What does it mean to just be?
I look back to the moment I raised my hand at that breakfast in Lusaka. Now here I am three weeks later, sitting in the living room of the convent, looking at the array of pictures and posters covering the once blank walls, smelling the aroma of the mama’s (and Jazmine’s) cooking wafting into the living room, and listening to the laughter and chatter of my classmates in the background. A place that once seemed so foreign has quickly become our home.
Writing that first blog post of our journey both feels like yesterday and like it was an eternity ago at the same time. I remember the anticipation I felt, ready to leap into the unknown while fear of not knowing what that was. As we are just getting into our last week in Zambezi, that fear has turned into so much joy, joined by sadness. I can’t stop wondering how I am going to leave a place that has given me so much.
In our time here, we’ve talked a lot about the act of being present. In a community that is so different than the culture that we grew up in and are accustomed to, it’s easy to let the guilt and discomfort we feel pull us away from truly appreciating the raw beauty of this new environment. I’ve found being present increasingly difficult approaching this last week here, with a constant feeling of dread, deep in my gut.
This dread has slowly crept into my days here. I find myself sitting in computer class or my classroom at the basic school and I can’t help but let my sadness overcome my thoughts. All I want is to hold onto this week and never let go, yet all I’m doing is thinking about the inevitable departure on Saturday. When do we let go of everything preoccupying our thoughts and just be, and what does that even mean?
We come from a culture of doing. Success is measured by the job you have, the number of activities you do, your intelligence, etc. We are trained to spend our days filled with back-to-back programs, normalizing a lifestyle that allots little free time. It leaves no time to learn how to just live.
In reflecting on this, I’m realizing that I’ve let so many moments of real-life pass by me because I was so caught up on events of the future or even the past. These last two weeks in Zambezi have taught me so much, but the number one thing I want to bring back to my life in the U.S is starting to just be present and live, as embodied by so many of the Zambians we’ve encountered on this journey.
I want to be like Philip, eyes glistening in awe as he sees all the font options on a computer. Like Eddie, dancing in joy as he solves a problem he was stuck on. I want to be like Marry, Jessie, Ben and Jasper, the pure smiles on their faces as we enter their shops in the market. Be like the people of Dipalata, with music and faith carrying them through all the difficulties of life. I want to be like 12-year-old Rosa who wants to be a pharmacist because she “just wants to help people”.
I will forever cherish the moments sitting outside the convent in the morning before the day starts or the walks in the market, smiling at all the familiar faces; moments where I felt truly human. While these are moments that will always be in my heart, they aren’t glued to Zambezi. I still have a lot to learn about the simple act of living that I look forward to continuing to explore when I’m back home.
The act of living in the moment and taking in all the little precious moments in life you can seems simple, however in retrospect being able to take in these moments as they come is one of the hardest things I’ve encountered on this trip. Whether it’s the various illnesses or the unavoidable homesickness, I’ve found myself so preoccupied by outside factors that I forget to just look around me. Sometimes in these situations, all you need is to just be.
What does just being even mean when I go back to the fast paced, individualistic culture that is the U.S? I don’t know, but if there’s anything that this trip has taught me that I will treasure coming into my last week here is to just take a moment, take a deep breath, look around and just be.
Ufuku mwane as I’m writing this here in Zambezi, and a chimene mwane to all reading in the United States.
Sarah Barsky ‘24