As I’m preparing to leave Zanzibar, part of me wants to feel a sweeping kind of conclusiveness in the context of relief or joy to go home that maybe? I usually feel, but lately, more than anything, I feel sheer exhaustion, not a kind that is easily combatable with sleep. I am unsure of what’s making it a more restless sleep, maybe the upcoming travel, but nonetheless it is, and by the end of the day I want to do the opposite of thinking and the same as relaxing though that can be difficult to do in the heat, my sweat layered sheets, my frustrated stomach, and the Stone Town clangor and clamor. Too, I feel, like most people probably, that I can’t shake this feeling of “pre-sickness” all the time; post-sickness seemed to be an experience of triumph and renewed strength, but it’s morphed again into this mild nausea and blanketing exhaustion that compels me to give myself pep talks like, “Okay, you can do it; you can walk from here to there to buy the thing or go swimming or at least think about it.” For the most part I feel I’ve been somewhat successful at staying healthy, or as healthy as possible, but something about Zanzibar seems to assault my immune system in a way that I haven’t experienced other places…
So there’s that, and I recently started to realize that I’m basically trying to create a hermetic retreat/atmoshpere of “divine relaxation” for myself in Zanzibar that is impossible/very difficult for a lot of reasons but ends up making my day to day behaviors seem possibly strange. My priorities tend to be “air conditioning” and “a satisfied stomach,” all on a budget, rather than any to-do list type things, and even these things don’t tend to happen as easily as I want them to. At the same time, I want the communities of either “people” or “information,” which can seem somehow difficult at times to find too, since I know I’m the last person to be actively social at this particular time and that all the books or news articles or movies I want to access seem to be behind these electrified walls that I can’t get past, which is partly true, partly not. Internet being the x-factor here.
So when I think to America, I feel like I’m looking forward to “data” more than anything, which seems problematic, but also the kind of company you can have without really working to have it, by just going or being somewhere, though America seems to be worse at creating that than other places at times. Hopefully the holidays provide that without overloading it.
Lately though I feel more interested in “anything” than I have in a while. The internet seems like this really amazing thing I haven’t really stumbled upon since 1999 when I would sit at our card table and browse amazon, and I can’t stop reading pretty much “anything.” I feel suddenly less overwhelmed by information but at the same time incapable of processing it, but maybe less disturbed by that. I tend to open ten news articles at one time, go back and forth, finish most of them, and do the same thing a few hours later. I have started to fantasize that I can have a job one day where that’s all I do; I will devour information, write up smart analyses, occasionally wear heels, feel useful, and have a salary. Does this exist for me, somewhere?
I’m also, however, looking forward to food maybe much more than I have when I have been abroad before. In Germany, the food was so similar and the cheese and sandwiches even better—the only downside was my at the time terrible cooking skills; in Kenya, the challenge was not eating too much of all the delicious food placed in front of me three to four times a day; in Uganda, I struggled but I had more control, I think, over the fried egg/bread/beans/parts of a goat experience, though looking back on it, I could have exerted even more control than I did. But along with pre-sickness, another common challenge in the Zanzibari day-to-day life experience for many has arguably been food, and I can count myself as one of these. I started dreaming about a pilot program to inspire healthy eating among Zanzibaris that would put to great use all of the spices, fresh fruits and veggies, and maybe the fish, as long as I don’t have to pass by it in the market, that this island has to offer. Condescending, much? I don’t know. But I struggle with it at times—rants to myself on “rice is not a food group,” and “you can’t serve 2 fried things side by side,” though at the same time I have been blessed with my host mom’s delicious coconut-infused red beans, tasty fresh salad, cassava I don’t care how it’s cooked, homemade juice, and pilau. But on the tip of my tongue, I can taste: sharp cheddar cheese, crackers, yogurt, coffee, dark chocolate, apples, protein at every meal, cauliflower, hot chocolate, veggies in everything…I feel like I’m forgetting something crucial.
On this “epic,” upcoming travel—I have started to think of international flights, especially any involving Zanzibar, as athletic events that I have to prepare for several weeks in advance, or at least a week and a half, so I’ve been hopefully more conscientious of my eating habits, trying to get restful sleep, drinking water. Though as physically unpleasant as they can be, I mentally enjoy flights maybe more than I should for this feeling of being suspended in this brief, surreal life I could have but don’t for all the reasons that anything has ever happened and the reasons for why I am where and who I am today. Like my last flight when I thought I saw Bill Cosby and sat next to a well-dressed, diva-like German girl with cat eyes and curly hair who mixed being nice and standoffish…
I have been thinking about this flight-type situation a lot lately, in which no new communication comes in or goes out, or rarely, since I have been devouring information so easily and unstoppably and I wonder what it would be like if I were living in a situation with real limited access to internet, not just situationally limited access. How would I handle that? Part of me wants to think I would excel, that it would make me focus on something very different, but I know that turning my eyes away from myself through the news, through television, whatever, creates a certain balance that I would fear losing. Maybe not having a lot of that is part of what is making me read the news so hungrily these days, and not having the books I really want, though I’m not sure what those books are anyway. A history of civil war in Congo, Doris Lessing, W. H. Auden, Noel Coward, comparative political economy, or stories like Chimamanda Adichie’s? I think mostly I want something I can’t stop thinking about, that will get itself stuck in my head; something that feels simultaneously precisely timely and large and timeless. Ugh, but yes. That’s part of what I want.
Though maybe if I truly were forced to go “off grid” and focus on crucial things in front of me, it would tap into something I want to tap into more frequently. I could take books with me. But truly, I’m idealizing this, and I don’t really know what that would be.
In other, less me mulling news, but still me news, the cake lady has started giving me free samples of cake, tastes of cream cheese frosting, extras on milkshakes, leftover iced latte when I am in her café for a while. On the same level of importance, Nawal’s soap opera has really picked up: Margaux told her mother that Celine is now seeing Ethan (a lie!) to keep her mother from exploding and slandering her character; so Celine and Ethan are a fake couple in public; though Liam maybe has a crush on Celine???; and Celine was really sweet when she was hiding with Liam’s younger brother under a table at a fancy party, saying, “You lost your front teeth, where did they go???” Nawal and the cousins and aunts think that Celine and Ethan’s fake relationship is especially hilarious, when they uncomfortably hold hands in public and Margaux squirms a little…
Three-and-a-half days now until the start of this major athletic event.