It’s hard to believe I’ve officially been in Africa for an entire month. The first few days and weeks it didn’t feel real. I would wake up every morning in disbelief that I was actually in Africa. It wasn’t until the trip to Zanzibar which was when I finally accepted I was in Africa. Throughout the week I’m at the hospital, Muhimbili National, from 8a-3:30p. The commute to and from work is about an hour. The weekends are when I go on adventures. Two weekends ago was when I went on an adventure to Zanzibar. We had a tour guide by the name of Mr. Alewei and we did so many amazing things. We left Tanzania early in the morning by ferry and met Mr. Alewei upon arrival. I learned that Tanzania’s original name use to be Tanganyika. It wasn’t until 1964 that Tanganyika and Zanzibar joined together. The “Tan” is for Tanganyika, the “Zan” is for Zanzibar, and the “Nia” means to come together. The first day we got a tour of Stone Town which is a very historical part of Zanzibar. We took a boat to Prison Island where we had a tour. When slaves would act out to their owners in Zanzibar they would send them to the island to be prisoners. There were huge turtles on the island that we got to feed and play with! The oldest one was 192 years old.
They are protected by Zanzibar and have a safe home on the island. We snorkeled on the island and then went to a place where we had a spice tour. There were SO many types of spices! They would pull off a leave on a plant and have you smell it and guess what it is. I ate the bark from a cinnamon tree and it tasted just like Red Hot gum! After smelling all of the different spices we watched a man climb the coconut tree and throw down the coconuts. They then cracked the coconuts open for us and we got to drink the juice. The people from the spice tour made us grass crowns, bracelets, rings, and necklaces.
It was absolutely amazing! Afterwards, they fed us fresh fruits that are all grown on the island. There were fruits I ate that I had never heard of before like laichi and jack fruit. The next day we got the chance to swim with dolphins and go to Jozani which is a national park. The forest was so breathtaking! I got the chance to see SO many monkeys in their natural habitat! It was unbelievable. The monkeys would run right in front of you or right beside your feet and swing from branches just in front of your face. There are two monkeys native to the island. One of those monkeys you can find all throughout Africa; however, the Red Colobus Monkey is only found in Zanzibar.
I also got to see Mangroves all throughout the forest. These are trees that can only live in salt water and the roots of the trees actually grow above ground because of the lack of oxygen under ground.
Zanzibar was such a beautiful place and it was quite different compared to Dar es Salaam. You felt a lot safer in Zanzibar. I could actually carry my phone in my hand while I was walking out in public and carry a bag with me. Thefts weren’t as prevalent there as they are in Dar. The economy of Zanzibar relies so heavily upon tourists whereas Dar doesn’t have as much tourists. There is a lot more poverty in Dar compared to the people who live in Zanzibar. However, there is still poverty there. I passed by many homes and villages that were very rural and looked poverty stricken. Moreover, the population of Zanzibar is very diverse! 90% of the population is Muslim. A lot of people spoke in Arabic and there were many buildings that had Arabic writing. Luckily, a guy that was on the trip with me, Saqib, knows Arabic and was brought up Muslim. He taught me a lot and I had the chance to hear him speak to some of the natives in Arabic. It was really cool to see. A lot of people were in hijabs and modestly dressed. There are also a lot of Muslim people in Dar but not as much as I saw in Zanzibar. Dar is about 50% Muslim, 50% Christian. So although I had an absolutely unforgettable experience and trip to Zanzibar there is one person that I really hold dear to my heart and was my favorite part of the trip. Everyone, please meet Mcha.
He’s a 15 year old boy who’s a fishermen. I was attempting to go out to the sea with a friend from Work the World named Saqib, because the tide was really low and there was about a mile or so of shallow water and then you could reach the reef. He approached us with his fish he had caught that day, which you can see in this picture
and asked if we were trying to go out. He spoke very little English but we were still able to communicate with the broken Swahili we new and the broken English he knew. He led the path and along the way he showed us his world in the water. This was a time that I really learned the importance of non-verbal language. Even though we couldn’t communicate through words I could still understand everything Mcha wanted me to. He would find beautiful sea shells and just hand them to me. He would find star fish after star fish and I never once spotted one.
He would find these sea creatures in shells and told us the names of all of them. There were sea urchins EVERYWHERE! He would make sure we didn’t get hurt by them. As we were heading back there was a little rock in the water. All of a sudden he said there’s an octopus underneath there! I had NO IDEA how he even saw it! It didn’t look like anything would be underneath the small rock. He reached under the rock and I saw ink everywhere in the water! HE WAS RIGHT! There really was one!!! After battling and battling and the tide rising and rising he eventually won the fight. Thr water was at first just below our mid-calves and it was now way above my knees. The tide had risen a good 2 feet and we still had a good mile to go to get to shore. We made it back just in time and that’s when I captured the first photo up above. This little boy has a heart of gold and is such a hard worker. Could you imagine supporting your family at the age of 15 and fishing all day long so your family has food to eat? He had an even younger brother too who was also fishing. Him finding things so easily in the sea taught me how I need to change my perspective.
If you’re walking blind and not looking for things around you then you’ll miss them. Just like I missed all of the beautiful things in the sea until he showed me. That’s something Africa as a whole has taught me. To really open your eyes.