Saturday, April 12, 2014

oNe PhOtO a DaY fOr MaRcH


1.YELLOW: a yellow prayer flag flying at the perimeter of the National Stadium in Thimphu. I think I am going to try to find a way to match a prayer flag shot to one prompt every month for this whole year in Bhutan

2. SOMETHING BORROWED: we have been in the capital for the Losar long weekend, primarily to buy library books for Samtengang Primary School but we could not resist buying a few treats for ourselves at the same time. Luckily we are able to borrow some space in the refrigerator at the hotel where we stay to keep our tofu, cheese and yoghurt fresh until we depart tomorrow. 

3. MY NAME IS: Dzongkha is the national language of Bhutan and it is alphabetic, so I asked my home class to write my name using the Dzongkha script expecting them all to write the same thing, however quite a few variations came up and I have to confess that I didn’t even know which way up they went without seeking assistance.

4. ON MY MIND: The cold that we weren’t expecting and are desperately hoping will give way to warmth and spring soon, has often been on my mind in this first month in Samtengang. Just when we convinced ourselves it was actually getting warmer we woke up to thick fog and rain and when that veil lifted it revealed – SNOW! 

5. SOMETHING BEGINNING WITH I: The love of my life – Ian in a shot taken last year in Trongsa not so very far from where we are now living but in slightly better weather conditions.

6. CHAIR: This is where you will find me every evening after school: in my chair in the living room of our home in Samtengang

7. FLY: although I do not know the exact name for one of these, there is almost always one that flies at the top of the highest post in a stand of vertical prayer flags. (perhaps it is a type of finial)

8. IN THE CORNER: today for our Peer Learning Support Club I had Samtengang Middle Secondary School students in the corner and in every other available space in our living room labeling and sorting books, posters and flashcards so that we can start using them with the grade IV class they will be paired with for reading on Saturdays

9. 10AM: Taking a walk with friends visiting for the weekend. We spotted lots of trees in blossom a sure sign that spring is on its way.

10. FAR AWAY: The moon always seems so very far away, even when captured in a telephoto lens. This shot is from archives and taken in Tanzania, which is also very far away from us here in Bhutan.

11. SOMETHING GOOD: for those class IV students in Ian’s class who know only letters, cannot read and always spell words out, these phonics cards and a few magnets to play learning games with them on the board might be more than something good. They could just be the start to literacy and a whole new set of opportunities in life. Thanks again to Paul and Robyn Brown

12. PARTIAL: this is one of the many partially compete rammed earth homes in our immediate vicinity in Lekokha. The family who own it and are still building it currently reside in the bottom right hand room

13. FRESH: living in a very tiny village where I have never seen a fresh vegetable for sale has its challenges, especially as a vegetarian but today perhaps inspired by this prompt for the first time a colleague gave me fresh coriander, which just happens to be a herb I really love.

14. CARE: my home class VIIIC demonstrating their ability to take care of the plants in the garden bed they have been allocated within the school campus

15. EVENING: I was watching my students’ dance performances for most of this evening

16. BEAUTIFULLY ORDINARY: a very beautifully ordinary sight in Bhutan is a spinning wall of prayer wheels. These are in Bajo and extremely popular at all times of the day with the elderly citizens of the town who keep them constantly spinning

17. TODAY’S WEATHER: It really seems that spring is on the way at last. We felt the warmth of the spring weather on the ride back home this afternoon. This small enclave of greenery always catches my attention as we bump our way up the 9 kilometres of rough dirt road to get back to Samtengang and today I asked the driver to stop to get a shot of the terraces greening up with the season. 

18. FIVE YEARS AGO: We might have been dressed for work at 7.30am but we wouldn’t have been dressed like this and we weren’t living here. 5 years ago we were living in our own home in Adelaide

19. CROPPED: those without the regulation haircut required at Samtengang Primary School today had the Beauty Club ready willing and able to help them get cropped! Photo thanks to Ian

20. LETTER: not only our first letter since arriving in Samtengang but it came inside a box of ever so welcome books and with a thoughtful birthday gift of organic herbal tea and real ground coffee. Such a joy to receive and just 2 days before my birthday despite being mailed Feb 12th!!

21. FULL: apparently our school is full of demons. The Gangtey ceremony to expel all demons was performed tonight as a precursor to the Rimdro or purification ritual, which will take place tomorrow. Masked fire dancing performed by monks while students all shouted and threw stones were the major methods deployed but with the power out and masked monks and boys running through every room in the school in the pitch black wielding flaming torches, I began to wonder if living with the demons wouldn’t be a less dangerous option than expelling them.

22.MORNING: the scene in the Multi-Purpose Hall this morning as all the Class X students joined the monks chanting prayers for the school Rimdro or Purification Ritual

23. I’M LOVING….: having an oven and being able to bake this time in Bhutan- this spicy carrot, coconut and raisin cake was today’s experiment and just the thing for a cold and wintery afternoon.

24. ONE OF A KIND: when your shoppers are nowhere near tall enough to see through the sales window you need a one of a kind solution to the problem. This is the shop directly below our house in Samtengang. It is adjacent to the primary school whose students are certainly a large proportion of its customers

25. SOFT: the soft green glow of the potato crop planted long ago, finally emerging as the spring weather blesses the fields directly in front of our house in Samtengang

26. I AM HERE: standing on the road between the primary school and the middle school in Samtengang as I do every morning, making sure I stop and admire the view before trudging uphill to school and a busy day.

27. SOMETHING I MADE: tonight’s dinner of fried noodles with vegetables

28. NOSTALGIA: now that we have set up our new home and are busy establishing ourselves in this new Bhutanese community, it is with nostalgia that I recall how we once lived in this lovely little heritage cottage in Adelaide filled with many of our treasures from overseas sojourns – perhaps we will again one day

29. STICKY: eating with one’s hand is the norm here in Bhutan but it does often result in sticky fingers- which by the way I can’t even think without immediately thinking of the Rolling Stone

30. FAST: we bought these hoola hoops in Thimphu because they had been so popular with the primary students in Rangjung and only gave them to the school this week. Although most kids had never seen one before they sure learn fast and even came up with some original games of their own. This is Phub Thinley surprising the girls who had the same game in mind but with their little girlfriend who was being relieved as the holder.

31. FAUX: as a driver it is compulsory to wear national dress in Bhutan but this driver has faux gho- it is simply a wrap around “skirt” which resembles a gho when it is worn with the arms tied at the waist. This shot is from our road trip across Bhutan last September

PS It has taken 12 days to post this and only a few of them ever got posted on the day! Our Internet in Samtengang is woeful and even the Community Centre couldn't sustain a connection. As I write this we are in Bajo for the night availing not only of Internet but also electricity to charge our many devices and water for a shower. The next one might be a long while coming.  Power has been out in Samtengang for over 30 hours now and there was another day when it was out for 17 hours earlier in the week. We are told that yesterday's forest fire destroyed the transformer so it could be a week before we are back in business. Looks like we are in for interesting times. 


  1. Good morning, how are you?

    My name is Emilio, I am a Spanish boy and I live in a town near to Madrid. I am a very interested person in knowing things so different as the culture, the way of life of the inhabitants of our planet, the fauna, the flora, and the landscapes of all the countries of the world etc. in summary, I am a person that enjoys traveling, learning and respecting people's diversity from all over the world.

    I would love to travel and meet in person all the aspects above mentioned, but unfortunately as this is very expensive and my purchasing power is quite small, so I devised a way to travel with the imagination in every corner of our planet. A few years ago I started a collection of used stamps because trough them, you can see pictures about fauna, flora, monuments, landscapes etc. from all the countries. As every day is more and more difficult to get stamps, some years ago I started a new collection in order to get traditional letters addressed to me in which my goal was to get at least 1 letter from each country in the world. This modest goal is feasible to reach in the most part of countries, but unfortunately, it is impossible to achieve in other various territories for several reasons, either because they are very small countries with very few population, either because they are countries at war, either because they are countries with extreme poverty or because for whatever reason the postal system is not functioning properly.

    For all this, I would ask you one small favor:
    Would you be so kind as to send me a letter by traditional mail from Bhutan? I understand perfectly that you think that your blog is not the appropriate place to ask this, and even, is very probably that you ignore my letter, but I would call your attention to the difficulty involved in getting a letter from that country, and also I don’t know anyone neither where to write in Bhutan in order to increase my collection. a letter for me is like a little souvenir, like if I have had visited that territory with my imagination and at same time, the arrival of the letters from a country is a sign of peace and normality and an original way to promote a country in the world. My postal address is the following one:

    Emilio Fernandez Esteban
    Calle Valencia, 39
    28903 Getafe (Madrid)

    If you wish, you can visit my blog where you can see the pictures of all the letters that I have received from whole World.

    Finally, I would like to thank the attention given to this letter, and whether you can help me or not, I send my best wishes for peace, health and happiness for you, your family and all your dear beings.

    Yours Sincerely

    Emilio Fernandez

    1. I will definitely send you a letter. Only today have I been able to connect to the Internet again so I will copy your address and do it. Please be aware that letters can take a considerable time from this part of the world and let me know when you get it please, Emilio. Thanks you for taking the time to write all this on my blog