Welcome home, in Jambiani

July 2, 2012

When you wake up at 6 am to watch the sunrise, you don’t expect to be alone, but at least quiet. Here at that time the village was wide awake. At the beach there were women picking shells, a guy that to save money slept on the sunbed where I usually get my tan during the day, while in the street the first dalla-dalla to Stone Town drove by honking and a seller of I don’t know what played his trumpette to inform of his arrival,

“Karibu Nyumbani”, Welcome home, said Leonard when last night I came back from my beach patrolling. I’m in Jambiani, on the South-Eastern coast of Zanzibar. In fact after the first three hours in which I thought that three days here would have been super boring, I regretted I didn’t arrive earlier. It’s the first time I visit a country where I fall in love with every place. I couldn’t decide where to live. I like Stone Town for its lively atmosphere, the cafes, the good and varied food at reasonable prices, the lovely people; I love Jambiani because it’s so quiet and the people are lovely too.

The Kimte, the hotel where I’m staying, is like a large family. They are all siblings, not of blood, but they all live together happy and relaxed. They have breakfast with a pot and don’t stop until it’s time to go to bed. And they spoil me: one offers me a fresh fruit juice, another a slice of sweet pineapple, the other a bunch of potpourri that he did himself that smells delicious. There’s a boy with big smart eyes, Karim. Cappuccino, they call him, his father is a black man with dreads and his mother is from Sicily. He’s also spoiled from all the uncles and aunties he has here. And there’s a cute dog with a huge head that when you stretch your hand to cuddle him, he puts his paw on it. Sweet! This morning while I was on the hammock waiting for my breakfast, Bighead started barking against a shell. I had found one I liked that I wanted to take home, but the crab that was inside took it away from me (now I know you shouldn’t take shells from the beach).

To come here from Kendwa I had to take a dalla-dalla to Stone Town and another one from there, for a total of 4 hours, for a distance of about 50 kilmeters (30 miles). At one point on the dalla-dalla someone put a baby girl on my lap, about 2 weeks old. I thought I had to keep her while her mum got on the dalla-dalla, but no one asked her back. So I sat for one hour with this cute little dumpling on my lap, without knowing if the mother was actually on the bus; I was already thinking on how I could hide her to cross the borders. Yes, the mother was there (or sister, I don’t know) and took her back at one point. Here children always go on laps of strangers when they are on buses, but I didn’t think they would put one on a mzungo‘s lap! And what if she fell with all those shakes?

Jambiani is a village stretching for about 5 kilometers along a road by the ocean. You can swim only with high tide, a couple of hours per day. A few kilometers from the beach there’s a natural reef. With the low tide you can walk there, among seaweeds and mussel plantations. It looks like a lunar landscape with the low tide, there are many small craters full of water.

I watched the match against Germany on the beach, with a couple from Germany. At every goal by Balotelli Tanzanians got super excited. Because he’s a brother. But they also had fun when the German goalkeeper started to be “cheesy” running to the middle of the field. They were laughing a lot. And it was very cold. I wore a sweatshirt and had to sit next to the fire, with the smoke making my eyes cry. It’s June, super hot in Italy, and I go to Zanzibar to be cold? They really like fires in the beach here. It’s their favorite show, as most don’t have a tv at home. In Kendwa they also lit a bonfire every night, and there were always locals around it, while westerners were at the pub getting drunk (or sleeping, if they had little money, like me).

Last night Leonard asked me to go with him to a place. While we were walking I found out it was his home we were going to, where he had to take some honey for the cocktails. His house is weird. It looks like an egg with two poiting ends, white walls and a straw roof. Inside there are two small rooms and a bathroom. To cook he lits a fire outside. The house is basic, like all the others I’ve seen, with only the essential furniture. Two beds and a small closet. The clothes are in a bag. A pair of shoes and flip flops are out of the door, that he locks with a padlock. He doesn’t need much. He left me there while he went to arrange goats and chickens and to fart. He gave me some Jasmine flowers that he keeps in the garden; he uses them to freshen up the house. I wonder when was the last time he took some inside, because I could only smell mold.

Last night there were about ten people around the bonfire. A couple were playing the bongo while someone was singing a song with words created on the spot, and the others replied in chorus. There was Jacob, a maasai about 20 years old, that told me about his lion Mwobu, that he raised for 16 years feeding him only milk. He called him Mwobu that means “I cut and opened the stomach and took you out”, which is what he did. He took him from his mother’s womb after killing her because she ate his cows.

I’m gonna miss Zanzibar and Tanzania.