Zanzibar Island

Trip Start Nov 19, 2002
Trip End Dec 13, 2002

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Flag of Tanzania  , Zanzibar North,
Friday, December 13, 2002


I made three trips to the computer in Zanzibar but no luck getting email out.  For most of the past week, my sister along with a few of her PC friends and I have been at a beach up at the north end of the island.  Was nice to get some R&R.  Originally, we were going to do some tours (swimming with dolphins, snorkeling and spice tours) but the heat fatigued us.  It's been nice to swim and lay around in hammocks on the beach.  Fresh, daily catches of barracuda, king fish, jack fish and calimari for dinner.  Love the white fish here.  With three days left, I was already looking forward to returning to some moderate temperatures.  It's been strange thinking of Pacific Northwest Ballet's Nutcracker in the heat of summer.

It's been a tremendous experience going to Africa which I've tried to share.  A few last stories to wrap it up.

Tanzania is located in the Southern Hemisphere.  Some constellations are visible here that aren't back home.  I tried looking for the Southern Cross.  But since we're only about five degrees south of the equator, this one only appears for a few months of the year.

In restaurants, it averages about an hour to get served after you order.  And that's if the order is right.  The joke is the kid running out the back door to get more food.  The flip side is that this is the healthiest I've ever eaten in my life.  There's very little processed food here.  And the livestock/plant life isn't treated with any hormones, pesticides, etc.  Even if the government wanted to, they simply don't have the infrastructure or technology.

Religion is big.  Friday nights, half the country shuts down.  Sunday morning the other half does.  Mosques are usually the biggest and most noticeable buildings here.

Speaking of architecture, there are beautiful buildings here, especially on Zanzibar.  The area was first popularized with the spice trade about 200 years ago.  That was followed by the German colonization in the late 19th century.  And later by the British in the early 20th century.  Unfortunately, I didn't get many pictures of this.  It is prohibited to take pictures of government buildings or personnel.  Big trouble if you get caught.  You can be detained and your gear confiscated.

The military has a heavy hand here.  The president likes it because it keeps him in power.  The people like it because it avoids war.  My safari guide was telling me, "yes, there are problems.  But if there's no war then it's OK."  At elections here, there are armed guards at the polling booths.  When they receive dissenting ballots they throw them out.  I saw a headline here, "(Candidate) Receives 100% Vote."  Challengers will often get kidnapped.  In hearing about other African nations, one of the first things people mention is whether they're at war or not.  Usually, it's internal and political.

At the airport, I saw an Indian man and Tanzanian man walking happily holding hands.  Not something you see a lot of in the US.  Then I took a second look.  In my travel books, it states that in the more conservative Muslim areas, homosexuality is punishable by death.  I asked my sister about this.  She said same gender people are openly affectionate here.  Females, too, often walk hand-in-hand.  What I don't ever remember seeing is opposite-gender people being affectionate.

When the sun rises, so do the people here.  Almost every morning, I wake up to a rooster.  My sister complains, too, that school girls come to her house at dawn.  "Are you still sleeping, Miss Sarah?" they ask.  "Not anymore."  And when the sun sets, most everything shuts down.  They have electricity here, but that's not what everything revolves around.

"Try a Kili" (manjaro).  I did.  One of the few beers I've really liked.  African brewers use corn instead of barley and hops.  For me, it's a real clean taste.  And strong too.  Comparable to wines at 12%.

My new best friend - Fanta.  Orange, red or purple...they're all good.  Anything cold in a bottle goes down fast here.

Tanzania is located along the Indian Ocean.  It has been a major trading route for centuries.  Fishing is a common vocation.  Some beautiful marine reserves are located here.  And 6% of the land is covered by lakes.  And yet there is no word in Swahili for boat.

To get the most out of the trip, I tried to make myself open to new experiences.  It required trust and vulnerability on my part (deep breath).  That meant my safari guide, cab drivers, Sarah, people on the street, nature, their culture and politics to name a few.  Yes, I did get in a few tight spots.  And I did close myself to some of what could have happened.  But it ended up being a really enriching experience for me.  I'm still trying to integrate it.

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