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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Botswana and Alexander McCall Smith

About a month ago, Doug got a call from the Embassy of Botswana asking if Immanuel Church might be able to help provide a venue for the Sedibeng Choir to give a performance of their musical "Made in Botswana."  A few meetings later, the concert was scheduled and Doug had developed some nice relationships with the staff at the Embassy.  As a result of this contact, we were invited to a special evening that the Embassy of Botswana sponsored to celebrate their culture and to promote their fine country.  A special bonus was the presence of Alexander McCall Smith, author of the Ladies' #1 Detective Agency book series set in Botswana.  The book series has done wonders for promoting Botswana and the embassy was honored to have him as their keynote guest.  We were thrilled to get the invitation and it was an evening that did not disappoint. 
The invitation said that the dress was lounge suit or national dress.  With some help of other embassy friends, we discovered that that meant I should wear a nice dress and Doug a suit and tie!  So we got ourselves all dressed up, walked downtown to a beautiful building near the water and enjoyed a fantastic evening.  Upon arrival we were greeted with champagne and explored this beautiful house.  After some time we were escorted into the dining room, yet another gorgeous room and ended up with plum seats right in the front in the company of the choir director and the second in charge at the Embassy of Botswana. 
We met the beautiful and charming ambassador of Botswana and I have hopes to develop a friendship with this engaging woman. Everyone from the Embassy was really wonderful, friendly, and gracious.
The program was wonderful.  I was particularly glad to hear the Sedibeng choir as I have to miss the concert Thursday as I am in California now.  They sang part of the soundtrack to the Ladies #1 Detective Series film and they are truly awesome.  Their energy, their beauty, their talent, their engagement were all just dazzling and we loved being up close by to really hear the rich tones that the 22 different voices were producing. Doug was excited about the concert on Thursday and I was a bit sad that I was going to miss it.  I can't say it enough...if you are in Stockholm on Thursday, 30 September, go to Immanuel at 19.00 for this amazing performance!  It's free...just taking an free will offering to support the choir's travel expenses.
The dinner was prepared by a native of Botswana, a chef now living in Warsaw.  The food was magnificent!  Everything we tasted was just delicious.  Wonderful spices and textures in all kinds of different dishes.  I finished my dinner off with some sweets and a delicious cup of coffee before I realized they were serving the "bush tea" made famous in the books!  Too bad I missed the opportunity to share a cup of bush tea in the company of Mr. Mcall Smith!
Finally, the moment came for the author to speak to us.  He is clearly as whimsical in person as he is in his books.  His love for Botswana and his grand imagination came through in his talk.  When it came time to ask questions, I popped my hand up and inquired, "Why a female heroine and how do you write her so well?!"  He actually gets this question a lot and says that often when women meet him they wonder how a man such as he could write a woman's thoughts so well!  He said it would likely take years of psychotherapy to understand why he chooses women as his central characters but he added that he felt psychotherapy was bad for writers as it stifles the imagination!  Later, I got the chance to meet him and then I asked him how he comes up with the wonderful names of his characters.  He said, "You just listen to what's going on around you and also, reading the newspaper is a good source of names."  A good tip for any writer.
We walked home on a beautiful night full of joy and wonder.  We began to dream of a trip to Botswana for the whole evening made the country so appealing and interesting.  It was a magical night...great entertainment, great food and a great speaker.  I've read 8 of the books in the series.  It seems that my interest in the next several installments has been sparked and I look forward to getting reacquainted with Mma Precious Ramotswe!