So this article  about Queen Elizabeth and her 4 cocktail a day habit made me smile several times this week.

 

STATE BANQUET IN HONOUR OF QUEEN ELIZABETH II AT THE ZENGHAUS, BERLIN, GERMANY - 02 NOV 2004 I also love that she start with a Gin BEFORE lunch and ends the day with a glass of champagne.

No amaretto sour but still impressive Your Majesty.

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Sooooo this is my first post of 2017  and yet its been a (mostly) good year. There has been so much to <3, I am just out of the blogging habit ( hint, hint Sarah.) So I am going to cheat a little and make this post a list of ALL the things that I <3ed so far in 2017.

  1. My attempt to make read more a habit seems to have stuck. Reading more has also meant that I am reading more widely,  including genres like Fantasy and Self-Help and even classics ( like “Wuthering Heights) that I had spent a life-time ignoring.  I feel like reading not only brings me great pleasure but it also continues to help me slow down, think more deeply and empathetically and of course , it’s a cliche but yes it makes me continue to learn and stay curious about the world.
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My Goodread reader challenge as of today! ( I am like 6 books ahead of schedule!)

2.  I started the year with a new year party (at my sister’s house) where I did tarot readings for everyone present ( including an assortment of my sister’s friends.) My mother once told  us as children that the way you start the year ( your mood, your behavior, your attitude) tells you what the rest of the year will be like. I think it was a pretty transparent attempt to get us to behave well but it’s kind of stuck with me as a superstition and I do make an extra effort to do something good or brave or special on days like new year and my birthday.  In this case it’s been a good year for me with Tarot, I get a lot of requests from people to read and I even “came out” at work and read from everyone from my boss to the lady who runs the canteen to I think every single member of the IT team! I love that I don’t have to advertise and offer readings as much  as I used to and that I no longer tell people I am ” just practicing.”  I also love being able to help people think through issues and dilemmas,  a friend (Katie Alexander) once called tarot “cheap therapy” ( she meant it in a good way)   and I think she was on to something there.

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The spread ( both tarot and other treats) at my sister’s new year party.

3. Since I moved back to Bhutan I have hardly traveled and only left the country once ( to go to a commercial town in India just across the border). Part of its has been  a money issue and part of it has been about feeling stuck and feeling unworthy and unready to not be stuck. When my sister decided to have her baby in Sri Lanka I told her almost immediately ( without thinking about how the heck I could afford it) that I would go down and be with her until my semester started. My parents, who for the last few years have been begging me to let them buy me a ticket somewhere for a holiday , jumped immediately and bought our tickets before I could change my mind.

 

Before going to Sri Lanka in February, I also landed up agreeing to go on a work workshop to Samtse, a part of Bhutan that I have never been to. It scared me a little to think about going and I barely knew the other guy from my college who had been nominated to go, but I had already decided that 2017 would be about getting out of my comfort zone and this was a HUGE leap out of my comfort zone. And as these things do, it paid off. I learnt a lot. I meet a lot of new and interesting people. I got to know someone from my college who I had not had much opportunity to interact with before. And I explored a part of my country that was less familiar to me.

 

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Samtse.

I think the success of Samtse made me ready to expect the best in Sri Lanka. It was a perfect baby-steps holiday for someone who hasn’t traveled in a long time. We were staying with my sister’s parents-in-law in their huge and comfortable house.  They had a car and driver to take us around and sometimes even insisted that a Bhutanese medical student ( many of whom study in Sir Lanka) go along with us to act as a guide/chaperone . Sri Lanka itself felt wonderfully unhurried after the frantic energy of Kolkata. We shopped and visited temples ( lots of holy places for Buddhists) and ate yummy seafood and relaxed and relaxed and relaxed.  The trip reminded me both that I CAN travel and that it can be pleasurable. Also my sister and I traveled so much together ( as boarding school girls  we once knew Bangkok airport like the back of our hands) and I realized that this was our last trip together before everything changes for my sister. So that was bittersweet.  But I think you can ❤ things even if there are not 100% happy.

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At the beach on my very last day in Colombo. ( I also started wearing dresses and skirts a lot more after this trip- I had forgotten how much I loved wearing them)

4. Sarah and I used to throw epic Oscars parties, first together and then when Sarah moved to DC separately. An important part of the these parties was the Oscar’s pool where everyone uses a ballot to record who they thought they would win in which categories. Last year I persuaded my siblings that we should do a pool too and being competitive and movie buffs it was a lot of fun. There was a LOT of trash talking! This year we were in three different counties but I managed to convince them to do it over google docs. Everyone put in their votes and then we watched and chatted over messenger throughout the ceremony. It made me so happy to still be ” together” for the Oscars despite the geographical distant. ( And there was again a LOT of trash talking)

5.  For the last few years I have been teaching sociology and occasionally political science classes. I have been okay with what I teach  but I do miss anthropology so I was so super excited when my college asked us ( there are two other anthropologists working at my college) to start the paperwork necessary to propose to the University  to start a BA in Anthropology! Bhutan’s first! We are not 100% through (yet!) , Bhutan has a very complex. extended approval process but we got through first 2 of 3 steps so it starting to look very likely (Fingers crossed) So ❤ that I could be getting ready to teach the first batch of Bhutanese anthropology students this time next year and I am super super proud of the hard work that has gone into getting us this far.

6. And the thing I ❤ ❤ ❤ the most in 2017 is the arrival of my niece CZ on April 24th.  I can’t even really explain in words how much I ❤ having CZ in our lives. I worry a little bit that with all of us rearranging our lives around her needs she is going to be super spoilt but for right now none of us can stop telling her how beautiful she is or stop taking photos of her. Our phone memories are overwhelmed!

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One of my new year resolutions was to write more, in fact I wanted to write everyday. I think I did a great job prioritizing reading for pleasure this year ( and I am convinced it made me a happier person) but over that last year I did not do as much writing as I had hoped.

So when the opportunity came up to participate in Nation Novel Writing Month this November I thought why not?  The idea is that you write everyday in November so that you end the month with 50,000 word novel. My November was an intensely busy month for both expected and unexpected reason and yet every single day I found the time to work on my “novel”, I loved being able to sign in each day and watch the site do the math– how many more words until 50,000, how much faster should I be writing if i wanted to finish on time,  when would I finish 50,000 words if I wrote at my current place and what was my daily average ( for the record over the entire month it was 590 words a day) .

Did I finish the novel? Hell no! November was crazy busy but I wrote every single day, even when I was at my busiest, even if was tired or had to get up early. In November 2016  I wrote every-single day, and real writing not the stuff I do for work. The kind of writing I want to be doing.

I was sad when the month was over and I couldn’t add my daily word count to the website, I liked the ritual  and the sense of accomplishment.  And I was only halfway there ( 17, 728 words)

But I wanted to keep writing everyday  ( which I think is the point of the whole thing, making writing everyday a habit, a priority) so I just made my own little excel spread, added a little formula and ……voila! I can just keep on writing!!!

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My sister in action on the set of ” Honeygiver among the dogs” ( Photo credit: Jigme Tenzing)

 

My sister spent most of the last three years working on her first feature film, “Honeygiver among the dogs”  and it is really really really her baby. She wrote the script, cast everyone, assembled a team, cobbled together financing, directed it and then spent months editing it like the perfectionist she is. Start to finish, conception to final polish this was her film.

And then earlier this month it premiered at Busan International Film Festival  and got the glowing  review her hard work and passion and brilliance ( its such a smart beautiful film)  deserved in the Hollywood Reporter no less ( I googled it- its a big deal according to Wikipedia).  In the very first line the reviewer Clarence Tsui writes, ” A genre long associated with sex and sleaze, film noir receives a surprisingly spiritual and feminine reworking in Bhutanese filmmaker Dechen Roder’s beautiful and inventive debut.”

I can’t help but hope that is is beginning of many more people discovering this wonderful film and the depth of my sister’s talents.

( Below are a couple more picture of my sister on set and in action. All of them are taken by her talented Director of Photography Jigme Tenzing )

 

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( Photo credit: Jigme Tenzing) 

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Photo credit: Jigme Tenzing 

… so this happened a couple of weeks ago ( every train in my life is running a little behind schedule right now! ) but it still made me very very happy.

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Okay, so its not really about how many books I have read but I like the keeping track of the evidence of how much of my time I am spending BY CHOICE on reading.

As a quick aside the strangest and best part of this journey towards reading more is that what seems like a solitary activity has landed up being ( thanks in large part to social media) a way to renew old friendship and also make new friends.

And the best part.. we already have so much in common!

I was covering classes for a colleague this week and so I had to walk into class rooms that are not on my usual orbit. I walked into on classroom set my things down on the teacher’s desk and then noticed something stuck on the wall behind me :

 

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It took me a second or two but I quickly realized that the plot mapped out in the tree came from my mother’s novel. That the students in this class were studying her book.

 

Chills!

 

So on Friday this happened:

 

 

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By the time I realized I was almost to my bus so had to take a taxi home and than a taxi to work ( I missed my bus!)  It was an embarrassing and expensive mistake.

A year ago I would have arrived at work fuming and frazzled but on Friday I could laugh at myself. Out loud.   Instead of fretting about the money I was ” wasting” I  decided to treat myself to a nice coffee shop latte before I headed back to work and I even took a photo of the disaster and posted it on social media. Perhaps most reassuringly several people confessed — ” I thought it was just me that did things like that!”

It was only in the evening that I had a chance to realize that my response showed how much has changed ( improved!) in the last year. How can I not ❤ that I can now laugh at myself?

 

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After far, far, far too long Sarah and I had a long-distance D & M/ catch-up this morning. I have written before about how wonderful and refreshing these marathon conversations can be ( today, possible a new record at 4+ hours!) but today’s conversation reassured me more than ever that I am not “missing out” or some kind of awkward ” late bloomer” for not leading or even wanting to lead a more conventional life.

Over the years I have spent so much time and energy collecting stories of misfit and eccentrics hoping to see similarities,  find  advice for myself, a possible justification or even expected trajectory for my own quietly strange life (despite all evidence to the contrary  I swear I didn’t set out to be so odd). Roxane Gay’s wonderful book of essays” Bad Feminist” argues at one point that perhaps some of us have to make our own ways without any role models to fall back on when she write: “When you can’t find someone to follow, you have to find a way to lead by example.”  It’s not that Gay’s argument is a completely new one,  my sister has been saying something similar for years as we have worked through where we belong and what we want  and what is even possible for us  but I can’t tell you how hard this idea is for me/ I am such a natural rule follower, a wait-in-line kind of girl,  a happily -do-as-I-am-told-er. I am not interested in being unique or different or standing out. Really.

And yet I think increasingly as I start to become more comfortable with my life decisions and the odd directions they take me, I am less and less bothered with trying to find evidence that I am not so odd. Talking to Sarah about the counter-intuitive career choices we are making (or on the cusp of making), choices that might seem a step backwards or sideways or upside-down  but are absolutely the right choices for us right now, was reassuring.

Conventional success, conventional ambitions be damned, we are making our way. 

The below twitter exchange made me so so so happy today! ( and yes Rainbow Rowell  is the author of the book in the picture from  last week’s post)

 

 

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One  of my new year resolutions was to sloooow down. Unsurprisingly that hasn’t been easy to do once work restarted but I have carried back one habit from my 6 month break that has helped me to keep this resolution.

Prioritizing reading for pleasure.

The world does seem to pause while you sink into a good book ( or puzzle over a less good one).

I have been teaching my students in Social Psychology that  “attitude follows behavior”, in other words what you do shapes the way you think ( rather than the other way around). Making myself find time to read has changed the way I schedule my day and I am less and less likely to allow myself to decide ” I am too busy to spend time reading today”

Now, if only I could get myself to prioritize my writing in the same way!