Zanzibar ~ July 10, 2012

Jambo Friends,

I hope you are all doing well and especially hope the heat and fires in Colorado are starting to dissipate.  It’s a very strange thing to see our state on the front cover of the news on the other side of the world.  You’ve all been in my thoughts and prayers.

I am now back in Nairobi.  Deb Gardner and I, along with our husbands spent several days on the beaches of Zanzibar.  We thought going to Safari was a nice step up in our living conditions, but we quickly learned after arriving in Zanzibar that those comforts pale in comparison to what we experienced in Zanzibar.  The beauty and accommodations exceeded our standards beyond our wildest imagination. The 4 of us were still somewhat recovering from a mysterious bug (pretty sure it was the lentils we all ate?), so just having a comfortable bed, electricity and running water was all we really coveted at that point.  Evidently God heard our prayers…….. upon our arrival we were unexpectedly “upgraded” to a private villa, including a butler and daily laundry service.  Of course we took advantage of the laundry service, but couldn’t quite wrap our brains around the whole butler thing.  Mary, our butler, and Harusi our personal maid laughed at us often wondering why we weren’t asking them to cook and clean for us. We were completely satisfied with the all-inclusive choices and were just happy to sit and soak in the sun!

Many people have asked me where Zanzibar is?  It is a unique, coral island located just off the coast of Tanzania, about a 2 hour boat ride using a Dhow from Dar es-Salaam, the capital of Tanzania. Zanzibar was originally an independent country until 1964 when it was united with Tanganyika to form what is now Tanzania.  Presently however, it has it’s own president and degree of autonomy.  It’s heyday came in the early 19th century when the Sultan of Oman moved his court to Zanzibar.  Spice cultivation was developed and the slave trade was at it’s height. Zanzibar became the most important town in East Africa.  The old part of town, known as Stonetown is composed of shady, winding narrow alleys between old stone buildings with decorated entrances and balconies.  The history of one-upmanship is evident when comparing the various buildings. It is a predominately Islamic island splattered with mosques, woman in fully-covered burkas, and the hum of the faithful muslims chanting their prayers numerous times a day.  It is a welcoming community, although snapping pictures and strange stares at our white, uncovered skin is generally looked down upon. So, my apologies that the photos are mainly from the resort we stayed in.

View of Mt. Kilimanjaro from our flight to Zanzibar

Our reception at the Diamonds Gemme’ Del Est resort. Look at those smiles!!

Breathtaking views, immaculate landscaping, and unbelievable trees and plants…wow!

Typical fishermen on an outing…….

Need I say more…………..

Rod and I on our last day…….we had to force those smiles!

Ahh…………

Zanzibar school children, quickly snapped from our taxi ride……………….

So, Deb and her husband have returned home, my husband is currently in transit back home as I write this, and now I am waiting in Nairobi to join the Philips family to begin our last venture out to Maasailand to work in our school, Ronesa.  It will be great to get back there as I’ve missed the kids and community very much these last few weeks.  I will purchase some plastic chairs, utensils, and a few more uniforms using donations from our wonderful Shaffer Community. The Philips family has brought the gift of music with them as each child at our school will receive their own recorder.  I can hardly wait for them to experience Mzungu’s music!   We also have, “an occasion day,” on Thursday where the school community will show their appreciation and love for our Shaffer community back home.  If it’s anything like last year, I know we are in for a very humbling experience.  There will be Maasai dancing, speeches, lots of goat/Chai of course, and being adorned in their beautiful jewelry as a symbol of their love and thanks.  It’s always tough receiving their gifts because it is their livelihood……..BUT, it is also understood the necessity of doing so.

I have been here for a month now and while I miss my family A LOT, I look forward to ending this amazing journey with my Maasai family and friends this final week here. I will spend that time working in both Ronesa and Olosho-Oibor (the government school close to Ronesa). We will also be visiting many bomas from the families of Ronesa students, and we also have a few more goats and chickens to deliver.  How blessed am I?!

Hope you all have a wonderful week.  Know that while far away, I keep you all close in my thoughts and prayers. It’s what keeps the distance from overwhelming me! :>)

Love, hugs, and prayers!

Julie