So unless you’re an alarmist (or think that I’m one), or some deep thinker that thinks I have the insight into the economic collapse of Africa, or the political over throw of Africa, you probably get that this is the end of our 6 week trip through a small part of Africa.
And if you found that first statement redundant, you probably won’t find this interesting at all. I don’t have a lot of information about Africa, nor acute travel information. Just my two cents and feelings about what I/we have seen and feel about our time here. I do have some cool photos though…..
(Well, I thought it was cool….)
In my first post (alright, I’ll call it a blog), I talked about Morocco and what an assault on the senses it was. Very Intense. We met some wonderful people in our ‘Riad’ – young and modern. They didn’t fit into the ancient, religious, patriarchal mindset that permeates most of Morocco. I’m an open minded, live-and-let-live, sorta guy. But when it comes to oppression, and it happens in every society all over the world, I quickly get angry and frustrated. Morocco is one of those places. In a lot of aspects, it hasn’t changed for a thousand years, and everyone still carries on.
So we quickly got outa there….
(Maybe not that quickly..)
I’m writing this now, firstly, because it’s raining and I can. Secondly, we are currently in a beautifully cozy guesthouse (boutique hotel) in Jambiani on Zanzibar, and we have 5 days left here in Tanzania, so I better get on with it. Zanzibar, if you ask the locals, is it’s own country and is just blessing Tanzania with its inclusion because it hasn’t figured out how to separate. But I’ll get to that.
As usual, I digress….
(Jenna’s favourite ‘Shisha’ Bar – not that kind of shisha, Lemon Mint tobacco)
My second ‘blog’ (still sounds strange, more of a rambling I would say), was about Arusha, an inland business and tourist hub where Jenna has spent a lot of time. If you want to book a safari anywhere, this is it. She has a lot of friends there, old haunts and favourite things to do. We did pretty much all of them – following around our daughter like little kids, “Mambo-ing” everyone, smiling and pretending to be cool. Here, we saw a lot of the Africa you don’t see in National Geographic. Poverty, homelessness, hustling, but never with the same ‘anger’ that we saw in Morocco. People were happy and eager to wave and smile, even though there was always that underlying ‘hustle’. When you see how some of these people live, you can really see why we appear like those rich white people…targets.
(Our Family in Tabora. Kathryn, Juma, Danielle, Fauzia, Jenna, Hidaya, and me)
Next came Tabora. I have a lot to say about Tabora, but I’m sure you don’t want to hear about that, and I’m not sure I want to talk a lot about it yet either. Tabora was probably the main reason we came to Africa. Tabora played a big role in the slave trade, being right on the slave trade route that led from the Congo to Zanzibar. We sponsor a young mother and her baby there – have for the past four years, and although Jenna has spent a fair amount of time with them, this was Danielle’s and my first time. They are beautiful and lovely girls. We visited schools that Jenna has volunteered at, houses of families she’s been involved with, and met a wonderful man that we drove around with and got to know. Again, such poverty, such desperation in trying to make a better life for themselves. Beautiful people with brilliant smiles, huge hugs and wanting to share their houses, food, babies (almost like ‘here, hold her, isn’t she beautiful?’).
I felt a lot of confusion being there and seeing the lives they lead…I want to help! How can I help? I want to help you too! And you! And you!…..
(A typical Tabora Farm – neat clay huts)
You see them in their daily lives… women working in the field with babies on their back, kids sweeping the dirt in and around their houses to try to keep it somewhat clean, and then cooking rice and beans, men digging….what? I don’t know… oh, they’re digging a hole to bake wood and make coal – so they can burn that coal to cook on. Shit! I didn’t even know that’s how you made coal! Why would I know that? Coal’s bad….shit!
(and here’s their toilet)
I have a lot of mixed emotions when it comes to Africa, or at least what I’ve seen. I can get emotionally worked up about it even still, but around these Africans, I feel pretty small. They are resilient, powerful and generally happy. I look around at us mzungos (white tourists) and we seem weak, overweight and undisciplined. Not that the Africans I’ve seen are gung-ho and all that ambitious mind you, but they do what they have to, no matter what it is. Long hours of manual, menial labour. If they are lucky enough to have a trade or work in a shop, open it at 6am, close it at 9pm, open it again at 11pm because someone needs something…. Hakuna Matata is a real term – “No worries”.
Shit, sorry, digressed again.
(Us and our guides after or Walking Safari)
Safari. What can I say? Fantastic. We went to Selous Game Reserve in South Tanzania. We went there because it’s the biggest reserve, less known, and not nearly as busy and commercial as the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. We had heard stories about 17 safari trucks in a row going through the reserves, lining up to see a pride of lions…ugh. In Selous, they still allow the guides to drive anywhere – they don’t have to stay on the roads. Through bushes, grasslands, all at their leisure. We saw tonnes of animals: lions, elephants, hippos, giraffes, baboons, wildebeests, zebras….. not in the amounts you would see in the Serengeti, but certainly more intimately. Our guide was Afra. Highly, highly recommended. He knew everything. Another guide, our walking guide, Adidi, was a hoot! Highly educated bushman, with a degree in theatrics. Climbed trees, ate elephant poo, enacted a Black Mambo death.. on and on. He was fantastic too. If you go, look at Africa Travel Tours, Hippo Camp, and ask for Afra. Can’t say enough good things…..
Now, where am I? Zanzibar.
(Walking and swimming in Nungwi during a dark, tropical storm)
Super historical. I have a lot of friends and family that I would not recommend going to Africa, as a whole. It’s intense; the poverty, lack of services, getting used to doing without. The food isn’t necessarily great, compared to west coast Mexico or Asia. Roads suck. Transportation, electricity, water, all questionable. It is an adventure. But Zanzibar? Isolated. Beachy. The People? Beautiful! I don’t mean just spiritually, but physically gorgeous! Shop to your hearts content. If you don’t want to buy anything? Hakuna Matata! Safe to walk the beaches from restaurant to restaurant. There’s markets galore and yet, it’s still Africa. Taxis go everywhere regardless of the road. (I’m trying to talk Jenna into opening a tire/shocks/ball joint shop…although nobody would pay for it). Still impoverished, still people struggling to make ends meet. Walk down the beach and be prepared to be approached by 15 guys trying to book snorkelling trips, spice tours, anything you want, but….”maybe next time.” Short story – I needed a cord for my phone, asked one guy and off we go. By the time we found it, there were 7 guys in my entourage, all yelling at each other about what it was, where to get it and how much it should cost. I looked around and yelled “who do I pay?”. They stopped, pointed to one guy, I paid him, thanked everyone, and off I went. Sooo funny….and Freddy Mercury came from Zanzibar! How cool is that? I saw his house! Seriously!
(This is it – Freddy’s house! Big deal, right?)
Africa is a challenge. We all know about slavery and the origins, and there’s evidence of it all over. Such a huge thing to overcome. But its enlightening, humbling, inspiring, frustrating and hilarious. It creates love, understanding and empathy. I never thought it would happen but I’m mesmerized.
Sorry, it was longer than I thought, but hey, Hakuna Matata.