Sunday, January 6, 2013


I’m back on t’hill oh besties but I left my heart behind in Zanzibar. My feet don’t want to be in shoes anymore. I want to be back on the beach where time is slow, waters are azure and the stars hang low and sweet. . . . and, oh bestie bloggies, I’ll let you into a secret, the dream zanzibar fort house is finally finished…!  It’s beautiful and kind.  One day you can stay in it if you wish…Dreams do come true.

Time in Jambiani was perfectly dreamy... I spent 5 days alone working on my book. I don’t think I’ve ever had that amount of time to myself before. It was exceptional. I didn’t have to stop for meals, or drop anyone off at a music class, or pick someone up from basket ball or answer a phone. How extraordinarily fortunate is that? I would wake with the dawn, to the hum of the fan, a silver light, slants of sunshine through the shutters and a silky sea sloshing and whispering. is that rain or is it the palms? I'd drink my coffee and smoke my cigarette on the sea wall, watching the only jogger on the beach. I'd lazily contemplate a swim out to the boats and do it for old time's sake, gasping at the cold water at my waist (which by noon is as warm as tea), laugh and dive in, swimming back and forth a few times, lolling about like an otter.

 I would be at my desk in the tower by ten and work until three every day. In the white still heat of the afternoon, when the tide was way out, whispering from the reef, I’d stroll over to Sale & Pepe’s, Mimo’s (Nemo's...?),  little restaurant for a plate of his best homemade pasta and a good read. In the evenings, if I wasn’t meeting up with new friends from the village, I’d sit on the roof top, at palm height and dream up new words and poems and songs from the stars. I think I managed to catch some in my paper jars and turn them into ink...

My solitary writer life (all of five entire stunning days) joyfully exploded with the arrival of all our friends from Zambia. The house was filled with laughter, children, music and the old stories retold around the lamplight, tied together with jasmine incense and all manner of alcohol, drunk like in the old times.

Friends, endless midday games of Rummikub over bottles of Santa Giulia (a fine Argentine wine), sails out to the reef with Salum in his ngalawa to pootle about in water a zillion shades of blue, long swims out beyond the boats, over the sea urchins or simply sitting in the dark purple shade of a palm staring out to sea – all of these things, peppered our days in no particular order.  We forgot to care whether it was Monday or Wednesday or what date it was. Father Christmas didn’t, though. He’s clearly a punctual kinda guy.

Beans and I headed into Stone Town on the 24th to do some last minute shopping – little water colours of dhows, silver trinkets, pretty, gaudy flower clips, white cotton frocks, hippy dresses, vikoi and treasure boxes. . . The old town still holds its magic and tawdriness, for me, at least.

The hues and essences of Zanzibar haven’t really changed through the ages. I am busy reading Zanzibar by Richard Francis Burton.(Volume 1: Cambridge Library Collection. First published 1872)  It’s a stunningly excellent read. The writing is filled with avid descriptions and facts, a gripping read, littered with wit, facts and humor, which captures imagination. What a brilliant writer he was. I love this excerpt describing the first time he set eyes on the island:

“…Truly prepossessing was our first view of the then mysterious island of Zanzibar, set off by the dome of distant hills, like solidified air, that form the swelling line of the Zanzibar coast. Earth, sea and sky all seemed wrapped in a soft and sensuous repose, in the tranquil life of the Lotus Eaters, in the swoon-like slumbers of the Seven Sleepers, in the dreams of the Castle of Indolence. The sea of purest sapphire, which had not parted with its blue rays to the atmosphere – a frequent appearance near the equator – lay basking, lazy as the tropical man, under a blaze of sunshine which touched every object with a dull burnished gold. The wave had hardly enough energy to dandle, or to cream with snowy foam the yellow sandstrip which separated it from the flower-spangled grass, and from the underwood of dark metallic green. The breath of the ocean would hardly take the trouble to ruffle the fronds of the palm, which sprung, like a living column, graceful and luxuriant, high above its subject growth. 

The bell-shaped convolvulus (Ipomaea Maritima) supported by its juicy bed of greenery, had opened its pink eyes to the light of day, but was languidly closing them, as though gazing upon the face of Heaven were too much of an exertion. The island itself seemed over indolent and unwilling to rise; it showed no trace of mountains but was all voluptuous with gentle swellings with the rounded contours of the a girl-negress and the brown-red tintage of its warm skin showed through its gauzy attire of green. And over all bent lovingly, a dome of glowing azure, reflecting its splendours upon the nether world, whilst every feature was hazy and mellow, as if viewed through “woven air”, and not through vulgar atmosphere…
As we drew nearer and vision became distinct, we found as many questions for the old pilot as did Vasco da Gama of old. Those prim plantations which, from the offing, resembled Italian avenues of oranges, the tea-gardens of China, the vines of romantic Provence, the coffee plantations of Brazil, or the orange groves of Paraguay, were the celebrated clove grounds…We distinctly felt a heavy spicy perfume…”

“…Entering the coral reef…I remarked that the lucent amethyst of the waters was streaked and patched with verdigris green; the ‘light of the waves’ being caused by shoals, whose golden sands blended with the blue of heaven…So smooth was the surface within the walls, that each ship, based upon a thread of light, seemed to hover over its own reflection…”

So yes. I’ve left that all behind…but perhaps my heart will catch up with me soon - or i'll simply have to go and find it. I’ll be back. I’ll be back. Sooner than you think. 
It’s not that bad to be home on the hill, I guess.
The hill is green after much rain, the horses fat and the dogs loyal. And the air is sweetly scented with mountain rain. Yes. That's a very good smell.
As for school? Well, that remains to be seen…

KITCHEN BOARD: 06 JAN 2013. (stormy afternoon on the hill)

To be updated shortly - once my heart and head are barefooted and back in the kitchen. (unpregnant, obviously).
happy 2013 y'all. may it be even better? is that even possible?
toodely toot. bisous. X.X.X. jambiani summer ones, on yer neck like butterflies x. j  


elizabeth said...

This sounds beyond wonderful!
Green green with envy and how delicious to have 5 days alone too.
So, now I'm looking forward to your book....
and dreaming of Zanzibar.
Happy New Year!

Janelle said...

ah thanks elizabeth! and HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU TOO! yes. the holiday was perfectly dreamy. i am so very very lucky. and grateful. xxx j

Bill Stankus said...

You can build a life on the desire to return ... If it was so nearly perfect then you know, the human heart rarely finds perfect bliss. Go back, go back. Or, become obsessive and write about your dream.

tut-tut said...

Happy New Year, Janelle. I'm glad to get back to reading your blog, and to learn you're writing a book.

Robyn said...

i can think of no better place to be, alone, or not, writing or not. bliss. happy new year!

Moonboots said...

Happy New Year Janelle. I am looking forward to reading your book.

What Possessed Me said...

Oh Janelle, you sound so happy. Time alone is such a boon. Reentry is a bitch, but as you say, there are pleasures there, too.

Zanzibar has always been a dream of mine. Here's to a year of dream fulfillment for all.

Amanda said...

zanzibar is too exotic sounding to even be real. no doubt you'll give old richard francis burton a run for his money when your book gets published (and i imagine some of it will contain your singular impressions of this magical place too?...)

donna baker said... exotic yet I know nothing about it. Will have to go read about it.

sarah said...

I've been waiting for this blog post! Lovely reading. We miss you in Jambiani too much...when is your next long weekend?

Janelle said...

thanks bill...yes. perhaps i must just go back...buttttt - the teaching job! x j
tut-tut! it's been a while! lovely seeing you back here. thank you. happy new year! x j
thank you robyn. indeed. it is a very special place. x j
thanks moonboots! flip. hope i finish the little book...since i've been back nothing much has happened on it..disappointing, rather. school sort of takes over. x j
p! marvelous to see you back in bloggieland! karibu to zanzibar! x j
thanks amanda! zanzibar does feature now and then. yes. naturally! x j
donna. yes. do read. and then travel! xj
SARAH DARLIN'! hurrah! lovely to read you here...and um, WHERE IS YOUR BLOG, dear? and howz tricks up the beach? hmmmm? xxx j

JoeinVegas said...

Oh, it does sound lovely. Nice for you to be close enough to go again.

Nicola said...

I want to go to Zanzibar.

Family Affairs said...

Five whole days to write. What bliss. Would love to do that with you one that really your new house???? Lx

toomuchaugust said...

i drank from your paper cups of ink and now, i, too, struggle to return home.

(but i live on zanzibar street!)