The other wanafunzi and I spent the last six days living on the even smaller island of Pemba, north of Unguja where Stone Town is located. We spent the first two nights in a nice guesthouse in the town of Wete then the last four nights with new home stay families in the largest town in Pemba called Chake Chake. Since this was our most permanent move out of Stone Town thus far, and since we were no longer near the SIT office which acts as a base camp for us all to meet when need be, the SIT directors set up a deal with a local restaurant in the middle of Chake Chake called Le Tavern to act as our temporary base, giving us a place to become familiar with and to join back together as a group. Basically, they opened up the back of the restaurant to us and laid three large mats on the floor creating a make shift play/read/nap area. Picture us as giant toddlers, doing what toddlers would do, sprawled out napping on giant colorful mats laid haphazardly on the cement floor. This was Le Tavern.
Pemba was something different. Different in the way that compared to Stone Town where around almost every corner I am able spot another white person, of course never dressed as appropriately as the other students and I, in Pemba we were the only white people as far as the eye could see and oh man did we stick out. It probably didn’t help that we all dress so properly because apparently men in Pemba are more conservative than the men elsewhere which means they are looking for nice respectable ladies like ourselves. As a result, the group collectively received at least ten marriage proposals over the six days as a whole. The town was very small and the locals got to know us quickly. By my third day there, walking from my home stay to Le Tavern (an eight minute walk at the most), two men looked directly at me, called out my Swahili name, and asked how I was doing in one phrase or another. I had never seen these men before in my time there, never spoken to them previously, definitely never gave them my name. Maybe the home stay coordinator spread the word? Maybe they know the family I was staying with and the family shared my name? There are a lot of unanswered questions, but quite little I can actually do about it, so the overall message I have taken away from this experience is that in one way or another, word spreads QUICKLY. You have no personal business. Everyone knows everything.
The home stay in Pemba was an overall umm interesting experience. On the afternoon I arrived at my home stay, I quickly came to learn that I did not have my own room as promised with a solid door and secured lock but instead was sharing the doorless room with the three young children in my family. There was a cloth drape hanging from a beam where the door should have been and hordes of neighbor children loved coming into the house and peeking slyly past the drape blowing this way and that from the wind coming through the barred windows. I did not feel secure, I had no privacy, I would have gone crazy living any longer in this situation, so after the first night I moved out of that house and into another one, now sharing a room with my friend and fellow student, Jess. This room was plenty secure, located behind three separate doors with three separate locks. Each time we came in and out of our room it took us a solid five minutes simply dealing with the locks. The difference between my first home and second was drastic. To be fair, although the first house I arrived at was not able to accommodate me in the manner promised when signing the contract with SIT, the family as a whole was wonderfully nice and welcoming.
My second family, the one I shared with Jess, was loud and bubbly. Just my type. They had four children, ages two to eleven, and once Jess and I taught them the chicken dance, they loved us forever and wanted to play for hours on end every night, along with the rest of the neighborhood. On the night we taught them the chicken dance, outside on the pathway between houses, all the neighborhood kids heard the joyful singing and laughing and came running to join in on the fun. I kid you not we practically started a riot that night. Parents stuck their heads out of their doors to see what all the commotion was about. Our new brothers and sisters loved it and our mom laughed right along.
Last thing I will say about my Pemba family is that my mom made the best pilau I have had thus far in my life and I have eaten a great deal of pilau while here. I will share with all you the recipe at a later date but for the time being my observation journal (where the recipe is written down) has been turned in for grading.
Here I am grating a delicious coconut for the pilau.
Well, I have to go now because I am about to be kicked off the internet as I have to leave Stone Town, travel on the crowded dala dala back to Mangapwani, and attempt to talk to some locals about the ways in which they use coconuts in traditional cuisine. This will be my project and hopefully I get some good information in the next five days but at this point I still have very little idea of what I am doing. Oh boy, the adventure life takes you on.
Try do something today that scares you. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. I hear amazing things can happen.