Safari Jema, A Journey of Love and Adventure From Casablanca to Cape Town
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Safari Jema is a Gem, March 24, 2012
Move over Peter Mayle and make room for Africa's version of A Year In Provence. Covering a year of travel in Africa with her husband Scott, Teresa O’Kane is blessed with the rare gift of observation that entrenches you in the moment, as she delights her readers with the lore of cultural contrast as told through her well adjusted parochial school eyes and wit.
For those just interested in the pros and cons of visiting the exotic places chronicled, you won't be disappointed. But what makes Safari Jema special is O’Kane's brutal honesty in recounting her hilarious reactions to events that would jar even the most seasoned traveler. This is what comes when fear, and an unquenchable desire for adventure, collides in the personage of a natural born raconteur, who also happens to be the proverbial catholic girl next door.
Where else can you find tales of a girl’s shoes not polished enough to be "almond worthy" and learn about the Ethiopian Ark of The Covenant, in the same paragraph! Who else is rating countries on a Donkey scale, to assess the treatment of their beasts of burden? And if that's too boring, O’Kane can also recount the sexual habits of her overland truck mates, as well as wild African life in equal detail. Such is the power of her unique curiosity, always retold with a genuine dose of humanity.
You surely will not fall in love with some of O’Kane's African journey, but you can't help but fall in love with the diarist and this story.
Her central character, however, is always Africa; Africa in all her multifaceted, contradictory splendor; Africa with her complex tapestry of peoples and cultures; the daily struggle for survival and sheer exuberant joy living. Ms. O'Kane brings to life moments of wonder, adventure, hope and tragedy, while avoiding the pitfalls of colonial condescension, blithe optimism or hopeless hand wringing.
There are travel tips to be gleaned from her account, but what Ms. O'Kane succeeds most of all in doing is writing a book that describes not what to see in Africa, but how to immerse yourself in Africa, if as she says, you have to will to do it.