Archive for the ‘Africa’ Tag

Interview with Jane Bwye August 2018   4 comments

I suppose we could consider this a relaunch of my author interviews. And what better person to be the focus of that than Jane Bwye, who was my very first author interview about this time four years ago. Jane is here to tell us about her new book and what’s going on in her life. Welcome back, Jane.

Jane Bwye PortraitThank you for asking me round to your place again, Lela. I’ve just done some prodding in the past and discover that I’ve been here a few times. In 2014 I believe I was the first person you interviewed on your blog. Such a lot has happened in four years, and the questions and answers have changed.

I lost my husband last year. Despite misgivings about being able to make ends meet, I’m thankful that my needs are small, and I can get by with a mixture of pension and a revived business – comprising marking exam papers and judging dressage. The writing is a significant loss-leader!

I was sorry to hear about your loss. Dressage? This is the first I’ve heard of that interest.

I’ve been passionate about different things over the years. Horses are a main love, and I was lucky to have them as a major part of my life. I desperately wanted to be a ballerina when I was young and slim. I’d take a portable gramophone into the trees on the school boundary and play classical music as I danced and dreamed. But then my thighs grew too big. This passion rubbed off a bit onto my daughters.

My family is my life, and always will come first. I am blessed with six wonderful children, and seven grown-up grandchildren. I’ve been waiting to be a great-grandmother, but perhaps that will happen eventually.

Bwye House

I know I’ve asked this question before, but what is something you cannot live without.

I still cannot live without a book to read.

Absolutely! We must feed our souls before we can produce from them. So tell me about your books.

Writing Breath of Africa had a transformative effect on me. It served as an excellent catharsis after having to leave Kenya. The exercise of writing, learning how to craft a plot and edit, and trying to find a publisher, absorbed many years. Then I was finally ready to put the past behind me and make a go of life in the UK.

My books were written from the heart. They were written for me. I rejoice in the wonders of nature and wide-open spaces, and my descriptions sometimes take over from the characters. There is so much beauty around us. Perhaps I should have been a poet but trying to learn the technicalities put me off. The plots are secondary, and I try not to make them too contrived. I have juggled with different viewpoints and tried different techniques. I’ve written in the first and third person through the same character, as in I Lift Up My Eyes, where I’ve used italics to demarcate the switches of viewpoint. I guess my preference is projecting my feelings through the third person, which makes for a more varied and interesting approach.

Bwye DressageI prefer the larger universe of third-person perspective too. So, I always ask this question and I love the answers I get. The remote Alaska is still there. If I dropped you off for an extended stay – taking care of all the essentials, of course — what would you do there?

From your remote Alaska cabin I would now walk, and sit, contemplating the trees and taking in the beauty of the scenery. Especially I’d sit on a rock beside a stream letting the movement and the sound of the water take over my senses. I can watch moving water for hours on end, letting my mind wander and looking out for fish, insects and small animals. Like before, I’d bring my binoculars and a bird book and glory in every sighting. I’d make a list. And perhaps I’d bring my computer and develop a database of all the birds I’ve seen, written on bits of paper in the several bird books I’ve collected round the world. But perhaps not. I wouldn’t have time.

Every morning on waking, I’d read a few chapters of my bible. I’ve been doing this for years, and each time I revisit a chapter I learn something new. As the years go by, I have more people to pray about. I’d bring a notebook and pen to jot down happenings and thoughts.

I would not go near the internet or bring my mobile phone.

That’s good because there’s no cell service at our cabin site. That’s one of the things we love about it — enforced unplugging. Tell us about the latest book.

Grass Shoots has turned into a book with a message. Originally, it was written as a sequel to Breath of Africa, and it is still a story of Kenya in modern times. But it is also a standalone. It projects into the future. It addresses the motives of giving and receiving, and in matters of charity and foreign aid, faces the problems of mutual respect, and the necessity for people to take ownership of their destiny. After reading this book, I want to make people think, and to feel that there is hope in Africa. Giving is not a one-way exercise, and the rest of the world can learn much from the African people.

I love hearing about your faith. Like me, you don’t write for a specially Christian audience, but you don’t hide your faith either. How do you manage that in the world we’re in today?

Bwye Going It AloneI am an author who is a Christian. Apart from St. Wilfrid’s, A History, commemorating the 50th anniversary of my church, I haven’t written specifically for a Christian audience, although I make no secret of my faith. My voluntary work as a mentor in a Christian charity helps people regardless of their faith or lack thereof. I believe there are many people with good intentions who would shy away from reading if they thought I was trying to convert them. I Lift Up My Eyes contains many deeply personal cries to God from the main character. Even my latest – non-fiction – publication, Going It Alone, contains a true example of African business enterprises co-operating under the umbrella of the Christian faith, which demands integrity.

I love that idea! So where can readers find you and your books?


Amazon Author pages:





A Common Law “Country”   Leave a comment

When you say you’re a libertarian, you usually soon get asked the question “If your ideas work so well, why has no country ever tried to implement them.” My answer is always “Because people like to be in power and they never give freedom a chance for very long.”


Viable efforts to establish new countries that could actually be taken seriously are everywhere. Separatist groups in Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Italy, and Spain want to create their own independent states, to name just a few movements across Europe. The most advanced efforts are in Catalonia, which in October voted overwhelmingly to separate from Spain. Its efforts to become independent were put down by force by the Spanish government.

But perhaps the most successful new country is one that you may have never heard about. It’s called Somaliland, and it is carved out of the territory of the war-torn nation of Somalia.

Here’s what it looks like:

You’ve no doubt read quite a lot about Somalia, which claims sovereignty over Somaliland, in recent years. The government that the international community recognizes is riddled with corruption and effectively controls only a small portion of its official territory. When Islamist militants seized Somalia’s capital Mogadishu in 2006, a coalition of African countries intervened to restore the so-called “legitimate” government.

Unfortunately for citizens of Somalia, the government hasn’t been able to restore the rule of law. Just a few weeks ago, Mogadishu experienced the worst terror attack in Somalia’s history. More than 300 people were killed.

Somalia is not a place you’d want to invest in or visit. Yet, this is the Somalia the world recognizes as a sovereign state.

However, the northern region of the country – Somaliland – is very different. Crime is low, terrorism is almost non-existent, and the standard of living is higher. A series of peaceful elections has reinforced democratic rule for more than 25 years. While nearly all the residents of Somaliland are Muslim, disputes are settled under a traditional tribal system called Xeer. Like the common law that America inherited from England, Xeer is based on legal precedent and local customs.

While the world continues to acknowledge the corrupt government of Somalia, Somaliland has quietly prospered, despite lack of international recognition. It has its own currency and issues its own passports, which enjoy (limited) recognition.

That’s not all Somaliland has going for it. It claims a territory of 68,000 square miles and has a population that exceeds 3.5 million people. And crucially, it has the ability to defend its territory, with more than 35,000 soldiers.

Somaliland’s economy recently got a huge boost when one of the world’s largest seaport management companies, DP World, agreed to develop a new port there.

Part of the agreement provides for DP World to create a free trade zone in Berbera on the Gulf of Aden. It will be modeled on Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone, currently the largest free trade zone in the Middle East.

The fact that a major company like DP World is willing to make a big bet on Somaliland represents a pivotal vote of confidence for the country. It just might be the ingredient needed to compel the international community to recognize Somaliland as a sovereign nation. That’s especially true as conditions in “official” Somalia continue to deteriorate.

Certainly, Somaliland will continue to face challenges in the months and years ahead. But the fact that its government is looking to the example of Dubai, one of the world’s most prosperous regions, is a bellwether for the future. And it just might be a model for other new countries to follow.

Posted January 11, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Common sense

Tagged with , , , ,

African Cities Are Being Built for Wealth Consumption Not Creation | Daniel Knowles   Leave a comment

A few days before Christmas, I had the most tense journey to an airport of my life. I was in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where I had been reporting on the end of President Joseph Kabila’s term (he had refused to step down, despite being constitutionally limited to two terms).

My flight back to Kenya wasn’t due to take off until the mid-afternoon, but that morning my driver and I set out to the airport at 6 am. Along the Boulevard du 30 Juin, what used to be the city’s Belgian core, but is now a vast and smooth Chinese-built highway, rocks littered the road. We drove past lorries full of police officers in navy blue. On the corners, young men stood in small groups. Occasionally, we’d hear the pop of a teargas grenade being flung into the neighborhoods along the road.

Getting out of Kinshasa then was particularly stressful. But when I got inside the terminal and looked up at the forlorn departure boards, I was reminded that, even at the best of times, leaving Congo’s capital isn’t easy.

Urbanization Without Economic Growth

Kinshasa is only slightly better connected to the global economy than the North Pole.

This is Africa’s third biggest city. At 12 million, its population is bigger than London’s. Yet it has almost no connections to the outside world. On normal days, there are only 11 international flights out of Kinshasa per day. At Heathrow, the figure is around 1,400.

Image result for image of kinshasa slumsApart from the airport, the only other way into this vast megacity is the rickety ferry from neighboring Congo-Brazzaville. If you were extremely brave, you could try the road to the Atlantic Ocean. But that’s about it. Kinshasa can burn and most of the world doesn’t notice, because Kinshasa is only slightly better connected to the global economy than the North Pole.

And yet somehow it is one of the world’s fastest growing cities. Kinshasa is a particularly extreme example of how Africa is urbanizing without globalizing. Sixty years ago the whole of sub-Saharan Africa had no cities with a population of more than a million people. Now it has dozens.

But unlike the English peasants who moved to factory cities in the 19th century or Chinese ones in the 20th, the people moving to African cities are not moving to new global metropolises.

Africa’s urbanization is not driven by economic growth. Instead, people are moving to miserable mega-cities, with crumbling infrastructure and corrupt political systems, and which export almost nothing. Two-thirds of Africa’s urban population growth is accounted for by slums. Changing that may well be the biggest challenge facing African governments in the 21st century.

Glitz, Glam, and Slums

The problem with African cities is that they are generally built for the rich elite. Kinshasa is dotted with football stadiums, grand theatres, and spectacular government buildings – all the crumbling remains of president Mobutu Sese Seko’s attempt to build a pan-African capital.

Image result for image of kinshasa slumsAfrican cities are built for consuming, not creating, wealth.

In that, it is hardly alone. Dakar, in Senegal, has a ludicrous “African Renaissance” statue, built by North Korea. Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, has a growing number of glitzy housing estates for the wealthy, reclaimed from the lagoon. The most spectacular, Eko Atlantic, reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean by a Lebanese-Nigerian family, wants to be a new financial capital to rival Canary Wharf.

Yet all of these cities lack the basics. Roads are jammed up; power is erratic; there is often little in the way of sewage systems or clean water.

As a result, few competitive businesses want to move to African cities. Manufacturing is all but absent: the power and logistics are simply not good enough for factories. But neither are the service sector businesses that have boomed in Indian cities taking off, despite educated populations who speak English and French. The trouble is that the cost is simply too high.

According to one survey, of the 10 most expensive cities in the world, three are in Africa. Nobody expects New York City to be cheap, but that is because it has everything else a business could possibly want. N’Djamena, Chad’s capital, is pricey precisely because it has nothing a business needs.

Surviving on Natural Resources

Extreme inequality isn’t so much a product of the system; it is the cause of it.

What most African cities get by on is money from natural resources. As the Brookings Institution explains here, African cities are built for consuming, not creating, wealth.

The elite who capture oil or mining revenues have to live somewhere – and they concentrate their spending in cities. That is why the nightlife and restaurant scene in Kinshasa is so good, even though nothing else works. It’s the main thing the city produces. The poor flock in, hoping to feed on the scraps. Extreme inequality isn’t so much a product of the system; it is the cause of it.

Elsewhere in the world, cities which work well are expensive precisely because they are productive. London costs a fortune in part because so many good jobs are based there. What cities create is the possibility of specialization.

In a village, most people have to be farmers; in a city, you can do anything. And the wealthiest cities in the world are part of a network. As long as the developing world’s cities remain turned in on themselves, they will never be a part of that. Globalization, which is making the rest of the world’s metropolises more pleasant, exciting (and expensive) places to live, will pass Africa by.

Source: African Cities Are Being Built for Wealth Consumption Not Creation | Daniel Knowles

A Visit with Jane Bwye   4 comments

Today’s guest on the blog is Jane Bwye, a longtime friend and fellow writer. Welcome back to the blog, Jane.

Bwye Author PicLela, it’s good to be visiting you again. While browsing through your Writing Wednesday blogs, I discovered our interview way back in 2014. It was the very first one in your series. You mentioned that I might be following it up with an article. Well – here it is – three years later, on the eve of the launch of another book!

GRASS SHOOTS, the sequel to Breath of Africa, will be launched on Amazon on 30th March, 2017!

Caption: Elephants in Shaba Game Reserve

“More rocks had appeared on the near shore, captured by the sun. She glanced at the original clump, and back again. They had multiplied, and were covering the sand bar. They were moving…  ‘You’ve seen the elephants?’”

Bwye breath of africa - 902kbThis tender inter-racial love triangle concludes the saga of Caroline’s and Charles’s inter-racial families. Their children climb an erupting volcano, explore archaeological sites along the coast, and go on safari in Kenya’s exotic game reserves. The book pivots round the devastation in a highland village caused by the violence after the elections of 2007.  It touches upon present-day problems with foreign aid, beset by politics and corruption. It explores the possibility of alternative ways to help, which include input from the people on the ground – the ordinary villagers – and a burgeoning Kenyan middle class.

That’s sounds like a great book, Jane … one that really touches on the issues faced in Africa today.

The words I wrote in our previous interview have evolved into the main theme which is one of hope, and charity.

Faith and hope are strong among the poorest of its people, who exhibit a simplicity, happiness and gratitude for the smallest of mercies. Volunteers from churches overseas have had life-changing experiences when visiting to help communities in Africa, and I suspect the spiritual benefit received by those offering charity can be greater than that of the recipients. Africa can teach the rest of the world a thing or two about faith, forgiveness and the philosophy of life. I guess that is why I believe so firmly that there is a future in Africa – even though it may not be the same hope as understood by the rest of the world.

Bwye Kenya07 003 (2)Although I have no personally had the opportunity to do missions in Africa, I have friends who are involved in mission efforts in Tanzania and I think you’re probably right about the spiritual benefit accruing as much ot the missionaries as to the recipients. It’s my experience that Christians who live in difficult circumstances are much more reliant on God’s grace as exercised through faith than we are in the 1st world.

The name of my fictitious charity, which is founded in the United Kingdom, is Grass Shoots; and a significant part of the action takes place in the make-believe highland village of Amayoni, which – in Swahili – means birds.

Bwye I lift up my eyesTropical forest grew in great entanglements around her and its immensity engulfed her. It was denser than she could ever have imagined, with myriad shades of green and mystical shapes and forms, vibrant with life. Bursts of song filled her ears, yet she could see no birds in the thick foliage, which rocked and swished as the wind gusted through.

            Suddenly a branch bent over with a crack, and something large and blue flopped partially into view. Her senses were filled with the glorious sight of a large bird, a flash of yellow on its beak, its blue-green feathers melding into the background. It stayed, majestic, still, for a breath-taking second, then crouched forward and hopped in smooth bounds up the branch.

            “That’s a great blue,” a voice said at her shoulder.

            “A great blue?”

            “Turaco. You’re lucky. They’re a rare sight in this forest. The name of the village you’re going to visit tomorrow is Amayoni, which means birds.”

            They were standing on a closely-cropped lawn gazing over the carefully cultured flowerbeds at a dense wall of trees. A stream raced between them and the forest, its bank smooth and inviting. On the other side, a disarray of broken sticks and branches trailed in the water. A tumble of trunks growing at various angles dissolved into the mass of trees, blocking off the evening sun.

Bwye Grass RootsShe stooped to dip her finger in the torrent. It was icy cold. She straightened her back and pulled her cardigan round her shoulders before following the manager into the Kakamega Forest Lodge.

There is an enhanced Glossary of terms at the back of this book.

This sounds like another great book, an excellent follow-up to Breath of Africa.

Thank you for having me again, Lela. I will be happy to return the favour any time.



Jane lived in Kenya for over half a century, where she brought up her large family. An intermittent freelance journalist and business owner, she has written a cookbook, Museum Mixtures (1989) in aid of the National Museums of Kenya, and a History of her church in Eastbourne (2013).

Her first novel, Breath of Africa (2013) was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award. It draws on her experiences growing up in the country she still calls her home. Grass Shoots, the sequel, completes a family saga through to modern day Kenya. The novella, I Lift Up My Eyes, (2015) is set in Sussex.

A world traveller, Jane has bought a bird book in every country she visited. Now living in the UK, she is a business mentor and dressage judge, while indulging her love for choral singing, tennis, and playing bridge.

Link’d In:

Facebook:  JLBwye

Amazon Author

Amazon Author

A Visit with Jane Bwye   10 comments

This week’s interview is with Jane Bwye – who has been on the blog before, but it’s been a while. She was working on a new book. Welcome back to the blog, Jane.

Jane Bwye Author PicThank you for asking me round to your place, Lela. I’ve always wanted to visit Alaska. I guess it’s the idea of all that snow and the remoteness which appeals to me.


We are remote, that’s for sure. So what have you been up to since your last visit to the blog?

You want to know a little bit about me…. I wasn’t quite born in Kenya, but lived there for over half a century.  Now my husband and I are retired in the UK. Our family of six children and seven grandchildren are scattered over three continents, so I have developed a taste for travel. In order to fuel this urge, I mentored small business start-ups and enjoyed it so much, I continued on a voluntary basis when the funding ran out. I am about to try public speaking (see my webpage: ). I joined Toastmasters International eighteen months ago, and relish the feeling of power when addressing a captive audience. I have an audition with the Women’s Institute on the 19th April, so please spare me a thought.


When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I have always been a bookworm, and as a teenager I dreamed of writing my own book, full of tingly love scenes. When I went to University I wanted to be journalist, and my first commission was a series of “Letters from Oxford” for the Kenya Weekly News. I have written short stories, articles and columns intermittently ever since. But the culture shock of living in the UK was too great, and I left Oxford after a year to go back to Kenya and get married to the man I’d left behind. I told him I was giving up my career for him, and I wanted five children; but it was no happily-ever-after story, because he died after twenty months, leaving me with three small children (including twins). I remarried, and am passionate about my family; everything else is dropped when they are around.


Jane Bwye Africa

What is something you can’t live without?

Of course I cannot live without a book to read, even when I know I have more important things to do. I taught myself how to read and knit at the same time, so I didn’t have to feel guilty, although sometimes the children suffered one sleeve slightly longer than the other, when I was carried away by a story.


What do you get up to when you’re not writing?

When I’m not writing, I live life to the full. Exercise is important, and although I don’t ride any more, I still play geriatric tennis and walk regularly. I judge dressage frequently, belong to a choral society, and play bridge.


Have any of the books you’ve written had a transformative effect on you?

Writing Breath of Africa had a transformative effect on me. It served as an excellent catharsis after having to leave Kenya. I indulged in nostalgia while pouring over old letters and diaries, and researching biographies and histories. The exercise of writing, learning how to craft a plot and edit, then trying to find a publisher, absorbed many years, and before I knew it, I’d become used to living in a very different world.


Do you have a special place where you write?

The world is my oyster! I have written everywhere. In bed before getting up in the morning, or writing a diary at night with old-fashioned pen and paper; at my computer; sitting on a bench on the south downs overlooking Eastbourne. On my travels I have filled notebooks with chapters while visiting family in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Australia, or friends in Ireland. I can sit in a corner and isolate myself even though family are bustling around me, but I prefer to overlook a garden or a field, or better still, the African bush. One place I cannot write is on aeroplanes or in airports.


Jane Bwye 2bookpic

Do your books have any recurring themes?

I am an optimist. I firmly believe that there’s always hope, even in the direst of circumstances. This is the recurring theme which governs my life and my writings. I like to think that Africa will overcome its shortcomings, especially the evils of corruption, through the sheer pressure of enlightened citizens shaming their leaders. As a Christian, I know how to seek an answer, and writing my books have helped me to search for solutions, for I allow my characters a free rein and am often surprised by what happens.


I’m going to drop you in a remote Alaska cabin for a month. It’s summer so you don’t have worry about freezing to death. I’ll supply the food and the mosquito spray. What do you do while you’re there and what do you bring with you? If you’re bringing books, what are they?

A remote Alaska cabin would be a wonderful place for me to be quite alone to commune with God and nature. I would bring several pens and plenty of notebooks; I would write a diary, maybe become a bit philosophical and try to put the world to rights. I would need my kindle, as it contains the Bible which I read every day. Perhaps I will load it with old favourites. It’s years since I’ve re-read War and Peace, and it is about time I got to grips with the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I would need my binoculars, and a bird book; oh – and a walking pole, as I am sometimes unsteady on uneven ground.


Tell us about your books.

Breath of Africa was written for myself. But it was also inspired by the “tribe” novels of Nicholas Monsarrat. I wrote to him, saying the picture he painted of Africa was bleak and violent, and asking if he intended to write a more optimistic story. If not, I might be tempted… His widow replied saying that Nicholas had indeed intended to write such a novel: “Every good wish for the task ahead,” she said. “I expect it will seem daunting at times, but I hope it will give you great pleasure and satisfaction too.” You can read her original letter here:


I love that! What a great encouragement to you as a writer. But you didn’t stop with Breath of Africa. Go on.

I Lift Up My Eyes had been mulling around in my mind for many years. It was prompted by watching the sad consequence of a broken marriage after a friend’s husband was severely injured in an accident. Neither of them could handle the trauma of the change in their lives. I thought it was such a tragedy that they should have to suffer through no fault of their own. The process of writing took me on an exploration towards a solution, and I hope it may provide food for thought for readers in similar circumstances.


How does your Christian faith reflect itself in your writing?

I am an author who is a Christian. I don’t write specifically for a Christian audience, because I don’t feel qualified to do so, and I guess I prefer the gentle approach.

I have enjoyed your virtual company, Lela. I wonder if we’ll ever meet in the flesh?


I would love that! England seems a very long way from Alaska, but not so much now that Icelandia does an over-the-pole flight in summer. So where can readers find your books?


Links: Author page: Author page:



Jane Bwye Launches New Book   1 comment

When I heard that my friend Jane Bwye was launching a new ebook, I had to ask her about it and give her a high-five in the process. So I am joining her at her book launching event  on Facebook:
Jane, tell us about the new book.
Bless you, Lela! What a friend you are!
My book is a novella (30,000 words) called I LIFT UP MY EYES (quote from Psalm 121, NIV version). It will be sold as e-book only, and will be launched on Tuesday 7th October. It will be available on and .com, smashwords, and direct from Crooked Cat Publishers. My publishers are becoming more known worldwide now. Breath of Africa is also available on Google books, Tescos, etc. etc. but the new one will probably take a bit of time to filter through.
It is a story set in England, about love lost and found, and what can happen to a relationship when serious illness strikes.
I wrote it, because after Breath of Africa was accepted for publication, I felt like writing something completely different, and through my life I have been saddened by broken families because one or other partner has been unable to cope with the challenges.
Jane will send me links to the book when it becomes available on line, in the meantime, here are some testimonials by reviewers.


 A story about love lost and found, and what can happen in a relationship when serious illness strikes.

“Robert, Ann and Duncan…what a wonderfully complex, believable and sad web of emotions they spin before our wide eyes

 “…a powerful and moving story and so true to situations that may happen in life.”

 “I do like a practical and realistic faith. There is nothing whimsical or rosy coloured here, just a woman confronting one of the harder curved balls that life can throw.”

The e-book is available from:  Amazon, Smashwords and Crooked Cat

What are you up to next, Jane?
I’m about to book a flight to Kenya for next January. I’ll stay about five weeks, and soak up the atmosphere, do some more  research; do some selling of Breath of Africa paperbacks. And retreat to my daughter’s new little weekend hidey-hole in the African bush to progress the sequel to Breath of Africa! I think it will be called LAND OF HOPE – that’s it’s working title anyway.
I plan to do a bit of “exposure” of the new book over the coming weeks, sacrificing my Friday travel blog for the time being: (Tuesdays are taken up with author visits).
I am honored to promote your book, Jane. Authonomy, Harper Collins slush pile site, has a lot of great works-in-progress in need of polish, but a handful of wonderfully written books just seeking an audience. Breath of Africa was one such that simply reached out and touched me as a book that had to be read. I Lift Up My Eyes continues the same high quality.
Go check it out, folks. In the meantime — this is what folks are saying about Breath of Africa

Pinpricks of Ecstasy by Jane Bwye   1 comment

Dear Lela,
Here’s my reply to your piece about the aurora. I’m sorry I dont have any photos of African sunsets. I refused to take any, preferring just to stand in awe while they lasted.


Pinpricks of Ecstasy

Lela – I am uplifted by your fascinating account of aurora-watching for my blog and am inspired to tell you of what the heavens mean to me.
From as early as I can remember, I have been entranced by the sky. I seldom get up early enough to see the sun rise, but when I do, I pause to watch the translucent colours dissolve into vapours with the warmth of day.
My enthralment with the setting of the sun is an intense, almost anguished thrill which strikes my heart as I witness the glory of the red, orange and purple hues changing with every moment. Dusky clouds billow and curl, striking through that glorious orb with dense black lines; golden bars of light touch the ground; then the sun sinks beneath the curve of the earth leaving an after-glow, which, in Africa, is gone in a flash.
My family never failed to sigh with fake tolerance when I indicated the evening skies through the car window on drives home from school.
“Look at that sky,” I would exclaim. “Isn’t it just wonderful?”
“Awww – Mum,” they said. “You’re at it again.” Then, with a nervous tremble, “Keep your eyes on the road, Mum!”
I used to love doing jigsaw puzzles, but would ponder at the sheer ordinariness of those skies – bland, wishy-washy shades of blue and faint apricot with boring pieces all the same, impossible to fit in. On coming to live in the UK with its insidious pollution, I understood the reason why it was so. But I grew to appreciate the muted drama of the skies here, too, although the evening light lingers in these latitudes and dusk fades imperceptibly into darkness.
That thrilling, tingling feeling of ecstasy triggered by the beauty of African skies was missing. Why?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. When that eye is filled with love, happiness and gratitude it is indeed a thrilling experience.
I did not want to leave Kenya; my heart was dull and no longer did I feel the beauty around me. Something was missing. Was it age that was stemming life’s infinite variety? I didn’t feel old.
It took me several years to settle here, to look around and realise that ours is the same wonderful firmament that envelopes the whole world – not just Africa. And there are other opportunities here, not available in Africa; the theatre, opera, concerts, societies of every conceivable kind. I still hanker after Kenya, where the birds show themselves off with panache instead of playing hide and seek behind leaves and branches. But the endless rolling downs catch my breath.
In time, I sense those little pin-pricks of ecstasy stabbing at my heart again. And I celebrate. I’m not too old! I just need to turn away from myself, embrace the heavens and rejoice in life and love, wherever I am.
You can read about Jane’s book BREATH OF AFRICA, listen to the trailer, and sample some reviews on her website:

Posted July 2, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Guest Blogs

Tagged with , , ,

Interview with Jane Bwye   6 comments

Image of J. L. BwyeJane Bwye and I met through Authonomy, a Harper-Collins site for writers to critique each other’s work and practice book marketing. We were part of a Christian writers’ critique group which provided the commonality for our very different books. When Jane’s book Breathe of Africa was picked up by Black Cat Publishing, she left Authonomy, but we reconnected here on WordPress and on Facebook. I have always appreciated her patience and sense of humor, so when she reached out to me, I naturally responded.
I hope this will be the first interview with a writer on Aurorawatcherak. Jane will be following up with an article, with perhaps more to follow.
Jane has been a businesswoman and intermittent freelance journalist all her life. She lived in Kenya for over half a century, where she went to school, and brought up her large family.
She wrote regular feature articles for the Daily Nation in the ’60s, and under a by-line BWYE THE WAY… for The Chronicle, in the ’80s. She has coordinated/authored a cook book in aid of the National Museums of Kenya, and is working on a short history in aid of her local church near Eastbourne.
Product DetailsHer first novel Breath of Africa took 40 years to gestate, drawing on her experiences growing up in the country she still calls her home.
A world traveller, she buys a bird book in every country she visits. Now “retired” to the UK, she mentors small business start-ups, judges dressage, and advocates for the elderly, while indulging in her love for choral singing, playing tennis, duplicate bridge, and walking.
Jane, tell me something about yourself
That’s an open question, if there ever was one, Lela! Where do I start – and end? One thing: I’m a dreamer; always have been. Sometimes I know it’s been a form of escapism. I’ve looked forward to bedtime when I can dream myself to sleep in a maze of fantasies and block out the hard bricks of what life has sometimes thrown at me.
Perhaps that’s how I’ve survived? And how I’ve been able to conjure up stories to write down. Sometimes I’ve had real dreams and I write them down, before they can fade away.
Why do you write?
I write to give body to my dreams and thoughts; and to describe turning-point events in my life – and there have been many. When I travel, I write a diary (as in my Friday Round-the-World blogs)
I guess there’s always been a bit of a historian in me, so I date my writings and find myself doing research when publication is the aim.
I love watching people and I can’t help imagining what they might be thinking. I like to think the observations are stored away in my mind, to come out when I create a character.
Sometimes I write to clarify, or even justify my thoughts and feelings.
And I chronicle events in the lives of my family members, because I love them.
I write for myself.
What I remember most about Breath of Africa is the visual images your words conjure. After only a few paragraphs, I was right down in the long grass, hearing sounds that could only be large predators on my scent. Every scene wrapped me in the sights, sounds and scents of Kenya. What was the inspiration for the book?
Need you ask! Africa and its wide open spaces was the inspiration for my book. And nostalgia, as I sat at my desk cramped into a tiny flat on a crowded street in a teeming city in the UK – gazing through sagging telephone wires towards the hills of the south downs.

One primary focus of the novel is the interaction and clash of two very different cultures and worldviews, how that leads to misunderstandings and abuse of those who are not “us”. Can you talk about that some?

I grew up in a country where black and white were starkly different, but more so for the grown-ups than for the children. We were kept apart by our disparate societies.
But I enjoyed being with the Africans who were employed in and around our home; they were my friends – more so than my parents, who were always occupied with other things.
I know that many children of that era felt the same way, and several books have been written of childhoods featuring friendships across the races. In my idealistic fashion, I wanted to write a book in which those friendships lasted into adulthood and beyond.
But I was shocked by the extreme antagonism exhibited by some of our neighbours. The horrors of the Mau Mau murders were kept from my knowledge within the protective environment of our home, although I sensed an increasing tension and lack of trust.

Clearly, you draw on a lot on your own experiences in Kenya. Are there any real people who inspired some of the main characters?

Within the freedom of fiction I let myself go when I created a caricature of several extremist farmers in the character of Myers the white settler farmer.

I guess I was thinking of my step-father in describing the benign Boney, Caroline’s father, in the beginning of the book.
And of course there’s lots of me in Caroline – and also in Charles Omari Ondiek, who was in part inspired by the proprietor of an African business magazine I once worked for briefly in Nairobi.
I combined aspects of different friends from my school days into the character of Teresa.
Mwangi, the Mau Mau oath-giver, was a figment of my imagination, and maybe part-product of reading Nicholas Monserrat’s horrific “Tribe” books. (see this post on my blog)
I sensed a strong feeling of hope in your writing. So many writers who take on Africa seem pessimistic about the prospects of healing the rift between those two cultures. And, I would note that it’s not just between white and blacks, Europeans and Africans, but also between tribal groups. Yet, there is love across the cultures in Breath of Africa?  The 20th century saw some horribly barbaric upheavals in Africa which has led many observers toward pessimism for the future. Do you feel that there is hope for Africa in the 21st century?
Of course there’s hope in Africa! Without hope, there is no life, and its people are vibrant and forgiving. Hope lies in the younger generations – epitomised in forward-thinking schools in Kenya, careful to keep an even balance.
It also lies in that great leveler, the sports field. I was actively involved in Kenya squash, where all races and tribes would gather for the sake of the game; tennis too, and rugby. Some sports, of course, integrate people better than others and now through sheer force of numbers, teams are largely of one colour – though I would be surprised if they contained only one tribe.
Neither is business concerned with ethnicity. Many aspects of commerce in the 21st century are global, even in Africa, despite being “forgotten” by the rest of the world.
It is politics and sensation-seeking media which side-line Africa and highlight its horrors.
There are horrors everywhere in the world. And for me, the Middle East is more of a lost cause than the so-called “dark continent.”


I came to know you through a Christian writers’ forum on Authonomy. Do you believe that Christian faith holds any hope for healing the rifts between people groups in Africa or elsewhere? And, if you don’t want to touch on that topic, I understanding and won’t have issue with it.
Kenya is largely a Christian country. Faith and hope are strong among the poorest of its people, who exhibit a simplicity, happiness and gratitude for the smallest of mercies. People from churches overseas have had life-changing experiences when visiting to help communities in Africa, and I suspect the benefit received by those offering charity is greater than that of the recipients.
Africa can teach the rest of the world a thing or two about faith, forgiveness and the philosophy of life.
I guess that is why I believe so firmly that there is a future in Africa – even though it may not be the same hope as understood by the rest of the world.
Are you working on another novel?
I Lift up My Eyes, a novella about what can happen to a relationship when serious illness strikes. It will be published by Crooked Cat later this year.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
If I can do it – so can you! If you persevere, you will succeed, and I don’t expect you to take forty years, as I did.
Book Trailer:
Link to my Website and Blog:
Link to
Link to Smashwords:
Lela – Thank you, Jane, for being willing to be my very first
Numen da Gabaviggiano

Nada como tus ojos para sonreir

Lines by Leon

Leon Stevens is a poet, science fiction author, and composer. Writing updates, humorous blogs, music, and poetry.

Valentine But

Books: fiction and poetry

Faith Reason And Grace

Inside Life's Edges

Elliot's Blog

Generally Christian Book Reviews

The Libertarian Ideal

Voice, Exit and Post-Libertarianism


Social trends, economics, health and other depressing topics!

My Corner

I write to entertain and inspire.

The Return of the Modern Philosopher

Deep Thoughts from the Shallow End of the Pool

Steven Smith

The website of British steampunk and short story author


a voracious reader. | a book blogger.


adventure, art, nature, travel, photography, wildlife - animals, and funny stuff

%d bloggers like this: