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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I didn’t know what to expect from a Prescott College orientation experience. I assumed we would carry heavy backpacks, navigate through canyons, hike over boulders and in and out of forests, across deserts, sleep outdoors and cook our own food in blazing heat and frigid nights. I had even heard rumors of swimming through icy pools with backpacks on and climbing waterfalls.

Though the weather extremes were far milder than I expected, all of the rest was true. But I experienced much more during orientation than just living and traveling in desert terrain for three weeks. I found wozani.

I have spent time in the wilderness camping, hiking, skiing, kayaking, canoeing and climbing. I have taken courses at other colleges and NOLS that had students living together in the wilderness in tents or quinzhees for weeks and months at a time.

I gained valuable experience on those expeditions, and learned from and with some of the best in their fields of expertise. I made some very good friends too. But I did not discover wozani until I spent time with ten amazing people on Prescott College orientation.

            There doesn’t seem to be a direct translation to English for the Zulu word, wozani.  I think that’s fitting, because the feeling is not easy to describe in simple terms either.

Some of the best, complimentary definitions are: to come close, people together, and unity. According to Heather Moseley and Annie Wilkinson, “The expression (wozani) celebrates our collective power and common belief…it binds us together in our struggles…” (See footnote).

If you were to combine all of those definitions, you would start to come close what I experienced with my orientation group. We were miserable together. We were blissed out together. We taught each other and learned from each other. We shared our fire.

We became a collective soul that cared about the well being of the whole. We breathed our collective life into fire, and created song to celebrate our collective power, and our sounds reflected from the canyon walls, acknowledging our unity and sending us home. We entered the desert as individuals and came out of the wilderness as wozani.

I hope you find wozani on your orientation.
Matt Seats

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