a warm smile and a handshake as he says, “I am happy now that I’ve seen you.” After wrapping up the business and leadership class, students like Brano ask me if he can take me around and spend some more time just to get to know me and hear about my life and share his own. By putting in dedicated and intentional time to form meaningful relationships with the members of Zambezi, I’ve reaped the rewards of comfort and familiarity in a place in which I thought I’d be struggling to feel welcomed. The people of Zambezi have cast aside any doubt I had in myself and my ability to engage and form meaningful relationships with people who live lives that are distinctly different from the life I lead back in the states. Though we come from different places with different cultures, it does not diminish the fact that we are all human, looking to connect and bond with one another. 

Said Chaco tan

Another expectation of mine was that I would dread teaching. I am one of the four lovely ‘professors’ for the business and leadership class, joined by the wonderful likes of Nicole, Andie, and Katie. I have never been good at speaking in front of crowds, big or small, and to do it in the unfamiliar setting of Zambezi frightened me. Again, I was doubting my own capabilities, and have been pleasantly surprised and affirmed by the community of Zambezi. What I’ve found is that each morning, I look forward to the class ahead that is filled with some of the most wonderful people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. I am passionate about the topic of leadership and have a sense of fulfillment when I can lead a class of passionate adults without any notes or reference points to go off of. It shows that I have some sense of mastery over the topic and can help others discover their own authentic ways of leading, just as I found my own way at Gonzaga. Each day, I show up to class looking to lean in and put in all the effort I can into making the experience as fruitful for our students as it has been for me. The more I put into my time in Zambezi, the more I’ve gotten out. It’s true: you reap what you sow, and I can only see myself engaging more and more as our time dwindles down here. 

Professor Dugan

Although Zambia has taught me to let go of my expectations, I have one expectation that I know will be true: I will miss this place, and I will miss the wonderful people of Zambezi that have lovingly welcomed me into their lives. 

Much love, 

Graduate Dugan Charles Early Watts

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The Strength to Continue

Today marks the halfway point of our time here in Zambezi. It’s hard to believe it has already been three weeks since our departure from Seattle. This experience has already been so enriching thus far and I can’t wait to see what the next week and a half has in store.

When I reflect on the last three weeks, the first word that comes to mind is grateful. When in a place where everything is new and unfamiliar, it can be easy to move from one experience to the next without taking sufficient time to process. But as time has passed, and it has sunk in more and more that we have actually been living in Zambia for the past three weeks, all I can feel is gratitude. Gratitude for the things we’ve seen. Gratitude for the people we’ve met. Gratitude for the new culture we’ve had to the chance to learn from and appreciate.

We saw herds of elephants making their journeys to drink, swim, and frolic playfully in the river (I swear I saw one smile). A pride of lions gorged themselves with their fresh catch. Our insanely smart guides taught us how to see the constellations in a night sky that is unfamiliar to us. And a baboon swiftly stole a banana from Caroline’s pocket.

We got to gaze upon the powerful Victoria Falls; shouting for joy as the mist drenched us, making us feel like kids again. And soon after, we found ourselves diving into and zipping over the powerful Zambezi River, which connects all the way to the place we could only imagine at the time but have so quickly come to love: Zambezi.

The health team and I were entrusted with the responsibility of giving vaccines to precious, innocent newborn babies just days after they were born, as well as administering vital blood testing to keep pregnant mothers and their children safe.

We got to spend a night with local families in Zambezi to get a glimpse into their daily rhythms of life. Brendan, Paal, and I were challenged to an intense game of monkey in the middle, fed delicious Zambian food, and invited to join a dance circle that lasted well over an hour, fueled by the music we could create with our hands and our voices. It was an honor to be so generously welcomed into their home and hear stories about their family, finding connection with experiences we have had with our families growing up.

Finally, (along with Sarah and Cliff) I got to teach karate to 400 energetic and excited kids for the Sports for live event, organized by the sports crew.

Ava and I taking a leap of faith off the Victoria Falls Bridge

All these experiences have been incredibly meaningful. And although I’ve found so much value in every single day, there have been days that I’ve found myself completely exhausted- mentally, physically, and emotionally. And to be completely honest, there are moments when the option of crawling back into my comfort zone seems more enticing than the invitation to be vulnerable. It takes less strength to be complacent, to shy away when a new relationship presents itself, and to give in when the going gets tough.

But when I find myself slipping into that place, I remind myself of the extraordinary people we’ve met on this journey.

I remind myself of Eucharia (a nurse in Zambezi who leads the health team in the district hospital). I remember how she kept fighting after losing her parents when she was only 12 years old. How she prioritized her education above all else, pursuing her nursing career in order to achieve financial independence before considering marriage, especially when that was not the norm. The multi-day shifts in the hospital that she pushed through because she knew lives depended on it. And more recently, I remind myself of how she still came to greet us at the hospital when her son had fallen mysteriously ill just the night before. She greeted us with the biggest, warmest smile on her face despite dealing with the fear of having her son in a hospital bed, on oxygen to help him breathe. I can’t even begin to imagine the fear a parent must feel in that situation. But when I asked her if she thought he was going to be okay. She said, “Yes, he is going to be okay, he has to be okay, there is no other option.” Something about her response hit me and I’ll never forget the confidence with which she said it. In a moment of immense uncertainty, she was strong. Strong because she had to be. Thankfully, David recovered fully and is back at home 🙂

I remind myself of Michael (a student we spent time with him in Lusaka and Livingstone). I think of the courage it took for him to leave his home in pursuit of education. The pain of seeing his family only a few times per year. And the work ethic it takes to continue succeeding in school with the weight of being a first-generation college student on his shoulders.

I remind myself of Terry (a Zambezi community member who helped translate when we met Michael’s family). I imagine the pushback and rejection he must face in his efforts to bring more equality into the Catholic Church in Zambia. But nevertheless, he remains strong because he believes in his heart that it is worth fighting for.

Audrey, Eva, Blaine, Joci, Michael, and I enjoying our morning tea in Livingstone.

I imagine there have been, and still are times when these people feel the temptation to give up in the face of exhaustion. But they choose to lean into the discomfort. They choose to continue on when it’s no longer easy. To get back up when they face setbacks. And they do all this because what they are working towards is incredibly important; not only to them, but to those around them as well. And thus, it is worth fighting for.

So now when I inevitably find myself losing the strength to continue, I think of Eucharia’s strength. I think of Michael’s strength. I think of Terry’s strength. I think of the strength of all the incredible people we have met in Zambezi thus far. And in doing so, my own strength is again renewed.

With that being said, I want to take a moment to once again thank our family and friends who have been supporting us through our journey. Even from thousands of miles away, we can feel your love and encouragement through your thoughtful comments.

Finally, I encourage everyone reading back home to consider the people in your life who inspire strength in you and let them be sources of rejuvenation in times of need.

Much love and tunasakwilila mwane,

Tyler Thomas ’23

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