Learning to relish deeper conversations

I woke up to my alarm, and immediately pressed “snooze,” hoping to relish a few more minutes of sleep.  But as I rested my eyes, I suddenly remembered: I’M ON BLOG TODAY!!! Hi, my name is Bella, and I’ve been waiting literally WEEKS to speak to you all via cyberspace. For my blog post, I’ve decided to take pictures throughout the whole day, and collect them as a sort of “Day In The Life of Gonzaga-in-Zambezi.”  Call me a micro-influencer!  So without further ado, let’s get into it!

The excitement of writing the blog post brought me to life this morning, and I sprung out of bed like I was a teen girl in a Disney Channel Movie, all smiles as I peeled back my mosquito net, pulled on my spandex and laced up my shoes to meet Clare, Dee, Hattie, Grace S., and Lauren for a run.  The sun was still rising as we jogged out of the convent gates and onto the only paved road in the district.  As we ran, we caught the last glimpse of the full Strawberry Moon.  LAG!!! (Side note: LAG = Let’s Actually Go, meaning LETS GOOOO. If you spend time around any of these girls, you should probably take note of this term as I might’ve accidentally ~forcibly~ started a trend.) ?

After devouring a delicious meal of eggs, potatoes, fruit and most importantly, Chips Seasoning (our new kitchen staple), the health team set out for the hospital to observe labs and watch babies get shots (that would hurt my heart, they are so brave) and Maddie and Lauren hopped in Father David’s trusty white truck, headed for Chilenga where they got to spend time in the primary classrooms for the very first time!!  At 10am, the business and leadership team headed for the gazebo to greet our fabulous attendees. Today’s discussion mostly surrounded who we look up to as leaders and what values we strive to embody as leaders. Our pupils were engaged and brought up so many good points. We discovered that as a community, they most value honesty and love in their leaders. We discussed leaders ranging from our mothers to Nelson Mandela. The community members who patiently sit in on our classes impress me immensely everyday with their creativity, respect for one another, and thoughtful insights. I learn so much more from them than I feel like they take away from our lessons, and each day I feel very blessed to be a student of the Zambezi community.

After a culture class with Mama Josephine and a yummy lunch prepared by Grace E. and the Mamas, a group of us headed to the market for a very exciting task: picking up our tailored skirts from Mama Mary!!! I gave her a simple bubble-gum pink chitenge and she transformed it into a gorgeous low-waisted slip skirt. Somebody call the police, Mama Mary is guilty of slaying. After receiving our goods and exchanging many “Tunasakwilila mwanes” (that means “Thank You”), we went to another store in the Old Market to shop for some more chitenge. The colorful fabrics are literally a money vacuum, if anyone wonders where all of my kwacha’s been going. Zambia turned us into chitenge fiends; we can’t help it!

We hustled back to the convent before the health team’s class at the gazebo, for which I was a proud attendee. Grace S. did an incredible job leading a group of us in talking about nutrition, and I learned so much from her lesson. She, Sierra, Clare and Grace E. handled all of the students (and my) most difficult questions with confidence and ease. Slay queens slay! We were definitely feeling the absence of a very important member of the health team though.  Genesis, we all miss you so much!  We are wishing you a safe flight back to Seattle and we will continue keeping you in our thoughts and hearts.

I required some down-time after the nutrition class, but (some of my fellow Zags piled into the truck and headed to the ZamCity field to participate in Debby’s afternoon ZamCity soccer practice, which I must admit I am truly sad to have missed out on.  The FOMO is real.  While they were gone, I indulged in a little mystery, called my best friend for the first time since I left (SHOUTOUT WEM!) and read a fanfiction that I wrote as a 14 year old out loud to Kendall, which might be a mistake I’ll never live down. 

We’ve officially been in Zambezi for a week now, enjoying Katendi’s delicious prepared-with-love meals, Mama Josephine’s wisdom, and Mama Violet’s soft laugh. The welcome has been beautiful, but as we settle into this new routine in an unfamiliar place, more challenges have come to light than many of us expected.  I often find that Zambians idealize the United States in ways that make me slightly uncomfortable, especially as someone with a more cynical view of the operations of our country In our short time here, we’ve heard many Zambians express their deep admiration for “business” people like Elon Musk and Donald Trump, awed by the ways in which they worked the system and made their money. Kendall and I spent Saturday night with an incredibly hospitable and open-hearted home-stay family. Over dinner, it struck me how our 25-year-old host brother said to us “we Africans need you”. This sentiment made me deeply uncomfortable, especially as I’ve spent the last 2 weeks (and a great deal of my undergrad) exploring the ways in which colonizing powers have hindered the development of underprivileged nations. We have pillaged minerals, people, and wealth from otherwise perfectly capable countries, and now expect them to rise to economic prosperity using the same path that led to the Western ascendency to wealth and power.

It hurts me to see Africans idolize the Donald Trumps and Elon Musks of the world, knowing that their business plans continue to exploit African assets in the pursuit of wealth. The business class often fosters discussions about what makes a great leader. Our students give answers like “empathy,” “honesty,” and “solidarity,” which are community assets that I observe in action in Zambezi everyday. These values are palpable in the interactions Zambians have amongst themselves, and the relationships we are building with them. I personally see so many American “leaders” as short-sighted people who will never be able to empathize with the working class that has been so instrumental in building their wealth, and could never stand in solidarity with those whose backs they’ve stood upon to reach greatness. Regardless, these conversations are opening my eyes to the varying perspectives of the Zambian people and have challenged my own view of the way my country is viewed, and operates on the global stage. I will continue to reflect on these complex and nuanced issues as I continue to navigate the meaning of our presence in Zambezi.

We’ve talked about Zambia time a lot on this blog, and as someone who struggles with hyperactivity, I must say that there have been times that my patience and discipline has been tested. One of these times was yesterday during mass. I’ve never been the most patient person and there were times I wondered if the service would ever end. A few weeks before I left, I read a book called “Being Peace” by Thich Nhat Hanh, in which Hanh advises readers to practice mindfulness during challenging moments, for these are the times that we can best open our hearts to compassion and awareness. As I looked around the church during a particularly long prayer, my mind drifted to the teachings of “Being Peace,” and frustrated by my own impatience, I began to mindfully observe the service through a new lens. Allowing my senses to take over, the word “relish” kept echoing in my mind, even though I don’t even really know what that means! I was relishing Mama Christine’s soft, almost noiseless clap as she swayed and hummed along to the gospel choir, the warm Zambezi winter breeze floating through the open window, the tickle of a fly meandering through the forest of my leg hair (which I am slowly learning to embrace). Peering out the window, I found comfort in watching a young man in red (to indicate his position in the catholic church) hold his young daughter up to let her hands explore the palm leaves out of the church window, smiled at the praises of another church’s gospel choir wafting through the open window, and savored the sight of a restless toddler and her young sister walking hand and hand through a gaggle of chickens. Slowing down and practicing my mindfulness has allowed me to better relish my time in Zambezi, and I can’t wait to continue honing these skills.

I’m signing off for the night, and crossing my fingers (and toes) that there are no issues in posting this. To all of my loved ones reading at home, I can’t wait to share all of my stories with you and hear all of yours 🙂 I love and miss you guys so much! Special shout-out to my mom, I love you mom!!!!!

All my love,
Bella Boom-Haupt, ’23

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4 Responses to Learning to relish deeper conversations

  1. Audrey Buller says:

    Bella–I can hear the enthusiasm from your writing! Thank you for sharing so many photos, it really brings me back to Zambezi. I appreciate your reflection on exploiting African assets. I would challenge you to continue talking to local business leaders there and remain curious about the complexities of these issues.

    Lauren—I didn’t get a chance to comment on your blog so I’ll do it here. I am THRILLED you stayed with Janet, Kelly, Ben, and Mwana Fatima. They are truly such amazing people.

    Maddie—Keep being your lovely self!

    To everybody, thank you for your great blog posts! You are all doing the wonderful work of accompaniment.

    Kisu Mwane,
    Audrey Buller

  2. Niko says:

    Truly astonishing blog post! LAG and keep slaying! Atzig & Abziehen

  3. Lori Webster says:

    Great blog post reading Zambezi Gals:)

    I am so happy to hear you are squeezing every minute out of each day… running, cooking, teaching, sharing and reflecting. You ARE an influencer!! Love and miss you girl. xxoo
    PS I can’t wait to see the fabrics you bring back!

  4. Carrie Boom says:

    Bella, I’m so proud of you, and I enjoyed your perspective in this blog so much! I love that you are relishing your time in Zambezi, the culture, and the growth that you are consciously experiencing. You’ve inspired me and taught me as much as me you, believe me. I love you oodles and can’t wait to spend some time relishing your stories of Zambian culture and experience.

    PS – I hope that Genesis and her family are ok.
    PSS – I’ve super-enjoyed reading ALL of the Gonzaga-in-Zambezi bloggers! THANK YOU!

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