Daily Life in Zanzibar

This is for the people who have never visited or lived in a third world country. This is for the tourists who have no idea what daily life is like in the developing countries that they visit. This is for the people who live here in Zanzibar, Tanzania. This is a full account of my activities on Wednesday January 25, 2012.

I woke up at 6:30am today. Well, no, technically I woke up at 4:30am when I heard the Muslim prayer call from the Mosque right beside our apartment building. I fell back asleep though, and got up at 6:30. It’s actually quite a good system for me. I like to be half awake before I actually get up so that I don’t oversleep and so that I feel as though I’m sneaking in extra sleep time.

After I got up, I got dressed and went to go rinse my face and brush my teeth in the bathroom. I could almost write a whole blog about the bathrooms here, but I’m sure some of you would rather not have a detailed account of my bathroom activities. I’ll just be brief then. The bathroom in our apartment has a toilet (Yay! – some bathroom’s only have a hole in the floor) but the toilet doesn’t flush so we have to pour buckets of water into it to “flush” it. There is also no shower, but there is a tap in the wall where we can easily give ourselves a bucket shower. It’s quite similar to the kind of shower you would take when you’re camping. That is of course if you are tenting in a campground without showers. And to make it easy to clean, the whole washroom is tiled, so I don’t have to worry about getting water all over the place. So I quickly washed my face with the bucket water, and brushed my teeth with some of my bottled water–as foreigners get sick from drinking the tap water here.

I always try to be as quick as possible when in the bathroom since there are 8 of us living here, sharing one bathroom. My homestay family is wonderful though. It took a bit of time for me to adapt to living with a big family again and with a mom who checks in on me often, but I’m more used to it now. I am actually really enjoying having 3 “brothers” and another “sister.” My homestay brothers are a lot of fun: Mudasir is the oldest and often walks with me to the corner store at night to keep me safe and practice the English that he is learning in school. He’s really smart. Muzakir and Muhammed are the two youngest and they happen to be playing with a couple of pink balloons right now (they love balloons, especially since we drew pictures and wrote their names on them). Their sister Fatma hasn’t been around much, but she smiles a lot and helps us with a number of things during the day.
Now that I’ve gotten through the first half hour of my morning, I’ll try to expedite the rest of my day for you so that you can get back to what you were doing before you started reading this.

Sida (the other volunteer who I share a room with) and I walked through a field, some garbage, and a small sandy area with beautiful yellow and blue flowers to get to our daladala stop (bus stop). I smiled at a couple of school children on the bus who blushed and hid their faces, then paid the 300 shilling fee for the bus (which is probably about 15 cents in Canada), and got off at the stop outside the YCI office.

Today was the first day of our “Emerging Leaders” class, so after getting to the office, we quickly got all of our supplies together and then walked for about 15 minutes over to the classroom at ZANGOC (a group of NGO’s). The class was essentially an introduction class, with a fun ice breaker and a short power point presentation. Most of the participants can understand English quite well, so they picked up on my silly jokes, but since it was the first day many of them were quite shy when speaking English. A few of the participants expressed an interest in understanding more about their civil rights so that they can help to educate and change their communities, so tomorrow I’m going to read up on human rights here in Tanzania! :) I’m actually excited!

After class Sida, Aziza (a local volunteer here), and I took the bus and walked to the post office in Stone Town. We stopped at the Stone Town Cafe for lunch as a treat after our first class and I had yogurt with muesli and fresh fruit – mangoes, pineapple, banana, and watermelon. It’s amazing how delicious and fresh all of the fruit is here. I haven’t seen any grapes, apples, pears or peaches here, but every tropical fruit that you can imagine is here somewhere.

Back at the office we spent some time working on our other assignments before we packed up at 6pm to go home. This time of day is probably my favorite time for riding the bus because the air is cooler and the breeze is wonderfully refreshing as it washes over me.

When we got home I rinsed off the dust and dirt from my feet before I started to hand wash my laundry and hang it to dry. I then sat down to have dinner on the floor with my homestay family. Dinner was Ugali (the national dish of Tanzania) and a stew of potatoes, liver, okra, and spices in a tomato sauce. We also had fresh squeezed mango, passion fruit, and banana juice which my homestay mom made. It was delicious! Then the power went out, the fans stopped, and we could feel the heat again, so we went up on the roof to enjoy the breeze from the ocean close by.

After I had cooled down enough, I came inside to shower, and here I am. Oh look, the power is back! It’s never out for too long. And some days it doesn’t even go off at all. These power outages sure make me realize how rich developed countries really are. We have so much and we’re often still unhappy with our lives, even when people in the third world live so simply. There’s a lot to be learned from the people here in Zanzibar, and I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can!

Kwaheri! Bye!


Here’s lookin at you, kid

Less than 24 hours until I embark upon my 2 month YCI internship in Zanzibar, Tanzania. I’m feeling quite excited. I’m also being a bit of a procrastinator (ex. my pile of things to pack is still sitting on the floor waiting to actually be put inside my luggage) but that’s a whole other story.

Things I’m looking forward to on this trip:
– Meeting new people
– Having an experience that will challenge my whole view of life
– Learning new things in unexpected places
– Sharing my experiences with local youth
– The beautiful architecture of Stone Town
– The blue ocean and the salty ocean air
– The possibility of touring a spice plantation
– Meeting up with my best friend’s Aunt who owns a Scuba/Dive shop on Zanzibar
– Soaking up some sunshine
– Possibly encountering some of Africa’s incredible animals

Things I’m a bit wary of in my anticipation of this trip:
– Having my wallet stolen, again. *Note to self: pack a few extra ‘decoy’ wallets* just kidding…
– Having to tame my twice-as-voluminous hair as soon as I’m engulfed by the humidity
– Being questioned at the airport about the type of “work” I’ll be doing while in Amsterdam… (already happened to me once)… It’s not my fault that KLM (my favorite airline by the way) has it’s main hub in Amsterdam, and that I have a stop over there. It’s also not my fault that Amsterdam is known for some shady occupations. Just saying.
– Being whisked off on the back of a Wildebeest during its annual migration across the Serengeti *Simba, help me!*

So really, in reviewing both of the above lists, I’m much more excited than nervous about my whole trip. Especially taking into account that most of my “Things I’m a bit wary of…” entries are lessons learned from past trips and I’m really just being silly and poking fun at myself.

The next update from me shall be once I have landed in Tanzania.
*Gives you the queen’s slow, dramatized wave*

À bientôt Canada!


Adventure Is Out There

Remember the 2009 Pixar movie “Up” where an old man decides to float his house all the way to South America using helium balloons? There are so many things that I appreciate about that movie. To begin with, the self-determination and self-assurance that the two children have at the beginning of the movie for adventure really resonated with me as I still find a number of the same qualities in my child-like yet vivid imagination. We grow up thinking “the sky is the limit”, right? And then what happens?

Life happens. Responsibility hits us, bills stack up, and life begins to bombard us with enough bananas to smother us. Our child-like dream of the sky being the limit gets somewhat stifled by all of the external influences and stimuli around us. We have to work to gain the things we want: a family, a career, a comfortable house and lifestyle. And through all of the hustle and bustle of daily life, we forget what we once thought. Our dreams of being a fireman, a teacher, or the perfect mom become fuzzy memories stored at the back of our brains. Sure, we might be reminded of it in conversation at some point, but when do we ever re-realize our dream of the sky being the limit and strive for it once more? When do we stop believing that we are capable of achieving such goals? Why do we give up before even trying?

Wouldn’t it be magical to attach helium balloons to your house and just float away on an adventure? Or are you thinking of reason’s right now why that would be impossible? Because of your kids, your job, your financial limitations, the expectations placed upon you by others? If you can forget about those details for a minute, you might be able to experience the glorious feeling of even just imagining such an adventure.

On my “About” page, on the right hand side of this posting, I wrote about one of my childhood idols: Carmen Sandiego. Now the funny thing is, Carmen Sandiego was actually the thief in the game who I was trying to stop. My brain, however, just remembered how much I loved the game “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” and decided that “Carmen Sandiego” was my idol. Now that I’ve grown up a bit, I realize that Carmen Sandiego (the thief) was not my idol, but rather the idea of being a detective and traveling the world to solve crime was my idyllic dream.

So I can’t say that I’m close to being a detective, or to solving crime, but I can excitedly confirm that I get to travel the world, so to speak. At age 2 my family and I moved to Egypt – Alexandria and Aswan mostly. At 8 we moved to Irbid, Jordan for a year – visiting incredible sites in the surrounding area such as Petra and the Dead Sea. At 9.5 I moved back to Canada, arriving in Toronto and subsequently DRIVING across Canada to the Vancouver area. (You may wonder why I’ve capitalized the word ‘driving’? Well, suffice it to say that six people crammed into one old Buick makes the drive across Canada a whole lot more of an experience.)

Between the 14-16 I was able to go twice with a group down to Mexico to work in an orphanage near Tijuana. After driving down to Mexico twice, I stayed in BC for awhile – taking small camping trips or visiting my extended family in Alberta. Two years ago, in October 2009, I went with a small group to an orphanage in Marose, Haiti. This was of course before the earthquake, but the conditions were still quite shocking. The shocking conditions were not able to squelch my love of travel though. In May 2011 I met up with my younger sister Rachel in Greece and had quite the experience on the mainland and the islands. And now, in January 2012, I am setting off on an adventure bound for Zanzibar, Tanzania.

Excited? Yes. Nervous? A little. Above all though, I feel completely content with my life in knowing that in some small way I am still following my dreams. And yes, I know that sounds a bit cheesy, but I really mean it. I have no idea what to expect from this 2 month adventure in Tanzania, but I am so relieved at the same time to not have any expectations. No expectations = freedom.

So what about you? What adventures have you taken lately? What dreams have you fulfilled or forgotten?