Zanzibar

//Zanzibar

Zanzibar

School closed for the June/July holidays of 2011. A brave group of 13 girls and 5 teachers, from Our Lady of Fatima Dominican Convent School in Durban North, led by an even braver Sr Dominique, made their way to the exotic Island of Zanzibar.  We had been preparing for and looking forward to this trip for the past nine months and now our hopes and dreams were about to be realized.

While preparing for the trip we were asked many times, “Why a school trip to Zanzibar? Isn’t it just a beach holiday?”  We tried to convince people that Zanzibar is an Island with a long and interesting history. They also take ecology seriously, preserving their forests, mangroves and sea life e.g. turtles.  The people are poor but they earn an income from: tourism, fishing, farming (bananas – 22 different kinds, coconuts, rice, cassava, and other tropical fruit) and from their amazing wood carving.  They carve the most beautiful and intricate wooden doors, beds and boxes from Teak, Mahogany and Palm.

Community is extremely important in the Swahili culture.  They support one another and share the little they have with each other.  In this way no one goes hungry. If there is excess of one product then it is either shared with a neighbour or sold on the roadside to earn some income. Fresh fish is easily obtained.

Many shopkeepers tried to persuade us to enter their shop because as they said ‘looking is for free!’  Of course the bargaining began as soon as you entered the premises! The Stonetown Market was not for the faint hearted … especially when one made one’s way through the smelly fish section!!

What I enjoyed most about Stonetown was being able to observe the people of Zanzibar as they went about their daily lives. Children were going to or coming from school. Women were buying food for the day and men were delivering milk, bread, fish, chicken or palm leaves on the back of bicycles, mopeds and cattle drawn carts.

Another day we took a boat ride – on a traditional Dhow – to Prison Island.  This Island housed ‘difficult’ slaves.  Thankfully it is now a sanctuary for 100 – 180 year old tortoises that we were allowed to feed and stroke. I wonder what some of these tortoises would have to say if they could speak!

Our most memorable outing was the Swahili Culture Tour.  We stopped at a school that captured our hearts. There were 65 learners in a class. The classrooms had walls but no windows. If the weather is really bad then the children are sent home.  Their medium of teaching and learning is English. Swahili is one of their subjects but they do not learn anything else using their home language.  The learners asked us questions about South Africa and our girls performed a 2010 Soccer World Cup song for them.  We then gave each student an exercise book and a couple of sweets which they received gratefully. They have a large shortage of exercise books, stationery and Library books.  We hope to return to Zanzibar next year to help our new ‘sister’ school and in so doing make teaching and learning a little easier for them

We visited the Anglican Cathedral which was built on the sight of the original slave market. Slavery was rife in Zanzibar until Dr David Livingstone helped to abolish it in 1873.  Next door to the Cathedral one can enter the slave chambers where the slaves were kept in appalling conditions.

Next we were taken on a guided tour of Stonetown where the buildings are built of coral rock. Its narrow winding streets often gave the feeling of being lost in a rabbit’s warren.

We visited the Anglican Cathedral which was built on the sight of the original slave market. Slavery was rife in Zanzibar until Dr David Livingstone helped to abolish it in 1873.  Next door to the Cathedral one can enter the slave chambers where the slaves were kept in appalling conditions.

That afternoon we drove to a spice farm and were given the opportunity to taste, feel and smell many different spices.  These spices are mostly exported.

From the school we were taken to a local village where the women prepared a traditional meal for us, showed us into their homes and introduced us to their children.

I have seldom experienced such hospitality and from people who have so little.  Their children need clothes and shoes and kept looking at ours.  This is another little thing we may be able to help with.

We can’t clothe the whole of Zanzibar or provide enough books for all the schools but we hope that the little we will do will make a difference to a few.

We had the opportunity to snorkel over some beautiful Reefs and view such colourful fish and starfish.  I was also unfortunate enough to be stung by a Jelly Fish … all is well bar a few scars!  We got to see the Zanzibar Red Colobus Monkey which is unique to Zanzibar and walk through their Rainforests and Mangrove swamps.  We also experienced a sunset cruise from Stonetown.  The sunrises and sunsets of Zanzibar are awe inspiring.

That little Island taught us so much in a short time … let’s hope that we can give something back to them when we return!

Sister Dominique

2011-09-05T10:44:41+00:00