Saturday, November 30, 2013

November Photo-a-day

It's the end of another month, our last full month in Bhutan. Time has sped by and I'm filled with mixed feelings about leaving soon. Having farewelled my class two weeks ago I feel ready to move on from school, although I'm still meant to turn up there for another few weeks.

Meanwhile the opportunity to travel across Bhutan in the past week really consolidates the love I have for this country. It feels so familiar and we have friends and favourite places from Thimphu to Bumthang.

December is shaping up to be a month of doing what I love doing most: travelling! We'll be joining my friend Jana on the 6th to begin a trip to the east, and then finally leave Bhutan on December 22nd after more farewells in the capital. From then on we'll swap our thermals and down coats for shorts, t-shirts and swimmers and dive into tropical South East Asia on our way home. I feel like I've lost my mojo a bit lately with my photos-a-day: it will be wonderful to have new and different vistas everyday to inspire me. Bring on December!

1: Fruit
A treat to have a bowl of fruit salad as winter approaches.

2: I did this today
We went to a baby-shower party with the whole village. I forgot to take a photo until the last moments when the men all got up for a traditional dance to finish the night.

3: P is for
Pretty pot plants

 4: Table
I was invited to a student's house to try 'shelroti' as part of celebrations for Diwali.

5: I collect
 I have enjoyed collecting kiras this year.

6: Music
The students make music with a simple gong for the prayers every morning at school.

7: Yes!
Remy having fun on the swings Bob built.

 8: Someone I miss
Lots of people to miss when we are so far from home, but Michelle doesn't live in Australia so who knows when we'll meet up again. I miss the good times and conversations we have when we're together.

9: Mine
These little boys fill my life with so much happiness and for now at least, they're all mine.

10: Book
Hopefully reading this book and medicine will help a friend who is sick.

 11: Memory
I bought a painting of the black-necked cranes as a memory of the festival we attended today.

 12: Clouds
Not a cloud in the sky today, but I saw this painting on the wall of a shop today in Trongsa
13: Part of me
These kids will always be a part of me, in my heart and memories.

 14: Eating
Yeshi came to help me make snacks for the goodbye party tomorrow. We had to have a taste of the hedgehog to check it was delicious!

15: In my purse/pocket
Well in my 'santa sack' I carried presents, games and prizes to put under the Christmas tree at school.

16: Play
Kids at the Gaytsa school picnic playing 'elastics' with some rope.

17: 5 O'Clock
Just after 5 and the sun is nearly set, the moon and first star are visible.

18: Mirror
The windows of the shop downstairs act as a mirror, reflecting trees in the background.

 19: Where I ate breakfast
Just at the dining table, looking out on the frosty cold morning outside.

20: Communication
I spent much of today communicating by my trusty phone: calling, facebooking and emailing.

21: I wish I had this
 A private jet! Why not???!!!

22: Behind
The last rays of sun catch the standing Buddha by the riverside.

 23: Simplicity
Fresh greens at Centenary Market in Thimphu

24: A word
The sacred words 'Om Mani Padme Hum' at Dochu La

25: Quirky
It was a bit quirky and unusual to see bottlebrush trees growing all over the grounds of Yangkhil Resort in Trongsa today.

26: Message
We used these walkie-talkies to send important and funny messages between the three cars we're travelling in.

27: No!
No we won't be staying in our house tonight after it was emptied completely for the tv show (unfortunately I didn't take a good photo of the house completely empty).

 28: I am grateful for...
the amazing opportunity to travel across Bhutan to make a tv show and meet these wonderful people.

29: Black
Black socks and black shoes at last school assembly.

30: Done
I was inspired by friends at home posting photos of their Christmas trees to get a bit festive. One small tree and all the decorating is done.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Action! Part #2

What an amazing week we've had. If we are all entitled to our fifteen minutes of fame in our lifetime, well this has been the opportunity for us!

The chance to travel in style across Bhutan to film a 'reality' tv show that will air in North America to audiences of around 10 million is an incredible opportunity!

I don't want to spoil the impact of the show we filmed, so I won't go into any particular details, but I still wanted to share some of the highlights of the week.

Most importantly we met and became friends with a really lovely group of people: the crew consisting of a director, cameraman, sound guy and two producers were a close-knit and professional team. It was a pleasure to work and spend time with them (from 6am to 9pm daily). They encouraged us and hopefully brought out the best in our 'performances'. Remy and Xavier fell in love with all the crew who showered them with attention and entertained them while Bob and I were busy.

We have a new vocabulary related to the television world: continuity, dirty shot, two shot, three shot, POV, pickups, dolly, jib etc. It has really opened my eyes to the 'magic' of tv and reality television in particular. I don't think I'll ever look at tv in the same way again! On the first day we were new to being 'miked up' and all this new terminology but after a week at it we're old hats now!

Now the ten or more hours of footage that we made is in the hands of editors who will spend two weeks cutting to edit down to a twenty-something minute show. It's sad to think that much of what we filmed, and perhaps some of the special moments of the week will be lost, but overall I hope the finished show captures the beauty of Bhutan and our love for this country. All going well, the finished show will be a memento that we can keep and watch in future years with the boys to bring back memories of our amazing year in Bhutan.

The show is likely to air in North America in April, and later in Australia, so when I know I will let you know to tune in to see our adventure. Here are some photos of the fun we've had this week.

Our friend Senge joined us at Punakha to be our 'baby-sitter' - him and the boys had a great afternoon.

Punakha Dzong in the distance.

Senge and one of the drivers carrying gear to the location.

Go-pros were attached to the outside and inside of the vehicle to catch different angles.

The boys with Rebecca and Salome at a rest stop.

While it is winter here in Bumthang it was suprisingly hot in other places!

Filming a scene buying snacks - nearly got attacked by hungry monkeys.

 The director Alicia and I.
Remy and Remy-puppy - four new puppies were born at our house - lots of cuddles with the boys and crew (who they were named after!)
Cheers to an awesome week!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Action! Part #1

We couldn't have asked for a more perfect and amazing way to top off our year in Bhutan than having the opportunity travel across Bhutan to make a TV show!

The producers of an American reality show were on the lookout for a new and exotic location to film and contacted Bhutan Canada Foundation to see if any teachers would be interested to participate. I said 'yes!' straight away and since then much planning has gone into preparing for the shoot.

On Saturday we flew to Paro from Jakar on a 25 minute flight (saving 12 hours of driving!) to meet the crew at Paro. In itself this experience was an absolute highlight of the year. We were all glued to our windows and enthusiastically yelling out familiar landmarks to each other and other amused passengers! Seeing the country that is now so well known to us and the distant snow covered mountains from the sky was a really precious gift.

Druk Air flight Bumthang to Paro.

Overlooking Tharpa-ling Monastery.

Snow-capped mountains were mesmerising.

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Just enough time for a quick ema-datsi pastry (!) and juice before descending.

Overlooking Thimphu.

Coming in to land in Paro over dry harvested fields.

We met the crew in Paro and travelled with them to Thimphu and enjoyed the first of many delicious buffet meals in a fancy restaurant - feeling like country bumpkins in the big smoke!

With a day and a half free before official filming began, I planned to catch up with friends and also visit the Early Learning Centre school in Thimphu to offer a professional development session to the teachers. The principal there, Deki Choden has become a friend through numerous online chats about education. She found me through my blog and was eager for me to share my passion for teaching to her staff.

Finally meeting Deki in person!

I was welcomed so beautifully into the school which is worlds away from my school in Chumey. Colourful posters demonstrate the school's commitment to environmental awareness and developing critical, creative thinkers. It was a pleasure to speak to the staff who listened attentively and asked questions afterwards to gain a greater understanding. I could tell they are all passionate about teaching and I regret I didn't have the opportunity to see them in action in the classroom (as just like at my school it is now exam time there). Deki and the staff presented me with special gifts including a gorgeous chocolate cake (for my birthday earlier in the week), a book written by a local teacher about the life of a typical Bhutanese village child in the east, and a cushion that is being made at the school, stuffed with used plastic snack packaging. This school has a vision to be a leader in education in Bhutan and is the country representative for Design For Change - a global education movement that empowers children to be the change in this world. It is something I look forward to finding out more about.

We also snuck in a quick visit to VAST - Voluntary Artists Studio Thimphu -  a place I'd been keen to visit since I read about it on my friend Matt's blog. Here Thimphu artists have studio space to work and show their art, and art lessons are put on for local students on weekends and holidays. It is so lovely to see this opportunity available for children and I'm sure will lead to a vibrant art scene in Thimphu in years to come.

Large sculpture by the riverside near VAST

What an interesting way to recycle tyres!

An artist busy working on a commissioned painting.

Matt is organising for an artist to visit his school (half an hour from Thimphu) weekly to give lessons to the students, which is very forward thinking as generally Bhutanese schools focus mainly on academics. For the budding artists in Class 2, I wish Thimphu and opportunities like this weren't so far away.

I'm going to keep you hanging on the TV show developments until the next installment of this blog, but some photos as teasers of the boys having fun with the crew...

Xavier has a turn at being the cameraman - with his mate Julian.

Remy and Martin working the boom!