Thursday, May 20, 2010

Jambo! Mambo!

As mom used to say, "What, am I speaking Swahili?"

After the last 4 days in Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania known for the spice and slave trades, I may just be. All the locals (aka Frank, my new teen friend who I oddly often ran into on the street) certainly want to teach you. (I would like to thank Asante Samuel for helping me remember the word for thank you!) Their first question- where are you from? Instant reply- Obama! So far I have seen an Obama hologram belt buckle, a kids backpack and a cat named Obama. Pretty funny (and so nice to travel and not be embarrassed of our President!)

It is not the only odd thing about Zanzibar-- although I had pre booked a flight from Dar Es Salaam, guys on the street outside the domestic terminal were very aggressive about selling me a cheap seat on a flight leaving in 20 minutes. I am not a big fan of bargaining for anything on the street, much less air transport! I prefer my brand name airlines, thanks!

I am posting now from the most beautiful beach, Jambiani, with powder white sand, aqua water and no people (it is low season, for what reason I am unclear). It is so peaceful sitting by the Indian Ocean (which is VERY salty, btw), in this small, weathered, fishing village.

Since arriving at the beach I have snorkeled in the 'fish tank', an odd spot in the ocean housing a ton of brightly colored fish, and swam with dolphins.

The dolphin swim was a bit bazaaro-- it was more of a dolphin hunt with boats wandering around in search and then chasing the dolphins so tourists can hop in the water and quickly swim with them. The water was really rough, so I was more focused on the horizon line (so as not to vomit) than the dolphins. After hours they were spotted, and while it was kinda cool having them swim by you, it made me feel really guilty since they were obviously stressed and trying to get away.

The other highlight of that boat ride, besides me successfully fighting off sea sickness (it was very touch and go), was the catching of barracuda as we sailed; however, it was quickly followed by a look of shock as they clubbed the fish once on board. All in all, maybe it would have been better to stay in bed at 530am.

Before arriving in Jambiani, I was in Stonetown for two days. Being Muslim, the island takes on a different feel than the other places I have been in Africa, from the calls to prayer to the weathered, Islamic architecture and general vibe of the city (felt much safer). It was really interesting to wander the narrow alleyways to see the ornate doors for which Zanzibar is known. The city has a frenetic energy, with very friendly locals echoing a constant stream of "jambo" as I walked down the street (still an odd feeling not being able to blend in).
Since Zanzibar is know as the spice island, it seems a requirement to go on a spice tour, which was surprisingly interesting. I learned that Iodine comes from a tree, pineapples don't grow on trees (who knew?) and peppercorn (5 kinds from 1 tree) is a ton of work. We also saw cloves, nutmeg, palmetto, cinnamon, vanilla, etc.

While on the tour I made another local friend who made me all sorts of accessories out of palm, including: ring, bracelet, necklace, glasses and a basket to store it all. He even demonstrated the one fruit that is used to make cosmetics (notice his red cheeks). It was really very sweet, unlike the Jackfruit which was way sour.
Well, that is about all from Zanzibar since I may now need to take a nap on the beach -- I know, it's a tough life! ;-)

Reminder: only 5 weeks left of fundraising for my Nepal trek. See link to the right. All support is greatly appreciated! Sorry, wish I could offer a dollar-for-dollar match like NPR :-) Thanks again to those that already donated!


  1. awww, sad stressed dolphins!

  2. How do the pineapples grow, if not on trees?

  3. damn i love (and miss) Zanzibar! there's a great raggae bar near matemwe beach - check it out if you get a chance. it's little weird hearing Bob Marley songs and drinking Red Zanzibar, but hey they're right on the beach! see you in July!