With one foot over the proverbial threshold, I observe this place with the forgiving nostalgia of things already past.
The daily greetings—long and impossible to translate (in all honesty, I don’t know the meanings so much as the sense)—through which I finally navigate with ease after months in the region.
|For Travellers: Next door to my home, Kipangani Villa.
The familiarity of Hafizi, the vegetable guy, Chef, the owner of “Chef’s Baking Shop,” and several other business owners and neighbors who, day by day, have slowly accepted my presence in their world—though I will never “fit in” here. To a few, I am not anonymous—more than a transient foreign face—and that means something.
|Chef’s Baking Shop (and Restaurant).
|Hafizi, the vegetable (and fruit) guy.
My hard-won comfort—with the basics of Ki-Swahili; with the daily trials of moving through an unfamiliar cultural and physical landscape; with all the tiny frustrations that sometimes build… and sometimes fade into irrelevance.
|The neighborhood cow.
|Road to my house.
The herds of cows on uneven dirt tracks, which I pass through on my borrowed bicycle with its one brake and working bell on my way to work; the brief but regular power outages and occasional mysterious absence of water in the taps; the proliferation of rambutan spiders, mangos and goats and the scarcity of apples, cheese pets and pavement; the trash cart hitched to a skinny cow, the call to prayer at sundown and the rocks that bite holes in my sandals.
All of it—tiny details insignificant to some, inconveniences to others—to me, these minutiae are the source of my nostalgia. They are symbols, signifying that I am “there”: someplace far far older than I, but new to me. Not “here” in the familiar, alike, easy—“elsewhere,” and thriving in it.
And then there are the sunsets over the ocean, the orange-gold breeze as I teach yoga, the palm trees and the beach; the sumptuous Arabic-style décor of restaurants that charge less than MacDonald’s for a feast, the silhouette of dhow sails on the horizon—the part from guidebooks and travel adverts is also here, though far more complicated than the brochures would have you believe.
Of course, a hundred moments of frustration, anger, discomfort, exasperation and rage punctuate that seeping, honeyed nostalgia, reminding me why I am leaving—why I am ready to go.
Nonetheless, I think I might really miss this place.
As I write this, I am sipping my last cappuccino at the Zanzibar Coffee House (my favorite place in Stone Town) and uploading the handful of pictures I managed to take in my last days on the island. I will go to the airport this evening and travel about 40 hours for a brief visit with my family in Vermont.
Next stop: Sicily.
I hover in the place of in-between’s as I figure out what is next—uncertainty looms as always in shades of vibrant expectation and somber apprehension. I am reminded, again, that home is a thing that fits in a cupboard in my mind… the trick is remembering where I left the keys.