The recorded ramblings of an unschooled writer, aspiring biologist, amateur equestrian, ardent bookworm, avid music appreciator, increasingly addicted runner and college student spending the summer in Ely, MN.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Return to the land of the living...

September 26, 2009

So I managed to survive the trip to Zanzibar and even managed to eat toast and a banana this morning and real food this evening (though may have to take a break from eating again as every time I eat it leads to really unpleasant stomach bloating and pain…ugh).

My morning started off bright and early when I woke up with the pre dawn call to prayer after another painful stomach night due to the fact that I ate a plate of plain rice! Yikes! I packed up all of my stuff that had been just dumped in a pile by the bed as I was searching my bag for various medications.

Then I went and had breakfast with the walimus, Lisa and the two other sickly members of the L+C group, Zach and Miles. Though as it turns out, Zach had braved going back to Tumbe for the part of the day yesterday and had ended up with a very serious admirer, Alex’s twenty year old sister, Mosa, who is nice and gorgeous!

We loaded all of the other luggage stored in the room I’d been staying in onto the bus when it finally arrived (in true African fashion, about an hour late) and then rode the bus for an hour so in order to get to Wete where we determined the location of the other L+C students by simply driving to the center of the village and asking the nearest children “Wazungu wapi?” (Where are the white people?). They were all too happy to show us and ran in the correct direction shrieking and laughing.

We met up with everyone and I had to hang out with Hassan awkwardly again who wanted to take me home with him now that I was feeling better and back in Tumbe but I had to explain to him it was time for me to leave. Thankfully, Rachel came and rescued me with tales of her home stay so I was able to escape without further proposals of marriage or cow viewing.

Then we took the bus another hour or so (a very beautiful ride – I was finally feeling well enough to really appreciate the lush green scenery of Pemba – were it not for my feeling sick and spending most of my Pemba time in a small guest house room, it might have been my favorite place we’ve been so far) to get to the ferry to Zanzibar. It even rained a bit during the bus ride which made everything smell so fresh and lively and wonderful!

The ferry ride was fun – I think everyone was worried that I might get sick during it (and in fact I informed Rachel that no matter how much I might beg for food I wasn’t allowed to eat any until my feet were safely on dry land) but really the sea was very calm and I thought the rocking motion of the waves was very, very soothing.

It was really overwhelming to arrive in the bustling, very tourist friendly city of Zanzibar. I was really happy to be able to wear tourist clothes again (meaning no head scarf and bare arms/collar bones) and am currently wearing my long green dress and feeling absolutely naked!

We checked into our guest house, found our roommate and room assignments (Kim and I are in number 212, right next door to Zach and Anton and across from Daudi (Professor Sperling)) and took a chance to take a shower and change into said tourist clothes. Then we had a group meeting about the home stays in Pemba.

Turns out they were largely problematic. Many of the other women on the program had been harassed in some way or another including repeated proposals of marriage (like during my cow hunting adventure); guys making inappropriate jokes; guys trying to convince girls that the only place for them to sleep in the house was in their beds/rooms (though no one fell for that one…) or guys hitting them on the arm or shoulder for mispronouncing Kiswahili words or using whatever language they didn’t prefer. Our meeting was really productive though and everyone got a chance to talk things over and help work on a proposal to make things better for next years group. Everyone survived and we all felt like we learned a lot even if we didn’t enjoy it (though clearly I experienced a lot less of Tumbe than the rest of the group).

I personally learned that I would never be able to live for really any period of time in a culture where women are so marginalized and under valued. I couldn’t stand being treated like a thing to paraded about, rather than a real person, the way the men in the group were. I also hated the idea that I had to “belong” to some man whether it was one of the village guys or my father or husband back in America. I want to be my own person before I’m someone else’s, always!

Next, after a run downstairs (mostly in the dark due to a short blackout) to grab DEET and a kanga/shawl we had dinner. I ate way too much because I was so excited to have an appetite for real food: salad, rice, beans, curry sauce and passion. I also had a Stoney (the ginger soda) and that seemed to help my tummy some. I avoided the fish and squid – luckily Kai was all too happy to polish them off for me so I didn’t have to feel guilty about wasting them. But my stomach really hurts again, so I think I’m just going to have to do really small portions of bland foods for the next week or so which is such a bummer as Zanzibar had some of the best sea food ever (or so I’m told) many of it in spicy sauces and hot, hot, hot curries!

Now I’m off to go work on my essays that are due tomorrow but before I do that, here’s a list of interesting things that I forgot to talk about earlier:

1.The moto bike riding school teacher I was so happy to see was Rachel R’s host father and as it turns out was a real jerk. He almost made Alex cry by insulting her in front of all of the students and threatening to beat her host sister with a stick.

2.Kids who get sleepy on the Pemba/Zanzibar ferry just stretch out in the middle of the aisles – its really hard not to step on them if you need to get to the bathroom or to go buy snacks.

3.Due to many lost in translation incidents in Tumbe, the phrase “speak more politely” now means “speak slowly” to the L+C group.

4.No one is engaged/married after leaving Tumbe (though I think Zach may have come the closest of anyone).

5.Everyone was telling me that Kai came to visit their house in Tumbe to get coconuts from their family’s coconut tree, so he must have eaten a hell of a lot of coconuts.

6.Kim’s host brother let her drive his moto bike around Tumbe – I’m so jealous!

7.Rachel and Laila got to go swimming in the Indian Ocean while in Tumbe – again I’m jealous and intend to do some swimming of my own as soon as possible!

8.Last night at dinner at Sharouk’s Guest House in Wete on Pemba Island, I had dinner (that plate of rice mentioned at the beginning of this blog) with Mwalimu Rose, Mwalimu Ken, Lisa and Mwalimu Daudi and also with the other two guests, two very nice German medical students (a 4th year and 5th year student in the German system) who had just finished volunteering for a month in a public hospital in Rwanda. They told us lots of fabulous and gory medical tales. Also, in conversing with them I learned:
a.The hospital they worked at had very limited so supplies – so limited in fact that surgical gloves and disinfectant were only available with regularity to surgeons, not anyone else involved in patient care.

b. Rounds were conducted in a mixture of English, French and a local dialect – very difficult for the German med students as English is already a second language for them (though they both spoke it very well).

c. When you have stomach/intestinal bacterial troubles it is better to just have diarrhea/vomit it all out first before taking antibiotics and not just take Imodium or whatever else unless you have to travel – I was happy because I’d come to this conclusion about my stomach troubles all on my lonesome and am glad someone more medically qualified than I seems to agree.

d. Surgical sheets/gowns in the Rwandan hospital were all washed together in one large container and then dried by laying them out in the grass field in front of the hospital.

e. They both lost tons of weight (and really missed German food) while they were there because they were there during Ramadan and not so not only could they not buy prepared food during the day for the whole month, they also weren’t allowed to cook anything after sunrise or before sunset where they were staying.

f. That one of them (the more talkative and outgoing of the two) should probably be my friend Jessica’s future husband.

I miss you all, but can tell the next 5 days in Zanzibar are going to be awesome. And after that it is time for snorkeling and safari and the stuff I’m really looking forward to – no more unwanted male attention and many more animals!

-Hill

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