Saturday, October 20, 2012

Market Shopping

I look forward to Saturday mornings all week - I start with a 5km run at Main Beach with Parkrun and then head on down to the Burleigh Farmers' Markets to stock up on all our fresh fruit and veg for the week. 

Living here, we are so fortunate to be able to pick from an enormous variety of produce all year round, and I love how these markets also sell some less common ingredients such as amaranth leaves and ready-shredded green papaya. I try to pick out something new each week to experiment with.

Our weekly fruit and veg. Photo: Andrea Chisholm.

My trolley was filled with such a bounty yesterday I wanted to photograph it, thinking how it will inevitably contrast with the selection available to us in Bhutan. As yet we don't know where we will be posted, and we've been told that some of the more remote locations will have less variety in foods available. Having said that, I know the Bhutanese certainly like to eat their veggies and I have found some lovely photos on the net of markets there displaying a colourful assortment of vegetables and fruits including everyday favourites we know like carrots, tomatoes, eggplant, potato, cauliflower and oranges and bananas. I have no doubt that I will embrace whatever is available - it may be a challenge to convince Xavier that his diet of broccoli, corn, carrots and pasta needs to s-t-r-e-t-c-h!

And then there is the other interesting concept that in essence Bob and I are swapping roles so I will be out working while Bob is home attending to domestic duties including whipping up dinner for us - this is probably the biggest risk we are taking in this whole adventure!!!! I will certainly be arming Bob with a book of recipes I think will suit the food and equipment we'll have available, and the rest is up to him! 

Check out this link to a Times photo essay exploring the food that families around the world consume in a week, and its relative cost. The Bhutanese, with an expenditure of only $5 per week, are smiling broadly with a diet consisting of mainly vegetables and rice. 

I will definitely revisit this blog idea when we are settled in Bhutan and let you know about our local market and the delicious meals that Bob is putting on the table (good to be optimistic!).

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bhutan - Land of the Thunder Dragon

I have enjoyed the reaction I get from friends and acquaintances when I mention our plans to go and live in Bhutan next year. A few people have a surprising connection with the country - a neighbour who has travelled there, an uncle who has worked there for 20 years on and off, or even a best friend who trained the Bhutanese Olympic golf team!


Generally though, Bhutan is a bit of a mystery - even where it is located confused some ("is that in Africa?"). Some people have heard Bhutan's famous marketing catch phrase  'Gross National Happiness'.

I wanted to list ten important things I have found out in my research on Bhutan - Land of the Thunder Dragon -  in the past year. Of course, I don't profess to be an expert, but believe me when I say I have read every book I could get my hands on about Bhutan (they have an excellent selection at the Gold Coast library). I have been addicted to the blogs of the current teachers living in Bhutan and we've watched movies, documentaries and youtube clips on all manner of Bhutan-related topics.

Altogether the research paints a picture of an enigmatic country I can't wait to know personally. But in the meantime, let's just clear up a few things:

1. Bhutan is not in Africa! It is in the himalayas, bordering India to the south, east and west and China to the North. The geography varies from sub-tropical lowlands to himalayan peaks reaching above 7000 metres.

3. The capital city of Bhutan is Thimphu. It has a population of approx 80,000 and is famous for being the only world capital without traffic lights.

4. The national language is Dzongkha, however a variety of other languages are spoken throughout the country. English is the medium that all school is taught in.

5. Bhutanese love eating chillis and their national dish is a curry made with chillis and local homemade cheese. Rice is the main staple, and a variety of vegetables and fruit are sold at markets. Butchering meat or fish in Bhutan contradicts the Buddhist view that all sentient beings' lives are precious, however I have read many reports of meat and fish on the menu so I suspect the rules might get broken occasionally!

6. Locals enjoy archery as their national sport, and they competed in the recent Olympics.

7. Up until 2008, Bhutan was an absolute monarchy, however the King himself put the wheels in motion to transition to a constitutional monarchy headed by his son, the current King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

8. Bhutan places great value on the natural environment and at least 60% of land area is under forest cover, and more than 40% of the country is national parks, reserves and other protected areas.

9. Consequently Bhutan has maintained an environment that is home to an incredible number of birds, animals and plants including animals such as the tiger that are endangered in all their other habitats. Go Bhutan!!!!!

10. Bhutan values the Gross National Happiness of its people over the Gross National Product of the economy.

Ok, so by now you might be thinking "Hey I think I'd like to go and visit them over there in Bhutan!" We would love to have visitors while we are there, but be warned, Bhutan charges tourists a daily tariff of $250pp per day to restrict tourist numbers to protect their culture and natural environment

After so much researching and dreaming, I can't wait to hear  the roar of the Thunder Dragon for myself.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

It all started with a bucket list.

Nearly one year ago, I was having a chat with my dear friend Lainie on the phone, and she mentioned that she'd recently written her 'bucket list' for the next ten years. I was inspired and set about immediately to write my own. 

It wasn't a huge surprise, but when I looked at my top ten, nearly every dream or goal involved travel, and right up there at #1 was "Live overseas for a year". 

The idea mightn't have taken such a hold on me if I hadn't coincidentally grabbed a book from the library the next week called "A Baby in a Backpack to Bhutan" by Bunty Avieson, an Australian woman who travelled with her husband and baby to Bhutan where they lived for 6 months. I finished reading that book on a Sunday afternoon, relaxing on the couch. As I put the book down I called over to Bob, and said "I'd like to go and live in Bhutan!", to which his muttered reply was something like "No way!" (what will she think of next???!!!).

The magic of google meant that a quick search on 'teach in Bhutan' revealed an organisation called the Bhutan Canada Foundation - a charity that places native english speaking school teachers in Bhutan, but had just finished the recruitment process for their 2012 intake. Looking back at how the ideas fell into place so quickly, I'm left without a doubt that our journey to Bhutan is meant to be.

Incidentally, half an hour after I told Bob my outlandish idea, he came back with his well thought through answer, and I love him for it: "If you think that will be good for us as a family to do, then let's go". 

Of course, there has been a lot of water under the bridge (rustic and wooden - Bhutan-style!) in the past year as we have researched, problem solved, soul searched, read and dreamed about whether we really could take a giant leap into a big unknown to live as volunteers with our little boys in what is likely to be a remote himalayan village. It has been particularly painful to consider taking our boys away from the life that they know and love, including their friends and loving extended family.

Time and again we've concluded that for just one year, we will step onto the road-less-travelled, open all our lives up to infinite possibilities we can't imagine, knowing that -inshallah- we will return to our familiar home just 12 months later, our backpacks bursting at the seams with souvenirs and our hearts full of memories.

Do you feel inspired to write a bucket list? Would living overseas be on the list? Where would you love to live for a year?