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.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bye, bye bui bui!

Bye, bye bui bui!
September 30,

Today started with yet another Stonetown Run. I like running with company but find it a bit difficult sometimes. My stride is a little longer, but slower that most people’s I think, so even though I run the same speed as the others its on a slightly different rhythm and since there’s three of us and I’m not as serious of a runner as the others I try to be the person that runs behind the other two (Stonetown streets hardly allow for two people to run side by side) and so I usually end up kind of tripping all over myself in a really ridiculous manner while I try to adjust my step to match the others’. I’ve also not succeeded in finding a pair of running shorts yet and have still been running in my safari shorts… that might have to be my mission for tomorrow.

After the run, it was time to don the dreadful bui bui again before heading up for breakfast and a group meeting before we went to visit the Sunni Madrasa school in Zanzibar, the 15th best secondary school in the entire nation of Tanzania.

Even though I hated wearing the bui bui and head scarf again (it makes me feel rather claustrophobic, despite the fact that normally I love being bundled up in layers in layers of fabric and I’m still not entirely convinced that the scarf isn’t going to try and wrap itself around my infidel throat in attempt to strangle me at any moment), visiting the school was pretty neat. It was cool to see the students ranging in age from very young primary school students all the way up to pre-university students hard at work. I was disappointed that we never really got a chance to talk to any of them and the outing pretty much turned into another episode of “Let’s Parade the White People Around and Gawk At Them”.

The schools were much more spartan than the ones at home – the walls of most classrooms were quite bare, even the primary grades. The walls had only a few small posters, not the total assault of color I’ve come to associate with walking into a grade school classroom. The students were wearing uniforms, dresses or skirts for the girls and slacks with button down shirts for the guys. Most of the students who attend the school are muslim (technically it is an Islamic school), so majority of the girls were wearing head scarves, but some were not – they were the few Christians or Hindus also in attendance.

After the school visit, our assignment was to (while wearing the bui buis and man dresses) wander over to the other side of town where tourists never go. Rachel and I went but not for long, as I hadn’t had enough water to drink and was having an awesome dehydration headache and Rachel had to return for her Kiswahili exam.

Wearing a bui bui is like wearing a somewhat invisibility cloak. The only pasty white part of your body visible is your hands, feet and face, so even though you are still a mzungu, it is not quite as blatant. Not a single person on the Old side of town hassled us or tried to sell us something, but many people thanked us for dressing so respectfully and told us that we were very beautiful (yuck! Enough with that, though for some reason today the compliments seemed more sincere). Many people asked us if we were Muslims and we explained that no, we weren’t but we were students and trying to learn as much as we could about the culture and that we wanted to be as respectful as we could of their culture. More people tried to say my name and failed. I think I may have to start going by my middle name “Rose” (or better yet Rosi, pronounced “Row-see”) so I can actually tell when people are speaking to me.

Then I went back to the hotel and took a nap for two hours. Though taking a nap doesn’t really explain fully the complete state of unconsciousness I experienced…I was pretty nearly comatose. Even though we don’t usually do much physically on the program, the fact that we have pretty much been traveling non-stop and are always in new places and have been so for a whole month now is kind of exhausting in and of itself. Also, at home, even when school is in session it is possible to have a whole day on the weekend or something where you don’t do a single bit of school work if you don’t mind moving things around or doing a bunch of work another couple of days. Here that is not at all an option and I think I’m starting to get a bit run down from that.

I woke up, wrote my essay and then went to wander the city and go out to dinner with Rachel, Michael, Peggy, Meryl, Devin, Lisa, Kim, Jazz and Natalie. We went to the “Dolphin” a funny, but cheaper restaurant not too far from our hotel. I was really happy with my dinner as I ordered some sort of traditional Kiswahili fish curry thing and others were happy with their soups and spaghettis and fried rice dishes, but Natalie was very disappointed with her “Chicken Pad Thai” – it was literally chicken flavored top ramen with a few chunks of chicken and veggies thrown on top. And it was expensive too – almost $8! She was pretty irritated and kept going on about how many bracelets she could have bought with that money.

Well, I still have to finish my essay, but before I go, a list of somewhat amusing things:
1. While walking through the city by myself today, I really did almost get hit by a car. I was walking very close to the side of a building (the safest place to walk in Stonetown) but a car came whipping around the corner, clearly not looking where it was going. A really nice Arab guy grabbed me by the shoulders and essentially yanked me into the front door of the restaurant I happened to be walking by to get me out of the way and then apologized profusely for grabbing me, which I assured him was not necessary as he’d just pulled me out of the way of a crazy taxi driver. I chatted with him for a few minutes in Kiswahili. He was super nice.
2. The restaurant we went to had a parrot in a cage (an African grey, I think). He was beautiful and kept saying “Hello” to us throughout our meal. His name was “Bili” and Kim was particularly enamored of him. She kept trying to convince him to stick his head out so she could pet him and feeding him little bites of her dinner. She was also telling him “I love you!” in both Swahili and English in the hopes that he would repeat it back to her, but he never did.
3. After visiting the school, Rachel and I may have begun to understand why the tradition of robes and veils for women started in Arabia. Many of the students are of Arabian descent and the Arabian girls are all incredibly gorgeous!

Only one more day in the city…then off to the coast for snorkeling and BIOLOGY!
-Hill

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