Meg's Blog

World Wide Tour, Part Four, Sweden, Cape Town, and Johannesburg

I’ve made it all the way to Africa! South Africa, to be exact.

Too bad my luggage can’t say the same.

My bag and I parted ways in Sweden. Ah, Sweden! What a time we had.

Me at the Gothenburg Book Festival in Sweden.

Cecily von Zeisegar (who tells incredibly funny stories and is also super nice) and I were quite the team at the Gothenburg Book Fair (if I may say so myself), where I also attended a fantastic seminar hosted by the Book Whore (no really, that’s her online name—I’m having a bit of trouble finding her site, otherwise I’d link to it—yes, I know, why didn’t I get her email! I got the site thanks to reader Sassenach on my message boards! It’s here! Sorry it’s in Swedish for you non-Swedish readers) and met many incredible readers.

Cecily (far right) and I discussed super important things (like shoes) with a moderator to keep us on track at the book fair.

The highlight of the book fair for me though (besides meeting such fabulous people and the sweet letters I got from readers like Astrid and Sylvie) was the man in the hotel room next door to mine, who chose to play Swedish folk songs on his guitar in the middle of the night to multiple parties in his room, many of whom joined in enthusiastically with the singing. And the singing wasn’t the only thing in which they joined in enthusiastically, if you catch my drift. Some people are such show-offs.

In Sweden you can buy chewing tobacco out of dispensers in hotel lobbies! No, really!

After that it was off to Cape Town in South Africa!

Table Top Mountain in Cape Town, as seen by me.

I flew from Gothenburg to Heathrow, then from Heathrow to Cape Town. However, my bag did not follow until a few days later. I was in Cape Town with no tooth brush, no soap, no change of clothes, and no way of knowing when any of these things would show up!

It could have been quite the drama, but fortunately my publisher and the nice lady at British Airways took care of it for me. The lady at the BA counter handed me two hundred pounds–in cash! I was pretty shocked. No one’s ever handed me cash for losing a bag. Ever. And I’ve had a lot of bags lost before.

So I cheered up and Nina, my South African publicist, and I ran out into the pouring rain and gale force winds of Cape Town to where every girl goes when she arrives in a strange new country without her luggage: the mall.

That’s Nina, my South African publicist, on the left, at a Princess Party in the mall with myself and booksellers.

I bought the staples, of course: Clinique moisturizer, facial soap (there is no Cetaphil in Cape Town), toner, eye gel, a pair of Nine West pumps, and three Cadbury bars. I didn’t have time to buy any new outfits because it was time for the signing!

(Of course as I was eating the Cadbury bars I heard Cadbury bars had been recalled for having been made with that Chinese tainted milk. Of course by that time I’d eaten most of mine and given some to Nina. But since neither of us are sick we assume we’re all right.)

Anyway, the events in Cape Town went very well despite the fact I had to wear the SAME CLOTHES to all of them. I hope no one noticed. My readers in South Africa are as lovely and incredible as my readers in the UK and Sweden have been. Love them!

The sun came out the next day and I saw that South Africa is incredibly beautiful.

When the sun came out I made Nina stop and park to take this picture on the beach. That’s Table Top Mountain in the background.

The sea at Cape Town is bright turquoise and the waves are huge and we drove by the penthouse along the beach where Prince Harry’s girlfriend’s parents live. There’s a place where you can see zebras grazing by the side of the road (no really—we went by so fast I didn’t get a picture. It was on a nature preserve but seriously, it’s in the middle of the city).

But then you can look another way and see incredible poverty. Every time you pull up at an intersection someone—often with a small baby–will come up to your car to ask for money, or try to sell you something (sunglasses, flowers, a Spiderman costume). I saw a man and his little boy driving a cart pulled by a horse and realized the cart was made from a mattress frame to which someone had attached wheels. Ingenius, but startling to see going along the highway with the rest of the traffic.

Besides being a place of stunning beauty, Africa is a place that will break your heart. However, people are working hard to try to make things better. You see it everywhere, but especially in the pride and massive preparations they are making for hosting the World Cup soccer finals in 2010, building stadiums in Jo-Burg and Cape Town, along with all the hotels and parking lots and things that will be needed for the games. This will provide a lot of jobs, hopefully to South Africans who need them.

We did find my suitcase as we were flying off to Johannesburg, where in addition to speaking at girls schools and doing book signings at book stores, I’ll also be working with the READ Educational Trust, to whom my publisher has donated many copies of my books to promote reading. Today I visited 100 girls (and a few boys) from schools in Gauteng to talk about writing and reading (specifically reading books not limited to educational purposes–such as, books about princesses). We chatted about keeping diaries and how writing down your feelings keeps you from taking them out on your little brothers. While we had many differences in our cultural backgrounds—and I had a lot of trouble spelling the girls’ names–hating on little brothers is, of course, universal.

I’ll be visiting Oprah’s Leadership Academy tomorrow. I’ll let you know if I see her!

In other news—He Who Shall Not Be Named In This Blog informs me he saw a water spout:

I informed him I have a cold and can only breathe through my mouth. When you meet me, don’t ask for a hug (sorry, ladies of Gauteng)!

Some of you have mentioned that the “Lost in Austen” link I provided doesn’t work for US viewers—well, never fear, it’s out on DVD!

You might want to check whether the DVD will work on US televisions though. I KNOW that show will be coming to US television soon though. Cheer up…and thanks to everyone who sent me the YouTube link to Britney’s new “Womanizer” release. Where would I be without all of you? No, really. Bereft is the word that springs to mind actually.

And for fans of the Precious Ramotswe Number One Ladies Detective series (which is set in Botswana, not South Africa, but never mind)…I did have some Red Bush tea.

And it was delicious.

I have nothing else to say except that I’ll speak to you all again now-now (which here in Jo-Burg means not now, but very, very soon).

More later.

Much love,


PS I almost forgot–we’ve added a public event in Singapore! Visit my tour page to see where! It’s been updated!