I Dreamed of Africa

I discovered Kuki Gallman when browsing in the airport bookstore for something to read on the long flight to London.  This was way back in 1996.

Kuki Gallman is an Italian writer and poet. Born in Treviso, Veneto, she moved to Kenya in 1972 with her second husband and son (from her first marriage) and is now a Kenyan citizen.

I dreamed of africa

The book I discovered was “I Dreamed of Africa and this book was made into a film in 2000 starring Kim Basinger. In this her first book, Kuki Gallman tells of her ongoing fascination with Africa.  She tells of being given an essay to write when she was 12 years old.  The theme was what she wanted to do and be in 20 years’ time.   The teacher dismissed her essay with the words “Why did you have to write about Africa?”  Her response (copied verbatim from the book) “But I do want to live in Africa.  I do not want to stay here all my life.  One day I shall go to Africa.  I shall send you a postcard from there, signora in twenty years’ time.

Twenty years later, I did”.

Her book tells her story of travelling to Africa with her second husband, her son, Emanuele and the two daughters he had with his late wife.  The two girls were sent home but Kuki, Paulo and Emanuele loved Africa and stayed.

The book follows their travels to find the perfect place to live and the dangers and thrills of setting up life in a totally different country, where they neither spoke the language or knew the local customs.

“Between 1972 and 1980 they acquired Ol Ari Nyiro, a 100,000 acre (400 km²) cattle ranch, on the edge of the Great Rift Valley, in Northern Kenya where they created the first ever anti-poaching squad to protect the largest population of Black Rhino in Africa and large populations of elephants, buffalo and leopards. Kuki became deeply involved with conservation.” ( Wikipedia).

Kiki had a daughter in 1980.  Paolo, her husband had been killed in an automobile accident shortly before the child was born.  He had decided to have a crib made for the new child and while bringing it home for their unborn baby was killed when a lorry crossed into his lane.  This was the first death.

Her son Emanuele was fascinated by and loved snakes.  Three years later (at only 17) he died of a snake bite while trying to extract viper venom for antiserum.

Kuki founded the Gallmann Memorial Foundation in honour of Paolo and Emanuele and has dedicated her life to saving the environment and wildlife of Kenya.  She still lives in Kenya with her daughter, Sveva Makena Gallman, who is also involved in conservation and helping African children preserve their heritage.

The second book, “A Night of Lions” I discovered a few months later.  This an illustrated collection of stories about the African land and people.  In reading this book you get the feel of her total love of the land and its people.

I strongly recommend both these books to you.  In particular, I loved “I Dreamed of Africa”.  It captured me from the outset and I hope it will capture you too.

 

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Taken on Trust

Today, with nothing else on the calendar and with the sun shining brightly onto the couch, I settled down to re-read this book by Terry Waite.  Having finished the book I remembered that I had written a review way back in March 2012 at the beginning of my blogging journey.  I should like to repost it here.

 

Book cover

I have this old, dog-eared copy of Terry Waite’s book, that I have read several times in the 20 years or so since his release.

I bought a copy when it was released and enjoyed it so much that I gave copies to various friends as Christmas presents.  I was reminded again of this man when reading about a recent failed attempt to free hostages in Nigeria.

In 1987 Terry Waite, as the special envoy for the Archbishop of Canterbury (though not a clergyman himself), went to Beirut to negotiate the release of several hostages, including John McCarthy, Terry Anderson, and Brian Keenan. He had already successfully negotiated the release of hostages in Iran and Libya, but when he arrived in Lebanon to meet with Islamic Jihadists, he too was taken captive.

As he said on his release, he foolishly believed the words of an intermediary that he would not be taken.  As he says  “I went without guards, arms or a locator device”.   So far from being a hostage negotiator, he found himself a hostage.  He was taken to various houses to shake off any followers and then eventually to a prison cell in Beirut.

Besides being chained to a radiator, he was regularly blindfolded, beaten on the soles of his feet, subjected to mock executions, and moved from place to place in a large refrigerator.  But he maintains that the mental torture of being in solitary confinement for so long, far outweighed any physical torture.

We have heard tales of prisoners retaining their sanity by practising their golf shots, running marathons or as in Waite’s case, writing their autobiography in their heads.  Waite spent 1,760 days in solitary confinement, his only contact with the outside world was through wall tapping to his fellow hostages.  Apparently, these hostages had a radio and could listen to the BBC World News.

In his book, he reveals the inner strength that helped him endure the savage treatment he received, his constant struggle to maintain his faith, and his resolve to have no regrets, no false sentimentality, no self-pity. of photos.

Waite was released in November 1991 some 20 plus years ago.

After his release and giving one interview to the media, he realised he needed time to readjust to life and so with his wife Frances and their four children he stayed away from the spotlight for a year to recover and convalesce.  During this year he put the harrowing account of his ordeal down on paper and then published it in his book, Taken on Trust.

Then,  rather than dwell on his own suffering, he turned his energies to helping others in desperate situations. He campaigned for the welfare of prisoners, and gave support to families of hostages through Hostage UK; he even offered to negotiate on behalf of military personnel held captive in Iran in 2007.

Terry WaiteThis is a difficult book to read, but one that is also difficult to put down.  We are told that  “Waite no longer works for the Church of England, but retains the faith that kept him going through nearly five years of captivity. His experience as a prisoner, he says, also helped him to see the shallowness of modern materialism. In 2009, angered by the MPs’ expenses scandal, he considered running for office as in independent candidate, but now believes he can do more good as an active humanitarian rather than as a politician. And despite his religious affiliation, he is sympathetic to the Occupy London protesters who have set up camp at St Paul’s Cathedral. “Our society is going to fragment unless we are very, very careful,” he said in an interview with the Guardian last week. “ We have a responsibility for the elderly, for the sick, for children and for those who are casualties of society.” Source The Irish Times, November 26, 2011.

Post Script.  I recently heard Terry Waite being interviewed on the radio.