Making Our Way to Zanzibar

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March 1st 2011
Published: March 1st 2011
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If you have ever met me, you will know in about 5 minutes all about my love of the ocean and my constant need for salty, ocean breezes and walks in the sand. So my second day in Tanzania started on a different foot than the first. We were armed and ready with our ferry tickets for Zanzibar Island. All I knew at this point in time was that it was an island, so that was more than enough for me. As soon as we were safely aboard the ferry and I was plopped happily in my beanbag chair, it was as though all was right in the world again. Believe it or not there were two beanbag chairs on the outdoor decks of the boat and I snagged one of them. The ferry ride passed quickly as I drifted in and out of sleep and read my book, getting more and more excited as the water got clearer and bluer as we neared Zanzibar. I think Emma fought a little seasickness, so I am not so sure this ride was as relaxing as it was for me. Thank god for 4 months of living on a ship!

We arrived in Zanzibar, passed through another round of immigration (isn’t this still part of Tanzania?!?!) and headed out into the labyrinth that is Stone Town. We had decided to make our way straight out of Stone Town to the East coast and the small sleepy beach town of Pajé (pronounced Pah-Jay). I was ready for island life, I thought once we had made it off of the mainland, that everyone would move into that slow, sleepy pace with that “what’s happening” surfer attitude, but I was wrong again. As soon as we stepped outside the gates of the docks, we were back to “Jambo!,” “Where are you going?,” “I can help you find a place to stay.” That almost sounds nice the way I make it sound, but remember 100 degrees and 100 percent humidity and you don’t want any help and people just keep trying to talk to you and help you.

In an effort to lose some of our followers Emma and I wove our way through some tiny little streets until we finally just had to ask the person for the 50th time to please leave us alone and remind him that we did not need help. Once we had lost our trail we made out way over to the local transportation center. Haha, transportation center makes it sound quite different than it actually was, better word, town center market will a ton of open air buses trying to get people to take them to different areas of the island. These buses were sort of like small school buses, except then you have to cut off the top half, stick seats around the edges and put a cover on top. It is the local form of transportation called a “dalla-dalla.” We bounced along for an hour stuffed in this bus to Pajé. Every four feet we stopped as they loaded bags, mattresses, and bicycles on to our dalla-dalla and then shoved four more people in. By the time we were getting to Pajé, Emma and I could not feel our butts or our legs. Oh well, it is the journey and it is all about the local experience.

Finally, ahhhhh, the fresh salty air, the white sandy beach, and the crystal clear waters of Pajé. We quickly picked an ocean-side bungalow, dropped our bags, and planted ourselves in the water. We spent the afternoon watching kite boarders fly through the air and enjoyed a local dish of rice and beans from the small town we were in. After another hour of swimming, we headed back to the bungalow to shower and go to dinner. After our huge pizza dinner, we were exhausted and retired to our bungalow for the night…or so we thought.

I quickly washed my face and brushed my teeth as I do every night and then went and laid on top of the bed while Emma did the same. After a few minutes of moving my head back and forth between the two pillows and my pillow, I did confirm that the area between the pillows had a strong fishy odor wafting from it. I smelled my pillow again to be sure that it smelled normal again and said “Emma, this is so weird, when I smell between our pillows it smells like fish and when I smell my pillow it smells fine, that’s weird.” Then moving my head again, I said “Yep, fish and normal.” So not thinking too much about it, I then got up to pull the coverlet back and get under the covers and froze. I didn’t get a good look at first, but I then in smooth, controlled voice of course, I said, “Oh, my god, oh my god, Emma, something is in our bed.” It looked at quick glance as though someone had piled woodchips in the bed between our two pillows. I immediately traded spots with Emma and planted myself safely in the bathroom while Emma played detective to solve the mystery of this situation.

Emma examined it from a couple of different angles before determining that it was in fact a dead, massacred, decapitated, and decomposed rat. Read over those adjectives again, I didn’t just randomly choose them, they perfectly describe the situation. For some reason we were actually handling the situation pretty well, laughing pretty hard at what we had just uncovered. Between our pillows was the skeleton of the body of the rat separate from the skeleton of the head of the rat, combined nicely with blood stains and off white stains and what we think might have been some woodchips and rat feces. This was made into our bed that we were about to turn the lights off and go to sleep in. Quickly we got dressed and ran over to the restaurant where we brought back one of the waiters to take a look at our situation. He looked at it, sighed and told us he could just brush it off if we would like. We responded with serious disbelief and told him that there was no way we were sleeping in that bed. The rat had to have been there for at least a couple of months to decompose like that and obviously it had seeped into the mattress. We requested the onsite manager and a change of room. To which we got an “I don’t know if we can, but we will see what we can do.” WHAT?!?!?! Finally after some serious debating, we were moved to another room at 11:45 p.m. By this point we had looked at the rat for about an hour and taken numerous photographs, so we were a little on the traumatized side and just wanted to get out of there.

Finally we fell asleep and the following morning proceeded to the front desk to ask for our money back. First of all, that never should have happened and second, we should not have had to ask for the money. After spending half the day bartering with the man at the front desk, a cute, young girl came up, apologized profusely, and gave us our money back. We then shared a taxi with our newly found Australian friends back to Stone Town before making our way by “dalla-dalla” up to the North end called Ningwe. After some conspiracy theories on how this rat got to where it was and died like that, we decided to leave the rat in the past and we figured maybe we could start over in Ningwe.

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