A rainbow came out especially for my “picture-taking day.”

As I prepare to leave Zanzibar (Nungwi, more specifically; East Africa, more broadly), the place that has begun to feel like home, I find myself struck by surprising waves of nostalgia…

With one foot over the proverbial threshold, I observe this place with the forgiving nostalgia of things already past.

Mambo poa? Poa, vipi? Poa poa. Za asubui? Salaama, na wei wei? Mzuri sana. Mzima. Mzima.

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.

Nungwi Village.

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.

Second-to-last sunset.

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.


2 thoughts on “I Might Really Miss This Place

  1. I am absolutely fascinated by your passion and search for the ever evolving " thing " and I am sure you mostly happy. I am curious to know if it's the unknown that drives you or something else.

  2. I think the unknown is a big part of it. 🙂 Often the decision to leave a place that I have come to know and feel comfortable in and go to a new place that I've never been stems from some drive to enter that exciting and scary and challenging territory of the not known. But part of it is less definable than that, too.

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