Sunday, December 19, 2010

How to kick a coffee habit in 30 seconds

How to kick a coffee habit in 30 seconds

After being stranded at the private beach house for two more days due to a missed taxi (rough life I know) we made it back to Stonetown for one night to catch our ferry to Pemba Island the next day. Craving a real cup of coffee instead of the muddy instant “Africafe” we headed to our favorite Zanzibar Coffee House. We sat at our large wooden table and watched the world go by on the narrow winding street. Women in headscarfs and beautiful wraps, children on bikes, and the local fisherman holding his basket of the catch of the day all walking by as we sipped our iced coffee.

Happily caffeinated we set off to run the errands that we could only do in “town” before we headed to the backwaters of Pemba. Fast forward 5hrs. After hours of waiting on hold with the airlines I felt exhausted and hot. The next thing I knew I was stumbling down the stairs to the bathroom. I closed the door in the nick of time before the coffee projected across the room. I couldn’t help but think it is going to be a long time before coffee sounds good again. Delirious and crippled from the sudden onset of food poisoning I somehow managed to find my way back to the Flamingo Hotel and crawled under my mosquito net. As I drifted in and out of consciousness I could only hope I felt better by 9am for the three-hour ferry ride.

I made it to the ferry the next morning without further incident, but still feeling queasy and weak. Definitely not as nice as our luxury ferry from Dar Es Salaam the week before, we scored some good seats in the shade on the back deck of the ferry. As the ferry left the dock we were engulfed in a plume of diesel fumes. Hoping the wind would carry it the other direction once we got underway, it was soon apparent the fumes were due to the location of our seat. With no other choice here we were stuck here for three hours. Surrounded by a family with 4 or 5 kids an attendant came over and passed out black plastic bags with large white stenciled letters that stated “Sick Bag”. As the kids accepted the bags the little boy across from us put the handles around his ears and promptly began puking. He set off a chain reaction and all of the kids surrounding us began to fully utilize their bags as well.

Choking on the fumes and surrounded by puking children we settled in for what was going to be a quite long ride. In and out of consciousness from my lack of sleep the night before my early 90’s era gold Nokia cell phone suddenly rang. It was my boyfriend Michael! I couldn’t help but think how amazing to be in the middle of the Indian ocean on a ferry and be able to talk to my boyfriend standing in his kitchen in Santa Barbara. A welcome distraction from the discomforts of the ferry ride, I heard all of the news from home and caught him up on where we had been and where we were going. After the call, I dosed in and out of consciousness for another few hours until my friend Jamie (in misery next to me) exclaimed, “I see land". Thank God! Five more minutes of the overpowering fumes and I would have grabbed my black plastic bag and joined the kids.

As we approached the enormous cement pier we were shocked by the lush vegetation and the crystal clear water of the port! I have been to a lot of ports on islands and beaches around the world…none of them have ever had water that I even think about wanting to touch let a lone swim in! However, the water here was stunningly clear and clean. None of the floating plastic or sheen of boat fuel that is usually in the water. If the port looked this good we could only imagine what the rest of the island had in store. Now we did not know at the time, but the people of Pemba are even more relaxed and friendly than the people of Zanzibar. The only exception is when it comes to getting on and off of the ferries.

The scene as we approached the pier - with a sheer 15-foot drop into the water- was utter chaos. People pushing and shouting all crowded to the precarious edge of the pier. As families excitedly waved to their loved ones on board and in hopes of making a few shilling porters clamored for a better position to jump aboard to help unload the luggage. As the crowd pulsed and prodded one poor man was suddenly sent flying off of the pier fully clothed in to the water below. As he struggled to stay a float and recollect his belongings floating around him the crowd on the pier jeered and laughed.

We were still on the top deck of the ferry and our jaws dropped as the scene unfurled before us. Shit. If they do that to the locals I can only imagine how harassed we are going to be. We quickly devised a strategy. Stay away from the edge of the pier, elbows allowed and no holds barred for making it through the ridiculous mob of people, and have a quick ejection plan from our very heavy backpacks should we suddenly find our selves plunging over the edge into the sea.

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