Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Chasing the Somali piracy money trail

I always wonder how much we know about people from other cultures. My work on this issue has shown me that cultural differences can cause or fuel conflicts and misunderstandings between individuals, communities, organizations or countries; hence the need to study and deal with those differences in an appropriate manner.

I have just found a wonderful article about the Somali piracy issue which is so much in the news these days. The writer brings out relevant cultural issues in a down-to-earth and memorable way. Her description of a culture where contracts are done verbally, without a paper trail, is right on target. Her description of how ransom money is distributed reminds me of a common practice in African cultures where, after a successful hunt, the animal killed is divided according to an elaborate system of who gets what part.

Here is the article, Chasing the Somali piracy money trail.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

My Connection With Longitude Books

It is always a delight to meet people with interests similar to one's own. With my interest in books and tourism, I do have such pleasant encounters, the most recent being with Longitude Books, an online bookstore for travelers and tourists.

I heard about Longitude Books for the first time in July 2001, from Judi Wineland, the owner of Thomson Safaris. She wished to see my Matengo Folktales on the Longitude Books list for Thomson Safaris travelers. I had published that book two years earlier. Several years later, I published Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, whose popularity has both touched and humbled me.

On March 20, 2009, after some initial contacts, Darrel Schoeling, founder of Longitude Books, wrote me saying that the company was developing its family travel and exchange programs and thought my two books would enhance those programs. He added that Stanford Alumni Travel had requested that my Africans and Americans book be included in the resources for their Tanzania Safari and Service Learning programs. Surely, I was pleased. I know that people are reading my books, but such news is always gratifying and comes as a challenge to keep writing.

I like the Longitude Books philosophy, stated on their website:

Reading is a great activity—and one of the best ways to get more out of travel.

Longitude Books saves the traveler the trouble of finding out what to read:

For each destination, we feature “Essential Reading” four or five books and a map that are a comprehensive introduction to the region for the traveler. We favor well-written, concise books that capture the spirit of a place, including guidebooks, memoirs, histories, field guides, natural histories, novels or other great books. Humor helps too.

In her message to me, Judy had mentioned that Longitude Books was the provider for Thomson Safaris. Having collaborated with Thomson Safaris on various projects, I value the connection with Longitude Books in a special way, and I am happy that now anyone searching the Longitude Books website can find my books there.