Africa on Six Wheels


Africa on Six Wheels

A Semester on Safari

By Betty Levitov

184 pages
1 map


April 2007


$21.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

“I think I get it,” Betty Levitov’s youngest student said, sitting on a porch in Harare, Zimbabwe. “You’ve had a potentially fatal disease, and faced death, and now you’ll do just about anything.” The student was trying to fathom why a teacher would take thirteen kids from a small midwestern liberal arts college on a three-month trek across Africa.
The answer, a learning experience like no other, unfolds in Levitov’s thoroughly engaging account of her life-changing stint as a mwalimu (“teacher” in Swahili) with an Australian bus driver and thirteen college kids from Nebraska in tow. The group’s wanderings take them—and us—through seven countries. Through dhow trips and donkey rides on the Swahili island of Lamu, scuba diving and spice tours in Zanzibar, camping in the Namib Desert, and swimming on the edge of a cataract at Victoria Falls, we encounter remarkable people, new customs, and intriguing arts (along with malaria, flat tires, a bike accident, and a hostage crisis). As the students apprentice themselves to African cooks, fishermen, carvers, and batik artists, we discover with them a subtle and complex connection among people normally worlds apart.

Author Bio

Betty Levitov is a professor of English at Doane College, where she specializes in African literature, African studies, and Holocaust literature.


“A professional memoir written by a brilliant teacher and a compassionate traveler.”—Hilda Raz, editor of Prairie Schooner and the coauthor of What Becomes You

“An interesting travelog and an example of an alternative educational experience suitable for African collections as well as for education collections.”—Library Journal

“Levitov’s unique, lyrical memoir of three months in Africa leading a group of University of Nebraska students deserves a wide audience. English professor Levitov, a seasoned traveler, doesn’t simply know Africa well, she knows how to write about it, capturing an exquisite sense of place in just a few words. . . . Just as keen is her genius for capturing the personalities of her traveling companions and those they meet. . . . How pleasurable for readers that Levitov has managed to capture that beautiful African spirit in this fine travelogue.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“This is more travelogue than educational epiphany. . . . Levitov’s writing entices; one could plan an inexpensive itinerary through southern Africa based on her experiences, good and bad. Her descriptions of place . . . leave one ready to rent out the house, buy a backpack and experience Africa firsthand.”—Rebecca J. Roberts, Lincoln Journal Star

"Levitov writes in a refreshingly down-to-earth voice, her insecurities and concern for her students plainly engaging."—National Geographic Traveler

"This is a jewel of a book, a testament to the idea that while some people may be worlds apart geographically there really are remarkable similarities if we but take the time to listen and learn."—Mike Nobles, Oklahoma Observer

Table of Contents





1. Tarzan and Tutankhamen

2. Waiting for Gavin

3. Mr. Mushi

4. The Wazungu Whale

5. Nai-robbery

6. Captain Simba and the Stone House Gang

7. I Wonder as I Wander

8. Good Days, Bad Days, and Mzuzu Days

9. Njaya

10. Mr. Chiumia

11. Fawlty Towers

12. "Wash Me!"

13. Long Street



2008 Nebraska Book Award sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book, honor choice in the nonfiction category.