Friday, February 24, 2012

Zanzibar Pictues

 Monument at the site of the former slave market

 Spice Market

 The Narrow Streets of Stone Town

Arabic Influence

Tanzanian Wheelchair 

 The Old Fort

 Inside the Old Fort before the Music Festival

Parade before the Music Festival

 At the Spice Farm

 If you smear the seeds it looks like lipstick

Rockin the hats we got after the Spice Tour 

 House in Jambiani Village made of coral and limestone

 Kids collecting leftover seaweed on the beach

 The Medicine Man

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


We had our first big trip this past weekend and one I had been looking forward to for a while.  We went to the island of Zanzibar which is right off the coast of Tanzania.  Typically people take a ferry there but because a ferry recently sunk, we took a short 20 minute flight instead.

We left Thursday morning and spent the day exploring Stone Town which is absolutely beautiful.  We visited a bunch of historical sites including slave chambers, museums, the Old Fort and the markets.  The music festival was also happening this weekend so after a stop for ice cream we went to see the parade. At night we went to the first night of the festival which was actually in the Old Fort.   We also went to get sweet Zanzibar pizza.  I got nutella and coconut pizza. Delicious.

On Friday we had a Spice Tour. It was a lot of fun and probably my favorite thing from our trip there.  We were taken around a spice farm and we were guessing and sampling different spices.  There was also this one fruit? ( or flower? I don’t exactly know what it was) that when you crack it open and smash the seeds, it’s pretty much like red lipstick so we had a lot of fun just smearing our faces with it.  We also got to see one of the guys climb a coconut tree barefoot.  I gave it a try and epically failed ( I think I got like 3 inches off the ground).  From some of the leaves there, they made us these awesome hats and little canteen bags too.  Then we had a wonderful lunch there made with many of the spices on the farm. 

After the spice tour, we headed to our destination for the next couple days, Jambiani village.  The hostel we stayed at was owned by Jenny’s friend and was right by the ocean.  We got in late afternoon so we just relaxed on the beach for the rest of the day.   Some people went swimming which I’m glad I didn’t because everyone that did got some pretty bad side effects.  The tide was very high and there was something in the water that was even carried in the wind.  That night we all had a weird feeling in our nose even just by sitting by the beach. 

The next day was pretty interesting. We all woke up with our eyes completely swollen and our faces feeling scaly.  Today even (5 days later) my face still feels like a snake and I got some sort of rash on my chin.  Anyways, Christina (the one that owns the hostel) got us some natural remedy after breakfast.  We had the put these boiling hot tea leaves on our eyes.  I don’t think it helped too much but it was an interesting experience.  The rest of the day, we went on a tour of the village itself.  We were walking around for hours and it was long, hot and uncomfortable with barely any shade.  The houses in the village were very interesting though especially since they make them out of a combination of coral and limestone.  We also learned about seaweed farming there.  So the ladies in the village have these farms in the ocean where they grow seaweed and sell it to high end cosmetic companies and to the Asian food market.  You can see the farms when the tide is far out.  When we first heard of this, it seemed like it would be a very good thing for the community, especially in terms of having women get income.  However, we met some NGO workers from Norway in the community and they told us about how little the women actually get from this work, how malnourished they are, the health effects and how their work is comparable to slave labor.  After we learned more about the Norwegian NGO’s initiatives there, we walked around some more and then went to see the local medicine man. 

After that, we walked back and since the tide was still pretty far out we figured it was safe to go swimming.  How much the tide goes in and out is pretty incredible.  It’s probably at least half a mile.  While we were walking to get to the water we had to watch out for the sea urchins and got to see a whole bunch of starfish and the ladies working on their seaweed farms. Unlike the water at high tide, the water when we got to it was perfectly clear, beautiful and definitely refreshing.  By the time we started to walk back, the tide had come in a bit and some of the seaweed farms were now underwater. That night after dinner, we sat by the ocean, had a drum circle by a bonfire and watched the moon rise over the ocean horizon.  The hostel workers were all very nice and tried to speak Swahili with us, which was definitely very helpful.

On Sunday morning, some of us woke up to see the sunrise.  Unfortunately though, the sky was very cloudy and we didn’t actually see much.  After breakfast, we packed up and left to go back to Stone Town.  We did some pretty touristy shopping (gypsy pants was a must for most of us) and headed back to the airport.  The airplanes we took there and back were very tiny, maybe 15 people max.  On the way back,  I sat next to the pilot up front and even got the fly the plane for a bit which was pretty exciting. 

All in all, I would say it was a pretty amazing weekend.  Pictures to follow!

Cooking with Bibi

I’m getting pretty behind on updating this.

Anyways two weeks ago we had cooking lessons as part of our cultural excursion program.  We went to a Bibi’s (grandma) house and learned how many traditional Tanzanian dishes were made.  Spicy tea, coconut rice, chapati, pilau (unfortunately not vegetarian), fish, mango-ginger juice and these delicious peanut bars were all part of the ridiculous feast that day. It was definitely nice to have a homemade Tanzanian meal rather than the typical cafeteria beans and rice.  As we were waiting for everything to cook, we also had a great time playing with all the kids there.  

 Bibi rolling out some chapati

Trying to shred coconut on this very interesting contraption

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Taking Justice Into Their Own Hands

Petty theft is probably the most common crime in Tanzania and being a “mzungu” here makes you especially a target. During our orientation, it was drilled into our heads just how rampant theft is.  From the typical purse snatching or pickpocketing at crowded markets and  daladalas,  to taxi cab scams, to getting shoved into a car, beaten up a bit and driven around town emptying your bank account and finally to the alleged machete guy on campus who cuts off people’s hands. 

The university had their own orientation for us and one of the sessions about safety went something like this:
Mzungus: Is there anything we can do if we’re getting robbed?
Tanzanian police officer: You either let them take what they want or you shout Mwizi (thief).
Mzungus: Well what happens when you say that?
Tanzanian police officer: One of two things can happen.  If there is a police officer nearby, they will take him and arrest him.  If not, people might get angry and you might see him die in front of you. 

So basically, according to the officer if someone is accused of being a thief, people nearby will get really angry and start beating the thief until they die.  After hearing this I wasn’t sure what to think.  The officer said this so casually but I was skeptical just how true this was. In the end I assured myself that maybe this was an instance that happened once or twice in the past. At the same time though I wasn’t going to shout mwizi at the next guy who looks at me funny.

However, the other day my friend Marion and I were at lunch with Polycarp, one of the Tanzanian students working in CIEE.  We started talking about this topic again and we asked if this type of street justice actually happens.  Shockingly enough, yes it does. And it’s happened 5 times just on the UDSM campus. 

Polycarp then began to tell us his experience with this. He was walking to class and saw a group of people.  They were crowded around, beating a man. Some were striking him metal rods, others stomped in his face with their boots. Apparently, the man was caught stealing a bike nearby the campus.  He was then chased into campus, caught and beaten.  Polycarp said when he got there he saw the man bloody and unconscious. He then broke up the beating and there was an officer nearby who helped.  The man was then rushed to the hospital but by the time he got there, he was already dead.  

So there it is. Tanzanian street justice. I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around this concept but at this point I just hope  it’s one of those experiences I don’t encounter during my time here.