How May I Serve You?

dna-163466_640

I was born with a servant gene as were my mother and father before me and my siblings beside me. We have met and married other genetic servants and produced children with the same gene.

What does it mean to have the servant gene?

It means that helping others is as instinctive and integral to our being as being right- or left-handed. It means always putting our hand up when volunteers are sought. It means always looking for ways to relieve another’s burden. It means always seeking ways to be of assistance to others whether near or far, loved ones or strangers.

Why do you do it?

Not for gain, that is certain. A quid pro quo or obligation to repay never enters a genetic servant’s head when offering a service. Indeed, the very act of serving, the satisfaction that brings, is our payment. Any offer of reward or payment for service is viewed with embarrassment.

Do you ever tire of it?

No. Never. We may feel tired, as we are often trying to meet many demands, unable to say no to any request, but we never tire of it. In fact, it is often the opposite. A request for help from a friend and the ability to then fulfil that request is likely to be the highlight of the day and leave us in a positive state of mind for the rest of the week.

What are the downsides?

It’s true that we can become over-stretched as we try to meet as many demands as possible. This does not lead to resentment at the imposition but only sadness that we are not fulfilling our full service by being an effective servant to all who need us. Some people do not understand the mindset of a person with the servant gene and will reject assistance or refuse to ask for help for fear of imposing. This also makes us sad because being of service is what fills our hearts and souls with happiness.

How do children exhibit the servant gene?

They are always the ones to attend events to support their school, club, a charity or friends. They take on the bulk of the grunt work in group projects. They make friends with the otherwise friendless kids and invite them to their birthday parties. They stay behind to help clean up. They always help when asked and offer help unprompted.

How do I know if I have the servant gene?

Are you always looking for ways to help, especially when attending events? Do you usually find yourself in the kitchen doing the dishes or staying behind to help clean up? Do you notice when your friends may need help and offer a practical way to be of assistance? Are you always on the lookout for ways to participate in events to raise money for charities or awareness of important social issues? Most of all, does doing these things bring you great joy and satisfaction?

I used to sometimes think that I was cursed with the servant gene but I have come to know that it is indeed a blessing and that we are an important part of any tribe.

Do you have the servant gene? Is it a blessing or a curse for you?

 

 

HOME button Able Theme small

The Best of Friends

friends

What makes the best of friends?

The best of friends stick with you through the good times and the bad.

The best of friends do not abandon you when life changes.

The best of friends forgive your mistakes, thoughtless words and careless actions. Time and time again.

The best of friends are there for you when you need them even if you haven’t spoken in a year.

The best of friends receive an offer of help with joy and not a sense of obligation because they know that helping them makes you happy.

The best of friends can pick up where you left off no matter how much time has passed.

The best of friends let you know where you stand and tell you to your face when you’re being a pain.

The best of friends celebrate your successes and mourn your losses.

The best of friends never leave you hanging.

The best of friends take a genuine interest in your passions even when they are not their own.

The best of friends can live close or far, see you every day or only once a year but are always your friend.

The best of friends can read between the lines and respond to what has not been said.

The best of friends know the worst sides of you but love you anyway.

The best of friends are a rare and precious gift.

 

What makes the best of friends for you?

 

 

 

HOME button Able Theme small

We Are The Champions

Australians like to think of themselves as a sporting nation. We have our own native football game, a Formula One Grand Prix, one of the greatest horse races in the world and we tend to punch above our weight in the Olympics, at least in the pool. We even have Winter Olympic gold medallists. Not bad for a country with no snow for most of the year.

Steven Bradbury

At the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Steven Bradbury won gold in the 1,000m short track speed skating event. He won because he managed to stay on his feet while all his opponents fell over.

In Australia, achieving something because everybody else failed is now known as “doing a Bradbury”.

 

Australians love a winner but we especially love a winner against the odds.

Anyone who knows me well will be wondering what on earth inspired me to write a post about sport because it’s not my favourite thing in the world. In fact, I actually loathe our national game. Living in a town obsessed with its football club, this is tantamount to treason and I’ve had many a robust discussion with fans about the (to me) undue influence the club holds (particularly on the local government purse strings).

But let’s not get into that.

So why am I talking about sport now?

Because Australia has just proved itself the true champion of the world with a spectacular win in an international sporting competition.

We just won the Quidditch World Cup.

Quidditch World Cup 1

Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

For the uninitiated (or those who have been living under a rock for the past twenty years), Quidditch is the sport played in the Harry Potter books written by J.K. Rowling. It’s been adapted to be played by people who can’t actually fly and is now an international sensation with sporting clubs all over the world.

I have felt compelled to share this news for three reasons:

  1. As a nerd, knowing there is a sport out there based on a series of books about wizards is pretty cool.
  2. I am in love with the national Quidditch team’s name. They’re called the Dropbears. Australians use the existence of the highly dangerous dropbear to scare tourists about the dangers of walking in the bush. (At least, we use it on those easily susceptible to bullshit.)
  3. The coach who led this team to victory over the until-then-undefeated United States is my niece. That is very cool.

That’s a sports victory I can definitely get behind.

Congratulations to the Dropbears and especially to their coach, Gen Gibson. You are the champions!

 

 

HOME button Able Theme small

Open Letter To A Game Of Thrones Fan

Jon-Snow-reads-a-letter

Dear Game of Thrones Fan,

I don’t watch Game of Thrones. Never have.

Now, before you go rushing to the comments section at the bottom of the page to tell me how astonished you are (no doubt in a tone of admonishment), let me finish.

I missed the initial viewing boat when Game of Thrones began because it was only available on Pay TV and we didn’t have it.

Now, before you go rushing to the comments section at the bottom of the page to tell me about streaming services, dvds and nefarious means of watching television shows (I know all that), let me finish.

You see, I’m not actually interested in watching Game of Thrones. At all.

“But you don’t know what you’re missing!”

Well, if I don’t know, I won’t miss it. I don’t think my life will be any the lesser for it.

“But…”

You know, the more you tell me I must watch it, the more determined I’m going to become to never, ever watch it.

Contrary Mary, that’s me.

“That kind of attitude could mean you miss out on the best things in life!”

Now, tell me, honestly, if someone asked you, “What are the best things in your life?” what would you say? Would a television show make the list? Family, friends, music, art, travel…these would be on my list. I’m not sure television would rate very highly, if at all.

A bit of perspective, please.

What bothers me the most, however, is watching someone share the fact that they’ve never watched Game of Thrones on social media and seeing the comments fill with insults.

“Loser”, “Idiot” and worse.

Now, I look around the world and do you know what I think is wrong with a lot of it? We’re sinking into a mire of intolerance. If someone looks different, worships a different god, speaks in a different language, has different abilities, believes in something different, loves someone different, the shouty voices come out.

Goodness knows, we have issues we need to discuss and to find some commonality to move forward in peace and humanity. Insisting that I love the same television show that you do is not one of them.

So, let’s respect each other’s likes and dislikes and please don’t insist that I watch Game of Thrones.

And I won’t call you a loser if you don’t watch Doctor Who.

 

 

 

HOME button Able Theme small

Freeing The Captive Creative Soul

We all have a need to create. Whether we are a writer, artist, photographer, musician, decorator, gardener, programmer, cook or athlete, we all feel the joy of seeing something that has come from us. It feeds our soul and lightens our days.

But what if you couldn’t create?

What happens to the writer who is jailed because of his words? What happens to the musician who is shunned by her community because of the style of music she chooses to play? What happens to the artist who is locked away and told “You must do nothing”?

The writer may continue to write in the hope of regime change. The musician may move to another community in the hope of bringing awareness to the restrictions placed on others. But what does the captive do?

A young man held in immigration detention for many years said the worst thing about being locked away was not the lack of freedom of movement or the indignity of security measures but being able to do nothing. With nothing to do, there is only time to think. “You are useless, Mohammad.” “You are worth nothing, Mohammad.”

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending an art exhibition of works by those currently or formerly held in immigration detention in Melbourne. A small band of volunteers had supplied the asylum seekers with art materials and encouraged them to express themselves. The works were amazing and often heartbreaking.

Screaming Freedom

‘Screaming Freedom’ and ‘Freedom’ by Sina Pourhorayed

Guards

‘Guards’ by Mostafa Deilami

Shamans Wand

‘Shaman’s Wand’ by Mostafa Deilami  Constructed from objects found around the detention centre grounds.

Nimsay Mask

‘Nimsay’ by Mostafa Deilami (L) and ‘Mask’ by Sahar (R)

Mudslide

‘Mudslide’ by Leila Hamidavi

 

“I found I could say things with colour and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

 

Over The Fence

My thanks to the artists from the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation centre, the volunteer visitors and Lisa Stewart (originator and curator of the exhibition) for an enlightening and moving event. Thanks also to Elly McDonald for the photos.

 

 

 

HOME button Able Theme small

Living The Dream

I’ve just finished appearing in a production of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ as Lady Egeus, Hermia’s mother. (Yes, yes, it’s supposed to be Lord Egeus, Hermia’s father but men are scarce in amateur community theatre.)

I’m part of a small theatre company called Theatre of the Winged Unicorn. It’s unique. And I’m not just talking about the name. It’s unique because it’s not just about the acting. It’s unique because it’s not about the stars of the show or the glitz and the glamour. It’s unique because it’s about community. And it’s about family.

It says something when you’ll happily accept a part that has only thirty lines and appears for a mere half an hour of total stage time just so you can be involved.

P1060456sm

The “Crap-All Lines Club”. We spent a lot of time laughing and eating snacks.

It says something when you’ll happily accept extra roles behind the scenes like “Box Office” or “Fairy Wrangler” because being part of a family is about supporting one another.

Box Office

The “Box Office”

It says something when you’re sad that the show is over not because your stage role has come to an end but because your time hanging out with a great bunch of people has come to an end.

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Photo courtesy of S. Thorne

It says something when more often than not, the people you meet for the first time in a play become your friends for life.

P1060451sm

Two of my besties

I’m no great acting talent and I have no ambitions of fame and fortune. What I do dream of doing is joining with others I like and respect to create something beautiful, funny, tragic, mysterious or magical.

It’s more than just one midsummer night’s dream.

It’s a lifetime of living the dream.

Midsummer Family

A Midsummer Family

A post in reverse response to the Daily Post’s prompt “Dream”. Reverse because I actually thought of this post (title included) hours before the Daily Post posted its prompt. Figured I’d better write it then.

 

 

HOME button Able Theme small

Is It A Bird? Is It A Plane?

It’s [insert favourite superhero here]!

Superheroes are all the rage at the moment, have you noticed?

Marvel is raking in the millions with movie franchises based on individuals (Captain America, Iron-man, Spiderman, Thor) and ensembles (The Avengers) while their television shows (Agent Carter, Agents of Shield, Daredevil) draw millions of viewers.

DC Comics isn’t doing so well on the movie front these days (Batman vs Superman) but the television DC world is thriving (Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl).

For a geeky household like ours, this growing popularity of geek culture is very welcome. Superheroes everywhere! (Why else would I have a caped crusader for an avatar? Even if it is an un-Masterly one.)

Gravatar

But superheroes don’t just live in comic books and on the silver screen. They are all around us. Sure, they may not fly or have superhuman strength or even possess the coolest toys but I’ll bet you know one.

It’s the friend who has endured overwhelmingly difficult life challenges but still smiles and offers her gifts and talents for the enjoyment of others.

It’s the one who has suffered unimaginable loss but has learned to love and laugh again.

It’s the friend who despite financial struggles continues to give generously to others.

It’s the one who chooses to follow her heart and with courage step out to start a business, move to another country, launch a new career or begin a new life on her own.

It’s the friend who fights and defeats a serious illness.

It’s the one who makes you believe you can do anything.

Superheroes are all around us, quietly going about their lives often oblivious to the inspiration they are to the rest of us. They don’t have magical powers or a fancy suit or a cape but they are our real heroes.

I recently chose to acknowledge one of the superheroes in my life by making her a cape for her birthday. I think all the heroes who work magic in our lives should have a cape. Sorry Edna.

Who are the superheroes in your life?

 

 

HOME button Able Theme small

Just One Child

He was standing there alone, as he often did; standing where he wasn’t supposed to be, as he often did.

Somehow he’d found his way onto one of the dirt mounds that would one day be the floor of a new classroom. He’d had to cross several narrow planks to get there, over the deep trenches we’d been digging for the past few days.

He stood there and silently watched as we finished off the last of the concreting from which we’d taken a break to walk back to camp and have lunch. It was lunch break at school and while the other children played in the ‘yard’ (little more than a cleared space between the buildings), he’d done his own thing, as he often did.

The concreting done and seeing the children starting to gather to go back to class for afternoon lessons, I reached out my hands to lift him over the trench to where he could join his classmates. As I picked him up to swing him over, I felt him reach to wrap his arms around my neck. Aware of my responsibilities in regard to child safety and not forming attachments that I could not sustain, I smiled at him and kept him at arms’ length as I carried him over to the other side.

He went off to class. We went back to work.

As we walked back to camp, he was there. Standing some distance away, he was shouting a word at us over and over again. From the cheeky look on his face, I’d guess it was a Not Nice Word. As we came closer, he ran towards us. Stopping still some way away he suddenly spat in our direction.

Shocking? Maybe. Disgusting? To some, I guess.

Me? It just endeared him to me all the more. I’ve always been attracted to the ‘naughty’ ones.

We were all, workers, students and teachers alike, heading home at the end of the day. I saw him and he came, wanting to be picked up. Perhaps against my better judgement but unable to resist, I picked him up and carried him down the hill to the turn off where he went right to go home and we went left to go back to camp. As I put him down, he grabbed for my hand, wanting to follow. A teacher arrived and intervened, shooing him away. I watched as his big sister dragged him back along the path to home.

Our last day and I asked a friend to take a photograph of me with some of the kids but most particularly with that one little boy. I wanted to pick him up but I resisted and instead knelt down beside him for the photograph.

Later, after a beautiful and emotional farewell from the village, we were walking out of the school when I passed him and his family. I reached out my hand to say goodbye to him and he grabbed it and held on tightly. My resolve broke and I leant down and gave him a hug. As I released my arms and went to straighten up, the tiny arms around my neck tightened and his feet lifted off the ground. Several times I tried to set him down and each time he held on tighter.

“Pick him up and carry him down to the corner,” suggested our guide.

So I did, walking down the hill back towards camp for us and home for him, chatting to his father with his mother and sister close behind. As we reached the point where our paths diverged, I felt his arms hold even tighter. I said goodbye and then turned to our guide who reached up and took him from me. I quickly walked away, not looking back.

Halfway back to camp, our guide caught up with me and said, “He is still crying for you.” I stopped and looked back only to see his tiny frame running along the path towards us, his mother in close pursuit. It took all my resolve not to run back to him. I stood there and watched as his mother finally caught up with him and dragged him crying back towards home.

Many tears were shed in camp that night.

In a post I wrote last year about Voluntourism, I questioned the ethics of volunteering for short periods of time in orphanages. I felt it must be cruel to bond with children and then leave them forever.

I didn’t mean to bond with him. Against all better judgment I did.

And it tore away a piece of my heart to leave him.

How anyone could volunteer in a situation where it is part of the job to bond with not just one child but many children and then to be able to just walk away at the end of it is beyond me.

It’s still there, that piece of my heart. With a tiny boy in a small village in Nepal. Just one child and my life was changed forever.

 

 

 

HOME button Able Theme small

Nepalese Food Quiz Answers

Breakfast with a view of Mt Everest

Breakfast with a view of Mt Everest

Winners are grinners and losers are boozers. (I couldn’t find anything else to rhyme with losers. And let’s face it, they probably need to drown their sorrows.)

Here are the results of “Best Black Tea – A Nepalese Food Quiz” posted a couple of weeks ago. Check out the answers along with a few tidbits about my experiences and then the winners will be revealed.

D

1. Tato Dudh – Hot Milk (or as one of our Sherpas called it, Hot Millick). Powdered milk never tasted so good. Offered at breakfast (into which one could mix instant coffee powder – shudder – or hot chocolate powder – that’s more like it) and also after dinner for that last warming drink before beddy-byes.

I

2. Anda Tarkari – Egg Curry. Admittedly, probably my least favourite of all the curries we were offered but still highly edible.

B

3. Saag – Spinach. But like no spinach you’ve ever tasted. Usually plucked fresh from one of the village gardens, I could eat this by the plateful (and occasionally needed to as my inherent low iron levels struggled with the lack of red meat on offer).

H

4. Alu Paratha – Flat bread stuffed with potato. One member of the group reckoned this tasted just like her Irish grandmother’s potato bread. I guess some food is universal.

E

5. Suji Ko Haluwa – Semolina Pudding. We were constantly spoilt with dessert after our evening meals – pineapple slices, chocolate pudding, apple pie – but the semolina pudding was the most Nepalese offering. One member of the group couldn’t bring herself to eat it as she was force-fed semolina pudding at boarding school as a child. Food has memories.

G

6. Chayote – Spiky Gourd. Our meals were a vegetarian’s delight (luckily for the one vegetarian in our group) with a multitude of different vegetables, most of them familiar but with the occasional new introduction. Chayote tastes a bit like zucchini (courgette).

J

7. Dal Bhat – Lentil Soup with Rice. This is Nepal’s national dish and is eaten in copious quantities. My absolute favourite dish of the trip. For our meals, the dal was poured onto the rice. One member of the group got most distressed when one of the Sherpas put some vegetable curry on top of her rice so there was no room for the dal. One must eat dal bhat as it is meant to be eaten.

F

8. Phini Roti – Fried Roti (also known as Tibetan Bread). We ate many different versions of bread but I think this would be my favourite. It is soft and slightly chewy with a hint of sweetness.

A

9. Rajma Tarkari – Kidney Bean Curry. Probably my favourite curry, this was absolutely delicious. And yes, we all know what happens when you eat a lot of beans but we were all in it together. Sharing is caring.

C

10. Momo – Dumpling. We were always served vegetable momos but they can also contain chicken. The first night these were offered, I was not feeling well and so was able to eat only one. I had to wait more than a week for them to reappear on the menu. (I was beginning to despair that they would not reappear at all.) I ate six.

So, how did you go? Here’s the results:

15 Points to Lynn at Life After 50 for being the first to provide all correct answers. However, she loses 5 points for not answering in numeric-alpha format (Rule #1). “But you said nothing would happen if we broke the rules!”  Yeah. I lied. Don’t upset my system.

10 Points each to Joanne at My Life Lived Full, Cynthia at littleoldladywho.net and Sue at Travel Tales of Life who all managed to correctly identify every food item in the correct format.

5 Points to Bun at Bun Karyudo for providing answers to every item and getting two correct.

5 Points to Barbara at Barbara Pyett for her very creative answers. However, she loses 2 points for listing Dal Bhat as her least favourite.

1 Point each to all those who had a crack at identifying at least one dish and also to all those who commented at all because you know I love to hear from you even if you don’t want to play.

Congratulations to the winners. As soon as we’re all located in the same city, I will present you with your very large, very shiny trophies at an elaborate awards ceremony.

Now, I must leave you all to go and make suji ko haluwa for a family dinner this evening.

Namaste!

 

 

 

HOME button Able Theme small

Finding Happiness In Bhutan

Paro

The one thing that most people will tell you they know about Bhutan is that it is the country of Gross National Happiness.

In 1972, Bhutan’s Fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, declared that the country would no longer measure its success by the standard Gross National Product but by a measure of Gross National Happiness. There are four pillars to the GNH –  Good Governance, Sustainable Socio-economic Development, Preservation and Promotion of Culture, and Environmental Conservation.

For more information and the latest report on the GNH Index, visit The Centre for Bhutan Studies & GNH Research website here.

Good Governance

Bhutan has two kings. In 2006, the Fourth King decided his son was old enough to become king so he abdicated the throne and Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck became the Fifth King of Bhutan. (I can think of another royal family that could take a lesson from that.) The Fourth King still retains some power (I guess the Fifth King became a King-in-Training) and is still greatly loved as evidenced by the year-long celebrations of his 60th birthday in 2015. The Fifth King appears equally revered so I guess he isn’t looking over his shoulder either.

Poverty is still evident but for that part of the world, there is very little of it in Bhutan.

Bhutan is tiny. Approximately 755,000 people live in a country 38,394 km² in area. The capital, Thimphu, has a population of 50,000. I live in what is classed a “regional city” in my country and even we have five times that number of people.

Bhutan Map

Thimphu, Capital of Bhutan

Thimphu, Capital of Bhutan

Being able to cross the road easily makes me happy.

Sustainable socio-economic development

Bhutan has a thriving handicrafts industry which is actively supported and protected from cheap imports by the government. Textiles, pottery and handmade paper are popular choices.

Home-based workers (predominantly women) are encouraged to start businesses promoting traditional handicrafts. One craft market in Thimphu will have you wondering just how much room and weight you have available in your suitcase. (Can I possibly get that magnificent teapot home?)

Handicrafts Market, Thimphu

Handicrafts Market, Thimphu

Buying beautiful handmade souvenirs makes me happy.

Preservation and Promotion of Culture

The first step Bhutan takes to preserve its culture is to make it difficult to visit. With the exception of Indian nationals, foreigners are not permitted to wander about the country willy-nilly. To be granted a visa for Bhutan, you must book through an approved travel company and your trip must meet a minimum daily cost. (A portion of this is allocated to health and education programs.) Therefore all accommodation and meals are pre-booked and your itinerary will be included in your visa as an approved route.

Bhutan Visa

In case you thought I was joking

You will also be allocated a guide and a driver who will accompany you for the entire stay. (Although, once I did manage to escape them in Paro to have a coffee in solitary peace.)

My driver Aita and guide Chab Tshering

Once you experience some of the roads, you’ll be glad of the driver. Trust me.

IMAG0620

One of the better sections

The advantage of this approach is that Bhutan is not a very busy place to visit. You can also sit back and relax because everything is taken care of for you.

Lunch in Thimphu

The disadvantage is that there is no flexibility to stop longer somewhere or change your route. It can also be difficult for those of us of a shy, introverted nature to be in the constant company of a guide (even while trying to shop).

You also have a tendency to bump into the same people at various points as most visitors are taken to similar places. This can be either an advantage or disadvantage depending on the people you keep bumping into.

But it works. From the moment you land in Bhutan, there is no question as to the nature of its culture. Almost everyone wears national dress (it is expected for work and school) and the buildings have a distinctive style.

Experiencing an untainted Bhutanese culture makes me happy.

Environmental Conservation

Bhutan got on board the environment movement before there was one. Clean water and energy were seen as important parts of promoting happiness but it was also recognised that a beautiful landscape could in itself provide well-being. The country is more than 70% covered in trees and there are reminders everywhere to care for the environment.

Spending time in a stunning natural environment makes me happy.

Should I visit Bhutan?

Are you kidding? Sorry, yes, yes, go to Bhutan. You won’t regret it. And although it may seem an expensive place to put on the itinerary, the flight into Paro will more than justify the expense before you even get there.

MOSY travelled to Bhutan with World Expeditions (Essence of Bhutan trip) courtesy of her own bank account. She has no reason to lie.

 

 

 

HOME button Able Theme small