Well, I appologize again for such a long wait between posts. However, I have been traveling with limited internet access.
I stayed in Stone Town for a few days. I was sick again, as many of you heard, so I wasn't up for much more than walking around and chilling. But it is my rest/vacation period anyway, so I didn't feel bad about it. One day I toured the Anglican Cathedral built on the site of the old slave market over a hundred years ago. This was an incredible experience. I have seen many of the European cathedrals with all their grandeur, but this one takes the prize for symbolic meaning. The church is not shinning or well kept, but like most buildings in Stone Town looks its age. It has construction flaws, is falling down in some places, and many of the windows are broken. But for some reason, it has a beauty which I can't quite express. It stands as a testament to overcoming the slave trade, the power of God in a place of darkness. The destruction of the slave trade pulled many Africans into Christianity, something not predominant before in the Muslim Omani Zanzibar. Still, Christianity has never taken too large a hold in Zanzibar, as 95% of the population is Muslim.
Another evening, I went to the market at Jodhani Park along the waterfront. Here fresh seafood is served and cooked by vendors by candlelight. It was crazy, beautiful, and smelled fantastic. I ate prawns, lobster, and baracuda, all of which tasted exquisite. Sugar cane juice was a great chaser before heading back to the hostel for an early night.
As I said, much of my time in Stone Town was spent walking the streets or resting. I met some interesting people while here, and I was proposed by two women one of the evenings. A little straightforward I thought, but whatever. Apparently some women are just looking for a white guy to get them out of here. Respectfully (and quickly) I declined their offers, feeling rather awkward about the whole thing.
I left Stone Town on the 28th to head to Paje on the East coast of the island. I stayed at a small hotel about 50 yards from the beach. I had a backpacker's bunk room to myself, which was great. I spent some time on the beach that first day, just sitting and admiring the white sand and turquiose blue waters. Looking East, I imagined Australia only about 7000 miles away. I grabbed a beer and a quick dinner before heading to bed. I was a little tired and I had a busy and tiring few days ahead.
On the 29th, I began SCUBA diving. The first day was refresher training in the pool, which was pretty boring, but on the 30th, we headed out into the ocean. We stayed inside the reef at a place called the lagoon. SCUBA diving is like sinking into a whole other world you didn't know existed, a dream world which seems so colorful and fantastic it can't be real. When you come up from the dive, it is like waking up back into the real world again, and all you want to do is dive again.
The 30th and 31st were spent on training dives in the lagoon, but the 1st of August we headed out of the reef to Makanda. This dive spot is about 30 meters deep and is on the outside edge of the Zanzibari reef. We descended into a place unlike any I had ever seen. I have never dove that deep before, so this was a new experience again. Being much darker, things come out of nowhere at you. You are drifting along and all of a sudden, a wall of coral or a school of fish comes right up in front of you. There are also the hidden things you only see if you pay attention, the lionfish, the sea snakes, and the sting rays hiding beneath the rocks (I saw all three on this dive).
We dove a second time at another site not far away. Between the dives was about an hour of letting the excess nitrogen escape our blood, and being in the open sea was not good for many of us. I got a little seasick, but after it "passes" you feel much better. We reviewed the procedures for vomitting underwater and headed back into the water for another amazing dive. This time we could faintly hear dolphins, but we never saw them. With their vision and sonar, they probably saw us coming from a long way off and were gone long before we could see them.
Diving was fantastic, and a great break from studying and traveling. My final for the course was taken while sipping a mojito on the beach, which I find to be the recommended way for taking any final exam in the future. Yesterday, I left the coast and came back to Stone Town. I stayed in the same hostel last night and I am just about to leave for the airport now. I am flying to Nairobi this afternoon and meeting up with the EcoTraining group tomorrow morning.
I will spend the month of August at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy North of Nairobi. I appologize, but I will be without internet access from tomorrow until August 31st. I will not be posting on the blog and I will not be returning any emails. I know many of you rely on my for your daily entertainment, but where there is no electricity, the internet cannot go. I believe I will be able to make an occasional phone call, so I may be able to check in with my parents, so if you are desperate to know my whereabouts and condition, talk to them and they might know. Otherwise, I am planning to post as soon as I return to Nairobi on the 31st or the 1st of September.
Enjoy the remainder of your summer, have a great beginning of a new school year. I will talk to you all in a month.