We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
Zee Abu is in Zanzibar volunteering as a teacher at the International English School.
I’ve been in Zanzibar for about two weeks now, and I have to say, I think I am really starting to fit in. I have been transformed into a true Zanzibarian women. It’s interesting for me to get both perspectives of being a local and a tourist. I not only have been given a headscarf to wear to school, but I also had the chance to get henna on my hands.
I am treated completely different when I wear my headscarf to school, than when I am out with my friends. No one usually talks to me when I am walking to school with the exception of the friendly people who say hello, here and there. When I am out with my friends and I don’t have a headscarf on, I can barely walk out of my front door without someone trying to sell me something. It is completely different, like living in two worlds.
It’s very interesting seeing people’s reaction when they find out I am not in fact from Zanzibar, instead I am a “Mzungu” or an American. My Swahili really helps, so I get better deals when I am out the market. I also am able to tell the locals that my friends and I live here, so they shouldn’t haggle us all the time; they react better when I speak Swahili. I think this also helps America’s Unofficial Ambassador’s mission with dispelling stereotypes. When people find out I am American, they are surprised, but yet pleased. They seemed pleased that an American is really trying to learn the culture and the language, it opens up discussions with locals and even my co-workers about America and the outside world. I’m glad I can start to change people’s perspective on Americans here. They are starting to see that being an American doesn’t mean being White. Americans are people from different races, religions, and cultures!
Here is my transformation!
I went from being an American tourist to a true Zanzibarian!