This is my last day here in Jambiani, on this bizarre and joyful island of Zanzibar. I write from a beautiful balcony where I sit listening to birds chirping, roosters crowing, goats hollering their broken squawks, cows mooing tiredly, the mosque calls to prayer, children singing, women laughing, the repetitive honks of the dala dala, palm leaves in the wind like a subtle chorus of snare drums, and the slow, steady waves of the ocean so nearby. This is a fantastic place, and I’ve been so lucky to spend the last month here.
Volunteering at the wellness center has been a true pleasure. People travel from far and wide for the free, holistic treatment they receive. Alastair, or Dr. Ali Baba as he’s best known, is an incredibly knowledgeable chiropractor. The scope of the careful, compassionate health-care he practices reaches far beyond his professional title. I’ve enjoyed working in tandem with him immensely.
Last week, I got to treat an elderly woman no taller than my waist, but she had no trouble hopping up on the massage table, swiftly unwrapping herself from her layers of colourful kangas. She told me, “Don’t be afraid; do whatever you need to do to me.” Her attitude epitomizes the gracious willingness of all our patients. We’ve treated many young men with soccer injuries or who’ve hurt themselves climbing trees. Then the women who work all day on the ocean collecting seaweed come in with terrible back pain. Almost daily, I’ve gotten to work on a delightful young woman who was partially paralyzed after being hit by a car two years ago. Rotator cuff tears, digestive complaints, skin disease, cuts and scrapes galore… I’ve seen a bit of everything here and it’s not even the busy season. I hope each person on whom I’ve laid my hands has felt my gratitude for the opportunity to treat them. It’s been wonderful to feel useful here in this very welcoming community. That’s all I ever wanted of this experience: to be of some use.
But I’ll tell you, I got more than I gave. Pat and Alastair are nothing short of helpful, hospitable, wise, and inspiring. The friends I’ve made in other volunteers and village locals have colored my experience here so brightly. The JTTI school adds vibrant energy to the HABS compound. The food is delicious; there’s music everywhere, and the water really is turquoise. And to think, I only had to show up and lend a hand.
I am so excited for future HABS volunteers. What a rich experience is in store for them.
All my best,
Loryn “Daktari Lala” Kezer