Tag Archives: livingwithlocals

Zanzibar: Alone and Alive

For the most part of my trip to Zanzibar, I was alone when we hit the beaches of Nungwi. It is situated at the northernmost point, the tip of Zanzibar and we hopped on a large taxi to get there. It takes about an hour from the beaches of Nungwi back to the airport.

Whilst my fellow mates wanted to laze around and did not have spare cash to afford a more comfortable stay, I opted for a better option to stay in by walking around the stretches of resorts. I bumped into a local and made friends with him for the better part of my next few days. He was so friendly and nice to me, although his intentions were more than that. Nevertheless I am absolutely grateful to have met him that day, for it gave me courage to go about and have a short vacation on my own.

IMG_0305The sunsets everyday were amazing, the beaches were dotted with many fishing boats which have been out since the break of dawn. I took a stroll every evening, just taking in the seaside air and enjoyed the feeling of soft sand crumpling between my toes.

This was the view from my accommodation. I step out onto my front porch of my room and there it is.

This was the view from my accommodation. I step out onto my front porch of my room and there it is.

I picked one of the days to go on a snorkelling tour, whereby I joined a whole other group of people and we headed to an island in the middle of nowhere. An island which is not inhabited at all, the waters so crystal clear I could not believe it.

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Ive never seen a cleaner shoreline than this and we had lunch made of fresh caught fish from the sea.

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Our snorkelling took place in equally crystal clear waters.

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On the way back as the boat dropped off people to their respective resorts, I couldnt help but notice the more luxurious and expensive bungalow resorts along the coast.

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It was unreal plainly because no one gets the real picture of what is behind these resorts. About 400m behind all of these beautiful resorts, the local people live in stone houses with no roads and no electricity. The locals live in darkness and with so little food, every morning most of them walk the little paths to the shore and work as waiters and cooks, serving burgers and fish and chips to tourists. Its unthinkable to imagine that this portrayal of paradise for tourism and poverty lives adjacent to one another. I was stunned when my local friend took me back to his home area, and the children were thin without clothes, the women trying to cook over charcoal. I don’t think this is particularly uncommon in Africa, but the reality of this stark contrast in environments really hit me and has remained with me ever since.

We can look at Africa as tourism do, a large continent with so much to explore, wild animals to capture on safaris, lodges and wildlife enticing us urban people. We can look at the continent as a place to help people, to volunteer on our monthly projects and what not. But do people actually bring home this message that the people are still suffering clearly, and it is not as always exotic and pretty as it seems? The region is so vast and huge I can barely think of what it would take to turn it around. All I can say is that though they may be poverty stricken, many of the children are smart and they rejoice in simple things such as pumping water from the ground and making faces into your camera. They welcome you with open arms, they sing to you their national anthem. So much potential in these people, its such a shame for them to be living in these conditions.

Zanzibar wrapped up my one month stay in Africa and it sealed my love for this continent. I have every intention to go back, to go to other parts.

Living With Locals: Emerging Humble and Sensitive

The car turned into a wide road and mins after I saw the sign “Vung Tau”, I was in my first home on my trip to Vietnam. I was greeted by a a tall building, a hotel at the bottom with rows of apartments above.

Livingwithlocals is not a first time experience, so I was well excited by what I would discover about real vietnamese food and lifestyle. I was also prepared, (from previous experience), to be patient and withdraw from the mindset of becoming” an eager tourist”.

The pretty shoreline of Vung Tau.

The pretty shoreline of Vung Tau.

“An eager tourist”, to me is the mindset of wanting to visit all the sights there is to see, eat all the good food there is, spend every waking hour from dawn till 10pm wandering the streets and getting all “out there” to see as much as possible. After all, time is precious on a holiday right?

On the contrary, Ive experienced the complete opposite when living with locals. Of course, some of the main observations, you would have to keep to the so called itinerary of the locals. I could hardly insist on going everywhere e.g. climbing to that top of the hill to see the statue, when my friend’s parents have planned to go have porridge in a roadside stall cant I? I could of course, suggest to stop and take some photos but naturally I didnt want to be a burdensome foreign friend by insisting to do more than what they have originally planned. If the family wanted to stay in for the afternoon because it was too sunny outside, I had no right to demand for everyone to go out. Of course, I could go off and wander by myself but I decided that I could spend the day in to catch up with my friend instead.

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I feel like there is a lot of sensitivity when staying with friends, because you do not want to seem like a demanding person, making yourself too “at home”, it might imply rudeness and could offend the elders of the household. I spent my last day of this little homestay, staying at a friend’s aunt’s house, watching TV, napping and practically doing all the things I could be doing at home.. but in Ho Chin Minh. Does this mean I was wasting my time? Does it mean I was like a loser, wanting to talk about the exciting things I did with locals but I didnt do shit?

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I felt conflicted. A friend of mine I got in touch with gave me the assurance “You’re on holiday what! So just chill, its what you’re doing, chilling”. In my mind, I guess a lot of people would have been criticising my lack of adventure and thinking ” what sort of trip is this?!”

I pushed those thoughts away and instead, took to really taking a nap and just enjoying the comforts of a foreign home, grateful that I had a place to stay in, with hosts that were so caring. I took to looking at immersing myself in their lifestyle. I lived as they lived. So what if I took a nap or watched MasterChef in Vietnam, I considered myself vietnamese temporarily.

In the end, I took away so much more than I could ask for! I got to try local food (silken tofu) sold by authentic elders knocking on everyones’s doors. Her family took so much care of me, feeding me by the hour, made me extremely comfortable. I didnt need to be going on all about HCM like a maniac, trying to get my best bargains at Ben Thanh Market or visiting the war museums to make my trip fulfilling.

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I felt that same fulfilment or probably even more, from catching up with my friend, really getting to know what Ive missed in the past four years of being apart, from constant translations between her mum and me about food and my life in Africa (they were very amused that I could go without showering for 6 days a week), from going grocery shopping with the family and watching her mum cut 1/4 of a jackfruit which seemed to me incredibly enormous and wondering where on earth their appetites surfaced. I spent my first afternoon lazing around the dining table, stuffing myself with jackfruit apples and grapes, listening to French music with her sister.

Sometimes vacationing also imply doing nothing, doing things you would be doing at home, but in a different place. This is especially so for me, when living with locals. I had to deal with a lot of conflicting and impatient thoughts in my mind. I emerged a more relaxed, patient, sensitive and humble person.