Thursday, January 1, 2015

oNe PhOtO a DaY DeCeMbEr


1. FRUIT: is not always readily available in Bhutan but right now there seems to be a good variety in the market, including local bananas, mandarins, and guava as well as pears and pomegranates imported from India.

2. GRASS: The local lemongrass oil produced in Bhutan is an excellent room freshener as well as providing a lovely scent to bedding, towels and winter clothes when added to the rinse water

3. POP! : Though I was never a big consumer in Australia – popcorn has become a favourite snack. It started in Tanzania where it was a readily available locally produced item and here in Bhutan where we pop the local maize at home with a minimum of butter and a mere sprinkling of salt! Yum!

4. FREE: as a bird. In this case an adult male black eagle.

5. ME: This time last year we were enjoying our first ever trip to Malaysia where the round windows on the verandahs between row houses in Malacca really took my fancy

6. JOY IS… : prayer flags blowing in the wind.  A simple explanation of the meaning behind these beautiful symbols of the Buddhist faith follows.
Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. It is a misconception that the flags carry prayers to gods. In fact in Mahayana Buddhism it is believed that the prayers and mantra that they contain will be blown by the wind to spread good will and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all.
When the wind passes over the surface of the flags they flutter and the air is purified and sanctified by the mantras.The prayers of a flag are believed to become a permanent part of the universe as the images fade from exposure to the elements. Just as life moves on and is replaced by new life, believers renew their hopes for the world by continually mounting new flags alongside the old. This act symbolizes a welcoming of life's changes and an acknowledgment that all beings are part of a greater ongoing cycle.

7. WEEKENDS ARE FOR: doing the veggie shopping and enjoying the atmosphere of one of Bhutan’s best markets- Bajo Sunday Market where we went for the last time today and loaded up with enough veggies to see us through to the end of term and our departure for Thimphu on Dec 18th

8. SIMPLE PLEASURE: Just taking a stroll in the local area and enjoying the beauty of nature is a simple pleasure we no longer take for granted. Ian has been able to walk to a couple of local spots recently, so for the first time in 6 months and with only 10 days left before we leave Samtengang, we are enjoying the views, the season and what nature has on offer. We spotted these ducks on the lake near my school today

9. DECORATION: The staff of my school spent the day earning merit by doing manual labour in Chitokha Lhakhang, which is up a treacherous road an hour or so from my school today. We, female participants hauled rubble and rocks on the second floor all day to remove the rammed earth and stone layer between the floor boards and the ceiling of the lower level, while the male participants swung crowbars and pickaxes to loosen the packed earth for us and removed the roof. Although the main structure is undergoing massive renovation and reconstruction the ubiquitous prayer flags that mark the boundaries were still in place and just about the only remaining decoration on site.

10. CLOSED DOOR: This closed door in a monastery is the entrance to the main prayer hall and they are very often decorated with the wheel of dharma or the wheel of law, which represents the teaching of the Buddha and is one of the oldest and most important Buddhist symbols. A brief explanation of its meaning follows:

 The motion of the wheel encompasses the idea of spiritual change and also represents the endless cycle of samsara or the cycle of rebirth with its inherent suffering, which cab only be escaped by means of the Buddha’s teachings. The hub of the wheel is a symbol of moral discipline, which stabilizes the mind. The spokes are the Noble Eightfold Path to wisdom (1.Right knowledge, 2.Right intention, 3.Right speech, 4.Right action, 5.Right livelihood, 6.Right effort, 7.Right mindfulness, and 8.Right concentration) and the rim symbolizes mind training and concentration, which holds everything together. It has become the central element of mandalas, which are geometric representations of the Buddhist universe.

11. SOMETHING RED: In Bhutan something red could only mean one thing CHILLIES of course

12. SKYLINE: Samtengang Winter skyline just before dusk

13. MUCH LOVED: After living in Japan for 8 years sushi and onigiri are much loved foods. Being vegetarian and living in a remote landlocked kingdom they are rarely available to us these days, so it was a real treat to take the time to make these much loved Japanese items for a visiting friend yesterday

14. DRINK: Drink, Drank, Drunk! A rare treat of Australian red wine in Samtengang to celebrate the visit of friends from out east making their way back to Thimphu.

15. SUPER!: First hint of snow on the distant peaks. Super views here in Samtengang every season!

16. BEAUTIFUL: Last night at dinner at the primary school this beautiful, Bhutanese, baby boy took a real shine to me unlike most babies here who scream at the sight of my red hair.

17. SUNSHINE: Bright sunshine and blue skies through the national tree the cypress, here in Bhutan for National Day

18. SIGN: This sign and 3 others just like it determine how long it takes us to get to and from the capital from our home in Samtengang: with the 3 major road blocks each causing waits, it can take 7 and a half hours and at best it was 3 hours!!! Today’s run was 4 and a half so that’s a good effort.

19. SOMETHING TO BE HAPPY ABOUT: Just one day after school was officially over, all our BCF colleagues arrived safely in the capital’s best café after a year in the field. Though not all are present we all had wonderful Bhutan experiences to share and cherish and that is something to be happy about.

20. FOOD: Even though hot chocolate is technically a drink anything with chocolate in it still seems like food to me. This personalized cup from Ambient Café Thimphu was just what was needed on a freezing cold winter evening

21. THIS IS INTERESTING: In the Sunday Market in Thimphu this peacock feather, fan-like dispenser, struck my fancy. I do know that they are used in temples to distribute scented holy water to devotees but I think this is interesting and exotic.

 22. ‘TIS THE SEASON TO……: be grateful and celebrate. Just this morning I got a new job in Thimphu, Ian and I found and leased an apartment in exactly the area we wanted to live in, and agreed to sharing for at least a few months with the friend, pictured in the middle on the right. WOO HOO!!!!

23. TREE: In the spectacular setting of Phunakha Dzong this Banyan is the exact species under which Buddha sat and achieved enlightenment in Bodgaya. Banyan trees are found in temples, monasteries and 'dzongs' all over Bhutan and always treasured and treated with veneration.

24. COLOUR: The upper most point of a vertical prayer flagpole is always carved of wood and painted with bright colourful designs. This one newly placed in one of Ian’s colleague’s yards has not yet had the colour faded out of it

25. CELEBRATION: We have enjoyed seeing the black-necked cranes in Phobjikha today. Not really Xmas but cause for celebration that this previously endangered species is increasing in number and more have migrated to the valley this year than ever before!

26. ANIMAL: Although the national animal of Bhutan is the takin, I immediately thought of a yak when I saw this prompt. As we climbed out of Phobjikha valley this morning we saw plenty of solitary yaks grazing and sunning themselves by the roadside as well as a whole herd being attended to by their owner-herders.

27. I LIKE …… : I actually love prayer flags but I like standing among these giant vertical sentinels and listening to the sounds they make when flapping in strong winds

28. BOOK: When we visited the Tang valley today, we found this wooden covered prayer book in the Oygen Choling Museum. Although this particular one is a valuable relic they are still made and widely used throughout Bhutan

29. I NEED LESS OF THIS…. : Try as I might not to, I always seem to travel with too much luggage so I definitely need less of this! Just for the record this is the luggage for all 3 of us not just me but the vast percentage is mine

30. US: This is us at the first day of Tshechu wearing our formal traditional attire and really looking the part

31. MY BEST BIT OF 2014: Living with these spectacular views for a whole year and watching them change with the seasons was certainly my best bit of 2014. This was taken from the balcony of our traditional rammed earth home in Samtengang

1 comment:

  1. What a great last blog for the year! I keep seeing peacock feathers lately and your photo was gorgeous, I love them. You put me on to prayer flags many years ago and now I love them too. I'd like to hear the wind rustling through the vertical flags, if you do it again, maybe you could record it and play it for me when we see each each other. Gotta love technology. :) I think your packing efforts are pretty amazing. Years of experience I suspect. Enjoy the next couple of weeks. Much love xx