Wednesday, June 24, 2015

False Flag

I would be happy to see the Confederate flag come down-- I would be supremely pleased.

 But the real issue remains gun control in America, and that we are not remotely addressing.

Taking down the Confederate flag, while meaningful in its own right, doesn't get us one inch closer to meaningful gun control.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Father's Day cont

On Sunday, as the NL Kampala Academy went on, I spent the evening playing with the kids hanging at the Sharing Youth Centre.  It is a community point, so lots of the slum kids hang out there.

We joked around and I laughed as they crowded in for a #MzunguSelfie.

"We are hungry," they said as we sat on a stone wall after the play.

"Just wait," I replied.

And shortly thereafter, a large cheese pizza from Royal Pizza came driving up.

At the Sharing Youth Centre, everyone must share that last slice.

I don't have kids (at least not that I know of...), and I may never have kids; I don't think those kids that day will ever know how much that Father's Day pizza meant to me.

High above the Love River in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.  Swimming in memories.  I am not even dust.


I have to protect my socks from thieving monkeys.

I swear I am not delusional.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


My friend Maddy Clifford, aka MADLines of the NL Team Uganda, works with children incarcerated in the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center--teaching them poetry, spoken word, MCing and writing. These are their voices; this is her work.

Father's Day

I was trying to think of what to get my father for Father's Day.  He is always hard to shop for.  He never needs anything or wants anything.  I had an idea of what to get him, but forgot what it was.

I was trying to think of something to get him, so I turned to what is on my mind most: the Charleston shootings.

Then a light bulb went on in my head: I would donate to the NAACP in his honor.

Because I learned my dreams of social justice from my Father.

Because I am so proud to have a Father who has gotten more liberal with age.  Who always has believed that one day things can be better.

Because I think he will appreciate this far more than any gift certificate or tie I could get him.

Because I also got from him some eyes that well-up way too easily, and after this week I needed a good cry to get some of the emotions sorted out.  Sometimes tears do the only justice for what we feel.

Happy Father's Day, Abba.


From the Next Level Uganda collaboration session at the Ndere Cultural Centre in Kampala, connecting hip hop and traditional Ugandan music.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Riding on the back of a motorcycle to get roasted goat at a car wash/club. That just about sums up the end of the night.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

What the World Costs-Europa (Milano, Italy; Zurich, Switzerland)

1 euro ($1.09): espresso; 30 minutes internet
1.20e ($1.31): cappuccino; brioche
1.50 euros ($1.64): metro ticket
2 euros ($2.18): cappuccino; scoop of gelato
3 euros ($3.28): pizza fritti at Milano Centrale
4 euros ($4.37): tiramisu at Restaurante Delicado; bottle of cabernet sauvignon at grocery store
4.40e ($4.81): roundtrip train to Milano Expo
6 euros ($6.55) doner kebap, fries and a drink
6.50 e ($7.10): spicy chicken wrap at Chicken Cottage
7 euros ($7.65): plate of Spaghetti al Pomodoro
12 euros ($13.11): fast train from airport to city center
23 euros ($25.13): computer charger
38.25euros ($41.80): 1 night stay at Hotel Del Sud, w/o breakfast
57 euros ($62.28) : 2-day pass to the Milano Expo

Free: 1.5 hour free walking tour; public transit (trams, buses and ferries) on May 31, 2015
60 centimes ($.63): banana at grocery store
85 centimes ($.90): economical Swiss chocolate bar with hazelenuts
1 CH Franc ($1.06): bottle of sparkling water at grocery store
1.80CHf ($1.80): 500ml beer at kiosk
2 CHf ($2.11): mars bar; knoblauch baguette at grocery store
2.25 CHF ($2.38): Frey Swiss dark chocolate bar
2.70 CHf ($2.85): coffee and croissant at McDonalds (don't judge, it was the cheapest coffee I could find AND it came with a croissant)
3 CHF ($3.18): cappuccino at grocery store
4.40 CHF ($4.65): small beer at Tidbits restaurant
4.50 CHF ($4.77): bottle of coke at store that I laughed when I saw
5 CH francs ($5.28): Tip for guide for free walking tour
5.5 CHf ($5.81) glass of house white wine
6.5 CHF ($6.90) cappuccino at Starbucks that I wouldn't dream of buying
6.60 CHF ($6.98): train from airport to city center
8.5 CHF ($8.98): Falafel; large 500ml beer at fondue restaurant
9.5 CHf ($10.04): best Lebanese shwarma ever
9.80 CHF ($10.36): chicken schnitzel in a baguette
12 CHF ($12.68): Kirsch (cherry brandy)
12.5 CHF ($13.26): hamburger at a outdoor cafe that was far too rich for me
15 CHF ($15.85): breakfast at the hotel [no thanks!]
17.5 CHF ($18.56): fajita wrap at cafe that I couldn't afford
18 CHF ($19.06): Swiss Army knife
23.10 CHF ($24.41): normal sized plate of veggie food at Tidbits restaurant
26.50 CHF ($28.01): Fondue at local restaurant

78 CHF ($82.44): room for 1 night at Hotel Krone, shared bathroom and no breakfast

On the Beach at Night Alone

On the beach at night alone,
As the old mother sways her to and fro, singing her husky 
As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the
 clef of the universes, and of the future.

A vast similitude interlocks all,
All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, 
All distances of place however wide,
All distances of time, all inanimate forms,
All souls, all living bodies, though they be ever so different, 
  or in different worlds,
All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes, 
  the fishes, the brutes,
All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages,
All identities that have existed, or may exist, on this globe,
  or any globe,
All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future,
This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann’d, 
And shall forever span them and compactly hold and 
  enclose them.
-Walt Whitman, "On the Beach at Night Alone"

Monday, June 01, 2015

Fondue, Swiss and Balkan-style

For my last meal on my Zimbabwe-Zanzibar-Zurich adventure, I decided to go out for the Swiss specialty of fondue.  I had never tried the melting cheese pot before, and figured this was an opportune time.  Besides, there was a place close to my hotel that came recommended by the city walking tour guide as one of the best in Zurich.

I meandered my way over as the sun was beginning to fade on my last day in Switzerland.  As I left my hotel, a dark cloud began to pour over the otherwise sunlit city.  I threw over my hood and wandered up the cobble stones to the recommended restaurant.  There was a table just under the canopy that was waiting for me.

The dark skies passed, and the sun began to shine again on the yellow and blue pastel buildings behind us.  As I sipped a mug of light Swiss beer, in the distance a giant arc of a rainbow filled the darkened sky, and I smiled at this fortuitous sign: Aloha Switzerland.

I watched the showers pass the bubbling cauldron of four cheeses mixed with garlic and kirsch came my way.  With a long silver fork, I dipped little bread cubes in the bubbling cheese stew and washed it down with a Swiss white.

The skies darkened then lightened again into a vibrant arc of yellow rainbow across the sky.

I finished as much of the bubbling cheese stew as I could, and asked the waiter for a digestif.

Grappa, I requested.  But he recommended that I stick with kirsch since there was already cherry brandy in the fondue.

I asked him if he knew of rakija.  At first he didn't understand me, then he didn't understand why I knew of rakija.

Duka, was his name.  He was Yugoslav of Albanian origin, from Kosovo.  He had come to Switzerland after the war.

I mentioned my work in the Balkans, my love of what was Yugoslavia, and the Yugoslav sticker on my laptop.

He gave me the same melancholy sigh I always get.

We had everything. We were rich, but we didn't work so hard.  We had the best, and we lost it.

We chatted of favorite rakijas.  Viljamovka--pear.  Dunja--quince.  Of his Serbian neighbor who would slip him slivovic when he was in trouble with his parents or out for a good night.

Giveli--cheers we wished each other in melancholy cheer.

When the bill came, he saw my last name and asked how it was pronounced.  Rockower, or rak-over--just passing through.  He laughed and replied toda rabah.  How he picked that one up, I'll never know but no more random than an American who knows his rakija.

He bade me goodbye and wished me well.  Inshallah, I said, we will meet again for rakija.  He laughed, and replied Inshallah.

"We are a mixed salad in the Balkans," he laughed as I left.  Yes, you were and perhaps still are.

You were once fondue, but that sadly didn't last.

PS: My final thoughts are on the irony that I can't get out of my head is that I write this from Switzerland: a country of three languages (maybe four) and strong, differing faiths (Catholic and Protestant cantons), and somehow they have kept it together against the odds in ways that Yugoslavia could not. Somehow the tragedy of Yugoslavia feels more profound from Switzerland, and so much more sadly avoidable. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015


Watching an orange Lamborghini pull up at the stop light behind a yellow Ferrari.

Oh this place is far too rich for my blood.  Just dropped $25 on a plate of veggie food at a restaurant. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Arrivederci Milano! You are such much more than a delicious, dark-chocolate-filled wafer cookie!

Meanwhile, pizza fritti, who knew this was a thing?  Delicious. More Italian gastrodiplomacy please.

I will end this Italian Holiday with one final thought: Buongiorno!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Hermitage II

"At times in my life I have sought hermitage, generally by running off to a foreign country where nobody knows my name, place where I could go many days without speaking to a soul, and many weeks without hearing my native language. Whether prompted by a dull job,a romance gone sour, or a general sense of all-encompassing malaise, each trek has been a welcome escape. And each time I travel I see enough fascinating things to reignite my appreciation for the beauty of life.

But I have always fled society out of anger rather than joy. It is not a calm, reasoned rejection of the World of Illusions, merely frustration that the illusion isn't pleasing enough. Perhaps that is why, when the anger burns itself out, I always come back.

I've got it all backward, of course. I sever all attachments, slough off possessions, home, friends and family, tread the road with no destination in mind- but only for a time. I use hermitage to restore my love for the world, not to break free from its hold."

-Jonah Blank, "The Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God"

I posted this a few years ago, but it rings true after my sojourn in Zanzibar--a bit of hermitage that brought me a bit of peace.


". . . So then, yours is truly a journey through memory!" The Great Khan, his ears always sharp, sat up in his hammock every time he caught the hint of a sigh in Marco's speech. "It was to slough off a burden of nostalgia that you went so far away!" he exclaimed.
-Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

And thus Marco Paulo returns to Italia.  It has been many moons since I found myself in fair Italy.  The last time when on my first backing adventure through Europa.

Italy was the last stop after sojourns in Holland, Germany, the Czech Republic and Hungary.  I knew Italy was special when we arrived in Firenze, and I had my first cappuccino in the train station--I had never had anything like it.  I can still remember the velvety smooth foam on my lips.

My friends and I met some Portuguese girls and hung out at the Ponte Vecchio and visited the Duomo.

From Firenze, we made our way to Roma for our last stop on the adventure.  We decided to rent motorscooters to ride around Roma for our last day.  My friend Ben almost crashed, so he and Joe gave up; I was in love with the city, and wasn't getting off the bike until you forced me.

I drove around Roma all night long, past fountains and piazzas until the sun rose over the celestial city and its many hills.

I don't think I was ever the same.

Leo Africanus said of Rome: "Holy city, but full of impieties; idle city, but one which gives the world a masterpiece everyday."

I would agree.

So after almost 16 years I return to Italia.  To Milano, which is new to me. 

What the World Costs- Tanzania

Free: Beit al-Ajaib (The Palace of Wonders)
100 Tanzanian shillings ($.05): hot ginger tea outside the mosque
200 Tanzanian shillings ($.10): small coffee outside the mosque; mishakaki (small beef skewers) on street
500 shillings ($.25) hand-press sugar cane juice; Zanzibar chai on the street; spiced coffee; chicken skewer
700 shillings ($.35): young green coconut
800 shillings ($.40): bottle of coke
1,000 shillings ($.50): cone of soft serve ice cream; laundry per piece at Haven Guest House
1,200 shillings ($.60): beef soup on the side of the road
1,500 shillings ($.75): bottle of Kresta bitter lemons at Forodhani; shot of Konyagi (local gin)
2,000 shillings ($1): biryani; skewer of chicken at Forodhani Gardens market; nutella and banana Zanzibari pizza; 2.5 hour dalla-dalla from Stone Town to Paje
3,000 shillings ($1.50): skewer of tuna at Forodhani Gardens market; beef, egg and veggie Zanzibari pizza
4,000 shillings ($2): 500ml bottle of Tusker in Zanzibar; cone of gelato; cappuccino at Boboo Cafe Zanzibar
5,000 shillings ($2.50): 500ml bottle of Kilimanjaro Beer at the Waterfront; Palace Museum
7,500 shillings ($3.75): king fish in coconut curry sauce
8,000 shillings ($4): gin and tonic at pub in Zanzibar
10,000 shillings ($5): veg thali at Radha
17,000 shillings ($8.50): veggie pizza at The Waterfront
20,000 shillings ($10): vegetable curry at The Waterfront; taxi from ferry to Nyerere Airport
22,000 shillings ($11): Spice Tour on Zanzibar
30,000 shillings ($15): 45 min taxi from Paje to Stone Town
35,000 shillings ($17.50): single room at Haven, no bathroom, incl breakfast in Zanzibar
40,000 shillings ($20): single bungalow with breakfast at Teddy's Place in Paje
70,000 shillings ($35): fast ferry from Dar to Zanzibar
80,000 shillings ($40):  transfer from airport to Hotel Slipaway
82,000 shillings ($41): VIP ticket for fast ferry from Zanzibar to Dar
200,000 shillings ($100): Tanzanian visa
240,000 shillings ($120): One night at Hotel Slipaway, incl breakfast

Europa, europa

On the axis of adventures, you don't find a more divergent place from Zimbabwe and Zanzibar than Zurich.

But first, a side trip to the Milano Expo. I will be a hajj to the gastrodiplomacy mecca.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Goodbye Zanzibar

I returned from my Paje paradise back to Zanzibar.  In the morning's light rain, a rainbow stretch far across the sky and blessed my journey.

I caught a taxi back as I needed to return for a meeting related to a bit of quixotic cultural diplomacy and connecting Taarab music with hip hop.

I settled back in to The Haven, and made my way along the island to a wonderful cafe called Boboo under a giant leafy green tree.

I sat in the afternoon winds, sipping lime juice with mint, soaking in the scene:

Pastel yellow and blue veil patterns fluttered on a woman in the distance in the ocean winds with the yellow black-polka-dotted dress flying like a dhow sail.  

Her friend's green and white zubaz hijab and dress sailed at equal knots.  

A woman in a pastel blue and soft white cotton dress looks on as her orange scarf flies like a flag pendant in the wind.

Old Zanzibari moorish building with small rounded crowns dot the seascape in fading glory.  The small waves lapped at the stone water's edge.  A lush green peninsula juts out just beyond.

I sip my sweet lime juice and get lost in the scene's beauty--eternally sad that my pen nor my lens can capture the infinite beauty before me.

The Moor's melancholy sigh, as I take the brackish ocean water into my nose and lunge, and listen to the winds in the surf.

I dined on wonderful king fish steak cooked in coconut curry sauce.  I picked at the meaty fish with warm chapati and dyed my hands green with curry.

It's safe to say that I have "gone native"; I am just not so sure of where I am native to.

I couldn't leave the beautiful scene so I ordered a cappuccino.  The winds caught the foam and sent the whip flying at me, to the waiter's wide-eyed terror.

"Hakuna matata," I said to the waiter.  Yes, hakuna matata really means "no worries" (for the rest of your days...)

I spent the rest of the day just meandering.

The same this morn, as I kill time before heading on.

After a wonderful vacation that offered exactly what I was looking for (space; time; peace), I depart the enigmatic spice island of Zanzibar.  Such a fascinating contrast of Arabian, Indian and African.

I head back by fast ferry to Dar es-Salaam.  VIP, but not of my choosing.  There were simply no other seats left.

From Dar to Zurich to Milano for the Expo.

Milano--the mecca of gastrodiplomacy, and I am a hajj.

Journey on!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

As I Ebb'd with the Ocean of Life

As I wend to the shores I know not,
As I list to the dirge, the voices of men and women wreck’d,
As I inhale the impalpable breezes that set in upon me,
As the ocean so mysterious rolls toward me closer and
I too but signify at the utmost a little wash’d-up drift,
A few sands and dead leaves to gather,
Gather, and merge myself as part of the sands and drift.

O baffled, balk’d, bent to the very earth,
Oppress’d with myself that I have dared to open my
Aware now that amid all that blab whose echoes recoil
  upon me I have not once had the least idea who or
  what I am,
But that before all my arrogant poems the real Me stands 
  yet untouch’d, untold, altogether unreach’d,
Withdrawn far, mocking me with mock-congratulatory
  signs and bows,
With peals of distant ironical laughter at every word I have
Pointing in silence to these songs, and then to the sand

I perceive I have not really understood any thing, not a 
  single object, and that no man ever can,
Nature here in sight of the sea taking advantage of me to 
  dart upon me and sting me,
Because I have dared to open my mouth to sing at all.
-Walt Whitman, "As I Ebb'd with the Ocean of Life"

Thursday, May 21, 2015


White sand beach, absolutely empty as far as the eye can see.
Whispering winds that rustle the green palms ashutter.
Roaring seas, far in the distance thanks to the morning tides.
Turquoise waters shimmering in the morning sun.
Warm crystal pools that I sit in, cross-legged like a sea Buddha.
Endless periwinkle horizon met by the azure seas and the white surf.
Fat globulous white cotton clouds that drift northwest slowly.
The sublime shade from the morning sun by fluffy, fat clouds.
The sun's light burning bright the edges of the clouds in a lucent countenance.
Drawing sand windmills in the white clay surf, watching the waters fill back in the outlines.

On the beach at night alone, with Whitman.
The empty, dark beach, soothing and silent in the purple night's majesty.
The vast milk white galaxies and star punctuations across the open skies.
Walking slowly down the cool soft beach as the sea waves lap quietly on the surf.
Following the Southern Cross' points southerly down the endless night.

Time to play in my own head; time for me to focus on me; to focus on the senses and self.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

On the Beach at Night

On the beach at night,
Stands a child with her father,
Watching the east, the autumn sky.

Up through the darkness,
While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses
Lower sullen and fast athwart and down the sky,
Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east,
Ascends a large and calm the lord-star Jupiter,
And nigh athand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate sisters the Pleiades
From the beach the child holding the hand of her father,
Those burial-clouds that lower victorious soon to 
   devour all,
Watching, silently weeps.
-Walt Whitman

Paje Paradise

"Happiness is peeing in a warm ocean."
-Lo Bao Loa

"The windmill is the way."

The powder white sand beach was subject to the noonday tides, and the surf lay a few kilometers back.  

I walked on the wet white sand that felt like warm plaster clay beneath my feet.

Ribbed rivers in banks of white clay and veined crystal pools of the upcaught surf shimmered in the midday winds.

I walked into the warm crystal pools.  The azure water was the temperature of lukewarm peppermint tea, the kind that you sip just a little longer before you put up a new pot for the boil.

I walked slowly through the warm crystal pools, the clear waters not coming above my knees.

Zanzibar paradise. Paje Nirvana.

Life's for the living.

I decided to make better provisions, and had a scare where my i-pod fell in the drink (miraculously it seems to still work), so I headed back to my thatched bungalow and got on my swim trunks.

Everyone here thinks I am Egyptian or from Palestine. While I look like a Levantine, I burn like an Ashkenazi Jew. I cooked myself into a kosher lobster yesterday while snorkeling off prison island.

But I had a grand time doing it, swimming amid the circus of colorful fish in the coral. Schools of blue fish swimming by striped clown fish amid the cylinders of coral. I had my own private boat with Sabri, who let me drive the ship named “Jambo.”

But I digress.

Anyway in white shorts and shirt I looked like a baptist into the Sea of Galilee as I slowly waded into the warm blue azure. I walked slowly, slowly through the waters that very slowly climbed my knees to my waist to my chest until I was kilometers out in the warm seas. I took my time coming back, floating on the gentle waves and playing with smooth shells.

I found an old coke bottle in the sea—Neptune must be crazy...and let the winds whistle through its glass cell.

When I hear the wind whistle in glass bottles, I always think back to my 9th grade music class, and the teacher John Howard who had us listen to Herbie Hancock playing bottles as we did the same. I can see myself on the beaches of Agadir in Morocco the first time I heard the surf's winds play through my bottle.

"I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."
-Isaac Newton

And of course I had an adventure getting here.  I checked out of the Haven Guesthouse, leaving behind my daypack and just taking my backpack and camera bag.  I asked the owner of the guesthouse how far to Paje.  30-45 minutes, not too far.

I made my way to the Dalla-Dalla stand--dalla-dallas are outrigged pickup trucks that hold 12-15 people in the payload in metal or wood frames.  I found the one for Jubaini, which would leave me near the Paje Beach at the intersection.  I climbed into the back truckbed and expected a wait. 

A German couple came over, and got indignant that the dalla-dallas were trying to rip them off.  If we were in Germany, you wouldn't be charged more.  Yes, but you are a long way from Germany.  I just kept my mouth shut as I ascertained what the actual price should be.  2,000 Tanzanian shilling, a buck.

We meandered out of town, slowly stopping to pick up more passengers.  We crawled to a long stop as we loaded goods and wood on the top of the dalla-dalla frame. We sat around for an hour as the dalla-dalla filled up with goods and people.   I had just enough room to consider myself fortunate after bouts as a sardine in the Philippines, India and El Salvador (Chicken buses!).

We opened up onto the country roads, and I stuck my head out the window as I listened to sing-song Swahili chatted about.

We drove through the back roads of the isla, until we got to the Paje junction.  2.5 hours later, as I actually expected not the 40 minutes it could have been.  I wandered along the side of the road until I found Teddy's Place (The Original) and got a thatched bungalow for the vacay.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Palace of Wonders

I walked along the dilapidated marble to Beit al-Ajaib, the Palace of Wonders.  A bare-footed scruffy homeless man walked in behind me to the museum entrance.  I stood there at the front desk, but no one was there.  And it didn't look like anyone had really been there in a while.

I looked around and at the Swahili and English signs that designated it a UNESCO world heritage site in 2001.

Since no one seemed to be coming, I pushed the huge spiked door that was slightly ajar.

There was a huge Zanzibar dhow in the center of the dark museum.  The lights were off but light spilled through from the giant sky light above.

I had just the slightest feel of being somewhere I shouldn't, but the spidey sense was not tingling strongly.

I was reading the signs on the migration of people when the scraggly homeless guy walked in barefoot, smoking his cigarette.

I walked over and admonished him for smoking in a museum, even a closed one.

I walked back over to the exhibits, then back out to see if anything had changed.  Still no there.  A walked back in to the museum.  From the back, a fellow walked out.  He looked official but not really.

He said I had to pay to enter, so I walked back out and over to the desk.

"Pay 5,000 shilling ($2.50)," he said.

The laminated sign said 6,000 shillings.

"Will you give me a ticket?" I asked.

No tickets.  No more tickets.

He thumbed through some worn sign-in date books as I gave an incredulous eye.  He produced a dated date book--the last entry was in April.

"No ticket, and it's 5,000 shilling?" I asked.

"Yes," he said.

"With no ticket, I think I will just walk in.:  And I did.

Back into the empty, dark Palace of Wonders.

I lingered for a bit in the Palace-turned-closed museum before making my way back out into the high noon sun.

The Sultan's Palace

Staring at the Emperor Franz-Joseph, the sovereign of Austria-Hungary.  An unexpected bit of side burn facial hair I did not expect to see at the Sultan's Palace in Zanzibar.  His Imperial Majesty of the dual monarchy, and my great-grandfather's emperor before he booked it to the new world, had presented his portrait (as well as the utterly fascinating Empress Elisabeth) on the occasion of the signing of a commercial treaty between Austria-Hungary and Zanzibar in 1888.

The first commercial "Most Favoured Nation" Treaty was with the United States of America.  Yes, between the Sultan and Uncle Sam in 1833.

This let foreign traders access the ports and harbors of Zanzibar.

It also let the U.S. establish a consulate on Zanzibar--the first to do so in 1837.

Foreign traders had to pay a maximum of 5 percent import duty, as well as the duties imposed by the Sultan.

Cloves and spices, ivory and slaves.

In return, Zanzibar received unbleached "Marekani" cloth, guns, beads and metal wires.

Cloth, guns and wires for spice, ivory and slaves.

Zanzibari daydreams

Under the dangling banyan tree, 
dark-skinned Zanzibari gentlemen
in colorful flair topi hats
greet each other:

Past splendid spiked doors 
rimmed with bronze horns
and ornate carvings
ebony Zanbibari women
in floral pastel veils
greet each other:
"assalam aleikum"

Lost in Zanzibrari daydreams,
I sit outside the
fading white-washed
Palace of Zanzibar--
the arched structure 
now a museum to the 
Sultans of Zanzibar,
whose reign has 
faded like the 
white chipping paint 
on the Arabesque facade.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Zanzibari Chai

Sipping warm, cloved milk chai
on the roadside, Kurdish-style--
spilling the hot spiced tea
into the porcelain saucer, 
then sipping the cooled chai
from the small dish; 
much better way
to get the full
flavors of the chai.

Travellers Cafe. Vacay. Zanzibar.

Saturday, May 16, 2015


Scented in spices and sweet Swahili sounds,
Zanzibar is as evocative as its mythic name suggests.

Indian, Arabian and African.
I feel like I know this dream,
from Maghreb to Moghul,
yet it comes in just a little different a hue.

Like the yellow scarf hijab
draped over a black abaya
protecting the modesty of ebony skin.

The hand-crafted doors hold
a different dream behind
the spiked facade,

Yet gritty enough to be real
and remind you that Zanzibar
exists in this world.

Our round orb

I was just staring at a human skull that was 1.75 million years old, and feeling insignificant. This makes me feel equally so.

Humans' staggering effects on Earth.

I'm not gonna cook it but order it from....

Sailing to Zanzibar.  Time for a lil vacay on the Spice Islands.