This was Josh’s response when I inquired about the massive spider in the corner of my shower on our first day in Zambezi. While I was certainly hoping for an enthusiastic offer to kill it for me, I was not surprised by Josh’s challenge. Zambezi is not a place to live in comfort – fears must be shut down or embraced; kill the spider or name it. Inspired by the goal to grow and push myself, and certainly influenced by fear of knocking the giant spider onto my face in attempt to kill it, I chose to name it. This has not been a comfortable or particularly enjoyable experience, but I have found myself becoming consistently less scared of my new friend. With something as simple as naming my shower spider, I have found myself steadily overcoming my fear of bugs. In many contexts, stepping into discomfort has given me countless chances to grow and adapt as an individual throughout the last week.
On Sunday morning, Joci and I walked for about a mile with our homestay sister, Grace, to go to mass at the Catholic church. We dropped our backpacks at the convent and asked Grace and her friends, Joy and Memory, to save us a few seats. We found them seated right behind the choir, who were wearing bright red matching polos. Grace motioned to the row in front of her and her friends, and Joci and I settled in. Excited for another vibrant expression of faith, we anxiously awaited the beginning of mass. Before we knew it, the choir and all the people around us stood up for the opening song. Trying to blend in as much as we could considering our obvious visible differences, Joci and I hesitantly stood up as well. As the songs began, the dancing did too. Soon enough, we were frantically trying to keep up with the impressive choral choreography. Not nearly as musically inclined as anyone around us, we tried our best to stay on beat as we pumped our arms, clapped, stomped, side stepped, turned, and jumped. We were encased in surround-sound joyful music, as apparently the red polos were a mere suggestion for the choral uniform. It took us a minute to realize, but Joci and I had been sat right in the middle of the choir. Once I realized what happened, my immediate response was to quietly slide out of the row and find a seat somewhere else where I could be an observer and not a performer. Josh’s advice came to mind again. “You can either kill it or name it.” I decided in this moment to embrace the awkwardness and the out of place feelings instead of running away from the discomfort. The dances only got more intricate, but I only got more comfortable. By the end of the service, Joci and I were proudly humming along, staying on beat with our steps, and we even figured out the timing of the climactic jump-clap in the middle of the final song! The service, which was lovely, ended with a Father David giving a shoutout to Josh and “the new members of the St. Cecelia Youth Choir.” I was beaming after being awarded my new title, as I felt incredibly welcomed and appreciated in response to taking a risk. My step into discomfort was rewarded with celebration, laughter, and significant strengthening of my sense of community.
Such initial fear or awkwardness has also taken shape in our class. The students in our business and leadership class are activists, church leaders, teachers, parents, politicians, and businesspeople. Their views on leadership are nuanced and thoughtful, which is beautiful to see and learn from. At the same time, I don’t often feel qualified to instruct such incredible, experienced people. There have been many times when I felt like I should remove myself from our class and just listen instead of trying to teach anything. Even so, our course needs direction, and I have worked hard to embrace my role as a facilitator and sharer of knowledge. We push our students to consider new perspectives, which is perhaps the most challenging, yet rewarding, part of this course so far. We recently introduced the concept of servant leadership in class. Our students met it with surprising backlash, even declaring that “you cannot lead if you do not have power.” I felt very uncomfortable in this class, not knowing what to say or how to direct the conversation. I did a clumsy job stumbling through an alternate explanation and argument and left class feeling frazzled and embarrassed. Today, my discomfort was rewarded once again. Boyd, one of our most devoted students, pulled me aside after class. He told me about how he used to think that democratic leadership was ideal, but now he wants to lean into servant leadership in his church community. He has found a new concern with the people he leads and said that our comments inspired him to think of others first. My heart swelled; I felt so proud of our students and our work as facilitators. Despite my discomfort leading a course where I do not necessarily feel like an expert, Boyd’s comments were affirming and showed us that our work does indeed make a different here in Zambezi. We have exchanged so much knowledge with our students, much of which would not have happened by living in comfort.
Finally, we have been tasked with interviewing a community member for our Writing Traveler class. I found myself with a few free hours this afternoon, so I walked over to Mary and James’ home. They are both tailors and I have met them twice before today, but only in accompaniment with Jeff, who considers them good friends. I had never been one to approach others for friendship, and I rarely like to go anywhere by myself. Today, though, I decided to push myself into discomfort once again. I went on my first solo walk in Zambezi, which was an empowering experience of freedom, independence, and confidence in my knowledge of the area. I successfully navigated to their home and walked up to their door to ask for Mary. She came outside, enthusiastically greeted me with a handshake and hugs, and grabbed me a chair to sit and chat. Mary embodies humility, hard work, and love and her story is inspiring and heartwarming. But even more memorable is her spectacular laugh. Mary’s giggles light up the room and fill everyone around her with joy. I could not stop smiling the entire time I was with her. Not only did our conversation solidify our friendship, as she invited me to call her Auntie Mary and to come back any time, but it also provided me with one of the most authentic, profound moments of joy that I have had in Zambia so far. This simple moment of laughing with a new friend stemmed from the bravery to embrace discomfort. Had I shied away from walking somewhere on my own or approaching someone that I wasn’t sure would remember me, I would not have gotten to appreciate Mary’s inspiring story, her infectious laugh, or our new friendship.
Embracing the discomfort is incredibly challenging for me, but it has paid off in indescribable ways here in Zambezi. Fears are overcome, connections are deeper, learning is more meaningful, and smiles are bigger when we take the challenging route through adversity.
Finally, I would like to send our love to everyone at home who is reading along with our blog and keeping us in your thoughts. We can feel your support from here and are loving reading your comments and keeping you updated. We hope you are all well.
Andie Rosenwald, Class of 2024
P.S. Shoutout to Abigail McWhirter Martin (Johnston). We had a wonderful birthday celebration for her today (it may have included some baby powder).
I read the blog every day and every day start at the bottom to see if Andie wrote it. 🙂
And what a great account of your experiences!
And your blog was entertaining, too!
Keep having fun and know that some of us are quite envious. 😉
Lots of love,
Wow – what an amazing adventure! Thanks for sharing with us. Your hosts sound wonderful and so friendly.
I am not a big fan of spiders either – maybe I’ll try naming them too.
Naming your fears is sage advice! We could not be more proud of this group. You are each choosing to walk with the discomfort, leading you to discover new depth of meaning and levels of richness to life.
Your stories cracked us up today, Andie. We can just imagine the look on your face when you and Joci realized all eyes were on you in that choir! 🙂
Hi Andie! I really enjoyed reading your blog and loved hearing your experiences with pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. It is incredibly powerful and motivates me to push myself out of my comfort zone whenever I can. Throughout your blog your words are so descriptive and powerful that I can fully paint a picture of your experiences and feel the feelings you are trying to convey. I am left with only one integral question which is what is your spiders name (possibly Peter Parker)?
Lots of love,
Hi Andie – thank you for your beautiful and descriptive writing. Reading this blog, I feel like I’m there too – learning and relearning what is most important- and appreciative of the reminder that being uncomfortable is proof we are growing. For the inevitable next spider in your shower – how about the name Charlotte?
Much love to you all,
I love your enthusiasm and adventurous attitude! Thanks for sharing your thoughts about embracing challenges! Your writing inspires me.
I feel so guilty of killing a spider in my shower this morning! Spiders are indeed valuable and we need to challenge our old habits and thinking. Your description of visiting Mary was wonderful and inspiring. The world is full of magic (Mary) but often requires some discomfort to find it. Thanks for these incredible blogs. A big Go Zags! to you all and much love to our daughter Sarah!!!!
Loved reading your blog, and totally empathize with the feeling of not being an expert in a given subject matter and feeling ill prepared to teach it! You have found the key; it starts with listening – to then give better guidance. What a great feeling it must have been to realize that you made an impact when introducing the concept of democratic leadership!
And what a fabulous description of the service and finding yourself amidst the choir!!
I remain in awe of the Zag courage to take on new challenges and embrace discomfort. I believe each and every one of you is recognizing the growth that accompanies these leaps of faith. Simply wonderful. It is a daily treat to accompany you in your discoveries through this blog!
Special “câlin” to Sarah-Jeanne xxx
You made my day Andie with your spider story as I’ve previously heard of this “huge” spider from Jazmine. I’m glad to hear your experience thus far & the importance of allowing ourselves to get out of our comfort zone. It sounds like curiosity & not fear is leading you to wonderful encounters.
I pray daily everyone stays safe & healthy
Hi Andie, thanks for the wonderful lesson from you and Josh on looking closely at our fears. I had a colleague who was absolutely petrified by spiders but loved traveling to Colombia. She is an amazing artist and began making very intricate drawings of the spiders who came into her life. In the end, they became friends. And how lucky you are to have students who are willing to challenge you and push back on your theories. That tells me they feel empowered to participate! And Happy Birthday Abigail! I may need to find some white flour to share next time I greet you friend!
Thanks to you and Andie for the past couple of days of reflections. Working outside your comfort zone, and working with your hands are concepts that some people take their whole lives to let soak in. Thank you for sharing.
the Watts Fam
Love this blog post Andie! I totally appreciate your perspective on taking risks and being willing to embrace the uncomfortable. I defiantly would have tracked someone else down to kill the spider, so major kudos to you for naming it! Your heart and courage inspire me everyday! Wishing you all the best, have a fun and safe rest of your trip 🙂
Andie!! I absolutely loved reading this post. I’m so so so proud of you for stepping out of your comfort zone, that is something that is not easy!! You’re inspiring! I can’t wait to hear about everything when you get back!!! I love and miss you so much <3
Andie! So proud of you and all you’ve accomplished here. Honestly, I’m in awe of your ability to grow comfortable with your shower spider. I made Katie get the tiny spider that was in our kitchen drawer yesterday lol. Next time, I’ll try to channel your new philosophy! Miss you so much can’t wait to see you!!
Lots of love,