Highlights from a joy-filled day in Zambezi

Sunset photoshoot at the canoe landing.

Unlike Bella I’ve almost been dreading the day I write blog. Writing isn’t my favorite. But today turned out to be the perfect day for me.

It’s a beautiful morning when I wake up right before breakfast here at the convent. Lauren, Sierra, and Dee are in the kitchen furiously cooking up a delicious breakfast with some fun tunes in the background. I come and join Grace E. and Maddy in the living room reading.

Lauren interrupts singing breakkkfassst!

Breakfast starts with a discussion of who’s swapping books with whom and a heated grilling of Lauren about what she thinks of the book she just finished 

Bella declares these the best eggs yet.

I’m sitting in the living room reading my book and Maddy and Kendall are on dishes. Maddy’s playing country music that is making me so happy, and I feel even more at home. I have a good feeling about today.

Clare and Grace S. are in their first roommate fight because apparently a lizard crawled out of Clare’s backpack after Grace teased her, saying “I hope it crawls into your bed” when they saw it in their bathroom last night.

Class time! We gather in the gazebo for another class today to discuss leadership styles. We got into a really great discussion with an example scenario featuring three types of leaders: one laissez faire, one democratic, and one authoritarian. One of the students attending our class, Rickson, began challenging the original consensus, which led to some passionate beliefs from some other members of the group. It was amazing to hear what they thought about the qualities that make a good leader, and I really agreed with a lot of them whole heartedly. 

In the afternoon we made a trip to the market to look for some chitenge, and it was very successful. I found one for a gift, made a stop by the tailor’s to drop off a skirt order to sweet mama Mary, and headed to Wendy’s shop where I found the perfect pink chitenge for a skirt I want made!!

We made it back to the convent just in time for a delicious lunch prepared by Mama Katendi, Mama Violet, and Hattie. Then the health team went off for their class and the education team headed to the school. 

I felt loved, and a bit smothered, by these children.

I wanted to relax and enjoy the sunshine so I went to sit outside and read. I was off to a rocky start, as the chickens were wandering a little too close for comfort and one of the chicks kept attempting to peck my foot. Then I was swarmed by about 15 kids—Sharon, Gracious, Gabriel, and many more. They at first were shy and quite worried I would tell them to leave, but then they warmed up and started playing with my hair and asking me lots of questions. I learned their favorite movies, foods, etc. They were very interested in just about everything; my book, my bracelet, my rings, etc. They were sweet and though they crossed some boundaries, first of all by being in the convent walls, I enjoyed getting to know them. We shared lots of laughs and they were repeatedly trying to get me to play games with them, which I was very much not up for. They kept plaiting my hair and asked to take pictures, so we took lots.  Eventually, I could tell they weren’t ever going to leave, so I had to make up an excuse to go inside. I gave lots of hugs, and we said goodbye. The kids here are beautiful and very interested in us, but it is sometimes a challenge to draw productive boundaries for how much and what kinds of interactions we should have with them. If given the chance, they’d be with us non-stop, but that would limit our time to grow as a group and to develop relationships with Zambian adults.

Once I moved back inside to read, I realized it just wasn’t in the cards for me today. Grace E. said we should play B.S. (a card game in which every player has to lie about the cards in their hand and the purpose is to not be found out) and I couldn’t resist. Kendall, Dee, and Sierra joined us, and this was probably one of my most fun experiences playing B.S. We all got really invested and there was some beef between Grace E. and Kendall as we discovered that Grace may have a not-so-honest side.

We finally decided to stop playing after countless rounds, and the education team returned from their time at the boarding school. We then somehow ended up in a circle all sharing pictures from our freshman year of high school and other small mementos. I have felt close with these girls almost everyday, but today felt just a little more comfortable. I think we all brought out more of our authentic selves, whether that be in terrifying old pictures or slightly mean jokes we probably wouldn’t make to anyone else who wouldn’t know we were kidding. We truly feel like a family here, and I couldn’t imagine this experience with any other group of girls.

We ended the day with a walk down to the Zambezi River to watch the sunset. This ultimately led to some 0.5 photos and making a Video Star to the song “Space Unicorn,” which was truly a masterpiece and quite the throwback. There were some fun moments out by the river such as a conversation between Kendall and Clare that went something like this:

“Clare, who sings that song?”

“The Carpenters”

“Let’s keep it that way”

…. ouch

“You’re a bad egg”

“No, I’m Kendall”

Followed by some giggles.

Overall, today was probably one of my favorite days yet. I had a few great connections with Zambians, but I also really cherished my time with all of the girls today (+Jeff). 

The small joys of my day:

  • Lulu’s random singing outbursts.
  • The attendees at our business and leadership class sharing out their brand logos they designed for themselves based on their personal values.
  • Teeny tiny baby chicks.
  • Mama Wendy’s adorable one-year old, Melanie.
  • My guava juice and Red Bull combo.
  • The uchi bars Mama Katendi and Mama Violet made for us as a snack.
  • The chitenge I bought today with adorable elephants on it. (Might just wear it everyday from now on.)
  • Laughing with each and every one of these girls.
  • Maddy playing country music this morning. 
  • Hugs and lots more hugs.
  • Kris’ smile.
  • Making cold brew.
  • Watching the sunset over the Zambezi River with all of my family here.
  • Jeff grabbing a stick and pretending to be an elder to tease the Zambian kids.
  • Conversations with Sierra and Dee on the walk back from the river.
  • A game of Sardines.
  • S’mores and reflection by the fire.

So. Much. Joy.

P.S. Hi to all my peeps at home reading this! I miss you so so much more than you know and hope you’re all doing well. Can’t wait to see you all and give you the biggest hugs when I get home. Love you more <3

Megan Benham, ’23

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One Response to Highlights from a joy-filled day in Zambezi

  1. Maddie's mom says:

    I think I can deal with chicken pecking at my toes, but not the lizard in my bed!
    Other than that, you all are having so much fun and learning so much about one and other in your group as well as your host families.

    Keep up the the blogs and keep having fun!

    Maddie – Country music and dishes? Miss you and love you lots!

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