Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Good (but LONG) Safari...Part I

Hello all!  I am back in Tanzania and living in Zanzibar this time.  For those of you who don't know the details, let me back up a bit.  I received a National Security Education Program Boren Fellowship funded by the U.S. Department of Defense to study Swahili and Tanzanian foreign policy this year. The fellowship award was truly a dream come true for me.  It allowed me to return to Tanzania for a longer period of time to learn the language.  The fellowship also opens several doors for employment within the federal government upon graduation and in some cases provides preferential hiring status for certain jobs within the DoD and Department of State.  Not to mention I get to live in paradise (Zanzibar) for a few months!  I arrived yesterday and will be in Zanzibar until approximately December 10 at which point I will move to Dar es Salaam - Tanzania's largest city just across the channel from Zanzibar.  I will be studying at two universities while I am here.  First, in the fall I will take Kiswahili language studies at the State University of Zanzibar.  Then in the spring I will be taking a Kiswahili course as well as a course in Tanzanian Foreign Policy and one in Local Government Systems.  I plan to return to the U.S. sometime in June of 2012.

It is nearly 2am here in Zanzibar.  The jet lag is killing me.  I left for an orientation and training in DC on September 1 - and arrived only a few hours late after 2 plane changes and 2 delays.  After some quick sightseeing, a long (did I mention, long?) day of orientation in DC, and a "last American supper"  we left for Zanzibar on Sept 3.  Travel is never easy - especially African travel - and our last flight from Nairobi to Zanzibar was cancelled.  We arrived in Nairobi at about 9 pm local time on Sunday night.  After two hours our group (all 26 of us) made it through customs and got Kenyan visas.  We arrived at the Hilton Nairobi (where they use mirrors under your car to check for bombs before entering) and spent about an hour in the lobby trying to arrange rooms for the 5 hours we had to sleep before returning to the airport.  In Africa you can never give yourself too much time to allow for mishaps - and unfortunately we didn't give ourselves enough.  Monday morning we left the hotel at 5:45am.  We arrived to the airport, boarding passes in hand, and had to wait through a long line to get through security before even entering the Nairobi Kenyatta airport. After all 26 of us finally made it through security we got in another line for immigration.  About 10 minutes later this nice lady redirected us out of the airport and down to another terminal where the lines were shorter.  Unfortunately, she left our group (and about 25 others) and no one would let us get through the doors - so we got to wait through the security line again!  After another hour (and a small fib on my part to the rest of my group to convince everyone we could jump the line) we made it to our gate.  Amanda, our resident director, had convinced Kenyan Airways to hold the plane and we were all reunited on the plane about 15 minutes after our scheduled take-off.

Since we landed it has been go, go, go here.  We went straight to the school yesterday upon arrival - bags and all - and had a quick introduction to the university then left for lunch at a restaurant named Archipelago on the coast here in Stone Town.  The food was incredible - fresh caught kingfish, tuna steaks, and squid.  And the view was indescribably; like a postcard.  We had some time to roam around town, buy toilet paper, exchange money and get phone time before returning to the university to meet our host families.  The town is small and has a medieval feel to it.  The streets are narrow and winding and the buildings are tall.  It can be easy to get lost, but is small enough that eventually you will stumble upon one of the few main roads and find your way out.

I have so much more to share about my host family, the university, and friends in the program, but I am finally starting to get sleep again.  I'm taking advantage of this short window of opportunity and signing off.  More to follow tomorrow!


  1. Awesome - what a cool program you are in! Can't wait to see pics and hopefully to see it myself in a few months!!

  2. Glad you made it there in one piece!!! Wow what a journey. Makes my day grocery shopping rather boring. Be safe, enjoy, and look forward to hearing from you again. Will miss seeing you at Christmas time. Love, prayers, and blessings your way. Sweet dreams.
    Love, Aunt Pam

  3. Geez,I'm so going to miss your Christmas cookies...I'll have to use the recipe you shared! Take care of yourself...miss you!
    Maryjane Patrick

  4. @Sherry - You will love it! I really hope you can visit...one way or another we will meet up while you are in Africa!
    @Aunt Pam - I will miss Christmas with the family, too! I hear there is a Packer game on Christmas this year! You will have to cheer extra loud for me and post plenty of pictures!
    @Maryjane - I had my mom make a batch of the cookies before I left so that I could have them one more time...if they didn't fall apart so easily I would beg her to send me some!! You and Tommy are both missed. And I haven't even met your new puppy yet!! I'll be back in Milwaukee for a year once I return so we will have to be sure to plan a meatloaf night - or maybe I'll have to stay two nights so we can have stroganoff, too!

  5. I read this entire post to Ethan in my Elmo voice, just so that he would sit still long enough for me to get an update. That's dedication, cause I hate Elmo. I hope you are getting settled in and if you need any candles or Q-tips, let me know and I'll send you some. Love you!, Mindy (and Ethan and Jason, too)

  6. I am proud of you Rebekah! Glad to know you have found something that you really love. I miss your laugh at work. How is the bug phobia in Africa?

    Randy V.

  7. @Mindy - You crack me up! I was trying to imagine your Elmo voice and now I wish I had heard it at least once before I left...Good to know that if Ethan wasn't entertained by my blog he was at least captivated by your voice.

    @Randy - I prayed before I came the first time this year that God would either clear out the bugs or cure my bug phobia. Apparently, curing my phobia was a challenge He didn't feel like taking on because throughout my time here in Tanzania in January, June and July I only saw one bug. Just to be clear though - that roach kept me out of my room and sleeping on the couch until 3am when someone came to kill it for me! Keeping my fingers crossed that I don't see any bugs here in Zanzibar, but so far so good!! Tell everyone I said hello!! Miss you guys! (Oh, and I have a video on my Facebook page from the "Ejection Seat" at State Fair - you have to scroll down a bit - it's on August 14. If you need a good dose of my laugh (sandwiched in with screams) I promise you will get a kick out of this!)