If ever there was a truly tolerant and hard-working people, it would that of this pearl of beauty in the Indian Ocean. It lies approximately twenty miles off the coast of East Africa and fifty from Dar Es Salaam. They work as hard as can be and the best way of thanking these people for providing me with such a rich, unforgettable and life-changing experience is to write this post and spread their wisdom, though, in truth, it should be kept a secret.
Coming up to two years ago in July of 2013, I embarked on a voluntary placement with African Impact; a project called the Zanzibar Rural Teaching and Community Project. The local people and other volunteers are some of the most extraordinary people I’ve ever met. Take Dulla, one of the project managers.
He would arise at three a.m. to tend to his mother’s seaweed plantation. This was the main cash crop in Zanzibar when I was there. That was at least two hours work. Then he would return home to cook breakfast at five. Another hour. Time to get his son up.
It’s at least twenty minutes walk either way. Next is lesson planning. Afterwards, it’s now eight-thirty. Hop on the bike now and its up to the Jambiani Tourism Training Institute.
Arrive at nine. Teach the class. Good. Ten-fifteen now. Over to the primary school for ten-thirty. Teach at the primary school, actually there were three, till twelve. Go home. Eat lunch. One o’clock now and lesson planning for the football boys’ lessons in English. Three o’clock.
The kids are home. Head out to set up and undertake football practice. That means it is now four o’clock. After that, you have to teach them English until 18:00.
Then, and only then, does he go home and help his wife to cook and the kids with homework. What a day!! If anyone was forced to do that in rich parts of the world, people would tell them to get help. The seaweed workers could be seen when we woke up and gazed onto the beach at 6 a.m.in the morning, the the eastern sky the colour of a blood orange.
Lets take the inhabitants of Stone Town. Extremely resourceful in making money. They do it any way they can think of. Some will try to sell nice souvenirs such as very fine arts and crafts, music CDs and Zanzibar football shirts. Others will helpfully give you directions. But perhaps the most interesting and educational of these entrepreneur are the tour guides.
However, once we were given a tour without being asked and were expected to pay afterwards. Its always wise to carry a bit more money than usual around the town. Just in case. Now, you won’t see many beggars, during the day. They only come out of the woodwork at the night market. They are completely harmless and won’t usually ask for more than a thousand shillings, or forty British pence.
Considerate? They are very much so. There is a Red Colobus monkey reserve in the middle of the island and, when we drove through this area, the drivers always slowed down and I never saw one of the creatures lying dead by the roadside. They are an endangered species and this area, plus the rest of the island, is their only known habitat.
Want to have some fun and games? Why not see Makunduchi festival. The occurrence of this party is at the end of every month.
The idea behind it is simple. At the end of every month, all the men-of-age in the community gather into groups and are issued banana sticks. Then they gather in a large field with the women cheering on their partner.
It is up to the mayor to then to basically say “Alright, chaps. Any bad blood between you, take it out in three-two-one…NOW!”, at which point he blows the whistle and the men start whacking one another. One shouldn’t be alarmed,though.
The sticks hurt a little, but not for long. Its no worse than a bee sting. The fight will spread all over the field and you should be prepared to leg it, quickly, lol:)
The point about these people is not the cliche that they have less and are happier for it. Nor is it the fact that they work hard or that they have a permanent smile upon their face. It is the combination of all three.
Their strength is that, despite the fact that they desire better healthcare and education, they know enough not to complain.
“Gallantry and wisdom without knowing it”. That is the way I would describe the inhabitants of the archipelago. Their plight is not that of other countries in the area. They have thriving tourism and crop industries.
It is that most common of foes, environmental destruction and, on the part of foreign tourists, carelessness. The main perpetrator of these crimes are the large, global hotel chains that set up shop on the island.
We came into the village in our minivan and I observed, in front of us, two children playing on either side of a brown puddle that straddled the road. I said “Look at those two kids playing in the mud”. It wasn’t mud.
The full-moon festival was great! Not for Manoel, a Swiss volunteer, though. He took one bite into his burger on the first evening and prudently chose not to eat the rest. However, that did not stop him from being violently sick.
It was also the weekend where I met Jennifer, my girlfriend of the time. She was a lovely person. She was from the mainland where her dad worked, or possibly still does, on the Serengeti as a park warden.
These people have resilience and humanity at every turn. They are quite happy on their little island. What a marvellous adventure!