Super.Full. Stories – Day 8: Inside the Jungle (Part 1)

We arrived in Zanzibar. The MAISHA Program Director and our van driver welcomed us. The director explained few things about what to expect and the schedule ahead of us, and off we went in the small van. He drove on narrow streets with low story buildings on both sides. It was like driving in any village in an Arab country. Except for the much greener, denser and higher trees.

But soon we started leaving the residential areas and arrived to a more vegetated territory, until the van stopped in a heavenly resort. It was like the places we see in honeymoon package advertisements. But it was real. And calm. The first thought that came to my mind when we arrived was this is a dream location for writing.

The Resort
The Resort

We had been warned before our departure from Doha that we needed to get anti-Malaria injections and a mosquito repellant. The pharmacist at Villaggio had then given Fatma a mosquito repellant for children because that was the only repellant he had, so we brought it along. We also knew to expect geckos. I am not the type of people who can pretend to be comfortable if I know I am living with a gecko. But we had promised ourselves, each other, and Ama to be brave.

Each one of us was assigned a bungalow. The bungalow consisted of a bedroom and a bathroom. They were nice and cool on the inside. The beds were beautifully decorated with nets dangling down from the roof to protect the sleepers from insects. Though that is a good thing, reverse psychology used it to assure me that there are insects. When I unloaded my luggage, I thought better than to disperse it in various places in the room so I only took out the shoes and kept all the clothes in my suitcase and kept it locked.

After every one of us checked her bungalow, the three of us girls decided that we’ll use one of them as a bedroom. Each one of us didn’t want to sleep alone in there. My daydreams included lions and giraffes. But the reality was different. It included, but was not limited to, insects in the bathroom, two scorpions in the room, few geckos that we got accustomed to live with slowly, and flying roaches.

As we were intent on keeping the courageous impression, we fought bravely against all these creatures on our own. Okay, it was not me or Fatma who did the actual battle, we were on the bed or jumping around far from the action, but still. And one time we had to ask the help of Qassim, our friend who lived very close to Mount Kili,  who had also come to the workshop with a very compelling story. But we fought and survived! Until the day of the red scorpion.

The red scorpion could be deadly according to Ama. And if our African fighter said that, then we had to report the incident to the program director. Our huge surprise came when we learnt that all the bungalows are clean of all kinds of insects, and we’re the only ones who had a zoo in there. And the solution was very simple, Solayman, the keeper of the resort came and sprayed it again. You can imagine how stupid we felt after all that struggle to save face when we could’ve simply asked for the room to be sprayed. Truth is, we had tried using the RAID in the room and our mosquito repellant, but the insects seemed to enjoy them more than anything.

Afterwards (5 days later) it became normal to enter the bathroom with a gecko in there, to put sugar with ants in the tea, to share the food with the crows out by the Indian Ocean. We were living it, the African way. And it is an experience not to be missed.

To Be Continued!

Watch Super.Full. and Vote for it in Youtube’s Your Film Festival at this link:

http://www.youtube.com/user/yourfilmfestival?x=player/v-oUhQc4AVU__en_us

Super.Full. Stories – Day 4: DOH – DAR – ZNZ

Our flight path from Doha to Zanzibar included a stop in Dar Es-Salam, capital of Tanzania. Fatma and I were lucky to have a friend from the Doha Film Institute join us. Ama is from Ghana, so she knew a thing or two about traveling in Africa. Fatma and I were conscious about our “city girl” status, so we were determined to prove courageous and break some stereotypes during the trip. You’ll have to wait for my “Inside the Jungle” episode to see how much we succeeded in that mission.

So our flight path was Doha Dar, Dar Zanzibar. Easy, right? The flight from Doha to Dar Es-Salam was smooth. Except for my earphones splitting in my hands into two, we slept most of the road. At least I did. I woke up over Kenya and took a look at mount Kili, as the locals referred to the great Mt. Kilimanjaro. For me, Mt. Kilimanjaro was something we study in eighth grade Geography as the highest mountain in Africa. And I had read folk stories about it in my Mythology class at Hollins. So seeing Mt. Kili was a historic moment for me, even from a plane. And it is a beautiful mountain 🙂

Soon thereafter, we landed in Dar (another local abbreviation). The airport there was fit to be in “City of God”. We literally walked through dark slums to get from one place to another inside the airport. But there was something cozy about it. And of course there was Ama to save us!

Airport Art in Dar
Mount Kili in Dar Es-Salam Airport Art

We finished our immigration adventure and were told to head to a local terminal to fly to Zanzibar. But we wanted to “see” Dar Es-Salam. We asked the officer inside the airport to allow us to go out to take a photo. He didn’t. We nagged; city girls! He said, “five minutes!” It was raining heavily outside the airport. But that was my first tropical rain so I was still able to enjoy it.

When we went to the “Terminal” we found ourselves in a room. For myself, I was starving. But the only duty free shops were two: One was selling souvenirs and the other was selling local pastries and soft drinks. Nobody died of hunger that day. But I almost died of terror when I saw the “airplane” of our next leg of the journey.

Propeller Aircraft
Propeller Aircraft to Zanzibar

It was a jet with two propellers. To me it seemed like a Brothers’ Wright airplane. Did these people expect me to fly on this thing? Does my Mom know I am being sent to Zanzibar on something that is supposed to fly with two fans? Every piece of news I ever heard of a small plane crash in Africa started flashing back. Anyway, the real question at the time was, do I really have a choice but to get meself on the plane and shut up? I didn’t. So that is what I did. And the plane took off to Zanzibar. For the record, that was a very smooth flight on a low altitude, which provided us with beautiful scenery underneath.

Window Seat View
Window Seat View

You can watch Super.Full. and vote for it if you like, via this link: http://www.youtube.com/yourfilmfestival

Super.Full. Stories – Day 3: The Mzungu

When Fatma and I went to Zanzibar with MAISHA and DFI (the Doha Film Institute) to develop Super.Full. and Fatma’s script, I didn’t know very well what to expect. My only “real” knowledge of Africa had been through a post card that my friend Chadi once sent me from Gabon. Besides it, everything had been through mass media and literature only.

Africa is beautiful. But to be a white person in Africa, that is a completely different story. And who was the lucky person? That’s right. I was a Mzungu (foreigner). And I couldn’t really hide my Mzungu-ness.  When we walked on the streets people stared, merchants wanted to sell us souvenirs, others just wanted to say “Salamu Alaikom” because I was a Hijabi Mzungu, no less.

But it felt good to be actually in “the other’s” shoes for once. I could totally feel what it means to look different than everyone else and try to convince people that you are the same. It is not easy.

Mzungu
Mzungu

N.B. This post was surprisingly challenging to write because it is so difficult to be politically correct when you talk about people’s “color”. Please be forgiving if anything seems wrong – that was not the intention.

PS. Yes, there are other white people in Africa. I was not the only one.