Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The good news

I held our first “class” today. I put class in quotes because everything they do here is a learning experience. The tests and quizzes started months ago: getting passports, finding tickets, taking anti-malarials, 2-day flights, etc. Just getting here is harder than anything I’d ask a normal class to do. Today we went over the syllabus and schedule, talked about the accommodations, the food, getting around town, health issues, and general settling in. So far, everyone is good.

The last student’s rescheduled flight was set to arrive at 10:20 am, which meant we needed to leave at 9ish. Julie wanted to go to town to pick up a USB modem, so she came as well. Eco + culture tours was supposed to handle the airport run. Hadi came by while we were eating breakfast, around 8:45, and said he’d be back in 10 minutes. I told him we would be ready. At 8:55, we went to the parking area to get into the van but…he wasn’t there. No car, no Hadi. We waited, we called, we checked outside the gate in case he had already backed out. We called again, and waited. Another driver asked if we needed a lift and quoted the same price. I’d already agreed that Hadi would take us to the airport. In some parts of Africa, verbal agreements are binding. While I wouldn’t have paid Hadi for not driving, he could have harassed me for the length of our stay.  I wanted to avoid that if at all possible. I also wanted to greet the student when she emerged from the terminal. He phone wouldn’t work outside of the States, so I had no way of communicating with her. Just as I was about to go with the second driver, Hadi showed. He was already 30 minutes late.

We arrived at the airport and I was worried and in a terrible mood. Hadi kept telling me to call her, and my replies kept getting less and less civil. The property owner recommended him, but he’d failed to pick me up the first night, and now this. I decided that no matter what, this was our last day with eco + culture. Fortunately, the student remembered our backup plan – if I wasn’t there, wait for me in the restaurant. We collected her and her bag and left.

We went into Stone Town to get the student a few things she needed, plus walk around a bit. The key to jet lag is resetting your circadian rhythm. In this case, she could absolutely not, not, not fall asleep before sundown.

Hadi almost redeemed himself by leading me to Zanzibar Coffee House. I got an Americano and it changed my life. Seriously. Every other cup of coffee I’ve ever had was imported. This was the first cup of coffee I ever had in the country that produced it. It’s like drinking Budweiser or Heinecken all your life, and then tasting your first craft beer. This coffee was so much better than anything I’ve ever tasted, comparison to American or European coffee is unfair.

We made a stop at Vodaphone to get a SIM card for the student and a USB modem for Julie. They never run the AC in these places. IN Liberia, if they ran the AC then people would make an excuse to hang around so they could get cool. So many people would crown into the store that the AC wouldn’t work anyway. Once we got the phones fixed, we went to lunch.

At lunch, I noticed a large group of American women sitting at a long table. When you’ve taught at a University for a few years, you get good at spotting students. They looked like students. I went over to say hello, and they turned out to be another Study Abroad program from U. Wisconsin-Lafayette. When I first proposed UA in Zanzibar, I searched for other programs to Zanzibar. I found one that had run for a few years and stopped, but nothing else. The program director, Julie Weiskopf, and I agreed to meet during the ZIFF festival and talk about our programs.

AND THE DAY JUST WON’T STOP! Kikadini has two soccer fields. One is directly in front of our gate, as in they can make a corner kick, or we can get in, but not both. At the game I noticed a few more Americans. We’re rare in these parts, so I figured they were here for some reason and they were. They’re with an NGO called Africa Impact, and they work in local education and literacy programs. Perfect! We exchanged information. By that night, UA in Zanzibar students were invited to observe and participate in class at a local elementary school and an adult education class the next day.

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