Monday, 8 August 2011

The Congo Comes to Stone Town

Marie France and I outside the Livingston Cafe in Stone Town
On Saturdays we usually go into Stone Town (the de facto capital and about 60 km away on excellent recently paved roads) to do the food and supplies shopping for the school.  Just before we set out, I was chomping on a guava in the garden of the school, when this Indian guy shows up and introduces himself as Vivek.  He wanted to borrow a laptop or a USB cable to download his pictures, because his memory card on his camera was full.  Turns out he is a helicopter pilot with the UN peacekeeping force in Goma in the Congo.  I lent my USB cable and told him to throw it over the wall of the school when he was done as we had to leave . 

Stone Town is a 1 hour drive unless you take a Dala Dala (public "buses") which will take more like 3-4 hours, seriously test the strength of your anti-perspirant, and you may have firewood, chickens and a bunch of bananas in your lap and a baby to burp.  On the way saw some indigenous red colobus monkeys (indigenous to Zanzibar) and Umu (one of our ex-students) taught me some basic Kiswahili which I wrote on a piece of paper and laundered it by mistake (so now my blue khakis is covered in white paper fuzz balls).  While shopping in the public market I bought an orange and started eating it, forgetting it was Ramadan (month of fasting for Muslims) and got scolded for eating in public.  There was no way I was giving up this orange - so I hid between two vehicles and finished it off.  Sine then suggested that we go to the Zanzibar Coffee House for a latte, which turned out to be one of the best I've ever had and also the passion fruit tort. From there we walked a bit through Stone Town and headed for Archipelago - a popular restaurant on the waterfront where I was supposed to meet my good friend Marie France Guimond, who is currently working in the Congo with IRC.  When I got there, much to my horror it was closed and with no cell phone or way to contact her, I hung around the corner (trying not to look like a Jean and Dinah) for about 45 minutes (avoiding all sorts of souvenir sellers, boat rides and some offers which I am certain is still illegal in Texas).

Marie-France and I did our MA in International Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa together and we had not seen each other in a couple years.  She did show up and we went to the Livingston CafĂ© nearby and had a drink and spent the next two hours catching up. I told her the story of helicopter pilot soon after on our way back to catch our ride home, we ran into him and one of his colleagues. Marie France sometimes hitches rides with the UN helicopters so who knows, she might invited out for some chappati and a tikka masala all the way in the Congo.  On my way back home I thought- I just moved to the other side of the world, I’ve been here barely one week and already I am meeting up with friends and making new ones.  Won’t be long now before I teach them about “liming” and “Sparrow” and of course “Jean and Dinah”!!


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