Well, I’ll start off by saying that my family thinks I have a serious fear of octopus. Considering Zanzibar is an island, seafood here is a huge part of the diet—I had the opportunity to go to the fish market with my host mom and quickly realized that despite being from New England, I’d never seen so much fish in my life. We bought a giant squid which I proceeded to carry around for about an hour (squid juice all over your clothes is surprisingly not as gross as I thought it might be) as well as the fateful octopus. That night, we ate said octopus, which I wholeheartedly tried but just didn’t like too much. So my host mother asked if I’m afraid of the octopus, and, thinking that she was kidding, I laughed and said yes and continued eating my meal. Didn’t think of it again until 2 days ago when my host sister Shemsa came into the room with octopus…all of a sudden my mother begins screaming for Shemsa to leave the room because “Zuhura is afraid of octopus.” I tried to explain that I’m not actually afraid of a cooked plate of octopus but alas, she still thinks I have a deathly fear and now makes me sit in a separate room when the family eats octopus. Oh, Zanzibar.
More about home—great news is that my host sister has come in second place in a national science competition! Now she will be sponsored for the rest of her secondary education; she has three years left. I am so proud of and excited for her. I’d definitely have to say that she is my best Zanzibari friend here, and as the youngest child in my family back in America it’s kind of nice trying out the whole having a younger sister thing. Today we were at the market together running some errands when a man that my sister was buying from asked who I was. After being told that I was her sister, he got extremely confused and clearly did not believe us. “How is that?” he asked. Shemsa replied that we had the same father but different mother—I nodded the whole time and occasionally added a few words in my best Swahili accent possible. Finally, the man looked at us closely and conceded, “Oh yes, I suppose I do see a resemblance.” We had convinced him! We walked away arm in arm and burst out laughing as we turned the corner. I then bought tende—my guilty pleasure here in Zanzibar. Apparently it comes from some tree in the Sahara desert. It’s kind of like a date but different and sweeter but has the whole raisin around a nut feel. They are SO good and once I start I just can’t stop!
These moments—carrying a giant squid, arguing with a man at the market that I really am Shemsa’s sister, buying tende from a street vendor and hoping my stomach won’t regret it later—these are the moments that shape my experience every day. Zanzibar is still a challenge but I find that the more time that passes, the more I find things that allow me to transform this island from a place to a home. Getting ready for a wedding tonight! Another update to come tomorrow about the big holiday that’s just happened– Eid– and my family!