September 27, 2009
I’m writing this early on Monday morning, after my first full day on the main island of the Zanzibar Archipelago. Its very, very strange to be here in a huge very bustling and touristy city after being on Pemba.
I like Zanzibar and Stonetown is very interesting, but I’m really disappointed by the fact that all of the beaches here are privately owned. They are sandy and beautiful and the ocean is the prettiest, brightest shade of blue, but I can’t get in it! So in a way, I’m counting down the days until we leave on Friday afternoon to head for the north end of the island (we can swim there) and leave for the coast of the mainland where we will be swimming and snorkeling for hours every single day.
Yesterday was a pretty easy day academically speaking. Mostly I just wandered around the city with just about every single different group of L+C students who went out for any reason – I just wanted to walk around! I’m still very frustrated with doing so much sitting around.
In the morning Alex, Meryl, Rachel Y. and I walked up to where the main market is in search of Zaine phone SIM cards and advice on how to make Alex’s malfunctioning phone work. Sadly, the Zaine store was closed, but we had a nice conversation with some guys hanging out in front of it and they tried to help Alex with her phone, but still no luck. I haven’t bought a SIM card yet because everyone seems to be having trouble with theirs on Zanzibar so I will just wait and get on the coast. And then let everyone know my new Tanzanian number which will hopefully work better than the Kenyan one anyways and hopefully will actually allow me to receive some calls from home.
After Rachel Y. and I walked back, a huge group of girls was getting ready to head out with Daudi (David Sperling – Daudi is what the Swahili speaking people call him). I decided to join in and headed off with the group to go see where the post office, internet café, several banks, a small grocery store and a few other important things are located.
The grocery store was very cool – it is a small business run by a very, very nice woman. Peggy and I both found clove soap that smells amazing and went in together on a big bag of laundry detergent to do our laundry with (though we still need to figure out about a bucket), so with all of the we should be smelling very good very, very soon. And Rachel R. found some sort of chocolatey treat, so all is well in her world, I think!
After wandering the city for a awhile in a very circular Daudi led fashion, a bunch of us went to the net café. I spent so much time there! It was quite lovely to catch up on the news of home after not having any at all for a few days.
After that I tried to figure out my schedule for next semester. I am sure that I want to take Ecology (or Evolution if I can’t get into Ecology), Animal Behavior and Advanced Social Psych (which would get my psych 400 level stuff out of the way before senior year, yay!). I also want to see if I can sneak my way into a Fiction Workshop class. Technically I have completed absolutely none of the pre requisites for that class, but in a few weeks I’ll e-mail the professor and see if I can send in some samples of my work or something. I was similarly under qualified for the writing courses I took in Virginia, but they were my very favorite classes and I ended up doing pretty well in them, so I will see how strict the standards are at L+C are…if I have to be a truly dedicated literary genius to qualify (in which case I won’t) or if science nerds who just like to write a story every now and then might be given a chance too.
Then I went back to the guest house to hang out and do some journaling. We had an evening lecture from a very interesting woman Daudi met on the plane to Pemba who agreed to come talk to us after he explained our reason for being in Zanzibar.
Her name is Beth (can’t remember her last name, sorry) and she is from New York, but is currently working with the non profit organization Millenium Villages which is working to bring the UN’s Millenium goals for standards of living to villages around the world (health care, access to clean water, education, women’s rights, etc.) She is working with a village not far from Tumbe, where the L+C group did our homestays. She was a really fascinating speaker and I really agreed with the organization’s philosophy of letting the villagers decide for themselves what the most important projects are what the best way to accomplish them is, so the change is a grassroots movement. I also really respected her when she said she felt that the only way to be able to be effective in helping people in this process was really to live among them to better understand both what they need and what they want. She was of the opinion that there is (not enough, but) a lot of money available for aid programs, but so many of the projects don’t really take into account all of the details in the situation. For example, Daudi tells the story of an area in inland Kenya where there are two water wells. One has an old hand crank, but the line to use it is always many people deep. The other has a beautiful, very modern diesel engine to power it but is never used, because there is no diesel available! Anyways, it was a really interesting evening and I admired her a lot. She was just kind of your average accountant who was sick of thinking that the world needed to become a better place and decided she should actually do something about it. I really admire people who have the strength to act on their convictions, instead of just talking about them.
After that, we were sent as a group down to a big market in the square in front of the old Sultan’s Palace to find dinner among the many venders. I was feeling sick to my stomach after an excellent, but extravagant lunch – we went to an Italian restaurant and I had a fabulous tuna salad and a scoop of mango gelato (yum!), so I stuck to watermelon for dinner, but my friends had all sorts of interesting snack like: fish kebabs, octopus, oyster/clam kebabs, “Zanzibar Pizzas” (sort of a thin layer of fried dough covering meat, cheese or vegetables), sugar cane juice, fruit, cakes, sodas, samosas, chapatis and all sorts of other East African delights!
I practiced my Swahili a bit with some of the people there (though am quite concerned for the verbal final on Thursday) and had fun wandering around and just looking at the sheer amount and diversity of food available!
A big group went out in search of a hookah bar, but I thought taking it easy for one more night was probably a good idea, so I hung out at the Garden Guest House some more. I ended up rereading the book “The Giver” because Meryl had brought it with her and after she finished her essay we ended up talking for a long time about all sorts of wonderful shared interests. Turns out she: loves horses (was a western rider in 4-H as a kid), is a former theater nerd, loves science fiction (especially Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars) and loves creative writing. So as you can imagine we had TONS to talk about! Michael walked into the room at one point and though initially distressed when he heard the phrase “angry sex” (as uttered by Meryl and I, deep in discussion about what Battlestar Galactica contains that Star Trek doesn’t) was quickly reassured when he realized that really we were just talking space ships and aliens and joined the conversation too, more than happy to talk sci-fi with us! What fun!
Gotta go do some laundry…washing machines will seem like the greatest adventure ever when I get home…