February 10, 2005: Headlines: COS - Botswana: Oregon Live: Donna Cohen taught at the Molepolole College of Education in Botswana while a Peace Corps volunteer from 1992 to 1994

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Botswana: Peace Corps Botswana : The Peace Corps in Botswana: February 10, 2005: Headlines: COS - Botswana: Oregon Live: Donna Cohen taught at the Molepolole College of Education in Botswana while a Peace Corps volunteer from 1992 to 1994

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Donna Cohen taught at the Molepolole College of Education in Botswana while a Peace Corps volunteer from 1992 to 1994

Donna Cohen taught at the Molepolole College of Education  in Botswana while a Peace Corps volunteer from 1992 to 1994

Donna Cohen taught at the Molepolole College of Education in Botswana while a Peace Corps volunteer from 1992 to 1994

Scenes set for popular Botswana tales

Peace Corps volunteer Donna Cohen will share her experiences of the "No. 1 Ladies Detective" locale

Thursday, February 10, 2005


While living in Botswana, Donna Cohen experienced an unhurried life among the dignified, unpretentious people portrayed by writer Alexander McCall Smith in his "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series.

She knew many of the places Smith mentions, including Molepolole, the birth place of Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, fiance of the books' main character, Mma Ramotswe.

Cohen taught at the Molepolole College of Education while a Peace Corps volunteer from 1992 to1994. She also traveled around the country, taking pictures of places that readers of Smith's series will recognize by name or description.

A former teacher and librarian who now is an information management consultant in Portland, Cohen will discuss in two library programs her experiences in Botswana, show slides of the countryside and play tapes of music.

She will be at the Lake Oswego Public Library, 706 Fourth St., at 7 p.m. Feb. 15. And she will be at Multnomah County's Central Branch Library, 801 S.W. 10th Ave., Portland, at 2 p.m. Feb. 20.

For a short period in Botswana, Cohen said, she lived with a family in a village to gain an understanding of a society operating at a slower pace than she had experienced while growing up in Massachusetts and teaching in Oregon.

"Everyone sat on the porch at dusk, talking about inconsequential things, watching the beautiful sunset," Cohen said. "It was quiet and peaceful as we sat there, eating our porridge."

Her description is reminiscent of a morning in one of Smith's books, when he wrote that Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni waited an hour before calling Mma Ramotswe to give her time to get up and make her morning cup of bush tea.

"Once she had done that, he knew that she liked to sit outside for half an hour or so and watch the birds on her patch of grass," Smith wrote.

Although Molepolole had about 40,000 residents a dozen years ago, Cohen said, most Americans wouldn't consider it a traditional city. For one thing, she said, most of the residents didn't have running water.

She defined Botswana's two cities as Francistown and Gaborone, the capital, because both have running water in most homes.

Cohen said that Botswana, with a population of about 1.56 million, is economically stronger than most emerging African nations.

Botswana became a protectorate of Britain in the 1870s to avoid annexation to South Africa by the Boers. It achieved independence in 1966. A few years later, three of the world's richest diamond mines were discovered in its territory. That didn't raise most individual incomes, according to the Lonely Planet World Guide, but mineral wealth has given the country large foreign currency reserves.

Smith, a professor of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, was born in Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, northeast of Botswana. He went to the University of Botswana to set up a law school and became enchanted with the people.

In an interview for Random House, his publisher, Smith called Botswana "a very special country.

"I think that it particularly chimes with many of the values which Americans feel strongly about -- respect for the rule of law and for individual freedom," he said. "I hope that readers will also see in these portrayals of Botswana some of the great traditional virtues in Africa -- in particular, courtesy and a striking natural dignity."

Cohen said, "I think people enjoy hearing about a society where these values are in place. . . . These books are a love letter to Botswana by the author."

When this story was posted in February 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Oregon Live

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Botswana



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