Friday, January 31, 2014

oNe PhOtO a DaY fOr JaNuArY


1.   LUNCH: simple food catching up with mates and watching the much needed rain water the veggie patch from the newly erected deck

2.   BEGINS WITH G: the glorious garden of the house in which we are currently staying

3. MY TOWN: detail of one of the many heritage listed buildings in down town Adelaide South Australia

4.   WORD TO LIVE BY: dream big and commit to ensure that your dreams come true- sculpture in Hurtle Square Adelaide

5. FOUND: lots more street art in Adelaide this trip. This one is on the Scout Shop wall in Rundle Street East. In fact my last two posts are both street art I have now realised

6. HAPPENS EVERYDAY: once upon a time I walked or rode my bicycle through Adelaide’s green belt daily but now I am a tourist in my own hometown and it happens everyday but I rarely get to do it.

7. UPSIDE DOWN: upside down in the land down under- it seems to me that our treatment and policies regarding indigenous peoples have often been upside down!

8. LUCKY NUMBER: Eleven “legs 11” or “the number 11 bus” as the Chinese expression for walking goes. It seems appropriate that while we are visiting our hometown we are doing a lot of walking

9. NATURAL: the natural beauty of native Australian gums. I love them

10. MANMADE: a kangaroo made entirely from bicycle parts as a part of the Tour Downunder art exhibition in Adelaide Airport

11. LOOKING DOWN: along the jetty pylons at Largs Bay, South Australia on a perfect summer day

12. COLOURFUL: Adelaide Airport art promoting the Tour Down Under International Cycling Event to be held in Adelaide this month

13. MAKES ME SMILE: every time I see photos of these lovely students who I had the joy of being home group teacher to for 2 years in Bhutan, I remember that at our final tearful farewell I promised them I would return and in a mere 8 days I will for the second time since I made that promise. This time it is for a full year and I will make it my mission to see each of them again. They make my soul smile.

14. THREE THINGS: since we have been at home we have been cooking up a storm in many different friends’ kitchens. These 3 things are essential to any Chinese dish and were the base ingredients of tonight's dumpling dinner

15. BLACK+ WHITE: the full moon over Melbourne 

16. SUN: With the temperature in the 40s today and the fact that we are travelling I have chosen one from archives – Xmas Day 2014 sunset

17. TINY: this 2cm Buddha has travelled many miles with me and is now in Bangkok waiting to return to Bhutan

18. HAPPY PLACE: Happiness is not so much about a place as about people for me and this is the friend we met after 7 years yesterday standing in front of the hotel in Bangkok which was our home base for 7 months travelling last year. I guess the place is full of happy memories and this is just one more.
Photo credit to Yuth the Tuk tuk driver of the hotel!

19. BREAKFAST: buffet breakfast included with room charge at Aspen Suites in Bangkok

20. TO DO LIST: with just one day to go before we leave for our year in Bhutan I have an almost completed list for Bangkok which is a quarter the size of the original and I want to hold on to the lessons I have learned about how to live a rewarding life, while travelling for the last 8 months: - so two vastly different to do lists for me

21. BLUE: the bright blue sky and shades of blue haze over the Himalayas as we flew into Paro, Bhutan from Bangkok this morning

22. NICE: simple home-style Bhutanese lunch served at The Folk Heritage Museum as a part of our orientation in Thimphu

23. BEDTIME: it might be bedtime here in Thimphu but the bed is covered in the many things we felt we needed to bring with us as we try to sort through our luggage and decide what remains to be purchased to set up our new home. It will be some time before actually get to sleep in this bed!

24. YOUR SPACE: currently our hotel room is the only space we have and it is rapidly filling up with the things we brought with us and purchases we have already made

25. A TATSE OF WINTER: the bright sunshine and the ice-cold wind playing with the prayer flags on the covered bridge in Thimphu

26. FUN STUFF: nothing is quite so much fun as exploring markets as far as I am concerned and the colourful collection of fabrics and temple hangings at the weekend market in Thimphu was well worth a look

27. SOMETHING I BOUGHT: at the weekend market I bought this brooch to wear on a traditional Bhutanese jacket. It is the endless knot - one of the eight auspicious symbols of Buddhism. It represents the heart of the Buddha and is displayed on one of my hand woven kiras (skirts)

28. DINNER: at the dinner table with some of the 18 new teachers starting their year of teaching in Bhutan in orientation in Thimphu

29. WINDOW: here in Bhutan window frames are carved in a traditional shape and whimsically and intricately painted on even the most modern concrete structures. It ensures the cultural identity is maintained and the aesthetic is very appealing

30. BEST INVENTION EVER: though I avoided owing or using a mobile phone for years in Australia, here in Bhutan it is definitely the best invention ever. Without the resources to install landlines across the Himalayas, mobile phones allow the country to communicate domestically and internationally, ensure personal safety, keep us connected to the Internet and allow us to engage via social media.

31. POLKA DOT: the pattern on Ian’s trusty foldup shopping bag which has been getting a thorough workout these past few days in Thimphu, as we load up with household supplies and treats that will be unavailable in our more remote posting

Monday, January 27, 2014

Orientation in Thimphu

It is hard to believe that we have been in Bhutan almost a week. For us this time round, so much is familiar and it has been a real joy to feel that we have at least a basic understanding of so much of the culture. We are truly able to assist in the orientation process with the incoming new teachers and have delighted in answering questions and guiding discussions. I have felt enormously relieved that the education system is a known quantity if not one with which I can say that I am one hundred percent au fait. 

A large part of the joy for me personally however has been the views, the vistas and the ubiquitous presence of prayer flags, prayer wheels and the ever-present symbols of Buddhism that pervade all aspects of Bhutanese society. Returning to them has brought me a sense of inner clam.

I have been able to be more decisive and efficient in purchasing the huge number of household goods and appliances we require to set up our new home and the supplies which may be useful in our schools, as we have travelled this path before. I feel that I know what we do and do not need. As a result I feel more organized and prepared to face the challenges that lie ahead, even though our situation in Samtengang will be completely different from our previous posting in Rangjung. We are even able to guide others and recommend outlets and products. I will still need to work on my ability to be flexible and hold schedules and plans lightly, however but the bottom line is, even knowing this from the beginning is an advantage.

Long days listening to lectures and advice and being part of the essential process of meeting and greeting significant stakeholders in our soon to commence working lives, do however take their toll, most especially when we consider our recent lifestyle. Like several others in this group I have come down with a lurgie: nothing serious but I am afflicted with a sore throat, barking cough and ever more croaky voice. I guess that this is not to be wondered at, when I consider that we have traded a completely carefree existence travelling in hot humid environments, for icy winds and chilly mornings and evenings. At least we are blessed with warm, sunny afternoons and clear, clean air.

By far the greatest joy has been seeing several of my former students who just happen to be in the capital spending time with their families and relatives during their winter break. All too soon we will all be heading for our separate schools and there will be few opportunities to meet and chat in person.

I am delighted that within moments of posting our arrival in Bhutan welcome messages, requests for contact details and invitations to meet up came pouring in. Oh the joys of social media. In fact while we were still in Bangkok, we were actually invited to breakfast on arrival as soon as one former student heard our departure time. This is Bhutanese hospitality at its best and we still feel so privileged to be included.

For now we are not quite half way through orientation and this hotel will hold the distinction of being the place in which we have spent the longest time since June 2013! A new beginning has certainly been made and new challenges are sure to come, but to be perfectly honest I simply cannot wait to be settling into our new community and starting the real reason for our presence here: the business of teaching.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Good Ole Adelaide!

Things have been pretty quiet with this blog in the last 3 weeks but not with our lives. Returning home is always a time of business to attend to, health appointments and a lot of socializing. Doing so in the busy Xmas and New Year period was even more frantic than usual with the added complication of so many of the businesses and restaurants closed.

Nonetheless we have spread ourselves around and enjoyed the company of friends and family and marveled at the massive changes we seem to have undergone while so little has improved for so many Aussies.

We always arrive with ‘a to do’ list and a ‘to see’ list but this time we added a ‘to eat’ list, despite our expanding waistlines and the incredible food we consumed in Asia in the last few months. We know that the wide variety of cuisines available in Australia will not be part of our everyday life in the very near future.

There is evidence of building and development and more new and interesting structures have been completed or are about to be in Adelaide CBD and beyond. The climate is also dramatically different despite what the climate change naysayers would like us to believe. There is no place on earth I know better than good ole Adelaide in terms of weather and climate but it has been a challenge to adapt to the swings of weather from cool and windy to blistering heat and bright sunshine, which is what we were expecting.

The parklands, the Botanical Gardens, the beaches, the Art Gallery and Museum and the Central Market and an ever increasing number of bike tracks, lead me to believe that there is still a very economically and ecologically viable life style to be had in this picturesque capital city but I can also see more of our dear friends struggling to find a work life balance. Generally there is more hardship, social dysfunction and poverty resulting from a political environment of cutting services and demanding more self-management for society as a whole. It seems to me that our status of being “The Lucky Country” is slipping between our fingers, with funding cut backs, and belt tightening in those already severely depleted essential service. Simultaneously so many of us Aussies seem too preoccupied with our own person dilemmas to see the big picture. Perhaps it is just because the change is more obvious to us, who arrive after months or years of absence, that it is also more alarming. 

Nonetheless the time at home will be well remembered for an abundance of people, who have made the time to share their love, laughter and ideas with us over coffee and meals, excesses of delicious local wine, lashings of incredibly diverse and scrumptious food and spectacular vistas and urban landscapes.

Having said all that it is still totally true that we are glad to be returning to Bhutan and the next adventure in 2014! We have acquired a new mindset and a better appreciation for what is really important in our months of travel and are optimistic and inspired to once again join the workforce.

Happy New Year everyone and may this be the year where we all get to be “the change we wish to see in the world.”