In Honor and Celebration of International Women’s Day 2014

“International Women’s Day (8 March) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In some places like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, International Women’s Day is a national holiday.”

In honor and celebration of International Women’s Day 2014, these are some of my favorite photographs that I have taken of women in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Bhutan. To me, all these women are beautiful and inspirational.

International Womens Day Vietnam Mekong Delta

International Womens Day Vietnam Black Dzao

International Womens Day Vietnam

International Womens Day Cambodia Silk Weaving

International Womens Day Cambodia Rice Paper for Spring Rolls

International Womens Day Cambodia Pottery Making

International Womens Day Bhutan Laya Woman

International Womens Day Laya Bhutan

International Womens Day Bhutan Laya

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day on March 8 is “Inspiring Change…for greater awareness of women’s equality…for more women in leadership roles…for equal recognition of women in the arts…for growth of women owned businesses…for increased financial independence of women…for more women in science, engineering, and technology…and for fairer recognition of women in sport.”

Sweet Travels!

Quotes and information from International Women’s Day 2014

Pictures are from my previous blogs:
Visions of Vietnam: Women, their Smiling Faces, and their Clothing
Silk Weaving Women in Cambodia
Creating Rice Paper for Spring Rolls, by Hand, in Cambodia
Walking in Perfect Circles: A Woman Creating Pottery in Cambodia
The Unique, Beautiful Women of Laya, Bhutan

A Second Promo for my Travel Photography Book: Windows and Doors of Bhutan

My book, “To Open and Unlock: A Collection of Photographs of Windows and Doors from Ten Countries,” is almost ready!!

Update: My book is ready – available on Amazon, with preview on Blurb.

In the meantime, here is a small sampling of the many windows and doors photos that are in the Bhutan chapter. Some of the words in this blog are taken directly from my book.

Bhutan Windows and Doors Red Chilies

The Bhutanese love red hot chili peppers. They are considered a vegetable in Bhutan, not just a spice. A large part of the Bhutanese cuisine, culture, and life is centered around growing chilies. It’s almost a year-long process, ending with drying the chilies in the sun – on rooftops, on the ground…and hanging them out of windows.

The Buddhist religion is strongly embraced by the Bhutanese. Doors leading into monasteries and temples of Bhutan are painted with the symbol of Dharmachakra, The Wheel of Law, where the eight spokes of the wheel represent the Eight-Fold Path.

Bhutan Windows and Doors Dharmachakra

In monasteries and temples, shoes are taken off before entering.

Bhutan Windows and Doors Shoes into Monastery

In a nunnery, plants decorate the doors leading into the rooms.

Bhutan Windows and Doors Plants in Nunnery

In fact, the cover photo of my book is from Bhutan (not pictured in this blog), and I will be donating 5% of my profits from the sale of my book to Bhutan Foundation.

While I wanted the book to be available this week, more details will follow within the next week on how to order your very own copy of my windows and doors travel photography book. It will be worth the wait!

Thank you, and Sweet Travels!

Oh, and here is the link to my first promo for my book, with windows and doors of the Camino de Santiago.

Bhutan: Wangduephodrang Dzong: Building a Castle in the Sand

Bhutan Wandguephodrang Dzong

I was told by one of my Bhutanese guides that 374 years ago, a little boy was building a castle in the sand near the Punatshangchu River in Bhutan. His name was Wangdi, meaning “power to subdue.”

Bhutan Wandguephodrang Dzong

During that time, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a great spiritual, cultural, and military leader, who is regarded as the founder of Bhutan, ordered the construction of many monasteries and dzongs throughout the country. Dzongs are fortress-temples, a combination of a place for both secular and religious authority, and today, each of the 20 districts of Bhutan has one.

Bhutan Wandguephodrang Dzong

So centuries ago, Zhabdrung saw the little boy building his castle in the sand, and asked the boy what is name was. When the boy replied Wangdi, Zhabdrung decided to build one of the dzongs on the hills above the river where the boy was building the castle in the sand. Thus the Wangduephodrang Dzong was built.

Bhutan Wandguephodrang Dzong

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I toured the Wangduephodrang Dzong, along with several others, during my near-month travels in Bhutan last October. In each dzong I visited, I was in awe of its size, its grandeur, and its beauty. The attention to detail in the architecture and art was amazing. I appreciated the importance of not only the dzongs, but also of the religious relics contained within.

Bhutan Wandguephodrang Dzong

In this particular dzong, I happened to see a classroom of monks studying, chanting and memorizing their prayers. Beautiful sounds, listing to the rhythm of their deep voices. Goes right to the heart.

Bhutan Wangduephodrang Dzong

In this particular dzong, I also witnessed some of the Buddhist rituals that I had been learning about during my travels in the country.

Bhutan Wandguephodrang Dzong

As with many parts of my travels throughout the country, visiting dzongs, as well as monasteries and temples, it really touched my heart how significant the Buddhist religion is to the Bhutanese.

Bhutan Wangduephodrang Dzong

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So I was saddened about a week ago when I learned that the Wangduephodrang Dzong caught on fire and much of it burnt down. I took a look at my photos to remind me of what was lost, and have included them in this blog.

Bhutan Wangduephodrang Dzong

But I have also learned that all was not lost. While much of the building itself was destroyed, over 90% of the religious relics that were contained inside had been saved. Some relics were previously removed from the dzong, as it was under renovation. Other relics were saved during the fire by them being carried out, or actually placed in iron boxes and thrown into the bushes below, only receiving minor damage.

Bhutan Wangduephodrang Dzong

And most fortunately, not a single person was hurt in the fire!

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The Bhutanese will rebuild their treasured Wangduephodrang Dzong. They are coming together, collectively as a nation, to rebuild what was built centuries ago because a little boy was building a castle in the sand.

Bhutan Wangduephodrang Dzong

Sweet Travels!

Bhutan: Somewhere Over the Rainbow

I miss Bhutan. I think about the country nearly everyday. Sure I’ve been writing blogs since my return from my travels there (October 2011), which obviously makes me think about the country. But I think about Bhutan more than just for writing my blogs. I think about it on a deeper level. And I miss the country.

Bhutan Rainbow

What I miss most are the people. Everyone I met was extremely gracious, friendly, and genuine. I feel like I have made some life-long friends. I spent the most time with my guides, three of them, all fantastic leaders, answering my questions and taking me everywhere. Along with the guides, I had three very careful drivers, and equally as great as my guides. I appreciated meeting staff at all the hotels and restaurants, people in the stores, and even just meeting people randomly, whether walking around, in villages, or in temples and monasteries. I have even made some more friends on Facebook since my return.

Bhutan Rainbow

The children of Bhutan bring wonderful memories to me. Many of them were so enthusiastic when it came to photographing them, giving big smiles, and wanting another picture taken after seeing themselves in my camera. One child in particular, the daughter of one of my guides, was my gracious host the day I witnessed the dancing and singing rehearsal in preparation for the wedding of the King and Queen of Bhutan.

Speaking of the King and Queen of Bhutan, having the privilege of meeting them was truly an honor. A once-in-a-lifetime memory.

Bhutan Rainbow

I also miss the Buddhist religion. Deeply rooted in the hearts of the Bhutanese, I could feel their religion permeate their lives. Their devotion, deep beliefs, honor, and respect of their religion makes this country quite special.

Even the visual displays of the religion are wonderful to see throughout the country, and I miss the reminders. Whether it be the temples and monasteries. The prayer flags and prayer wheels. The chortens, arts and crafts, or festivals. A deep sense of belonging is what I felt as I traveled throughout the country.

Bhutan Rainbow

The scenery is also something I miss. The snow covered mountains of the Himalayas. The village of Laya. The fields of various vegetables and grains growing. The red of the chilies hanging everywhere to dry. The blue skies. The fresh air.

I want to go back to this country. I want to delve further into the religion, learn more about the people, the land, and the country.

Bhutan Rainbow

I’m not sure what it was, but throughout my travels there, I saw several rainbows. Sure, I see rainbows at home. But there was something deeper about seeing them in Bhutan. The first one I saw was on my first day in the country. It was like some sort of symbol emerged from the sky for me. I didn’t know exactly what it meant then and still really don’t now. What I do know is that as I write this blog from my desk at home and gaze out the window, somewhere on the other side of this great planet, somewhere over the rainbow, is a country that I miss.

Sweet (and memorable) Travels!

Bhutan: Archery and Darts…WaHaa WaHaa WaHaaaaaaaa

“Archery in Bhutan is more than a sport, it is a living example and a dynamic manifestation of the unique traditions and culture of the Bhutanese people, it is a celebration of the Bhutanese way of life. No festival and no celebration is complete without a game of archery and the game itself is a combination of physical talents and spiritual influences where the deities and spirits are called upon to help a player or a team to perform better and win the contest.”

Bhutan Archery and Darts

Archery and darts are also a song, and a dance, and a whole lot of celebrating each and every time a bull’s-eye is made during a game of either the national sport of Bhutan, archery (Dha), or the similar sport of darts. Facing the target, team-members do a kick-step-tap-step dance, while singing a song in Dzongkha, the national language of Bhutan. Then the team-members turn around to face the opposing team, and shout out WaHaa WaHaa WaHaaaaaaaa, followed by some cheering of yeah’s and woohoooo’s, while enthusiastically raising their arms in the air and dancing a bit more. The Bhutanese love their national sport!

Bhutan Archery and Darts

Bhutan Archery and Darts

If you have never watched an archery or dart game because you feel like it is not athletic like other sports, or because you might think it boring, think again. I watched some of both of these sports when I was in Bhutan, and I was fascinated. I felt myself cheering for any person on any team when a bull’s-eye was made, and I wanted to get up and sing and dance, too.

Bhutan Archery and Darts

You see, the precision, the accuracy, the concentration, and the hand-eye coordination that must be involved to make a bull’s-eye is something pretty amazing. From a distance of 459 feet (140 meters), the arrow is shot and flies so fast through the air from one end of the archery field to the other, that my eye could not follow it, until it landed on the other side of the field, amazingly many times right in the small bull’s-eye of the target. Compared to the Olympic standard for archery with a field distance of 164 feet (50 meters), the Bhutanese archery field is almost three times the distance – and definitely longer than a 360-foot football field.

Bhutan Archery and Darts

The Bhutanese are very passionate about their sport, and will play all day. Nearly all villages in the country have an archery range, and many, many tournaments are held throughout the country.

Bhutan Archery and Darts

Bhutan Archery and Darts

The traditional bow used in archery is a long bamboo bow (which children still tend to use), but now-a-days a more modern bow is used, a “state-of-the-art carbonite Hoyt brand bow with a complicated-looking pulley system that releases the arrows with tremendous speed.” Bhutan has established The Bhutan Archery Federation which is “mandated to promote both forms of archery – the traditional archery played in national tournaments and the Olympic style of modern archery in which Bhutan has been participating in regional as well as major international competitions such as the Olympics since 1984.”

Bhutan Archery and Darts

Bhutan Archery and Darts

Bhutan Archery and Darts

Since 1984, Bhutan has sent both male and female archers to seven Summer Olympic Games. While the Bhutanese have yet to win in the Olympics, perhaps their eighth time, this year, will be their year! To be held from July 27 to August 3 in London, I think I will cheer for the Bhutanese, and do my own song and dance and cheers of WaHaaaaa’s for each bull’s-eye they make.

Sweet (and precise) Travels!

Quotes and some information about archery from:
WindHorse Tours, National Game of Bhutan, Archery
Bhutan Olympic Committee, Bhutan Archery