Published: August 8th 2008September 19th 2007
Oh I miss them!!!
Wow...how can I even attempt to write about the past week in an email? Prepare yourself for a super long one that will not even begin to skim the surface of the events of the past week.
I spent the last 8 days on the island of Pemba, the sister island to Unguja that makes up Zanzibar. We flew over and immediately moved into our host family homes. After the decent but not wonderful experience of the last homestay, I was not sure what to expect. I had the surprise of the trip when I was immediately taken into this family with all the love, laughter and fun of my friends and family back home. I had a mother and father and 5 sisters (5 of 8 were at home) as well as a boy cousin. The kids ranged in age from 10-23, so we had a blast hanging out, even though the communication between us was not perfect. They spoke some English (my dad was fluent which was really helpful) and I got to practice my Swahili much more this time. We were there for the end of Ramadan, and I was invited to break the fast with the
family this time, rather than being put in the dining room to eat alone. We ate from communal plates, and the food was amazing. Cassava and bananas cooked in coconut milk, fish, friend doughnuts and fried potato patties (catlace...my favorite thing here!) and of course the wonderful tea that they make in Zanzibar. It is very very good with fresh spices and ginger. I could drink tea all day here! After dinner we would all lie around in the outdoor kitchen (also where we ate) digesting, laughing, looking at the stars and trying to make sense of what the other people were saying. It was wonderful. I lived with them for 3 nights, and then went back to visit at the end of the week. My mama was so happy with my surprise visit that she almost started crying. Everyone in the house stopped what they were doing to come and hang out with me, and then my parents walked me back to my hotel after dark. This family alone is enough to get me to come back to visit Zanzibar/Pemba again.
Since I was with my family for the end of Ramadan, I got to celebrate Eid with
in our kitchen
them as well. This meant dressing up in my super gaudy and AMAZING gown that I had made here. We walked to the fair where everyone goes to hang out for Eid. We rode a really old Ferris wheel and carousel, ate sugar cane and basically walked around and talked to people all night. We went into the disco for a while, but it was a kind of unsafe situation, so we left. It was wonderful to be here for this holiday which appears to be a combination of our Christmas/Thanksgiving/Halloween and state fair all rolled up into one. So great!
On Pemba we spent our time in two main cities (the whole island does not have more than 100,000 people though). Chake Chake (where my family was) and Wete. From these places we had lectures and field trips to all sorts of neat places on the island. We visited the clove oil distillery. Pemba produces the world’s best quality cloves and clove oil, so this was really neat to see. We also went to a salt farm and an organic vegetable farm. The farm was one of the favorite places for everyone in the group. Apart from being
I loved eating with my hands
beautiful, it was completely inspiring. Pemba island was the guinea pig area for a new method of farming implementation. They set up farms that would be teaching farms for local farmers to learn about diversifying their crops, growing without pesticides (to cut costs and environmental impact) and to increase production by recycling products though the farm. It has been completely successful, and has made the farms of Pemba some of the most efficient and productive in this area of Africa. It is so successful in fact that they are taking this method to the mainland of Tanzania to implement it there. It could be a huge huge help in the whole development of this country. So neat to see in action!
We also visited Ngezi forest, another forest that makes up the East African coastal forests that are the biodiversity hotspot. It was beautiful. We took a long hike through the vines and buttressed trees (in dresses and skirts it was more of a challenge, but we are pretty good at it now). We saw tons of monkeys as well as lots of birds. My favorite was the endemic Pemba Palm...a very pretty palm found nowhere else in the
mama yangu na dada yangu (my mom and sisters)
world. Of course, as you know from the past email, I did not have a camera with me for any of this. So painful for me not to be able to document it all! After our trip to the forest we visited the one tourist hotel on that end of the island (there are 2 total) for lunch. We set up our picnic lunch under a covered area, which was a great call because 30 seconds after we started eating, a monsoonal rainstorm came overhead. There was 4 inches of water running down the stairs that we had just walked on! After the rainstorm passed we drove to a beach on the north end of the island to relax. We laid out our kangas and went for a swim. The water was crystal clear and really cold from the rainstorm, but it felt so good. Swimming was an exciting experience in and of itself just because there were jellyfish all over the place. We made a bet for Kate to pick one up for 10,000 Tsh to see if it would sting. No stinging! She will do just about any dare we come up with it seems like. Even knowing
that they did not sting was still not enough to keep us from screeching every time one came near us. They were really cute...they had brown polka dots on them! Jellies still are not something I like swimming with...even if they are harmless. Back on the beach we made a sand hippo complete with a bird on his back. Unfortunately, none of us had cameras with us, so we will have to recreate it.
Another day we took a 3 hour hike in the beating sun through 4 rural villages to find some ancient ruins out on the end of a peninsula. We never made it to the ruins, but the experience of walking though the villages was enough experience to make to day 120% worth all the sweat! As we would approach, this huge group of 16 mzungus, kids would swarm us. They would materialize out of nowhere! They would be running around us screaming, yelling, laughing, talking to us in Swahili...you name it, they probably did it at some point. It was almost overwhelming at times. There would be a probably 50-90 kids swarming you. At the edge of their village territory they would leave us, and
then about 5 minutes later we would reach the next village, hear the eruption of sound and then again be swarmed. It was not always fun. Kids would be asking for money, trying to grab your stuff, and the screaming MUZUNGO gets really old really fast. It was interesting also to see how they reacted to us. There is virtually no tourism on Pemba, so tourists are not a common site. We would go up to the kids when there hands were out for high fives, and they would jump back...not wanting to come near us. It is totally possible that most of these kids had never seen white people before. These rural villages are so far off the already unpaved roads and they never get into town. It is such an interesting world to experience. We never made it to the ruins that day, but we had so much fun.
All right, I warned you that this was a long email! Now we get to the best part! On Tuesday we took a boat out to Misali Island, a small protected island off the western coast of Pemba. On the way we had the driver take us to
Rossa Kombu (i have NO IDEA how to spell it!), the ruins that we had tried to walk to earlier that week. Good thing we did not try to walk there...it would have been a few more hours! The ruins were an 11th century mosque...beautiful by the water surrounded by massive palm trees. After wandering around we hopped back in the boat and drove out to Misali. On the way we spotted 3 dolphins in the perfectly clear turquoise water...such a treat! Ok, so picture the most beautiful small uninhabited tropical island you can...add a coconut picnic shelter and 30 beach lounge chairs and a white sand beach framed with a blue sky and puffy white clouds and you will have the image of Misali. It is breathtaking. When we got off the boat we went snorkeling, laid on our kangas in the sand, ate lunch, went swimming and also went on a nature hike around the island. First on the hike we went to see turtle beach, where they have about 24 nests a year laid by green and hawksbill turtles. Not very high rate of nesting. However, as luck would have it, one nest hatched the night before
we arrived, so the rangers dug it up when we were there to count the eggs. 198 eggs total, 24 unhatched. The best part was that there were 18 babies still in the nest!!! We got to hold them and then put them on the sand and watch them make their way to the ocean and swim off. I have never heard this group sound so girly! We were all squealing and going on and on about how cute they are. baby turtles are about one of the cutest things on the face of the earth. It was such a treat to be able to see this! We felt so lucky. After seeing the turtles we went to see the caves on the island. Misali has three saltwater filled caves hidden in the forest. They are perfectly still water, crystal clear and really really cool looking. They are considered a sacred site to locals. Ok, so how could this island get any better? I got permission, along with three other girls, to live here for our 3 weeks of research at the end of the program!!! We are going to camp out on the island under a baobab tree, with
a view of the ocean right from our tent. 4-6 rangers are out there too, so we will have people to cook with and practice Swahili with, and I will get to visit my family in Chake Chake! It sounds like the perfect situation, and I cannot wait. Google Misali island if you want a picture.
Phew, that is a lot to take in huh? This past week has been unbelievable. We are back in Stone Town for 5 days, making plans for our ISPs, preparing and taking our midterm exam (yes, we are in school, hard to believe I know), and catching up on small things like laundry, email, etc. And, I have fabulous news: MY CAMERA RECOVERED! I had left it to dry out in a bowl of rice all last week, and this morning put in batteries and it is back to normal. I cannot tell you how happy I am!!! It is such a relief to be able to take pictures again. After spending time here we will be on the Island of Chole for 2 weeks taking a snorkeling intensive ecology course, living without electricity in mud huts for three days, and a local
hotel without electricity for the rest of the weeks. I will be there for my 21st birthday so that should be fun and memorable. I will have no internet access or phone service while I am there, but will be back online as soon as I get home to stone town. Then we have a week here and then back out living life on Misali! I cannot believe how fast this semester is flying by. I am so happy that everyone is enjoying my emails.
There are more photos below