I left Mafia Island with a heavy heart.
Within just days, I had to say goodbye to this community I'd spent the past couple months creating.
The family I lived with became my family.
My chiefs house became one of my favorite places to go and was always a guarantee for an extremely good laugh or for an "African Woman" session.
My kids brought about a new kind of happiness I truly didn't know existed.
Evening walks after my runs became some of the most meditative moments.
There were so many instances such as those just mentioned that really made my space on Mafia Island feel as if it were my "home."
Despite the heavy heart, I had a new adventure ahead of me.
This time to another island off the coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar!
I had known very little about Zanzibar.
Besides being told how esthetically beautiful it was and that they had one of the best Swahili schools around.
Either way, my trip was booked.
Patrick (one of the WorldTeach volunteers) and I were sharing a hotel space for the week.
Coco Del Mar was the place.
We go up early Sunday morning, took a taxi to the ferry, patiently waited and then before I knew it we are pulling up to the coastline of Zanzibar.
Upon arrival, the first thing one sees is a large sign saying, "Karibu Zanzibar" which is welcome to Zanzibar.
When getting off the boat, you have to quickly pick up your luggage and head straight to customs as you get bombarded with people wanting to carry your bags and escort you to their taxi.
After going through customs, I man waited with a small paper sign with both mine and Patrick's name on it.
We were driven to our hotel, which was just minutes away from where the ferry dropped us off.
The Tanzania travel books had proven a success as our hotel was right in the middle of Stonestown.
The first day there was spent wondering around town, barefoot, camera in hand.
Exploring this incredible ancient city with stone buildings each way you turned.
One of my favorite finds that afternoon was a local Ethiopian restaurant right at the edge of town.
I have to admit, I started jumping up and down while shouting, "yessssss" when I saw this place.
Ethiopian food, going to Ethiopian meals is one of my favorite ways to dine as it's a communal meal.
All eat from the same large plate of food.
Needless to say, we ate dinner at that Ethiopian restaurant that night.
Oh yea, and two more nights that same week!
Let the adventures begin.
Monday morning we woke, ate such a good breakfast and got picked up in the pouring rain for our spice tour.
The bus already had two young individuals in it from the hostel next door.
We picked up several more people and then on our way up the island to explore their native spices.
The afternoon was spent trying grapefruits right off the trees, learning that vanilla is a vine and comes from the orchid family, learning about local lipstick that the Maasai use from a plant, to getting leaf glasses and frog necklaces made out of plant leaves.
We ate a local meal in a village just outside the spice fields, then onto a massive slave cave and the beach.
The slave cave consisted of a giant hole underground with two tunnels, one on each side that lead to the ocean and the town.
The spice tour commenced for the day.
The van dropped everyone off and then back to my Zanzibar home.
Once back in my room, the rain had subsided and the sun was starting to peek out.
I was hanging out my bedroom window and just below, I saw Halena (whom was staying at the hostel next door and went on the same spice tour earlier that day) and yelled down, "Do you want to go to dinner tonight?"
She looked up with a smile and said, "I would love to!"
I have to tell you, as Tanzanians say, "to be quite frank with you" going to dinner that night changed my entire Zanzibar experience.
I had not only met a friend, I truly met a sister.
The rest of the week felt like a dream.
Tuesday we woke with the sun shinning so brightly, had breakfast, walked to the boat.
This time the boat was taking us to prison island, which is a small island off the coast of Zanzibar that yes, once was a prison and is now a fancy hotel and tortiose sanctuary.
After exploring this island, back in the boat and out to coral reefs to do some Indian Ocean snorkeling.
I spent the afternoon swimming around with "little memo!"
Back in the boat to shore.
An afternoon filled with more exploration, laughter, food and new friends.
Wednesday we got an early start as we went down to the south side of the island, Kizimkazi.
Swimming with the dolphins, literally swimming with the dolphins with all but a snorkel mask and fins on.
I was just a few feet away from three dolphins gliding through the waters of the Indian Ocean.
Talk about a thrill, what a rush.
I had never been so close to these precious mammals.
After swimming with the mammals, we went into the Jozani Forest to play with the monkeys!
There were so many monkeys, just jumping about along the side of the road.
Mama and baby's holding each other, families packed together.
One sat right in front of me, just pulling leafs of the veins and stuffing them in his mouth.
He was so close, I was able to touch him.
In one day, swam with the dolphins and played with monkeys.
Is that real?
Can this be real?
Or am I dreaming?
Oh, it was real.
As the week went on, the moments became more dream like.
Thursday was a day of reading Nelson Mandel's autobiography in a local cafe, taking pikipiki rides throughout the town, eating lunch at a far too fancy resort right outside Stonestown
and dancing into the wee hours of the morning.
Friday was beyond surreal.
I don't know how to properly sum it up, without writing forever.
Here is goes.
Got a personal driver. Mark, Jimmy and myself drove up to the top of the island. Picked up Halena and Wiki in Kendwa. Drove around the parameter of the island heading south. Stopped at the butterfly sanctuary, played with local butterflies. Stopped in Michamwi to get drinks for the road trip. Drove some more. Ended somewhere on the south side of the island at a reggae paradise.
Watched old school Usher and Nelly jams on the t.v. inside the car.
Stepping out of the car, "three little birds" by the great Robert Nesta Marley were the melodies first in the ears.
We walked forward-- a full bar, tree house eating areas, white sanded beaches, reggae music,
lots of rasta's with smiling faces.
It was paradise.
It was beyond paradise.
We spent the afternoon drinking fancy cocktails, dancing to the presented melodies, eating chipis mayai, taking lots of pichas and of course, swimming in the sunset.
The paradise didn't end there.
After hours of driving, showers and roadside food stands… it was time for a night of dancing.
I lost track of time that night and many nights for that matter,
but before I knew it, it was almost four in the morning.
Drenched in sweat from dancing to the point I couldn't dance anymore,
it was time to go home and conclude that day.
if that wasn't epic enough, it was Saturday.
A day to spend at Kendwa Rocks sun bathing, doing acrobatics and of course swimming in the Indian Ocean as the pink and orange sunset glistened overhead!
As if we hadn't danced enough the night before, we were in for an even more exciting dancing adventure.
The night started with traditional African drumming, dancing, acrobatics and then it did happen… a Michael Jackson performance followed by some phenomenal breakdancing.
After those festivities concluded, it was time for the dance party to begin.
There are not words for the dancing that took place that night.
Some force took over my being and regardless of the amount of sweat my body produced,
I could not stop dancing.
Before I knew it, it was time to leave and this time even more so drenched in sweat, I looked as if I had just jumped in the ocean.
What an epic night, what an epic day, what an epic week!
Zanzibar was an experience of a lifetime.
The happiness and complete euphoria I felt that week was one like I had never felt before.
We truly had a Zanzibar family - Halena from Sweden, Wiki from the Netherlands, Jimmy from Zanzibar, Mark from Tanzania and a citizen of Japan and myself from America.
The week was spent in the presence of these individuals, each sharing and adding their experiences to that which we were experiencing at the moment.
If it wasn't hard enough leaving Mafia Island, it became even harder leaving Zanzibar on top of it.
At this moment, I am able to look down at my hands and feet that are covered in Henna and remember the sacred moments of this week.
As always, I am truly so blessed and so thankful!
About a week before leaving Kitomondo, I sat on the concrete floor of my Tanzanian home.
A freshly popped bowl of popcorn sat in my lap, my water bottle to the right.
To the left of me, the backdoor was open.
Looking out, I saw MamaRay de-feathering a kuku (chicken), just moments earlier chased into the chicken coup, strangled and de-headed.
"Ashley, Ashley, karibu, karibu" she said.
I finished what I could of my popcorn, poured the rest back into the community bowl,
walked to the opening of the backdoor and watched.
For the next twenty minutes, I watched in absolute ignorance and wonderment as she cut, tore and broke each portion of the chicken.
"MamaRay, was that his heart?" I said.
"No, not yet." she replied.
It got a little too intense, so I stood up.
"Asante sana MamaRay, asante sana."
"Ashley, wait, the heart, the heart, almost." she replied.
I sat back down and watched for many moments longer.
The heart came, the eggs of the pregnant chicken were revealed, the intestines were stretched, the stomach got cut open and then the skin was pilled.
"They eat a lot of sand!" she said to me as she poured out the contents of the stomach.
Time to rinse the portions of the kuku off and then into a pan of hot water over a large charcoal fire.
I looked at MamaRay, smiled, giggled, said "asante sana!" and went into my bedroom.
For the first time in this existence, I was quite frankly mesmerized
by the reality of a chicken becoming someone's dinner.
Just an hour earlier, this chicken was a pet and now he is protein, a meal, multiple meals for this family.
It wasn't just the chicken keeping my deep attention.
It was the realization of my experience living in a local Tanzanian families home.
Living in a community so different, so incredible new from that of my own.
The kuku becoming dinner was just one moment.
Of one evening.
Of one day.
Of one week.
Of one month in Kitomondo on Mafia Island.
I have been so incredibly humbled and blessed to spend the past 59 days living and teaching on Mafia Island.
A dream in which I've had for as long as I can remember.
A dream in which quickly came.
And now, a dream being concluded.
My dream, this dream.
Teaching in Africa.
Being a part of the motherland.
Although my physical existence on Mafia Island is now no longer,
the love, hope, strength and inspiration in my heart is part of my being.
It is now me.
An addition to me.
This so called me.
So many moments I sit in amazement and reflection.
In wonderment and absolute confusion.
Complete satisfaction and emptiness.
Strength and an embarrassing weakness.
You're too positive.
You're an African woman in training.
You look tired.
Why don't you eat meat?
Do you miss your family?
How do I say this in English?
What do you do back at home?
You are my best friend.
You make me smile.
"Take me with you, take me to America."
Can you stay?
And on and on and on.
It is all a learning experience.
Learning of the self.
Of the world.
Of those in which share all these moments with you.
Back to the self.
Of the self.
With the self.
The past week on Mafia Island was spent living in Magamani, that which consists of fancy camping.
Mangrove, bamboo covered rooms, comfy boat beds and mosquito nets for protection.
There the ocean was just a hop away.
Food was on the table when I woke.
And the other members of the environment were all very welcoming and willing to share their
sea life research and experiments.
I sat in hammocks and read while birds mated above.
Monkeys jumped about in the trees.
And waves crashed just below a sandy set of stairs.
We had an exhausting yet tear dropping send off celebration with the Mafia Island teaching community.
Speeches from those running the program - the head of police, district commissioner and all those in-between.
I jumped with excitement as I turned around and saw MamaDixon.
A very close friend of mine, someone in which I shared complete reciprocation of caring for and being cared for while on the island.
It was a night of being awarded gifts of gratitude, speeches, chakula (food), drinking, dancing
and an abundance of laughter.
Many moments that night I stepped back and took a deep breath.
As yet again, I was is wonderment at the reality of this being my new community, my new family!
People in which I have shared a life long dream.
My last night on the island was far to surreal.
One in which no photos, no video, no explanation could really do justice.
A tree house on an African Island overlooking the Indian Ocean.
With birds whistling everywhere you walk.
Crabs roaming along the sand paths.
Gourmet food on the tables.
Freshly opened bottle of wine on the evening balcony.
Moments in which will not leave my heart.
Sadly, I had to say kwa heri (good bye).
But, just for now.
Tutonana Mafia Island, Tutonana Mafia Island.
We will see each other again soon.
I sit now in a cafe in Dar es Salaam.
People of all nationalities, all cultures roam about on the streets.
In just a matter of hours, I will be leaving the motherland on a ferry to an island within the Indian Ocean.
Going to Zanzibar and exploring that of this supposed culturally and esthetically diverse island.
For now, here you are.
For now, this is what exists.
As always, sending lots of love and positive blessings.
Below are just a couple photos of my last moments on Mafia Island.
Jambo from Tanzania:
Living & Teaching abroad in Mafia Island, Tanzania
In June of 2012.... a dream came true.
I was accepted into a WorldTeach program to teach English in Tanzania on Mafia Island. In late December of 2012, I embarked on a 3 month journey to the motherland! Enjoy this blog as it was designed to share my photographs and adventures while living and teaching
on Mafia Island, Tanzania.