#3 The Beach Boys are world famous!
Not the 60’s band, but the countless dudes who like to hang around the more tourist-flocked beaches of Zanzibar, looking for chatting company, payment for guide services or maybe even a girlfriend, if you’re lucky! Some are plain annoying, like the one who came over all the time when I was relaxing on the beach, asking my name and not leaving me alone even if I paid no attention and continued listening to music. I somehow felt excused from having to ‘talk to the locals’ (as many beach boys complained I don’t do) since I lived in Dar es Salaam where I spent most of my free time with Tanzanians and being cheery as they are when meeting new people – a beach on Zanzibar was my holiday from the hectic traffic and constant socialising. Thinking back it’s obviously silly to think like this, as that’s not how it works in Tanzania, if someone starts talking to you, however annoying, it’s best to acknowledge them. So I finally reply to his question of my name with niache, ‘leave me alone’. He laughs and walks away, but a while later screams back to me, “Hey niache, you can call me mume wangu”. Meaning ‘my husband’, not so funny.
Then there are the beach boys who actually go as far as trying to apply for a visa, on the basis of knowing the name of a girl and pretending to be their boyfriend. Needless to say they don’t get too far in the process given that that’s the only thing they know about these girls, name and country of origin.
Then there’s one or two beach boys who specialize in Italian tourists, speaking fluent Italian. Looks a bit funny actually as a Zanzibari passes by some Italian tourists and shouts come stai? on the way with a perfect accent. I have nothing against Italians, but 50 of them on the same beach or in the same restaurant at the same time makes for unnecessarily loud and hectic holiday company. You’d be surprised how many Italians there are on Zanzibar actually, they have direct flights and package holidays in special Italian resorts where only Italians and select white folks can go. I know this because some friends needed to pass through one of the resorts as the route around it to the other beach was so long, but weren’t let through as there was a Kenyan in the group. What kind of bubble do they try to live in at these resorts?!
Then there are the ones who sell all kinds of scarves, necklaces, huge (illegal) shells, snorkelling tours and other memorabilia. They can get quite aggressive in their selling techniques, but in the very beginning when I was still practising my bargaining skills, I asked for such a low price for a scarf, the beach boy got completely offended and walked off without saying anything. That’s a first!
And then once upon a time there are the nice ones, like Joseph, who me and some friends met on a beach in Kendwa. He was selling necklaces, but as we kindly said we’re not interested, he didn’t bother us about it anymore. Another conversation between us started after that though, and we talked about how he ended up there. He’s a masai and while beaches aren’t the typical surroundings for these herder peoples, Joseph had moved to Zanzibar from his home hoods in the Kilimanjaro region in North Tanzania, in search of work. Usually selling necklaces and other jewellery on a beach makes for a somewhat decent income, though this year has been quiet on Zanzibar tourist-wise, and Joseph isn’t the only one who has mentioned this. (So book your ticket and go to Zanzibar NOW!) We continued chatting for another good half-an-hour about this and that. The next day, as me and my friends were swimming, we saw him passing by on the beach again, and we waved hello to each other like good old friends. The end.
Side note: These short moments, of getting to know even a little detail of someone else’s life story, which in Tanzania so often is quite different from mine, is what made my time there so fulfilling. Of course the moments pass by quickly and are all too short to give any kind of even picture of what for example Joseph’s daily life entails. While life goes on for me in the northern hemisphere, sitting in front of the computer in a downtown office, Joseph probably continues to walk the sands of Kendwa in his shoes made of rubber tyre (most masais wear them and had to try on Joseph’s just for fun, actually very comfortable!) meeting new tourists who’ll be friends with him for the few days before returning to their European homes. Sentimental times..