An audio and video podcast of my trip hitchhiking around the world by sea.
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Make Friends

I’ll be honest, I was a little anxious when I climbed into the Zanzibar cab. First of all, the guy who offered me the ride the night before was not the guy now driving the cab. Secondly, I was told there would be a group, turns out it was just Mandi and I. Finally, a few days prior I learned of a group of masked men hijacking a restaurant in the area by gunpoint. However, we had a flight to catch and were already cutting it close.

So I did what every savvy traveler would do. I got in. But to make sure it was legit I did the “ask for a receipt” trick. “Receipt?” asked the driver and supported it with an are-you-kidding look. “Ah, never mind,” I replied. “I’ll be alright.” I moved on to my next strategy. Make friends.

One of the first things we learn in life is mankind’s favoritism. The coach who starts his son, the Class President elected by her cute smile, the prom-king synonymous with “starting quarterback”. The examples are endless. So I learned at an early age that befriending unpopular professors can afford you extra time on important papers. Or that a charity laugh will get you a long way in life (though you do increase risk of being tagged “brown noser”).

Now having grown into a strapping young man, I find it just as useful traveling. Everyone wants a friend, and you are less likely to rob or take advantage of your friends… that’s the theory anyway. So sitting in the back of a cab, with a visibly disgruntled driver leading us through dirt roads, I start in. “Are you from here? Did you like growing up here? Is your family here?” Etc., etc.

Within minutes we were talking about the good ol’ days, life on the island, changes over the years. Then the car slowed. It came to a stop in the middle of the road. Police approached the window. I watched as the driver’s demeanor changed. Driver offered a shallow greeting. Policeman returned and looked with casual suspicion to the back seat. A quick exchange was made in Swahili and the driver waved on. With irritated eyes, the he gave more attention to his rearview than the road before, mumbling curse words. “Do you think the government is corrupt here?” I asked.

With that he explained the people’s contempt. “Look around,” he said. I did. The landscape was rich, the people poor. He spoke of the rich soil, the spices that were sold all over the world, and the people whose state was worsening. The people were tired. “Is there no one making a stand?” I asked. There were some but not many. “You need to start a revolution,” I told the man. There was hope in his eyes.

In all of my travels, I have yet to see a place so ripe for revolution. The people are unsettled, but aware. More than once I noticed people roll their eyes at the mention of government. Though living in paradise, they were not happy.

He gave us a tour through the famous Stone Town, pointing out architecture and buildings from different political eras. We reached the airport with time to spare. “I will watch for your name…” I told the man who smiled and handed me his card in return. I shook his hand. We were friends.


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