The entire group left me all alone in Dar Es Salaam. Actually, I left them. But with a 20-1 ratio, it would have seemed otherwise.
As the group made their way to Zanzibar by way of a rocking-rollin boat begging its passengers to become seasick, I boarded a plane to travel in the same direction, passing Stone Town and the Spice Route and stopping short of a return to Madagascar.
Nestled between the lemurs of Madagascar and the Maasai people of Tanzania, Comoros is a country composed of three islands, each unique in customs and dress, yet united in religion and language. I had made plans to stay on the main island, Grande Comore, with a local divorcee in her mid-fifties. At a young age, she had met and fallen in love with a Swede, their marriage allowing her to travel the world and become fluent in English in addition to the islands’ three main languages : French, Arabic, and the local descendent of KiSwahili : Shikomori. After raising a daughter just weeks younger than I and dealing with a divorce that would forever change her world, this gracious woman returned to her summer getaway and made it her home.
Along the narrow winding tarred roads lined by jet-black volcanic rock and lime green Ylang-Ylang trees, I found her and her ‘friend’ – a woman who cleaned and cooked for her in exchange for a salary that payed half of her daily needs and was compensated by a steady companionship of woman-to-woman trust, laughter, and appreciation.
They and I had everything to our advantage: time, space, information, and with the exception of a few soak-you-to-the-core rains, weather which enveloped us in a cloak of much appreciated warmth. The two women took me around the island, exploring untouched beaches, sipping coconut waters freshly freed from their sky-high homes, and sneaking into courtyards of friends at work or play who’d never know the difference.
During the times I spent alone, I was mistaken for a photojournalist and brought to an artist’s colony to view the works of locals and of the children they taught, fed freshly caught and fried fish, dressed in the local sari-type wrap which did nothing to protect from the 90 degree heatwave, and danced on the beach to the strumming of a stringed Oud.
Whether we made our way from place to place by foot or by overloaded van with freshly baked Mkatra Foutra breads warming our feet, the hospitality experienced there was unsurmountable. In three days time, I became her American daughter and she undoubtedly became Comoran mother who I will always remember.
It’s been a long time coming.
A very very long time.
But finally, the story is here. Mainly in the form of photographs. Enjoy The Comoros!