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Emma’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 09 May 2007

Location: Zanzibar, Tanzania

MapMambo vipi everyone? Finally I have got around to setting up this webpage. I've now been here in Zanzibar, Tanzania for 3 weeks. I'm staying with a family in Stone Town and am learning kiswahili at Taasisi institute, University of Zanzibar.
3 weeks have gone so fast already but I now feel very familiar with Stone Town and even Zanzibar after this short time. All the people I've met through the family and friends of them have been really welcoming. "Karibu sana, feel at home and be free" is what most people say when I meet them. It's amazing how much kiswahili I've picked up already and people are very encouraging when I try to speak to them with the small amount that I know. Sometimes I get frustrated that I don't remember more but I have to realise that I've just started learning it. Pole pole (slowly slowly) as they say. Everything is pole pole here!
Mpira is definitely the sport of choice here, as you would expect in Africa, which suits me fine. I watch teams training and playing at the fields near town and I've also started training with a women's team. The men take training seriously and always finish by playing a game. The teams are massive, some have about 20-25 players and those who attend training regularly are the ones chosen to play official games. The women have a good coach but they don't do much at training, it's just not hard enough. (They need Murray here to push them!) The coach is teaching them how to be ref's and concentrates on teaching the rules and flag signals. I'm hoping at some stage to be able to play a game either women's or mixed, I don't mind.
Food here - swahili style - is tamu! (so yummy) There's heaps of variety and so cheap. Everything tastes so good. I love the nanasi (pineapple) here and ndizi (bananas). Heaps of seafood like octopus, prawns, fish etc.. At first I wasn't keen to eat meat that had been hanging up on a hook unrefridgerated but my body seems to be dealing with it ok.
I guess all this is a bit boring, day-to-day stuff, so I'll let my photos speak for themselves until I have something of interest to write about. Speaking of interest, for those still debating it back home, you may be interested to know that the southern cross can be clearly seen here in East Africa. The fry pan is to the right and the southern cross to the left.
Some funny things I've been asked, told and commented on:
* Do you have clouds in Australia?
* When shown photos of kangaroos' faces people think they're donkeys
* When trying to explain horoscopes to someone, this person insisted that their star sign is a 'kangaroo'
* I've been asked how far the universe goes
* I always get asked how safe it is in Australia
* Why do Australians look different to each other - white hair, black hair, brown skin, white skin?
* I taught people that mosquitoes are mozzies and Australians are Aussies, they get confused and call me a mozzie.
* How do you explain the McDonalds phenomenon to someone who has no concept of fast food take away chain stores? This came up when talking about my first jobs. I don't even know where the nearest Maccas is!?
* I don't think people have much knowledge of how fat, sugar and salt affect their health. They eat as much as they want 'cos it tastes good and think I'm strange for not eating it.
* Trying to explain that people can get cancer even if they don't smoke. And to even explain what cancer is, is difficult.
* If you cut yourself use perfume as antiseptic, if you have something stuck in your foot use papiya, if there's something wrong with your ear pour coconut oil in it.

These things may sound funny, but I think they only represent the difference in wealth and education received by people here and people in countries like Australia. Most people here speak at least 2 or 3 languages which I'm experiencing myself to be not an easy task. So many people I've met already speak swahili, english, italian, spanish and may be learning french or others as well. The kids here all study the Quraan which requires them to learn how to read, write and speak a type of Arabic language as well as their native swahili. Some of the kids are only 5 yrs old and they're also already learning english as well.
The more time I spend here and the more people I meet, I really see how important education and information are to everyone. There are so many intelligent smart people here who love learning and spend their spare time teaching each other what they know. There's a group of people who meet in an old unfinished house in the village near here to learn spanish from someone. They don't pay him and he isn't spanish himself but they're learning it pole pole.
I've found that the difference between here and home is people really want to learn and want to help each other learn. Or maybe it's just the people I've met, but I can't imagine a group of 20-something-year-old aussie males getting together in their spare time to teach each other another language. There're pros and cons for here and at home but I can't help noticing all the obvious differences in people, culture, relationships and lifestyle. People always greet each other on the street and always show respect to elders by calling them 'shikamoo mzee' or saying 'assalaama aleykum' (peace on you). Everyone shakes your hand when saying hello and friends are always hugging each other and holding hands. There's a whole series of greetings to go through when saying hello to someone. It's a polite friendly swahili culture here on Zanzibar.
Two weeks ago I got talking to a guy who was developing some photos for me in a shop. He was using Photoshop but a really old version. I told him my job is graphic design and he was so excited and asked if I would teach him the new versions of software. He said it's really hard to learn it here on Zanzibar as noone really has any knowledge of it and it's a new thing for them. So he managed to borrow a laptop and install the new Adobe suite versions and we started graphic design lessons today! I actually really enjoyed it because it's good to keep my mind familiar with the software. I'm worried I'm going to forget everything while I'm away! So he brought another friend who was also interested and 2 hours flew by. They took lots of notes. We're going to do Illustrator, inDesign and Photoshop. So now I'll get to use the computer to organise my own photos as well as keep my 'work' brain active! Ciara - it's so hard to remember everything when you're teaching someone! Especially when my brain is not in work mode :)
That's about all for now - I wrote way more than I thought I had to say! I hope it's not all boring. I know myself when I see a long planet ranger diary entry, sometimes I can't be bothered reading it, so I don't blame those who don't! Nitaandika baadae....