Zanzibar could be described as a perfect paradise, aside from the constant layer of sweat you find yourself in the second you step on the island. A downpour never felt more welcome when it washes away the layer of stick from your skin. Our semester in Kenya program arrived in Zanzibar the first week of March during the recess from school for Kenya's elections, which happened to coincide with the beginning of Zanzibar's rainy season. The first 48 hours on the island we spent at the Tembo Hotel; it was pure magic. The hotel is the former US Embassy and is lavish with Moorish architecture and is conveniently located right on the ocean.
On our bus ride from the airport to Tembo our director Jeff told us that we should spent the next few days wandering the alleyways in Stone Town and getting lost. My first reaction was, "my mother would NOT approve of this" and felt a little strange about wandering foreign alleyways. But the second we hopped off that bus I realized that the roads are alleyways here. When a car or scooter drives through they honk and you betta not be wearing earphones because you have to get your body squeezed against the wall nearest to you or else you'll be run over. My first adventures were with my friend Becca and we wandered forever, got lost, found the best street food in the world, got lost some more, and finally (miraculously) wandered back to Tembo.
After finding our feet planted more firmly in the sand, Becca and I went on a photo adventure because the locals looked like they were having a heck of a good time on the beach. Aside from the gross catcalls from some of the boys (which throwing up my camera seemed to subside quite well) our adventure was successful.
One of the things I will miss most about going back home is the instant connection I share with kids over my camera. The photo above started with just two girls, but all of sudden, like flies to a flickering light, there were ten kids clamoring for my attention. Photos don't need to grasp a language gap. All I do is hold up my camera and wonder and happiness fills my view finder. The best part isn't even the art of taking a picture of moving kids in the dark, the best part is the art of making sure every kid gets to see their face while not trampling the others 10 seconds after the photo is taken. Sometimes I forget the power of photographs because I am surrounded by them continually--taking pictures, editing pictures, talking about pictures, analyzing pictures-- but these kids (and sometimes adults) help remind me of the impact of a photograph.
And when life throws ya a huge thunderstorm in the middle of paradise, you have yourself a grand ole photoshoot.
On one afternoon in Stone Town a group of us went to the location of the old slave market/ new anglican church. It was a eye opening and terrifying experience knowing what horrors humanity is capable of. We went down into a room with the ceiling height of a stairwell storage closet and smaller than my dorm room that they kept 50 slaves in before they were ready to sell. Now on top of such a horrid place is one of the most beautiful churches I've been to in my life. In the midst of a predominately Muslim community, this church sits on top of this horrid place preaching its wrongness and inviting foreigners and locals alike to live into the gospel's message of love and forgiveness.
The last five days of our trip were spent on a part of the island called Paje at the marvelous, beach heaven called New Teddy's Place. When we walked into our dorm hut, complete with sand floors, Kaitlan just about fell over and died of happiness. Our days were spent soaking up the sun and trying to find the drop off in the Indian ocean (which I am pretty sure doesn't exist because I walked a solid hour and a half into the abyss without finding it). We spent our evenings sipping on local specialties, sitting around bonfires, staring at the stars, swinging in hammocks, and floating in the ocean. We spent one afternoon on a spice farm called Hakuna Matata (tourist attraction much?!) and tried all of the spices, drank fresh coconut water, attempted to climb a coconut tree, wore funny hats and enjoyed a cloudy day in the forest. One of the most memorable nights unfortunately did not involve a camera, but a whole lot of dancing and potential for my camera being stolen. Every Friday night in Paje the hotel called Jambo hosts a dance party on the beach near there outdoor bar. The crowd consists of local Zanzibarians (mostly men), lots of European tourists, Maasai warriors in traditional garb, and our group of obnoxious college-aged Americans. I cannot even begin to describe the emotions I felt screaming along to Diamonds by Rihanna with my best friends, barefoot, blissful with a buncha Maasai warriors.