So, I’m going to take some time to write about my time in Zanzibar. I’ve spent enough time working today, so now it’s time for a break – and time for me to do what I want to do for a little bit.
Well, Zanzibar was amazing. I was there four years ago, and I loved it then too. I was actually surprised how much I remembered my way around town and where certain things were. The streets in Stone Town are small and windy (one girl compared it to Venice sans canals) so it’s easy to get disoriented and lose your way. This time, though, I had a pretty good sense of where I was. After spending several days there in 2002 and 5 days this time, I feel like I know the old part of the city pretty well. It’s a nice feeling!
We left Dar EARLY Wednesday morning (we left the hotel at 6:30am. I guess it’s not that early – Dave leaves for the hospital every day at 5:45!) to catch the ferry to Zanzibar. We all stood up on the deck to watch the water, islands and dhows (small traditional sailboats) go by. I said something to one of my teachers in Swahili and a Tanzanian guy complimented me on my Swahili. The other Sarah and I started talking to him about where he lives (Dar) and his work (with street kids). We also talked about what real development is and the cultural differences between Tanzania and the U.S. I ended up talking to him for about an hour and a half. That’s really one of my favorite parts of being here – talking to anyone and everyone about anything and everything. That, and being able to distinguish myself from all the tourists.
We arrived at the port in Zanzibar to find that the U.S. government had arranged for three police officers to stay with us the whole time. The U.S. government considers the coast a potentially dangerous place to travel, but it’s really not. After lunch, we had a half hour on our own before a guided tour around the city.
As I was coming back to the hotel to meet for the tour, I came across a group of girls playing who looked like they were about 2 to 10 years old. I greeted them and asked what they were doing. They pointed to my bag and asked me to take a picture (I think they are accustomed to tourists!) so I took a picture of them and showed them all. That’s the great thing about a digital camera – you can show people the picture right away – people get to see their picture and you get to take their picture without feeling guilty! Then the girls asked me to take a picture of the donkey that was standing nearby, pulling a cart, so I did. When I showed them the picture, they started dancing and saying, “The donkey got his picture taken! The donkey got his picture taken!” They really thought that was hilarious. Then one of the girls leaned/jumped on me and so I picked her up and twirled her around. She giggled and the rest of the girls wanted me to do the same to them. It doesn’t matter where you go – kids are still kids and I love them! When I started to leave, one of the girls grabbed my finger and started to walk with me. Before I knew it, I had a girl on each finger. We walked around the corner and an old man asked me if they wer all my children, because Europeans usually only have 2. I told him they were just my friends and that I had met them 5 minutes ago around the corner. He helped me tell the girls to go back home and I managed to get back to the hotel without the girls going too far from home.
On the tour we saw lots of old buildings (old here being 100 to 150 years old). This was a bit tiring, as it was early afternoon (my sleepy time), we were walking slowly, and we were listening to lectures in Swahili, but it was also interesting to learn the history of places that I had seen before but didn’t know anything about. In the evening, we were on our own for dinner. Each day, they gave us a $24 meal allowance to buy lunch and dinner (or 30,000 Tanzania shillings). That gave us the freedom to eat wherever we want (and was about how much they’d been spending when we all went to eat together), but there are a lot of places to eat where you don’t need that much money. I think the first day I spent 10,000 shillings out of my 30,000. On Thursday, I spent about 5,000. If we decided to eat cheap food instead of expensive, the rest was ours to use for other things – it was a pretty nice deal. ☺
To be continued…