Archives for posts with tag: Gifts

My little niece is off exploring Europe with her parents and its the end of semester rush rush rush time so its been harder lately to remind myself to notice the things that I <3. But after spending just a little time thinking I came up with four things that I <3ed in recent weeks, in no particular order here they are:


  1. The heart-breaking-ly spot on video of the wonderful, funny, smart Tracee Ellis Ross  ( making its rounds on social media) reminding  all of us that a woman is more than motherhood and marriage, that our lives are our own and that we don’t  need to apologize for our choices.  I can’t figure out how to link to the video but here is a link to the full transcript of her speech  and below is a particularly spot on chunk form the speech:

“So here I am sorting out what MY LIFE looks like when it’s fully mine. It takes a certain bravery to do that. It means risking being misunderstood, perceived as alone and broken, having no one to focus on, fall into or hide behind, having to be my own support and having to stretch and find family love and connection outside of the traditional places. But, I want to do it. I want to be the Brave Me, the real me, the one whose life is my own.”

2. Last month my boss nominated me for a teaching award, I almost definitely wouldn’t win it ( I would bet against me) but I work at the kind of place where they rarely tell you that you are doing a good job so this is maybe the closest I will get to a pat on the back and it made me really happy.   Any chance I had  were definitely hurt when the sample exam I turned in had a really obvious numbering error on it ( two number threes ya’ll!)


3. Lately ( in an effort to be less negative and whine-y) I have started to look for  (and then post on facebook)   mood-matching and/or mood soothing poems whenever I have strong negative feeling. I have really enjoyed looking for the poems, I have discovered so many new poem and poets.  And the poem themselves are often a real balm.   What has been a wonderful surprise is who else has enjoyed the poems– not always the people that I expect to be into poetry. And I love that maybe my little public attempt to say something nicer that I feel is actually working for other people too. Below are a few of my favorite responses to date  :

poem 2

poem 1


4.  When I moved back to Bhutan I had to give away and get rid of a lot of things, the only thing I really regret leaving behind were many of my books. So it made me so happy that my friend ( and fellow anthropology nerd) brought me a copy of a long-time favorite that I foolish gave away.  Its wonderful to have it back on my shelf.





yeshi cake

Baked by our housekeeper , Yeshi.


It was my birthday on Tuesday.

One of things I most appreciate about my birthday is that I share it with a cousin, in fact I was famously born during her first birthday party. Starting from sixth grade we were at the same Indian  boarding school  and  she and I were even in the same class, so from my 12th to my 18th birthday we always celebrated together.

I am  desperately uncomfortable in the limelight .(In fact I hate being photographs so much  that Sarah and I are only in like 3 photographs together on facebook) so having a shared birthday was always a HUGE relief, specially during those awkward teenage years when you are secretly convinced that no one could possibly actually like you. My cousin and I settled into a celebration routine  that included us ordering a cake each and giving one away to the “class boys.” ( Yes, I went to a school with sex-segregated birthdays, tres sheltered I know but that is a whole other story).

When I went to college in Australia I tried ( with some success) to continue the traditions of joint birthdays by convincing two of my friends with March birthdays to do celebrate together.

joint birthdays

Joint birthday dinner at a Greek restaurant the year I turned 20

Since then birthdays have  been awkward, worse so in Bhutan now that I have moved back . I have few friends I feel comfortable inviting and the local tradition is that the birthday person brings a treat for everyone else . One year I spent a weekend making packages of cookies to give out to people at work but that was exhausting and so I have more or less given up on celebrations beyond the family. I usually make an effort to see my cousin on our joint birthday but we haven’t had a joint birthday party since high school.

Then two years ago another cousin’s son was born on our birthday! Can you imagine that? Three of us with the same birthday  in the same family? This year was the first year that all three of us celebrated together.


Cake my cousin’s sister-in-law brought to dinner. I loved that it has 3 stars for  the 3 stars of the night!


And you know what it was the best birthday I have had in years!


Here is my favorite cake of the day, with all three of us on it. Baked by my sister and painted by my brother-in-law.


panda cake







I bought my first deck of tarot cards nearly 6 years ago after an expensive and unsatisfying reading by Mrs Rita, a Tempe tarot reader with a HUGE sign outside her house  and a song by the Gin Blossoms. I left the reading thinking ,  ” I bet I could do better.”  Six years later  after a lot of practicing on myself, my family  and anyone else who would let me,  I am not sure if that is completely true. Learning to read tarot is challenging and I wonder if I will ever master it well enough to charge someone a cool $50 for a reading. But I have come to enjoy the on-going  reading and researching and practicing that is learning to read tarot.  I have grown to love the complexity of trying to balance between remembering the symbolism and meaning of each of the 78 cards  and trying to tap into and trust my intuition. I get a thrill from the energy of a good reading, few things feel as good as good reading.

I have a standard spiel I give people before I read for them about my belief that I am not predicting the future, I am mostly just reading the tension and opportunities of the present. I tell them that they have the power to shape their own futures.

Recently a friend of my sister decided to stop dithering and take the plunge and take up an arts fellowship type  opportunity because of something I said in a reading. He just came home and brought me this lovely stationary set as a thank-you. It made me so ridiculously happy.  So maybe I will never be paid it cash but perhaps I can start charging in stationary. Either way I look forward to my on-going tarot journey because the rewards are so much in the process and I love that, I really really love that.


I have been having such mixed feelings about being back at my teaching job. As we are back on campus planning for the semester, the vivid memories of the how awful it was are coming back to me more fully. But then almost every interaction I have had with a student reminds me of why I should be excited to be back.

Today one of them who made his first trip outside Bhutan over the break came to me with a small gift. I was embarrassed and also unsure if I should take it. He kept insisting so I did and then I went to check if it was okay for me to keep it. Everyone assured me that I should.

Later he sent this text:

Hi madam I couldn’t bring anything valuable for a person like you. It is not a matter of amount and neither a bribe but simply a gift from the core of my heart. Thank you very much for your kind acceptance.


My heart melted. Damn petty office politics and even more petty colleagues  I am excited to be back in classroom with these kids.





photo (22)

So I admit it, this week what is making me happy is getting my very first smart phone. Despite really enjoying social media  and occasionally ogling other people’s smart phones, I have managed to hold onto my very old Indian Nokia phone  for the whole three years that I have been home in Bhutan. I used to joke it was “theft-proof” since no one would bother to steal such an unsophisticated phone. But it wasn’t losing-proof and on Monday my first day back at work I managed to misplace it and despite roaming the halls calling myself I couldn’t find it.  In the meantime my thoughtful sister emailed my parents who were in Bangkok this week and suggested they buy me a smart phone and my generous parents did.  So shallow and materialistic as it might sound, getting my first smart phone is what is making me happy this week.

So Teachers Day is a thing in Bhutan.

Seriously celebrated with songs and dances and speeches. Far too many speeches for my taste usually. In other words its  another very formal and ceremonial ritual. And usually it feel  perfunctory  and insincere to me. Like enforced gratitude.


I always appreciate the sweet texts and messages from former students because with a  little  distance these off stage messages manage to feel unprompted and genuine. So I got some of those and they made me smile and I thought well okay so that’s that.


But I was wrong, that was not that.  This year was different, this year teachers day was actually happy. There were just so many wonderfully unscripted and heartfelt moments.


To start with one of my more scattered students showed up over an hour late for class without his assignment but as I sent him out to go work on his missing assignment, he shyly reaches into his large Gho pocket and pulls out this small bouquet of yellow and purple flowers and hands them to me saying, ” Happy Teachers Day , Madam” before running away.  It was so cute.


The after class my second year students who I have taught for three semester tell me they are throwing all their teachers a surprise party and asked me to come back to the classroom in half an hour. When we returned the classroom has been transformed with tables arranged like a long banquet table and decorated with pink  balloons.



Once we were seated they served us tea and the class president made a very earnest speech about how much they feel they have learnt from us not just about the subjects we teach but also about life.

And then out comes the cake.




I don’t know why I was so touched because after all there is something very ritualized about the event, the cake the speeches but just for a moment their gratitude felt so real.


And I love that. I really love that.

In a beautiful gesture at Christmas, a friend of mine who knows what a tough year I've had gave me a candle of St. Jude -- the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes. She said that she hoped it would bring me better luck and guidance in the coming year. The same day I got this fortune.

In a beautiful gesture at Christmas, a friend of mine who knows what a tough year I’ve had gave me a candle of St. Jude — the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes. She said that she hoped it would bring me better luck and guidance in the coming year. The same day I got this fortune.

It’s no secret that the last few years have been rough for both these blog authors. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons we started the blog. But this year for the first time in a long time, I found that I didn’t have to convince myself to be optimistic  about the new year — it just kind of happened. I’ve been working really hard lately to try to make good things happen and move my career forward and spend time with people I love (and not feel obligated to spend time with people I don’t). And I’ve been fortunate that the last couple months have kept me busy with a lot of work and new opportunities. So I guess between that and the incredible people I’m so fortunate to have in my life, it’s all added up. And I’m ready for 2014.

New hair color. New smile. New Year.

Some developers in DC bought a building in Chinatown with three really great restaurants in it, and for a while it looked like our favorite one was going to be forced to close. So Dan and I went for one last hurrah on Christmas Eve, and found out that they are staying open after all! This I <3.

Some developers in DC bought a building in Chinatown with three really great restaurants in it, and for a while it looked like our favorite one was going to be forced to close. So Dan and I went for one last hurrah on Christmas Eve, and found out that they are staying open after all! This I <3.

Yesterday a huge box of books arrived for me from friend– she had offered to receive and  then resend a bunch of serious- academic-y books I ordered on Amazon.  Such a kind and generous offer (I know not everyone is excited by trips to the post office as I am!) I was thrilled at their arrival!

Much to my surprise and delight she had also included a book of poetry by Wendell Berry , someone I am not familiar with but leafing through the book I can already tell that  I going to savor his earthy, contemplative poems. This book is going to sit near by bed, as end of the day, wind-down reading.

I am lucky to have some many generous friends who give  me wonderful, exciting , unexpected gifts, but quiet gifts-that remind you to slow down, pay attention, stand still– they are so rare.  So this week I really ❤ this gift of poetry.

Here is a poem from the collection that I have already read three times:

( a reminder to myself)

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill- more of each
than you have- inspiration,
work, growing, older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your work,
doubt their judgement.

Breath with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly, Live
a three- dimensional life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away for anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

….someone at the local post office knows who you are!

I might be the last lame person that goes to the post office to  buy stamps  but when the person selling you the stamps starts to recognize you, I feel like that evidence of connection to the place.

Today the lady at the post office looks hard at me while I am putting my stamps onto  some postcards. She  disappears and returns with a package notification—- for me! She point to my name and says, “This is you?”


So today two great things that I ❤ happened to me

1) I found out that the post office folks know me!

2) I got a box ull of goodies (including the BEST coaster ever) from Sarah!

photo (2)



Birthday cheese cake decorated with inside family jokes….

cake! 002



PLUS the more expensive instant coffee…cake! 006



EQUALS the perfect, sunny ,day-after-your-birthday celebration…