So I have poorly kept my reader(s) up-to-date about my adventures within the Spice Islands, for that I am truly apologetic. The past month has been rather hectic. With ISP, the end of the program, and volunteering with Creative Solutions in Mangapwani, I have had little time to think, much less blog. J
My ISP went nearly perfectly after the first couple of days. Upon arrival to Pemba, we took a long bus ride to the northernmost tip of the island near Ngezi Vumawimbi Nature Forest Reserve. When we arrived, we could not get in touch with the person with whom we were staying. Finally, he showed up and took us to his house. There, we moved all of our things into our rooms and sat down to talk with him. Before going, the advisor for two of our projects told us that the price would be no more than 20,000 shillings per night for room and full board. When we talked, however, the homestay father spouted of a line of lies a big as Kilimanjaro. He said that all students that stay at his house pay 35,000 shillings per night and that we could not stay for any less. He later mentioned that the ONLY student that has ever stayed in his house paid 30,000 shillings per night. Luckily, this student was a former student of SIT and we were able to show him that she paid only 20,000 shillings. He lied once more and said that fruit (bananas and papaya) were not in season at the time and are very expensive. Another lie; as those two fruits are never out of season and never expensive. After hours of phoning the academic director and our advisor, we were able to broker a deal in which we paid 15,000 shillings for half board.
After this hang-up, we met with the Ngezi officers the next morning. We were able to broker a deal for guides with little problems. I was also able to get a bicycle, but had to pay 5,000 shilligns per day up front. I explained that I was unsure of the number of days that I would be in the area and that I felt more at ease paying by the week. This fell on deaf ears as I was forced to pay in full for 21 days. Toward the end of my 14 day stay, I asked the owner for a refund for the week the days in which I did not use the bike. This was to no avail. I got screwed by a piece of crap claiming that he spent the money and that he had not even one shilling in his house.
My actual study went well with 569 vocalizations of Dendrohyrax validus neumanni heard in two different sites. My interviews went well, overall. However, I was faced with having a dope-head, alcoholic, nut-job as my translator at the beginning. This story is funny now, but was rather scary at the time. While waiting for my forest guide to show up, a druken, doped, semi-psychotic Hayo stumbled up to the area in which I was waiting. He explained that his mom died, he was broke, and he needed to borrow my bicycle to get home. I explained that I was sorry for his condition, but I could not give him a ride because I had to work on my study. He then tried to get me to allow him to ride on the back, which was also shot down. He then said “Well, if I had the money you owe me, then I would be able to get a ride home.” Keeping in mind that I tried to pay him in full that morning, but he refused; I opened my wallet and said “The money is no issue. Here is what I owe you, don’t expect to see me tomorrow.” He then said “I am so mad at you that I could punch you.” I proceeded to call his boss as he stumbled off into the forest. The next day, he showed up to where I was staying with a friend. He demanded payment and, at first, denied him being at the office where he tried to assault me. He claimed to have been at home the whole time, which I foiled by saying “Ohh, you didn’t stumble in front of my bike last night in Tondooni.?” I further told him that he was paid and that if he showed up again, I would take the issue up with his boss and other officials in the Department of Forestry. After that instance, he shot a dirty look every time he saw me and made remarks under his breath. Needless to say, I doubt he ever works with another student.
After my stint on Pemba, I returned to Stone Town to write. I ended up writing a pretty good ISP that one of my pseudo-advisors thinks is publishable. After the end of the program, I went to Mangapwani to volunteer with Creative Solutions. While there, I helped with various tasks from firing a mud kiln to cleaning bottles to be recycled into art by the director and her students. Overall, it was a nice insight into how things work at Creative Solutions and very fulfilling to help on projects that could lead to better lives for the student artists.
Now, it is just a waiting game for the 21st. “And though I may roam, I hurry home to those friendly hills I love.”