Tuesday, 3 May 2011

My love of books about other cultures

Having been a travel agent for 20+ years, I obviously have a love for other cultures, having visited a lot of different continents. I find the African cultures all very diverse and very very interesting.
Senegambia, The Gambia by Lisa Hardy
Whilst in The Gambia, we befriended a local man called "Kabs" who was a Tour Manager for a local independant company in Senegambia. He was so friendly and introduced us to his family, taking us to his home which was a compound, where he lived with his mother, and his brother and brothers family and his other siblings. They were so welcoming despite most of them not speaking English. We took with us a bag of rice as a gift. This cost us about £12 but would feed the whole family for a month.
Kabs and his family
Kabs took us to a local school where we went armed with books (of course) in English for their library, pens, pencils, paper and sweets. The children swarmed round us like bees around a honey pot. They were so lovely and so delighted to see the white people.
Children at Bakoteh school
Before I go anywhere on holiday I buy all the guide books, as I love to read about the country before I go, so I know what to expect. I am quite street wise on holiday and like to take my Husband and I off independently, although obviously being aware there are places you can and can't go on your own. We found that if we went with Kabs or his colleagues, he stopped people from pestering us.
I found one excellent book on Gambia whilst I was in The Gambia, called Tomkinsons Gambia. It was rich with colour and information.
Tompkinsons Gambia
This trip was the one that inspired me the most to read up about different cultures. I have since travelled to the Far East and been immersed in the sights and smells of Bangkok and the surrounding villages in Thailand. I have experienced the poverty in Malaysia. I have seen the way of life of the Aborigine people in Australia, how they eat from the land, all sorts of things we would turn up our noses at. I have experienced how in Mauritius, people of all religions live amongst each other quite happily and the rich live amongst the poor. That was quite eye opening and very humbling.

All in all these experiences have pushed me to read about the ways of life of other cultures. I love to read books like Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, where the author, quote "brings to life not only a character but an entire culture, and a sensiblity so strikingly different from our own ... engrossing and completely convincing". If you haven't read this, I strongly suggest you do. It's a book that has stayed in my mind.

 I also love books like Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, about a young girl growing up in Afghanistan. I just wish the author would write more books!

I have just therefore bought from New Books Magazine The City of Veils by Zoe Ferraris. In it "The burkha-clad body of a young woman is discovered on the grimy sands of Jeddah Beach".


Overall I love books of all genres, but I would just say, if you are stuck in a routine of reading modern fiction, thrillers or historical fiction then broaden your horizons and read one of the fiction books I've mentioned. They really do enrich your mind.