Chicken Run


Sunday, 7 July, 2013

Zanzibar, Tanzania

After teaching the youth of Tanzania every word in the dictionary – yes, even borborygmus (which as all you native speakers already know, means a rumbling or gurgling noise in the intestines) – I decided to take a short break from volunteering.

A few pals and I decided to leave the mainland and explore Tanzania’s famed and stunning island, Zanzibar. There are a variety of beautiful beaches across the island – usually boasting clean, soft sand with gorgeous, crystal clear sea. On the downside, beauty births tourism. These beaches come with endless blokes chasing you for ten minutes trying to sell you snorkeling trips and / or marijuana.

The weird thing is, I was always being offered the snorkels, while they turned to Frankie when it came to their weed pitch. He claimed that this was because he looks cooler and I resemble the kind of nerd that wants to examine the texture of colourful fish. Maybe so, but when the police show up I’d rather be seen talking to the bloke with swimming goggles than the drug dealer (let’s pretend for a second that they weren’t the same person).

As cool as Frankie may have appeared to a hustler, he wasn’t quite so stellar around some wild chickens later in the day – it’s a shame the beach boys never witnessed his fear of cocks, because then they would have seen who is the real colourful fish seeking nerd.

It was on a bus journey where Frankie’s alektorophobia became apparent, to both myself and all of the other fifty passengers that had jumped on the extremely overcrowded ride.

A bus in Zanzibar is more like a small lorry, with two benches running along each side in the back of the vehicle. The bus has a roof, but open space instead of windows and doors – a layout that is pretty ideal in the heat. This is also the most popular form of transport, so it’s quite the tight squeeze.

We both got a seat; we jumped on at stop number one of fifty (my go to exaggeration number, apparently). Therefore, were lucky enough to nestle our arses into a bench. By stop four, our row was squished together to such an extent, that it felt like we may have just become the world’s first conjoined octuplets.

The beads of sweat running down Frankie’s face didn’t become overly apparent until stop five when the chicken lady came on. She was an assertive woman, and somehow wedged herself into the middle of the row across from us – an action which was greeted with a chorus of groans. The chickens, three as we later discovered, were squashed in a basket and placed under her legs.

Shortly after the chicken lady got on, the bus made a sudden halt; this not only jolted everybody forward, but also opened the basket and freed the chickens. They couldn’t really escape or get very far because the vehicle was just so damn overcrowded, so instead were basically just frantically flapping and flying around in circles.

The majority of passengers, myself included, stayed relatively cool. Well, as cool as one can be expected to be when distressed chickens are hysterically bouncing on laps and against shins – we weren’t wearing sunglasses and lighting cigars, just, you know, not being overly dramatic.

Two people among the fifty didn’t quite take to the escape attempt as well as the majority though.

Naturally, the chicken lady lost her mind. After all, this was her dinner or profit on the run, she was scrambling all over the place trying to get these chickens back. She had no self-awareness either, at one point she barged past me, thumping my face with her breast – sure, this may sound ideal to some, but it wasn’t. Her boob was like a rock, it almost knocked me unconscious!

I wasn’t the only person to suffer during this lady’s deranged moment of madness, she also stamped on a fair few feet while trying to recapture her animals – one thing that was certain, the chicken lady had gained very few admires on the bus.

The second person that struggled to remain calm was obviously that badass, weed smoker, Frankie. While he remained in his seat, his arms refused to stay still – he gripped onto my shoulder, covered his face, pushed at an oncoming chicken. His legs also kicked about a fair bit, too. Perhaps I, myself, would have actually reacted with more concern if Frankie didn’t make the scene so flipping comical.

In the end, the woman managed to catch all three and place them back in the basket – her determination and carefree attitude obviously paid off. She doesn’t get many Christmas cards, but by God, she works hard to guarantee a good feast. Also, her chicken chasing skills allowed Frankie to breathe again – which was probably for the best.

In a calmer period of the bus journey, the woman next to me started showing me pictures of her daughter – the little girl was heavily caked in makeup in every photo and looked ridiculous. That was a pretty tough position to be in – are you supposed to tell a person their baby looks gorgeous no matter what?

Seriously, what do you say? She wasn’t a particularly ugly baby, but the thick eyeliner made her look like she belonged in a heavy metal mosh pit. I questioned why she applied such amounts of makeup, to which she explained that it was for protection.

There is a very weird but strong belief in Zanzibar, that putting eyeliner on a baby will automatically ‘ward off evil spirits’. Therefore, the majority of infants that you will see are covered in makeup, which in most cases, is very poorly applied (oooh I’m such a bitch). The results don’t make for very pretty viewing. In fact, these kids appear as though they are part of some sort of walking abused child awareness advert.

Also, I’m really curious as to where this theory began.

“I think my house is haunted, I’m really scared.”
“You know what you need, don’t you?”
“Are you sure? I mean, I’m not trying to get a demon to fancy me. I just want them out of my house.”
“Trust me, Carol. Once an evil spirit sees a bottle of eyeliner it’ll crap its pants, allowing you to sleep peacefully once again.”

She was a nice lady, she just, along with many of her associates, had a strange method when it comes to protecting her child. This woman also offered me a banana and some fruit juice, so I didn’t interrogate her parenting further.

I wonder if Zanzibar offers a safeguard for a man afraid of chickens. Maybe if Frankie starts wearing hooped earrings and blusher the chickens will no longer bother him.

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