First Impressions

Henna has not taken a single photo yet, so she borrowed this one from Erik Jackson to go along with her blog. Check out this great resource for all things Zanzibar,

Toronto – Montreal – Toronto – Dar-es-Salam – Zanzibar

My life has been a whirlwind for the past year or so, in context to my seemingly stagnant lifestyle living within my extended family in Toronto suburbia, that is. You see, I moved out on my own for the very first time at the age of 25, où j’ai etudiée la langue du français dans une programme intensif. Directly preceding my final exams, I moved back to the city full of identical homes, and within 24 hours, was on a seemingly endless flight to Dar-es-Salaam for the very first time. Now, here I am, exhausted after my first daladala (public transport) day, writing this blog post during a blackout in Zanzibar. Life is vraiment fou and I have turned out blessed, indeed.

Social Worker functioning from an Anti-Oppressive Framework or not – in retrospect, I must admit that I came to Tanzania with my own stereotypes and misunderstandings. For example, I never would have guessed that Dar-es-Salam might as well be Pakistan within Africa. Here is a list of interesting observations that have slapped some form of reality in my face, during the past four days:

  1. On my first night in Dar, our fantastic YCI staff took another volunteer and myself out for dinner at a beautiful Beach Club near our hotel. As we sat sipping Stone Tangawizi (ginger beer), waiting for our food to arrive, I found myself listening to my childhood on Shuffle. Not really, but it felt that way. Brandy, Monica, SWV, L. L. Cool J, Ace is Base, Aqua, Blackstreet, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, even “because I’m a FREAK!”…
  2. It is commonplace to say/hear “Hakuna Matata” here. It’s not just a Lion King pop culture reference, it’s a lifestyle.
  3. Tanzanis and Zanzibaris love them some Bollywood. Also, it is possible to be mistaken for Aishwariya Rai – true story.
  4. Whether in Canada or not, I can never fully be “really Kanadian”.
  5. Football (Canadians read soccer) is taken VERY seriously.
  6. Tanzania is widely known to have the nicest people in Africa. Not that I have been anywhere else in Africa, but I would definitely support this claim thus far.
  7. Salutations are extremely important – everyone trades “jambo”, “hujambo”, “shikamoo”, etc, with grand smiles on their faces.
  8. Children love us “mzungus” (foreigners).
  9. Chai does not need milk, fellow desis – spiced chai is drunk religiously here.
  10. The tourism industry is a powerful thing.
  11. South Asians can and will find one another no matter where we are – love to the Torontonian sisters/fellow case workers that I met while waiting for the ferry, and Satsriakal to the Paajii that found me on the ferry –  somehow with my suitcase in hand.

Much, much more on Zanzibar to follow. I hope Swahili does not erase my past year of French, or my past 25 years of Urdu. Dear Zanz, I cannot wait to savour every moment.

-Henna Khawja, Youth Ambassador, Tanzania 2012


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