Zanzibari Reflections

Lots of stories from Zanzibar. I met this guy named Khamisi on the beach the other day. He’s a dental student at the University of Zanzibar and wanted to practice his English. He asked to read through an English novel appropriately titled “The Beach” with me and I didn’t have the heart to refuse him so I’ve been a part-time English teacher as well as a stove salesman. It seems like he could easily replace me with a simple dictionary but he thought I was indispensable so whatever.

Anyway, Khamisi invited me to his house for dinner on my last night in Zanzibar. He said he wanted me to try authentic Zanzibari food. When we arrived, I found that Khamisi’s house is part of a courtyard-like neighborhood with a field in the middle where people hang out. It seems that part of his reason for inviting me was to show off his new muzungu friend to everyone. After meeting at least 20 or 30 people, we sat down to dinner with the entire village watching us. Eating strange food in the dark (The electricity was out) with dozens of people watch me was an interesting experience.

After dinner, we visited an English school. The teachers wanted me to give a motivational speech on why the students should study hard… The night was only getting more interesting and I figured I would never see these people again so I rolled with it. After I blurted out something “inspirational”, we had a time for questions from the students. The questions included, what clan are you from (They were shocked to hear I didn’t have a clan), can you sing us a song, are you married and who lullabies you to sleep? What kind of question is that? Anyway, I survived the motivational speech and continued on to the Dala Dala (bus) that took me home.

Unfortunately, everyone in Africa wants something. Whether it’s a handout, a gift, a visa to the U.S, or for you to adopt their children (I’ve been asked all of these), everyone wants something from the muzungu. Maybe that’s cynical, but in my experience it’s almost always true. I was dreading the moment when Khamisi would ask me. In the end, he told me he wanted dental equipment or a computer so he could continue studying. I can’t blame him for wanting to succeed but I hate that people see me as a means to reaching their ends. In their minds, somehow them feeding me equls me sending them dental equipment… I’m not sure how this reasoning works. I often get frustrated at the handout culture and tired of always fighting. I need to love these people as children of God but I have to admit it can be challenging. Needless to say I am ready to return to Nairobi where I at least have comfortable people I can escape to.

Old Stone Town

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