Friday, February 11, 2011

Jambo from Zanzibar, a small island off the coast of Tanzania!

Well, here I am - on the last leg of my world tour, on the continent I've been most curious about. I flew into Jozi (Johannesburg) last Monday, spent a day without my luggage, and then flew up to Dar Es Salaam. My luggage just barely made it from ATL in time for my DAR flight, but alas, it did. Though it may come as no surprise, it is warm here - like really warm. Not quite northeast Thailand warm, but something akin to southern Vietnam warm. So I've busted out the sunscreen and shades and welcomed a real summer back into my life. I'm on Zanzibar for the big East African music festival, Sauti za Busara (Sounds of Wisdom, in KiSwahili). I'll return mainland on Sunday, meet up with Sister, and then we head to Moshi on Monday to start hiking Kilimanjaro on Tuesday. And with any luck, we should summit on the 19th, which I am sure you haven't forgotten, is my 26th birthday. Initial insights and musings below:
  • People in Tanzania speak Swahili, not English. I keep having to stop myself from attempting to speak Spanish. It seems to be my "go-to" language when I feel like people aren't understanding me. I'm pretty sure the people who don't speak English, don't speak Spanish either. So it's back to my days in Southeast Asia, where you speak really slow grammatically incorrect English and just keep smiling - surely they'll figure out what I am saying eventually.
  • Who knew that Africa would be the place I felt like I fit in? Okay, okay, my skin color may be a bit more fair than most but in general I'm the right height and normally proportioned. After months of being that ridiculously tall, skinny kid walking around, I actually feel less conspicuous in Africa than I ever did in South America or Southeast Asia. Plus, there are white Africans, so it's not immediately obvious that I'm American.
  • Dance is equally as important to a performance as music. Every band we've seen has a few people whose job is primarily to just dance. And holy moly, these girls put Shakira to shame - those hips don't lie, they don't lie at all.
  • This is my first time traveling in a Muslim country. The biggest drawback that I have found thus far, is that on a really hot day, when you'd like to get a cold beer and relax on your veranda it's nearly impossible to find a shop that actually sells beer. There are bars and restaurants that sell alcohol, but it is rarely found in the local shops because many of the local people don't drink it. Second biggest drawback is the very loud calls to prayer at 5 am. In the afternoon it's quite lovely to hear, but not so much in the wee hours of the morning.
Next time you hear from me, I'll be down off the mountain.

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