Friday, January 21, 2011

Musings about Zanzibar (and a pinch of Dar/Bagamoyo)

Musing #1 Dala Dalas in Zbar

Aside from Zanzibar’s BEAUTIFUL white, fine sand beaches lined coconut and palm trees, abundant mangoes for less than a dime and whole pineapples for less than a dollar, something tour books fail to mention are the dala dalas in Zanzibar. They are more or less a truck with an open-aired back lined with long benches and a roof. We managed to squash 28 people onto these benches with luggage from flour sacks and pails of tomatoes to eggs, chickens, briefcases, and in my case a backpacking size backpack. So the benches are full of people and the area between the people are filled with the above mentioned items so you’d think that if someone gets on first, they would scoot further up the bench so as to allow other passengers to get on easier. Not so. Instead, me with my 73 cubic meter backpack, already too tall for the dala dala, crawling over the aforementioned tomatoes, eggs, flour sacks, etc. to get an open spot on the bench. But before I am seated the dala dala lurches forward and everyone follows suit. Of course there are no seat belts although the fellow passengers on both sides of you serve as a constrictor keeping your thighs glued to your seat because you are unable to move them either way due to the other people. I will note that this position when you have horrible sunburn on the backs of your thighs and butt is not ideal (never mind I put spf 55 on and wore a shirt when I went snorkeling). Another main difference is that the dala dala can lurch forward. In Arusha, there is so much traffic that you maybe go 30 mph maximum and most of that is when you are passing in the invisible middle lane. In Zbar, no traffic, no problem. So the daladala goes a considerable speed. Then the conductor taps with a shilling coin on the outside of the truck (yes he is just holding onto the back of the truck as are four other men) and the truck, brakes screeching and all, lurches forward again, stopping one second later. The word gradual does not exist! Then we pick up the passenger, load on the baggage, and with the tap-tap of the shilling coin lurch forward again. Even though we paid 4x what we should have, it was still 1/10th the amount of a taxi and why would I trade this experience for a $50 taxi ride?...

Musing #2 Resort food or fish market?

So besides the 8 cent mangos and dollar pineapples, there really isn’t any other food one can buy in Matemwe, a northern beach resort town with the best snorkeling I’ve ever done in my life! It was like looking at an aquarium! Except for the fish market. We were tired of going to resort dinners and spending a minimum of $12 on a plate (I haven’t spent this amount on food in a very long time!) and decided it would be a nice gesture to cook fish for our couchsurfers. They work at a resort and told us they ate there for every meal. What I didn’t realize is they truly meant EVERY meal. They had lived there four months and did not own salt, pepper, oil, a sharp knife, or even cooked in their kitchen-anything. Not cereal, bread, emergency pasta ration, nothing. So after buying this fish, which was a beauty and around $4, and carrying it by a string attached to its mouth for the 3k walk back home, we realized we had forgotten the key. It turned into a comedic act because of course many stopped us seeing mzungus carrying a fish on the beach. And then we walked by them again. The cook at the resort gave us a bit of butter, oil, and salt/pepper mixture and a sharp knife because they didn’t have any. The fish turned out quite well and the next day we were stopped multiple times with something along the lines of “Weren’t you two the ones with the fish yesterday?” I think we made a legend.

Musing 3 The Zanzibari/Western Muslim Wedding

So my main reason for going to Zanzibar when I did was my colleague’s wedding, which was a very cool cultural experience I will never forget. It began with a frazzled Sara trying desperately to find the place because there was no sign and the name I was given (Dhau Countries Music Academy) none of the locals knew. I walked in at 4 pm on the dot which is when the ceremony was supposed to begin. But upon arriving, I saw everyone was just waiting around and we were on typical Tanzania time once again. About 45 mins later the western bride walks in, decorated with 6 hrs of Henna up and down her arms and legs (and her shoulders were bare) and goes to her dressing room. 15 mins. later we hear drums and women fluttering their tongues. Down below 4 stories is a processional of the groom's whole family, probably 100+ people dressed in beautiful gowns, women all with their hair covered, and waving money above their heads. We were served lemongrass tea, a sweet gelatin with sesame seeds called halau, and a samosa, while the Arabic singing continued. I did not feel like I was in Tanzania AT ALL. Eventually, the groom showed up and entered the bride's dressing room, where I think is where the religious part of the ceremony took place. I saw a man (I would guess to be the equivalent of a preacher) putting his hand on her head as a sign of blessing and then unveiled her and they had a photo shoot and then walked out holding hands, no kiss. It then turned into a paparazzi shooting as they walked down the aisle with kisses on the cheek, and people attaching small bills of money to her dress. After parading around for probably half an hour, they did the exchange of the rings. It seemed very evident to me that this was not a common occurrence because all the women continued to talk and so it was very hard to hear. And then they finally kissed :) It was interesting to see how reserved they were with the family there because they had lived together beforehand for a year. Then we went to the groom's house where sat on mats on the floor and waited and then saw an Arabic men's dance where they all danced in kneeling synchronized movement with one hand behind their back and the other varying between waving in the hair and sweeping the ground and them leaning back on their calves.

Day 2 of the Wedding
The second night was mainly just a party. Though MUCH later than expected. I had arrived early because my CS host insisted on giving me a ride and I didn't want to tell him to wait for a certain time. When I arrived hardly anything had been set up so I helped fill the centerpiece bags of sand (for the candles). Luckily the ground was sand so it was an easy task. The bride lived in Japan for 3 years so each table had 3 origami flowers. It almost became a joke when the guests walked in at 7:30 to help with the various tasks still not done. By the time the bride and groom walked in (9:45!!!), it had rained, wind had blown all the candles out and had to be relit multiple times, and I could hear my stomach quite clearly, having not eaten a large lunch knowing dinner would be huge. The bride's dress was BEAUTIFUL!!! Purple and gold with a train. They were seated and Tarab music (a Zanzibar style where they use flat two, major 3, and lots of tetrachords) began followed by the most insanely awesome Capoera I had ever seen! They made the sand look like a trampoline doing flips right there! And then they dragged the groom out, he removed his suit coat, and took part. AWESOME! 11 PM food was finally served with the largest fish I had ever seen, pilau, salad, and sugar cane juice, delicious!! I was amazed to see all the Muslim women with uncovered hair, bare shoulders, and drinking beer. But one of the brothers explained that they can do these things for special events like parties or invites. Interesting. No wedding cake, but a delicious fruit salad and banana bread. This was followed by dancing starting with rockin' robin swing and evolving into Poker Face (club music) lol. And then the party was over.

The spice tour was really cool because they made leaf jewelry and made it much more about the presentation of the spices then the spices themselves. The most impressive was a guy climbing to the top of a coconut tree (pics will be on Facebook soon). A book that might be interesting to read is Memoirs of an Arabian Princess about a Zanzibari princess who learned to read secretly (women couldn't read) by writing Koranic verses on the shoulder blade of a camel and then escaped to Germany where she converted to Christianity and changed her name and gained independence. I also learned that henna started as a way to cool off with a simple dot and then people got bored and started making designs. Coolest sunset bbq with you-name-it seafood for under 5 bucks. And we stayed with a Zbar family which was a really cool experience! I love TZ children!

Bagamoyo had an interesting history being the resting place of the slave traders with bwagamoyo literally meaning lay your burden of your heart down. Dar, aside from being hot and crowded, was wonderful and traffic over the holiday wasn't bad at all.We fell in love with the bucket shower, which is exactly what it sounds like. You dump buckets of cold water on your head. Saves A LOT of water and is so refreshing when it's so hot outside. Though you really do get used to the heat and with a parasol it's not so bad. The university was so green and people were so friendly. I felt like I made more friends traveling and showing me all the local places and going out every night then I do here in Arusha after 5 months. This Sun marks the halfway point. And I actually can believe it. Back to work this week. Fingers crossed on parents coming in two weeks!

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