Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Zanzibar: Making Rafikis

May 21, 2012
After returning from our snorkeling trip, Kira and I set ourselves up on some beach chairs with the intention of enjoying our last evening by the water before returning to Stone Town in the morning. No sooner had we sat down that in typical Tanzanian fashion, a man selling bracelets came and started talking to us. In my one week outside of the hotel, I literally got no peace as people kept coming over and trying to talk to us or sell us something. There is absolutely no way to blend in there when my skin is so glaringly white...

Freddy, as he introduced himself, promised not to sell us anything and said he just wanted to practice his English, so we let him continue sitting with we us. After a while we found out that he was half Tanzanian and half Kenyan and had come to Zanzibar where his father was from to try and make money. At some point, while he was talking to someone else, Kira and I had started speaking in German. When he came back to the conversation, I turned to him and explained in English what we had been talking about so that he could also understand.

All of sudden Freddy got very quiet and looked almost emotional, and started telling us that we were his Rafikis (friends). Apparently telling him what we had been talking about was one of the kindest things a foreigner had done for him and he was moved by how different we were from the others he had interacted with. He kept talking about how it was so nice of us to let him practice English and include him in our conversation, and decided he wanted our email. I said, "oh, do you have email?" I remembered how the banana ladies had no idea what I was talking about and thought it was unusual. He responded that he had called a friend, told him he wanted an email account, and this friend had called him later with the email address. Freddy has literally never been on the internet, and since we still haven't gotten emails from him I'm guessing he still hasn't figured it out...

 He also began insisting that he had to give us bracelets as a sign of friendship, and refused to take money for them. In the end I pulled out a plastic watch I travel with and gave it to him, and we had a proper exchange of gifts between visitors and friends. It was a strange moment for me, sitting in my bathing suit as the sun was setting on Zanzibar, exchanging small tokens of friendship with a complete stranger after doing nothing more than including him in our conversation. It's amazing how the littlest things can mean so much to people. Even if you don't have millions of dollars to give away, simply being considerate of others can sometimes be enough. I sometimes forget that in my daily life and sometimes have to travel halfway across the world to be reminded of it again.

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