Saying Hello

Audrey’s Bungee

Chimene Mwane family, friends, alums, and other community members,

Our group is starting to settle into our routine here in Zambezi and our common spaces are coming alive with posters, affirmations, reflective pieces, and poems on the wall. And, of course, the joyful singing, dancing, and laughing that echoes from the kitchen from the rotating dish crew. This group of Zags has truly taken to heart what it means to form authentically deep relationships with ourselves and others – a reality for which I am immensely grateful.

When I began thinking about the topic of my blog, I felt unsure of where to start. How could I capture everything I have experienced? How could I honor the Zambezi community and do right by the people I have begun building relationships with? In unravelling these challenges, I realized that perhaps the best way to start is like any other event here in Zambezi, with a simple hello.

In his book In the Shelter, Pádraig Ó Tuama writes, “What is the name for the place where you now are? It requires close looking; it requires the dedication of observation and a commitment to truth. To name a place requires us to be in a place. It requires us to resist dreaming of where we should be and look around where we are. Hello to here. Hello to the name of here.”

Since the start of our time together back in January until now, and everything in between, I have said and received many hellos – some of which I am only beginning to unravel in their complexity. Each day, saying hello to here takes many new forms.

In Livingstone, I said hello to Victoria Falls, which is one of the most dramatic landscapes I have ever seen. Shortly after being soaked by the water, I said hello to the bungee jump of both thrill and fear that I took. As many Zambians and neighboring Zimbabweans told me, “Once you jump, it will feel like you have been born again.” As it turns out, they were correct. Somehow this 413-foot plumet reignited my spark for living a life of many leaps. Hello to being alive.

On Monday, the Computer Education Team and the ZamCity Team had the privilege of going to Zambezi Basic School. When we arrived, we were greeted by the deputy head teacher, Precious, who informed us that she would call an all-school assembly to welcome us and introduce us to the students. Five short minutes later, we walked out to approximately 1,700 smiling faces eager to learn our names. After introducing myself, I heard the students practicing: “autree…atree…tree.” Even though most of the students are unable to pronounce my name correctly, and even though there are occasional communicative barriers, the desire for these students to acknowledge us is abundant. Hello to the abundance.

I don’t think I have ever been in a place of such radical welcome. “Hello” extends far beyond a greeting here in Zambezi. It welcomes conversation, it invites curiosity, and it honors the humanity we each hold. I believe that people here are truly invested in meeting us, learning who we are, and building relationships with us. This is what accompaniment is all about.

These relational hellos have also called me to reflect on my chosen vocation. As many of you know, I have wanted to be a teacher for my entire life and am only one short year away from graduating. As I near this place, I frequently consider the ways I will build relationships with my students. In my teacher preparation courses at Gonzaga, we often talk about the necessity of forming relationships with our students. A key distinction I have observed here in Zambezi compared to my experience in the United States, is that relationships are not compartmentalized here. Teachers and students interact frequently and live lives that are deeply intertwined and interdependent on each other. In the United States, it’s easy to leave relationships at the door once the school day is over. I am sure we have all had the somewhat awkward experience of seeing a teacher or professor at the grocery store and wondering if we should say hello. While I say this somewhat jokingly, there is also truth to it. I have not, however, witnessed this same thing in Zambezi. Likya, the teacher Eva and I are working with at the school, has well over 40 students in each of her classes. Without fail, she knows each of their names and is a master of her craft in kindly commanding attention of her pupils. I know that this ability stems from deep and mutual trust exhibited outside the classroom. Similarly,  community members greet each other as brothers and sisters day in, and day out. It is beautiful.

Amidst the joys, there are also hellos to surprise and uncertainty. The first day we were here, Tyler and I were exploring the market and searching for chili powder (which we sadly were unable to find). Four men kept waving and beckoning us over to where they were standing. Truthfully, the first couple times they called out to us, the alarm bells that I have been conditioned to attend to started ringing. I am a woman. What do they want? Are they unsafe? What are my surroundings? After more calls however, we walked over. The first words out of their mouth were “Hi! Welcome to Zambezi. We want to greet you.” This hello was pivotal for me. It reminded me that every person has dignity and worth and it is our responsibility as a collective to honor this humanness in each other. It is this profound acknowledgement of a person’s humanity that I experienced when Christine, the great-grandmother of one of my computer students told me and Sarah that we could call her grandmother. Hello to my growing family of Mamas, grandmothers, friends, and students.

Thank you to all of you who are thinking about and praying for us. As we continue building relationships with this beautiful community, I encourage us all, Zags and friends, to greet a new experience, conversation, fear, or hope. Name it, and when you are ready, say hello.

Peace and blessings,

Audrey Buller ‘2023

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8 Responses to Saying Hello

  1. Bryce Kreiser says:

    Audrey, I celebrate your open heart, so beautifully expressed here and guided by the words of Padraig O Tuama. I am inspired by the way you welcome and reciprocate these hello’s. As the great Theodore Lasso once said, “Be curious, not judgemental.” Keep on keeping that heart open!

    Josh: please great Brother Sitali for me.
    Blaine: Hello

    Bryce Kreiser (Zambezi 2019)

  2. Teagan Cramer says:

    Audrey! Your smile is just as inspiring as these words! Thank you for sharing your experiences and helping us remember that hello is deeper than a passing greeting, it’s an invitation. So thank you for inviting us into your heart! Love and miss you very much <3

  3. Bruce Buller says:

    Audrey – Hello to the blog and a peek inside what’s going on! Zambezi sounds like a great place to expand if not restore interest and faith in humanity. You are where you should be now, make an impact and be impacted!

    • I so enjoyed reading your blog. The importance of pausing for a simple hello, and recognizing the genuine meaning of this gesture in every culture you encounter. As you embark on your daily journeys, remain open, humble and “in the moment”. You will be in awe of what you learn from your students.

  4. Katie Buller says:

    Wow! LOL
    Oh! How wonderful to read your beautiful words. What a blessing to be welcomed into this Zambezi family. Your heart always searches for ways to connect. You are clearly treasuring each person and moment and learning so much for there is certainly much to be absorbed from such joy filled people. (I’m thankful for my ever growing reading wish list supplied by things you read through your Gonzaga education-gotta check out Pádraig Ó Tuama next) .
    Hello indeed to the abundance!! I love you so much.

  5. Wyatt Buller says:

    This was a real treat being able to read your blog from you apple watch. Thanks again for letting me use that. Glad you’re enjoying yourself and I’m sure the people you are meeting love having you around. Much love from me and the fam!

  6. Jennifer Akins says:

    Hello to all of you!
    Audrey, thank you for this reminder that the differences apparent in each “hello” matter immensely. Thank you to you, Paal, Emily, and Kalie for allowing me to see Zambezi through your experiences these first few days and in doing so, allowing me to say hello again to the place and the people in the community you are entering and building. Your presence there and this accounting of your experiences brings me hope. I am also especially happy to hear that you all still have more questions than answers. (In case no has told you yet, that is the key to a happy and fulfilling life!)
    As you go out and greet the day, run towards the ambiguity and listen hard – you may hear its name.
    Peace to all of you!

  7. Newson Family says:

    Hello Audrey! I loved reading this piece! It reminded me how guarded we can be sometimes when others just want to say hello. Its sad to think that we live in times when others kindness is met by reservations due to our own past experiences. I pray we all can become better at just saying hello….

    Praying for all of you to continue to stay safe!

    Say hello to my wonderful baby girl Jazmine! … we love and miss her tons!

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