Tuesday, July 1, 2014

oNe PhOtO a DaY fOr JuNe


1.  JOY: it was a definite joy today to be out on our first hike of any distance, stopping for a burrito picnic lunch and then to stumble across this ancient temple standing majestically but silently alone between the villages of Nyishokha and Gelakha as we made our way back into more familiar territory.

2. DOING: June 2nd is Social Forestry Day in Bhutan and after school all the staff were grouped with three students to plant trees to beautify our campus. I was delighted that one of the 3 students, who I was assigned to, had chosen a callistemon (bottlebrush), which is native to Australia. This is us, with the cook who was also part of our team. Thanks to Madam Yeshi for taking the photo!

3.  FAMILY: this family of 4 is our neighbours here in Samtengang

4. ORDINARY: just an ordinary lesson involving some group work with my home class VIIIC. There is always at least one student so sick that they simply have their heads on the table resting during lessons! They just don’t see the point of remaining in the hostels when they are sick if they are boarders! At least the others seem totally engaged. With exams a little over a week away they sure ought to be.

5. 11 0’CLOCK: at this time today these Class VIII students were absolutely enthralled with the ending of the “Whale Rider” movie, I have been showing them this week. Some started praying when they saw the stranded whales on the beach, others cried when Paikea delivered her speech and they were all awed when she rode the whale. For kids from the landlocked Himalayan Mountains, those whales and ocean scenes were captivating.

6. ADVENTURE: well today was certainly an adventure but not the kind we had in mind or enjoy! After Ian slid down the ladder-like stairs to our front door at 6am, we both took a quick trip in a 4-wheel drive to the Bajo Hospital with his principal. Luckily he knew the ropes and got us to see the doctor promptly, then down to the X-ray department before leaving us to complete his own work. We got ourselves back to the doctor before heading to the wards for a back cast and finally across to the dispensary for some painkillers! By 11am the adventure was over and the enormity of the problem of those same stairs in plaster was just beginning to dawn.

The stairs in question!

7. PATTERN: I love the various colours and patterns of traditional Bhutanese bamboo weaving but I have tried to avoid buying too much, since I took quite a lot back to Australia in 2012. This is the extent of my small collection this time round.

8. T IS FOR: tasty! It has been something of a cooking marathon here today: Bengali kheer, chilli, garlic and basil focaccia, baked potatoes and beetroot for a salad, double chocolate cake, and pumpkin, zucchini and mushroom frittata. Just trying to cheer up the patient since it looks like he’ll be trapped indoors for at least a week.

9. WE LIVE HERE: in the heart of the Himalayas and this is the view from our living room window. Often it is cloudy, foggy, smoky or hazy but one of the joys of the monsoon is that after hours of torrential rain the entire vista opens up to clear sharp views with spectacular effect

10. FLYING: Bhutan is an incredibly patriotic country and the flag is always flying in many public places, including schools. In addition the opportunity for flying the flag is always seized. This shot from archives was the celebration of HM the King’s Birth Anniversary at my school earlier this year.

11. THE BEGINNING: at the beginning of almost every day we have an assembly, and this shot was taken at the beginning of the school year when I hardly knew any of these students. Now, however, I know the name of every student in the photo and another 100 or so as well.

12. PASTEL: the pastel pink shades of a native hibiscus growing the garden of what is referred to as teachers’ park in my school

13. SIMPLY: a rare treat for us to have home made tomato relish, grated carrot and cheese on open grilled garlic, chilli and basil focaccia for lunch: simply delicious. Only on a public holiday with no option of getting out to see the festivities due to Ian’s lack of mobility would I consider it worth the trouble to make it all from scratch

14. CROSS: its no easy feat to remember to notice the three different levels involved in crossing the thresholds from one room to another in our traditional rammed earth house, at the best of times, but add to this the fact the level of the floor in adjoining rooms may also not be the same and the inconvenience of crutches and just to cross the threshold is a major operation.

15. LOVELY: perhaps only to a vegetarian living in a village without a fresh vegetable supply could straight from the garden to the Sunday Market, tiny cauliflowers (even smaller than your fist) be lovely! I just had to buy 6 of them. Now for some creative cooking to put them to good use – koftas for a start!

16. IN THE SHADOWS: with just 2 days before the exams start there are students in the shadows everywhere all over campus, swotting up in their limited free time

17. PEACEFUL: this peaceful little village is sometimes clearly visible on my walk to and from school and sometimes completely hidden from view in the fog and mist and clouds. Despite having lived here for over 4 months now I still don’t know its name but I do plan to hike down there and explore it at close quarters once Ian is fully mobile again

18. QUIRKY: this narrow “maze gate” designed to keep cattle out of the primary school but allow little people to get through is just one of the quirky, low cost and minimum resource solutions to everyday problems we see here daily. They are certainly no fun for big people to get through and I have to negotiate 3 of them on my way to or from school most days. Just another fun challenge for Ian on his crutches too. The barbed wire adds another whole dimension to the equation especially when you are juggling a schoolbag and trying to keep dry under an umbrella.

19. HABIT: since I first lived in Bhutan in 2011 have developed the habit of hoarding bundles of prayer flags so that they are always on had to take out and fly on auspicious occasions – like the birth of a friend’s new baby. I then send a photo of them flying and releasing their blessings to the wind as a way of marking the occasion when we are so far away from the real celebration. I have also mailed them home and carried them to dear friends on several continents!

20. YAY! the plaster is now off and all we need is for the swelling to go down and the bruising to fade- on the mend at last.

21. HERE I AM: in the living room at home as has been the case for almost every hour that I am not at school, invigilating exams or marking papers, for the past week …. holidays are close now

22. GROWING: on the kitchen window ledge our small but thriving herb collection featuring this sweet basil – not much compared to the paddies which have recently been planted with rice seedlings but still a welcome taste sensation in a country without this herb.

22b. GROWING: Current view of the once potato field now paddy outside our living room window

23. IN THIS MOMENT: SMSS students like students all over the Kingdom are all in the middle of the exam period and in this moment they are about as focused and concentrating as I ever get to see them- this mornings’ papers for class X Chemistry and Class IX Dzongkha have just been distributed!

24. WHAT JUNE LOOKS LIKE: in fact in these parts June looks like mud, and monsoon rain with a heavy dose of exams thrown in but today as I was walking home from school I spotted this father and son team and realized for dad at least June must look like a lot of transporting and ploughing with this power tiller as all the fields have been transformed from harvesting potatoes to paddies of rice in the last 3 weeks. Power tillers are just about the only piece of agricultural machinery in use in the entire country and even then, oxen still out number them at this stage.

25. SUN FLARE: my first time to attempt this and I chose 2 of my favourite things about Bhutan – prayer wheels and prayer flags as my subject. These were located in the primary school campus, which is adjacent to our house

26. DREAMING: I know someone who is dreaming of not requiring any of these to walk anymore

27. LOVING: the monsoon vistas and the clarity of the views on my morning walk to school

28. BED: gladioli are one of favourite flowers because they always remind me of my dad. He grew them in the backyard in 10- 15 different shades and stored the bulbs tied together in bunches but separated according to colour hanging in the shed to keep the shades from blending. He even sold them to the local florist. This particular one is in the flowerbed at the primary school and we can see it from our bedroom window. I have been admiring it for days. That means the house in the background is our spectacular rammed earth home!

29. DELIGHT: these 2 delightful little girls delight in bowing and saying “Good morning madam,” to me everyday on the way to school and they always make me smile

30. THE END: the end of exams, the end of the term and handing out the marked papers before everyone starts summer break at the primary school this morning

You might have noticed that this month is predominantly food, school and the road to school shots since we have been largely confined to quarters since the injury.


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  2. Very interesting article and impressed with the point 24. Ploughing the fields with power tillers to raise the next season crop.