The transportation gods of Tanzania continue to frown upon us (but don't fret – it gave us tons of good karma for better adventures later on in our SDT!) . Our decision to take the train from Mbeya to Dar backfired when the 24 hour ride turned into 40. We sat for hours on end in uncomfortable seats. In the typical Tanzanian fashion, one seat does not mean one person, and families were piled into rows of two seats, the aisles full of sleeping bodies. On the bright side, we saved money on accommodation and feel like we can tackle any transportation issue that comes our way. We've officially earned our "traveler's" stripes!
After the ferry ride to Zanzibar, we finally arrived at our little slice of paradise. Our first chunk of Student Direct Travel was spent on the south of the island near Paje. We walked along beautiful white sand beaches, swam in the warm clear Indian Ocean, and ate (TONS OF) delicious food. We even befriended a crazy local named Captain Joe who invited us to a beach BBQ; we were treated to a seafood feast fit for a king (or many queens). Captain Joe entertained us with singing and dancing and even let us name his new restaurant (Keep your eyes peeled for Cafe Carpe Diem the next time you're in Zanzibar). The lazy days provided us with much needed relaxation after the stress of the transportation earlier in the week.
We then traded in the calm beaches and rasta vibe of Paje for the narrow and crowded cobblestone alleyways of Stonetown. We all enjoyed getting lost in the labyrinth of buildings, shopping around, talking to locals, and eating more amazing Swahili food. We quickly picked up on the clear differences between the cultures on Zanzibar and the Mainland. For one, Zanzibar is 99% Muslim. In an effort of solidarity, many of the girls covered their hair with head scarves. Many received positive comments from local men and women on their conservative dress. We also had the opportunity to travel around Stonetown independently; it was interesting to observe how locals interact with us when we are solo versus when we are in a group. We dedicated a cup of Masala Chai to intentional personal reflecting on our past 3 months.
We put our activities budget to use through a spice tour and cooking lesson with Mama Shara. We learned how different spices are grown and harvested and followed our farm tour by making a traditional Zanzibarian meal. Later on in the day we had a Natural Beauty Workshop at a local spa – we made our own coconut oil, a clove body scrub, and even adorned our hands and feet with henna, all while learning the different traditional uses and aromatic qualities of the exotic spices. For our last activity, we took a boat ride to a nearby island to check out a giant tortoise sanctuary and learn more about the sinister side to Zanzibar's unique Swahili culture. Zanzibar has been colonized by African, Portuguese, and Omani empires in its history, and previously served as a bustling trade hub for African slaves.
Our SDT has been a great opportunity to put our learned skills to the test (and our patience). We have loved exploring this amazing island and learning more about the local people. We wrapped up SDT with a family style meal where we indulged in Mediterranean food and shared memories and inside jokes from the past three months. We can't believe that our time in East Africa is coming to an end, but are so pumped for our last volunteer project at Creative Solutions Zanzibar and, of course, living the life aquatic at SCUBAAAAAAAAAAAAA DUBA! We'll write more post-PADI certification.
Much love and Zanzibarian pizza!