Expanding my territory

Dance celebration after Sports for Life.

The past 48 hours have been hectic, exciting, unique, and humbling. On Saturday morning, we all helped coach Sports for Life. The goal of this event is to teach children that engaging in physical activity together is not only good for their mental and physical health, but it can help strengthen the community. There were 13 stations where children from Zambezi and the surrounding villages had 7 minutes to learn and play different sports. I was tasked to be the timekeeper, which meant telling everyone to switch stations when the 7 minutes were up. Seems like an easy enough job, right? Well, it turns out that when 450 children are told to switch stations, but there has been no clear communication on which way they are rotating, it can cause quite the confusion. Sometimes the simplest tasks can be the trickiest. Despite this, the event ended successfully and to celebrate: a big dance party. You could see the joy on the children’s faces as they sang along and danced better than all of us.

After brunch and napping, the anticipation and anxiety about our homestays with local community members had set in. Many of us were scared to leave the convent, our newly made home, even if it was just for one night. What would the house and sleeping situation be like? Would we like the food? Would we have fun? The unknown felt terrifying. After stocking my overnight bag with extra blankets and food, I was as ready as I ever would be.

Blaine, Audrey, and I anxiously volunteered to go together and stay with a man named Kelly Saviye and his family. As soon as we met him our worries started to fade away. After a quick 1-minute drive (no I am not exaggerating), we arrived at his lovely and beautiful home where we met his wife Janet, his sister-in-law Audrey, and some of his children: Kokomo (23), Luwi (18), Benny (8). They all made me feel completely welcome. Mama Janet showed us how to make nshima from cassava flour, which we ate for dinner along with chicken and greens. After Kelly showed us around his property and taught some history about Zambezi, we went into the sitting room and happily chatted for hours. Our conversation ranged from politics to the different customs of Zambia and how that compares to the United States to sharing stories about our families. We even exchanged photos (my mother’s name is also Janet so Mama Janet loved the picture of my family and wanted to give a photo of herself to her “namesake”). I was completely surprised when around 8:30pm we were presented with tea and an abundance of food such as bread, rice, tomato soup, sweet potatoes, ground nuts, and hard-boiled eggs. We all eagerly enjoyed the delicious food and tea as we engaged in even more conversation that resulted in laughs and sharing of stories. As I crawled into bed with Audrey, we reflected on how we appreciated how vulnerable and gracious Kelly, Mama Janet, Luwi, Kokomo, Benny, and Audrey were to us. Through our conversation, I could tell that we all had a genuine desire to learn from one another, which resulted in authentic friendships and interpersonal development.

Kelly Saviye and his family with three Zags.

Waking up this morning, just like at home with my family, we got ready to go to church, but this time Zambian style! We had a delicious breakfast which included tea and samp, a traditional stew made of maize and ground nuts. Kelly is a pastor, and we were going to his Pentecostal church in a farther, more remote village. He started this church a few months ago so that people did not have to travel as far to get to church. When we walked in the door, we were greeted with smiling faces that were happy to have us here. We were proudly presented to the congregation of maybe 30 people, who took their time to sing us a traditional welcome song in Lunda (a local tribal language) and shake each of our hands. I felt truly valued and appreciated. Kelly diligently talked in English during his sermon, and Janet translated it in Lunda for the congregation. I am eternally grateful that I was able to hear and understand Kelly’s sermon in English, as it served as a reminder as to what I am doing here in Zambezi.

The sermon was about expanding your territory. Not expanding your physical property but expanding your connections and spiritual field. As Kelly asked us to think of a problem in our own “territory,” I focused on how I have been feeling the past couple days. We are about halfway through our time in Zambia, and although each day is filled with new and exciting experiences that I treasure, I have been finding myself longing for familiarity and home. I believe that home is a feeling of connection with others rather than a physical place. Kelly’s words gave me the courage to shift my focus outwards to present my true authentic self to Zambians, and my peers, as I pursue accompaniment. Although part of home is thousands of miles away, I can also create small feelings of home right here by striving to connect, engage, and listen in the best way that I can.

At the end of our stay, Kelly and his family gifted us a chicken and extra samp to bring back to the convent. This kind gesture of hospitality and care helped me realized that I too could help offer a sense of home to others in a variety of ways. Whether that be talking with one of my students after teaching health class while we clean up, asking the vendor when I get chocolate how they are doing and what the life of working in the market is like, or by just listening to one of my peers as we go for a walk. I have realized that finding a sense of home here isn’t the same as when I am at school in Washington or when I am with my family in Colorado, but there are many ways that I’m starting to see myself settling in and expanding my territory by looking at the people around me.

Kisu mwane,
Mackenzie Flesch, Class of ‘23

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7 Responses to Expanding my territory

  1. Maddy McDonald says:

    My most sincere greetings Mackenzie!
    I am incredibly impressed by this experience and your ability to convey your journey in Zambia. I am so proud of you and I miss you. However, I am so happy that you are there and learning. Selfishly, I can’t wait for you to get home and spend time with me. Keep slaying away girlboss!
    With so much love,
    Your forever bestie Maddy

  2. Janet & Kevin Flesch says:

    Sweet Mackenzie, Thank you for sharing your home stay with us. Love that Mama Janet was taking care of you just like this Mama Janet would at home. You are learning the importance of connecting with others as you find your place wherever you roam in this world of ours, and in so doing, expanding the territory of your heart. We love you and miss you and are so thrilled that you are diving into this experience. Also happy you’ve found chocolate! Home is waiting for you when you’re back from your adventure.

    Love, Mom & Dad

  3. Jennifer Akins says:

    Oh wowowowow! I’m catching up on my blog reading and it’s so good to feel Zambezi seeping into each of you and making everything in life a bit more complicated. I love it! Joci, snorting contradictions says it all. However, since I find laughter to be an appropriate response to so many experiences and emotions, I may be a bit biased. I am sure though that emoting, sometimes loudly and sometimes publicly, is absolutely part of our journey of discovery. Jazmine, saying yes to trust, what a brave choice. I’m reading all kinds of unusual things during these weeks at home and just today read about connection between oxytocin and trust. Brendan, yours is the first time I’ve heard Dickens entangled with Zambezi, but what a great example of our shared humanity, to see that the profound secret in each of us is always there to be discovered. And Mackenzie, what a wonderful image of expanding your territory. One of things that you all have an opportunity to do this month and long after your return will be to continue to question the established boundaries, to stretch the definitions of assumed categories like family, friend, teacher, student. I do wish I were there to hear about all of the home-stays, about the diversity of your experiences (and the many number of opportunities we all get to learn to laugh at ourselves when we jump into a new culture). I am sure the faculty missed you immensely, but hopefully found a little respite within the quiet walls of the convent. I look forward to the next installment!

  4. Jean Morrell says:

    Dear Mackenzie, I so enjoyed reading about your home stay! I was struck by the similarities such as meeting your Mama Janet there and of course, your Mama Janet here. I also was fascinated with the similarity between Kelly preaching an English and Mama Janet translating and your great great grandfather preaching in German in a Lutheran Church here in the US so people could understand and learn about Christ. You have learned some valuable lessons which you will use your entire life such as realizing that home is a feeling of connection with others and not a physical place, the importance of authentic friendships and interpersonal development and that the importance of a smile they can make you feel welcome even if you don’t understand the spoken language. You will benefit from these realizations your entire life! I’m anxious to talk with you more about your experiences! Love, Aunt Jean

  5. Julia LaRoche says:

    Dear Mackenzie, It was such fun reading your blog! What an exciting service filled fun adventure you and your group are having! Learning and experiencing that RELATIONSHIPS are our most important connections in this world is the best lesson any classroom could teach you. Blessings to you and your group as you continue your journey! Love you! Aunt Julia

  6. Suzanne Rettenmier says:

    Mackenzie, what a beautifully descriptive story of your time in Zambezi. God is weaving such an incredible story into all your lives as you follow the threads he is presenting and faithfully acknowledge them and love those you are with. Your family and home will always be a deep mainstay of that weave, and you will continue to add more layers and patterns as you expand your territory! Exciting and a bit of a mystery all at the same time. Prayers for continued health, safety, discernment, peace and strength. Big hugs and love to all! Mamma Rett

  7. Newson Family says:

    Great job Mackenzie on your descriptive experience with your home stay. It’s amazing how everyone seems to be learning valuable lessons in such a short amount of time. I really enjoyed how you connected your experience on expanding your “territory” & how to engage with those you encounter to not just be seen but also to feel they’re being heard.
    Praying everyone stays safe.

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