America's Unofficial Ambassadors

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.

Coming Home – Final blog post by Zeeshan Shad

chidi

Chidi

It has almost been a year since I left my little suburban bubble outside of Washington DC for Zanzibar, I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to write this last blog post but I think its because there was so much that I learned and took back with me that it was hard to put everything I have been feeling and thinking on to paper. As I’m writing this, I’m currently sitting in Mohammed VI library, at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco. I know that it’s a little coincidental that I’m writing a post that was intended for my thoughts and feelings for when I returned to the United States, in another part of Africa. But I truly feel that this was the most appropriate time for me to write this post because once again I have thrown myself into an entirely different culture and have started the process all over again.  When I returned to the US last July, I remember feeling like I had left a part of myself in Zanzibar along with the friends and numerous people that I met. The time I spent there was a period that truly changed my life. I’ve always thought that the person I stepped on the plane as when I left the US was not the person I returned as and I truly mean that in the best way possible.  I think one thing that I learned while I was in Zanzibar was not to be so quick to write someone off, and that’s something that I’ve noticed a lot since I’ve been back. Everyone is so eager to classify people based on things like clothing choice or the types of music they listen to that they never really get to know a person. When I was still in Zanzibar I met so many people that just wanted to know about me and generously took me in and acted like they had known me for a long time. For example, my good friends Chidi and Jojo, with whom I spent a lot of time generously took me to two very different dining experiences during the holy month of Ramadan. Chidi took me to his mother’s house where I was greeted by his family and brought into the living to enjoy several traditional Zanzibar delicacies.

Jojo

Jojo

With Jojo, I went around to several different food vendors and filled up plates with a variety of different meats and ate as soon as the sun went down on a bench at the main plaza in stone town. The reason these two events stuck out to me the most was because of how quickly these two people took in a nearly complete stranger. Through those seemingly random acts of kindness I was able to see an entirely different culture during a very special time of the year.  My experiences in Zanzibar really affected me on a very personal level and have essentially shaped the way I interact with new people and really helped me to prepare for my newest adventure in Morocco. I found it kind of hard readjusting for life in the states and desperately longed for my morning when I would walk into a classroom at the Zanzibar Commercial School and be greeted by a roar of students saying “good morning teacher” or the blast of the call to prayer outside my window at 5am. Or sitting on the rooftop terrace of our apartment and looking out into the quick paced life of the markets below. I truly miss Zanzibar and I am so grateful to be able to have had those experiences that have not only helped to shape my personality but also helped me to get an idea in what I want to do with the rest of my life.  Finally, I would just like to thank everyone at AUA and Creative Learning and especially Ben Orbach who helped me out and kept me in it when things got rough.

Asante Sana,

Zeeshan Shad

terrace

Terrace view

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This entry was posted on February 7, 2014 by in Volunteer Related and tagged , , .
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