Another Chutti

by wendy on December 1, 2014 · 3 comments

At least once during each Nepali sojourn I do a My Day Off post. Often there is only one official Day Off as we are trying to do a lot in a short time and that is the case this visit too. Saturday was the day, our chutti, and what a glorious day it was.

I knew what to expect when Kopila, who never encourages missing a dal bhat, said Didi, I think today would be good to not have dal bhat at breakfast because we are visiting some friends and don’t know what they will feed us. At this moment, I DID know that whatever they fed us, it would be in a large quantity. We consequently had a small breakfast of one large omelette, two rice dumplings, a DSCN0423plate of pomegranate seeds and I said no to the banana.

Last April I had promised to visit Deepa and her dad and then the time went so seeing them was top priority. Deepa and her sister in law, both women in a very vulnerable situation who have turned to Samunnat for support, made wonderful spicy chiya and fresh sel roti (fried donuts made using rice flour and sugar) flavoured with cinnamon and cardamon.  It was served with fried potatoes and chilli and I was so glad I had suchDSCN0413 light breakfast. Deepa’s father is a delight; a tiny man who, in spite of his hard life and blindness, pervades joy and curiosity.  He sang all his questions to me and once I realised that the songs were actual questions, not just folk songs, I managed better than I thought. I did NOT sing my replies as speaking Nepali is hard enough. Let alone singing it.

After spending a couple of hours with the family, we hopped back on the bike and headed further east to Surunga to visit a cousin-sister who had played a significant role in the marriage of Kopila and her husband, Binod. (By this stage, Kopila was DSCN0439suffering serious bike envy! We had borrowed her sister in law’s newer motor bike and she kept exclaiming about what a smooth ride it was! As Binod is the local Yamaha dealer, perhaps he can do something about this! Just joking bhai! Sort of.)

Surunga is a highway town of approx. 18,000 and M’s house was IDEALLY situated for intense sticky beaking. And close observation of every vehicle that plyed the road. At quite close quarters really.  Fortunately not so many ply late at night so position will not impact too much on real estate value.  For me, with no plans to try and sleep, it was anDSCN0428 EXCELLENT place to observe life’s rich tapestry.

Life’s rich tapestry included this sign and I would welcome interpretations. Obviously it has some thing to do with piles but what exactly? Maybe a surgical camp? Anyway, it all sounds jolly.

M loved my clothing and the fact that my jewellery matched my clothing. She thought however, that my haircut needed updating and that I would benefit from visiting her friend in the Beauty Parlour who could Cut it like this (She described a deep U shape with her hands – an edgy cut for the young girls with long black hair cut in a deep U shape.) As my hair is almost DSCN0430invariably thrown up in a bun or braid, we decided an edgy straight in a line across the back, not too much shorter cut would be more appropriate and that the deal could be done if the hairdresser made no comment about the edgy silver roots.


Creating and Connecting

by wendy on November 21, 2014 · 2 comments

One is not born into the world to do everything, but to do something. Henry David Thoreau

DSCN0166I choose a Word (or Words!) of the Year as a part of living mindfully, choosing what I do and responding to what comes up.  I started this year with a clutch of words, which perhaps reflected a fear of getting it wrong.  I mean what would happen if I chose the wrong word of the year?  What wisdom would I miss if I….(shock, horror) chose the wrong word of the year? Funny girl.

As it turns out, it’s just two that have quietly andDSCN0169 consistently called me.  Two that I ponder when I feel overwhelmed by choices and decisions.  Two that shed some light on what the something I was born to do might be.  Two words that I have sort of resisted.

My lovely man says I connect. He says it’s what I do. And, in a way he is right. I connect to my place, I connect with people, I connect people to one another (I often think a special quality of the Colourful Journey is the result of connections between wonderful people who have not met before), I have practices to help me connect to my breath and my body. As DSCN0172I get older, I see more and more our deep interconnectedness, the fact that most of us share that we are trying to make the best of what life dishes up.  Ironically, as an introvert, I feel more connected than ever! (My introversion was part of why I resisted this word but a lot of this article resonated!)

And I live to create.  You all know that.  I try to bring my innate creativity (which we all have!) to what ever I do.  In a post with the resonant clarity of a lovely bell, Jen Louden says about why creating stuff matters,:

The point of life is to make something good and beautiful in the face of meaninglessness and horror. To not give away your voice to false gods of cool shoes, Facebook likes, fat bank statements or to cynicism, resignation and anger. Rather to keep feeling, keep creating, keep enchanting yourself and others with the power of creation.

It helps to ask myself, Does what I am doing now help me in my goal to truly andDSCN0170 meaningfully connect, to create something good, or beautiful? It’s not always simple.  Sometimes trawling through someone’s Pinterest site does exactly that. And sometimes I use the same activity to avoid something challenging.  It’s not so much the activity but the attitude.

So WoTY watchers, I reckon, if between now and the end of the year, you tell me a few of the WoTY you’ve spotted, AND send a word that has resonated for you, we could connect and create.  And given the somewhat pontificatory nature of this post, photos of the struggle between good and evil from the newly completed burning ghats at Itahari seem appropriate. Can you pick the good guys?

BTW, I am regularly updating the Samunnat blog even though the veeeery slooooooow internet nearly sends me to distraction. Latest building photos are here.


1. My shampoo is black.Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

2. My toothpaste is red.

3. My breakfast is spicy and I eat more rice.

4. My tea is sweet, spicy and milky.

5. Some shops are like rainbows.

I was going to add 6. that there is Exif_JPEG_PICTUREno toilet paper but decided that would be too much information.

The Samunnat oven works and I am walking on air. Read about it here.


Wednesday…back in the saddle!

by wendy on November 12, 2014 · 8 comments

This is an unashamedly Samunnat flavoured post.

photo 3There was no rest for the wicked after arriving in Kathmandu. After a surprisingly short wait in the visa queue and throwing my bags into my room, Kopila and I met for some serious shopping.  We had three goals:

1. purchase a lot of silver findings from Abdul and Shokira at Fozia to cope with our steadily growing orders for completed jewellery;

photo 12. search every inch of the Bead Bajar in Indra Chowk for the elusive turquoise coloured pote bead (you can see from the photo that turquoise is not the top colour!  Gimme GREEN and RED baby!); and

3. look at big ovens (Kopila had no idea such a thing existed. Totally blown away!)

Neither of us are huge fans of KTM so the plan was to shop fast and go. And we did. Fortified by lovingly made dal bhat courtesy of our dear bhai Bishnu and Bil, we spent more money in two and half days than in a long time.  But we got the silver, found the beads (despite nearly every bloke in the market telling us Paundaina- not available – with a remorseful shake of his head) cleaned the cupboard sized shop of the aforementioned turquoise beads and…no….we didn’t look at ovens.  Well, we didn’t just look atphoto 4 ovens. WE BOUGHT ONE!!!!

Personally, I will really, really miss the ear splitting, conversation stopping, relentless, head ache inducing noise of the generator we have to use with our current electric toaster ovens.  But I think I will get over it.  Our gas oven will be quieter, cleaner, cheaper to run, more efficient and the biggest single purchase (apart from the building) that we have ever made.

So now I sit here in my other home, a rising red sun hovering above misty fields of grain, my beloved Sigur Ros triumphantly soaring* in my ears thanks to my new hearing aid suitable headphones (an indulgence in Singapore).  Life is complex. Not all good, not all bad. But it is life and I am so grateful for every minute.

PS Also managed to squeeze in shopping for chappals so our feet don’t get cold inside.  For more about Samunnat activities, keep reading that blog too!

PPS The weather was so much warmer than the clothing worn in the last photo would suggest. Very pleasant. Ana bahini, I was not wearing my cardie or beanie. Go figure.

*Possibly painfully loudly but gee….sounds good to me!


If this is Sunday, I must be in Sydney….

by wendy on November 2, 2014 · 8 comments

I left the Hill on Wednesday and will visit four cities before returning to Adelaide and leaving for Nepal.  A lovely, albeit busy time, of reconnecting and sharing.DSCN0121

And while journeys have allowed significant time for reflecting, there’s not so much time for writing. So….some favourite quotes and a photo or two – some flowers made using soothing Placid Blue and lotus buds to give the Samunnat ladies.

Over the last few days travel, I couldn’t believe how many women had obviously had plastic surgery. There is such a sameness about them all, a homogenised look, and (IMHO) it isn’t beautiful.  Ursula Le Guin so wisely says:

Beauty always has rules. It’s a game. I resent the beauty game when I see it controlled by people who grab fortunes from it and don’t care who they hurt. I hate it when I see it making people so self-dissatisfied that they starve and deform DSCN0118and poison themselves. Most of the time I just play the game myself in a very small way, buying a new lipstick, feeling happy about a pretty new silk shirt…[or wearing really fabulous jewellery. Ed]

Maybe it was because I was going to a school reunion that this resonated:

…I look at men and women my age and older, and their scalps and knuckles and spots and bulges, though various and interesting, don’t affect what I think of them. Some of these people I consider to be very beautiful, and others I don’t. For old people, beauty doesn’t come free with the hormones, the way it does for the young. It has to do with bones. It has to do with who the person is. More and moreDSCN0115 clearly it has to do with what shines through those gnarly faces and bodies.

Resilience, authenticity, courage in a face is more beautiful to me than a fine nose or full lips.

As Brene Brown says in The Gifts of Imperfection, authenticity is letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are right now.

Last week, when I tentatively practised embracing who I am right now (instead of the me I thought I was supposed to be) I could finish a task that had being hanging accusingly over my head for months.  Embracing the fact that I was a passionately enthusiastic volunteer who could ask for help (yup! revolutionary idea that one!) and not waiting until I was the fabulously computer literate graphic artist I thought I should be allowed me to get the job done.  It was good enough!

There is less evidence of plastic surgery in Nepal but the phenomenal sales of Fair and Lovely whitening cream suggests that the pursuit of idealised perfection is just as strong. Oh that my grand daughter could live in society where true inner beauty is valued, diversity celebrated, the weathering of age seen as signs of a long life well lived.

PS See Zed Nelson’s Love Me for more food for thought.  And Brainpickings for a cracker read every Sunday!




Flower Necklaces and getting ready!

by wendy on October 20, 2014 · 2 comments

DSCN0085I am in the countdown phase again; getting ready to head off to Nepal again which means a lot of organising.  Still, it is all stuff I feel really passionate about and that means I feel very satisfied when things get done!

Recently I put some of my own work (as opposed to Samunnat pieces) in the wonderful Gallery Shop at BHRAG and it has been selling really well. I am stoked!!! So, I am busy making a few more pieces to keep stocks up in the run up to Christmas.  I love making what I like to think of as my signature piece, the phul mala, flower necklace, and over the weekend made some in the wonderful rich colour of Sangria using Carolyn Good’s recipe.  Some of these incorporate garnets from Nepal and one is heading on a long journey like me! (More of that later!)DSCN0106

I also finally strung together a necklace that had been lying around on my work table half assembled.  This was born when I was teaching the 6 week classes and we were looking at complementary colour combinations.  Seems very summery to me!


More than a scarecrow….

by wendy on October 13, 2014 · 4 comments

DSCN0049This was going to be a reflective (and possibly wordy) post on collecting my thoughts again after an eventful month away. But now it won’t be. Instead I am just going toDSCN0043 put up some photos of what happened one day, when instead of answering my usual question of OK, What should I do today? I gave myself the chance to answer another one.

What would be fun to do right now?

Samjhana was the result. She was made entirely with stuff around the house (slightly scary to think that an Eiffel Tower was lying unused in the shed but there you go).  She is life size (taller than me) and extraordinarily authentic down to a small thauli purse containing rupeesDSCN0046 tucked into her blouse in case she needs it and she can move. Not independently obviously, but I can change her position according to weather conditions, needs and interests.  Each time I look at her, she reminds me to be mindful. To be present, to lighten up. Her name comes from the Nepali word for remembering or memory.

Given that I will be in Nepal again in month, it would be good if she reminded me of my Nepali language (getting somewhat rusty) but that may need to be a process of more active engagement (with my text book!) DSCN0048rather than gazing at a Nepali figure in my back garden.

BTW, Zoe Margaret continues to delight and inspire. She can’t say angel yet but her mother reports that she looks at hers!


Two angels

by wendy on September 18, 2014 · 15 comments

IMG_0035I wanted to make something very special for my first grand child. I did not know the gender and I am not of a particularly practical bent but had fairly clear ideas about what I wanted my special creation to say. It was to convey profound love from grand parents who lived a long way away.  It was to provide a new mother with the knowledge that her own mother was always there at the end of theIMG_0031 phone, sending love, remembering those first crazy months.

I am one of two girls and had two girls of my own so struggled a bit to imagine having anything but a grand daughter. I hoped that if the baby was a boy, at least his mother would appreciate anything a tad too feminine!  On a run, as has been the way lately, the image of what I photo 2wanted to make came clearly and I loved the very meditative process of making my angel’s wings/ arms. Laying each feather with a thought of love and a wish for joy for our new little person and the new family.  I used some of Helen Breil’s texture stamps and clear Kato liquid mixed with a little acrylic for the glaze which I applied after the preliminary baking.  She was mounted on Nepali lokte (daphne) paper;

Our precious new angel, Zoe Margaret, is now just under one week old and I have been living with her and her besotted mum and dad since her birth. I have one moreIMG_0080.JPG week of this bliss and then will rely on the wonders of modern technology for a while until my next visit.  I was describing to my daughter how we would have to take photos, take the film to the processor to get them developed and post them to far away family to share those precious moments and I think it was genuinely hard for her to imagine a world where the connection was so slow.  We sometimes bemoan modern technology and social media but four great grand parents are now asking for more pictures, more videos, more Instagram shots of this amazing little girl.

IMG_0070.JPGThis blog does not usually contain family photos but as every grand mother I know would understand, I am now a totally biased, somewhat boring, overwhelming Zoe-centric human being. I do not for a second take for granted my good fortune in being here to meet and get to know this little angel; to hold her and to see my daughter radiantly in love with a daughter of her own.

Priya Zoe, swagatam.



by wendy on September 6, 2014 · 4 comments

The regular reader will know that I got greedy and had several Words of The Year and  (here comes another one for those watching!) one of them is connection.  This year I have been so aware of connection at many levels:

image006Connection with my place (like running in the Living Desert and doing lovely walks in Mutawintji NP); connection through my yoga and meditation; connection with friends and family; connection with people I meet who seem to often have just the thing I need to hear or learn….

There has also been connection in the form of teaching, buddying, mentoring and creating. At the moment, the work I am making is connecting ideas that seem quite disparate and I am absorbed with the link between seed pods and reliquaries.  Steve Jobs said Creativity is just connecting things. And Maria Popova in brainpickings writes about the role of connection and creativity here.  She quotes Paul Rand who says, The role of the imagination is to create new meanings and to discover connections that, even if obvious, seem to escape detection. Imagination begins with intuition, not intellect.

Some of the loveliest connections lately have come from students! Only this weekimage021 two students sent me some real treasures. In response to a conversation about colour, Carol sent these fabulous photos of birds (she didn’t know the source. Ideas anyone?) and after we talked about the importance of creativity in life Clem sent this fabulous quote from Helena Bonham Carter which he displays in his workplace for all to reflect on:

imagesI think everything in life is art. What you do. How you dress. The way you love someone, and how you talk. Your smile and your personality. What you believe in, and all your dreams. The way you drink your tea. How you decorate your home. Or party. Your grocery list. The food you make. How your writing looks. And the way you feel. Life is art.

I think the pod photo was taken by Cynthia Mooney of this site but I am checking!  Soon I hope to connect properly with our new grand baby. Obviously I will need to wait until after the birth but I will be doing some preparatory connecting this week when I drive over to let it know that grandma is ready now!  At least you are all used to sporadic, irregular blogging.

Here’s a sneak peek at my polymer ponderings on pods and gaus – the Tibetan Buddhist amulet containers:IMG_0050


Teach Now, she said. So I did….

by wendy on August 28, 2014 · 3 comments

I can’t say what the impact of doing Jen Louden’s Teach Now course was on my IMG_0018students* but for me, it was profound.  Yup, that good.  And let me say right now that I don’t get commission nor am part of any plan when I rave here. This is pure I really loved it raving!

I’ve taught quite a lot in different capacities and love doing it.  I teach for months each year in Nepal and am doing more and more teaching here in Australia. Teaching/ sharing is becoming more and more part of what I do and I want to do it as well as I can.  As a chronic over provider and an introvert, I also wanted to teach well without feeling very anxious and exhausted afterwards.  And without exhausting or overwhelming students with my excitementIMG_0026 and passion!

When the 2014 Teach Now course started I was in Nepal with unreliable internet, no hope of being around for phone calls and months of travelling ahead of me.  Was the timing right I wondered? And yet, inside me I knew it was and even when Jen Louden sensibly replied with Only you know that to my Is this timing crazy? email, her realistic description of expectations and time required meant I knew I could embrace this.

I’d spent some money previously on some on line training and was very underwhelmed. This made me fearful to spend more but Teach Now was a great investment. It’s worth so much more than you pay and the results far IMG_0019exceeded my expectations.  It helped me so much as I prepared for perhaps the most ambitious teaching I have done (the 6 week course) and some of Jen’s thoughtful questions have revolutionised the way I prepare and determine what to include.  And…in my case very pertinently…what not to include.

From my perspective, my teaching was so much more joy filled and energising rather than draining. I knew how to replenish myself after a class but did not have that utterly spent feeling I used to get.  I came home with more and more ideas and I grew to love using my creativity in preparing classes.  I could go on. And on. Suffice it to say, anyone wanting guidance about how toIMG_0023 effectively communicate something they are passionate about should have a look at Teach Now.

*I am blessed with cracker students and they all made gorgeous things and humoured me when I did my raves about creativity. The photos are from the most recent one day workshop! Ola and Tracey, you were blurry sorry.  So nice to have a bloke there Clem!!!!