Friday, February 25, 2011

ZANZIBAR: Music, Beach and Humidity

Written February 20, 2011

As I was preparing to make the move to TZ by stalking the blogs of volunteers already here, I read about this amazing music festival in Zanzibar. It immediately went to the top of my Must See list. Now a year later I final got my chance to experience it first-hand!

As with most trips in TZ there are various legs of a trip because travel takes a loooong time, especially when you are traveling cross-country as we were. I started from Mbeya town with another volunteer living in the Mbeya region, Rebecca. Plus, I got an awesome surprise that the previous weekend Rebecca and a few others in our Mbeya gang had randomly met a married couple, Mark and Annie, traveling through Africa for a college course. They have an awesome blog but sorry can't remember the address.

They had spent the week in Rebecca’s village and had decided to head to Zanzibar as well! To prove what an even smaller world it is, we were all sitting at a pub the night before leaving Mbeya when another guy from their class happens by! So he decided to join us too.

The next day we have an 8-hour coaster ride to Iringa. We had decided to break up the travel into two days so we would not arrive in the big city Dar es Salaam after dark- not the best place to be walking with lot of luggage. Plus I was excited to check out what I had heard was the best cheap shopping. I was not disappointed as I found a much needed bag and beautiful wooden necklace.

Sunday morning Rebecca and I headed on to Dar. The Coloradans decided to enjoy Iringa a few more days before hitting the festival. I love how travel in Africa can be so easily adjusted to fit whatever comes along!

One of the best parts of Dar this trip was our accommodations. We had decided to try out PC’s ex-pat program which matches volunteers with Americans living in Dar and willing to let us stay free. Our ex-pat was very gracious and welcoming. She had two extra rooms so we each got our own….each having its own a/c controls!

Monday morning we head into the PC office to use the internet and library of resource books. We also got to catch up with our program advisors and other staff. I must say the PC staff is always great at making time for us and answering questions. This is comforting when you don’t always feel like you have a clue.

Two HUGE highlights were 1) Stopping by the PC Med I found I have lost 55lbs since arriving in country! and 2) I found the 7th and final Harry Potter book! I never got into the HP craze in America. Then back in October I happened across the first two books and got hooked. I have found books 3-6 at the Mbeya library but had yet to find the last book.

On Tuesday I had to go to the eye doctor to replace a pair of glasses I had lost. I had been curious to see a TZ eye doctor’s office. It was sadly disappointing. The frame styles were a bit outdated but otherwise it was just like an eye doctor’s office in America….sorry no good story there!

But after leaving I stumbled upon a Super Wal-Mart! Ok it technically was not a Super Wal-Mart but it might as well have been. Only difference? The prices definitely were not rolled back.

I can remember many times in college when I a week or two’s worth of groceries for $10-20. Walking through this store on a villager’s budget (which let’s be honest, I make more than most villagers) was an incredible eye-opening experience. I could not bring myself to buy any special treat much less a whole week’s worth of food. Granted this was a “mazungu’s” store, aka for people with money, so villagers would never be shopping here. But it still made me experience how little choice of food there is for villagers other than what they grow or can get at the local farmers markets.

Anyway, back to the trip…..on Wednesday morning we caught a ferry for a 2-hour ride to Zanzibar! At that point we met up with three other gals from our training group and an American friend of Rebecca’s living in Saudi Arabia. The first thing we see upon arriving in Zanzibar? The humidity! Seriously, we can see it rolling off of us.

So we take off to a beach about an hour away located at the island’s northern tip. This is really the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. The sand is white and almost soft to walk on. The water is clear blue. We even claimed a tiki hut with a hammock! I love hammocks!

After swimming and relaxing, we took a small boat out to snorkel. I had never been snorkeling so I am seriously excited. So excited that I don’t stop to realize we are not getting any direction on how to use the mask. The leader guy jumps in so I follow….and get a mouth full of salt water. I start trying to swim towards the guy but then the tide takes me in the opposite direction. At this point I am wishing I had fought a little harder for a life vest.

For what could have been 15 or 75 minutes, I’m swimming against the tide and going no where. The only thing I accomplish is swallowing more salt water. One of the other girls comes to help me and teaches me how to use the mask. But then we can still not get back to the boat and scream for help.

Finally another boat picks us up and takes us back to our boat. After a few choice words, we learn the anchor was broke so they couldn’t come get us. But how were we suppose to know?! They take us then to a better place where we see a coral reef and tons of fish! I loved it so much I now need to learn deep sea diving so I can get closer!

After an awesome pizza dinner, we head back to Stone Town for the music festival. I wash my hair to get rid of the salt water not knowing it’s so humid hours later my hair was still sopping wet!

The festival’s stage was set-up inside an old stone fort it had great atmosphere. Around the perimeter were a ton of booths selling jewelry, paintings and seafood. Drums were primarily instrument of the performers as it set the beat for lots of dancing. For more information, check out their website.

The next day was full of sight seeing around Stone Town. The beautiful town had many stone buildings, hence the name. There were also the smaller paths off main roads that lead in crazy mazes through shops, restaurants, etc. I also got to catch up with a friend who was a volunteer in Mbeya and recently extended a 3rd year in Zanzibar. Good times!

The next day we returned to Dar and our wonderful ex-pat’s home. We then treated ourselves to a night in America! We hit the mall which a crazy collection of banks, a Good-Year tire store and a store like Target!

But our reason for being there was the McDonald’s and movie theater. Ok it wasn’t really a McDonald’s but might as well have been. We stood there staring at the menu forever. This was my first taste (pun intended) of what it will be like returning to America and wanting to order everything on the menu. I ended up going with the crispy chicken sandwich, real French fries with REAL ketchup and soda fountain drink. Why is it drinks from a soda fountain are so much better? There still was no ice but even I couldn’t complain at this point. We then watched Ben Stiller's third Meet the Parents movie.

After another 2-day bus ride I was back in Mbeya and wearing my jacket against the cooler temps!

1 comment:

  1. That sounds like so much fun, Jessica! I had a similar snorkeling experience in Australia. I sucked down so much salt water.

    55 pounds?! That's amazing!