Wonderful Zanzibar...

Zanzibar Travel Blog

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26 June 2007

 

Ahhh, Zanzibar J  Doesn’t it just sound exotic?  It really was amazing!  The island is mainly made up of Arabs who are Muslim, so we were supposed dress very modestly at all times…always having our knees and elbows covered.  It is a beautiful island (archipelago, or chain of islands, actually) that is surrounded by aqua blue water, has white sand, and lush green vegetation.  Beautiful.

 

Back up, the morning before we left, we worked on curriculum all morning.  We feel really good about the curriculum that we’re setting up for the school.  From all the notes that past volunteers have left, they all seem to agree on one thing: the school we are at needs more structure, and a set curriculum.  We are trying to set that up right now, so the students do not have such repetition and gaps in their learning.  We hope it all works out, and is implemented by future volunteers!  I think that will be much better for the kids. 

 

After arriving in Dar, we got in a taxi that didn’t know where he was going (funny now thinking about that crazy ride, but not funny at the time)!  We got to the ferry station and everyone is in your face, trying to get you to go with their ferry company.  We had been warned of this, so we bypassed all the ‘fake’ companies to go all the way to the end, only to find out that those people in our face really had good reason to be!  The only ferry left going to Zanzibar that day was leaving in about 10 minutes, and there was only one ferry company that could get us there.  These people brought us downstairs into a dark room, and were rapidly collecting our passports and 30,000 shillings.  They said they had to go copy our passports.  After all the hustle bustle died down a little, and we were sitting thinking…30,000 shillings?  We thought everyone else told us the ferry cost 18,000 shillings (about $15) for economy and 21,000 for first class.  We asked about it, and they said, “Oh…we put you in first class”.  We were pretty much on the “Whatever, as long as we get there….maybe they know something that we don’t” plan at this point, but were also wondering why they needed to copy our passports..?  There was a point, standing waiting to have our passports returned, that I was thinking (along with all the other girls)…did we just fall for something really stupid?  Are we really going to get to Zanzibar?  It just felt really sketchy.  Eventually the man did come back with our passports and tickets, and instructed us to run to the boarding place, because they were leaving now!!  We ran…….looked ridiculous, yes J  5 mzungus (white people) bolting it through the station, after we had walked right past all these people trying to help us a few minutes earlier.  After we actually settled down, and got in line for the ferry, we looked at our tickets………Fare price:  18,000 J  We just got totally taken.  We weren’t in first class, and had just paid 30,000 for our 18,000 tickets.  Ah well J  A lesson in not being in such a hurry.

 

The boat ride to Zanzibar was nice, but was on the lower deck, so it made me really sea-sick (yes, Corey, even worse than the tilt-a-whirl J).  We got into Zanzibar about 7pm, and our hostel guy was waiting for us, like he said he would be, to drive us to our hostel.  He was holding a sign that said, “Tara 5”.  We felt like the new up and coming music group J  Our hostel was nice…We stayed at the Jambo House for $12 / night / person.  Not bad…which included a really nice breakfast in the morning.  We were starving when we got there, so we went across the road from our hostel to the Green Garden Restaurant…I had an amazing Zanzibarian (?) dish that was shrimp and coconut milk on rice….Yumm!

 

The next day, we arranged to go on a spice tour.  The tour was $10 / person, and included transportation to the spice farms (about 45 minutes away), lunch, and the tour.  It was soooo enjoyable!  Zanzibar is called “The Spice Island” because of the abundance of spices found there.  Mom, you would have loved it!  We saw, smelled, and tasted all different kinds: lemongrass, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, cloves, jasmine, curry (coriander), lipstick tree, ginger, nutmeg, hazelnut, coffee, etc etc!  It was amazing.  I learned a lot.  After the tour, they sat us in a circle and let us sample all these exotic fruits!  There were so many that I hadn’t seen!: jackfruit, star fruit, passion fruit, dorian fruit (nasty!...first fruit that I don’t like…it smells sooo bad), red bananas, 3 different varieties of mango (my new favourite), custard apple (delicious…nothing like real apple though), mandarin oranges, bitter oranges, “regular” oranges, really interesting grapefruit (not as bitter) etc etc!  We felt so spoiled!!  It was amazing.  Then we went and had lunch, which was also great…It was a curry on rice with spinach-type vegetable and good bread.  After lunch, they took us to an old Persian bath, and then home!  All for $10.  Amazing.  That night, we went to Africa House, a hotel on the island that is famous for their sunsets.  We had a glass of wine and watched the sun set over the Indian Ocean.  J  Then we had dinner there…I had lamb with nan bread.  We were exhausted, so went home and went to bed, ready for our “Safari Blue” excursion the next day.

 

The next day, we got up for another “tour” called Safari Blue.  It was probably one of my most relaxing days ever…We got a ride to the place where the boats leave, which was a crazy road.  It took us about an hour, and the entire time the van drove about 10 miles an hour, and only on the very right side of the road, since there were such crazy potholes in all the other parts.  We left on our boat for the sandbar.  We went snorkelling off the sandbar, which was really fun.  I saw some colourful fish!  After snorkelling, I just layed out on the sandbar.  It was probably the most perfect spot I could have been.  Aqua blue water all around me, sun beating down on me, white sand underneath me, and just about every 5 minutes, a small wave would come up and cool me off right when I needed it….I kept thinking, “Can this be any more perfect?”  And then a tour guy came and brought me a coconut to drink, some pineapple, and a chocolatey-peanut dessert.  It got better J  We felt sooo spoiled, it was amazing.  Then we went to this lagoon, and swam for a little bit, which was also wonderful.  After our swim, they took us to another small island for lunch.  Spoiled again!...We had a seafood feast for lunch (as much as we wanted): lobster, barracuda (probably my favourite!), octopus, calamari, kingfish, and tuna.  We also had some good bread and rice with it, and then filled up on MORE fruit!  It was amazing.  After lunch, they took us sailing!  It was such an adventure.  I have never been sailing in the States, but the sailboats here seem really makeshift.  The men kind of balance the boat on each side while one of them holds onto the sail the entire time.  I was looking at the man holding the sail, thinking, “Hmm, that man has a pretty important job…If that wind would pick up, that would be really hard to hang onto that sail.”  And wouldn’t you know it, the wind picked up….we lost the sail J  It was interesting for awhile…We all thought we might end up in the Indian Ocean for awhile! One guy jumped in though, and ended up getting a hold of the sail before that happened.  Pretty funny (even at the time, this one was J).  After sailing and hanging out on the island (and a green snake suddenly dropping from the tree onto Shayna….sooo funny, never saw her move so fast J), we took the boat back to the mainland, and went back on our favourite potholey road.  What a great day!  We showered, and then went shopping at some great shops on the way to dinner.  We went to the harbour, and got hassled (in a very endearing way) from some fish stand owners.  Then we found another great restaurant, Mercery!  It was named after Freddy Mercury, the lead singer of Queen, because he was from Zanzibar.  It was a great place!  There was a live African band playing, with (amazing!) belly dancers (crazily erotic for such a modest place!....but really really good).  This restaurant was also right on the water.  Beautiful.

The next day, we got up to find it raining and gloomy…luckily, it was our last day.  We felt like we lucked out!...We were planning to leave at noon.  We went to an old slave market that still has some parts intact, and a church that has been built right over the place where the whipping post was.  There is a lot of history in this area (both in Bagamoyo and Zanzibar) with David Livingstone.  I think I might research him more when I get home…He was a missionary that really helped abolish slavery.  I feel like I’ve already learned a lot about him.  I guess England has a “David Livingstone Day” (kind of like our Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) in June.  Love it.  We made our way back to the ferry after visiting some more shops, and this time got the right priced ticket.  Live and learn J

 

After all the boat, taxi, daladala transferring, we made it back to Bagamoyo about 7pm, and were again so happy to be back.  It’s amazing how a place can start to feel like home so quickly…After I got back, I rearranged my room a little, since my English roommate is travelling around Uganda and Kenya for the remainder of the time I’ll be here.  I will have my own room.  Not sure if I’m excited about that or not…There was something comforting about knowing that if a small creature got me, she’d at least be able to run for help J

 

Today, we went back to the school, and did some fun painting on the wall.  We had painted the inside all white, so now we went over that with a colourful alphabet, numbers, music, a rainbow, shapes, a beach scene, etc.  It has really brightened it up!  Tomorrow, the artists that Robbi is working with are going to come in and paint on the other side, some things that we thought they’d be better at: African foods, animals, etc.  It’s shaping up!  After lunch, we went back to the school and tutored some students that Jimmy, the director, usually teaches, but he is on vacation in Zambia right now.  We had three girls come today!  They were really sweet!  They were all 15 years old, were named Tatu, Mwatanga, and Usna.  It was a little hard at first to gauge where their English was, but we had a lot better idea by the end.  I am excited for the kids to be back from holiday at our school next week!

 

That is the update……….Wow, I wrote a lot!  Everything just feels so interesting, and I want to remember it all.  It has been so enjoyable.  I feel like I am learning a lot from the Africans I have met.  Their smiles still amaze me.  I love just biking down the road, and seeing all the beautiful, joyful smiles along the way.  It is so refreshing.  God is good!  He has given us so many blessings while we’ve been here: health, safety, guidance, love, friendship, and just wonderful experiences to learn and grow from.  We have felt all the prayers from home.  Thank you!

gtanghe says:
Tara,

Wow, what an experience for you! You are keeping very busy. I bet your time is flying by too fast, huh? Can't wait to hear the next episode of your adventures. Keep them coming, Mom and Dad love reading them! We love and miss you!

Mom and Dad
Posted on: Jun 29, 2007
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Zanzibar
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