Every day it feels like the days get shorter, but the laughs get longer. Time here feels different. Part of it might be because I never realized there was a clock in the convent until it fell on Josh’s head last night during reflection (he’s okay), but I think it’s more than that. I think it’s even more than the fact that we are unplugged from our technology, disconnected from the world but becoming more deeply connected to each other and the community every day. Where I used to be so focused on the hour of the day or willing the 50 minutes of a class period to pass by quicker, now the day is broken up only in three parts: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Interactions aren’t planned, relationships form without notice, emotions arise suddenly. Sometimes, it can be hard to feel like we are forming genuine connection when it is so obvious that we are so foreign to this community.
Nevertheless, it happens in the ways we least expect. It happens when a man named Eddie who is taking our computer class stays afterwards to find us and gives us a poster to hang on our walls of a keyboard he meticulously drew out. It happens when we laugh with the Mamas about our new Chitenge suits and dresses that in Mama Katendi’s words make us look like “true Zambian girls” and it happened today visiting Micheal’s parents. Riding in the back of a truck with a chicken accompanying us as a gift, we made our way to Chingolala. We were greeted along the way, many smiles and waves making us feel welcome and seen. Once there, we were greeted by many members of Micheal’s family, and a group of kids which never stopped growing as more and more children became curious to see us and see what we were doing there. Despite relying heavily on our translator Terry (who speaks a total of 7 languages), we could feel the warmth and love radiating from the words of Michael’s mother and father as they welcomed us to their home. I was filled with even more respect towards Micheal and inspired by his family. I began to understand why he so frequently mentions how important family is to him.
The feelings and emotions surrounding every activity and interaction are complex and often contradicting, changing moment to moment, day by day. Each day is different than the previous and filled with multitudes of emotions, all varying in depth and their own challenges and baggage. Throughout this trip I’ve felt plagued by guilt. I’m guilty about the life I get to live, guilty about the assumptions I make about others, guilty about feeling happy, guilty about feeling sad, guilty about not being the best writer, guilty about not being the perfect friend, guilty about not washing my plate, guilty about feeling guilty. I can’t help but think, even when I’m deep in a belly laugh, that there is someone’s pain nearby—even within me sometimes. I feel a deep-rooted sense of turmoil. I’m constantly reminded of the tension between such strong emotions of joy and sorrow. These contradictions are constantly and rapidly flipping through my mind. This experience has given me time to think and to reflect, yet I never seem to be able to settle on any conclusions because in every moment, my thoughts, wants, and feelings are changing. I can be on top of the world here, but my eyes can sting from the tears I am holding back. I can be dried out and exhausted but filled with energy from a hug of a friend or the stimulation of a new conversation. Some days are so jam packed there is barely time to breathe, and others pass by giving us time to read, to meditate, and get to know each other even more deeply. Every meal feels like a celebration; a gathering to appreciate the meals in front of us, the lives we are given, the opportunities we have. We celebrate each other through the ups and the downs. Every meal, we are becoming a family, understanding each other and ourselves more deeply.
I think I speak for all of us when I say we could never say enough thanks to those reading from home who have supported us through this journey, or to those we’ve met in Zambia who are continuing to let us into their homes and lives.
I’m not sure how I am going to bring back the things I have learned from being in Zambezi to “real life” which right now feels fantastical and distant. I am not even sure I could put into words the “lessons” I have learned. But if it gives any consolation, I know in my heart that we are living fully, loving deeply, laughing until our stomachs are sore and a snort slips out of Eva’s nose. Above all, if at times I feel like I could be the only one struggling with these contradictions, I know that no one truly needs to be alone in this or any journey.
Joci Anderson, Gonzaga Class of ‘23
Hi Gonzaga-in-Zambia Family
….And of course a Big Hug to Joci!!!
It has been so fun and amazing to follow both the Blog and the TikTok postings.
I know for myself that I am proud of my Daughter for making this incredible Journey and proud of the Zambia collective team of students & faculty for this endeavor. I continuously look for new postings to at least get a small glimpse into your incredible world there in Africa!
Thanks for sharing both the easy & difficult, as well as the fun & the challenges; Know that you are supported and loved from half-way around the World. We can all tell that your emotions run deep for your new friends, both within the group and those from Zambia. Continue on in God’s marvelous Grace & Love!
With Great Admiration, Dave Anderson
Ps. Love you Joci!!!
Whow Joci! … I applaud you for really expressing your emotions, as its not as easy as it seems. You may not know how to incorporate everything learned while in Zambezi but your heart will remind you of the kindness and lessons learned during this time. What a blessing and privilege that you all get to experience so much kindness from everyone you’ve met so far.
God bless you all.
Lastly, Cinco sends hugs and kisses to Jazmine.
I know it must be challenging for all of you to express how meaningful this experience is. Thank you for sharing what seems like a truly beautiful journey with all of your thoughtful posts.
Thank you for sharing these sentiments. All the emotions you are experiencing must seem overwhelming at times. Trust them. Breathe. Rest. Repeat. This stuff is nourishing your soul, whether it feels like it in the moment or not. This is growth. Sending love and support. You got this!
PS – We met the puppy last night! Oh. My. Gosh!!!!!
What a wonderful reflection, Joci!
I think I can speak for all of us readers by saying don’t feel guilty about your writing skills for even one second.
You, and others before you, managed to capture moments of your days and make them come to life for us. It must be incredibly hard to condense what you are experiencing into some words on a page for us. It’s working, though, and we readers are so grateful!
Thank you (all) for sharing, truly. And sincerely appreciated as we wake and start our days here in the US thinking of you.
The journey sounds so amazing and I am so happy to hear how all the little to big things that this experience has been, has added so much depth and value to each and everyone’s lives. Being exposed to the richness and beauty of different communities, opens up a whole different perspective to how you see the world. You begin to understand their imagined communities, lived histories, and importance of family and culture. Also a big shout-out to Sarah Barsky, I hope you are having a wonderful time and I miss you a bunch!
Alex, writing from Copenhagen, Denmark
Thank you for making yourself vulnerable to us, and to your new Zag and Zambia family. Such deep and at times seemingly contradictory emotions that you express and feel deeply are also those that allow you to live this adventure to the fullest. In science, knowledge and discovery are all about asking the right questions and enjoying the path that provides some answers, but in most instances raises even more questions. The same is true of life. Continue to be inquisitive; to listen; to be sensitive. And embrace the full range of emotions that comes with meaningful life experiences and acquaintances!
Thank you for your beautiful blog post. I so appreciate your reflections on the conflicting emotions and experiences you’re having. And I FEEL YOU on the guilt part.
I’ve typed about 10 versions of this comment and I still can’t decide what I want to say. Zags, please know that I think of you often. All day today as I worked with my students, listened to final presentations, laughed at the lunch table, and started cleaning in preparation of the last day, I thought of you all. I envisioned you, though I don’t know you, shuffling around the convent, meeting new people in the market, gathering around that giant collection of tables for lunch, feeling sand and sun and joy and sometimes guilt, or other uncomfortable emotions. I hope you are finding what you’re looking for, or, if you’re not sure what you’re looking for yet, I hope you’re continually opening yourself up to what’s new.
This time is so special. Zambezi is so special. Zambezi is a place of its own for 11 months out of the year when Zags aren’t there. You have the unique opportunity to grow there for the month-ish you are there, and so many people want to help you. I think it’s normal to feel lost sometimes. Well, I felt lost, so I think it’s normal. Reach out to your peers, your faculty, and the Zambians you have met in the past week. Everybody around you is looking for connection.
Abbey, Josh, and Jeff – that goes for you, too. I hope you get to connect today in the way that you teach (taught) us to connect. Thanks for teaching me.