If Only I was Doing Stand-up Comedy – Tales from Zanzibar 

As some of you know, I’ve been struggling the past few weeks without a routine. I’m especially missing early morning bootcamp. I had really hoped to climb the mountain and jump straight into volunteering and than play in August. But things didn’t work out exactly as I had hoped. Luckily that started to change this week as I escaped to the beach. The beach always seems to do wonders for my mind, body, and soul.
There are so many possible titles to give this post that it was impossible to come up with just one that would fully capture the past week or the many good laughs that were shared. Here are just a few of the titles I considered.

Before I even landed in Zanzibar, these are the ones that come to mind from my time in the Arusha airport. The term airport is a bit of a stretch.

  • We need to off load because of smoke in the cabin
  • Duck if you hear a boom
  • Okay, let’s try this again

I met up with one of the ladies I hiked the mountain with, and we traveled to Jambiani together and stayed in an AirB&B. Some of the possible titles from the four nights we spent there:

  • The noise is coming from inside the wood
  • Did you hear breathing?
  • I’m sorry, my husband is an idiot
  • Stay on the main road, do not go on the village road
  • No dala dala
  • Where are the chips? We want only pasta with tomato sauce.
  •  Moja chocolate salami, mbili tiramisu, tatu chocolate mousse
  • I’m a florist
  • But I brought the bikes home from my shop for you

After four days on an eco-friendly solar farm, which was a seven minute walk to the beach, I was ready for a hot shower so I checked into the Red Monkey Lodge right on the beach for my last five days. Some of the titles from that stay could be:

  • Ouch… F*** coral
  • That’s not what I ordered. Waiter response…the chef changed the menu
  • That is kind of freaky…almost prehistoric
  • Umm, can we have your room key? Your hot water heater is on fire
  • There are goats on the beach
  • Hello monkeys above my head

I’m sitting here cracking up out loud just thinking about the stories associated with each of the lines above. I could fill pages if I were to go into each in any detail. Needless to say, the past week has been an adventure, and I’m going to have great stories to tell over future happy hours in DC that you’ll probably be choking on your drinks trying not to spit them out as you are laughing hysterically.

Okay switching gears…there truly is a place called Zanzibar. It is comprised of over 50 islands off the coast of Tanzania (36 km) in the Indian Ocean just 6 degrees south of the Equator. Population is a little over 1 million. The islands, also known as the “Spice Islands,” are vastly different from the mainland of Tanzania. The majority of the residents are Muslim whereas on the mainland Christianity is far more prominent. Zanzibar has a long history of being influenced by the Persians, Omanis, Portuguese, and British. In 1862, Zanzibar became independent from Oman but the sultanate continued to rule under a British protectorate. In 1963, the islands became independent and they united with Tanzania in 1964.

Low tide
The island (one primary) is lined with fine white sand beaches. And for some reason I’ve yet to figure out, the sand never gets hot. The water is an incredible spectrum of blues and greens and the change in high and low tide is mind blowing. During low tide, I can walk out for more than 25 minutes and still only be up to my calves or knees and the waves breaking beyond the reef are still far off in the distance. But at high tide in some areas the beach is completely gone and you are dodging jagged coral underneath your feet. Beautifully formed shells and starfish line the beach in low tide.

And kite surfing is abundant around the island. If I’d had the right clothes, I would have taken lessons this past week (I’ve been told you need 9-12 hours of lessons before you can go out on your own). You are probably thinking why didn’t you just go out and buy the right clothes? Well, that wasn’t an option. To put it in perspective, there aren’t any clothing stores anywhere nearby where I could buy or rent the gear. Hell the only ATM is in Stone Town and the airport over a 100km away.

Most days were spent being lazy on the beach, long walks, swimming, and reading. Typically, each day started by being woken by the roosters when I was on the farm or the goats when I moved to the beach. Because of the location of Zanzibar, sunrise is at a respectable hour (approximately 6:40am) so I was fortunate to see the sun rise most mornings.

Whenever I ventured for walks in the town, I was amazed at how the kids could run bare feet down the roads. The dirt roads are horrendous from the standpoint of traversing safely or comfortably in a car or walking. There is coral everywhere and it hurt me to walk in flip flops on the roads let alone run barefoot. Many of the local houses or walls are made of coral.

There truly is a “it takes a village” mentality at work when it comes to raising kids. You often see very young children outside by themselves or along the water’s edge. I’ve had to resist my western tendencies to wait around until an adult appears or to watch the child like a hawk around the water.

I’ve eaten fresh seafood for every meal except breakfast for the past week. Almost all of the restaurants use a blackboard to list the menu because it changes daily based on what was caught that morning. Breakfast consisted of fresh fruit and eggs. I’ve gotten spoiled with having mango, red bananas, green oranges, or avocado every morning and various fresh juices for lunch.

We did indulge one evening and went to the Rock. If you are living vicariously through me, you have to go to the website and check out the photos. When we arrived it was low tide so we were able to walk out but by the time we left the tide had come in and we had to take a short boat ride back to shore. The chips title and dessert title stories both came about when we were at the Rock. The two couples sitting next to us (we think they were middle eastern) came to one of the most popular seafood restaurants on the island and were upset because there weren’t chips (French fries) on the menu. Then they proceeded to only order pasta and had them remove every piece of seafood from the dishes. It was comical but very sad.

The other possible title comes when Angele is trying to be savvy and use her Kiswhali. She was attempting to order three desserts for us to share by saying first, second and third but instead she ordered one chocolate salami, two tiramisus, and three chocolate mousses. Half way through both of us working on our own tiramisus she realizes her mistake and we only have to eat one mousse. I don’t think I or the waiter have laughed so hard in a long while. The waiter never said a thing to us when she was ordering. In fact, waiters not saying a thing to us became kinda of thing. One of the other titles was because we both ordered the seafood curry that was on the blackboard. But when the dish was put in front of us it was a seafood salad. When we asked the waiter, he responded that the chef just changed the menu. He didn’t seem to think it was a problem that he just changed it on the blackboard but never bothered to tell us that what we had ordered was no longer on the menu. They just made the substitution for us, which as it turns out was fine for me. The octopus and fish were delicious.

Smoke and fire seemed to be another reoccurring theme for me on this trip. As we were sitting on the tarmac in Arusha, the cabin started to fill with a bit of smoke. They off loaded all of us and moved us back to the waiting area. They ran a few test, sent the plane down the runway than told us everything was fine and we’ll try it again. Then the other night, as I was sitting in the dining/lounge area of the hotel having a glass of wine, the power all of a sudden goes out. This doesn’t even phase me anymore it happens so often. You usually just wait for the generators to kick on. So while I’m waiting one of the managers comes up to me and said that they needed my room key because the water heater outside of my room was on fire. Turns out the power was cut because of the fire. There was an awful smell and a fine layer of ash in my bathroom. So now I have two bungalows. One to sleep in and use the hot shower and the other that has all of my stuff. It wasn’t worth moving everything over since I was leaving a day later.

You’ll just have to buy me a drink when I’m back in DC to hear the rest of the stories.

Next up a spice tour and a few days in Stone Town before heading back to Arusha. I can only imagine what new stories will be added to the line-up.


5 thoughts on “If Only I was Doing Stand-up Comedy – Tales from Zanzibar ”

  1. Zanzibar is a very nice place. Have you seen the turtle farm and the place where they put the slaves to market? Love your stories Jessica.


  2. Thanks for sharing your journey Jess! I am living vicariously thru you and hoping to return to Africa in 2018! Keep it coming!


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