27 09 2006

Yeah! The home internet is FINALLY working and I have begun to load photos. I have over 400 (down from 1400!) so I’ll do a few each night and try to get them all on-line as soon as possible.

The web address for the pictures:

The photos are loaded in order that we traveled (mostly), but the most recently loaded pic is at the top, so if you want them in order of the trip (if it matters), then you have to look at them in reverse…starting from the bottom or a previous page. (Later I will put them into groups by city so they are easier to view.)



We’re Home!!!: 16 Sep 2006

16 09 2006

me & andy

I just wanted to let everyone know that we made it home safely tonight. Traveling was long but very smooth. The internet isn’t working at home, but when I get it fixed next week, I’ll upload pics and add more info.

For now, BED!

Love to all from both of us!

Last Days: 14-15 Sept 2006

16 09 2006


(I’ll write about this when I have more time.)

Kendwa (on Zanzibar): 10-13 Sep 2006

13 09 2006

We are now back in Dar es Salaam for two days proir to flying back home ūüė¶

We have spent the past days shamelessly lying on a beach, snorkeling and relaxing in a wonderful small resort at the northern tip of Zanzibar.

(As a side note, Zanzibar actually consists of two main islands-in addition to many small ones-called Unguja and Pemba.  When I say we were on Zanzibar, we were actually on Unguja, the larger of the two main islands.)

We stayed at the Sunrise Resort for three nights and soaked up SO much sun!¬† It was definitely the “vacation” portion of our month away!¬† One day we went on a dhow for an all day snorkeling trip off one island with a fish bar-b-que on¬†a beach of Unguja.¬† The dhow was a “double-decker” so Andy and I laid out on the upper deck most of the day (since more time was spent on hte boat than snorkeling).¬† My other complaint of the day was that the equipment was crap.¬† I learned the value of buying our own snorkeling equipment and how a bad (leaking) mask or snorkel can really make reef exploration not so much fun.¬† We were in a group of about 20 people, but the size was pretty enjoyable on this trip.¬† We met a couple from Italy at the hotel in Stone Town.¬† We ended up in attached bungalows in Kendwa and they went on the snorkeling trip with us.¬† It was nice to run into them throughout the days and see friendly familiar faces.¬† He had bought the trip to Zanzibar for her birthday.¬† Pretty nice, huh?¬†

We also did a boat trip to neighboring Nungwi to see a natural aquarium that held turtles and do a cultural tour of the village.¬† The aquarium holds 25 turtles.¬† Each year, some new babies come into the system,¬† When they are old enough, one will be put in the aquarium and the rest released.¬† At the same time the oldest turtle will also be released, so there are always 25.¬† It was a pretty good system.¬† The same guide for the aquarium also took us on hte cultural tour.¬† He had very good english and was my 2nd favorite guide.¬† The tour was my favorite though.¬† I didn’t get the sense that I had to constantly shell out cash to have any interactions with the village folks, which is good, because I didn’t have any (more on that later).¬† Andy and I learned to weave from a younger woman, learned some natural remedies from a very old woman herbalist, and learned how to make twine from another very old woman using only her hands and the inside of a coconut shell.¬†

We went to a place where dhows are built and saw that preocess.¬† One interesting thing from that was how the wood is bent:¬† It’s held in place with wood and oil is put on the wood where the bend should happen.¬† The plank is then burned at that spot and bent to where it is needed and cooled in place.

We saw old water systems that were over 150 years old and used up to 6 months ago when faucets were installed around the village. 

The tour guide said that the local tourism industry was good for awhile because it brought in jobs, but at this point, most people that work at the resort come in from other areas (like Stone Town) so the money is coming in, but it’s not going into the local economy.¬† I heard the same thing in Mbeya and I’m sure it’s a common theme where tourists are concerned.¬† There has also been a negative impact on the locals since it is 100% muslim and¬†many people feel that they cannot to go to the beach¬†because they don’t want to see women in swimwear (mostly bikinis).¬† So, of course, that triggered my “mzungu” guilt, but I still enjoyed the beach….with more social consciousness.

OK, the money issue.¬† There are NO working money sources in the northern tip of Unguja.¬† I found this out yesterday as I was down to the last $10 and trying to find a place to get money from the Visa card to pay for the hotel…or to pay for anything.¬† It was very frustrating!¬† Eventually, we talked to the guy running the hotel who knows the driver of the minivan we were taking back to Stone Town.¬† He told the driver how much we owed and we were able to give the money to that guy to take back to the hotel.¬† AND we could charge dinner to the room so it could also be paid once in Stone Town.¬† So, finally, Tanzanian flexibility worked in our favor.¬†

So, this morning, we took¬†the minivan back to Stone town and then a 2 hour frerry to Dar.¬† The ferry went very fast and I got pretty sick from the intense waves and bumping around.¬† Andy thought it was fun, but I was just focusing on not throwing up.¬† Here at the Dar port we were bombarded with guys trying to get us to take a taxi but just walked through them to our hotel.¬† Tomorrow we hang out with Kagu and HAidi again.¬† It’ll be nice to see them.¬† Time’s up, gotta go!!!!

Zanzibar Islands: 8 Sep 2006

8 09 2006

So two days in a row at the internet!  I bribed Andy with a hot dog.

We are REALLY enjoying Zanzibar!!¬† Today, we both agreed, was the best day so far of the entire vacation.¬† We started out early in the morning and were taken down to the dock to get fitted for snorkling gear.¬† That consisted of about 7 guys swapping around gear and trying to figure out what sizes we should wear, who takes us and other details.¬† It was all in Swahili, so I’m really not sure what was said, but the conversations were animated and funny to listen to.¬† Once that was arranged, Andy and I set sail on a “dhow” with two guys.¬† A dhow is a wooden boat made by hand here and commonly used to transport people and cargo.¬† Many use beautiful sails, but ours had a small motor.

I have never snorkled before and was expecting to like it about as much as I like skiing, but one of the guys explained how to do it and we got into the water.¬† I was surprised how easy it is and how amazing!!!¬† I’ve never seen¬†a coral reef¬†before in real life and these are beautiful and so alive.¬† So we island hopped all day, snorkling and checking out sights.¬† The first, Bawe Island, had the best reefs.¬† I wish we had spent more time here, but I didn’t realize that it was the most interesting of the islands.¬† We took the camera underwater, but of course the pics don’t look anywhere near as cool as the real thing.¬† The water is SO clear and that doesn’t come through in the pics, maybe because there were small air bubbles?¬† I don’t know.

We then went to Changuu Island, also called Prison Island.  A lot of the reef here was dead due to fishermen dragging nets over it.  It was good for both of us to see the impact.  Some of the reef was ok, and that was nice to experience.  We saw two giant clams here.  They were larger and more colorful than I expected-one bright blue and the other redish orange- and it was fun to watch them open and close.  We saw star fish, many bright colored fish and the moving reef (the parts that were alive, anyway).

After snorkling here, we went onto the island to see giant tortoises.¬† There is a large colony here with the oldest over 100 years old.¬† They are second in size to the Galapagos turtles.¬† We could walk amongst and touch them.¬† They weren’t shy!¬† There is also a rebuilt prison on the island.¬† It’s actually a prison that never was: The British built it, but instead of its intended purpose, it was used as a quarantine for patients with yellow fever.¬† Now it houses part of a restaurant with a bar, but the building is very interesting.¬† One cool part was the toilets: they were a wooden platform built over the ocean water…toilets that never need to be flushed or emptied!¬† I took a pic of what remains of them.¬† (Two pics of toilets…maybe I have a theme going here. ūüôā )

From Prison¬† Island we took the dhow to Chapwani Island, or Grave Island.¬† On it is a beatutiful (ie. expensive) resort, a large colony of large bats, and graves of various soldiers and sailors that have died in the area, especially in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.

The rides on the dhow from island to island were so much fun!  The water is so choppy in places!  We both received an invigorating share of sunshine and it was refreshing to be active and wet for a day.  Also, I feel much more comfortable here than I did on the mainland.  People on the island are so much more welcoming and easy going. 

I had a good (authentic) conversation with the woman who works at our hotel last night.¬† She and I were talking about the differences between lifestyles on the mainland and here, women’s perceptions of tourists and how women in Zanzibar live.¬† I asked her how the conservative muslin women percieved us “free-spirited” tourists and our lifestyle.¬† She said it’s not really about lifestyle, but if there is any resentment, it’s about money and how westerners spend it so freely while women (in general) in Zanzibar do not have all that surplus money to throw around.¬† She said things are changing a bit recently, but before it was considered shameful for a woman to sell things in a shop, so there wasn’t any economic independence.¬† In addition, women who do work can have an entire family (mother, father, grandparents, kids) dependent on her¬†(and maybe her husband’s) income, so there often isn’t a lot left over.

We are heading out to get dinner.¬† I’ll check in again when¬†I can.¬† I hope everyone is doing well.¬† We both are missing our friends and family.¬† Andy’s even missing school and especially his friends.¬†
BUT, well, this IS a pretty cool experience that I wish didn’t have to end!

Zanzibar: 7 Sep 2006

7 09 2006

Just quick (Andy is running out of patience): Today we took a city tour around Stone Town. There’s SO MUCH history here. I’ll elaborate later. Tomorrow we go snorkling at islands around Zanzibar. More later!!!st

Zanzibar: 6 Sep 2006

7 09 2006

Right now I am sitting on a beach in Zanzibar.¬† Today we took a spice tour in the morning to see how spices are grown and we went to a slave cave.¬† The cave was used to hold slaves proir to departing on ships¬†for the eastern destinations.¬† The caves consist of two small cavernswith only a little light and air.¬† We also saw, in contrast, a bath house erected by a sultan for his wife-very luxurious (even though it’s just an empty building at this point) and more room than one person needs to take a bath!¬† After the tours, the bus took us to a very nice ocean beach.¬† Andy is having a blast in the sand building some randon structure as I write this.¬† I love the rhythm of the ocean waves and the sun in such a clear, clear sky!

En route to Zanzibar: 5 Sep 2006

7 09 2006

I swore not to ride the bus again after going to Arusha, so when we got back to Arusha from safari, I made plane reservations for the next day to fly to Zanzibar.¬† (The alternative was a 9-hour bus ride back to Dar and then take a 3-hour ferry to the island.)¬† The plane ride was only 1 hour.¬† ūüôā¬† I booked a room ahead of time, took a taxi to the hotel and had a smooth transition.¬† The woman at the hotel reception is exceptionally nice.¬†We are staying at Pyramid Hotel: aptly named because climbing the staircase going to the 2nd floor reminds me of what climbing a pyramid might be like-very steep and challenging.

Stone town is a whole different experience from mainland Tanzania, but it was, until recently, a separate country.  The religion is 80% muslim, 10& christian and 10 % other, so most of the local women wear head covering consisting of anything from a colorful scarf to the full black covering with only eyes showing.  The streets are winding and narrow.  One street we saw only had room for people to walk single file.  When we were dropped by the taxi driver, he took us to a parking lot and then walked us the rest of the way.  Mopeds are common.

Arusha and safari: 1 to 4 Sept 2006

7 09 2006

The bus to Arusha was very long and crammed.¬† We saw Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Meru and a lot of sisal plants, but otherwise the bus ride was boring and uncomfortable.¬† We stayed in a very nice hotel the first night, the Outpost, but had to leave the next day because they were booked.¬† We checked into one hotel, but it didin’t seem too promising.¬† Two men watched everything I wrote as I signed into the hotel.¬† Each time we arrive at a hotel the check-in is the same type of book asking for passport number, where you are coming from and where you are going (along with standard info like name, address).

We had been given a reference for safari from a couple at the Outpost, Swala Safaris, so I called them and arranged to go to their office to set something up.¬† In the meantime, we went to Cafe Bamboo and asked for the guy Damon recommended.¬† No one knew him, which is¬†unfortunate,¬†because at that point, I really needed a friendly face that wasn’t asking for or expecting money for one thing or another.¬† The first day, I felt pretty lost and frustrated in Arusha…and tired of being in cities.

When we went out to the safari company office, things began to pick up.¬† The manager was a woman, Ester, who was very nice and set us up with a 3-day safari to Tarangirie National Park, Ngorongoro Conseration Area, and Lake Manyara.¬† We stayed at an awesome tented camp in the town of Mto wa Mbu (“Mosquito River”).¬† There were permanent tents with solar electricity, water heated by burning wood and banana-tree roofs.¬† The meals consisted of many courses and were quite good…AND monkeys played on the front yard!

The safaris were amazing and we had a very good guide!¬† His English wasn’t the best, but it was pretty good and he kept rattling off Latrin names for all the animals, birds and plants we saw.¬† He would not only know the Latin name, but the Swahili and English names also.¬† And he was just really nice to us. ¬†I took many pics which probably tell the story better than words.¬† I will say, though, that the best part of the safari was seeing so many animals in the wild.

On the last day, Andy and I did a walking “Cultural Tour” through Mto wa Mbu.¬† It was educational seeing the life of villagers up close.¬† We saw how banana beer is made and learned about banana types and production.¬† The best part, however, was visiting a local school and the teacher had the kids all get up and sing for us.¬† It really was pretty cool!¬† I saw a woman cooking ugali and asked if I could try, so she let me.¬† I think I messed things up more than anything, but it was a fun experience! (So, Mari, we’re on for the the African meal, but I need to do a little more learning, I think!)

By the time we left Mto wa Mbu, I was pretty tired and getting frustrated with this portion of my African experience:

The kids are friendly out of curiosity and sometimes so they can get a pen or money,
The men are friendly because they want money or to sell something,
The women are rarely friendly and just look at us as voyerists and intruders.

That’s a huge generalization and certainly not always true, but coming away from Mtu wa Mbu, that was my observation.¬† I certainly understand the difference in income and it isn’t¬†hard to see poverty anywhere you look, but I was really frustrated by the lack of authentic interactions.¬† At this point, I changed my expectations, probably not for the better.¬† Now, I want to just learn, experience and see as much as possible (while respecting the people and culture), and¬†understand that I¬†AM an intruder and a voyer.

En Route: 29-31 Aug 2006

7 09 2006

I’ll write more later, but in short, we took the train back to Dar on 29 to 30 Aug (sharing a room with Martina and Andi…they did us a HUGE favor), stayed at Luther House one night, and took the bus to Arusha on Aug 31.

The train had squat toilets.¬† Think about this: squattig to pee in a very crammed room, with the train moving along at a steady rhythm¬†and all of a sudden it jerks to a halt.¬† (I took a pic of the bathroom that I’ll put on flickr when I get home.)