A Week in Nungwi

Since by some accounts (mostly mom’s) I have been AWOL, I guess I
should account for my time here in Zanzibar.
A week has slipped by at Nungwi beach. The days blur together like
the evening’s sunset colors, but here are some distinct memories I’ll
fold into one of my new wrinkles:

Morning: The imam’s calls and crows’ caws float through the open
windows of my room. My bed, shrouded in blue mosquito net, is still
damp—everything seems damp—and there appears no hope of drying it out.
Hamish brings my breakfast at my oceanside table, and each morning I
contemplate whether to sip my tea or fresh mango juice first. It seems
life in Nungwi is full of monumental decisions like this.

I walk to East Africa Dive Center, passing Massai men and vendors
selling squid, sunglasses and seashells. “Jambo!” they call to me.
“Mambo!” I reply.

The boat scuttles over the turquoise waters as we head to Mnemba
island. I don my BCD, pop my regulator in my mouth, adjust my mask and
flip over the side of the boat into the warm waters. Each of the four
dives finds me nauseously nervous for a few minutes. I’m breathing.
Underwater. This. Is. Scary. And I remember to breathe and look around
me: a liquid safari.

A chapatti with tomato and cheese, another flip backwards off the
boat—I’m gaining competence now, and confidence; was even willing to
rip my mask off without a second thought.

It’s an hour and a half boat ride back to the dive shop. Sometimes the
sun strikes and we stretch out on the wooden dhow; sometimes the skies
weep and we shiver under the orange netting. Either way, our boat
chases other dhows sailing back from snorkeling, their oversized white
sheets full of a home wind.

Late Afternoon: Another decision—to write, to read or to sit. Most
often, I opt for the sitting, taking in the beach scene in front of
me. Local men play a game of pickup futbol; another group grabs an
oversized tire, place it in front of a sand break, run up to it,
flip, jump, twist and twirl off of it in an acrobatic display.

An hour before the sun sets, two calls go out in Nungwi. First, the
imam chants again. Second, taarob music pulses at Cholo’s; both, a
call to prayer. I choose the temple of sand and hammock and
Kilimanjaro beer. Kick my feet up at the Arab/Indian/Afro music and
contemplate the dolphins I swam with or the cluster of lion fish I
spotted. Only once this week has a proper sunset shown her face; just
last night, she cast a pink glow across the sea.

When the day’s light begins to fade, the women of the village, clad in
their brightly colored fabrics and head wraps, walk down the beach.
The twenty or so of them wade into the water, fully clothed, and enclose
their fishing net around a shifting continent of water. If you look
closely enough, you can see their skits swish with the waves.

Evening: A walk down the beach and a game of pick up volleyball.
Luckily, no one seems too serious, and the game pauses sporadically
for beer breaks. The village fisherman navigate their boats out toward
the horizon, and by the time I sit down to my fish dinner (caught that
morning) fourteen to thirty lights glow far out on the sea. After a
night of fishing, the men will take their catch to the fish market,
where a loud shout, a crisp shilling and a wiggle to the front will
fetch a fresh king fish.

It’s back to Cholo’s bar, where the music has morphed into Britany and
all the other delightful American exports. Candles drip wax on each of
the four dugout canoes, which serve as tables and chairs. Diving,
volleyball, and other acquaintances find themselves here at the end of
the night; we discuss the day’s drudgery and the potential of actually
leaving the island. Often, we decide that figuring out how to leave is
work for the morning.

Late at night, I take myself back to my room. It’s twenty-five feet
from the beach, and it’s hard to determine whether the music from
Cholo’s or the ocean waves make more noise. Either way, I crawl back
into my damp bed, happy to repeat the day’s adventures again.


3 Responses to “A Week in Nungwi”

  1. 1 Melissa
    July 30, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    Welcome to the wonderful world of diving!!! Congrats, miss Linsey!!!

  2. 2 Gio
    July 31, 2008 at 3:40 am

    Nice imagery, I could see it all, but keep the stories coming!

  3. 3 Romy Hudes
    August 3, 2008 at 3:31 am

    Hi! Your mom is a friend of mine and has shared your website with me. You are doing what I only dream of. Even though I don’t know you, I am happy for you and jealous!

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