Sunday, August 30, 2015

oNe PhOtO a DaY: August

wEeK oNe AuGuSt 2015


MONDAY 3rd WORDS: I have a fascination and love of words including reading, quotes and games despite being a poor speller and this is my latest purchase. We haven't got to play it here yet but we did with friend in Melbourne at the beginning of the year and it was so much fun I have wanted to get one and play it ever since.

TUESDAY 4TH ON THE SHELF: This lucky little ladybug came all the way from Italy via Australia to sit in the shelf in our apartment in Bhutan.  It’s actually a key ring but I love its smiling face so much I prefer to see it where it sits. Thanks Jane xx

WEDNESDAY 5TH SOMETHING PURPLE: Given that purple is just about my least favourite colour, I struggled with this one until I remembered the flash cards we bought for Ian to teach his PP classes and the quilt cover I usually conceal beneath a much more favourable orange sheet.

 THURSDAY 6TH WHAT I WISH FOR: is peace. On this day more than any other as it is the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Nothing more epitomizes the need to eliminate nuclear weapons from the world, than this one city at least in my mind. Having spent 8 years there I know this is a wish that will be on the lips of many today. No More Hiroshimas! May peace prevail on earth!

FRIDAY 7TH QUIRKY: Perhaps the quirkiest thing about Bhutanese culture is the 'khabney’ or ceremonial white scarf the males all wear. There are so many situations, in which it is required and so many different ways in which it must be arranged for different purposes and none of them are conventional.

SATURDAY 8TH DOOR: The open door to the main hall of Zangdo Pelri Lhakang in downtown Thimphu 

SUNDAY 9TH PERFECT: Rosemary roasted vegetables. The perfect vegetarian treat for Sunday night dinner Yum Yum Yum

wEeK tWo AuGuSt 2015


MONDAY 10th IN MY HAND: The legacy of living in China and Japan for 13 years is that I still eat almost all meals with chopsticks and I like that you can use them with only one hand. Therefore most times when I’m eating I have chopsticks in my hand

TUESDAY 11TH TECHNOLOGY:  The technology to back up our lives. I actually wonder if I could ever extract what I wanted from these if I needed to and I feel glad I've never had to. Would I really miss half of but if it disappeared anyway?

WEDNESDAY 12TH CENTRE: The garden at school is in full bloom and the dahlias are particularly stunning at the moment. Many of them have bees buzzing around and supping from the centre of the blooms

THURSDAY 13th SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL: Sometimes nothing can be more beautiful than words. This is something beautiful from a gorgeous collection of proverbs called “The Bhutanese Guide to Happiness” I also think the endless knot is something very beautiful and my favourite of the 8 auspicious symbols of Buddhism

FRIDAY 14TH 8 O’CLOCK: At 8 o'clock this morning I was busy putting the finish touches on my Professional Reading notice board school even though I really just wanted to get stuck into correcting and marking the class 6 exam paper

SATURDAY 15TH NEWS: Not a lot of news arrives from the outside world here but both of these came today by a postal service that I still fail to understand though I certainly recognize the kindly individual who delivered them to my desk 

SUNDAY 16TH SHADOW: The ghostly shadows of the construction workers hand pouring concrete by the shovel load into the night. Taken from our balcony as there hasn't been enough sun to cast a shadow all day

wEeK tHrEe AuGuSt 2015


MONDAY 17th INSIDE: Tshechu is the most colourful and vibrant festival in Bhutan and for me at least the masked dances are the real highlight. I still love however that on occasion you get a glimpse of the monk inside the mask

TUESDAY 18th A LOGO: This simplistic logo is printed on a coaster, which is the background image and the cutout is a business card. It reminds me of one of the auspicious Buddhist symbols.  It is for Madame Hanoi a relatively new French Vietnamese espresso bar and bistro in Adelaide we have spent some lovely evenings with a couple of good friends and now delight in using the coasters here in Bhutan.

WEDNESDAY 19th HAT: This hat came as a freebie at the Tour Down Under Cycling event in Adelaide earlier this year. It is definitely my colour. I still have it, still wear it, still love it.

THURSDAY 20th SURPRISE: the Changangkha Temple, which we can easily see from our balcony (until the neighbouring construction is compete that is!) was lit up and looking resplendent for the first time since we have lived here this week.

FRIDAY 21ST “M” IS FOR……: mask. This one is the garuda and one of the set of four masks hanging in our living room. The Garuda is Lord Vishnu’s mount in Hinduism and also features heavily in Buddhist iconography

SATURDAY 22ND PATH:  A path like many others in Bhutan, just off the road, marked by prayer flags and with a dog leading you along.

SUNDAY 23RD LIGHTING: The Buddhist Tradition of lighting butter lamps means every temple and many chortens have rooms of flickering butter lamps. This was in the Memorial Chorten in central Thimphu today

wEeK FoUr AuGuSt 2015


MONDAY 24th ON MY DESK: this morning just the usual: lesson plan books, textbooks, my coffee cup and my timetable and calendar to keep track of all the deadlines and due dates.

TUESDAY 25TH TWO THINGS: Stumped so I went for chalk and cheese

WEDNESDAY 26TH CHARMING:  Sometimes there is a magical charming quality to the way the light and clouds play on the mountains at twilight

THURSDAY 27TH COMMUNICATE: Sometimes I just love to communicate the good old fashion way with a beautiful card sent snail mail. I even have customised stamps with our images on them. There is real joy in a message written by hand with love and for that reason I have a collection of cards at home and at the ready.

FRIDAY 28TH DAILY LIFE: I work with these kids everyday and this is one boy who rarely stays on task or gives of his best but I've been trying a new strategy with him for the last few weeks and with most of the class out in concert practice our one on one time really increased and he really gave his all today. So much of my daily life revolves around kids and this was a precious moment today.

SATURDAY 29TH HANDWRITING: I've never liked my handwriting but one of the great joys of teaching myself Chinese was learning to write characters. Even though I still write like a primary child and despite years of practice writing on box paper I still can't make them uniform in size or in a straight line,  but I do love to write this particular Chinese blessing.

SUNDAY 30TH I DO THIS ON WEEKENDS: Baking! Weekends are just about the only time I can bake

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The impermanence of time

“You may delay, but time will not.” Benjamin Franklin 

By far the thing I find most frustrating about Bhutan would have to be the kingdom’s sense of TIME. I know I am sticking my neck out here and totally being a foreigner, as many Bhutanese wear Bhutanese Stretchable Time (BST) like a badge of honour, but for me the ambivalence about deadlines, due dates and appointments drives me insane.

There are so many calm, compassionate and kindly aspects of this culture that I am simply unable to comprehend this one stumbling block. It appears that it has long been the case that time is a flexible notion to be interpreted at will by any individual and it seems to permeate all aspects of society. I cannot move past the idea that if you keep someone else waiting then you are undeniably conveying the message that you think your time is more valuable than theirs.

However here it is commonplace for whole bodies of people to be left standing in line awaiting the arrival of someone significant for hours on end. Taxi drivers booked in advance for long distance hauls have no qualms about arriving over an hour late, with lame excuses ranging from it wasn’t an auspicious departure time to just getting fuel, being reluctantly offered up. Being directed to arrive promptly at x o’clock with out exception, can still mean standing around for an hour or more expectantly hoping the guest of honour and those who instinctively know that doesn’t apply to them, will turn up soon.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve waited for the key to miraculously appear in some incongruous person’s hand. In exam scenarios with moments before the time expires students still feel free to tell you “I’ll do it later,” or even continue to write answers with 3 different teachers shouting at them to stop writing. Anyone questioned about why they are not where you were expecting them to be, will immediately say that they are on their way but hang up before you can confirm just how far away they might be or when they might arrive. Roadblocks can emerge from nowhere and turn into huge snakes of cars stranded without anyone present batting an eyelid!!  In fact if the situation persists for more than a couple of hours there are likely to be tea stalls popping up and momo vendors appearing around the bend plying a car to car service. All those lessons you loving prepared are prone to being shoved aside because an impromptu meeting, VIP arrival or fortuitously timed guest speaker made an unannounced appearance and took precedence. It almost seems that no-one will do anything until the very last minute. I am in the habit of calling these guys the “last minute Nellies”. It is as if it would be a horrible shame if you prepared something and then it was postponed when in fact my experience has been that things are more often ‘preponed’. Meetings can be announced ad hoc, impromptu or not at all while attendance remains compulsory. They may also extend well into the night without any intermission. Schedules and timetables can be changed with the alterations posted on a notice board you didn’t even know existed but heaven help you if you aren’t following the amended version at the next ringing of the bell. Even class six students on Saturday afternoon are quick to inform you, who can’t leave until they do, that they are playing now and will call their parents to come get them later.

“Yallama!!” as the locals might say. Is that why the clock in Clock Tower Square has been stuck on the same time for as long as anyone can remember?

Perhaps it is because I am suddenly feeling much older than I ever used to. Is that what happens when you start teaching younger and younger students? However I am of the antiquated opinion that time is still more valuable than money and becoming ever more precious. I suppose the real answer is patience and the impermanence of time along with everything else, is another lesson I am supposed to be learning here.

‘It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.” Henry Ford

Sunday, August 2, 2015

oNe PhOtO a DaY: wEeK fIvE jUnE 2015

wEeK fIvE jUnE 2015


MONDAY 29Th ANIMAL: The day we arrived back in Australia and all I could think of were these road signs, which couldn’t be anywhere else. This one is actually off the screen of an ATM machine. Gotta love OZ!

TUESDAY 30TH DESIGN: Nothing can quite compete with natures designs: sunset at Semaphore Beach

WEDNESDAY 1ST IN THE HOUSE: We have been out of the house for hours today and after 2 hospitals and having my dearest sister admitted this was what was required when we were finally back in the house

THURSDAY 2ND SIGNED. SEALED. DELVERED: Ordered online, signed on the dotted line, sealed in their own packaging and sealed into a sturdy box too. Then delivered to the door less than a day later. Thanks Apple Store. There will be one school in Thimphu well wired for sound now and each department gets to choose its own colour. I hope you like the blue one Tshetsho!!

FRIDAY 3RD OUTING: Being home means lots of outings and excursions but the pick of the bunch today was this outing and gathering of old mates in the city after a delicious Chinese dinner in an old favourite haunt.

SATURDAY 4TH RED, WHITE, BLUE: Even here in Adelaide the Stars and Stripes feature as the red white and blue best option  

SUNDAY 5TH ME TODAY: Not exactly a glamorous look but this was me today visiting my beautiful sister in the burns unit. Every precaution is taken to avoid infection after skin grafts are done

wEeK tWo JuLy 2015


MONDAY 6TH MY NAME: Hope it’s readable the best I could manage today

TUESDAY 7TH MINIMALISTIC: Even when it comes to cooking less is sometimes more. This delicious pasta sauce prepared by Ian tonight had just 5 ingredients and was "to die for"

WEDNESDAY 8TH INSIDE MY FRIDGE: One of my favourite things and something we have to indulge in when home in Australia is cheese. This isn't my fridge but it is for the duration of our stay, so some of the best locally produced cheese is in my fridge right now

THURSDAY 9TH STREET: Not really a street but close enough.  This is ANZAC Highway a major connecting route in the city of Adelaide. We were screaming up here to collect my beautiful sister being discharged from the Royal Adelaide Hospital today. Thankful the traffic was light, the skies were blue and we were driving and not on our bikes like we always were when we lived here. Welcome back to a family environment and your own home Sonya. This was the street to your salvation.  

FRIDAY 10TH MY STORY: For a lot of this year I have been turning my life energy around with positive thoughts and action. This little app, called Gratitude Journal, I bought last week has added to my routine to build self-esteem and focus on happiness. I love it

SATURDAY 11TH LATE: It is now very late in the day for this Australian holiday and we had one last late walk along Jetty Road savouring the wild winter weather and raging winter ocean. Good Bye Oz. See you next time round

SUNDAY 12TH EARLY: Leaving too early, on an early morning flight, and wanting to get home to Bhutan early enough to have some free time before school starts. How can one’s heart be in some many places?

wEeK tHrEe JuNe 2015


MONDAY 13TH CALM: I am feeling calm and relaxed in this room, which we got as an upgrade in our favourite hotel in Bangkok.

TUESDAY 14TH CHAOS: The current chaos of the usually tidy and empty bench / divan that is the entrance to our home. Now we are unpacked it contains the gifts and requests we brought back with us to Bhutan

WEDNESDAY 15TH ON MY MIND: This idea has been on my mind all summer break I know I have a workshop to deliver most probably on Saturday and at various times over the last 3 weeks it has been on my mind and ideas about what to do have come to me Finally today I started to get it organised

THURSDAY 16TH STARTS WITH T: the tiger mask hanging on our living room wall along with the rest of the set that is always hung together in Bhutan
(1 dragon, 1 garuda, 1 lion and 1 tiger)

FRIDAY 17TH SPECIAL: The special treats I brought back from Australia and shared with all my lovely Bhutanese colleagues and friends today

SATURDAY 18TH BOOK: Not exactly one book but the set of books written by Andrea Chisholm and recently published in Bhutan for Emergent Readers. I was so thrilled to deliver 2 sets to my school today and offer one more to a nearby government school. Brilliant work Andrea I am proud to have contributed some of the photos.  

SUNDAY 19TH SIGN: On our walk downtown today I spotted this sign, marking a zebra crossing in a school zone. I love that the picture is a boy in a gho and knee-high sox and that it could only be taken in Bhutan

wEeK fOuR jUnE 2015


MONDAY 20th CAR: This electric car belonging to the Thimphu Thromde (or Municipality) is often parked and charging in this position and is a clear indicator and example of Bhutan’s green credentials

TUESDAY 21ST REAL: I'm both relieved and grateful to have my REAL visa stamped in my new passport even if I did have to pay again. At least now I'm good to go (or should that be stay) until 12th February

WEDNESDAY 22ND FAKE: I have long loved having bunches of fresh flowers indoors but the Buddhist reverence for nature forbids picking flowers so here in Bhutan I try to contain the desire to decorate with them. Nonetheless I still find fake flowers a very poor substitute, especially when even the colour is inaccurate- wisteria is never yellow

THURSDAY 23RD TOY: I love toys that require manual manipulation and are not battery-powered gadgets and these small wooden spinning tops exemplify that.

FRIDAY 24TH BLOOM: Right now in Thimphu city sunflowers twice as high as the average citizen line the streets and are in full bloom in private gardens

SATURDAY 25TH TWO OF US: dressed and ready to attend the annual concert for PP-Class III students.

SUNDAY 26TH NEGATIVE SPACE: The sky as negative space behind the logo on the window of the best cafe in Thimphu - Ambient Cafe

wEeK fIvE jUnE 2015


MONDAY 27th CLOUDS: After brilliant blue skies and blinding
sunshine this morning, the moment I stepped out doors to walk home I could see these dark clouds gathering today. Even though I kept stopping to take photos of the ever darkening sky, I managed to make the 3km back home before the skies opened up with torrential monsoon rain and this first shot of the clouds from the school exit proved to be the most dramatic

TUESDAY 28TH LOOKING IN: This is the second half of lunch and I was so delighted to see a group of girls enjoying some quiet reading time when unnoticed I was looking in their classroom. The boys at the back are also having fun with an indoor game without disturbing anyone  

WEDNESDAY 29TH LOOKING OUT: across the school grounds from the lower primary area to the teaching building and administration block and the Himalayas beyond

THURSDAY 30TH TRASH: No matter how clean and green you think your environment is there is always some trash lurking on a school campus

FRIDAY 31ST I BOUGHT IT!: I noticed a new gallery with my favourite photo of the reigning royals of Bhutan taken this year in Sakteng, on my way to a friends birthday celebration last Friday and on Sunday I went back and I bought it!! It now proudly hangs near the front door of our home suitably decorated with the white blessing scarf know here as a Kahdar

SATURDAY 1ST FICTION: One of my favourite pieces of Bhutanese fiction and by my favourite author too. I think it might be her only adult fiction but please correct me if I’m wrong. Her children’s books are simply beautiful and I was glad to see one (and buy it) in a second-hand bookstore and café in Adelaide while we were home for the summer break.

SUNDAY 2nd A LITTLE MOMENT: of hesitation on our afternoon walk this afternoon looking at this magnificent view, when we realised we should have already started on our way back home because we were definitely going to get caught in the monsoon cloud burst and yep we did! No harm done.