Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, and more

If you enjoyed the trip through Botswana and would like to read more about Botswana, if you think you might go there someday, or if you think you might never go there – you need to read a wonderful series of books by Alexander McCall Smith.

The first book is The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. You meet the main character, and heroine, Mma Precious Ramotswe, the founder and owner of the only women’s detective agency in Botswana, and her assistant, Mma Grace Makutsi (who can’t resist a handsome pair of shoes), and the love of her Mma Ramotswe’s life, Mr. J. L. B. Matekone. Mma Ramotswe describes herself as “a woman of traditional build” and drives a very old, small white truck. She has a way of looking at things differently – and she solves her mysteries in ways you or I wouldn’t think of.

The books are short, and deceptively simple. They are “feel good” books, giving you smiles and warming your heart as you read. At the same time, you find yourself thinking back to these books, some of the issues, some of the characters, some of the plots – long after you have finished the book. That’s a sign of a good read!

As different as the thinking and culture is, the books are so full of grace and good humor and tolerance and forgiveness that when the book finishes, you can hardly wait to start the next one. You feel like Precious is your sister, a very smart sister, not without her flaws, but a woman to be respected, a woman of good character and who can make tough decisions.

She also makes mistakes, and has to live with the consequences. You will find the books addictive. The entire series is:

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
Tears of the Giraffe
Morality for Beautiful Girls
The Kalahari Typing School for Men
The Full Cupboard of Life
In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
Blue Shoes and Happiness

Jeffrey Deaver’s mysteries, on the other hand, are intricate and woven through with arcane information, but you always learn something. He has a series about a quadriplegic, Lincoln Rymes, a criminologist, who solves cases in a very Sherlock Holmes kind of way, by thinking about the evidence and the patterns that it presents. He has a girlfriend, Amelia, who is a policewoman, and works with him on many of the cases. The books that have these two characters are:

The Bone Collector
The Coffin Dancer
The Empty Chair
The Stone Monkey
The Vanished Man
The Twelfth Card

Last – and least, for The Devil Wears Prada crowd is Linda Fairstein, who almost always has a book on the New York Times best seller list. Her heroine is Manhattan sex-crimes prosecutor (District Attorney) Alexandra Cooper, whose dad made a fortune on an artificial heart device, allowing her to work in the public service sector and still wear fabulous clothes, have weekly manicures and hair stylings at the best salons and eat at the coolest restaurants in town, and she tells you all about them.

They make great airplane reading for the trendy. The plots are formulaic – an astounding, mysterious crime is committed, Alexandra gets involved, along with her detective side-kicks, the criminal involved somehow focuses on Alexandra and she has to spend the night at her friends’ houses. You don’t read these mysteries for the astounding plots, you read them because they are funny and superficial and a quick read that doesn’t require much thinking.

Happy reading!

September 21, 2006 Posted by | Africa, Books, Botswana, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Hemingway Safari: Leaving the Kalihari Lions (Part 11)

Our last morning hearing “Good morning” and zip zip, as our water is delivered. The big full moon is still up as we get our coffee around the campfire, hating to go. But, all too soon, it is time to load our bags into the truck and head for the airstrip. It is cold. I have my sweater on over my dress. Both Godfrey and Paul, at separate times, admire my long Saudi dress, and tell me with approval that I look like an African woman. I am just glad that there are also blankets available in the truck, as it is really, really cold in the desert.

I am even more glad for the blanket a couple hours later, when Godfrey slows the truck, and then stops. In the middle of the road, not 100 yards away, are two lions. Big young male lions. They show no fear, and, in fact, one starts walking purposefully toward the truck. He eventually turns back, but as we begin to leave, he turns back for another look. Now, there are three of them. The biggest keeps walking toward us, and walks to the side of the truck, the side where I am sitting. Godfrey tells us just to keep still, and all that he has taught us about lions goes through my mind. Sit still, look him in they eye so he will know you are dominant and not afraid.

We’ve seen lions before, in Chobe, in Moremi, and in these more heavily travelled game parks, I think the animals know you aren’t a threat. Most of the time, they just tolerate you presence, or slowly walk away. And, my friends, I am looking this lion in the eye. He is four feet from me. And I know sees me. And I don’t think he thinks I am a part of the diesel and rubber smell, he looks amused, and intrigued, and . . .hungry.

I have seen my cats look at little mice the same way. And I am aware that we have no gun, and no real weapon. There is a shovel, but it is attached to the front bumper. The jack is on the rear bumper. There are thermoses, but they are in the wicker baskets. I am sitting her with nothing but a blanket and a camera, and this big interested looking lion is within pouncing distance. And he doesn’t think I am dominant. And he is very, very close. “Godfrey, DRIVE” I say, and I can hear AH and Angela breathe again; we’ve all been holding our breaths. Godfrey drives, very slowly, and the three young males lope along behind us.

I will add, that while I was sitting motionless with terror, eye to eye with the Kalihari lion, my husband was sitting just behind me, shooting photos over my shoulder.

What if we had had the flat tire in the middle of all this, we wonder? How would we change a tire? Godfrey says, you just wait until they go away. Waiting out a lion could take a LONG time, and it would seem even longer.

Then, out in front of the truck steps a female, and she has wounds. Godfrey drives very slowly, very carefully, for a wounded lion is a far less predictable lion. We are nearly giddy with relief when we finally get free of the lions, who lope along behind us for quite a while. The road is sand, and we can’t drive very fast.

My Adored Husband is totally annoyed that he ran out of film in the middle of the episode; I had film but I didn’t want to shoot while I was busy maintaining eye contact with the lion. (As it turns out, he did get one really good shot of the lion, a very beautiful shot, the lion is light gold against the white wheat of the background, and I love the shot.) The adreneline is still pumping. We made it to the airstrip just in time, in spite of the time we spent with the Kalihari lions.

Time to say goodbye to Godfrey, climb aboard our last little Cessna and leave the bush. What a way to go! Our flight to Maun is uneventful. Maun is a funny little airport, very small. We find a couple gift shops – we haven’t been spending anything out in the bush – and we deliver a message to Afro-Ventures from Godfrey, telling them he needs more information on his next safari. He has a full contingent of seven for the safari, a reverse of ours, starting in the Kalihari, just hours after we leave. They promise they will radio him the information.

We are not the same people as before we went to Botswana. We miss our camp. We loved this trip. You have to be able to endure the bumps and lumps of the overland drive to handle this particular trip, Afro Ventures’ Botswana a la Hemingway, but there are other ways, there are trips where you fly from destination to destination, and stay mostly in lodges. You would still experience much of what we experienced, just not the camping portion.

AfroVentures and CCAfrica merged, and we don’t think you can get a better combination of knowledgeable guides and gracious accomodations. Every single day of our journey exceeded expectations. It was a grand adventure. Thanks for coming along.
This lion is actually a Grumeti lion from Tanzania, but I wasn’t digital yet when we travelled Botswana.

September 21, 2006 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Botswana, Cultural, ExPat Life, Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments