02 July 2009

Zanzibar is my Dar es Salaam (Haven of Peace)

Zanzibar the Majestic-

I have a lot to say so keep on if you can keep up! :-)


Fin de clase (End of class)!:

Class ended on Wednesday and it was the greatest feeling ever (not really, but it’s up there)! On Monday, my group members and I created our Power Point Presentation (PPT) for our case study, and proofread 36 pages of text. I was in charge of compiling our references, so I fine combed 5 pages to make sure they matched the citations in the text. At the end of the day, I couldn’t wait to go home and crash in my bed. The next day, three groups presented their case study PPTs. The subsequent discussions were very informing and interactive. It was evident that the students put a lot of effort into developing their case studies. On Wednesday, my group was the first to present. For some reason I was slightly nervous because we had finally reached the end and were presenting our work from the last 4 weeks. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it. However, during the discussion, I was an active participant and the nerves slowly died down. After the final two presentations, we did the pasha pasha (heat). It’s a form of applause in Tanzania. You rub your hands as if you are trying to warm them up and then someone says “choma (light)” three times and you clap each time that’s said. We thanked the Cornell and KCMC professors and took a group picture in a garden in front of the compound.

Later in the day, we had an ice cream social at Deli Chez (we can’t get enough of this place). At D’Chez we sat at a long table on the roof under a red canopy. This time I ordered a banana split with 1 scoop of coffee and 2 scoops of cookies and cream. It was gone in two seconds…One of the KCMC students thanked Prof. Stoltzfus on behalf of all the TZ students. It was a very sweet moment. Then, for the next 30 min we went crazy taking pictures all over the roof. It was the last time that the KCMC and Cornell students would be with each other so we cherished the moment.

Before the sun set, I went to the Kindoroko with one of my classmates, Danielle, to meet another Cornell student volunteering in Arusha. We were there for about 20 min to play some catch up and then had to head home to get ready for our trip to Zanzibar.

When in Tanzania....go to Zanzibar (Zzb):

Before we departed for Tanzania 5 weeks ago, I thought we had 2 days off between the end of class and the beginning of our internships- leaving no time to go to Zanzibar. I was definitely mistaken; my professor told us during the first week that we had 4 days off, which changed everything. I decided that I would spend my 4 days in Zanzibar. I told Adey about my idea and she wanted to go to Dar es Salaam (the former capital, but still a bustling city). So, together, we came up with ZanziDar (1 night in Dar, 2 nights in Zzb). Fortunately, we live with the man who runs Moshi, Bwana Chuwa (aka B Chu). We told him about our plans early on and he helped us plan the trip.

As thedate drew near, we realized that there wouldn’t be enough time to spend one night in Dar; traveling from Moshi to Dar is about 8 hrs and from Dar to Zanzibar is 2hrs. So, we scratched a night in Dar from the trip and made it 3 nights in Zzb. And the fun begins…

Adey and I woke up at 5am on Thursday to get ready for our 7:30am departure on the Dar Express. We were driven in a private dala dala to the bus station. B Chu rode behind us and we said our goodbyes. Adey and I were given the contact information for the guide we would meet in Zanzibar. I had all the money for transport (roundtrip bus and ferry) and hotel accommodations while Adey had the money for our activities (city tour, trip to Prison Island, and day trip to the beach). And we were off!

All Aboard!:

The ride on the Dar Express was grrrreat! It was air-conditioned, we were given candy and drinks, the ride was very smooth and the attendant was extremely kind. I had the first seat on the bus and a perfect view of the road and the thought of going to Zanzibar was so surreal. With 8hrs ahead of me, I took pictures of the Pare (pronounced Pah-ray) Mountains on my left, read some of Jeffrey Sach’s The End of Poverty, and took short naps. We stopped twice: the first time was for a bathroom break in the brushes. That was interesting to say the least. I mean if you have to go, you have to go… The second time was at the halfway point in a town called Korogwe. There were restaurants, shops and music playing in the background. Our bus broke down, for about 20min. A tire was replaced and we were set to go.

We rolled into Dar around 3pm. Pamela, B Chu’s youngest daughter, met up with us in Dar and arranged our transport from the bus station to the harbor. The streets of Dar were crowded. It was interesting to see the metropolitan side of Tanzania. We got to the harbor about 30 min before our ferry left. I paid for our ferry tickets and said thank you and goodbye to Pamela.

I was so pumped as I boarded Super Seabus III (grandson of Super Seabus I)! Our seats were originally on the lower deck, but an attendant allowed us to sit on the upper deck. I am so glad he did, because I had so much fun on that ferry! I didn’t even sit in my seat. We stayed on the side rails taking pictures. None of us could believe that we were heading to Zanzibar and we couldn’t contain our excitement. I vaguely remember learning about Zanzibar, but I knew it was a majestic place. I envisioned a place like the setting in Dirty Dancing Havana Nights (which was actually filmed in Puerto Rico). But, I still called Zanzibar my little Cuba. After an hour and a half, we could see land in the near distance. I think I almost lost my mind (it was a good thing). We counted down as the sun set. It was a pretty awesome sight. As the ferry pulled into the harbor, I took pictures which looked exactly like the pictures in my Lonely Planet book.

[Important side note: One of the men’s track coaches, Coach Thompson, brought me Lonely Planet: Tanzania when he found out I was going to Moshi. This book has been my g-o-d! It’s incredibly helpful and I used it everyday in Zanzibar. I would be lost without it. So, thank you so much Coach Thompson!]

At 6pm, we met our guide, Iddi, at the harbor. After going through customs, we were taken to the Bandari Lodge. We were supposed to stay at Adam’s Inn, but there wasn't any running water so, Iddi changed our location last minute. We had a slight dilemma with the prices, because the switch was unexpected. However, after I called B Chu, we ironed out the problem and settled in just fine. The Bandari Lodge was the cutest hotel ever! It was more like a hostel, no frills, nothing fancy but I loved everything it had to offer. First we checked the bathroom, to make sure the water worked. There was only 1 bathroom for 11 people on our floor and it was a wet shower. We managed just fine and no one ever had to wait to use the bathroom. I shared a high ceiling room with Adey, our beds were on opposite sides with a round wooden table and two chairs in between, and a dresser and wall mirror were next to our beds. The beds had high posts and were covered with royal blue mosquito nets. When I looked out the window, I had a palm tree to my left and saw the street blending into the darkness on my right. I couldn’t wait to see Zanzibar during the day.

Many of us were hungry, so I consulted my Lonely Planet for a nice restaurant. We headed to the Old Fort, which was used by the Omani Arabs as a defense against the Portuguese. We sat underneath trees laced with Christmas lights and had good food (Hawaiian pizzas, Thai noodles, and sandwiches). As I waited for my food, I walked around with Ros and we saw the outdoor theatre, which looked more like a mini Roman Coliseum. We also visited the shops near the theatre and I was amazed at all the beautiful goods Zanzibar had to offer. The jewelry was different from the jewelry in Moshi and there was a variety of apparel. I put my excitement on hold for the next day. After we were done eating, we watched Confederation Cup match Brazil v. South Africa for about 10min and headed out. Seven of us headed to Mercury’s, named in honor of Queen’s lead vocalist Freddy Mercury, for some drinks. The restaurant was right on the water and our tables were lit up with lanterns. I was so happy! While we waited, I continued to watch the scoreless soccer match. After one hour, we headed back to the Bandari.

One busy day:

Friday was packed to capacity. The Bandari provided us with a free breakfast, which was great! I had tea, a small loaf of bread, jelly spread, and fruits. At 9am, we left the lodge for our first activity, the city tour. We met Iddi and our next guide outside of the Bandari. We walked down Darajani Street- the only street in Zanzibar with traffic lights, and two at that. There were men EVERYWHERE. I think we only saw maybe 5 women. Zanzibar is 95% Muslim. Many of the women we saw or didn’t see were hidden behind the veils of their bui-bui (cover alls). I made sure I didn’t wear shorts so as to not offend anyone. Soon we hit Darajani Market which was very lively. Vendors were selling everything from apples to scarves. Zanzibar used to be one of the spice capitals of the world. Although it’s not anymore the market still had a huge variety of spices to offer. I had never even heard of many of the spices I smelled. The stench of fish hit my nostrils as we turned the corner and walked into an open fish market. On the other side, vendors were selling so many goods under red canopies. It reminded me of a market place in Xena: Warrior Princess or Hercules.

Somewhere along Darajani, we were passed onto another guide who was with a group of British tourists. We latched onto their group and began the city tour. Our first stop was St. Monica’s Hostel and the Old Slave Market. Before the Hostel was built, slaves were held in cells underground. We went into the basement and viewed the holding cells. The ceilings were extremely low and the space was really tight. Then we walked over to the Anglican Cathedral next door and visited the tombstone of Edward Steele, a missionary who translated the bible into Swahili and built the church. Outside we viewed the Slave Monuments. It was an incredible sight.

Then we walked through the inner streets of Stone Town. Women were sitting on steps talking to one another, children were running and playing games, and vendors were selling authentic artwork, jewelry, and apparel made in Zanzibar. Gizenga Street was where all the action was and I ended up buying a beautiful scarf. Dani, Adey and I lost the group, but we knew they were headed to the Africa House Hotel and we got there before they did. The hotel was gorgeous! If someone needs a suggestion for a honeymoon spot, they should go to Zanzibar and stay at the Africa House Hotel. The floor was made out of marble, there was a hookah lounge with comfy couches, cushions, and day beds, a well stacked bar, and this all led out onto the open balcony with a view of the shore. I fell in love with Zanzibar (sigh). Once our group arrived we just relaxed and enjoyed the moment. Then we went back to Gizenga.

At the end of Gizenga was our next destination, the Beit El-Ajaib (House of Wonders). It used to be the Sultan’s Palace, but is now a museum. The doors were made in India and are said to be the largest carved doors in East Africa. As soon as we walked in we saw an mtepe- a traditional Swahili sailing vessel made with out nails. I viewed exhibits on the dhow culture of the Indian Ocean, Swahili civilization and 19th century Zanzibar. The wooden steps, the tarnished floor, and the compelling atmosphere made me think that every museum in the world should be like this because you actually feel like you’ve taken a trip to the past.

It was around 12pm when we walked out of the museum. I flipped the pages of my Lonely Planet and asked, “Where should we go for lunch?” The answer: Buni’s CafĂ© located right on the beach with good and reasonably priced food. I order rice with beef curry. My beef curry came in a conch! After lunch, we headed to Prison Island for the tortoises!

We went in a small boat to get to Prison Island (Changuu Island). It was incredible; the Indian Ocean was aqua marine, the sun was shining ever so brightly, and we were all excited. We arrived in less than 30 min and couldn’t believe our eyes; there was a cliff on the other side and the sand was fine and white. We told our selves that we would go for a swim before we left. The tortoises we saw were huge! We fed and took pictures with them. Jen and I tried to pick one up, but of course they were too heavy. Before we headed for the beach, we went to the port where all the sick people arrived on the island. Prison Island didn’t hold prisoners it was used as a place to quarantine people with diseases and other contagious ailments. Once we were done taking pictures at the entry port, we went for a dip in the ocean. It was so much fun! We were sad we had to leave, but we were excited about heading to the beach the next day.

When we came back to shore, some of us headed back to the Bandari and others to Gizenga. We all met up at the Africa House Hotel for food. I didn’t eat anything at Africa because I wanted to try food at the fish market. It was there that we found out that Michael Jackson died from cardiac arrest. I received a text at 6am stating, “May the Lord rest Michael Jackson’s soul in peace” and didn’t know what had happened. But, 20min later Ms. Lane sent me a text stating, “Michael Jackson died today” and we were all shocked; MJ was the king of pop, his life was…interesting, and his death was very unexpected.

Our arrival in Zanzibar was perfect because the International Film Festival just started at the Old Fort. So for the event, the fish market is located in front of the Old Fort. Chefs were lined up all along the street and there was an array of seafood to taste: octopus, muscles, shrimp, shark, everything! I had white shark with chapati. The shark tasted just like chicken ;-). While Ros and I were in front of one table, we met this guy named Dylan. He is a Peace Corps volunteer from NY and has lived in Zanzibar for 20mo. We talked about why we were all in TZ and Zzb and what a great time we were having. Ros and I got the scoop about Zzb from Dylan-the best clubs, beaches, etc. It was great to have a local’s take on things and I was excited for the evening- club Boani.

Before we went to Boani, we went to Livingstones, named after missionary David Livingstone. The restaurant was located right on the beach and was packed: people were sitting on the steps and in the sand. There was a live band so some of us went inside to dance. I really felt like I was in Dirty Dancing Havana Nights (I love that movie by the way). Then Thriller and other MJ songs came on and everyone started dancing. You just had to be there!

Around 11pm, we took a taxi to Boani. The dance floor was on the large roof. So, we walked up the ramp and meandered our way through the crowd to the back near the swimming pool. It was interesting to see that a lot of the men here dancing with each other. They aren't homosexuals, they just enjoy the music and love to dance. The women didn't act differently than women in the states would. I just thought it was interesting that during the day, the women are very conservative and at night, it's a different story. Back to the fiesta- the music at Boani was amazing! We danced to all kinds of music. At some point we did the Macarena. At around 1:30am we decided to go home and it’s a good thing we did because this guy, who clearly had too much to drink, started to bother all the girls in the group. Specifically, he told the Black girls that we weren’t any better than him just because we were from America and he shoved some of us. Luckily, Eric (the only male in the program) was there with us. Within 10min our taxi driver came to pick us up. Oh what a great day!

Kendwa Rocks!:

Saturday was a day to shop and head to the beach. All the girls in the group hit up Gizenga. I purchased some more scarves; I haven’t seen a variety of scarves in Moshi and I couldn’t resist (well I could, but I didn’t want to). After two hours of shopping, we headed back to the Bandari to head to the beach. After thoroughly consulting Lonely P and talking to the locals, Kendwa beach was the best beach to go to. It was on the northern tip of the island and it was worth the hour to get there.

Kendwa is similar to a beach you would see in a traveler's magazine. It was breathtaking, clean, dotted with people…I was in paradise… First, we had lunch at the restaurant. I had a beef-filled chapati. Mmm mm good… When the sun came out to play we jumped in the water. The Indian Ocean was our new best friend- we just couldn’t be separated. We collected sea shells, floated on our backs, admired the sand, sun, and sky. My oh my…And before we knew it, we had to leave. On the ride back, we couldn’t stop talking about the beach and what we would do to go back.

Back at the Bandari, we freshened up and went to the fish market to get some dinner. It was very crowded because of the film festival at the Old Fort. For dinner I had fried octopus with lime. It was delicious! According to one of our guides, octopus is the local viagra. He said whenever people eat octopus, their calls will be answered during the night and they would be taken care of…interesting…! To cap our trip to Zanzibar we headed back to Mercury’s. There was a live band playing music by Enrique Iglesias, Michael Jackson, and East African musicians. We stood for a moment of silence and gave a toast to Michael Jackson. In addition, a small lantern was released into the night sky in his memory.

We danced in the restaurant and outside as it rained before we left. I had a blast! Once we got back to the Bandari, I packed a little then hit the sack.

It's so hard to say goodbye...to Zanzibar (tear) :(

On Sunday, we had to head out early for our 7:30am ferry. Paying for the hotel was a huge hassle because some people had to share beds last minute and paid in Shillings and USD. Adey and I were converting left and right to make sure the money was adding up. I was panicking because we were being rushed so we wouldn’t miss the ferry (I don’t know why because the harbor was only 2min away by foot). I am assuming we paid him the right amount because B Chu hasn’t told us that any money was missing from our stay and three of us counted and converted the money (Ros stepped in to help :-).

The ride on the ferry back to Dar was scary!! The small boat was cutting through the water at high speed and jumping through the air. I thought I wasn’t going to make it out alive. I have never been sea sick before and I felt like I was going to vomit. Women were screaming and couldn’t be calmed down by the attendants. People were vomiting left and right and we watched a bad television show. It was just horrible. The ride on the bus back to Moshi wasn’t any better. The driver kept stopping every 15min before we hit the man road to pick up stragglers and vendors. The bus was also speeding as well and only slowed down to drive over speed bumps. We were on one of the most dangerous roads in Tanzania- there aren't any lane lines, the speed limit is ignored (in town as well), and some buses don’t use headlights. When I saw that we weren’t going to get to Moshi before sunset I became worried. The ride home was scenic though; the Eastern Arc Mountains were on my left and the Pare and Usambara Mountains were on my right. To pass the time and ease our minds, we played games like telephone.

After being on the bus for 10hrs, we reached Moshi at around 9pm where B Chu picked us up at the bus station and brought everyone home. Then I watched the Confederation Cup final between Brazil and USA, which was awesome!

Coming back to Moshi after being in Zanzibar was very difficult. While I was on the beach I kept thinking that I was going to go back to New York City; I had the mentality that after a great vacation you head home, right? However, I had to remind myself that I had 4 weeks left in Moshi Town.


P.S. Zanzibar I love you!

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