Monday, February 29, 2016

oNe PhOtO a DaY: FeBrUaRy 2016


MONDAY 1st DRINK: A regular tipple for me is vodka and tonic and its drink o'clock right now

TUESDAY 2nd SO COLOURFUL: New strings of prayer flags flying above Thimphu city at our local Lhakhang - just a 5 minute walk from home. I never tire of seeing them and they are so colourful

WEDNESDAY 3rd CAR: This Hindustan Ambassador Classic is almost always parked near our house and in excellent condition. It is a car I first encountered as a taxi in what was then Bombay in the 1980s and I'm pretty sure it's the only one in Bhutan despite being known as the "king of Indian roads" and this model largely unchanged since 1960 is still being used as a taxi in India

THURSDAY 4th TEXTURE: The texture of the bamboo tray and the variety of different textures of some of the shells in our collection always appeal to me

FRIDAY 5th COFFEE: I couldn't survive without coffee and usually drink long blacks, but our regular order when we are out, is an Americano and a latte. Today at Thijha as our beloved Ambient doesn't open until tomorrow

SATURDAY 6th JUST NOW: I just now got everything prepared for our cold rolls with peanut sauce and Beijing salad celebration dinner. What was going to be Chinese New Year celebrations just turned into birth of the crown prince celebrations. The future monarch of Bhutan was born yesterday and the birth announced this morning - the jubilation in the air is palpable

SUNDAY 7th I ATE HERE: making the most of the final few days of holidays on the eve of Chinese New Year I cooked up an Asian style picnic lunch, hiked above Thimphu city and enjoyed the view when I ate here today

MONDAY 8th FAMILY: The wonderful family of Ambient cafe, who treat all their regulars and everyone else who walks in the door just like family. I'm glad to be a member

TUESDAY 9th A CORNER: This magnificent Garuda adorns the corner of an ancient building inside the Tashichho Dzong in Thimphu and today it is Losar or New Year so every corner was filled with buntings and flags. We went there especially looking for a corner and found so many it was hard to choose

WEDNESDAY 10th PINK: These Bhutanese men in ghos are playing 'kuru' or darts. Every time you actually hit the target, 40 metres away you win a scarf. Usually they are red, green, yellow, blue or white. Today I spotted pink for the first time

THURSDAY 11th A WALL: We discovered this beautiful Wall Chorten decorated with prayers and tiny memorials in the College of Astrology yesterday. It's a wall we will explore again for sure. I knew at the time today being the first day of school I would be trapped indoors and have only the classroom walls to consider. Love these traditional wall chortens

FRIDAY 12th PAPER: Traditional Bhutanese handmade paper with its imperfections, varying thickness and beautiful texture. It's made from Daphne fibre and I cover my schoolbooks in it - colour coding the 3 grade levels I teach

SATURDAY 13th A PET: This is actually a stray dog not his pet but boarders lead lonely lives and these two just had an instant sense of belonging together. This is an archive shot from my home class clean-up campaign in Samtengang in 2014

SUNDAY 14th MY HAPPRY PLACE: is out on a nature trail discovering a chorten and faded prayer flags flying against a clear blue sky without another being sight. Ah!! This prompt inspired a strenuous hike one kilometre up and 15 kilometres in total. Thanks PAD

MONDAY 15th YELLOW + BLUE: I struggled with this and only realised I was wearing yellow and blue traditional clothes today, after I got home and took them off. Yellow silk Wongju or shirt with a blue Tego or jacket photographed against my hand woven Kira or long skirt

TUESDAY 16th EMPTY: These empty hallways are usually crowded with students and very noisy. It is eerily quiet now and there is something sad about a school without students

WEDNESDAY 17th A DOOR: In Bhutan almost every lhakhang door has the wheel of dharma painted on the exterior and this one has a lovely patina and offers a glimpse into the activities within

THURSDAY 18th IN THE BACKGROUND: This crowd shot taken at the Paro Tshechu at about this time last year includes the impressive and beautiful circular structure of the National Museum of Bhutan in the background. Today I was simply too busy at school so I had to use an archive shot 

FRIDAY 19th BREAKFAST: bagels with vegemite and tomatoes. Is not very Bhutanese but a great blending of cultures. This is usually a weekend breakfast but we are keeping the holiday feeling alive in this twilight zone while school is back but the students haven't yet arrived. Great start to the 4- day weekend for HM the 4th King's birthday.

SATURDAY 20th KEEPING FIT: This app on my phone has really helped me with my walking goal of 10 kilometres a day minimum and tracking my efforts helps me stick to my keeping fit routine. I screen shoot the personal best every time it changes and this is the current one

SUNDAY 21st HOBBY: Combining two of my hobbies today - hiking & cooking. We climbed up to Chari Monastery and Meditation Centre with good friend Jude today and shared a picnic lunch we prepared

MONDAY 22nd ICE CREAM:  This one is a day late as we were cooking a celebratory lunch for 8 yesterday and then too stuffed to move but there is only one place to eat the most delicious homemade, handmade ice cream in Thimphu and that Ambient Cafe. So no excuses today we had to indulge just for the sake of PAD

TUESDAY 23rd PASTEL: This tiny pastel design teacup was a gift, I was presented with yesterday, by one of our lunch guests and a dear colleague. It contains a jasmine scented candle and is a new product and entrepreneurial venture by a recent graduate in Bhutan. Times are tight and jobs are hard to come by but this young lady is trying out her luck in the market

WEDNESDAY 24th PATH: One of the trails most travelled in Bhutan would have to be this one: the path leading up to Tiger's Nest Monastery. It was the first day  with students at school today and I literally didn't have 5 minutes to think about a photo but this archive shot is the quintessential Bhutanese path festooned with prayer flags and leading to a very sacred place

THURSDAY 25th PEEK-A-BOO: This doe-eyed child seemed to be playing peek-a-boo when we wandered by her home in Gelakha village in Wangdue Phodrang District. Another archive shot as school takes over my life again. Hopefully I will be back on track and taking the photos again daily soon 

FRIDAY 26th OUT OF PLACE: I don't really know what is more out of place a roller left accessible in the play area at school or a Vice Principal deciding to just sit up there and pretend to drive it at lunch time. Either way I can appreciate the fact that is okay to play and overzealous protective legislation hasn't taken hold yet in Bhutan

SATURDAY 27th A SHAPE: Circles actually- made from some of my favourite kitchen bowls

SUNDAY 28th I LOVE THIS: the spectacle of Tshechu performed inside the ancient rammed earth walls of the Dzong and watched by devout Buddhists enthralled by the colourful performance. An archive shot but our first opportunity to see Tshechu this year is only 20 days away and we are anticipating it with excitement. Truth be known I love Bhutan

MONDAY 29TH LEAP: There were so many willing students ready to leap for this prompt for me at lunchtime today. I chose a group I taught and loved last year but don't have any formal instruction time with this year. Thanks Drukians

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The 10 promises I make for myself at the beginning of every school year!

1 This is my final year of teaching; I’ve been at it too long already!
OK I’ve stopped a few times for several months and even a whole year once back in the eighties when some of you weren’t even born yet, but the truth is I’ve been teaching for 35 years and it is part of my psyche and identity now. When I do stop, I find myself wondering who I really am and still planning interesting activities in my head for the students I don’t even have. Maybe I will die in the classroom but it would still be sweet and fitting!

2. I’m going to have better time management.
This one is more like a trick than a promise. I believe that I am going to get more free time when I promise myself this but what happens is some really great idea comes along and then I get super organized and manage my time really well to pull it off, only to realize that I didn’t get more free time, I just managed to give up more time and do more things because I wanted to do it better!!

3. I’m not going to have any discipline issues at all this year because every lesson is going to be so totally inspiring, challenging and fun they are all just going to want to do it!
Right! Reality check needed right now! Since when, ever, did 20 to 40 people anywhere at the same time want to do exactly the same thing just because someone else wanted them to…… Right. Forget it and come up with some positive discipline ideas that work because those who don’t want to co-operate will always be there.

4. I’m not going to shout anymore!
This is the reason, I spend quite a bit of time standing there quietly waiting for a class full of students to notice that they aren’t listening, then a few do and start shouting at others to be quiet and soon there are several kids shouting at their classmates and another whole group making “Shh” noises that are actually louder than shouting and what do you know I notice that we have now lost 10 minutes of instruction time so I shout and silence reigns at last!! Nice try but sometimes shouting is the best and fastest option.

5. I’m going to learn all my students’ names in the first week.
I set about this one diligently every year and except for the few times I have taught the same kids in the previous year, I fail. Is it really possible to learn 100 plus new names and associate them with the right faces in five 50 minutes periods in one week? I don’t know maybe some people can do it, but I usually find that it takes closer to a month. However that first time you finally stop mixing up Tenzin Karma and Karma Tenzin or Paul George and George Paul, (yep every culture has them) they both have smiles so wide it inspires me to try it again next year.

6. I’m not going to make any spelling errors on the board this whole year.
It’s just never going to happen. Even for those who spell really well mistakes happen. As for me, I don’t. I have spent my whole life working on it and it is still a work in progress. OK I teach English and I do it pretty well, I think, but I can’t spell and under pressure I make lots of mistakes (just ask Red Dorji). Better to own up and carry a dictionary, warn every class that this might happen and reward those students who find the mistakes. Still, I go on believing, that one year, will miraculously turn out to be the spelling-error-free-year! Maybe that will be the year I have retired!

7. I’m going to make a little time for myself at school everyday.
This one usually starts out well. I go out and chat with colleagues in the mornings and take a break for 10 minutes at lunchtime to sit outdoors and just tune out for a while. Sometimes I even call home to Australia and speak to someone at a reasonable time for both of us, in my lunch break…….. Then before you know it a whole week has elapsed and I haven’t seen sunshine or breathed fresh air once from 8:30am to 4:10 pm because I’ve done nothing but make my way from one class to the next and then back to the office where I have whittled away the books to be corrected so that there are only a few left at the end of every day. Suddenly I look up and realize beyond “Good morning” I haven’t even spoken to the people I share an office with! Oops another broken promise.

8. I am not going to get stressed or overwhelmed instead I will remain calm and collected no matter what happens.
Some of the most inspirational teachers I have ever encountered have this perfect sense of unruffled composure (think Madam Choden at this point) and I have long wanted to emulate them. It is just not me. I am a drama queen and I wear my heart on my sleeve. Things get me; it is written all over my face just before I burst into tears or bite someone’s head off and regret doing so.

9. I’m going to keep my mouth shut and my good ideas to myself.
This never lasts more than the first week. I just can’t resist suggesting why don’t you do …… Then next thing I know I am saying, “Sure I can help and why don’t we…” and BINGO, I have myself another pet project. Being passionate about what you do has some serious drawbacks sometimes. I do often wonder if I am my own worst enemy.

10. I’m going to work smarter not harder.
Right sounds so easy but every smarter idea means more hard work and I just tricked myself into working smarter and harder. Why do I do that?

Well here’s the reason: “Teachers aren’t in it for the income but for the outcome!!”

PS There is another whole list of the things I don’t even promise myself anymore. Like I’m not taking any work home at the end of the day…. Oh but wait that might be next year’s article. That is unless I do give it up!

Monday, February 1, 2016

oNe PhOtO a DaY: JaNuArY 2016


FRIDAY 1ST BLACK& WHITE: Friday January 1st Black & White: straight off the press in black and white. Lucky it's an English language newspaper. One of my bugbears as an English teacher in Bhutan is Romanised Dzongkha doesn't equal English. On the upside I do understand the meaning of the headline!!!

SATURDAY 2ND WHAT I DID TODAY: was discover a new trail just behind our home and clock up more than 9 kilometres on it before lunch.

SUNDAY 3RD WATER: filling the washing up bowl. We've had former students at our place for a reunion lunch today and I filled the bowl several times trying to prevent them from doing the washing up and make them behave like the adult guests that they are.

MONDAY 4TH CIRCLE: the Om Cosmos mandala, which is the graphic representation of wholeness, unity and renewal. It increases healing and calmness by expanding consciousness and openness to the divine.

TUESDAY 5TH LEAVES : fresh young parsley leaves thriving in the winter sun on our balcony, even though the temperatures are dipping below zero and there is often frost. Hope they survive our 3-week absence when we are on vacation

WEDNESDAY 6TH SOMETHING BLUE: blue prayer flag against night blue winter sky

THURSDAY 7TH READING: still my favourite thing to do on a flight. Both finished now lucky I've got the sequel with me for the rest of the holiday

FRIDAY 8TH LANDSCAPE: more of a temple-scape than a landscape but hey we left the beautiful Himalayas where we live to be in in Bangkok yesterday so that seems totally appropriate

SATURDAY 9TH SHOES: five shops in 2 different malls and countless try-ons today but Ian finally has a new pair of walking shoes which accommodate his orthotics and don't look anywhere near as bad as the original worn out clodhoppers! yay yay yay

  SUNDAY 10TH LUCKY: There are a lot of things I feel extremely lucky about- lucky to live and work in Bhutan, lucky to be on holidays now avoiding the worst of the winter, lucky to have travelled as much as I have, lucky to have married the perfect partner, lucky to have a job I actually love .... However this slogan in a mall in Bangkok today struck my fancy. Right now I'm lucky to be travelling even if work doesn't always suck

SUNDAY 10TH LUCKY 2: After posting the one above I saw my Facebook Instagram status for the same day and realised it also began with the word lucky – “Lucky we only buy one meal a day or I would have to waddle out of BKK This place is sensational- Broccoli Revolution.”

MONDAY 11TH OUTDOORS: Even in totally urban environments like Bangkok the great outdoors makes its presence felt in the many parks and public nature spaces. I'm glad this prompt made me go visit a couple today

TUESDAY 12TH SOMETHING I WORE: I wore my GNH Bhutan Polo today to fly HCMC (and not my breakfast or lunch all over me as usually happens when I wear white and eat spicy noodles in soup)

WEDNESDAY 13TH THREE OF A KIND: vegetarian cold rolls all in a row and three of a kind. Vietnamese food is fresh, exotic, unique and amazingly delicious. I’m wondering if I should try to make all the prompts about food while we are here….. it’s a challenge

THURSDAY 14TH CLOSE UP: We were pretty packed in close up and personal in the squeezy Binh Tay market today. I managed to get a close up of my all time favourite Asian vegetable – Lotus Root…… now I want to be able to make my signature salad with it for Chinese New Year. Just a matter of getting some back to Bhutan Mmmmmm!

FRIDAY 15TH MAIL: Reading my emails over breakfast to continue with my fortnight of food while we wander Vietnam

SATURDAY 16TH CHAIR: Still life on a chair. I can't resist buying and tasting exotic fruit when we travel and these star apples and rose apples were my selections in Saigon- continuing my fortnight of fabulous food while we wander Vietnam

SUNDAY 17TH FACELESS: The vendors in the vegetable markets appear faceless when wearing their conical hats, especially from behind - continuing my fortnight of fabulous food while we wander Vietnam

MONDAY 18TH WHITE: Continuing with my food theme, I have 5 fresh white foods from the market stalls this afternoon and the coconut ice-cream I ordered at dinner because the prompt entitled me to ……… first dessert this holiday and it was delicious!!

TUESDAY 19TH IN THE HAND: The technique of rolling these delicious little snacks is all about how you hold the ingredients in your hand as you construct them. I haven’t mastered it yet by the locals are whizzes at it and this lovely young girl allowed me to photograph her doing it and then even offered the end result to me to try.

second choice --- IN THE HAND: One of my favourite shots from our last trip in Vietnam,
is a also included as it suits this prompt so well.

WEDNESDAY 20TH PATTERNS: The patterns I made with our afternoon snack of pineapple and star apple in the beautiful bamboo bowl I bought along with the fruit in the market this morning

THURSDAY 21ST MORNINGS: Early morning in the airport and still sumptuous scents and fabulously delicious looking noodle dishes being consumed by the locals

FRIDAY 22ND NIGHT:  Vietnam is so much about incredible food but the night scenes of Hoi An with packed open-air restaurants are hard to beat

SATURDAY 23RD PLAY:  Everything happens in the streets and footpaths here in Vietnam. While these guys play cards at a bar, right alongside them a street stall sells noodles and a happy customer consumes. Continuing my fortnight of food in Vietnam…

SUNDAY 24TH WINDOW: Taking our first break after 13 kilometres walking today at a cafe we first visited and loved in Luang Prabang Laos. The Vietnam experience of food also involves fine coffee and a great reflection of the street life through the window of JOMA Bakery and Cafe

MONDAY 25TH NUMBERS: Final Photo for the fortnight of food in Vietnam (leaving tomorrow) Fabulous fusion food at Highway 4 - number in the name!! Kimchi tofu broth with rice noodles wins the day 

TUESDAY 26TH SIMPLICITY: The hand painted card I bought yesterday in Hanoi is simplicity itself. I love the simple design and the simplicity of old world snail-mail delivering something beautiful not a bill. I always buy cards and later delight in sending or giving them.

WEDNESDAY 27TH TELEPHONE: "Answer that will you?" / Free the hands! Telephone shadow on the wall

THURSDAY 28TH SMILE: Staff who always smile from the Land of Smiles - our last day in Thailand

FRIDAY 29TH HOME: We returned home to our apartment in Thimphu today from a 3-week vacation so this prompt seemed very apt

SATURDAY 30ST FLAT LAY: A selection of souvenirs and gifts from our recent trip to Vietnam; sometimes the lines blur and I can't bear to part with what was a gift and I have to give away something I bought for myself because it seems so appropriate for someone else. 

SUNDAY 31ST ME: in my favourite colour and delighted to be "home" in Bhutan