A WORLD OF VILLAGES: A Six-Year Journey Through Africa and Asia by Brian M. Schwartz

A WORLD OF VILLAGES: A Six-Year Journey Through Africa and Asia

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A meandering travelogue, documenting the author's six years spent roaming from village to village in the backwaters of Asia and Africa. ""Travel is addictive,"" the author writes. ""No matter how far you've gone, there are always other lands beyond the horizon, hidden places each with their own peculiar secrets waiting to be revealed. And the very best. . .are those that lie just beyond the borders of the attainable."" It is beyond those borders that Schwartz (China Off the Beaten Track) went, often flouting ever-present security police and bureaucracies that make attaining visas an exercise in superhuman patience. His travels took him from Uganda to India, Nepal, Burma, Bali, New Guinea, Indonesia, Afghanistan (just before the Soviet invasion), Iran (again, just before Khomeini), Syria, Egypt, the Sudan, Zaire, and on and on, often returning to the same location twice across a distance of years. Uganda seemed to be his Waterloo; there on his first visit, he was shot at and jailed by Idi Amin's Special Bureau, while on his second visit (why return?) he ended up volunteering for an exhausting stint assisting in famine relief. There is some beautiful writing here and occasional witty or apt insights. In Rangoon, ""men wore skirts and women smoked cigars."" In Singapore, ""there's a hum of smug prosperity, and you can almost hear the GNP growing."" No one wears a watch in New Guinea: thus, ""if a time for a meeting had to be specified, it was always 6 AM or 6 PM--sunrise or sunset--the two times of day everyone knew."" In the end, though, Schwartz's ramblings seem somehow aimless. There is no explanation, even, of the decision to return home after six years. It just happens, suddenly, in two sentences. The closest thing to a lesson gleaned from his observations is when he says, early on, that ""I saw so many stereotypes refuted that I sometimes thought that a committee of bigots should be formed to keep our prejudices up to date. . .annual revisions might well be required."" A Blue Highways for the third world.

Pub Date: May 26th, 1986
Publisher: Crown