While sipping on a Ramadany after futoor pick me up, a mutual thought stemming from a brainstorming conversation, leading to a communal conclusion on our destination: Zanzibar it shall be.. We needed some adventure, we needed some spice, and I needed to get jabbed a couple of times in the arm to fight off yellow fever, meningitis, and the flu… the following excerpts of wisdom are what I brought back with me..
Touching down in Dar es Salaam airport, our goal was to get our visas, get though passport control, pull our luggage, pay for and catch our connecting flight all within a somewhat reasonable time frame. I was a little hesitant we’d be able to pull all this off, and in hindsight, my anxiety was warranted. After an exhaustive and confusing muddle getting our visas, we arrive at the transfer desk only to find out that we have been barred from making our flight. Thinking I’ll use some of my college education and airline email confirmation logic, I am soon standing outside the window talking to an apathetic airline sales rep who’d rather tear off the appendages of her dot matrix printout than listen to me. My pleading and attempts to push my normally well-received US dollars through the window slot was of no use. The combination of flashing US dollars and disheartening situation was drawing attention from some very unwanted tick-like conmen. One of these enterprising peddling gentlemen interrupts my negotiations to inform me that we will not make this flight, but,, he knows of another flight at another airport which is taking off very soon,, but,, we don’t have much time and that me and my very beautiful companion needed to follow and leave with him.. Angrily brushing the papasi off, I find out that we can take a flight in 3 hours and resign myself to waiting it out in the Flamingo Café at the airport. 3 Kilimanjaro beers later, I accept my defeat and wait for my flight, cursing my luck. Arriving in Zanzibar, we are exhausted and just looking to get to our hotel, flirting with rain once more, our car barely makes it to our destination. She tells me that after keeping her cool the entire time, if the car broke down on that dusty road in the middle of the night on the way to the hotel, she would’ve completely lost it. I finally learn to chill the fuck out and just enjoy my time - hakuna matata, it really means no worries..
Public figures and taking coffee.. Although Zanzibar is much better off than other parts of Africa, they still take coffee there (gifts, bribes, bakhsheesh).. people need to survive, and anyplace you can find it you take it.. a lesson quickly learned is that you will hemorrhage cash for the stupidest of reasons, and sometimes you’ll hate the way it’s sucked out of you (not the fact that it’s sucked out, the way).. Qassim, our guide, and local public figure brings a flask of coffee with him on his drives for when he gets stopped by the police – when they ask to sit down for some coffee he can always offer them a cup..
I never thought I was a Safari kinda guy, turns out I am.. Being in an environment in which there are so many incredible animals moving around really picks at your curiosity.. whether it was carefully trying not to make eye contact with the primates jumping about on my walk to get some breakfast, the lizards and salamanders on my stroll down to the beach, incredible white crabs on the beach, barracudas freaking the schools of fish out, or the bountiful urchins and lovely starfish, I was fascinated by all the creatures that came across my way.. There was something very strange about being right next to a bunch of monkeys and realizing that there is no cage, there is no one to help you out, and that I am the one invading their space. Coming from an arid climate, that’s somewhat of a concrete jungle, you don’t really see much for animals except alley cats, stray dogs, and some desert geckos. Dreamt about elephants duking it out, she discussed the weirdness of giraffes as animals. Need to satisfy this new felt hunger for a Safari.. it could happen to you too..
In a place where so much pain has been felt, people still find the time to smile.. Zanzibar was the trade port of East Africa, with traffic in, spices, ivory and humans. The Europeans may have pillaged the western coast of Africa for slaves, but it was the Arabs that did East Africa in. Recounting the horror stories would truly shake you to your core, with the air about the cells and chains hanging heavy on your conscience… The atrocities were shameful with painful scars as reminders of a painful past, yet amidst all this traumatizing history, the people have moved on and have chosen to educate rather than castigate about their past. Another eye opener was the devastating effect AIDS has had on people’s lives and touching acts of humanity.. A six year old girl orphaned because of the disease and her adoption by a family that could afford to give her a loving household but not much else.. Really makes our life of lattes and internet connections seem like a meaningless sack of horseshit..
Although we had to eventually return to our lives, it was on Zanzibar that we purposefully left our hearts. With a promise to return, Africa remains where it all began..