Thursday, July 12, 2012

07/12 - Final Project day, Goodbye to Devotha, Phillip, and Seth

It is a little bittersweet.  We finished up our work today on the will project.  We actually ended up getting 103 wills drafted during our trip.  It is pretty amazing considering originally when we started discussing the project with the local attorneys, they said we would be lucky to get any.  At that point, Gretchen said "I want to get at least 4 so each of you can draft one will."  We got 103.

Gretchen with one of our partners at Zafela, Saada
(yes she was tiny)

I wanted to do something this summer that would hopefully have some sort of impact and I think that for each of the 103 people, we accomplished this.  In addition, the bigger picture is that many of the people that we helped are leaders with NGOs here in the country or other community leaders.  By doing the sessions we did that were focused on educating them before we drafted the wills, hopefully they will share the information with others.


I know I said yesterday that I probably would not ride the dala dala ever again.  Guess what happened today?  Our driver who took us to the Zafela office this morning, did not show up to pick us up and would not answer his phone.  We ended up having to ride the dala dala about 10 km back to our hotel.  The one we rode in today was not so much a van as a pickup truck with a cover over the back.  There were 17 people in the back when we climbed in.  It was an interesting trip.  :-)  I snuck a couple of pictures.  I had my camera in my bag, so I had to be subtle.  People here get very suspicious of the camera (as if we would blend anyway)
Inside the dala dala

There was another brownout tonight here at the hotel.  The power was out from about 8 to 9:30.  You can pretty much set your watch by the power outages here.  They plan their operation at the hotel by this.  Every night about 7:45, they start putting out candles.  Another thing to put on the list of things I take for granted at home.

Another Zanzibar door

We will spend tomorrow doing some wrap up activities (and hopefully a little beach time).  Seth left for the states tonight.  Tomorrow, Phillip and Devotha are leaving.  I will try to keep the sappy notes to a minimum, but I have to say that to be such a diverse group, we spent 5 weeks together harmoniously (basically) all the time.  We all come from different backgrounds.  Phillip is graduating from UM Law upon his return.  He has a Masters degree in Criminology.  Seth will be starting his 3rd year.  He has a PhD in Political Science.  Kelsey and I are both going to be 2nd year.  Her degree is in Classics.  I was a Finance undergrad (I can prove it...I had to help do the bookkeeping for the group for about 2 hours this afternoon).  We were definitely an odd mix, but it worked.

Cool picture of Kelsey and Phillip
from yesterday outside the Sultans palace

We gave Devotha a going away gift tonight since she is leaving us in the morning to catch the ferry back to Dar.  We would not have been able to accomplish the work we did here without her.  She was not just our translator, but became an integral part of our group.  She is truly an interesting lady and am glad I got to know her.   I hope to keep in touch with her to hear what she is up to in the future here in Tanzania.  I expect good things.

Zanzibar has been an interesting place to end the official project.  I am looking forward to starting our safari on Sunday!

Walk on the beach after our project wind down 


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

07/11 - Stone Town, Zafela, and "goodbye dinner"

So again, I apologize for the sporadic blog updates this week.  All the same, today's update will have a lot of pictures and information because it was a busy day.  Our internet was down basically all day yesterday here at the resort.  While it was a huge inconvenience in terms of paper research, it was really refreshing to unplug from the world and just spend the day reading and relaxing.  I did not go into town, but instead opted to remain at the beach.  Gretchen was gone for the day because she had to go pick Stefan back up at the Dar es salaam airport on his return trip from Cameroon where he has been for the past 10 days.

Stefan acting crazy at breakfast.  We are glad he is back.

Our official trip is winding down soon and it is a bit sad.  Tonight, we actually had our "goodbye dinner" as a group.  Seth is leaving tomorrow and Phillip is leaving on Friday.  Kelsey and I will be continuing our trip for another 10 days or so as we are leaving on Saturday to head  back to Arusha for safari with Gretchen and Stefan, but I am getting ahead of myself.

Today, we began our will writing work again in Zanzibar with our first presentations and meetings here.  It is the most challenging environment we have encountered because of the Islamic resistance to will writing.  We knew this was going to be the case so we are not surprised, but it is still a bit eye opening.  I am now used to the 5:30 or 6 am sunrise calls to prayer broadcasts across the entire city on loud speakers from the mosques (they happen again sporadically throughout the day as well).  We worked out the Zafela office today (Zanzibar Female Lawyers Association).  I am happy to say that we ended up doing 7 wills today.  All things considered, I was very happy with that.  We are almost at 100 for the trip.

Our clients at the meeting
Group and our 2 friends from ZAFELA walking to catch the dala dala

When we left the office around lunch time, we decided we were going to split up and do our own things for the afternoon because we had plans for our "goodbye dinner" in Stone Town.  We ended up riding the "dala dala" for the first time   It was overcrowded and the smell was a bit overwhelming at first.  I was wedged in between two local men in the front bench seat of the minibus, and at the first stop, a lady and two school kids in tunics and hats of the typical traditional muslim fashion for boys sat in the last remaining seat directly in front of me and spent the rest of the trip studying me and whispering to each other.  It will likely be my last ride on the dala dala for the trip, but I am glad we experienced it.

Stone town 
So we got off the dala dala in Stone Town.  This is a historic market area of Zanzibar.  Everything about it is a fascinating assault on the senses.  There are hundreds of tiny shops down winding streets (they are actually alleys but they call them streets).  The shops sell fruits, spices, meat, trinkets, art work, basically name it, its there.  The guidebook said to avoid the alleys, but honestly, its all alleys.  I felt mildly uncomfortable at first (especially since I was carrying a backpack with mine and Kelsey's laptops, a camera, my wallet, etc) but it all worked out fine.

Zanzibar cool
More Zanzibar doors (I know its sideways.  I'll fix it later...maybe)

The alleys all start to look the same and I can see why people get lost in there.  We did get to see a number of the Zanzibar doors while we were wandering back there.  I will attach a couple of pictures that I snuck (had to be cautious about whipping out the camera in the alleys...a lot of the locals get curious and/or frustrated when they see you taking pictures of things).  We eventually made it out the other side to the waterfront.  We hung out there for awhile.  I was able to get a coke light (diet coke) which is rare in Africa so I was happy.

Chillin' at the waterfront park in Stone Town
"House of Wonders" which is now a museum

We still had a couple of hours left to kill before dinner and we ran into Phillip and Devotha, our translator at the waterfront so I suggested we go checkout the Anglican Church in town.  It is a historic landmark that I had read about.  The church itself is actually built on top of the old slave market.  Zanzibar was actually the last place that engaged in the legal selling of human slaves, and when it was concluded in the late 1800s, the church was built so that the main altar is actually right on top of where the old slave post was where the auctions were held.  Next to the church in one of the other buildings on the church grounds, you can go down into the holding rooms underground where they kept the slaves waiting to be sold at the market.  There was a sign there in memory of the many who suffocated in the small chambers.

The Anglican Church
Closer shot of the altar built in the actual spot of the
slave auction post in the last legal slave market in the world

It was a beautiful church (and I believe the only Christian church that I have seen so far in town).  I also found it interesting that the church is right next to a huge mosque.  We were walking toward the church and directly in front of the mosque when one of the regular prayer calls from the mosque went out.

After we left the church, we headed for our dinner spot, Emerson Spice Restaurant.  On our way, we passed a shop that was selling handmade Zanzibar chests with brass trim, and as a group, we picked out one that we liked and pooled our money to buy it as a thank you present for Gretchen for everything she has done to make the trip work.  We had been debating about what to get her because we wanted to do something.  We had actually talked about the chest idea earlier because she had mentioned that she liked them, but had not found one at the market that was reasonably priced.  So it seemed kind of perfect when we saw them in the shop as we randomly passed.  We had the guy wrap the chest and took it to dinner.

When Gretchen and Stefan arrived, we were talking about our day and within the first five minutes, she shared that she had bought a chest while she was out in town today.  We gave her the chest anyway, and after a big round of hugs and nearly crying, she said she loves it.  We tried :-)

Gretchen opening her present
I really cannot imagine having been here for this long without having her coordinating the meetings, and I know there is no way we would have met some of the incredibly interesting and powerful people that we got the opportunity to meet without her personal connections to make it happen.  I am so thankful for her guidance here.

The restaurant was on top of a small boutique hotel in Stone Town.  She picked the spot because it is a rooftop restaurant high enough up you can actually watch the sunset from the rooftop.  It was a fixed menu five course dinner that used many of the local spices here in Zanzibar.
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The courtyards are so interesting

It was also the first time I have ever eaten rabbit (at least that I know of) which was the 3rd course.  The rest of the food was amazing.  The rabbit was a first and last type of experience I think.  I am attaching a picture of the menu from tonight as well.

Dinner menu.  I ate rabbit
Sunset from Emerson Spice
The "goodbye dinner" group shot
Gretchen and Devotha

All in all, it was a great day.  The official part of our trip will be concluded in another 48 hours.  I still have to go home and write a paper because we have not had a great deal of time here to focus on our research, but when I try to think about which part of the meetings or projects that we have done that I would have taken out, I am hard pressed to give any of it up.

Stone Town from Emerson Spice

Another shot of Stone Town

Monday, July 9, 2012

07/07 & 07/08 - Zanzibar!!

Sorry no blog update yesterday or Sunday.  We were traveling and getting settled in the new lodge.  The internet at the new place is a little quirky (big surprise).  It seems to go off each night when I am trying to post so heres a Monday update for the entire weekend.  Saturday morning, we left Arusha for Zanzibar.  The flight was only a little over an hour.  The airport was typical of the small African airports that we have seen here.  We were holding up the line because they were actually handwriting our boarding passes.  They also hit us up for 5,000 shillings more each.  The lady said it was a "new government tax."  It seemed a little sketchy, but not worth arguing about.  

Arusha Airport

Handwritten boarding pass
Bad picture but we finally got to see Kilimanjaro

Approaching the island

Once, we got to Zanzibar, there was no one there to pick us up.  We got grabbed by a large man who was looking for 6 people who apparently matched our description (I guess we don't blend).  We were hustled into a van, along with all our bags.  We drove for quite some time (much longer than the book had indicated we should have gone).  Eventually, Gretchen asked the driver and he said "Imani??  You said Amani!" at which point, we turned around.  Apparently, there are resorts named Imani and Amani both on the beach.  Shortly after turning around, the driver got a call that the 6 people headed to Amani were still waiting at the airport.  Apologies to them.  We did not mean to steal their ride.  
Streets of Zanzibar
We headed back toward town and turned down what looked like a fairly scary little road in a neighborhood called Bububu.  I was a little nervous, but when we finally got to our resort, it is actually a beautiful beach villa.  We made it here just in time for sunset last night.  The villa is on the west coast of the island on the Indian Ocean so the sunset was beautiful.  Outside the hotel, there is a bar/restaurant that is in a "treehouse" in the villa compound.  We had a great dinner (I had grilled Kingfish and rice with coconut sauce), but then about 8 the power went out.  The owner explained that it was a regular (maybe nightly, not sure yet) event.  It is part of a load sharing program because they have issues with power here.  It came back on about 9:30, but the internet was done for the night.  
Street approaching our place

Chilling in the treehouse

Mine and Kelsey's room

Sunset outside the hotel

The lobby

Very Zanzibari

Bar at the treehouse

Sitting area
Sunday, we got up early for breakfast and then headed out to do a "spice tour."  The biggest sources of income for the island are sales from spices (mainly cloves, followed by cinnamon).  We tried lots of different types.  I had never seen most of them growing.  The first one we came upon was a nutmeg tree.  We then saw lemongrass, cinnamon, black pepper, cacao, cloves.  It was a fun day.  After the walking tour, of course they had plenty of all of them to sell to us.  
Road through the spice farm

Our guide showing us nutmeg he pulled off a tree

Kelsey with an uncomfortable smile
while she gets her palm jewelry

Yes I am wearing a palm frond tie
and crown one of the guides made for me

Our guide and his two assistants

Lunch at the spice farm

After we got back to our hotel, we took a boat ride to the "slave chambers."  This was a secret area on the northern part of the island where they continued the slave trade after it became illegal in the mid 19th century.   The boat we took was a rundown fishing boat with a small outboard motor.  It took us an hour and fifteen minutes to get there.  After the ride, he aimed the boat at what looked like an abandoned beach.  We climbed off and headed up a nearly invisible walkway that had been carved out of the coral more than 100 years ago.  Once we got thru the foliage, we saw the coral roof of the underground slave chamber.  Our guide helped us walk down inside and showed us the holes in the wall where the chains used to be attached.  Zanzibar was a huge hub of slave trading, and this was a rather depressing reminder of that major part of the island's history. 
Climbing onto our boat

View of our boat from the coral cliffs
above the hidden slave chambers

Seth climbing down into the caves

This is where they kept the secret slaves
after the abolition of the official slave trade

After heading back down, we visited another beach.  On this beach, our guide took us snorkeling.  There were sea urchins on the bottom and we saw a few fish, but we didn't go out far enough to really see anything big.  (although we did see monkeys in the trees when we came back).  The boat ride home was beautiful.  Another perfect sunset to end a really, really nice day.  


Another amazing sunset

Boat ride home