A few weeks into 2016, and Global Health Corps had us fellows hit the ground running in the most rejuvenating way possible. This year long fellowship is set up in a way that requires quarterly reviews and group check-ins that are intended to provide us with not only the time to process our personal and professional growth, but also the space to socialize and keep morale high amongst the community despite the hardships that working and living abroad might yield. Maintaining high spirits while trying in enact positive and innovative change within our placement organizations or just in the name of health equity as a whole has proven to be, at times, exhausting, which is why these quarterly retreats are such a great and valuable re-energizing part of the fellowship. Most of us have experienced highs and lows throughout the year and will continue to do so as the remainder of the 5 months pans out. Calibrating personal and professional expectations while also seeking to leave a lasting impact has simultaneously proven to be a delicate challenge that most of us have or are continuing to face. Needless to say, bringing together groups of GHC fellows to discuss shared experiences and process their realities is cleansing.
I was unable to attend the first quarterly retreat, which focused on experiences faced within country groups, as a result of my prior commitment to attend and present at the Humanity in Action “Arts and Activism” conference in October. So for me, Q2, or the quarter two retreat, was the first time I had the opportunity to experience the cleansing and inspiring nature of the GHC retreat system. In mid-January, ZamFam jumped on a small plane and made our way to Mfuwe, which was about an hour’s flight from Lusaka.
Q2 acted as a 5 day period of internal reflection and external processing between members of the ZamFam country team and the GHC Malawi country team, that are collectively known as the MalPals. Through co-fellow presentations, spiritually awakening lectures led by Still Harbor, and one-on-ones with GHC staff members including our fearless leader, Barbara Bush, in addition to the post session socializing and catch ups, I felt refocused and refueled for the second half of the fellowship to unfold.
In addition to the internal relief the Q2 provided, there was so much natural beauty that surrounded us in Mfuwe, Zambia that made the experience even more enlightening. Staying at the Croc Valley Camp lodge, which was immersed amidst Zambia’s Natural Park and game reserve in South Luangwe, was not only beautiful, but it was also such a unique experience. I shared a room with 10 other girls in hostel style set up with mosquito nets draped across the room that made it feel much more lavish and helped compensate for the 1 toilet and 1 shower situation that the 10 of us were trying to figure out over the course of the 5 day retreat.
The roof to our hostel style room was tin and acted as the perfect tap dancing stage for the local monkeys and baboons that began dancing away at the crack of dawn. Speaking of monkeys, they were everywhere which was cool, but kind of terrifying. I never realized how much baboons specifically act and look like humans; one even opened the door to our room and walked in! Those opposable thumbs though.
And in between heart felt sessions, as a group we got to experience a day and a night game drive through the South Luangwe National Park. Baboons/monkeys were frequent (per usual), elephants were friendly, giraffes were curiously cute, zebras sparked debates about if they were white with black stripes or black with white stripes, and hippos darted in and out of the bushes all of which made our experience so surreal. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see any of the big cat predators, but our time in Mfuwe was still incredible.
These games drives were beautiful and really helped me to physically feel the vastness of the world and God’s creation which helped me to at least momentarily feel at peace with uncertainties that I was feeling and remember that everything and everyone has its place and purpose. It will all work out the way that it is supposed to. Thank you Q2 for reminding me of that.