THE PROMPTS FOR THE MONTH
1. BEGINS WITH J: the avenue of Jacarandas in front of Punakha Dzong (the impressive and massive fortresses that serve as both administrative headquarters and major monastic centres for each of the districts all across Bhutan) – taken a few days late as we were anticipating this sight and were definitely not disappointed
2. SNACK: May 2nd is Teachers’ Day in Bhutan and the celebration at my school included this cake served to all the teachers during the cultural performances by students
3a. COLLECTION: the collection of traditional Bhutanese boots owned by the Samtengang Middle Secondary School and worn by various groups of performers at every traditional dance performance including today’s House Cultural Competition
3b. COLLECTION: This collection of elaborately embroidered hand-woven kiras owned and worn by the girls during the House Cultural Competition, held today came a close second and I just had to include both
4. US: quite a few of us BCFers (Bhutan Canada Foundation volunteers) caught up today for lunch in Kuru Thang. We are spread far and wide across the country and are always glad of an opportunity to spend some time together. The Diver Family came for the weekend, since they were on their way to Thimphu from Chumey
5. 4 PM: despite a long day at the chalk face at 4pm today we were all in the an ad hoc staff meeting that had been called to decide who was interested in a day trip together on the upcoming public holiday.
6. FROM DOWN LOW: this maypole style prayer flag, stands above my office and I often admire its dilapidated state, thinking they are more beautiful when they have weathered the tests of time. Today I went out to take a snap of it from down low and the skies that have been grey for days even blessed me with a hint of blue
7. TAKEN FROM ABOVE: This gang of Indian itinerant workers always seems to be on campus with a new job to do. Today as I headed up to the staffroom I managed to get a shot of them taken from above, while they were trooping across the grounds before any of the other staff or students were anywhere to be seen
8. BLUE: the intense blue of a newly positioned prayer flag on the covered bridge leading to the weekend market in Thimphu. I love the way the wind playing on it has created the blur
9. FAVOURITE: my all time favourite thing about Bhutan is the prayer flags as you might have guessed from the number of times they appear in response to prompts. This one epitomizes the proliferation of prayer flags in really auspicious places
10. IN THE GARDEN: California poppies in bloom in the garden of Semtokha Dzong
11. MOTHER: One of the last photos I have I mum and I together I remember the day so clearly. Neither of us looking our best but both of us having fun in each other’s company
12. READY: at 7.45am at my desk I am ready for the week of teaching ahead with sample letters, “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” and origami paper for the Class VIII Reading Challenge, sentence transformation worksheets for grammar practice, glasses, chalk, highlighters, water, magnets and pictures and word lists for the spelling competition on Saturday night. What else could I need? Well the rachu (red ceremonial scarf), which we must wear to assembly every Monday morning actually!
13. I SPY: with my little eye the gateway and path to this little known entry point, through the heavy wooden back door of the Trongsa Dzong.
14. LINES: Lines of offering bowls are a common sight all over Bhutan but at school today there was actually just a single line of seven offering bowls (with a butter lamp separating them), deployed at the inauguration ceremony of the newly acquired Guru Rinpoche statue, donated to our school by the construction company who recently completed our classroom renovations. I stumbled across this sight as I approached the staffroom for a 10-minute break between classes this morning
15. FROM WHERE I WALK: one of the first walks we ever did from our new home in Samtengang was to this little hamlet of Gelekha and we still love to stroll along the farm road that leads there, and down to the chorten to admire the view over the valley and into the mountains stretching far into the hazy distance beyond.
16.CREATE: I managed to create absolute outrage by asking my principal a question today. Next her response created tears and a sense of bewilderment in me. But finally I decided to turn my mood around and went home to create these delicious “rock buns” before returning to school for the evening’s activities and responsibilities.
17. BAG: Ian’s new Yathra Bag he bought in Thimphu last week. It is cloth woven in one of Bhutan’s coldest regions and this cloth is made into jackets, hats and rugs and all kinds of other products not just souvenirs for tourists. It is famously warm.
18. SOMETHING I DREW: Having to be at school until 9.30pm and on both Friday and Saturday and then from 10am to 2.30pm on Sunday, I really felt that I drew the short straw in terms of getting a weekend
19. ALONE: in the upstairs staffroom of Samtengang MSS this morning I was alone and preparing for the day ahead as I am almost every morning for at least the first 15 minutes. I enjoy this time to prepare in the quiet but somewhat messy light-filled room
20. WAITING: These potatoes grown in the field directly outside our living room window are waiting to be sent to market and the gaggle of people around the truck have laboured long and hard to produce them. They are waiting to know the price they will get and who will travel in the cabin with the driver to deliver them
21.CARD: my work permit is the one card I really need in Bhutan. Without it is impossible to travel beyond the district in which we live and it serves as ID in any situation within the Kingdom! Pity we don’t get to keep it as a souvenir when we leave.
22. FREE: I cannot imagine anywhere else in the world where teachers would feel perfectly free to sleep at their desks if they had a free period. Some things about Bhutan really to take you completely by surprise!
23. BLACK & WHITE: this simple black and white photocopy of a Garuda is pasted to the door of a basic hut-dwelling in Samtengang but it announces the Buddhist faith of those who live within. While fine scrolls and brocades may hang in the houses of the wealthy no matter how grand or simple one’s residence it is essential to declare one’s faith
25. NEIGHBOURHOOD: it is not the neighbourhood where we live but it is one that we frequent at least once a fortnight to get our food supplies and to avail the Internet
26. PET: although few Bhutanese homes have pampered pets and most dogs are definitely strays, they still get a fair amount of attention from boarding students and enjoy being petted!
27. MEAL: my packed lunch actually! I take my lunch to school and eat it at my desk, everyday so I can get more work done, but I invariably spend time sorting through photos with students at the same time as I eat.
28. UNIQUE: there are so many unique things about Bhutanese culture that the word is actually over used in student writing but I particularly like the style of painting used to decorate the feature wooden window frames, rafters and beams in a huge variety of buildings including schools, homes, government offices and hotels
29. NEGATIVE SPACE: the arrival of the monsoon rains has created blankets of fog alternating with crystal clear views, for the last couple of days. When I went to get a shot of the interlocking mountains disappearing down the valley, I arrived at my spot only to discover the fog had rolled in and our neighbour’s prayer flags were framed by negative space
30.SIDE VIEW: Bhutan’s National animal in side view. It’s a takin a weird looking beast in anyone’s book. This is an archive shot not taken on the day as they live in high altitude zones and are rarely seen except in a park near Thimphu. This particular one was in the Botanical Gardens in Pin Oo Lwin near Mandalay in Myanmar- so quite a long way from home!
31. SUNSET: another from archives as I slept through sunset having been sick all day but still in attendance at school. Yep Saturday is a school day here in Bhutan. This is a favourite from our last trip to Australia, taken on Xmas Day 2013.