The sunflower jungle

Day 24 – yellow is one of my favourite colours and today it’s my salute to sunflowers and Ukraine….

Three years ago we planted some sunflower seeds (brought from Australia in a small packet) at school. This was the second year we had tried to plant sunflowers. The previous year’s crop failed.

The students planted, weeded and watered

And they grew….

As tall as our tallest students….

Way past the teeny tiny ones….

They just didn’t stop….!

Tall enough to play hide and seek in…

students needed a ladder to reach the flowers!
Perfect for playing chasey

The blooms were magnificent….

Little did we know the significance they would take on this year…

Our hearts ache and we mourn for you,

Children of Ukraine,

Displaced, wounded, stricken, dying.

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My pen is the wing of a bird

Day 23 – the colour of this book cover is as mesmerising as its title.

I came across a review of this collection of short stories by Afghan women, more or less by accident today, as it was embedded inside a podcast reviewing an entirely different book and not mentioned in the write up.

In order to publish these stories in the English speaking world, those involved had to find translators who spoke Pashto and Dari and of course English and were willing to translate literary material for which there is not a great demand in Afghanistan. The editors put out a call in 2019 for stories and were surprised to receive nearly a hundred submissions.

Lucy Hannah on the left, is the one I heard interviewed along with two of the authors

Later in 2021 they put out another request using posters asking for stories from women in even more remote regions. More than 300 submissions were received. One lady sent her handwritten story from a province on the border with Turkmenistan, by taking a photo and sending it to her brother’s whatsapp address. He then forwarded it through three other people to the editors. It has now been published in the collection. The editor reported that she had just been able to send a photo back to that woman, of her story in the book lying open on a table in a well known publishing house.

I find it astounding that these women have the ability to write given the hardships they endure. It took one lady twenty years to be able to start writing because she felt so empty and broken. Lucy Hannah said that short stories were the preferred and easier format, given the ‘fractured and uncertain environment’ they live in. There is apparently a long history of short stories and poems in Afghanistan.

Fortunately it appears that through writing these stories these women have been able to form a community to encourage and support one another. Even though they are now physically scattered, they somehow keep in touch.

Their strength and courage offers a message of hope to the world.

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Running home from MacDonald’s

Day 22 The colours of a night time run through Delhi streets that has become an inspiration…

I came across this in the Indian news yesterday, a video of a young man running through the streets of Delhi at midnight, caught on video by a local filmmaker, Vinod Kapri. Vinod drives alongside and starts filming him while asking what he is doing. The man never stops running, but smilingly tells Vinod that he is running home from his job at MacDonald’s. He wants to join the Indian army and in order to get fit, he needs to run ten kilometres (over six miles) home after work every night. He has no other free time to get fit as he works all day. Vinod asks if he can give him a lift home, but he politely declines because this is part of his training.

English subtitles as they are talking in Hindi

Vinod then offers to take him out for dinner, but Pradeep replies that he needs to go home and cook for his brother. When asked why his brother can’t cook for himself he replies that he works a nightshift so won’t be home till morning.

His unassuming manner and quiet determination have obviously caught the attention of many. The video was posted to social media and has apparently had over 3 million views already. I have walked the streets of Delhi and this clip brought home to me the smells, the sounds and the pollution of that vast overcrowded city.

I know the shifts he works are probably ten to twelve hours or more. I know he probably lives in substandard accommodation and doesn’t get paid enough. I know there are so many more like him throughout his country and the rest of the world.

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Have you heard of a quokka…?

Day 21 of colour – what colour is a quokka?

Hi there, that’s me! I’m actually a camouflage kind of colour, don’t you agree?

So, have you ever heard of me?

Yes I know, there are lots of us marsupials hanging around in Australia, but I’m actually less widespread than your common old kangaroo or wallaby. Okay, so I’m actually related to the wallaby, but I think I look quite different. A few of my relatives live onshore, but most of us hang out on a couple of islands off the coast of Western Australia.

In particular, one called Rottnest Island. Heaps of tourists head over to Rottnest, mostly to see me and my relatives. They call me the happiest animal on earth. I’m supposed to smile all the time, but it’s actually the way I was made, the shape of my mouth. You know how humans exaggerate. “Oh look, he’s so cute, see how he’s smiling at me?”.

Correct, I am cute, but I’m basically just looking for food, not loving on humans.

Have you heard of a quokka selfie? It’s a big thing over here.

I keep hearing my friends and relatives boasting that they’ve had their pictures taken with Chris Hemsworth, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, or someone called Kylie Minogue. Not quite sure who they all are, but they’re supposed to be famous in the human world. I’m told a couple of them hit a little green ball over a net and get paid stacks of money for doing it.

If you check out any of their selfie photos, please note that we are in fact a lot more photogenic than they are. I would also like to point out that we don’t get paid for appearing in a selfie.

To come and see me, all you’ve got to do is buy a ticket and hop on a ferry from the mainland to Rottnest. It doesn’t take long. Then you can hire a bike and ride around the island and stop for a swim whenever you get a bit hot. You’ll find lots of my friends wherever you go. Especially if you stop near a cafe. But please don’t try to feed us. Read the signs, you’ll get fined if you do.

I found out the other day that the Dutch guy who discovered our island was the one who called it Rottnest and that means Rat’s Nest in Dutch. I’m insulted. We’re not rats, we don’t look anything like them.

If we’re female (I’m not), we carry our baby around in a pouch for quite a while. The only thing that’s cuter than a quokka is a baby quokka, don’t you agree?

We let people get very close
We also blend in pretty well

Look forward to seeing some of you around! I’ll even let you take a selfie with me!

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A dawn slice

Day 20 I hear the colours of dawn.

Today’s dawn is coloured by sound…

The peek of sound around the corner of a new day…

The hedgerow waves to a morning breeze and glides with fresh notes…

The warble of a magpie, the beginning chirp of songbirds…

No parrots yet, no kookaburras bursting with laughter…

The sky is grey leadlight, solid and unforgiving…

Today dawns with sun unseen….

But the clock tells me it’s already here.

This is not today’s dawn but it is much more photogenic!

A man from Bihar

Day 19 – the colour of persistence and courage that left its mark on a mountain.

Several years ago I read about this man whose simple dedication and dogged determination helped him to carve a road through a mountain and cut the journey out of his village from a 70 kilometre (43 mile) trek to a mere one mile trip.

He was the poorest of the poor living in a tiny village which had no safe or proper way in or out, like so many other villages in India. A granite mountain ridge had to be circumnavigated on foot over rough dangerous terrain. His own wife slipped and fell while bringing him food and water when he was working away from home one day.

Her injuries were severe and she died because access to any medical help was an impossibility. In his grief this man decided to do something about the situation. He begged the local authorities to somehow build a road or mountain pass to cut down the arduous trip dramatically to the nearest town with better facilities. They refused to do anything.

He bought a hammer and chisel in exchange for three goats and started on the work himself. Over the course of the next twenty-two years he worked alone, splitting, cutting and chiselling away at the rock. Bit by bit and stone by stone, he achieved the unthinkable.

Towards the end of his task some of the villagers instead of mocking him, started to assist by taking him food and replacing his tools as they wore out. The pass he cut was 25 feet high, 30 feet wide and 360 feet long.

My mind is boggling now, over two decades of chipping his way through a mountain to help his community and those in the surrounding villages, so that what happened to his wife need never happen again.

Dashrath with his family and relatives

His story apparently did not end there, as his road was only just passable for emergency vehicles and for villagers to have easier access to markets on the other side of the ridge. It really needed to be paved and finished off properly to avoid permanent damage from weather and the passage of vehicles. He endured many more years of effort and rejection before his incredible work was recognised by his state government and the chief minister. Eventually the pass was paved and properly completed.

Dashrath Manjhi died back in 2007 but a friend of his was inspired to set up an employment training centre for young people in the village so that despite their poverty they have an opportunity to be educated and to find better jobs, particularly focusing on young women so they would not get married too young.

When I am facing tough decisions or situations that drag me down, I try to remember that I have never had to face a mountain as big as he did, with minimal tools and no assistance. I thought of the man who moved a mountain again today.

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Playful pandas and smiley faces for the win!

Day 18 of colour – another fun art lesson…shades of green and orange contrast with the pandas.

When you’re running out of ideas and time to post a slice, you realise the photos that were just airdropped to your ipad from India will be a winner…!

Developing cutting skills

Last week they drew and painted their pandas. Today they carefully cut them out.

Working in pairs, the older ones are doing the cutting

Two kindergarten classes do art together once a week. They usually work in pairs, with each older student helping a new one. New students have never held a paintbrush or used scissors until coming to school.

Gluing and finishing off

Last week they painted green bamboo stems against a contrasting background. Today they stuck their pandas onto the bamboo.

Then they drew and painted something for their pandas to hold and drew some texture onto the black fur.

Teamwork!

As usual everyone had a lot of fun. Most of my lessons come from a wonderful kids art website, called Deep Space Sparkle. The paint supplies have come from overseas.

Here are today’s finished works of art. Have a great weekend!

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A fun exchange

Day 17 – experiencing the colour of connecting your classroom with the world.

We joined an organisation called Empatico a few years ago, so we could connect the school with other classrooms around the world. It’s highly unlikely that most of our students will ever travel far, possibly not even outside their own state, so we needed to bring the world to them as much as we could, to give them a global experience.

Often the time difference proves to be a challenge, if the school is in Europe they are quite a few hours behind us and if it is in the US it would be impossible. We were about to connect with a school in Japan when everything closed down and before that we shared with a classroom in South Korea.

Late last year when Empatico opened up again, I searched for a new match and was able to link our older classes up with a class in France. This has worked really well. The French students only speak in English once or twice a week, so our students are more fluent. Their teacher is very efficient and she does a lot of preparation beforehand. So far we have had three separate link ups. Students have shared what our school looks like and seen the school in France; they have talked about what they do in the school holidays and how they celebrate Christmas and done a powerpoint ‘tour’ of places of interest in each of the towns.

We have two laptops set up, so both sides can see the powerpoint presentation while students take turns to read the captions. That way we can make sure the French students understand what is happening. If necessary, their teacher explains vocabulary to them in French.

Here they are listening to one of the French students talking about a local event.

Here their students are sharing about a local lemon festival. Their school is in an old historic town in the north of France, so the slides are very colourful and interesting.

Our students also take turns to share about school and places of interest and local festivals, using a powerpoint.

In her last exchange, Laurence informed us that “In France we will be able to remove the masks in class on Monday 14th March, that will be for the next time.” So students will be a little more ‘face to face’. They are also going to be exchanging thoughts about food and what they eat at different meals. She added “There will be a lot of hamburger, fries and pizza at my place“.

That brings a smile to my face as those kinds of fast food are not available in Nongstoin. Children really don’t know what hamburgers are or hot dogs (although they may see them on cable TV) and the only fries they eat are homemade. As for pizza, a doctor friend once took a group of students for their first visit to a dentist in the capital many years ago and ordered some pizza for them from Domino’s. They picked all the cheese off it and obviously weren’t enjoying it, so he had to send out for fried noodles. That’s the only kind of fast food these children are accustomed to!

We look forward to another fun exchange of cultures next month, to broaden perspectives on both sides.

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Coffee hits the sweet spot…

Day 16 of experiencing colour through the coffee shop ambiance..

I grew up in an age where coffee shops did not exist. I used to read about them in books set in Europe. The only coffee I ever drank was instant (how did I do it?). I studied French at school and my impression of a coffee shop was a haven where writers gathered to discuss literary topics and debate philosophical questions over tiny cups of espresso, swathed in clouds of cigarette smoke.

Certainly Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre did, at a very famous cafe in Paris, the Cafe de Flor. I tried reading their books in both French and English, but found their existential point of view very hard to fathom and mostly depressing.

Coffee shops today tend to have a low key relaxed vibe with an emphasis on muted tones and lighting, using plenty of wood, rough brickwork or plaster and stone or concrete floors. Plants, unusual light fittings and paintings or posters often form part of the decor. Coffee machines, the beans, bags of coffee for purchase, the cups and sweet or savoury treats, all seem to blend into these informal backgrounds. The actual shop size varies a lot from a tiny space with a minimum of seating to big converted warehouses.

It’s great if there’s outdoor seating as well. One of my favourite locations that opened recently over here, has the perfect shady courtyard out the back.

Just writing about coffee and coffee shops makes me think it’s high time for a visit…! Are you free to join me?

Where’s your favourite coffee hangout?

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Alas, it’s gone…!

Day 15 of exploring colour….

A brightly painted flowery pathway leads past a house that’s no longer there. It was knocked down yesterday.

Yesterday this path led past an old weatherboard cottage with a rambling unkempt garden. I’ve walked past it countless times over the past year that we’ve been living in this neighbourhood. I’ve wondered who did the painting and why. Why is there a funny looking animal tied to a swing and sometimes little objects lined up along the grassy verge?

Now the house is gone. It was knocked down yesterday. Of course I knew this was going to happen, because the ‘for sale’ sign was up for a while, then it was ‘under offer’, finally the big billboard announced it was ‘sold’. Later, they put up a high metal fence out the front. So it was just a matter of time. A few days ago there was a truck in the driveway and signs up about asbestos. It was inevitable that it would be demolished. Just like all the other older houses in this area built on large blocks of land that can now be subdivided.

Still it was a bit of a shock this morning to see the bulldozer mercilessly crushing all the remaining bits of timber as it loaded the debris onto a huge truck while someone stood holding a large hose, pouring water over everything. They were just doing their job.

I quite often wondered about who lived there and how they must have been a bit different (who paints the pavement outside their house?) How long did they live there and where are they now? Did they paint the path for their grandchildren? Could the house have been restored?

I used to enjoy walking past it because it was unique to this suburb. Most other houses around here are very traditional suburban brick homes or smart concrete block townhouses hidden behind security gates or low rise apartment buildings with landscaped gardens. I already miss the scruffy familiarity of that little cottage with its small front verandah.

It was knocked down yesterday. I can still picture it in my mind, but only just. Life goes on. Sometimes it’s called progress.

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