(From Andrew) Seven weeks in…We've been here for about 7 weeks and have been exploring and dropped into a good routine. As we live in Stone Town we’ve done most of our exploring here. Stone Town isn’t large and you can walk around it in less than an hour. It’s made up of narrow alleys used by pedestrians as well as bicycles, hand drawn carts and, somewhat annoyingly, relatively fast-moving and noisy motorbikes and scooters. Stone Town offers many photo opportunities which we explore at weekends. The doorways are beautiful with amazing carving – some in Indian-style, some of Arabic origin. Although some of the arts and crafts are very good, a lot of is quite derivative and found all over East Africa but there are items specific to Zanzibar.
One amazing spectacle is the early morning (6:30am) fish landing and market that takes place on a small beach near the port. It’s a busy jumble of people, boats, fish, more fish, the smell of fish and quite a few cats. There’s a small harbour but the boats don't actually dock or reach the shore, instead people swim out to the boats and swim back holding fish or large plastic containers filled with fish. These are sold on the beach either to middle men who take them to market or direct to the public. It's well worth visiting and not on the usual tourist circuit.
We usually cook for ourselves and shop in a variety of places. We find a massive disparity in the cost of what is often an identical item. The market is close by - we were using one person to help us shop for fruit and vegetables and avoid us being charged the “Muzungu” rate but we found that his cut was a bit too large and we generally get charged the same as everyone else. In Kiswahili “Muzungu” is a foreigner and generally white. It's not derogatory. In Uganda joyful shouts of "Jambo Muzungo" (hello foreigner) greeted us in virtually all villages and you can buy T-shirts with "My name is not Muzungu" written on them! We pick up vegetables from stalls along the road to school and buy beef (rump) at $15 a kg at a shop in Mbweni.
As we teach in the afternoons, mornings are taken up with admin, back exercises (Andrew) and Pilates (Reneé). Due to extensive African travels over the last 15 months, we spend a lot of time processing photos! We now sleep through the loud call to worship that rings out at about 5.30am from the nearby mosque and cathedral bells that sound at 6! After school we swim at The International School. Not as refreshing as it sounds as the water temperature in the afternoon is as warm as bath water!
On Sundays we attend an English language church group which meets in people’s homes. On the 1st Sunday of the month we congregate in St John's Church, an old Anglican church in the “Freedom village” of Mbweni. The Church was built for freed slaves back in the 19th century. The group comprises expatriates from Europe and North America who are working on Zanzibar. This provides much welcome Christian fellowship, something that we’ve missed on our travels.
(From Renée) A note about a girl with bad eye sight…we’d noticed she was struggling to see the blackboard and decided to take her to the optician. So on Friday Andrew and I drove to Unguja Ukuu to take the girl and her father to Stone Town to the optometrist for her scheduled eye test. Unfortunately the optometrist said that she can’t help her as her eyes are really quite bad and referred her to the hospital. We duly headed over to the hospital where the girl was registered and had more tests done. This optometrist had quite a number of other patients waiting to see him, however, the optometrist we saw in Stone Town had called ahead and as a result, she was able to jump the queue! One of the tests that had to be carried out couldn't get done until much later as the chap had gone to the Mosque (it was Friday, the holy day). Issa, one of the teachers, had come with us and we gave him money to cover their lunches and the bus back to the village. It turns out that the girl's eyes are so bad that she needs really thick glasses that aren’t available (or can't be made) on the island! Issa suggested to us that we take the father and daughter to Dar..... apparently that is where she needs to go to get her prescription!
Rather a long story with not much of a happy ending (yet!)....we’ll pop into the optometrist and ask if they are able to send a prescription to Dar. We don't think so because the hospital has said she needs to go to Dar... Anyone who wears glasses knows that you need to find a pair that fits your face before they get sent away, then you need to return to the optometrist to collect your glasses to see if they are right. I'm not sure how this family can get to Dar twice and pay for glasses without a lot of help.
On a separate note, we are sorting out an optometrist to come to the school for a mass screening as this girl is just the tip of the ice berg. On limited incomes, families just can’t afford eye tests for their children and so many of them miss out on their education for such a simple reason.