Done with our stay in the hostels and now we are on our way to our rural homestays. This is a change. These houses are made out of clay and limestone and have roofs are made out of tin and this is what I pictured when I first pictured Africa. The toilets are holes in the ground and you have a bucket of water to shower with. I feel like I never get clean. There is no toilet paper so we carry it with us in our backpacks. People just use a bucket of water to clean themselves. I don’t think that cleans anything* There is no running water in some of our houses and some of us don’t have electricity. This is the real Africa. They get their water from wells and sometimes they pack it in pretty far from their houses. My family is very nice and I have 10-year-old brother and 8-year-old sister. My uncle is 22 and my dad and mom are both 34. I don’t get fed much, and I never really sleep under my mosquito-ridden room, but hey it’s an experience. I leave back to normal civilization in about 4 days, so I think I can stick it out.
I’m starting to lose track of weeks now and I’m sure I’ve missed a few, but for a few weeks we were just staying in stone town going to class everyday. We left Stone town and headed towards Pemba today. It was crazy; the airport has one security checkpoint. The airplane was like a puddle jumper and it was basically like having your own private plane for a 30-minute cruise. There is a seat right next to the pilot that gets filled and then the other seats are 3 wide and 5 deep. You can see every instrument and sitting next to the pilot is pretty cool and would cost a lot of money back in the states. We are staying in a hostile for a couple days and then headed to another set of homestay families. The hostile overlooks a portion of the ocean, but it has no hot water and no drinkable water, which means we have to steripen (water sterilizer) everything we drink. Pemba is more rural and less people than the larger island we were previously on. There is no Wi-Fi really here and there aren’t any actual restaurants.
Heading back into town from Jozani was hard because it is such a cool place. For my research project over the course of 4 weeks I will stay in Jozani studying the old growth forest and how to keep it healthy and preserved. We are now heading to stay back with our homestay families for four days and then we are off to an island called Pemba, which is just another island in the archipelago of Zanzibar. Headed back into Stone Town means Wi-Fi, actually decent food, and some normal hotels to hangout at. While in Stone Town we had some lectures on coral reefs and sandbars and then headed out into the field to put what we had learnt to the test. A short 30-minute boat ride on a boat that you wouldn’t trust back in states, we reach a very nice secluded sandbar that is beautiful and has very little impact from human interaction. Here we found cuttlefish, octopus and hundreds of fish and coral species as we snorkeled and studied intertidal pools
This past week we’ve spent four days in the only National Forest in Zanzibar. The Jozani National Forest is 5000 hectors of old growth forests, mangrove trees and a lot of monkeys that are endemic to the islands. Red Colobus Monkeys are only found on Zanzibar and are very interactive and social with the many visitors that come by. Although they aren’t very smart compared to other primates, they are still fun to watch and study. This isn’t like any other national park you’ve been to. The signs are 20 years old and the there isn’t even a map you can look at while walking the maze like trails. We decided to walk a 7km trail and figured it would come back towards the camp. Turns out it doesn’t, and it left us in the middle of the bush walking in the dark to find a road. We finally found a road and some people gave us a ride back to the camp. Don’t expect things to be organized here and don’t expect anyone to be on time. Island time is quite a thing here.
This third week we spent mostly in Stone Town. This is the touristiest spot in Zanzibar and you see many other tourists from the U.S. and Europe. We are staying with local families in the town and this is very different from what you would get in the U.S. My homestay is located in what you would think would be an abandoned alley, but you open a door to another hallway where you find stairs leading up to my house. Starting on the second floor you notice that it’s pretty old, and that a house built in the 50’s has more amenities than we do here. Three days a week the power is shut off to the whole island to save electricity and those days are the toughest. No AC, no WIFI. It’s very hot here sometimes and the humidity doesn’t help. We found a local bar, which is very nice and feels very western, so we spend most of our time there ordering drinks and zoning out on our computers like we have been away for years. You start to realize how dependent we are on social media and our phones once you’re away from it. Heading to a rural fishing village soon for a couple nights. Lets see how I tough this one out.
Kiswahili is the language class that I am taking here and it is very difficult. We have class everyday for four hours in sets of two hours at time. The teachers are very nice and they communicate in English well. We started our classes in the town called Stonetown, which is our base of the program. But in the second week we traveled across the small, populated island to a town called Paje. Here we stayed at a sort of bed and breakfast on the beach, it was very nice and gave us the illusion that we would be staying in resorts the whole time and studying along the beach. We were wrong. After three days of staying in paradise, we made our way to our homestays. We were assigned a family where we will stay the next two weeks. These houses are middle to upper class for this town, but still some of us don’t have toilets or showers. They have to use buckets and holes. They don’t use silverware here and I feel weird using utensils but I still do. The town is full of wrong turns and you get lose very easily. We aren’t allowed to be out on the town past 8 because people get stabbed and robbed. Things are very different here and it is very hard to find Wi-Fi. We aren’t allowed to wear pants because of the Muslim religion, which consists of over 99% of the island. Sure by the end of this I will have more complaints, but things are getting a little better… oh besides the spiders the size of a dinner plate!
First week: When you finally realize you are all the way across the world from your home you get a little scared. Seeing Zanzibar in the light you realize you’re not in Kansas (Oregon) anymore. The roads are very narrow and people are usually driving hella fast on either mopeds or weird version of American cars. The humidity is killer and the people are very nice weirdly. I am staying in a room with the only other guy in our group. Out of 9 people we are very different. One girl is from England, but goes to school in Pennsylvania. All the other kids are from the east coast, so we don’t even have grocery stores in common. We met the director of our program who is from Madagascar and he is very cool. The town is very cool once you get to know it, but there is a ton of trash everywhere.
The flight from PDX to Amsterdam was very nice and easy, 9 hours didn’t feel that long when you are sitting with extra leg room seats and you’re own T.V. full of movies and music. When arriving in Amsterdam I was pretty lost, nobody to tell you where to go and so many languages I had never heard before. I stumbled my way around dodging people with my backpack stuffed to the brim. I was very lost, but managed to find a flight board displaying gates. After a 3-hour layover, eventually I was on my next plane to Nairobi, Nigeria. That plane was a double decker, but I sat in the main cabin so I didn’t get to explore much. The 12-hour plane ride felt like it dragged on forever, and I was going on day two of traveling. After landing in Nigeria, we exited the plane right onto the tarmac and waddled into a much smaller, more confusing airport. Heading through a random security checkpoint, x-raying our bags again, I ran across three other students in my group. We sat down together at our gate and patiently waited another hour and a half for our final plane to Zanzibar! It was now the 22nd and I had left the 20th. Getting into Zanzibar, we were confronted with guards asking for our visas and we herded through customs where our bags where waiting. The roads were pure dirt and we were a little scared driving on the left side of the road. We arrived to our hotel a little after midnight and settled in for the night.
Week leading up to trip (prep): Leaving the country was a lot more work than I expected. Getting all your shots, pills and necessary supplies to survive in Africa for four months was a task itself. You don’t expect the supplies you need to add up to around the price of your plane ticket, but it happened. After rabies shots and several hundred pills “preventing” malaria, bags, clothes, backpacks and gifts things got a little spendy. But I was ready to adventure on, into a foreign country, where many people don’t get to trek. Oh and I was having to prepare for the 30 credits I was about to take, that scared me a little…