Saturday, January 06, 2007

Africa: Night out with the Massai

One of the places I wanted to see most in Africa was Zanzibar. It's an island in the Indian ocean just east of Dar es Salaam - spices are grown here, the whole island is lush and tropical, the main town is a mix of Muslim and African. After some of the places we've been - well, actually all of the places we've been so far in Africa, Stonetown is really touristy. I forgot about menus with dollars AND shilling on them, and seeing tons of other tourists walking around with huge cameras. But still, getting lost in the crumbly streets is awesome, and the town just has so much ATMOSPHERE.

After another early morning call to prayer, we woke up in our riduculoulsy posh hotel in Dar and bought boat tickets - which was chaos. They have different prices for locals and for tourists, and everyone pushes and shoves. It's so annoying. Our 1.5 hour boat was 3 hours, which actually was no time at all to me. Of course when you get off the boat you are bombarded with dozens of shady new "best friends" all wanting to take you somewhere or God knows what. We found the coolest hotel - Baghani palace. The decor is very "18th century opium den" - dark furniture, hookah pipes and tea pipes for decoration - mosquito nets on the beds, pillows on the floor in the sitting room, walls all different colors... it's totally cool. The vibe in Zanzabar so far is exotic and just what I expected.

I wandered the streets and was lured in by some middle eastern-sounding music, "taraab" music, which is from Zanzabar I guess - and saw $25 hour massage so of course I had one. When you get a massage in a new country, you just never know the protocol.

"do I take off this? all of my clothes? huh? Under sheet? OK"

I left my underwear on and the lady who told me what do didn't really speak english. She didn't really look at me either, and she was kind of fumbling around the room. Another lady came in and asked me what kind of massage I wanted and told me that Asan - my masseuse - was blind and only spoke swahili. I communicated "hard massage!" pretending to knead something hard with my hands - "hard massage in shoulder!" She communicated this to Asan and she went to work on me with Lemongrass oil. There were only curtains separating me from the street so I heard people yelling in swahili and kids shouting. I must say, the blind lady did a good job. She found her calling. Definitely a good place and not like the brothel I accidentally went to in Hanoi.

Later that night we ate on the beach at a place that had a little band - everyone in the band was wearing matching pajama-like outfits. Kathy and I had really underestimated the muslim-ness of stonetown. We get wierd looks at night when we wear our usual tank tops so I have had to wear one of my two t-shirts that cover my shoulders out at night and the same skirt that isn't rediculously short. This is the opposite of Brazil, where you can walk around in your underwear day and night and nobody bats an eye. There are a lot of veils and I even saw a burqua or two. But we're travelling, so wearing the same outfit two days in a row is fine by me. I'm also getting a little tired of everyone saying hello to me every day and me having to say hello back. It was the same in Malawi.

"Hello sister! hello hello hello hello hello! how are you? hello hello hello!"

Here, it's

"jambo jambo hello! jambo hello! where you from jambo hello hello hello!".

It's getting old. But still, I'd rather be here than home. Yes, I am dreading going home.

We sat at the bar and noticed, to my delight, that there was a Massai at the bar. Massai are a tribe that live in Tanzania and Kenya - they wear colored robes and beads, and have big stretched out earlobes. I've seen a few here and there but never at a bar. I tried to be sly and film the bar on my $20 CVS disposable video camera - but really zooming in on the Massai guy. A guy from Rotterdam came over to ask us to join them all at the other side of the bar. We drank with some Dutchies and British people, and flash forward a few hours and I'm buying the Massai guys beer and playing with their earlobes. They were really friendly. They actually initiated converstaion with US. You'd never see a Massai woman in a bar, but these guys own a shop in town that sells the beads and stuff to tourists. The one guy, Yosef, had a high pitched old man voice. I can kind of imitate him. If Kate A or Kate C had been there, we would have of course had the conversation "I dare you to make out with him!!!" hahaha...

We hung out with some people we recognized from the train and a couple from Connecticut, Tony and Lauren. We had the usual travel converstations "what malaria meds are YOU on?" "have you had a.b. yet?" "what animals have you seen?" "where else have you travelled"? "people in my home think I'm crazy too!" "Yeah, I also don't know what I want to be when I grow up!" Other travellers are great to talk to - people who come all this way are bound to have lots in common. When you are in a place like this, it's so easy to meet people. At a bar in Chicago, you can't just walk up to people like that, but here all the tourists see eachother and band together. It's very social. I've talked to a lot of people who climbed Kili and their stories are always good. Man, Kili sounds HARD. Inca trail was a walk in the park compared to that.

The Massai twisted their earlobes in funny ways for my video camera. They should be out again at the same bar tonight so we may have some good pictures. I've been hesitant to bring my camera out because it's SO shady here at night - but I might be able to swing it. For you guys.

Today we took a spice tour which was super interesting. We saw clove, vanilla, cardomom, annato, ylang ylang plants. They let us taste and smell everything right off the vine. For a foodie like me it was a great experience. We took the tour with an Italian, a swedish couple, and American couple (the guy reminded me of my dad with his comments and questions.. they would have been BFFs), a Czech guy, a japanese couple and a prissy German chick who wore a headwrap. I talked to all of them in the water. The Japanese girl and Czech guy were the friendliest. I think the Italian guy and German girl didn't like us at all. Actually I think the Italian had the hots for the german girl and I kept waiting for him to ask her out. Kathy and I eavesdropped on their conversations in the minibus. After that we saw a scary cave that was a slave prison and went to the beach for an hour. The water was so warm and crystal clear! It reminds me of Thailand here - white sand and palm trees. Tomorrow we're going up the island to a smaller town with a nice beach. Hopefully the doxyxycline-induced sunburn won't be too bad.

One other funny, random thing here. Africa uses the minibusses - the vans that 28 people crowd in a vehicle made for 6 or 8 people. But a lot of the busses have japanese writing on them. They are all old Japanese busses that Japan was finished with - they ship them through Dubai and Africa gets them second hand. It's just odd to see so much Japanese writing on the vans. Oh well, recycling.

again, I've tried to upload photos but the internet here is not having it.


Kate C said...

OK so why didn't you make out with him??? I expect more from you!!

sara said...

I think you would have had to have been there...

even I have my limits.