Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fahari: To have a sense of pride

I dropped by Casa del Mar hotel after breakfast to chat with Laura Johnson from Ole Miss. We finished our conversation from the previous night and agreed to work together in the future. She does some things I plan to incorporate into my program, like local 1-1 partnerships and village homestays. In general, I plan to make a bunch of changes for next year, including volunteering or service-learning, formal Swahili instruction, and more travel. One of the travel possibilities is so cool…but not a done deal by any means. I’ll keep that to myself for now.

Went in early to catch the short films before the main showings. The short daytime programs often outperform the night-time stuff. I caught an excellent TV pilot called Statehouse, about the staff at the Presidential Mansion in a fictional African country. The old President lost the election, and a new President (and family) arrive. It’s somewhere between Scandal and Downton Abbey. By the way, my Downton Abbey obsession is over. SPOLIER ALERT: Season 3’s idiotic ending just killed it for me. Oh well.

After a few days in Stone Town, I’m leaning to spot locally-made crafts. They tend to be smaller-scale shops, a bit pricier, and carry something unique. Today I found Fahari, which means “having pride in oneself” in Swahili. It’s a cooperative founded by Julie Lawrence, a designer from London. She teaches disabled people, orphans, widows, and divorced women job skills. She’s also dedicated to making her fashionable bags, clothing, and jewelry from materials found on Zanzibar. That’s the kind of sustainable development I prefer. I’m putting together a list of similar shops for next year.

Julie Graves rejoined us after a week on the mainland. She’s a good person to have around the students – lively, funny, faculty but not their faculty. I think the styudents can relax more around her. I also met a local named Nichel – an entirely mad Dutchman lounging about Jaws Corner. He offered me a coffee, then offered me some conyagi. This is the national drink of Zanzibar (yes, a Muslim country with a national drink). I've been led to believe it's somewhat rude to refuse an offer of conyagi. I said yes. 

Despite the rumors, conyagi comes with a government seal for taxes and safety. It's not some sort of bootleg hooch. Tastes good, but not nearly as strong as Liberian cane juice. We chatted for awhile, then made our way back to Old Fort. Nichel wandered off to watch the Holland Game, and I went inside to watch Half a Yellow Sun. The adaptation is excellent, but no adaptation can capture Adiche's novel. The movie has gotten mediocre reviews from American critics and academics who think they understand Nigeria. Let me tell you, here, on African soil, with many Nigerians in the audience, there was nothing but love for the film. Afterwards, we saw a wonderful short made by Khalil and Eli Fananuzzi about traditional dance in Puerto Rico. 

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