Sunday, February 23, 2014

Salome's Garden School in Zanzibar

Feb 17th Salome's Garden - Steiner School in Zanzibar

Judi and her husband run The Stonetown Coffee House and B&B, and 2 other popular restaurants in town. They have a young daughter, and a year ago opened a Steiner School. Judi still has time to talk to her many foreign guests. This afternoon, she took us out to her school, Salome's Garden, in Bububu - a short drive from town on the beach.  After the depressing, uncared for, unstimulating environment of Makunduchi Secondary School, where we'd just spent 4 days, it was heart-warming to say the least to be in this beautifully restored old Arabic villa which she has re-imagined into a creatively vibrant nursery and infant school, run as far as possible along Rudolf Steiner lines. There was colour everywhere, the walls covered in children's work and craft made of  natural materials. Judi says it's a miracle they've got this far in only a year, but Judi is clearly a committed miracle worker! The vast majority of the children here are from local and very disadvantaged homes, with a few from better off families who are paying fees.

All the children were happily and actively involved in organised activities or creative play the whole time we were there. They seemed relaxed, happy, co-operative, helpful to one another and totally absorbed. I can't describe how inspiring it was to experience what had been achieved with so little,  with passionate commitment and the obvious total engagement of the staff and volunteers.

Judi has no guaranteed funding for the future of the school, and is dependant on quality volunteers especially those trained and experienced in Steiner methods who can mentor the local teachers.
If even a few children can get this kind of start in life, they will help transform this society. I'm on board!

If you'd like to find out more, including how you can support the school, go to

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sauti za busara Zanzibar

Who'd have thought you'd come all the way to Zanzibar (in the dry season!) to a music festival 'African music under African skies' and it would be rained off? Do a regular Glastonbury on us?
Even though we've had rain, some heavy, and a couple of huge electric storms down in Makanduchi in the previous few days and nights, we never really believed in could rain in Stone Town during the annual Busara Festival.

The opening yesterday was perfect. In side the Old Fort, under a perfectly clear sky, the almost full moon rose as the first bands started playing: sultry Zanzibarian Taarab followed by a Ugandan kore like instrument with upbeat backing, followed by a rather eclectic medley by a group form Mauritious, whose set was interrupted for 10 mins by the pause for prayer (the island is deeply religious, though not `fundamentalist`). The crowd warmed up and was starting to really party to wa well known Tanzanian reggae band when the sky clouded over, and as we were all eagerly anticipating the first headline act - from Senegal, the first drops fell. People wasted no time running for shelter, for it was soon a downpour. But the only shelter in the fort is the small overhangs in front of the craft stalls, so we're packed in as tightly as in a crowded dala dala. Most alarming is the frantic looking activity on stage, as men with long poles try to tip water in cascades from the sagging roof and sweep copious amounts from the floor. In half an hour or so the wildly enthusiastic MC has to announce that the concert cannot go on, so we're sadly deprived of the top two acts of the first night, and it's still raining hard. Like almost everyone, we are dressed in light summer clothing and have no waterproofs or umbrellas. We make a beeline for some plastic chairs stacked under the VIP seating stage, crawl in and sit there for another half hour or so hoping the rain will abate. When it doesn't, we join the bedraggled stragglers who haven't yet left, and make for the storm. Outside a sea wind blows the rain horizontal and the roads and pavements are rivers. Taxis are circling but our hotel, though quite close, is on a road too narrow for cars. So we simply wade back, our drenched to the skin. We remember Womad that first year at Charlton Park when we were thigh deep in mud. What is it about festivals?

Now it's the second day, and I'm in bed writing this instead of enjoying a balmy evening chilling to the bands. Ian has borrowed an umbrella and has gone to catch some action. He'll come back for me for some of the later acts, depending on the weather...


Saturday at Busara started late and got later. Many acts to enjoy, but because we wanted to see the last 2 most (Jo Driscoll and Seckou Kuyate then Ebo Taylor from Ghana) we went home for a nap. Getting back to Fest about 11pm was very spaced out, the scene had hotted up. Did manage to stay awake till about 4.30 am and even danced some! All the music has been pretty upbeat and electronic, none of the sultry acoustic W African traditional music we love so much - more chance of catching that in N England than E Africa it seems!

Rain held off mostly last night but a deluge this morning means humidity is beyond belief today. For those of you suffering UK floods, know that global weather systems have all gone awoll it seems.
Keep dancing...