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We’re back with another author interview, this time featuring Jamie Bowman and her book Bike Riding in Kabul! It features stories from her time working as an international legal consultant.
I read this one in December and really enjoyed it. She worked in Kosovo, Ukraine, Russia, Southern Sudan, Rwanda, and Afghanistan twice.
Each country gets a chapter but the chapters are broken up into shorter stories mostly from her experiences working but also as a tourist. It’s a quick read and one I would definitely recommend and read more of myself.
Let’s start with the fun questions
The first question, and my favorite to ask anyone, if you were a tree what kind would you be and why?
I suppose most people select the mighty sequoias or stately oaks. But I like the idea of being part of the seasons and producing something productive. So, probably an apricot, apple, or some other fruit-bearing tree.
If you could only visit one country forever, which would it be and why?
France. No question about it. I love the food and the fact that there are so many family-owned restaurants. Geographically, it’s big…!
So you have the shore in the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel as well as in the south on the Mediterranean Sea. They have a great history, kings, queens, and even an emperor and a very dramatic revolution. And when it’s not on strike the transit system is great.
What is your favorite book? Or top five if you can’t pick one.
Every book I read is my favorite book for one reason or another – and I prefer it that way. I envy readers who can relish certain passages and fall in love with the characters. I care about characters for the 300 or so pages that they are mine and then let them go because there are so many more to meet.
I did have a reader crush on Jon Ronson for a while. His books are well-written and they made me think and laugh. Other than that I pick up what’s new and enjoy the short experience of the book.
What is a question you always wish you were asked in interviews and what would your answer be?
What encouraged you to read as a child?
I’m not a natural reader. It was difficult for me as a kid. I found it tedious. When a friend of the family, who I loved and respected found this out, he said, “Jamie, the world is full of two types of people – readers and non-readers. You have to decide which one you want to be.”
His comment stuck with me and over the years I noticed the people I didn’t want to be didn’t read. So I started to force myself to read.
Now onto a little more about you
What is your top recommendation for a place to go/thing to in California and Savannah?
California would be a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge and lunch in Sausalito. Then a ferry ride back. Maybe an afternoon in Muir Woods – one of the trees I don’t want to be. LOL.
Savannah: A fresh seafood lunch at Sorry Charley’s or dinner at the Pink House. Savannah is a stopover for people traveling to and from Florida. You meet folks from all over the country who are in the mood to have a good time. You can always find a venue with live music.
You’ve been to a lot of interesting places, which one was your favorite to visit as a tourist and why?
Mmmm. As a tourist, Egypt is pretty remarkable. So is Istanbul. The history is amazing and the culture is very different.
In Egypt, you have the Pyramids and the history of the Pharaohs – a truly amazing ancient civilization. Istanbul was the head of Christendom until it was taken over by the Muslims. It has a very different, but equally fascinating history.
Now that you’re not working abroad anymore, what do you do to stay occupied? Hobbies?
Hang on. I haven’t worked mostly because of COVID. But the legal reform projects that I work on are starting to come back. I would like to do a project or two every year – but we’ll see how that goes. But I’m looking into volunteering with the National Park Service or the Smithsonian.
Finally, more about Bike Riding in Kabul
What were some challenges of working in the field abroad versus in the US?
When I worked in the US, the goal was to improve the profits of the company. When I worked in development, I was working to improve the legal framework, which in turn would improve the lives and the standard of living of that country. In that sense, I had more responsibility.
Which country was your favorite to work in? Least favorite?
Kosovo was probably my favorite. It was safe, I like my counterparts and as noted in the book, I fell in love with Roberto. Plus, we did some good work.
My least favorite, which is not in the book, was Iraq. The Iraqis were great, but it was very dangerous. I was stuck on a compound, and I didn’t see much progress.
What was your biggest takeaway from working in the law field in so many different countries?
To some degree, every country has the same problems. I’ll give you a couple of examples. You want to be able to engage in business without a lot of government interference, but you want to government to regulate certain aspects. So it’s a balancing act.
Everyone wants a fair and economical dispute resolution mechanism. We pride ourselves on our courts in the United States, but they are very expensive – and slow. It’s the same issue around the world.
If you had the chance, would you work abroad again?
Absolutely. It’s fun and interesting.
After having done this, would you have started working abroad earlier if you could have?
Good question. My first reaction is a big “yes.” On the other hand, I wouldn’t have had the knowledge and maturity I had that was so helpful in getting things done.
What was your favorite part about writing Bike Riding in Kabul?
Writing Bike Riding in Kabul allowed me to relive all those great experiences I had working overseas – both good and bad.
Revisiting some of those stories actually allowed me to forgive some people, which is always a good thing. I’m particularly pleased the my Dad’s legacy for kindness will live longer than it otherwise would have.
What was the most challenging part about writing it?
Converting individual stories into a readable book.
Do you have plans for any other books?
I’m currently working on a sequel. That book would cover my time in Iraq, Vietnam, East-Timor, Armenia, Mongolia/China, Bhutan/Nepal, Uganda, Cambodia, and Botswana.
I would like to keep the same upbeat tone, but the countries covered are more difficult for a number of reasons. There were security issues, a lack of local government support, corruption, etc. So, we’ll see.
You can see some pictures from each country mentioned in the book right here in a quick little video. And you can buy Bike Riding in Kabul here!