Thursday, June 12, 2014


Julie left to observe a hospital and training facility on the mainland. She’ll rejoin us in a week or so.

Africa Impact volunteers invited us to observe their kindergarden and 1st grade classes at [name of school] , and adult education classes that meet in Jozani Forest. I told thew students (all female) to dress up. Zanzibar is a highly gendered society, and teaching is the only profession available for most women. I’d already observed that every teacher at ever school in Kikadini was female. Having my female students dress up supported the teacher’s professionalism.

On the other hand, I had to dress down. These kids had never seen an adult male inside their school, and had possibly never seen a man in a coat and tie. They would assume that I was someone from the government, and refuse to speak or participate in the lesson. They would also defer to me. Wearing a suit could undermine their regular teacher’s authority, and I couldn’t do that. I also moved back and forth between classes, taking pictures. After the initial surprise, they got back to business.

Compared to my experiences in Liberia, the Zanzibari schools were remarkably well-kept, clean, and orderly. They have electricity and running water, plus a good supply of teaching materials in Swahili and English. No smashed furniture, no protruding rusty nails, no absenteeism, no drunkenness, no fighting. (My Liberian friends – I know you don’t want to hear that. But it’s the truth.) The kids played a few warm-up games and then learned the names of food. They were adorable.

Sorting out dinner has been harder than I expected. The property owner gave me some prices for local food, and I based my budget around those. However, she seems to have made those numbers up out of thin air. No one – not even her own staff – has honored any quote she gave me. So today I arranged dinner with a local nicknamed Mosquito. He claimed he could make a simple chicken with coconut curry dinner for 3500 TS per person. When I pressed him, he admitted that his sister would do the actyual cooking. Fair enough. He asked for a 10,000 TS advance so he could buy the chicken, and I’d pay him the rest when the food was ready.

In the afternoon, we went into the Jozani Forest to observe and adult education class. Jozani is the home of the endangered Red Colubus monkey, which only lives here. Class was held at a pavilion a few hundred feet from the entrance. On the way in the students passed the word – look out for the python. Apparently the park rangers had captured a python someone had set loose on the island. They kept it in an enclosure as an attraction, but didn’t know how much food a python requires. The python got hungry and escaped. So if you think you see something moving, it’s probably just a hungry python. Hakuna Matata.

Today was Play day – the students had been split into four groups based on English language ability and developed their own dramas. While the students rehearsed, one volunteer announced her blog had been picked up by Huffington Post. You know, I thought, its time for me to get back into the blogging business.
The winner was called Bad Teacher – a hilarious revenge drama with social and economic overtones. Another group vied for first place, but they were the clear winners in my book. They had mastered the language enough to use humor. They won an electronic snowman that played Silent Night, which was the only trophy-looking object the volunteers could find.

We rested in the later afternoon, and then Mosquito turned up. The food was ready, but he’d need help carrying it from his sister’s house. He seemed overly happy. Asha sent Issa with me to collect the food. When we got to his sister’s house, I remembered my manners and took my shoes off before entering. The food smelled wonderful, and I was starving. Then came the bad – Mosquito demanded another 40,000 TS. I reminded him that we had set a price of 3500 each. He replied that he didn’t care, and he wanted 10,000 each. The 10,000 I’d spotted him seemed to have been forgotten. We argued. Mosquito started yelling and threatening. I told him the deal was off.

I found my students and we went to the local kebab house for bbq chicken and fries. Not the healthiest dinner, but enough. I also arranged for Asha, our housekeeper, to cook the next night. Later, I ran into Pandu, a local and as it turns out, a friend of Mosquito. I refused to say Hakuna Matata (“no worries”), which worried him. I told him the story in bits, saying I didn’t want to call the police, I didn’t even want to mention the man’s name or his family could suffer. Pandu cut me off. “Was it Mosquito?” he asked. “Yes.” I replied. “Was he already drinking?” Pandu asked. Ah. Mosquito is the town drunk. Pandu gave me his number and said he’d get the original 10,000 back from Mosquito.

Late that night, Coral Rock Hotel showed the World Cup opening game via projection screen on the beach. The nearly full moon shone overhead, the waves lapped the shore, the stars twinkled, and Brazil spanked Croatia. We walked home along the beach. Not a bad way to end the night.

No comments:

Post a Comment