THE PROMPTS FOR THE MONTH
1 LANDSCAPE: The city-scape in Thimphu featuring the unique structures of Bhutan but there is never a view without mountains in it here
2. LUNCH: not just today’s lunch but lunch and dinner for the week to come. When you live in a place without a vegetable market and visit the capital with the most impressive market in the country, it is impossible not to load up on supplies and find a way to keep them fresh in a hotel room until it is time to depart tomorrow
3. “S” IS FOR: SHELLS – the conch shell in particular plays such an essential role in Buddhist ceremonies
4. IN THE MIDDLE: I guess because I was the last class teacher to arrive I got the only classroom in the whole school with a post in the middle. There is actually only one spot in the room where you can stand and see the entire class and many of the students can’t see each other but we work around it
5. PILE: This pile of firewood is actually to cook the World Food Program subsidised meals for the students at the primary school. Both breakfast and lunch are provided at low cost to about half the school which is almost 150 students. However there are similar woodpiles all over the village reminding us that winter will be extremely cold and long here in Samtengang.
6. GRATEFUL FOR: the lovely students I teach who alerted me to this phenomenon in the sky today. I believe it is a sun halo and it is the first time in my life I have seen one. It was only after I enquired with other staff that I realized that very few teachers actually saw it even though most of the students did. It made me all the more glad that they had told me and I had interrupted my home class’ lesson to ask the teacher to let them out to see it too. Both their Math teacher and my home class were also grateful for being told
7. SPOT: who is sleeping in morning prayers. Not that I can blame them at 6 am with another hour of study and a good hour and half before breakfast will be served, it’s a tough call for a 13 year old
8. PET PEEVE: I love teaching: the classroom interaction, the curriculum challenges, the creative approaches, the light-bulb moments, the sheer joy and wonder of learning BUT marking 103 exercise books before the next lesson with the 3 sections in class VIII –well all kinds of marking actually, it’s my pet peeve in this job
9. MIX: Just as I was about to mix this raw vegetable salad for dinner I remembered todays’ prompt. My version of a Bondi Beetroot Salad making a welcome appearance on the menu in Bhutan
10. ART: Whilst there isn’t a lot of framed art hanging in Bhutanese homes from my experience, the paintwork on the exterior of buildings is in itself a work of art. This example comes from Haa where the Buddhist motifs on the exterior walls were also extremely impressive
11. MIRROR: I love this old mirror and the memories in the house that it hangs in but not half as much as I love the man who took this selfie and gave me permission to use it for today’s prompt. Taken last New Year’s Eve, which will definitely be our last at Leith
12. GATHER: For the first time ever I had my students gather in the quadrangle to do their writing under test conditions today. This is commonplace in Bhutan but I have never before felt tempted. The cheating, copying and chatting got the better of me and I employed the local solution
13. INSIDE: For most of the morning we felt like we were living inside the clouds here in Samtengang. This was the courtyard where assembly is usually held at 8am this morning. You can just make out the teaching building in the distance but everything else is obscured
14. GIVE: It gave me a huge thrill to instigate the hanging of these prayer flags and 2 more sets with my class VIII students. They were delighted to do it and I know it will continue to give us all a big kick when we see them fluttering in the breeze daily.
15. CLOUDS: We have had another day of living in the clouds and 24 hours of continuous rain: just when I thought the monsoon was over. This one was taken last week. When the air clears and the mountains are revealed it really can be breath taking
16. CLEAN: students were trying their best to keep clean walking back to school in the mud and still falling rain, after our Peer Learning Support Club on what little remains of the farm road after 48 hours of continuous monsoon rain. Look at those white shoes!! Compulsory part of the uniform! I have to say they did a much better job of staying clean then I did. My black shoes and tights were covered in mud by the time I got home, after 4 treks up and down that road
17. DINNER: Tonight’s mushroom, cherry tomato and garlic chive frittata with potato salad and chilli salsa. No wonder I love Bajo Sunday Market and returning with fresh supplies
18. ARROW: Archery is a traditional sport in Bhutan and whenever there are public holidays tournaments are arranged. This is a shot from archives but it is immediately what I thought of when I saw the prompt. Those compound bows are really incredibly powerful – no traditional bamboo bow could have fired that arrow through the target
19. TO-DO: The piles of things littering my desk at 7.45am indicate exactly what I have to-do today: corrected books to return, poetry presentations to video, lessons to plan, printed photographs to distribute, attendance to check, water to drink and lunch to eat (hidden out of shot), reading challenge students to quiz, photograph money to collect, photos and videos to download, lessons to teach, and one mandala to give to the Dzongkha teacher
20. BEFORE BEDTIME: we usually make sure everything is plugged in because when the power goes out here it might be for 10 minutes or 3 days and it helps to know we are charged up!
21. DECORATE: we like to decorate our home with simple objects that remind us of the places we have travelled, the culture here in Bhutan and the things we love from home. In this shot a small contemporary Buddha designed by a Japanese in Vietnam and seashells from Glenelg Beach South Australia on a piece of silk from Lao
22. WORDS: those vocabulary items that needed to be introduced and understood before our text about Gandhi and the Salt March could be studied today. Sometimes it is very obvious that the textbooks are not at a suitable level for the students. 26 words in just one and half pages and that wasn’t all of them!
24. FRAGRANT: I’m guessing this is wild ginger and I am sure it would be fragrant. It is just that it was growing in a temple compound and at the top of the chorten and I couldn’t get close enough to check
25. MAIL: There is in fact no mail service where we live and we have received only a few copies of a magazine to which we subscribe and a 2 care parcels, which all have been collected by any individual who is in the Dzong at the time and notices that they are there. Then they mysteriously materialize on one of our desks at school or even at the front door. I was once a real advocate of snail mail and still can’t resist the beautiful cards made of hand made paper and hand painted with Buddhist images. I do occasionally mail them out of the country but our mail these days even with very poor Internet is mostly emails on the phone
26. BREAKFAST: Not today’s breakfast but my favourite breakfast and one that we only have about once a month. We refer to it as “The Full Monty” and it always includes eggs on toast, tomatoes and potatoes and occasionally has the added bonus of mushrooms or spinach like this one.
27. DULL: With all the beautiful bright colours and patterns that are so much a part of Bhutanese culture I really don’t get why someone would select dull and boring, gunmetal grey as the colour for a school uniform in Bhutan but that is it in Samtengang Primary School
28. TRAVEL: There are plenty of weird and wonderful ways to travel in Bhutan and many of them are quite dangerous and totally illegal in other parts of the world but the method of crossing the gorge just before Phongmey in Trashigang when the monsoon rains wipe out the road really was the most astounding to me. Both people and goods travelled via this contraption until it was swept away in a particularly bad storm
29. DESSERT: Bengali Kheer with a twist: fresh coconut, sultana and cinnamon rice pudding with toasted coconut and grated chocolate topping! One of the easiest and most delicious stove top desserts one can make especially after a busy working week that will be followed by all weekend at school for the Annual Variety Show!
30. NEARBY: When the all important Annual Variety Show is about to happen tomorrow and everyone’s parents will be there, it is a real blessing that the nearby primary school wants to pay to see the dress rehearsal and boost everyone’s confidence with their rapt attention
31. 10AM: Preparing for the really important Annual Variety Show due to commence at 10:30am- makeup by teachers and girls in their finery in the lower staff room. This time the parents would all be watching