Zanzibar, Adios!

26 Aug

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While sitting in front of a safari tent in Liwonde National Park, Malawi, we are thinking back of the last couple of months traveling through East Africa. In the distance, at least for now, we can hear hippo’s growling and elephants sighing. The beatles are loud, the lone hyena makes it’s signature howling noise and we stare through the candle in front of the tent waiting for a big shadow to pass.

In a couple of days Bou and Net will leave Zanzibar for Spain and will start a new chapter in their life; retirement. During the month of July, after our trip through Ethiopia, we spent lots of quality time with them in Zanzibar. It was the first time in a couple of decades that we have spent so much time together. Mikala, Matt and Titia completed our group. We had wonderful mornings, lovely relaxing afternoons and great dinners. Zanzibar has so much to offer, that it is really easy to spend months on the island. Especially when you have a house like they have. A large, simple but airy house built on a cliff overlooking the ocean where fishermen passes by with their stylish dows and women collecting shells and clams on the beach during low tide. The little banda built on an overhanging cliff was the perfect spot to have our sunset drinks, while Safi, the dog, tirelessly showed his loyalty at our feet.

Mikala and Matt gave us a personal tour on the stunning Chumbe Island, where they had worked for a couple of years. Together with Bas, Suzette and James we tried to learn how to master the art of kitesurfing. Although we managed to at least stand on the board we realized that we still need to drink a lot of salt water before we can look like the real ones. Maybe we will get a chance to practice in some other places along the way.

The elephants are getting closer to the camp. In darkness it is really hard to guess the distance but after our experiences in South Luanga National Park, Zambia, we know they can get very close, much too close. The Liwonde Safari Camp is co-owned by Frederick, a Dutch friend of Hilje. The camp is just built outside the park, surrounded by huge Baobab trees and big other trees to provide ample shade. The petroleum candlelight in front of our tent produces nervous flames, which creates sudden shadows. Just enough to keep us alert.

Retirement. It must be a very weird feeling. We try to discuss the feelings Bou and Net must have. After working and living in third world countries for almost 40 years, I just cannot imagine how they will cope with no professional committment of any kind, no schedule, no usual third world inefficiencies, no report writing, no design drawing, no project management and an amazing amount of freedom. One definitely can see why the black hole syndrome exists, but I do believe it will be a theoretical issue for them. By spending so much time together you can finally discuss and touch the subjects you normally don’t have time for during the usual flash visits. One of the questions always on my mind is how third world aid, especially in subsaharan Africa, has affected the countries and it’s people. Obviously a very controversial issue and especially now during the economic crisis and the involvement of China and India it is even more current.

Talking to Bou and Net about this issue, they are pretty firm in their beliefs. There is the obvious frustration about corruption, lack of personal committment and responsibility and poor long term structural planning of both government and society as a whole. On the other side during their work some individual larger projects had been very successful and Bou is clearly very proud to have been part of those. But it is very clear that by far the most rewarding part of their work and life are the many local individuals they have met during their time in the various countries. On a much smaller scale, definitely compared to the projects of the large aid organizations they have worked on, but much more real and obvious is the extremely positive effect they have had on the lives of so many individuals and their direct and extended families. It is easy to get cynical about life, but it is great to see that there is a form of real satisfaction in their faces.

A very special farewell dinner at the residency of the Danish Ambassador in Dar es Salaam marked our last day in Tanzania and the first on our way to explore more of East and Southern Africa. The Tazara train would take us to a very special country, my place of birth.

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4 Responses to “Zanzibar, Adios!”

  1. Eric Ullmann August 30, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

    lieve Hilje en Manengu, kregen gelukkig via Machteld jullie blog en genieten van jullie wonderbaarlijk mooe reis en alle avonturen ,en ook de meer dan prachtige fotos, die bij ons ook zulke dierbare herinneringen oproepen aan de tijd dat Elsbeth en ik gedurende ruim twee jaar in Swaziland woonden ,waar ik als ontwikkelingsarts werkte, direct nas mijn artsexamen en Elsbeth met een local zeer intensief samenwerkte in het bewerken van leer tot mooi tassen ed.
    Afrika heeft ons hart gestolen en de manier waarop jullie nu de kans nemen om dat prachtige continent op je gemak te bekijken en te bewonderen is waarlijk benijdenswaardig.Geniet enorm van alles dat nog komt, we zullen het graag bliojven volgen.
    Hartelijke groet Eric en Elsbeth Ullmann

  2. Bou August 30, 2011 at 6:03 am #

    Benar, memang begitu! Sudah klaar! Kabisa!

  3. Machteld August 29, 2011 at 8:45 pm #

    Bij deze groepsfoto moet ik direct denken aan:
    “W’e’ll meet again, don’t know how, don’ t know when……..”???
    Bijzonder en dierbaar!

  4. Leanne Heeremans August 29, 2011 at 8:17 am #

    Lieve Hil en Manengu,

    Net even al jullie foto’s bekeken. En wat ben ik jaloers. Wat zien jullie er goed, uitgerust en happy uit. Heerlijk!!
    En wat een mooie foto’s.
    Dit is iets wat niemand jullie ooit meer afneemt.
    Geniet van deze fantastische ervaring.
    Hier is het al 8 weken slecht weer. Waardeloos.

    Vandaag zijn jullie als het goed is bij ons weeshuis aangekomen. Ben heel benieuwd wat jullie ervan vinden. Geef de kindjes een hele dikke knuffel van ons.

    Heel veel liefs en dikke x Lee

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