Last week I was interviewed by Anne Holmes, “Boomer in Chief” for the National Association of Baby Boomer Women.  Having a great deal of her own experience with rural Africans – mostly in a university setting – she was curious about my story.

After reading Ruby’s World, we spoke at length about what it means to follow your passion, how our different backgrounds gave each of us a unique perspective on Zulu culture, and the issue of having regrets in life.

Following is an excerpt from our conversation.  You can read the entire interview at The Voices of Baby Boomer Women.

AH:  Your experiences with Ruby were so wide-ranging. Sometimes you two were like sisters and sometimes it seemed that there was no common ground between the two of you. Given what you learned of her life, what would you say that you most respect about the Zulu women?  

KB:  You’re absolutely right.  It felt like Ruby and I vacillated between being sisters and strangers.  I grew to respect the strength of these women, and the support that they provide for each other.

Before I went, I expected their lives to be slow paced with time for “old, wise, reflections on life.”  Some fantasy picture of what village, tribal life would be like.

But exactly the opposite was true.  Their lives are packed with modern day issues of survival combined with tribal customs that are demanding on their lives, and the reality of living in a culture where death is in your face every day.

I don’t know how they keep up the pace.  It was exhausting.  And they seem to show up for each other in supportive ways without trashing their culture or each other for things that American women would be busy trying to “fix” for each other.

AH:  Toward the end of the book, at the “coffin party,” you met two white South African videographers from Durban. These men said they always traveled in pairs for safety.  Given what you now know, do you think this is good advice?

KB:  Absolutely fantastic advice!!!  I would never go back alone.  At the time, I assumed their attitude to be about their Apartheid conditioning – racism. Now, especially after being involved with South African ex-pats and the Rural Women’s Movement … I believe their concerns are justified and that they were rightfully worried for me.

AH:  Have you heard from anyone in/from South Africa who has read your book? If yes, what do they have to say about your story?

KB:  Many people from South Africa have read my book.  The first thing they all say is that I am lucky to be alive.

The second thing the white South Africans say is that I have “put their country to shame.”  They seem to be in agreement that I somehow single-handedly accomplished what they all talk about, but are unwilling to do:  help the Zulus by stepping across the race barrier.

As far as I know, very few Zulus have read my book … but those who have seem pleased that I have represented their culture fairly and that despite the way it ended, that I am willing to continue working for their benefit.

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