Volunteer Interview – Karmen

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Karmen from Australia, age 36 who has an infectious laugh, loves travelling, meeting new people and shopping, has been volunteering at Al Qawiyyi School and Zanzibar Youth Alliance.

What have kind of activities have you been doing as a volunteer?

I have been assisting the teacher in different classes each week such as nursery, form 2 and standard 2 at school and I have been helping the womans group with cooking at the youth centre.

What made you volunteer with Arts in Tanzania? What has been the best part of being with Arts in Tanzania?

I wanted to volunteer because I am looking for a change career but have been unsure about what I want to move onto. The travel agent in Australia recommended real gap to volunteer through. The best part of being with Art In Tanzania has been meeting people in the house that I wouldn’t otherwise meet.

What have you liked about assisting in Al Quwiyyi School and Zanzibar Youth Alliance youth centre?

I’ve enjoyed the interaction with the children and learning Arabic and Swahili. I’ve also enjoyed learning about Ramadan and Eid. At the youth centre I’ve enjoyed learning to cook dishes I never knew how through the woman’s group. So much so I could open an African restaurant in Australia!

Has the experience changed you as a person?

Yes, it has made me more appreciative of what I have at home. Before I left I was thinking of going into social work and the experience has confirmed this.

What advice would give to volunteers wanting to teach-volunteer?

  1. Just do it
  2. It does take a few days for the children to open up so it makes a difference if you stay longer at the school. I planned to do 8 weeks, but you could do 4 weeks.
  3. Have a few resources such as educational games to help you in the classroom
  4. Be open to experiencing something different by exploring the Island after school and at the weekend to get the most out of your time.
  5. If you’re travelling alone it is better to stay in a volunteer house and if you’re female then be prepared to wear a headscarf and full dress in school and perhaps when you are out.

 

 

Spice Tour

Spice is an essential ingredient of Zanzibarian culture therefore a visit to Zanzibar is not complete without a (half day) spice tour. With the abolition of the slave trade, spices became a source of income for Zanzibar and it remains to be so, with the island being the biggest exporter of cloves.

Our guide and spice farmer, Mr Abeid, who inherited the spice farm from his late father, took us on a fragrant and delightful journey of exploration along his show farm, which is around 800 acres; he has his larger farm close by. Mr Abid was very informative and charmingly engaging as well as entertaining with the help of his assistant ”Maria”.

I love my spices and was still pleasantly surprised by how the spices were grown, how they were used and their benefits in cooking and for general health.

We started with the Annato plant; a natural orange-red colouring that comes from the seeds and is used in food, lipstick and the vermillion that Hindu’s use on their forehead (modelled by ‘Maria’).

Did you know that cloves actually grow on trees, and need to be dried for five days in the sun to be black in colour? Same with peppercorns, they grow on trees. Also interestingly the island has cacoa trees, but they import their chocolate and make coco powder for hot chocolate. However they export Zanzibar coffee to Arab countries, it’s a strong flavour.

We had Ylang Ylang flowers crushed into our hands, used many well known perfumes like Channel No 5. They have a small stall selling some of their own produce which is a must see, including Ylangi Ylangi oil.

There is one fruit, you will either love or loathe like marmite – the Durian aka the stink fruit. You might not want to be near one should it drop to the floor!

Lunch was provided, cooked by local women…this was the best food I’d tasted at the time of writing. You really need to go and experience it for yourself. We asked for a recipe (measurements all to taste!)

Pilau rice

In a pan fry a bit of cinnamon, black pepper, cumin, cardamom, then add crushed garlic and sliced onions – cook until brown.

Transfer this to a pressure cooker and add washed rice and quartered potatoes with water to cover the rice. This should take up to 30 minutes. You could leave it in the original pan and cook it on the hob or put it in a Moroccan tagine clay dish to cook in the oven.

Serve rice with Kingfish dry cooked in a mix of spices. We had side dishes of mixed vegetables cooked in coconut milk and a pinch of turmeric. Also a spicy tomato sauce cooked in coconut oil plus cassava leaves mixed with coconut milk to make a spinach dish. Delicious. We were served water and lemon grass tea to accompany our meal.

Take a walk in Stone Town

We follow our tour guide, Elvis, through a maze of narrow alleyways of small businesses, hotels and residential spaces with locals, tourists (and vespas!) in what used to be the capital of Zanzibar. You’ll see how these African streets embrace cultures from the Arabs, Indians and Europeans through design. It is no surprise that Stone Town is an UNESCO World Heritage site. The buildings, made from Zanzibar’s coral stone, are ornately decorated with beautiful carved timber doors. You’ll find two styles of doors, Arab (square tops) and Indian (arched tops), both a symbol of protection and security but also a door into Zanzibar’s history.

Arab and Indian merchants, through the spice and slave trade, constructed Stone Town in the 19th century. Before then the Portuguese came and built a fort to protect their settlements in the 16th century. During the tour you will see the slave chambers in the former slave market site – now a museum recording the slave trade with a poignant sculpture outside the building by the artist Clara Sornos titled ‘memory of the slave’.

The old fort is now a centre for arts and culture showcasing events and performances. Look for the post on the International Film Festival. Near the fort you’ll pass Forodhani Gardens, which holds an evening food market all year round – here you should try the Zanzibar pizza and see it made right in front of you. You will also pass the House of Wonders – wonders because it was the first building in Africa to have an elevator! It is now closed due to building repair. The building used to be taller but it got destroyed in the world’s shortest war that lasted less than an hour, between two brothers…you might want to ask your tour guide about that one.

Along the tour you’ll see local markets selling all sorts including fruits, vegetables, spices. Look for the post on the spice tour.

One little known fact of Zanzibar is that it’s the birthplace of Freddie Mercury; you can look for Mercury House to find out more.

The narrow streets of Stone Town fall dark come nightfall, so walk in groups if you decide to stay out late. Be carful and vigilant, it is a very busy environment, especially around sunset, if you are female, you may attract unwanted attention.

Stone Town is the perfect place to buy gifts for family and friends, eat lunch – try 6 degrees for a seaview (a sit down restaurant at tourist prices with one hour free wifi) or Lukmaans near the former slave market (a budget buffet at local prices) and ask for Salim for a great service. If you want to see the sun set go grab a juice at Sunset bar, be sure to go a little early before the best seats are taken, or go to the Floating Restaurant and watch it from the pier.

Safari!

One thing I had to do during my time in Tanzania was go on a Safari. I wanted to see with my own eyes what I’d seen on television and in books so many times before. I had booked a three day trip that would show me a local Maasai village, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Lake Manyara.

My trip started with a four hour car ride from the volunteer house to the Maasai village. Here I met some of the local people, saw their homes, learned about their way of life and how they’re adapting to modern times. We met people from all over the village, from the chief with thirty wives to all the children, many of whom were working with the goats and cows. It was amazing to see such a different way of life with my own eyes, a personal highlight for me was seeing some Baobab trees with their vast water storing trunks swelling to hold enough water to get through the dry season.

From the village we continued in the car for a short while until we reached the camp site, our base for the next two nights. At the camp site we were provided with brilliant food, a swimming pool and hot showers, making it the perfect place for us to recover from the days of game driving.

The next morning saw a relatively early start as we set off to reach the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This was the place I was most excited to see on my trip as it is somewhere I studied extensively at school back in the UK. Having read about the area before visiting I had high expectations, these were instantly met as soon as we entered the large crater. The animals were everywhere meaning that my guide Ben was constantly having to stop the car to let me observe and take photos of my stunning surroundings. By the time we stopped for lunch I’d already seen four of the most famous animals in the park, the buffalo, lion, rhino and elephant. From the lunch spot we drove back through the conservation area, getting up close and personal with more animals until we reached the view point on the crater rim. Here we could see the entire crater in all its glory, it was certainly worth all the driving!

On the way home we stopped off at some local shops, this allowed me to see regional products and even meet the people who were making them, see their tools and the processes that all the crafted items go through.

The final day started with a very short drive to the Lake Manyara national park. Here I was hoping to see giraffes and some elephants. Once again I wasn’t disappointed, soon after entering the park we saw two male elephants fighting in the forest. Just around the corner from them we were greeted by a herd of giraffes and shortly after that we saw a family of elephants, including a young calf walking through the forest. Along with these animal sightings we were treated to striking views of the lake and saw many of the local water birds. After this it was back to the campsite for our final hot lunch, and then the drive back to Moshi.

I would strongly encourage anybody visiting Tanzania to visit some of the safari spots and really appreciate the animals in their natural habitats. A special thanks to my driver and guide Ben, without his experienced eye I wouldn’t have even spotted half of the animals I managed see!

Kilimanjaro climb!

One of the biggest draws to Tanzania was the opportunity to climb Africa’s highest mountain, Mt. Kilimanjaro!

On the 23rd of July my six day adventure along the Machame route began. The three of us started on a fairly easy trail through the picturesque rainforest for about 4.5hours until we reached the first camp. Here we were met by our porters and chef who had already set up the tents and prepared a hot meal for us. This quickly became the routine for us over the next three days as we climbed up the mountain passing steep rocky ascents and alpine deserts along the way. Throughout the hike we were treated to fantastic views including the arrow glacier and lava tower, plenty of great food and brilliant service from all of the climb team.

Eventually we made it to the Barafu camp which stands at 4673m, this would act as our base camp for the summit attempt later that night. Then at about 11pm we set off into the dark towards the peak with only our head torches lighting the path in front of us. The steepness, dark and cold made this by far the most difficult part of the climb. It seemed to take forever but we finally reached Stella point, from here we knew that there was only an hour of relatively easy climbing to go. Sure enough, just under an hour later we made it to the summit and all of our hard work was rewarded as we watched the sunrise above the mountain. For a short while we weren’t tired or cold, just elated at what we had achieved.

However, reality soon kicked in and so after about 10 minutes at the top we started to make our way back down. The loose gravel surface made the first part of the descent very tough, but we stuck at it and finally made it back to base where we could truly reflect on what we’d just achieved. Then after a short period of rest we went down for another two hours where we made camp for the final time. Here we had a brilliant view of the summit which really put what we had achieved into perspective.

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After our final night on the mountain the only thing left was an easy descent through the rainforest. Here we saw various species of monkey who distracted us from our tired legs and made the last few hours that little bit easier.

When we finally made it to the bottom all three of us were given our golden certificates for making it all the way to the Uhuru peak at 5895m above sea level, the feeling of achievement I had at that moment is one that’ll I’ll never forget. I cannot recommend climbing Kilimanjaro enough to anyone, if you think you’re up to the challenge then give it ago, it might be one of the best things you ever do!

The climb itself would not have been possible without the help of our expert guides, cook and porters, what they all did for us throughout the climb was honestly amazing. From carrying incredible amounts of kit all the way up to the mountain, preparing us fantastic food and putting up with our complaining all the way up, I cannot praise them enough!

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Matt Jones

Weekend Safari trip organized by Art in Tanzania

Going on safari in Tanzania if you visit Africa is almost as compulsory required as a trip to Zanzibar. So a group of three already well settled in interns decided to go on a weekend safari provided by the organization. The preparation and arrangement of the trip was well organized. One week before we were registered by a Team leader for the journey. The payment was due to three days before we were leaving on Friday. The short briefing two day before we left hold by our actual safari guide was pretty informative and helpful in terms of what to pack or activity related questions. On Friday after the breakfast we left in our safari jeep to our first stop our accommodation for the first night. On the way to the place we passed the park entrance next to several animals and hers of impalas, monkeys, giraffes and elephants. After the first night we started early at half past seven to our game drive at the Mikumi National Park where we had the chance to spot buffaloes, zebras, hippos and a variety of many more species. In the evening we drove to the second station in the rainforest, to the Udzungwa Mountains National Park. At this park we had the chance to see numerous primates and a big amount of other plants and animals during our hike to the waterfalls as the park has also been dubbed the African Galapagos for its vast variety of endemic species. In the afternoon we went on the way back to Madale at Wazo hill. Summing up for all of us it was a quite pleasant weekend trip organized and conducted by Art in Tanzania.

 

Beach day- Mahaba

With the festival of Ramadan coming to end the volunteers and interns were treated to a day off, which many of us used as an excuse to visit the beautiful Mahaba beach.

With the beach being so close to the volunteer house it seemed like the perfect place to go. After paying our 3000 shilling entrance fee we walked onto the beach to be greeted by hammocks, a small bar and lots of quirky seating.

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The staff at the bar were very friendly and the locals were very welcoming, one even climbed all the way to the top of one of the coconut trees to get us some coconuts to eat and drink!

We were provided with some great food that consisted of freshly caught local fish, and two huge platters of fries.

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Most of the day was spent relaxing on the beach, playing some beach games or swimming in the ocean. It was a great way for everyone to recover from the ‘Konyagi Tuesday’ that went down the night before!

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Mahaba beach if definitely somewhere I would recommend future Art In Tanzania volunteers and interns, it makes for an easy day trip and provides plenty of opportunities to take some great photos. A special thanks to the staff at the bar for being so welcoming, Jimmy (another intern) for a couple of the photos, and to Moses for driving us all there and back.