It worked. I surprised the hell out of my family, and then they returned the favour by smashing all ideas I had of having functional Kiswahili. It was so commonplace to walk back through the doorway, into the central courtyard, up to the front door, and in to great my family for the first time in years. Eight years to be precise.
Marshed was a small, intensely bright and hilarious 14-year-old when I left, and he has grown into a tall man with a deep, bellowing voice – he was changed so much I didn’t even recognize him. Zahor, the brother closest in age to me is 27, and lives in Norway. We get along quite well, and I’m quite happy that he is home for break from university. Shinuna looks exactly the same, so much so that I kept looking at her to make sure that she’d aged since I left – hard to tell. And Maryam au (or) Chachi, as she is called by her children, has the same spritely spirit watching over her flock. Her children are the world to her, all eleven of them.
After about 10 minutes of conversation, we were all clear that it’s going to take a couple of weeks before I can sit in the midst and understand all of the words flying to and fro. Fortunately, the family is very well educated and all speak multiple languages in most cases including English. So, when I need clarification or explanation due to depleted conversation skills, I can ask quite easily with little problem.
Last night was the fourth night of ZIFF, the Zanzibar International Film Festival, and so we went down to the Old Portuguese fort to check out the shows. Films were playing in the outdoor ampitheatre, and a large stage with a dhow behind was decked out for the music. We saw an American Jazz band called Apex USA, and then a couple of different young Zanzibari groups: the first was a dance group that was pretty good, mixing hip-hop, Brazilian, and East Afrikan styles together quite well; the other, a four-man rap group throwin’ rhymes in Kiswahili. This is a celebration which needs to include ankore at some point in the near future (http://www.ankore.com/ for those of you who don’t know). All of this under the Southern Hemisphere stars made for an incredible return to Zanzibar.
Speaking of the return, I can’t wait to get you all photos of me flying co-pilot on the six-seater I decided to take out to the islands yesterday. Francois, the South African pilot, flew us through 17-20 knot winds (I have no idea what that really means beyond being really damn turbulent), and landed us safely at Zanzibar Airport about two hours after I arrived in Dar-es-Salaam yesterday. Kathryn picked me up at the airport with her friend and driver Senga, a large young guy who was quite nice. I’d upload the photos now, but I fried my battery charger, and my phone charger all in one fell swoop – I thought that I had voltage protection on my goodies, but apparently I did not.
Today, I’m moving all of my stuff over to the house and will start to nestle in for the next few weeks. I’m helping Kathryn and her NGO on Saturday (NGO being non-governmental organziation, and her’s specifically being ZAPHA+ which is an organization that works closely with delivering Zanzibaris living with HIV and AIDS anti-retroviral drugs, food, and care). Besides that, I don’t really have many plans. I’m supposed to meet up with this cat Mahmoud who works with helping the street kids in Stone Town get off of drugs, and am going to see what I might possibly be able to do to help him out.
The pace of life is slowing down, and I am just trying to sit still as I wrestle my way back into my skin. My memories are fading away as I run down the streets of a past which grows more dim the more places and people I encounter from the past. Was I ever even here? I remember the smells, the rain, the heat, the damn Indian pied crows, and the beautiful Zanzibari smile and laugh, but the memories are dissipating and being replaced with the here and now. I’m so glad, because my memories are full of pain and at other times also cast in a very romantic or idyllic light. It was a very difficult time in my life when I was here last, and while some of those memories will probably take awhile to leave, I can already feel some starting to leave and allow room to heal a part of my soul that I believe could only find remedy here.
With that, and a hungry stomach about to search out some fish and rice, I leave you all to a great day…