iPhone photos


I am somewhat kicking myself for not bringing my beloved Nikon D40 camera with me. But honestly, I had to lug enough over here for a one month stay in Bhutan without having a heavy camera bag hanging off me. And for the whole time I’ve been here, I’ve been in the apartment working or walking up and down the hill to the office. No time really for sightseeing or exploring. I’m afraid I won’t have seen much of Bhutan except the capital, Thimphu, and Paro, which is where the international airport is located.

So I’m not really in a position to tell you what I think of Bhutan. It would have been better to visit during Spring or Summer but I couldn’t dictate the work schedule. Although it’s Winter here now, the days are warm and sunny. Bright blue skies and a hint of frost in the mornings. I’m told the scenery is gorgeous in Spring and Summer with emerald green mountains and colourful flowers.

I have to be honest with you – Thimphu is not the greatest of places. It’s in the western region of the country and has a population of around 100,000 (maybe a little less). The first week I succumbed to all the dust, smoke and pollution here. I’m used to the clear, crisp air of the South Island of New Zealand.

Bhutanese households still use firewood for cooking and heating purposes and this results in a lot of smoke. Public transport is zippo so there are many cars on the road and this is a major source of air pollution. All this pollution irritated my respiratory tract (which hasn’t been the same since I caught pneumonia in 2004) – so I spent the first week with a blocked nose and nasty, rattling chest cough.

Then in week three, I caught some stomach virus or urinary tract infection; not sure which. I brought antibiotics with me just in case but fought it off with a herbal remedy I found here – Himalaya Herbals Renalka. Basically cleared everything up in less than 48 hours. I really don’t like taking antibiotics if I can help it. I found a lovely Indian lady at a pharmacy counter in Thimphu who knows exactly what herbal remedy to take. You tell her the symptoms, she nods sagely and proffers the suitable remedy.

Where was I? Oh yeah: so now I can reveal what I’ve been doing. I was invited to Bhutan to write the strategy for a research institute. This institute will conduct research into Gross National Happiness, which is a concept originating in Bhutan. I started work on December 2 and had less than two weeks to prepare a major strategy for presentation to a Committee. No stress LOL.

This meant I was locked up in the apartment, working diligently. But we needed to visit a College in Paro and this was a day trip, so I managed to see a bit of scenery. Majestic mountains and bridges lined with fluttering prayer flags are a feature in the region outside the capital. I saw a 1,000 year old bridge festooned with vibrant prayer flags and it was a pleasure to breathe in crisp, fresh air.

This is the point I thought “should have lugged the Nikon”. Fortunately, El Hubs brought his little Panasonic with him and the photos have turned out well – I’ll see if I can steal a few to show you. Meanwhile, it’s trusty old iPhone photos below.

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The 1,000-year old bridge is in the background. Bridges seem to be lined with colourful prayer flags.

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I imagine the scenery would be spectacular in Spring and Summer.

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Majestic mountains.

For today’s post, here are some photos of Paris. I only had my iPhone during my time in Rome. I had to pack for 2 months, so the thought of bringing my Nikon with me didn’t appeal. I actually like the iPhone as a photographic medium, especially for street photography. It gives a graininess to photos that I quite like.

But on my return to NZ, I plan to whip out the Nikon plus some of my Russian cameras. I want to get back to working with film.

No visit to Paris is complete without whizzing by the Eiffel Tower. Or better still, going up the Eiffel Tower. I visited on a very wet Sunday. The rain kept pouring down, eased off, then bucketed down again. I thought I was in New Zealand for a moment. Mon dieu! I had no time to go up the Eiffel Tower, having just hot-footed it from Jim Morrison (so to speak).

Despite very wet shoes, I saw a side of Paris I’ve never seen. I’ve only ever visited this city when it’s bright and shiny. Frankly, I think the rain and overcast skies gave the open latticework of the metal on the tower a glinting strength. It looked dramatic and powerful.

Once a week, I have a Big Day Out. When you live on a farm in rural New Zealand, there’s not much to do other than feed horses, cows, sheep and goats. Muck out paddocks. Repair fences. Install gates. And do all the other endless tasks that it takes to keep a large property under control. I’m not complaining. I have a much better lifestyle now than I had when slaving away in soulless corporations. And working for a few months in Rome as I did in 2011 and will be doing this year – well, someone has to do it!

But true to say, it’s good to get out into the Big Smoke and indulge in a quiet cappuccino or two. There are two local cafes in Oxford but sometimes you just don’t want to run across anyone you know. And chances are you probably will see someone you know since Oxford is a small rural community. I often prefer to sit in quiet anonymity in my favourite cafe in Fendalton or the one I’ve just discovered in Riccarton – Edward Hopper Cafe & Technical Books. This is a very busy, quirky little cafe where you can browse books on photography, architecture, cooking, art, warfare, cars and lots more. Apparently, it’s the oldest bookstore in Christchurch.

Actually, this gives me a good excuse to go back and do a review of this cafe. The menu seems to be restricted to cakes and slices but for you, dear reader, I’ll make the sacrifice and road test a few. 🙂

My weekly indulgence.

I told you recently that Summer so far here has been…. pretty crap. But last week, we had a WHOLE week of sunshine and warm weather. I was even out and about in T-shirts. Yippee. Awesome.

That golden window of opportunity opened up and we managed to get our hay cut, baled and stored. And during the boring moments of lifting and throwing bales, I looked up to see my most favourite of things – tree silhouettes. Against the beautiful bright blue sky of North Canterbury, there is nothing better than lime green leaves and elegant branches.

Hubs HATES (with a capital H) Sunday drives, whereas I love them. Growing up, it was the thing to do – get in the car with your parents and go for a Sunday drive. We used to drive north of Sydney and end up at some tea room along the Hawkesbury River. Scoff a Devonshire tea or two. Or we’d head towards Manly and walk along the promenade, enjoying an ice-cream.

Now everyone seems to spend their Sundays in shopping malls. If a shopping mall is new to me, I don’t mind checking out all the shops but, once I know what’s what, I really don’t like hanging around.

Last Sunday, the winds were blowing. The horses didn’t like it. The dogs didn’t like it. It was also a bit too warm to work around the property. So hubs suddenly announced let’s go for a drive. I looked at him quizzically because I know how he steadfastly refuses to get in the car and just drive.

But out we went. We packed up the dogs and headed towards Sheffield. Someone told us that if you take the back roads, there are lovely long-distance views. We also thought we’d stop off at Sheffield’s famous pie shop. We’ve been there before but totally forgot to drop in this time because we were side-tracked by the views.

My Nikon D40 battery wasn’t fired up, so along came the trusty iPhone. In Thailand, I snapped up a 1970s Soviet-era film camera – the Zorki 4k with a Jupiter-12 35mm f/2.8 lens. I like Russian film cameras and already have the Smena 8M. They’re sturdy and oh so Soviet.

The problem I’m finding is that what with horses, dogs, cows, sheep and goats plus being in Rome for months last year – well, I just haven’t kicked these cameras into action. It’s also difficult finding film although there is a camera shop in Rangiora that I’m pretty sure has 35mm and 120mm black and white film and can cross-process. I must get the Zorki into action – I’ve even found an old instruction manual for it.

Meanwhile, I know these photos aren’t fantastic but they’ll give you some idea of the wonderful blue skies and scenery that New Zealand enjoys in the Summertime.

Ever since arriving in New Zealand in mid-2010, I’ve been obsessed with two things: Memphis Meltdown Big Hokey ice-cream and Healtheries Vanilla Chai tea. I have a Big Hokey twice a week (I confess to three times on a few occasions) and I have my Vanilla Chai tea every night.

It’s caffeine-free and oozes cinnamon and cloves with a hint of ginger. I’m sure it has cardamon in it too, which is a favourite spice. And all of this is laced with vanilla. Apparently, this spicy concoction is fantastic for digestion and it’s such a great hot drink on a cold, dark Winter’s night. The packet says the tea is blended in Germany from local and imported ingredients and packed in New Zealand.

I’m sure I saw the Healtheries brand in Australia. The company started in New Zealand in 1904 and there are around 400 product lines. I have been through so many packets of Vanilla Chai – I’ve lost count. I usually stock up at Pak ‘N Save when they have their Cheap As Tuesdays. Love Tuesdays at Pak ‘N Save. I think last week the Vanilla Chai was NZ $3.49 instead of $4.79.

I blame my maternal grandmother for my hoarding mentality. I spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s place growing up. They had a huge pantry crammed with tinned goods, toilet paper, sauces and soaps. My grandmother told me that whenever anything was on sale, she’d buy it in order to save money. She also told me never run out of toilet paper. And so with these pearls of wisdom ringing in my ears, I have faithfully accumulated toilet rolls, boxes of soap, tinned soups – basically, anything we might need one day and is on special.

A great memory from my childhood is my grandmother’s pantry. I remember it as HUGE but I’m sure if I were to revisit it now, I’d be surprised at how small it really is. Funny how we tend to believe that houses and spaces from our childhood are actually larger than they really are.

Anyway. We have been reorganising our NZ house and I asked hubs to turn a room into a pantry for me. I will show it to you in a future post. And of course, I have all the specials from Pak ‘N Save hoarded in this pantry 🙂

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