Zanzibar. As I sit here snuggled up in my sweatpants by the fireplace, surrounded by my laptop and I-phone and heaters and all things first-world, it seems almost surreal that just a few weeks ago I was sitting in my mosquito net with no water. It makes me sad—that a place so close to my heart feels so far away. The fact that Zanzibari culture is so very, very different made it so much more frustrating and challenging to live in, but it also makes it so much easier to miss because I can’t find reminders in my daily life. I miss Buthaina, my host sister, sneaking into my room to play with my adopted kitten. I miss sitting in the back of a dala-dala—public transportation in the form of trucks that fit about 40 despite being meant for 15—smushed and unable to breathe. I miss eating with my hands and waking up at 5 to my mom banging pots and speaking in Swahili without even thinking about it. I miss the Tanzanian sky and the ancient architecture and the pure white sand. I even miss the Zanzibari passive aggressiveness and the way that my host mother always forced me to drink excessively sugary juice with every meal.
The icing on the cake to my time abroad was the fact that my parents got to come visit the week after my program ended! I wanted them to experience everything, so we split our time into 3 sections: a safari on the mainland, a few days in Stone Town, and a few days on the East side of the island where the best beaches are! The entire week was incredible, and on the first night when we ate with my massive host family it was such a wonderful feeling to see my two worlds collide at last. Zanzibar was full of amazing memories and people (and a special kitty who I took home with me!). Although not a typical crazy study abroad semester, my time on the island taught me more than I ever thought possible in 4 months. Before coming to Zanzibar, I had never thought about the fact that having fun is a privilege, one that not all people have, or about what it means to be a woman in a society where women are not treated with the same freedoms to which I am accustomed. I learned what it means to be surrounded by certain laws and beliefs that might infuriate you, and how to form relationships with others despite these gaps. I think the best thing Zanzibar taught me was that sometimes we really do just need to take it one day at a time. I’m working on developing a women’s empowerment project in Zanzibar and will hopefully be back in August—until then, nakupenda Zanzibar. Usinisahau. I love you Zanzibar. Don’t forget me. Next stop: Costa Rica! Stay tuned for my semester in Central America.