Stone Town

I often find it difficult to think of what to say in this blog. I suppose I also feel that my blog has to be an amazing story, or a hilarious adventure, or an epic masterpiece. Hah. Who am I kidding?
So for this blog entry, I’ve decided to take the pressure off of myself. Nice, huh? Yep. I’ve decided to write down some of the interesting experiences that I’ve had in and around Stone Town. Here goes…

While walking through Stone Town, I find myself feeling partly comforted and partly annoyed. I’m comforted because of all of the other tourists and ex-pats that I see walking around. It helps me to remember that other people are experiencing the same things as me – I’m not alone! Yay! And I feel annoyed because of the persistent guys who hang around outside of the shops, trying to welcome you into their store to look at their merchandise.

Last week, one guy tried to sell us some sort of African music CD and followed us up the street for a bit. When we didn’t respond or pay attention to him, he got mad and started yelling “This is discrimination!! You don’t talk to me because I’m black!” I silently chuckled to myself and kept walking. For those of you that are wondering, no, I am not racist. I just found it interesting that declining a CD that I didn’t want made me appear racist.

Speaking of unwanted attention, on our bus ride to work the other day, our bus driver asked us to be his girlfriends. Both of us – Sida and I. As we burst into awkward laughter, Sida said “No! You must be married!” (because the man was in his 40’s) to which he said “No, I’m alone. True story.” More awkward laughter seemed to be coming out of me as I said “ohh….hah… … …” I think at that point I was hoping that our stop was coming up soon, which it wasn’t. So he persisted, “I wait for your answer. I wait now.” So then I finally said “No, we can’t be your girlfriends because we both have boyfriends in Canada who are waiting for us (slight lie), but we can be friends. If we see you again on the bus we will say hi.” I seem to remember him still trying to say that he’d wait for our answer, but luckily our stop came up soon and we jumped out and ran off. *Phew*

Today, Sida and I went to Chumbuni, a poor community a little ways away from Stone Town. We were there to explain to the youth in the community about the health and sanitation workshop that we are planning to hold. Last time we had been in Chumbuni, as I may have previously mentioned, we saw a young boy kicking around a “soccer ball” made out of old plastic bags tied together with rope. Sida felt very impacted by the little boy, that she decided to buy 3 soccer balls today and bring them to Chumbuni to give to the kids.

I’m in the middle of explaining to the group about our health and sanitation workshop, and Sida runs off around the corner. Before I have time to wonder where she is, I hear someone crying really loudly. Sida pops her head around the corner with panicked eyes and calls to our translator, Abbas, to help her. Apparently Sida had found a young boy at the water tap who was filling up a large container with water – the perfect candidate for a soccer ball! Sida tries to give the boy the ball, but realizes that his hands are full with the water bucket, so she decides to help him. She tries to take the bucket out of his hands and replace it with the soccer ball. The boy thinks that she is trying to steal his water bucket, and bursts into frightened tears. He says that he does not want the soccer ball in place of his water bucket, and to just leave him the water bucket.

The whole group that I had been talking to burst into laughter, trying to explain to the boy that he could keep his bucket and have the soccer ball as a gift. He looked quite horrified from the whole experience and ran off with his bucket and his new soccer ball. Poor Sida was so confused and embarrassed! As we walked back towards the bus stop, I asked Abbas how to say “I give this to you,” so that when we found another little boy we could explain that we were giving him the ball. It still didn’t really work out so well. When I saw the next little boy, I walked up to him and said “I give this to you” in Swahili, but the boy got scared. He backed away from me as I tried to hand him the ball. So then I tried to gently throw the ball after him, but it bounced and hit an older woman. hahaha embarrassing… anyways… if the little boys in Chumbuni can get over their traumatizing experiences with us, I’m sure they will thoroughly enjoy their new soccer balls!

Thinking about the little boy with the water bucket now, I’m realizing that it’s a bit sad that he’s not used to being given things. And even more sad that he is used to having things taken from him.


6 responses

  1. Sarah,
    Keep up the good work for the community development side; watch out to be a CIA member and do not discriminate my comment because am ” Black”.


    Ousman- Horn of Africa.

  2. Ah Stone Town. When I was there in 44 it was priceless. Soccer balls everywhere. We smoked cigars on the restaurant balcony of the Hilton overlooking Stone street.

    You and Sida could use some assertiveness training! No. No. No. No! NOOOO!!!!


    Have you found a Christian community to connect with in Stone Town? It might be interesting to visit a local congregation and see how they worship. Preferably with a trusted escort.

    • Hmm… as long as this is Joel, my brother, then I’m a tad bit confused about how you were in StoneTown in 44’… haha :) silly silly!

      As for Church, we did try to go to the Anglican Church here a couple weeks back, but the service was in Swahili and Sida was feeling very sick, so we didn’t stay for the whole service. Even though I havent found a good Christian community, I’ve still felt very challenged by God and I know that this time is about so much more for me than just volunteering.

  3. The soccer ball thing… I tried to do something similar in Nicaragua. Sometimes people can’t believe that there aren’t strings attached. They are suspicious, and why shouldn’t they be? In their world, unless the giver is a friend or a family member, people generally try to take from you in some way. There are a million tricks and schemes to take advantage of weakness. Being on guard is a way of life and there is little sympathy (or even empathy) beyond your own trusted circle. Sometimes we are so naive when it comes to putting ourselves in their place fully that we completely miss their need to maintain a survival strategy at all times.

    I’m enjoying your blog, Sarah, now that I have finally found it.

    Uncle David.

    • Ahh such praise is much appreciated from such an experienced traveler and writer such as yourself :) I actually often find myself in situations where I think of you – “What would Uncle David do here?” “How long before Uncle David would give them his famous withering stare?” hehe :) the last one was a bit of an embellishment. But really, traveling has the potential to teach you so much as long as you’re open to it, and i’m really enjoying all that I’m learning.

      Glad you’re enjoying my blog!
      *big hug*

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