my basket guy!
Welcome to my tropical paradise! I attempted something new as every time I upload pictures they tend to disappear. Hope you enjoy Zanzibar!
Well I guess before I go into details about my amazing Zanzibar trip I should explain a little more about my head. As most of you know I was using the fabulous chim and when I was exiting it I fell down three stairs and knocked my noggin on the brick wall. I did my best to grab on the door but that failed to save me! Later that evening I had a tremendous headache and of course took a few ibuprofen and called it a night.
The following morning instead of staying home I went to work and instead of working at the health center I went to a funeral that was nearly 2 hours away in the ambulance. We were on a very bumpy road which did not help my headache and then at the funeral I did what every Malawian woman does…started a fire, made nsima and got water. While I didn’t mind doing those things I believe I should have taken it easy and so by the time I got home around 6pm my head felt like it was going to explode! When it comes to pain I can be a little dramatic, but this time I’m being serious. I thought my head was going to explode! I figured since it was the weekend I would just take plenty of drugs and just rest. Eventually I was placed on med hold as every time I moved my left eye I got this sharp pain and on a few occasions at night it felt like I was floating and the room was spinning so the doc thought it would be a good idea to get things checked out. I had a ct scan and the results said, “brain is normal” so that’s two thumbs up! I’m not sure what was wrong but after a few weeks all went away and life is great!
Ok, now let’s talk about Zanzibar. This clearly will be a long entry J as I have to tell you how meeting in the middle came about. While in Chicago my friend Amanda and I were volunteers for this amazing organization called Rape Victim Advocates and unbeknownst to us we both volunteered to assist at Loyola’s presentation of the Vagina Monologues on Valentine’s Day as counselors if anyone needed someone to talk to. After the performance we decided to have a valentine’s dinner and during our conversation the Peace Corps came up. We both were extremely interested but naturally we had a few reasons as to why we couldn’t or shouldn’t apply. We eventually made a pact that evening that no matter what we would apply and tada here I am! Throughout the process we made another pact that once we got in no matter where we were in the world we would meet in the middle during our service and the middle just happened to be a tropical paradise on a lovely island off Tanzania. Oh, my friend Amanda is a volunteer in Uganda so Tanzania is in the middle of us!
My adventures to our tropical paradise began with me knowing I couldn’t use the bathroom for the next 24 hours therefore I had to pee every five minutes. Traveling within Africa is not as posh as traveling within the US…you can forget about toilets, air conditioning, stops at a restaurant and having your own personal space. Speaking of personal space I should inform you that the person I had to sit next to for nearly 27 hours was a very large woman who I am guessing weighed close to 400 lbs. I’m not joking! For the duration of this tortuous traveling experience half of her right body was on my leg and every time I tried to move she would shift a brief second then fall back to her greediness and take over my seat. She also had the audacity to tell me that I was the fat one and taking up too much space and because I was so young I should lose weight (just in case you didn’t know I have lost over 100 lbs) Now, I do not consider myself a violent person by any means, but I wanted to punch her in the face (thanks Jaimie).
Continuing with our delightful bus trip we made a stop around midnight to take a guess…use the bathroom!! I was so excited I was bursting with joy until I realized that the men went one way into the bushes and the women went another way. Yep, I peed in the bushes with seven other women. A very liberating experience and you should try it sometime!
As the journey went one I thought about how I wished I paid the money for a plane ticket. The bus was so crowded people were standing and sleeping in the isle, it was extremely hot and for some reason Malawian’s play music at a decibel that is unnecessary at all hours of the night so I couldn’t sleep and having a person sleep on you doesn’t help at all either. As time progressed we finally arrived to Dar es Salaam and boy is that place chaotic. It was midnight when we got in and people were everywhere! It’s midnight people… GO TO BED! The city was far from what Lilongwe looks like and I was a little nervous as I didn’t know exactly where I was going. Once off the bus it took a few minutes for the driver to find my luggage, some guy tried grabbing my bag as he claims he was trying to help me get to a taxi and I was informed that I was supposed to buy my bus ticket back to Lilongwe at the first stop. Ahh. Luckily, a Malawian who I chatted with at the border assisted me with the taxi guy and told me to forget about trying to get to the hotel I was planning on staying at and to follow him to the hotel around the corner…don’t worry mom it was just fine. My new friend was so helpful. He got rid of the crazy taxi guy, helped me get a room and told me how to get a ticket the following morning. Clearly I am capable of completing the above tasks, but it was nice having someone look out for you. Malawians are pretty rad!
By the time I showered and got settled in it was around 2 am! More than 24 hours of traveling and I was exhausted! A few hours of sleep and I began my next adventure…buying my ticket back to Malawi. Dar is definitely a little easier on the eye in day light. A lovely old man escorted me to the ticket booth and then found me a cab to take me to the ferry. I gave him a little tip and while he was missing a few teeth he gave me the biggest smile! I wanted to hug him he was so darn cute! Moving on… boarded the ferry and enjoyed the relaxing two hour trip to heaven. Do you honestly believe that?! Motion sickness hit me pretty good and the entire time I thought I was going to vomit and what made the short trip better was the fact that out of nearly 20 plus seats available some guy had to sit in the booth with me. We discussed homosexuality, marriage and the high rate of divorce in America, why women wait till they are older (such as myself) to have a family, why I chose to leave my amazing country where streets are paved in gold to come to Africa and of course why I wasn’t married. Oh goodie, such a grand trip!
FINALLY I made it to Zanzibar and I nearly ran through the tiny crowded streets trying to find my friend! The buildings are rustic and the streets are narrow and more or less a maze as they twist and turn in every direction which eventually led me to Amanda. I couldn’t have been happier to see her. It’s been nearly a year and a half since we last saw one another and the fact that we actually did what we planned on doing made this trip that much more sweeter! We hugged and chatted for hours before we realized we needed food! We ate, had some drinks, ate some more and drank some more! Life is grand! The most amazing thing about Stone Town is that every evening there is a huge open market near the water where there is nothing but absolutely AMAZING food! Considering the staple food of Malawi is a white flavorless paddy of over processed maize I was about to enter food heaven! I was so overwhelmed with all the vendors I had to settle for tuna, lobster, sugar cane juice mixed with ginger and lime, chocolate ice cream, samosa’s , spicy fried potatoes, coconut bread, juicy pineapple and a pizza that was made with Hershey’s chocolate syrup, nutella and a banana and did I mention fresh tuna and lobster??? It was the worst meal of my life and I can’t wait to go back!!!
The following morning Jambo Guest Hotel provided us with a delightful breakfast and transport to Kendwa Rocks where we would spend three magical days in the Indian Ocean. When we first arrived our rooms were not quite ready so we wandered down to the Ocean and simply relaxed in a hammock for an hour. Oh, this was my first time in a hammock! I have always been afraid of them and until now had no desire to attempt getting in one to only fall out of it. I now want one as they are just so relaxing. Moving on… Once we got settled in our quaint rooms it was time for lunch! From our guidebooks and word of mouth we were informed that there were a few tuck shops of sort about a mile or so down the road where we could purchase food much cheaper than our hotel and being poor volunteers we decided this would be the way to go…until we saw the restaurant at our hotel. We have a view of the ocean, over sized patio furniture with comfy green cushions in the sand, a bar, and a gazebo with more oversized furniture with a an amazing food menu that happened to be a two minute walk from our room so the decision was pretty easy…we would blow all our money on food J Now, I do not want to torture you with details of my boring tuna steak teriyaki, chapatti fish wrap, tandori chicken kebab, California crunch roll (who knew sushi could be so good), peanut butter fudge brownie, carrot cake, white Russians and a few margaritas as I of course took pictures of EVERYTHING I ate and will eventually post them for you to enjoy.
After our fabulous lunch date we wandered around and guess what we found…a little hut in the sand where we could get deep tissue massages! Our vacation just keeps getting better. We poked our heads behind the curtain and found two women who we would later become friends with in the middle of their massage. All we heard were their oh’s and ah’s and we were sold. We came back at 4:30pm and oh my word what a unique experience that was. Who knew a deep tissue massage was so up close and personal. I believe our massage lasted nearly an hour and it was by far one of the most relaxing hours of my life! Following our massage we got another henna tattoo! I’m slightly addicted to them now. Amanda and I got similar ones and we have decided once back in the states we are going to meet in Chicago (where it all began) and get them tattooed. Yea J
The following morning we had a decadent breakfast that included eggs, fresh squeezed juice, scones with pineapple and bananas. We needed a breakfast that was going to fill us up as the night before we booked a snorkeling excursion! We met Jen and Hannah (the girls who were getting massages) at their hotel and walked together to get our gear. I have decided that snorkeling gear is very tricky. Those flippers are so big and trying to find the right size was a little challenging especially when trying them on in the sand.
Once that was all settled we boarded a very rickety wooden boat that I’m certain would sink with a gust of wind. There were 8 people on this boat and as we headed to the drop off spot it started raining, the clouds turned black and it got really windy. We were all convinced that something bad was going to happen and Hannah kept asking our tour guide if we should turn around and of course he told us that it would stop by the time we got there. Oy vey. He was right. We got to the drop off spot and it cleared up. However, once we got there we noticed a ton of jelly fish so we naturally refused to get in the water but again our guide Laki said it was ok because they don’t sting. We didn’t believe him and politely asked to go to another spot. Laki then put his hand in the water and grabbed one out of the water. We all looked at him as if was crazy, but of course he was right. A jellyfish that doesn’t sting. Who knew?
Once in the water we had the time of our lives. Snorkeling is very freeing. The fact that you can breathe and observe such natural beauty is just breathtaking. Another first for me! We swam with the fishies for over an hour and it was just incredible. There were a few times I swallowed salt water and nearly choked, but once I figured out the mask I was a ok. Sadly it started raining so we had to head back. I could have stayed there all day. It was such a fabulous morning. After we finished and made it back to land Amanda and I spent the rest of the day going between our hammocks, swimming and eating and of course planning what we were going to eat the following day.
After a marvelous day of snorkeling we decided to book another excursion so we could swim with dolphins!!! The following morning we left bright and early with the same French couple we went snorkeling with. We got more snorkeling gear and headed out into the great big blue ocean. We were very fortunate that our group was just the four of us. Any more than that and it would have been hectic.
I don’t believe we were in the boat for more than 20 minutes when our tour guide pointed to a group of dolphins to us and told us to jump in! Ah the excitement begins. I jumped out of the boat, put my mask on and swam with dolphins! What a rush I tell ya. The tour guide was pointing to us what direction the dolphins were going in and we just hung out with them. Man, it’s so cool. While were swimming with these beautiful animals one looses track of what’s going on with the rest of the world. Following this dive I honestly thought we were done, but we were not! We got back in the boat and let me tell you trying to get in a boat with flippers on is not easy! Well, until you realize that you should take them off in the water and then climb the tiny ladder.
Our guide and boat driver were absolutely incredible. There were a few other tour boats out with us, but we had the best! He had everything timed perfectly so when the other groups were in the water we were in the boat waiting for the dolphins to swim another direction so that when we jumped in our group was the only one! How incredible is that. I had no idea swimming with dolphins would be so demanding. Between chasing the dolphins and jumping in and out of that boat at least seven times I was exhausted. And let me tell you I have no upper body strength. My goodness gracious, if it wasn’t for our guide who could easily pulled me out of the water with his one hand I would have been shark food.
There were two swims that were absolutely incredible. The first was when my entire group was swimming directly above the eight dolphins and one peed on us. And when you think of pee it’s more like a white stream of smoke. Very weird. The second and probably the best was when I was swimming above the dolphins and I noticed there were only 6 so I started looking around me and immediately to my left the other two dolphins were right there. Swimming right next to me. Again…super cool!!!! It was as if we were in sync. It was an absolute unreal experience. I extended my arm to try and touch one but jerked it back after thinking that no matter how cute these animals are we are not in some fancy aquarium with trained professionals. We are in the middle of the ocean and this is their home. I decided I was content on swimming next to them and my hand wasn’t long enough. After our remarkable swim we got to go snorkeling for about 30 minutes or so before they fed us!!! More food J
Sadly the next day we had to leave and head back to Stone Town as my ferry was leaving at 3. L While there we visited the slave market which was pretty depressing. We toured an old building that held slave chambers that let me tell you were extremely tiny. I couldn’t stand completely straight they were so small. The rooms also had maybe three slits in them for windows and held 75 people while they waited to be sold. After this tour we did some shopping and I had my last meal in Zanzibar before I headed to the ferry.
Of course my adventure does not end there as I still had to get back to Lilongwe. So in short: remember the guy who was missing teeth? Well, he was outside my hotel and agreed to wake me up at 4:30 in the am so I wouldn’t miss my bus (a gem I tell you), got to the bus a little after 5 and was told it was the wrong spot and that I needed to be at the depot, had to argue with a cab driver to take me there for what little money I had left…it didn’t work, some guy tried ripping me off with my luggage, the bus company overbooked the bus so my seat was “sold” and I had to sit next to guess who…the same rude obnoxious person who told me “I was too fat to sit here” on the way to Dar but we both protested that and I got to sit next to someone else, the bus left at 6:30 am and we got to the border at midnight and had to sleep on the bus with creepy men outside yelling, “azungu”, “mammy, I give you good rate” etc, what a nightmare, I had to go pee so bad but refused to get off the bus but eventually at 4am I peed behind some truck and then thankfully the sun came out, the border opened and I was back in Malawi. Still not home but oh so close. Ended up taking a minibus with some travelers from South Africa who actually were coming back from Zanzibar as well. Made it to Mzuzu where I bought a ticket headed to Lilongwe at 4, but of course that did not happen. We didn’t leave till after 6pm and I had some drunk guy sitting next to me who kept telling his friend, “stand down soldier” but around 1:00am I finally made it back to Lilongwe. This was nearly 48 hours of traveling…the worst traveling experience ever. Again, I will save my sanity and fly regardless of how much it cost.
Ok, so I think I have covered my Zanzibar trip! Wow, that was long. I apologize for that, but I hope you enjoyed it and one day I will post pictures so you can see my tropical paradise.
Till next time,
Well since I am on medical hold I figured now would be a good time to add more pictures!!
my favorite iwes: chausa and manuel playing with colby
my host family running to greet us during a visit
just me headed to my sitemates house