Monday, March 24, 2014

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

When I found out I would be moving to Botswana, several acquaintances back in the U.S. asked me if I had read The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency book series.  At the time I hadn’t but prior to my move I did manage to read one of them.  Presently I believe there have been about a dozen published and I think I’ve read about half of them.  Alexander McCall Smith, the author, was actually a former law professor here at UB.  He was originally from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), but spent several years in Botswana before moving to Scotland.  I must say that he embodied Botswana perfectly.

A few weeks ago I discovered The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency had been made into a television series AND all the episodes were available on  I watched all of them over the course of one weekend.  At one point I was Skyping with a friend back home and mentioned I was watching the series which was entertaining, “but it’s kind of like watching my life here in Botswana.  It is a funny, but slightly tragic at the same time.”

Mma Makutsi is the secretary at the detective agency.  In the first episode as the detective is setting up shop, two typewriters are delivered.  Mma Makutsi asks “what decade are we living in? A typewriter?” but that is overshadowed by the follow-up question: “Why do we need TWO typewriters? I am the only secretary here.”  The delivery man explains he had to bring two typewriters because some of the keys didn’t work on both typewriters, so she would need to use both of them.  Mma Makutsi subsequently puts a piece of paper in one typewriter and begins to bang away on the keys.  She finishes, puts the same piece of paper in the second typewriter (to fill in the blanks from the missing letters) and then continues her work.  When she completes her memo on the second typewriter she removes the paper again, examines it and declares, “Apparently the ‘H’ does not work on EITHER typewriter.”  And that explains perfectly how The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency represents my life here in Botswana.
I absolutely love the books and the TV series.  If you would like a quick, easy read be sure to stop by the library.  Otherwise here are the links to the youtube episodes.  I consider these shows to be an almost 100% accurate view of Botswana.  They were all filmed here, so everything you see is real.  The ONLY critique I have is that the character of the hairdresser is culturally unrealistic:

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