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fascinated by the world of mma ramotswe - anyone travelled to or lived in botswana?

16 replies

bossykate · 11/12/2003 21:48

i've become a devotee of the no. 1 ladies' detective agency.

the depiction of life in botswana is fascinating and i was wondering how realistic it is?

grateful for insights, tia

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florenceuk · 12/12/2003 09:52

BK, have never been there, but I liked the books too! Have only read the first one and Tears of the Giraffe though, might have to get the others for Xmas reading.

outofpractice · 12/12/2003 10:08

I really love these books - have only read the first two. I backpacked around southern africa as a student, including Botswana. During our time in Botswana we hitched a lift with a woman with two children driving hundreds of miles alone in a little white van with elephants crossing the road - kindhearted enough to stop and offer two dirty backpackers a ride. She said that when the elephants cross you just have to stop the car and wait. You should never hoot the horn because it sounds a little like a baby elephant and the elephants think they need to come over and rescue the poor baby you are hiding in your car! I remember it very much as he describes it, however, it is very sad now that AIDS is having such a terrible impact. When we were there the economy was really starting to boom, but now, because it is a crossroads country full of truckers passing through, I think the AIDS situation has damaged the workforce and made a lot of orphans.

CafeCroissant · 12/12/2003 10:42

I love the books too (have read the first three so far), and dh has a couple of friends who come from Botswana and have read the books too. They say it is an excellent depiction of life in Botswana and of its people, very realistic. What a nice change this makes!! I tend to avoid books about France because they're full of stereotypes.... Love Mma Ramotswe!!!!

bossykate · 12/12/2003 13:13

hi everyone

i've got all five books - just started on no 4 with no 5 in the queue...

i have wondered if it is rather a rosy (not to say paternalistic) portrayal... Mr J.L.B. Matekoni for example - he's almost "simple" for want of a better word... maybe "naif" would be better...

i would really like to visit botswana - wonder if they would take a 2 yr old on safari?

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Azure · 12/12/2003 13:21

I visited Botswana 12 years ago, staying a few days with my travel companion's uncle in Gabarone, camping for a few days in the Kalahari and driving up to Zimbabwe via Chobe. Met some great people, particularly one night at a outside club / music venue, where everyone insisted on buying us cans of beer. In the Kalahari a group of bush people joined us for an impromptu party - one of my treasured memories. Haven't read the books but now am really intrigued - must add them to my Christmas wish list. Expat community was scary there, though - most of the men seemed to be drunks.

bunny2 · 12/12/2003 18:57

I spent a few months in Southern Africa / Botswana 10 yrs ago. It is an amazing country, the Okavango Delta was my favourite part but it is pretty inaccessible, we flew into the Delta by light aircraft and then went by canoe to a camp. I think that trip would be pretty tricky for a 2y/o. Botswana was pretty underdeveloped when I went, I dont know if that has changed at all. Perhaps South Africa (Kruger Park?) would be an easier introduction to safaris. BK, if you are really interested, one of my best freinds has just returned form there. She lived there for 10 years and could probably answer lots of questions for you.

bossykate · 13/12/2003 19:59

Thanks to everyone who has shared their experiences. I'm really envious of those who have been

Of all the curtailments to one's life with small kids, restrictions on "exotic" travel are those I find the most irksome.*

bunny, that is a really kind offer. however, i agree with you, i don't think it's really on for a 2yo. i think we'll have to leave it a few years.

given that, would it be worth inconveniencing your friend? i would be very interested to hear if the depiction of the liberal democracy, lack of corruption and relatively high standards of living described in the books really exist. is botswana the beacon of africa that mccall smith describes? does that offer a model of hope for other countries in africa? (anyone see bob geldof on jonathan ross last night btw - he was excellent.) has the country been completely decimated by aids?

what was your friend doing out there? something interesting and worthwhile, i bet. hope she is settling back in ok. what does she think of the books if she has read them? how do they go down in botswana?

thanks again, ladies, it sounds as though you all had wonderful trips there

    • i'm very risk averse when it comes to travelling to exotic places with small children, i know it is possible, just not for me, i would worry too much!
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bossykate · 13/12/2003 20:00

i think this is the sign of really good books btw, ones that make you very interested in learning more about the setting etc. i developed an abiding interest in roman history from reading "i, claudius" - that's a corker.

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Marina · 13/12/2003 23:36

bk, I did a fair amount of digging around on the internet for stuff on Botswana after reading the first book in this lovely series, but as I am not impressed by spiders/heat/long-haul I never even contemplated visiting . I read people's contributions on here with interest too. And I went off and read Tacitus and Suetonius after reading the Robert Graves novels as well, snap!

OldieMum · 20/03/2004 20:00

Bossykate - I've not been to Botswana, but have read some of the academic literature. It is one of Africa's more hopeful places. There is a lot of mineral wealth (diamonds) and the government is pretty decent. There is considerable inequality (as we hear about in the books, re the BaSarwa). HIV/AIDS is a very serious problem and one criticism one could make of the books is that it's referred to only obliquely (in the books I have read). What's less clear is whether there are any 'lessons' for the rest of Africa. I don't think so - it has so much mineral wealth and is blessed by having so few ethnic divisions - the BaSarwa are a tiny minority and Batswana make up the overwhelming majority.

From all I have heard, it's a wonderful place to visit and I hope you make it there some time. You can be sure that your child would be a real conversation-starter with lots of mamas.

Thomcat · 20/03/2004 20:07

My friend who is living there now had a conversation about the book and the reality and she says it's rubbish and nothing like it.
In fact this is what she says (English is not her 1st language);

think the detective book that
you are reading is only that, my friend here read it
and said that has nothing to do with Botswana.
I was very surprise to find out how the people, locals
and that means Black, has no love for each other. Is
the most cold country on earth. You probably think is
Switzerland or wherever, no is here.
Is a very rich country that the people just for being
Botswana can apply for a piece of land and they get it
for free! All the studies are free. And if they want
to study overseas the government pays. Is no much need
for them to do great efforts. They are bloody f. lazy.
And they are extremely materialistic. Everything is
around the money. Because also the man can marry many
times, the woman learn not to be very involved, her
only option sometimes is to ask material things. So
they see the man as a provider, get as much as you can
from him. And if the woman was abandoned from the
husband then probably she will try to have lovers so
they can help her economically or they will sleep with
the baker to get bread. Is all about business and
And that is what they teach to the kids. Is so much
hatred that you can see it.
And another thing, that if you want we can keep
talking about is : Witchcraft. For me is a fascinated
subject, I'm reading as much as I can. They strongly
(all Africa) believe in witchcraft. But is the same
believing put people against each other.
I read 2 books from a Botswana author and they are
very easy to read but they show you quiet well the
situation here.
Her name is : Unity Down
And the books are: "Far and Beyond"," the screaming
of an innocent"

outofpractice · 20/03/2004 20:31

Thomcat, Your friends comments are quite offensive generalisations about Botswanan people and Africans, eg that all Africa believes in witchcraft, everyone in Botswana is lazy, and so on. Just because she happens to be living her does not make it OK for her to make such sweeping and rude generalisations about a whole country of people. I only visited Botswana as a backpacker, but I certainly did not notice a greater proportion of lazy, ignorant, unkind people there than in any of the numerous other countries that I have travelled in.

Thomcat · 20/03/2004 20:48

It's only her opinion and she's lived there for a long time. Really no need to be offended but sorry that you seem to be. I just thought that as she happened to email me that last week and it was being discussed on here I would share one persons views, like everyone else has done. They are not my views.

She's a lovely girl who I like very much and she's entitled to her opinion of a country she has lived in before, left and gone back to. She has lived in different parts of Africa since she was a young girl. Maybe her tone was blunt, but it's different strokes for different folks and that's the way she is. i just thought it was interesting that her view of Botswana was different to everyone else's and she does LIVE there, she's not just visiting so I thought I'd share her views with bossykate.

OldieMum · 21/03/2004 01:53

Outofpractice. Different strokes, etc may be true in some aspects of life, but there are some aspects of life in Botswana that your friend doesn't seem to know about:

  1. Land tenure. In Botswana, as in most African countries, there are two types of land tenure. So called 'tribal' land, mostly in rural areas, where people apply to local authorities for rights to live on and cultivate land; and non-tribal land (mostly in towns), where land is bought and sold. Under 'tribal' land tenure, people are given rights over land, but the land remains legally owned by the 'tribe' as a whole and cannot be bought and sold (apologies for using this anachronistic term, but it has legal standing in many African societies. I would not use it myself to speak about social groups in Africa.). The purpose of having tribal land is a kind of social insurance mechanism, designed to make sure that all people have access to at least some land to live on, cultivate and graze their animals. This is vitally important in a country where pensions are scarce.
  2. African 'laziness'. Well, I can't comment on your friend's experience. I can only say that my own experience in Africa, and all the literature I have read in 20 years of studying Africa, suggest that people work extremely hard. They have to do so in order to survive in a tough and risky environment. This is a typical day in the life of people in the Kenyan village I lived in:

    5am Get up, take cattle to grazing area or go to the fields to work before it gets too hot.
    9am: breakfast. Followed by more work in the fields.
    1pm - lunch, followed by basket making and/or trip to the local market (5 miles each way on foot)
    4 - carry maize on head to local mill
    5-7 Cook, eat, wash-up
    8-10 finally some free time.
    Oh, I forgot childcare, washing clothes by hand, fetching water from the well (may be 30 mins walk away), fetching firewood (ditto).
OldieMum · 21/03/2004 01:59

Sorry, should have said Thomcat, not outofpractice. Got carried away by my passion for Africa!

bossykate · 01/04/2004 23:12

oh i am sorry, i meant to come back to this ages ago and say thanks for these additional comments. it is one of my pet peeves when people don't do this. sorry

very interesting to get these additional insights, thanks one day...

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