Thursday, August 15, 2013

Blogging, non- commenting readers...

... and the fine line in between.

Actually, what I meant to post as a heading today was: 

"The use of English and other languages, and the astuteness to understand that what this blogger (moi) posts about,  was originally gardening (in South Africa);  currently about life in East Africa, often about birding, nature and domestic cats, and -  above all - always non-discriminatory subjects". 


As you can see, it's too long for the title box!

When I started my blog way back in 2008, I posted regularly about my garden and the way we, as a family and with our friends, got great pleasure from it. I moved into our Marquard house in July 2000. In October year, I joined Grant in West Africa where we lived on a remote goldmine site in North-western Guinea. However, I moved back to SA in March 2001 to nurse my mum who passed away at the beginning of 2002. 

At the end of that year, with the encouragement of a dear friend, Betty, who has a beautiful garden, and with the help of John Tsie , my Sotho gardener, we tackled our overgrown, unsightly plot of ground adjacent to our home property. 
 So from this... this.

We had to do everything by hand, as,  even though I could have hired a machine to clean the area, the garden was walled

 Ultimately to this...

...and this...

...and this...

Serenity is...


The three interlinked garden ponds provided giant water bowls for the dogs!
My primarily indigenous garden attracts an abundance of wildlife

Southern-masked Weaver
 Pineapple flower
Our resident Free State hedgehog

Our dogs enjoying the garden
As did Shadow during his eight-month stopover in South Africa! 
 Plumbago is one of the most rewarding garden shrubs

Our house garden: an extension of the garden "next door" 

 Our garden patio to the rear of the house

In January 2011 Grant and I moved (as expats) to Kenya. We lived on a remote camp in a beautiful valley within the Great Rift Valley. 

What did I do there?

I changed the exotic garden into a primarily indigenous garden. My Kenyan gardener, Stanley and I eradicated anything and everything that was high-maintenance or that attracted unwanted insects and disease and replaced it with natural African flora. 
 Stanley and I walked into the bush and dug out plants with which we -re-created our Kenyan garden

 Our Kenyan house was surrounded on three sides by thick African bush

Ginger came with the house and we brought Shadow, who originally hailed from the Sudan, from South Africa to Kenya

Tacazze Sunbird in my Kenyan garden

The Beautiful Sunbird delights us with it's song

Since moving to Tanzania in January 2012, I've created an enclosed  shamba wapaka/ cats' garden behind our house. Our youngest cat, Ambrose, often posts about the fun they have in this safe haven. 

When I started creating my garden in South Africa, I was very frustrated because, although John Tsia was willing and hardworking, he and I might as well have come from different planets. I just couldn't communicate with him in Sesotho (South Sotho) and he couldn't understand Afrikaans or English. My son suggested I learn to speak his language which is what I did. I enrolled in adult Sesotho classes and after year of weekly lessons and a written exam,  John and I now converse on many levels! 

When Grant and I lived in the Sudan, (where I created an indoor garden on the stairwell!) I felt most alienated when shopping at the street markets. There was absolutely no English spoken, and because I couldn't even begin to understand Arabic, I struggled against exploitation. Grant arranged for me to study workable/local Arabic with a tutor. After this, life in North Africa took on a whole new meaning.

Arriving in  Kenya, there was no problem of not understanding or being understood. The universal language is English. It was only obvious on the few occasions when I spoke to very old Kenyans living in the rural areas, that it would be good to speak Swahili. 

Enter Tanzania year later, and it hit me with a force that I couldn't understand or speak to  the people working in the Guest House. Going shopping at the market and trying to communicate with the vendors was a nightmare. Fortunately while in Kenya I'd bought a comprehensive Swahili-English/English-Swahili dictionary which I use regularly. 
 My well-worn, much-thumbed Swahili-English dictionary 

Another blessing is that Regina, my house-lady,  speaks perfect English and helps me with spelling, pronunciation and generally sets me right when I struggle for a word. William, the company driver, who takes me to Shinyanga when I shop for the Guest House, has an excellent command of the English language. He actually understands concepts like suspicion/depression/concentration and much more, which he then translates for me. 

I feel when you live in a country where the majority of the people speak their local language, it pays to learn as much of it as possible. It's also a sign of respect and once you get the hang of it, you garner respect in return.   On the other hand, I can make mistakes in speaking and when writing a foreign language, but I am never discriminatory.  When I post about life in East Africa, and the occasion calls for it, I use the Swahili expression in italics with the English translation immediately after it. As a writer, journalist and regular blogger, I make sure that,  not only is my spelling correct, the grammar,  syntax and phraseology is socially acceptable and easy-to-read but that it's totally non-ist (non-ageist, non-sexist, non-racist). 

Regarding my blog and non-commenting readers:  ironically I only have two South African followers: one is a man from Port Elizabeth on the East Cape Coast and the other is my brother, Phillip. Both these men have their own blogs and comment on mine. If they had issues with words or subjects that I may have posted about (not that they ever have) I'm sure they'd mention it politely in my comment section. All my other followers are beautiful people from Europe, the UK, the USA, Canada, the Far East and Australia who gladden my heart with their regular comments.

For those readers who don't comment, and issues with my blog, my apologies. But remember this: in the words of a wise old woman I once knew: "If you take offense, you may as well take the gate as well!" HA-HA

The bottom line is I love blogging; I love blogging and I love that other bloggers read and comment on my blog. I, in turn, enjoy blog-hopping and adding my comments on fellow-bloggers post. It's politically correct, it's right and it's the polite thing to do.

Long may the blogger live ! 


  1. Incredible garden, gorgeous flowers and colors and, of course, I love seeing the kitties!! Terrific captures of a beautiful place! I'm sure you do enjoy it all, Jo!! Thanks for sharing and your photos are wonderful!!

  2. What a delightful post! You are a master gardener in my books and I love how you are also a life long learner. I too am a life long learner. I think it keeps one young ;-)

  3. I am so happy to have been with you through many of your gardens along the way... Don't know when we first started blogging together---but it was some time ago!!!!

    Love seeing your gardens --and yes, I also LOVE Blogging.

  4. I was enjoying the garden and pet photos, many of which I've seen before, and your description of language differences, and was very impressed with this post, as a whole, until I got to the bottom, whereupon I began laughing out loud (but not loud enough to awaken my somewhat-deaf husband and our loudly-snoring dog).
    I just love Love LOVE "If you take offense, you might as well take the gate, too." Now I need to find someone to use it on. It's my sister's birthday next week. She hates me, so she'll be quite indignant if I phone to say "Happy Birthday" and then I can use that wonderful line on her.
    She'll be so surprised, she might not even yell at me before I hang up.
    Luv, K

  5. HI Jo what a wonderful informative post a new comer to your blog I did appreciate you going back and explaining where and how your wonderful gardens came about. Great shots of them all. You certainly have traveled round the place and I love the way your hard work has paid off in making the garden native to that country. Love the 3 pools. You mention a guest house, do you run that for visitors or is it just from friends and family? You are a wonderful writer and I did really enjoy your post today.

  6. Well your title prompted me to read on, and follow your journey through your gardens. I love blogging too and have connected with some amazing people and love to blog hop and discover new places I have never visited. I will return. Carol in Cairns (Far North Queensland) Australia :) P.S. Not sure whose blog I found yours on but that is the fun of it all I think.

  7. Hello dear Jo! You always amaze and inspire me!! Have I told you that before? I admire you so much for all your hard physical work gardening, and moving all over the country! (And what you've accomplished with the land you've worked on is way more than gardening, but I can't think of a better word at the moment.)And then there's learning new languages!! I just can't imagine attempting that at "my" age! LOL. So, my dear, whenever you get a little down about not having time or the desire to write...Look what all you do! Big hugs to you from across the ocean!

  8. You have done wonders on your gardens and it is great that you use native plants!! I applaud your learning new languages. You live such a full life and it surely keeps you young!

    Carolina Mts

  9. I've enjoyed your blog for several years, and have only ever left one comment - and it was probably about your cats because I'm besotted with the creatures, and have two of my own.

    I too love languages and heartily agree that it's the way to garner respect - and more: I think there would be less war in the world if we all spoke each other's languages, or at least if we had languages in common to enable us to understand each other's anger and sense of injustice, not to mention our sense of humour.

    And finally, I love blogging too, and having lost my partner a few months ago have finally managed to start writing again, a sign I hope that I'm on my way (whatever that is).


  10. Jo, you have done a wonderful job gardening at both of your homes. I can understand why you would want to learn the language in your new country. I am sure it has come in handy many times. You are a hard worker, I hope you find time to enjoy life too. Wonderful post and photos!

  11. Ah, yes, I did see this, and I commented, too, but it is such a long post that, by the time I got to laughing about the fence and the gate, I'd forgotten about the beautiful photos of your South African garden.
    I can't really say I have a garden. We have a small house set in one corner of a big lot, and since we moved here I have planted many shrubs and bushes. Once or twice I planted a vegetable garden, but it's been years.
    So it is wonderful to have friends who post photos of their truly lovely gardens. Thank you.
    Luv, K

  12. I've loved watching your gardens grow. Plus it's been fun to learn a few native words wherever you travel, although I'm sorry, I've forgotten them.

  13. I am exhausted only by reading and looking at your garden work and pictures ! I love your garden(s) and you did a great job, but that's not for me ! Each time I have to work in the garden it makes me angry because I don't like it, lol ! Just the opposite of you. Concerning languages I very much agree with you. A language is an utensil for communication and nothing more ! It's like the tongue you need to be able to speak. If all people would understand each other there would be less wars and misunderstandings ! I too had a hard time to learn French when I arrived in Belgium ! And as you I adore blogging ! I have the impression to live in the whole world, to share worries and happiness with people from Malaysia over Singapour to the States, Canada and even Africa ! It enlarges your view on people and ways of life tremendously !

  14. I recently found your blog in wandering from a comment on another blog. What an interesting life you have had, and do have! After putting so much work into a garden, it must be difficult to move on and start all over again. A garden is the source of so much beauty and, in my case, good food.

  15. You create beauty in your environment wherever you go, Jo. Each garden is exquisite.

    I have been very neglectful of blogging (reading or writing) lately as I've been keeping busy doing other things...e.g., home maintenance projects, Gideons Auxiliary stuff (I'm the president of our Auxiliary) and church stuff. I've just started teaching Sunday school again after a 15-year hiatus while I sang with the worship team. I felt led to to stop singing with the worship team and start teaching the first-through-fifth-graders because no one was stepping up to the plate to do that and our youth pastor, who ministers to the junior high and high school kids, was basically babysitting the first-through-fifth graders. He doesn't really have time to prepare a Bible lesson for them because he has so much other stuff on his plate. So I've been teaching the kids about Elijah and now Elisha, using CEF (Child Evangelism Fellowship) curriculum along with a flannel board. The kids love flannel graph stories! Anyway, those are some of my excuses for not blogging! Forgive me for being neglectful of reading your bog posts! Whenever I take the time to read them I really enjoy them. You have a fascinating life, Jo! (((Hugs))) from Pat

  16. I should have done a before and after shots of our garden.

    Having said that, I don't want to remember what it looked like!

    Your garden birds are great.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  17. Thank you for visiting my blog this afternoon! How exciting for me to get a visitor from Africa! Your garden transformation is nothing short of remarkable and astounding! And a little hedgehog comes to greet you too, LOL.

    I can't even imagine how different your life is there, but it sure is interesting based on your marvelous photos!

    Thank you for a get-well wishes and prayers for my dear husband. We greatly appreciate it!

  18. Greetings from the man in Port Elizabeth. Bwahahahaha.... I nearly choked in my coffee from laughter when I read it. It just sounded weird to me.

    As a blogger I often wonder what people thing of the way I write. I've never had writing lessons and I'm sure my grammar sucks most days, but I made a decision from the start that I want to write the way I talk and for it to be a bit more informal than in magazines. I do try very hard to get my spelling and in a lesser degree my grammar as correct as possible. Although I probably fail miserably in the latter.

    Then there is your garden. I wish I had the time and patience to climb in and do something like that with my garden. I don't even get around to mowing the lawn as often as I'm supposed to.


Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate your feedback. Jo