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…