Novel by Old Herefordian, Elizabeth Porter (OH 1975-82)
29/06/2015
Much as I loved growing up in Hereford and my time at HCS, I knew from an early age that I wanted to live abroad, somewhere as different as possible. So in 1990 I went to Tanzania with VSO, and spent three very happy years teaching English at a secondary school in the northern highlands.

Whenever I could, I visited the small coastal town of Bagamoyo. In the 19th century it had been a major trading port on the route to Zanzibar and the Middle East, but by the late 20th century it had become a backwater, with a curious mishmash of architectural styles – traditional and modern Swahili buildings side by side with ornate Arab houses and Germanic military fortifications. The architecture reflected the town’s troubled history: in particular, the events of the Bushiri War, when the Swahili people, the Christian Brothers and the Arab slave traders formed a bizarre alliance against the Germans. I loved the beauty and the quiet of this little town, yet at the same time I felt haunted by its past, and by my own ambiguous role as a European in Africa.

Eventually my experiences on Zanzibar and on the coast of mainland Tanzania became the springboard for my first novel: Stranger, Visitor, Foreigner, Guest, published by Cinnamon Press. It tells the story of Lucy, a reluctant missionary in the 19th century who is caught up in the Bushiri War, and the impact of her controversial actions on Sasha, a young American man who tries to build a life for himself in East Africa a hundred years later.

Elizabeth Porter (OH 1975-82)
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