Our recent ventures during our concluding week in Zambezi have included visits to the beach, many meetings with various tailors around town, wrapping up class material, celebrating Annika’s birthday in stereotypical study abroad fashion, watching the sun set, and attending a traditional Makishi festival. Shout out to all of my classmates and leaders, who I admire so much, for going all in these past few days and taking full advantage of our last days in Zambia while somehow incorporating self-care and reflection.

When talking with Zambians, especially those whose English is limited, the word yes tends to come up a lot in conversation. It did not take me long to figure out that “Yes.” does not always mean yes. For example, many of the conversations I have had with children here, including Magis, Janet, Cecilia, Jen, Jane, Pricilla, Precious, and Meid, have gone something like this: “Hello! What is your name?” They look up at me through a sometimes beaming, sometimes shy smile. “My name is Precious.” “Do you go to school?” “Yes.” “Do you like school?” “Yes.” “What is your favorite subject in school?” “Yes.” “What grade are you in?” “Yes.” By this time, I realize that they probably are not understanding much of my English, so I ask a question I know they will say and mean yes to. “Do you want to play a game?” “Yes!”.  The diverse bunch of Zambians I have had the privilege of interacting with on this trip all have unique stories and backgrounds, some of which I have gotten the chance to understand more thoroughly. I learned quickly that yes or no questions are not the best vehicle for truth. This goes beyond English proficiency and touches on the hot climate culture in which the Zambian people exist. In this type of culture, when the choice of an answer is between yes or no, the answer is almost always yes.

In our computers class, every student was required to put together a Power Point and present it in front of the class. The content of their presentations was based on a plethora of superficial questions about themselves and their lives. During our afternoon class yesterday, Kanyambi, a student of 66 years who I have come to admire very much, presented his Power Point. He touched on the immense poverty he was raised within and some of the struggles he faced due to this economic shortage. I felt much empathy and sadness. Have I seen profound suffering here? Yes. But, countering this suffering is a unique beauty that comes from the type of experience which builds resilience. There is a kindness and joy, the type that only comes from persistent, deep hope, that remains within and radiates off of Kanyambi and so many other Zambians. Their joy is not contingent on how much money they can hoard, their status in the community, or being the star consumer. They view life from a different paradigm that I cannot pretend to fully understand, but I can say that this opportunity to peak into their lives means the world to me.

Throughout the second week of computer classes, many people approached me asking if they could join late. One day during class, a man walked up to the back door and asked me if he could join the class. I informed him that we were at full capacity in all three classes and he had already missed half of the class periods which make up the course. In the middle of my delivery, I noticed him peering in to our classroom. I figured he was curious and interested in what class looked like and the information we were covering. After a few more seconds of staring past me, he asks if he can speak to the one in the hat. He was talking about Bryce, the only male instructor in the room. I informed him that Bryce would give him the same news I just had, but he insisted. Once Bryce delivered the same information, the man left. Have I experienced overt sexism in Zambezi that implies female inferiority and comes off as blatant disrespect? Yes. Are there many men in Zambezi who build up the women in their lives and understand that the defamation of one group leads to the denigration of humanity as a whole? Yes. An example of this can be seen in the way Debby, the coach for a youth development focused soccer league, lifts up his wife Eukaria. He encourages her to further her education and supports her ventures as a business woman as well (She makes and sells the best ice cream in Zambezi). From what I have seen, though I could be biased by my inclination towards romanticism, their love is pure, supportive, and equal. It is founded in a mutual respect and understanding of each other. I believe this type of respect and understanding would counteract the underlying values which perpetuate sexism in this culture. There is a similar strength I have recognized within many of the women of Zambezi, including Mama Love, Violet, Katendi, and Josephine that makes me question how so many of the men in this culture have not caught on to the fact that women’s capabilities go far beyond what they assume.

During our past three weeks in Zambezi, many of the women have experienced the unique discomfort that is cultivated through the unwanted touch or words of a man. In many cases, the actions of men in Zambezi have stricken the dignity and autonomy of the women on this trip. Do I periodically engage in relatively risky situations in an effort to reinstate my own dignity and autonomy? Yes. Does the fear of being taken advantage of persist in the back of my mind even while I strongly refuse to be controlled? Yes. Does hearing that well esteemed members of the community condemn the inappropriate behavior I, and my fellow classmates, have been subjected to make this fear disappear? No.

As our time in Zambezi comes to a close, I am reminded of a brother and sister pair I met in Dipalata two weeks ago, Roy and Meid. Though our time together was ever so short, I still think of them every day. A piece of my heart that I cannot get back is with them. Is it painful knowing that I will likely never see either of them again? Yes. The remnants of this heart fracture keep me wondering about what it will be like leaving Zambezi, knowing that my goodbyes are potentially permanent. A piece of me is saddened knowing that our time to leave has come because this place has just begun to feel like home. 








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

We are all pushing through struggles and tensions trying to make the most of our last memories here in Zambezi!

Kisu Mwane, 

Alea Chatman



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Lines in the Sand

“Are you going to dance?” inquires an individual at the Makishi ceremony.

I grasp tightly onto the skin on my upper arm. The flesh feels tight around the muscle and bone. “No, I’m not,” I reply.

“Why?” The individual responds.

“Why?” The question reverberates throughout my body and rattles my being. It’s like nails on a chalkboard. I never like to say “hate,” but I hate this question. Why do I have to explain where I draw my line in the sand? I should never have to do this, not for anyone.

“I can’t,” is how I respond.

Something I’ve been constantly been thinking about throughout my time in Zambezi is my boundaries, my lines in the sand. I’ve been monitoring myself and where I draw my lines because I am afraid of being hurt. I draw my lines as far as I can establish trust – trust that I won’t be hurt by people and won’t hurt people in return. Call it uptight or irrational if you desire. Talk as much shit behind my back as you want; I don’t care. Don’t affirm me or applaud me either. I just need security and presence. My boundaries are my boundaries, and my trust is my trust.  

Can I trust the people in my life with the agony I’ve felt that binds my lips and squeezes my heart dry, that some days keeps me bound to my bed? I put a great emphasis on trust in my relationships with people and institutions because these are things that have changed my life in the past. My family, the people I’ve been transformed by at Mt. Adams Leadership Camp, and those I’ve grown very close to at Gonzaga are examples of people that I’ve come to know very dearly and would without hesitation give my trust to. I tend to take things very personally, but it is mainly because of the “persons” that have molded me into who I am have set the bar high for what I expect from kinship. I do not intend to “point fingers”, rather, I am incredibly grateful for companionship and accompaniment that has made me the very opposite of complacent and has helped me refuse to be stepped on.

I have come into Zambezi with many lines drawn. These lines I have drawn are lines I have consistently placed between the people of Zambezi and my fellow classmates. These are lines that do not intercept and inhibit my ability to sit in the complexity of societal issues I don’t understand or listen to people’s voices, however. These are lines that I have drawn are born from anxieties and fears I have been grappling with all my life. Like I mentioned before, these fears of being hurt, of not being “enough”, of missing out, and of being a burden. Among all of these fears reigns supreme the fear of loneliness. I have written it down on a rock that I have been given, as it represents something much larger than a rock – rather a shackle or chain finding home around my ankle.

I have been apprehensive about a good amount in Zambezi.  Such apprehensions include not wanting to hold the hands of beady-eyed children, not speaking my mind around the people I spend so much time with, and not wanting to foolishly dive into a relationship where, without my knowing, I am ridiculed or looked down on.  There is at least one person, however, that I have not felt inhibited around. There is one person so far that I have not felt the divide between due to my own line in the sand. He is the priest here where we are staying. His name is Father Yona.

I found myself the other day with Father Yona in two wooden chairs placed in close proximity to the fish pond that lies just outside both the priest’s house and the convent. The Gonzaga students have been required to conduct “leadership interviews,” meaning we find leaders in Zambezi and ask them things such as “what kind of leader are you” or “what leaders do you look up to?” I had interviewed Father Yona once before, that time about his experience living in Zambezi. I eagerly awaited our time together, as for me it felt like much more than an interview. It was more so a chance to continue getting to know someone who embodied values I admired and, for someone who has arrived in Zambezi just two years ago, had maybe explored the feelings of being an outsider in their own home.

Following the interview, the two of us sat half cooking underneath the heat of the sun and half basking in the shade provided by the walls of the priest’s house. We spent a few moments in silence. “What was your greatest fear about Zambezi?” Father Yona asks.

I have to think about it for a moment. I respond to his question by regaling him with my fear of loneliness and not knowing to whom or where to place my trust. I mention to him instances of dreading feeling hurt. I recall to him the anxieties I’ve felt throughout my life and how I have felt as though these were things I couldn’t give to the people I was with now. He responded very insightfully with something that seems simple, yet continues to allude me in every bout with anxiety, loneliness, depression, and insecurity I have ever partaken in

“Sometimes we have to take risks and put our trust in people. Sometimes it works out, and when it doesn’t we have to learn to take these as teaching moments. One failure cannot mean the end.”

I take some time to process this, and to write it in my journal. Father Yona then asks me what I’ve liked the most in Zambezi. Feeling less shackled and inhibited, unconscious of the lines I had previously etched, I talk to him about how I have loved the simplicity of just being able to ask people how they are while walking along the roads and pathways making up Zambezi. I talk about how this sort of openness or keenness to build something beautiful like a friendship even in passing is something that is incredibly uncommon in the United States. I hope that Gonzaga can be an environment that is willing to adopt this openness and flexibility to build the kinship and compassion that exists in Zambezi with someone who many may find to be an unfamiliar face, even in passing.

In closing, Zambezi has taught me something very important. The people that I have entrusted all share common aspects that have allowed me to give trust, remove my lines in the sand, and feel free in our togetherness. These aspects are presence, compassion, and warmth.

If you wish to hear me and to have my trust, don’t be at my side “for me.” I don’t want your pity, I want your presence; your radiance. Be “with me.” Be with me in the moments where we can share laughter, the moments we can converse meaningfully in and out of the storm, and we can gift to one another the loving embrace of feeling like, to one another, we belong.

I hope to return to the United States in these few, short days feeling less shackled and inhibited, while feeling freer to express the complex being that I am. In the meantime, I will be erasing my lines in the sand, one at a time.

Best Regards,

Spencer Weiskopf, Class of 2020

A note from Annika, to Alyssa: Congratulations on graduating!!!!!!! I’m so proud of you and all that you’ve accomplished! I miss you so much and wish that I could be there with you on this special day to celebrate! Love you, see you in less than a week! 🙂 




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Other People’s Words


Pictured above, these three beautiful humans have been teaching business and leadership here in Zambezi, a group that I’m lucky to be part of. They’ve taught me more than they could ever know. They show up and shine. Chloe, teaching an almost full class of men a lesson on women in business and the instigator of the now (and hopefully beloved) class cheer. Maurie, leaning into every relationship through genuine conversation. Also literally leaning in, halfway out of his chair, always engrossed in a student when they’re speaking. Spencer, who has continuously brought invaluable lessons that get at the heart of leadership—caring for others. To the parents and people who have poured time and love into shaping them, thank you. Witnessing them in moments of passion and care will forever be a highlight of my time in Zambezi. 

The members of our class though, have taught us much more. Their leadership mission statements that reside on our walls represent the caliber of individual that exist here in Zambezi and in our classroom. I want to share a couple of them with you in the hopes that our students here can become a little more real to you. As, over the weeks they have become incredible real to us, and us to them.

“To transfer knowledge to the people, thereby developing the society with equity of all members of the society.”

“To impart knowledge and lead people to the truth”

“Ensure, provide, and promote quality leadership through creativity and integrity and boost development to help alleviate poverty and promote unity and have a healthy society through equity.”

“I want to be a leader who has the heart for the people and takes their desires for the betterment of the community.”

“I want to gather and lead people with different background and make change in their life and my life as well.” 

“To lead in order to bring the people together and do the right things. Because as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” (sounds familiar @Kelen.. feels like you left an impact you can’t even imagine here)

The words that our students wrote attest to who they are much better than I could, and I’m starting to detest the idea of even trying to encapsulate them. This post could be about the friendships I’ve formed in our class, the personalities that show up, the tension, and the lessons. But, it’s not. That’s just honestly impossible for me right now. For starters it’s almost midnight and I’m out of chocolate O’s. Also, I still find it difficult to write and think completely about people without also considering the unique hardships that exist for them within this developing nation. Comparing people strips them of their dignity, so I won’t do that. And, to act as if I understand their problems fully would be stepping into a dangerous paradigm.

A western paradigm that simplifies the world’s problems and ignores domestic issues. A common practice that Michael Marsicano condemns in his article “The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems.” He demands that young Americans stop going abroad to fix the world, and I agree with him. Specifically, he points out the hypocrisy in an outsider thinking they can easily solve a muti-faceted problem that insiders have been working on for decades. His solution? Don’t go. Stay home and work on issues that address the deep and horrific side of our country. Issues like mass incarceration, immigration, government efficiency, the foster care system, issues that we know are much more complex than they seem and that will humble you each step of the way. Or, if you must, go to listen and lean into complexity. 

In Zambezi, we’ve been steered far away from fixing. Where has that left us though? Smack dab in complexity. Our days are full of intentional connection and practice at accompaniment. Of reactions to newness or wonder that appear on this blog daily. As I’ve been with my classmates these four weeks in complexity, a reading on confusion has been somehow clarifying. The quote below from George Saunders has mesmerized me since the day I read it while laying on the convent couch early in our trip and it’s one of the last things I’d like to share with you.

“No place works any different than any other place, really, beyond mere details. The universal human laws— need, love for the beloved, fear, hunger, periodic exaltation, the kindness that rises up naturally in the absence of hunger/fear/pain— are constant, predictable, reliable, universal, and are merely ornamented with the details of local culture. What a powerful thing to know: That one’s own desires are mappable onto strangers; that what one finds in oneself will most certainly be found in The Other… 

Don’t be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen.”

Read that again. Maybe read it out loud. Let it sink it. Feels slightly Doddian (yeah Jeff, you sure you don’t have an alter ego by the name of George Saunders?).

Each line echos a truth to me.

The idea that where we are isn’t really much different than any other place. That we are adaptable and malleable creatures. Only when pulled away from our own comforts can we settle into a new routine, as we’ve found slightly easier than expected here in Zambezi. That there are universal laws. Needs exist everywhere. Love is bountiful for the beloved. Kindness flourishes when we find ourselves free. That our desires and selves can be mapped onto strangers until we find that The Other seems to be more of a mirror than we ever thought possible.

It’s the last part of this quote that stays with me in a deeper way though. Don’t you dare be afraid to be confused, and if you find yourself certain, know that you’ve got far far astray. Be permanently confused, not because it’s a cop out, but because it’s possibly the hardest thing you can do. Believe truly that anything is possible. Don’t close yourself off to the world. Be open to everything and get ready to hurt, because it’s going to hurt, badly. Then when you feel as if you can’t do it any longer, dig deeper. “..until the day you die, world without end, amen.”

And I say, amen. 

But, Father Baraza has one more thing to add. 

He told us last week in a small group that, “We know what God wants, but God has no hands but yours.” A statement that I slightly fundamentally struggle with. My own faith calling me deeply to not assume the intention and or entirety of a higher power. But, my respect and deep admiration for Baraza pulls me into the later half, that God has no hands but mine and the individuals around our little circle. As Father Greg Boyle writes, “Everybody belongs. No kinship, no justice. We begin here.” So here I begin in Zambezi, reminded again that the power which allows us to divide and create hate is also the power that starts reform and harmony. The hands to do this work belong to all of us. 

Other people’s words all jumbled together, the best I have for you. Make some sense or dive into confusion, I recommend the latter. 

till the day I die,

Rachel Haas



Mom and Dad, there are also some words from other people that I literally brought along with me, yours. I’m sitting here holding the card you left on my desk freshman year. Your hearts are always safe with me. One short week. 

Griff, your graduation is so soon. You are in every way the best brother I could have asked for. Thank you for pushing me to be more inquisitive and resilient, I learned by watching you. You deserve all the praise and congratulations possible, I know it’s been a long four years. It’s you and me in this world, I love you.


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How to Set the World on Fire (without burning it down)

I write you today in what may be my last writing ever as a Gonzaga Student.  In a fitting end to my collegiate writing career, I now write this in the wee hours of the night after a beer (in celebration of Annika’s birthday).  Sooooo, lets get this blog.  I first want to say congrats! You’ve officially made it around the horn!  Every one of our Zags have posted a blog now, and how amazing have they been eh? Wherever you are, give your zag of choice a round of applause, no matter how socially awkward it may be to clap in the current moment, because they deserve it!

I graduated nearly three weeks ago now (wild…).  Countless times I was encouraged to “go forth and set the world on fire”.  I even posted a snarky Instagram joke about that quote from the SeaTac airport before I left on this trip (check it out @ethandkane). I’m afraid that too often “setting the world on fire” is pictured in shiny grandeur.  Visualized as someone changing the world in a glorious and profound way in a celebrated way. At least that’s the way most graduation speeches make you feel.  It’s a good intention to inspire us to do huge great things.  But the world is full of good intention and apparently so is the road to hell.  Good intentions that are not informed, or based in connection, or community based are what has led to billions of dollars of western aid leaving developing countries like Zambia often no better, or even worse off than before aid.  These kinds of good intentions can perpetuate stereotypes and single stories that can disempower people through some missionary travel.  They are a kind of good intentions that ignore the global west’s role in perpetuating global wealth gaps. We want to go forth and set the world on fire so badly that we can end up burning it down.

For guidance, lets call upon our very own Gonzaga (the human, not the school). Old Aloysius, decided to set the world on fire by caring for plague victims until he literally died of the plague.  Not a very shiny or glorious way to set the world on fire, but now the man is a saint.  St. Aloysius Gonzaga exemplified a type of relationship that stands beside people in the face of what seemed like futility. His endeavor should have been considered futile.  He was bound to die, and he would never cure the plague. Yet, he compiled a collection of small acts of great love that made his entire life one act of love on behalf of the sick.  Even after an evil like the plague claimed his life, his legacy of love came out victorious for the rest of recorded history.  Recently we’ve encountered our own example of this saintly love. Lilias Falconer, the founder of the orphanage we visited on Saturday lived a similar life.  She spent more than half of her life in rural Zambia caring for neglected lepers, walking miles daily to preach the gospel, and founding an orphanage that stands today with an aura of love and over 70 children. She lived the life of a saint without the recognition. Her small acts of love outlive her to this day in the powerful community that exists at Falconer. Especially through the current director Simon, the human incarnation of Santa Claus, and a member of her first group of orphans. On the wall at the Falconer orphanage is hung a quote that reads, “The smallest act of love is greater than the largest good intention”.  What is more powerful than that? In the face of futility such as the plague, leprocy, and huge numbers of orphaned children, their only weapons were small acts of great love, and they won.  They freakin’ won.


I believe every last one of our Zags has encountered a frustration on this trip, a tension, a challenge, or a call to justice.  The trip is designed to produce such moments.  Through our conversations with Zambians we’ve come across a variety of issues such as unequal treatment of women, global economic disadvantage, extremely young pregnancy, tribalism, educational inequalities,  unequal treatment of people with disabilities, HIV/AIDS prevalence, lack of access to healthcare, poorly resourced orphanages, and much more.  We’ve engaged with these issues on a deeply personal level through friendships we’ve formed with Zambians.  They are issues that can paralyze us with their magnitude. Paralyze us with futility. For any number of reasons, from the short length of our trip, to our lack of deep cultural knowledge, to our lack of training, we must recognize that right now we can frankly do nothing about these things except offer our modest acts of love and kinship. I feel okay about that, because there are people here who are much greater, stronger, more capable leaders than I can ever aspire to be, and much better equipped to enact the change needed.  Leaders like the famed Debby and Eucharia who quite literally give all they have to support their programs for developing Zambezi youth.  Leaders like Mama Josephine who have stood as pillars of community strength for decades. Leaders like Mama Love who have passion coursing through every vein, and words strong enough to stop literal presidents in their tracks.  With people so empowering and strong around what could I possibly offer to Zambezi except my companionship?  What can I offer Zambezi except for a small act of great love?

Mumbi/Junior/Gaflow and I stuntin’ with a fresh new chitenge shirt courtesy of James the tailor.

I was walking around Zambezi with a teenager the other day.  His name is Mumbi, but he goes by Junior or Ga-Flow (his rapper name).  He’s a lanky and humble 17 year old with curiosity and gratitude beaming out of every pore.  I met him 2 years ago on my first trip to Zambezi, and he’s been a staple in the Zambezi-Zag experience for the past 7 years now.  Zags throughout the ages know his shy smile.  As we trudged through the deep sand of Zambezi, he relayed to Sammi, Spencer, and I the massive societal, cultural, and economic barriers in the way of his goal of becoming a nurse.  I continued to encourage him and affirm him that his intelligence and resilience could get him there. But even as I said it I began to feel the weight of futility of my own words. I don’t know if it can get him there.  As that feeling began to build, Junior continued on. He said “I’ve known you Gonzaga guys for years now. For years you people, have told me ‘Junior, you are smart, and kind, and capable, and all that.’ Before then, I knew I was a nobody. But now I’m convinced that I’m somebody”.  Junior is finishing grade 11, taking our Business and Leadership team’s class, and it is my pride to call him a friend.  We can’t change Junior’s educational future, but year after year after year after year, we can damn well try to affirm him his worth. 

We come to Zambezi for 3 weeks.  It’s not enough time to do much. But we can face futility, plant small acts of love, and support the amazing capable leaders who live here.  After years and years and years of small loving acts, maybe we can build lasting marks that can outlive our short stay here.  As we look to our return home in 1 week, I hope we can collect sparks that we find here in Zambezi, and fan them into flames once we arrive back in the states.  I hope we see the faces of our Zambian friends reflected in others in the US and feel inspired to accompany them as deeply we try to do here.  I hope we remember that many of the issues we see in Zambezi exist in our very hometowns.  I hope we use our sparks here to set our home communities on fire in the quiet ways that they need most.  I hope we go forth and set our worlds on fire. 

Big ol’ mwane,

E. Kane

PS. Dad! You know how I definitely teased you for making me pack all that random ass medical supplies? Well I’ve used nearly all of it, so thank god for fatherly wisdom.  Sending my love to all.  



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Looking up, looking down

Hello loyal blog readers and followers!

Since it’s been a while here’s a few updates for those following along at home:

  • Although the flies and spiders are still a problem, we have ventured into the world of cockroaches. So, we are currently exploring various methods of removal.
  • The peanut butter is a staple of our diet here and no matter what we have for breakfast it is always brought out, but we have just run out so there may be some tense moments at breakfast tomorrow.
  • Leila is in the lead for the best Chaco tan, but there is stiff competition for second place.
  • We watched Black Panther with the “saucy” youth group at the Priest’s house. It was quite an experience, with lots of clapping, cheering, and whistling during the movie.
  • Sunday mass this morning clocked in at about 3 hours. There were 3 collections, lots of singing, and some impressive dancing



I find myself looking down quite often here in Zambezi. Many of the roads here are dirt or sand and I look down to help navigate the deep sand, rocks, thorns, pieces of trash, or feet of the little kids that are (always) around. As a result of looking down when I’m walking I have found that I have a horrible sense of direction in Zambezi. I get so lost and I can never understand where I am or how I got there. Looking up, I can see the surroundings, so I can navigate easier, and I can share smiles and musana mwane’s with the people passing. But, then I run the risk of tripping so I normally put my head down and keep walking. I definitely keep my head down during the morning aerobics class as well. Debby, the leader, likes to call us up individually to lead the group in a few of our own moves. I try to avoid this part as much as possible.


I put my head down at other times here in Zambia when looking up is a little more difficult than looking down. Looking down has become a way to center myself and have a moment to not fully take in all that is around me. For instance, I looked down when we visited HIV patients last week and it became a little too hard to look at their faces when they were listening to our words of encouragement. It was difficult to look up and acknowledge the hardships they face every day that I can only dream of. Like Ellie discussed it was an intense feeling of discomfort because I could not relate to their struggles. Looking down allowed me to avoid the feelings of discomfort in this moment.


On Thursday the Health Team traveled to Mpidi and distributed Days for Girls Kits (reusable menstrual pads). We had 97 girls packed into a small classroom to hear our lesson about menstruation and how to take care of yourself during it. I looked at the ground when 72 of the girls had to leave after the lesson because we had only brought kits for 25. It was made more difficult because the teachers had chosen the 25 girls because of their good grades and good standing at the school, and they thought that these kits would push them further to excel. I didn’t want to see the faces of the girls, as they walked past me to leave, who need these kits just as much as the others, but don’t get one because their grades aren’t high enough.


On Saturday, we went to visit Faulkner – an orphanage about 100km away from Zambezi. I felt many emotions on this day, many of them I am still unpacking. Looking down I could isolate myself and only allow myself to think of the pain that the children have and not see it with my own eyes. But, looking up I can experience the whole picture of the orphanage. Although there is pain, there is beauty in the community and so much love that is present there. Looking up allowed me a glimpse of the beautiful love the children have for each other and the love the caretakers had for their children.


Looking down, the world is a little simpler. I can be in my own world and in my own thoughts for a little bit.  But, I have to remind myself that I cannot explore the complexity of the world by looking at my feet. It can become easy to think I am alone and forget about the community around me. Last week, I was looking down at the Land Cruiser 2 feet deep in sand. Looking down, the problem seemed daunting and another moment of “oh no what are we gonna do?” But, looking up I could see the 15 men, women, and children from the community that came to help. People were pushing the car, shoving branches and leaves under it, and shoveling sand out of the way. I felt an intense feeling of gratitude and a moment of community in a place we had visited for only 30 minutes. Once the car got unstuck, there was such joy and celebration and a moment of intense satisfaction for the group that literally lifted the Land Cruiser out of the sand.


Looking up requires acknowledging the world is more complex than what is at my feet. Looking up is so much more compelling and helps me to begin to navigate the world around me. Looking up brings questions that may not have answers, but looking down I don’t get the opportunity to even realize the questions that might come up. It is not easy to not have all the answers, but I have found value sitting in that feeling of confusion and come face to face with complexity of reality.


Like the name of the shop in the market, our “Days are Numbered” here in Zambezi. We leave for home a week from tomorrow and although I am looking forward to coming home, I know that my time of looking up at the complexities here is coming to an end soon. Although it is not easy, I’m going to keep pushing myself to look up, even at the risk of not having all the answers. Walking around Zambezi with my head up high will be difficult at first, and I am really risking the possibility of tripping and falling, but the view will be worth it and I may be able to start navigating around here.


Mwane, mwane, mwane



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Finding Comfort in the Midst of Discomfort


Hello sweet family, friends, and all those reading!

            We are just over three weeks into our time in Zambia, many of us finally in a rhythm but still experiencing new surprises each day. We enjoy meals together, walk to the market for a donut and a Fanta in the afternoons, and view the most beautiful sunsets each evening. It is truly lovely here.

            In the weeks leading up to leaving for Zambia, I could not contain my excitement. Zambezi was brought up at least once a day, I was constantly checking my packing list, ordering essentials like deet wipes and a sleep sack from Amazon, I was in preparation mode. Since I did some extensive research (thank you Josh, Devon Smith, and the internet) before creating a PowerPoint to convince my parents to allow me to go to Zambia, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect in Zambia. I mean, at least I thought I did. Per usual, I think I was so focused on the logistics of the ordeal, that I didn’t really think about the fact that I would be in a very different environment soon and I may experience some discomfort.

            Only about a week into being in Zambezi, did I start to feel comfortable in the environment I was in. Before that, each day was very different, though incredibly full of bonding time with my fellow zags over unforgettable experiences like seeing elephants in their natural habitat and jumping off bridges together. I had to get used to a new sense of the word “routine.” Though our days in Zambezi began and ended relatively the same each day and night – breakfast and blog in the morning, reflection and the daily reassurance from my roommates Leila and Sammi that there are no spiders in my bed at night – there was no way to predict anything in between. At first, the natural planner and routine lover in me was a bit overwhelmed, but after realizing that with every day, new small surprises would come, I made the conscious decision to switch my mindset to “going with the flow” and accepting each new day as it was.

            On the first flight over, 14 hours to Dubai, I experienced some expected nausea and motion sickness and Dramamine quickly became my new best friend. A source of comfort in the midst of discomfort. I used it on every single flight, several long car rides so far, and even though it made me quite loopy on the drive back from Mpidi the other day, it helped ease the uneasiness I felt in being bumped around in the back of a borrowed land cruiser. The long bumpy land cruiser rides have been a constant in the lives of the health team. In this, we have been able to see several different ways of life within just a couple hours of Zambezi.

            Just yesterday, we had the chance to visit several different HIV+ patients at their homes, all of which were about a 20-30 minute drive away from our convent. Because people here are educated about HIV pretty much their whole lives, we did not come with the intent to give these people lessons about HIV and AIDS. We visited them in order to simply be with them and offer some support in the midst of their discomfort. Winifrieda, my homestay mother and a HIV outreach coordinator, wanted each of us to offer words of encouragement to each patient. We didn’t actually know that we would be doing this type of outreach until about 10 minutes before leaving, but per the new “go with the flow” mindset, I was ready. Sitting with the first patient, a young girl who had lost her mother to HIV, but was already taking medication for her condition, I think all of the health team was pretty saddened to the point of discomfort. When we found out that this eleven year old girl had dreams of becoming a nurse one day, the reality of her situation became apparent to us – though something like hoping to become a nurse is attainable for each of us on the health team, attaining this goal may not be as simple for her. So, as we began to offer her support in our words, we got over the awkwardness of encouraging someone we had only just met and spoke of the bravery and strength we saw in her and the way that her story inspired us in the short time we had with her. As she was sitting there, next to her grandmother on a reed mat in front of their thatch home, the smile on her face and the graciousness of her grandmother showed that our words were a source of comfort in that moment.  

            Throughout the past couple weeks, we have also had the chance to visit various hospitals in the area. In touring these hospitals – the local Zambezi District Hospital, a missionary maternity clinic, and a high-functioning missionary hospital in Chitokiloki, we couldn’t help but feel a bit of discomfort. Though the supplies of each hospital varied greatly, one thing we found common between each was the willingness of doctors and nurses to share details of patients’ conditions. Coming from the U.S., we are used to strict patient privacy rules in hopes of respecting each individual’s wishes with their personal information. We are so used to an individualistic approach to providing care and protecting patients, that the sharing was uncomfortable for some of us. After reflecting on these experiences, we realized that our very individualistic culture is different from the Zambezi culture centered around sharing, and this acted somewhat as a source of comfort. However, what we couldn’t and can’t quite find comfort in was the way some nurses were describing patients’ conditions right in front of them, without regard to the patient themselves. So far at Gonzaga, we have been taught to place upmost value in the dignity of each person we interact with as future nurses – this is not to say that the nurses here don’t value the dignity of their patients, it was just challenging to see that in the situation.

            Finding comfort in the midst of discomfort can be challenging at times, but as my mom has encouraged me to do since I was very young, pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones allows for growth and new perspectives. As many of us have found ourselves pushed outside our comfort zones in Zambezi, some small sources of comfort remain, including the warm smiles Mama Kitendi and Mama Violet always welcome us with, the close community we Zags have created with each other through laughter, riddles, and deep talks, watching the sun go down with a sky full of color, knowing our loved ones are seeing the same sun, and sharing ice creams at Eukaria’s stand. We experience these comforts consistently, yet we still wrestle with discomforts like those found in the hospital or the fear of spiders in our beds. And that’s good, it’s why we’re here! Throughout this all, we are learning to become comfortable being uncomfortable.


Thanks for reading 🙂

Kisu Mwane,

Ellie McElligott

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Feel Free

(Unrelated photo that hopefully kinda gets you into a reflective mood)

Anyone who knows me knows that I am reflective: constantly and to a fault. In preparation for this trip, we congregated in Gonzaga’s student chapel during finals week for a commissioning service. During the service, we took part in a reflective activity in which we took a scrap of paper, and wrote a hope for the trip on one side, and a fear on the other. We then collected the papers and redistributed them so that each member of this group would mindfully hold the hopes and fears of another member in their prayers and thoughts, knowing also that their own hopes and fears were being held.

The fear that I noted in that moment was essentially that I would get in the way of myself, that my constant introspection would make it difficult for me to be present during my time here in Zambia. As I consistently face interpersonal and intercultural challenges each day, some new and others increasingly familiar, I have gotten in my own way more than once. Now rest assured, I do not intend for the entirety of this post to be consumed by admittedly over-critical self analysis; probably just 80% of it.

I am honored to have spent a significant amount of time with Josh(ua Paul Armstrong, Ph.D.) since beginning my time at Gonzaga, breaking bread with him on a quasi-weekly basis over the course of the last semester. Due to our relational proximity, he has grown quite aware of the difficulty I have giving grace to myself, and has reminded me several times in the recent weeks to “feel free,” a phrase he has drawn from his time with Zambians. He has even encouraged me to write the phrase on my arm. Whether or not such a suggestion was in jest, I’ve taken to doing so in recent days.

Now, feel free to do what exactly? When I hear the phrase, I feel it suggests an ellipsis (…) rather than a period (.). However, the two words are complete on their own. Feel free: experience freedom- from pressures, excessive guilt, shame. In other words, access grace. For me, that means exploring and pursuing understanding of the grace of God through my guy Jesus. A deep question which I will not pretend to understand, or attempt to discern at this time (maybe later?). Grace is tough, both for myself and others, but it is key to operating free from anxiety, especially in this cultural context.

I know that talk of the differences between “hot- and cold-climate” cultures* has made its way into the blog and I will reference the concept again, as I’ve found an understanding of the dichotomy relevant to my experiences this month. I come from a “cold-climate” culture that values punctuality and planned, organized social interaction. That’s not as much the case here in “hot-climate” Zambezi. With my desire for control and predictability, this new lifestyle of spontaneity does not come easily to me.I am immensely grateful for the people that I work with here, as they have been integral to this season of my journey in understanding and experiencing freedom. While I have attempted to coordinate details of our computers class to an unnecessary degree, they remind me both to generally chill out, and to embrace the flowing nature of life and timing here. They (special shoutouts to Alea Chatman, Emma Cheatham, Sammi Rustia and the GOAT TA Ethan “Mwane Kane” Kane) have also been gracious in embracing an exchange of work time that has allowed me to forgo days of teaching in order to experience different parts of Zambia- namely the rural village of Kalundola (referenced by Daniel Li in his post “Kalundola Bound; Liberations Bound”) and the crowded mine town of Solwezi.

I am joying Zambia very much (@ Georgie’s Bar and Grill en route to Solwezi)

While I’m on the subject of Solwezi, I may as well explain why the dynamic quintet of Josh, (Father Patrick) Baraza, Sammi, Rachel Walls and myself made the six hour drive to get there. Solwezi is a larger town, described perhaps by optimists as bustling and developed, and by others as an example of the difficulties that arise from the enticing promise of jobs offered by an out-of-country mining company which is taking advantage of the rich mineral deposits located in Zambia (copper, gold, cobalt, uranium). There’s plenty to unpack there, especially as there is movement towards development of mines in and around Zambezi, but I’ll leave that discussion up to you and your Zambezi Zag of choice.

The trip to Solwezi took place primarily to strengthen the connection between GU and the Catholic Church in this region via a meeting between Josh, Fr. Baraza and the Bishop of the Diocese of Solwezi. We also had a chance to connect with several of Josh’s friends, whether intentionally (with Fathers Stephen and Sydney, who hosted us overnight, and Robinson, a Solwezi resident from Zambezi who provided valuable insight on the mines over dinner) or through providence (like running into Staff Sergeant Chewe, who had helped with our car troubles returning from Kalundola a week earlier). Perhaps most immediately valuable was our visit to a supermarket, which yielded a wealth of products inaccessible in Zambezi, including coffee, chocolate, cheese, and PLEASE ANY CEREAL OTHER THAN KELLOGG’S CORN FLAKES which holds a truly impressive foothold in the rural Zambian breakfast cereal market. Having returned to the convent’s ambient cacophony, I am thankful for having had the opportunity to experience a change in rhythm.

An assortment of chitenge fabrics at a shop in Solwezi

However, while I appreciate the ability to experience unique parts of life in Zambia, I do feel a weight having sacrificed three days of class. Spending three weeks in Zambezi sounds look a lot of time, until I realize that we are two weeks into our time here. How can I really “feel free,” when there is so much to be done in this short time? I need to help teach computer basics to 60 or so students, complete readings and assignments for the courses we’re working towards in our time here, purchase gifts for my family and friends, explore the market, remember to be active, go to church, get rest, make time to reflect, and carry my weight on the group chore wheel. Oh, and I can’t forget to make some time for those spontaneous experiences! To make matters more complicated, I find increasing joy in the relationships I am developing amongst our Gonzaga group, and so deal with the added temptation to stay within my comfort zone and engage mostly with people in our group, rather than venturing out to pursue relationship with Zambians.

That is, after all, why I am here: to engage in intercultural relationships.

However, I question if three weeks is enough time to develop relationships. Is it worth pursuing others, knowing that I will likely never see most of them again on this Earth? (though my Facebook will be popping as soon as I get back) I struggle with this question, of whether it is worthwhile opening my heart to others for such a brief time. But what then, is enough time to justify opening one’s heart?

Even as I type these questions, I know that part of an answer is to “feel free.” Perhaps I need to just sit down, open my palms and spend time being with Brother Sitali, or Mumba the tailor, or Mama Katendi, or some of the young guys like Emmanuel, Abel or Samuel. Maybe I’ll stay for tea, who knows. Yeah, I’m definitely on to something there! Time to get out there and start being with others… after all we return to the United States in 11 days.

As that realization sets in for me, and our group, I hope that we begin or continue to explore what it really means to “feel free” here in Zambezi, to show grace and receive it for ourselves, to dive into relationship with folks here, even as our imminent departure quietly looms, and to let each day bring what it will.

Thank you to Josh, to Janeen, to Fr. Baraza for encouragement and grace. Thanks to my home team for your support in prayer and finances- B2Z has come to fruition. Thank you to my peers for their passion and creativity and kindness and curiosity and eloquence and accompaniment. Thank you to Father Yona for his hospitality. Thanks to Debby and his aerobics class for reminding me muscles in my legs that I forgot I have. Thanks to God for peace, safety and provision.

Proof I’m alive and well @Mom #JamboTime

As I look forward to a full Saturday with our Gonzaga group, the roller-coaster process of understanding and reflection continues.

TO YOU, THE READER: Thank you and congratulations for making it through this post! Wherever and whoever you are, I hope that you pursue what it means to feel free in your life. Freedom is always an option, and always worthy of pursuit.


Bryce Kreiser

* Foreign to Familiar by Sarah A. Lanier (2000)

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The World Conspires to Create

Early last semester I was in my advisor’s office, making us both feel uncomfortable with the number of tears I was attempting, but failing, to hold back with my sarcastic hand motions and notable “okayyy anyway”. I wept because I felt like I was in a constant free fall. I felt like the path I kept trying to walk on was crumbling beneath me, and there wasn’t anything to do but to fall; to cry. My advisor, with this gentle heart and awkward demeanor, said nothing but allowed the space for me to fall with someone. A couple weeks later I dropped by his office and he had a book for me, The Alchemist. He didn’t say much about it, but when I opened the front cover I stopped falling for just a moment. “Read whenever you’re ready, whenever that time arrives.” Well that time came, folks. My capacity to absorb the world around me without allowing myself to process reached its limit. My cup was full, but leaking.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with The Alchemist, it’s a story about a boy finding his Personal Legend; his destiny. On a small scale, I’ve been challenged with the task of understanding how to go about loving people here. How do I invest whole-heartedly without accidentally conspiring a mutual feeling of abandonment or futility? The first thing a child said to me when I landed in Zambezi was, “Hello, I’m Lydia. I am going to be so sad when you leave.” On a larger scale, I’ve been forced to recognize moments and experiences that ignite my soul, but haven’t been able to figure out how to act on them. I use the word “ignite” because it begins to encapsulate the feeling of having a roaring fire of purpose within myself I hope to continue uncovering. Although this seems victorious, that fire within me sits next to a mountain of guilt and confusion. Guilt rooted in the fact that there are teenage mothers living in shame and outcast in Spokane, members of the queer community having to hide their authentic identity, domestically abused wives fearful of escaping their husbands, children without access to school supplies or even education, impoverished families without access to healthy food, people with privilege using their power for oppression, and so on. Fighting for resolutions and contributing to the improvement of these ongoing problems is not the reason I came to Zambezi, though. Let’s yet again turn to The Alchemist for this one. It writes, “If I can understand to learn this language without words, I can learn to understand the world.” I came to Zambezi to live in accompaniment with others; to be used a vessel of connection and an instrument of understanding. Every one of us wants to be heard, valued and understood. How can we feel understood if nobody seeks to understand us? I am in Zambezi to lead with curiosity and allow the space for Zambian’s to understand me just as I hope to understand them.  

 “In order to find the treasure, you will have to follow the omens. God has prepared a path for everyone to follow. You just have to read the omens that he left for you.” God has been a busy woman/man with all the omens that have been sent my way. I made a list of all the moments I wanted to share with you, but that list is just too long for one blog post, so here’s just a few.

Omen #1: Debby, a leader within this community who has devoted his life to using soccer as a vessel to teach and advocate for children and young adults. He runs an organization called “ZamCity” which allows boys and girls to play soccer, feel empowered, and grow in their leadership. In my Leadership and Business class, we asked our students who a leader is in their life and why. Japhet, an easily recognized and influential student in Zambezi, named Debby as his leader. He described that Debby allows him to grow into a man of dignity and is constantly thinking of his players before himself. Later I found out that Debby is closing the gender gap between male and female roles in Zambezi when I was told that the only women at soccer games supporting the players, and even playing themselves are those in ZamCity. Knowing all I knew about him, I craved the opportunity to meet him and know him. Before I had the chance to reach out, I am called over one night when everyone is sitting in the convent. I ran past the kitchen and into our front yard. It was Debby. Debby had asked for me specifically because one of our best friends, Kelen (who came to Zambia two years ago), communicated to him that I was worth getting to know.  Feeling lonely and insecure about connecting with Zambian’s, I was sent an omen. I felt held by Kelen. I felt held by Debby. Since then, my connections with Zambian’s have grown more beautifully and stronger-rooted than I foresaw.

Omen #2: The women. The freaking women. My homestay mom, Elizabeth, is 1 of 2 female police officer’s in Zambezi’s team of 30 officers. She has 5 kids of her own, and one nephew she cares for. She is solely responsible for cooking and cleaning and being the main financial supporter of her family. She said it was hard to find a man that was comfortable with having their wife being the bread-winner, but alas, she was dignified enough to know what she was capable of and what she deserved. Another woman is Mama Josephine, or perhaps I’ll call her by the nickname given to her by the President of Zambia, The Iron Sword. She says more with ten words than an average person says with 100. I recently led a Leadership & Business class entitled “Women in Business” to a room full of 24 men and Mama Josephine. As we unpacked gender roles and gender inequality among the business world in Zambia, there was no sign of agreement between the class. Mama Josephine waited patiently to speak as she heard her fellow classmates, some of which were upwards of 30 years younger than her, unpack their views of women in the workplace. She didn’t have to say much to demand respect, as a woman and as a leader within the classroom. She reminds me of Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Ginsburg in her ability to respond to ignorance and misunderstanding without using anger, but instead patience. Lastly, Mama Love. Mama Love, the founder of an international organization titled SEPA, spoke to our team about her journey of being an uneducated teenage mother in Lusaka, Zambia to being the guest of honor at a worldwide conference among the most powerful world leaders. She spoke of having self-worth, vision, passion and attitude. I was captivated and overwhelmed with her words. I had no other response to her unmatchable confidence and dignity but to cry. Weep, actually. She forced me to think about my role as a leader. I could say so much more about her, but for now I will leave you with this visual – a fierce black woman in a thick fur coat at the head of the table, effortlessly holding the attention of 30 white people eager to learn from her.

In this moment, my cup is full and my leak is mitigating. The omen’s that have been poured into my life have made me start to fly instead of fall. There are a million more moments, people and places I could talk about. I could speak of the way Father Baraza and Josh have made me feel like a daughter through their constant affirmation and ability to make me feel valued, or the way Ethan has made me belly-laugh more in these last two weeks than I have in the last year, my experience of helping teach a room of 97 young girls about menstruation or conversation’s I’ve had about fear, insecurity, vulnerability and spirituality on my walks to the market or cooking in the kitchen with members of the team. But I won’t. Instead, I will wrap things up and leave you with one thought I’m currently trying to process in the remainder of my time in Zambia.

  There are over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the United States alone. That means that there are a minimum of 1.5 million people in the U.S. that strive to be leaders for others; That strive to create change. How many of those people have made a larger positive impact by being the founder of a nonprofit than they would have had if they joined their resources with an organization that was already established? I don’t know the answer to that question, but it forces me to think about my role as a human who wants to be a person who creates changes instead of hopes for change.


Thanks for making it to the end. Hope you’re happy, wherever you may be.


P.S. Happy Birthday Father Baraza

P.S.S. Mom, you have been designated as the “team mom” and everyone has expressed how eager they are to meet you. Thank you for loving me the way that you do/have.


Kisu Muane,

Chloe Sciammas  

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Cold Showers

The sound of the water pounding the concrete reminds me of those rainy nights that used to help me fall asleep. I stand outside the convent shower and brace myself for the sting of regret that I anticipate feeling after stepping in. Three, two, one: the water is cold, not like the wind of a Gonzaga winter, but like the pools of mountain run-off hidden deep within the hills of the Columbia River Gorge. Step in, step out. Rinsing the shampoo from my hair is a difficult task, but it’s in the moments under the fresh chill of the faucet that my mind clears and I feel most alive. Step in, step out. I reach across the down pouring stream and switch the faucet off. I’m ready for another day in Zambia.

I remember my time in Livingstone like a Malarone driven dream; the details have already begun to fade, but the way it made me feel remains vividly in my mind and heart. Many people come to Livingstone from the small villages of other Zambian provinces in hopes of making a better life. Simultaneously, Livingstone is largely marked by its colonial history. In short, it’s far and away the tourist capital of Zambia. I recall a moment during our Livingstone adventure when I set off from the comfortability of Fawlty Towers in direction of the trinket market – a long path of shops run by eager owners essentially selling the same “one-of-a-kind” items in each one. My intent for shopping was for Zambia Gold – a fair trade business partnership between Gonzaga and Zambezi in which Gonzaga sells Zambian honey and goods in the U.S. to fund community projects back in Zambezi; I was specifically in search for some wooden serving spoons that always sell well back home. My nature is to be practical and efficient, so I wanted to quickly scan the shops for what I was in search of. Therefore, it was unexpected to be dragged by the hand and forced into personal conversation by each of the first nine shops against my pleas of “no thank you” and “I need to go”. Each shop I would exit after an unwillingness to exchange my life savings for a good I didn’t want, and each time the shop owner would leave me with a look as if I had just kicked their dog in the stomach.

This moment introduced to me that Zambia is a series of cold showers – both literally and analogically. Step in: my frustration was mounting. I didn’t have the time to stop and engage with each shop owner. It was my mission to find the best products at the best deals in effort to make the best profit margins for Zambezi. As a rural village in the Western Province, Zambezi doesn’t have access to many of the amenities that exist in Livingstone. My negotiations turned hard and I failed to recognize that the shop owners were anything more than obstacles keeping me from getting the prices and goods that I needed. Step out: many of these shop owners found their way to Livingstone from villages just like Zambezi, and they moved to Livingstone for better employment opportunity to provide for them and their families. Moreover, the trinket market was merely a product of the colonial influence that shaped Livingstone. So long as tourism continues to control the city, of course these shop owners should take advantage of the main structure of power which exists. It was in the trinket market when I first found myself seriously wrestling with the tensions of truth that are Zambia.

It’s a new day – I reach to turn the faucet on: I’m in Zambezi and teaching Leadership and Business classes at the convent to community members ranging in age from too-young-to-vote to old enough to have served several terms in government. The members of our class are interested, respectful, and engaging, and I enjoy teaching them immensely; however, the classroom in which we teach holds a distracting echo that sometimes makes it difficult to understand one another, especially given the linguistic diversity amongst our students and teaching staff. These echoes prove especially frustrating when they’re accompanied by noises and distractions from outside the classroom. When we initially stepped off the plane into Zambezi, hundreds of children welcomed us by grabbing our hands and escorted us towards the convent home that would be our stay for the entirety of our trip. The hospitality of these children was greatly appreciated, but as hours turned to days and days turned to weeks, we’ve noticed that these children never seem to leave the open entry to the brick wall surrounding our oasis. And, when our “oasis” doubles as an echoing classroom during the morning and afternoon hours, the dozens of chatty little children that like to stick their heads through our windows (our only source of ventilation and air flow) in the middle of our classes make concentrating in an already echoing room even more difficult.

The metaphorical cold shower splashes against the tensions of thought in my mind. Step in, and I’m extremely annoyed by the disobedient children remorselessly disrupting our Leadership and Business Class. Why aren’t these children in school? Do they ever eat lunch? How are they still interested in me and our class after several instances in which I’ve verbally expressed my frustration to them? They come up to the window of the class and demand that I let them borrow the basketball we brought with us. I can’t believe the direct nature in which they make these demands, especially after the several basketball games we’ve already played together. All I want is for these children to go away and let our class learn in peace. Step out, and I see that these children wouldn’t even be in the position of anxiously waiting by our door for hours every day if we didn’t make the privileged decision to travel to Zambia. It’s us who, simply by being in Zambezi, are inherently a disruption to the lives of these children. The mere fact that we desired to be here is exciting to the children – our decision to travel half-way across the world expresses in some way that we desire to be with them, too. The potential that we might be available at some point to spend some quality time leads them to cancel all of the other agenda items that are planned for their days. The basketball symbolizes the privilege and power that we hold – the children play basketball when we say they can, and only then; we play basketball whenever we want. There’s no denying the annoying timing of these kids hovering around our classrooms and our only quiet place, but we must acknowledge the responsibility that each and every one of us has played in making the decision to come to Zambezi and enter into their community – into their home.

The Good Father Baraza likes to tell a story on the importance of the full perspective; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie likes to refer to it as The Danger of a Single Story. The story can be represented like this: there’s a young man who dreams of being a pilot. He goes to the store and purchases a pilot’s manual to teach him all he needs to know about flying. After reading it through, he takes the necessary assessments needed to be passed to receive his license and goes out on his first flight. The take-off is smooth, and shortly he finds himself up in the air, flying. He enjoys his flight until he notices that the fuel light has come on and it’s time to land the plane to refuel; however, there’s a snag – he has only read the book on how to fly the plane, but never did the young man read the book on what it takes to land it. The importance of this story is understanding the importance of reading both books about the intercultural experience that has been our time in Zambia. Stepping into the cold shower is understanding book one, and stepping out offers the perspective of book two. Even then, two books may not be enough to truly understand Zambezi – we’re only here a month, after all. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says, “stereotypes are not bad because they’re wrong, they’re bad because they’re incomplete.” To understand people is to understand the full story – that people inherently exist in intricate complexity, and that culture is only complete when we recognize the tensions that work together to make it whole.

I turn the faucet on once more. This time, I’m falling asleep in the bed of my homestay’s neighbor after a wonderful dinner. This is the only available bed between the two double-roomed houses, and the neighbor, Mr. HH, has graciously given it to Spencer and I in exchange for a good night’s sleep outside. The bed frame itself is sized for a double mattress, but the mattress is only slightly larger than a twin size. Regardless, I slept that night as if I were in my own bed. Upon waking up early the next morning, approximately 6:30am, I stepped out of the bed and wandered outside to find Mr. HH already up and about. He expressed his good morning to me and we took a seat next to one another. We began discussing how we might be able to stay in communication after I would return back home, so I jotted down my contact information for him. In the middle of our conversation, he turned to me and said, “Now, if you don’t mind, we’ve prepared a bath for you and I’d like to insist that you take the chance to bathe.” The cold showers of Zambezi were one thing, but this was the deep bush. We had walked well over an hour outside of town to arrive the night before. There was no electricity or running water, and the only toilet was a hole in the ground out back – where could they possibly put a bath that I hadn’t yet seen? I negotiated with reluctance towards his offer, but Mr. HH prevailed triumphant – his kindness and hospitality convinced me to at least give this “bath” an honest look. I followed HH around to the curtained outhouse with the hole-in-the-ground toilet. He parted the curtain for me as I entered the outhouse and left me on my own to figure out however it was I was supposed to bathe myself. I looked down at the ground and noticed two small buckets: one bucket was small and empty, and the other was filled with water. Step in, and I thought to myself – how’d I get here? How’d I find myself in such a position where I’m about to bathe myself in an outhouse in the western bush of rural Zambia? I reached down and touched the water, and then it all made sense – my spirit transformed as my fingers embraced the touch of hot water. Step out, and my host family, despite living under the most basic living conditions I’ve ever found myself in, are able to offer me something nobody else in Zambezi can: a warm shower. I pick up the small bucket, fill it with the hot water, and dump it over my head. I do this several times before finally setting the bucket down and reaching for the towel behind my shoulder. There’s a symbolic turn of the faucet and I think to myself – I’m thankful for yet another day to be warmed by Zambia’s welcoming embrace.

Many mwane’s,


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Sitting in Complexity

            I left the convent walls for my daily walk along the dirt road to the market.  As I followed the tire tracks and Chaco prints on the ground, I realized I was close to the part of the market where I usually have a mental battle about whether I should buy or resist a fried dough ball. To the locals, they’re called scones.

             Before I was forced to make my decision, I was greeted with a casual “Ni Hao” by a passing Zambian.

            This was the first of several Ni Hao greetings. Within the past week and a half, I have also been asked many times where I was from because I didn’t exactly look like the others in my group. In Dipalata, I felt too uncomfortable to walk alone on the path from the clinic to the church hall because of the whispers. I heard the “China girl” and “from China”. The feeling of being singled out as an outcast overwhelmed me to the extent that I waited until Maurie caught up to me on the path so that I had someone to walk alongside.           

            I am writing this blog while sitting in complexity, but also my bed that is surrounded by my trusty mosquito net.  In the United States, racism is unfortunately more common than we would like to think. If I were greeted with a Ni Hao in passing, I would interpret it as overt racism. Here in Zambezi, however, I feel frustrated and confused as to if I would even use the word racist to describe my experiences. I haven’t seen one other Asian during my stay here, and I fear that this is the reason for the assumptions made on my identity. I feel further frustration and confusion because how do I deal with these assumptions if I have not even figured out how I identify myself on a internal level? For a while now, I have struggled between feeling very American and not feeling American at all. When I was asked where I was from, the answer I gave was United States, because that is where I am from. I can be American and not white. When I am back home though, sometimes it feels as if American isn’t a label I can use for myself.                             

            During one of our reflections, we watched a TedTalk video by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie called The Danger of a Single Story. Her ideas align with the way I think about assumptions, in that assuming can easily prevent one from understanding others. This is because you are almost blinded to other parts that are integral to a person’s story. The assumption about me being Chinese can block a person from learning about my Thai, Filipino, and American background. Many Zambians have also assumed the extent of our wealth and intention and have asked us to provide them with money.  I would be lying, however, if I said that I never made assumptions before coming here. I never thought that the gender roles would be so distinct and deeply engraved in the culture here in Zambezi. If I held on to this assumption, I may have thought less about the many girls I ‘ve seen caring for their babies while I saw zero men present to help. While reflecting, the best way to prevent assumptions from being a danger is to ask questions and acknowledge that I may not know every detail.


               In the words of Spencer Weiskopf, “Today has been very balanced. There’s been lots of joy and engagement, laughing and excitement, and at the same time there’s been a lot of frustration and some doubt and pain. Overall, relatively balanced.” I want to give a shout out to Spencer for his amazing words as it perfectly describes my entire experience here in Zambezi. Some of the joyous moments I have had have been inside the classroom where I’ve gotten to know the details of many of the computer students. I enjoy listening to how they may have been Miss Zambezi in the past, wake up at 4 or 5 hours to start baking for the best bakery in the market, or being told the schedule for Zam City FC games. One of my favorite moments are spent in the back of the LandCruiser with 4 to 7 other Zags as we blast music, trying to survive every bump and ditch we come across. Luckily, we have our MVP Janeen to count on (today she drove us out of the bush and successfully made it without stalling our not-so-trusty LandCruiser). It may seem as if I mention these moments with you to lighten up the mood of the overall post, but I don’t want to brush off my feelings of frustration and confusion. I appreciate Spencer’s use of the word balance because he acknowledged there may be a complexity behind every experience. As I reflect, I believe it’s okay to remain within this complexity and to be confused on how to go forth. Although very different to others’ experiences here, it is one I felt obliged to share because it is my truth.  

Many thanks for reading,

Sammi Rustia

P.S. Congratulations Lena on graduating from high school, I’m so proud of you! I also want to wish you an early Happy Birthday <3

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