On Sunday the Muslim Community here in Pemba, which is approximately 99.0% of the population, celebrated Eid al-Ahda (Festival of Sacrifice). It just so happened that on Monday it was Mohammed’s, second birthday. Assma, Mohammed’s mom, thought it would be a great opportunity to head to Vumawimbi Beach on the Northern coast to celebrate and she was kind enough to invite me and Riccardo along. I knew I would miss out on a half day of work, but the possibility of getting back into the ocean made it impossible to pass up.
Although we were scheduled to head out at about 10am from PHL, between needing to collect various family members, going to town to pick up food from a woman Assma had asked to make lunch for us and various other u-turns and loops, we were on the road by about 12:30pm. One thing that I’ve learned here is that you definitely shouldn’t sign up for a journey if you’re not 100% ready for an adventure.
We arrived at the beach by about 2:00 and we quickly set out a mat under a tree and started preparing for lunch. While eating our delicious meal of biryani rice and stewed beef, two elders for a neighboring village came over to warn us that they were a bit concerned with the white woman (me) and that they did not want to see me in a swim suit or even in the water while there were men present. Rather disheartened initially because I feared that I wouldn’t be able to make it into the big, open blue, Assma and company said it should be fine as long as a wore a tank-top over my suit and work a kanga around my waist on my walk to and from the ocean.
After eating it was time to dive in, and it was great! Hyidaya, one of Assma’s nieces was very keen on me teaching her how to swim. I don’t think her doggy paddle improved much, but I did remind her of her natural ability to float, so now she knows exactly what to do if she gets in trouble. After about an hour of swimming, floating and races on the beach, it was time to get out an cut the cake! Although Mohammed was pretty reluctant to get out of the water (I’ve never seen a happier baby), he did really enjoy blowing out his candle.
By 4:30pm were we all packed up and headed back home. Although the day was cut short by our late start, it was still an amazing couple of hours. Our trip home
was quite an adventure too, as the clutch of our SUV was going out and the driver had to keep turning it off and starting it directly into 2nd or 3rd gear. After about 2 hours we’d made it back to town safe. Probably one of the best Mondays of my life.