• Girls’ Education Gets A Boost In Bhutan

    raven

    A raven mask. The raven represents one of the chief guardian deities of Bhutan. (Photo credit: Krista Waddell)

    Bhutan is an amazing country, a fact I discovered while doing research for my recent article. It is beautiful and mysterious; it’s a treasure for any traveler. It is also difficult to get to, but it’s absolutely worth the journey.

    One woman decided to take that trip – not once, but twice – and she plans on returning for a third time. Krista Waddell, an American now living in Australia, decided to join a group of ladies planning a trek to Bhutan in 2012 to support girls’ education.

    After learning that the students were lacking basic school supplies – even furniture for their classrooms – the women decided to act by raising funds and getting many of the supplies there personally.  I asked Krista what it was like, and why she decided to take part in the journey.

    What inspired you to be a part of this charitable cause?

    When I first moved to Australia, I met some amazing women in a hiking group who were going to Bhutan (2012) and doing some fundraising. New to the country, I thought it would be a wonderful way to get involved in the community, even though I wasn’t going on the trip. After a month, the ladies invited me to join them for the adventure. I was thrilled! One trip and I was hooked. RENEW, the NGO established by Her Majesty Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck, is dedicated to helping women and children in domestic violence situations. The organization focuses on education scholarships, vocational training, and shelters.

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    Trekking through snowy terrain [click to enlarge]. (Photo credit: Krista Waddell)

    How did you prepare for such a physical challenge?

    Hiking at altitude is extremely rigorous. To prepare, Heather [McNeice] and I do our best to over-train. We believe that if we minimize the issues with muscular soreness we are then able to focus on our breathing. Some of the schools we visit are a week’s walk from the nearest road, forcing us to cross several high passes (in excess of 5000m) along the way.

    What did your family and friends think when you told them you were going to do this?

    Everyone has been extremely supportive. Last year (2013), when we set off on the Snowman Trek, everyone was slightly worried due to the extreme conditions. My husband just asked that I keep in touch via satellite phone.

    What was the toughest part of the trek?

    Trekking at altitude is the hardest aspect, simply because you can’t train for it and you never know how your body will respond. Altitude sickness isn’t predictable, one year you could be fine and the next you find yourself sick. We’ve even had our crew end up asking us for medicine.

    What was your favorite part of the journey, aside from the joy of giving the children their much-needed supplies?

    Of course, seeing the children are on the top of the list, but personally, I love the ability to lose myself and clear my mind. Being in the majesty of the Himalayas make you realize how small you actually are. It’s important to remember that.

    kid-supplies

    Heather McNeice (left) and Krista Waddell distribute supplies [click to enlarge]. (Photo credit: Krista Waddell)

    How are the children progressing with their schooling now that they have their supplies?

    They seem to be doing well. We’ve received school newsletters from a couple of the larger schools and next year we will be revisiting schools from the past trip. I’m excited to see the difference. In January, the Australian Himalayan Foundation will start a pilot program in Lingshi which will mirror a program already established in Nepal. The four-prong approach will include scholarships, teacher training, materials, and community outreach.

    The culture must be vastly different up in the mountains of Bhutan. What was the biggest culture shock? Was there anything that seemed to be universal?

    People are essentially the same all over the world. It’s wasn’t so much a shock, as a relief to see how truly happy most people are in the villages. People work as a community; women weave in their front yard and watch the children tend the yaks and other animals. Everyone is working to live, not living to work. Of course, there are still issues in the land of “Gross National Happiness”. Queen Mother Ashi Choden Sangay Wangchuck is working to mold the culture to expose the problems so they can be addressed.

    What was it like meeting Queen Mother Ashi Choden Sangay Wangchuck?

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    Heather McNeice and Krista Waddell with the Queen Mother [click to enlarge]. (Photo credit: Krista Waddell)

    The queen is a beautiful woman both inside and out. Speaking to her I could sense her passion for the projects that she has undertaken. Having trekked through Bhutan herself, she explained to me her motivation. Apparently, a number of women spoke to her during her visits about [the problem of] domestic violence. Having not been exposed to that type of upbringing, she was appalled and realized something needed to be done.

    After chatting about the program, Her Majesty chatted about her shopping day in Sydney. She is amazingly down to Earth. Honestly, it was like talking to an old friend.

    Many thanks to Krista for her insights and her photos from her journey. You can help support girls’ education in Bhutan by visiting Bhutan Girls 2014 fundraising page or directly through the Australian Himalayan Foundation.

  • The Way of the Dragon: Bhutan’s Royal World

    Emblem of Bhutan

    Emblem of Bhutan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Bhutan’s history is vibrant, but turbulent. In 2006, after centuries of warlords, a theocracy, and an absolute monarchy, one king made a seismic decision that would change everything. Six years ago today, his son would take the reins of his father’s dreams and drive Bhutan to a more democratic future.

    Royal Roots

    Bhutan’s monarchy is comparatively young, beginning in 1907 with Ugyen Wangchuck. He ruled with support from the ever-expanding British Empire, just around the corner in neighboring India.

    The British were influential friends to have and governed Bhutan’s foreign affairs, but they remained outside of the country’s internal affairs. The two nations even signed a treaty to that effect. This lack of interference was mostly thanks to Bhutan’s geographical location within the Himalayas. It was nearly impossible to colonize, and as a result, British and other foreign influence were slim.

    Bhutanese are proud of their royals and their culture. They have the distinction of being one of the last Buddhist monarchies in the world. To retain their way of life, former King Jigme Singye and Bhutan’s leaders only recently allowed things like television and tourists within the last twenty-five years. The king felt it was time to integrate Bhutan, but swore to uphold Bhutanese culture. Cautiously optimistic, he opened the doors to the world.

    Continue Reading…

  • Happy Post-Halloween!

    No show today folks. I’m sorry!

    After suffering through a bad cold all week, then participating in Halloween with a toddler (with some singing and dancing) my voice feels shot.

    So I hope you will all pardon me while I recover. This is a bummer. On the bright side, it will give me a little more time to finish up my super-amazing royal posts coming up.

    Cheers! x

    Mandy

  • The Queen Tweets, Makes History

    The Queen Tweets, Makes Digital History

    Sent by HM herself. I wonder what Queen Victoria would make of that!

  • Singapore State Visit, Kate Amazingly Well Again

    Kate looks amazingly well. Hypermesis Gravidarum has made the Duchess of Cambridge horribly ill for weeks now, but it now looks as though it hasn’t made one dent in her spirits. It’s incredible.

    This state visit is a big event, and no one thought Kate would be well enough to attend. Happily, she pulled through just in time.

    Tony Tan Keng Yam is the first president of Singapore to make an official state visit to the UK.  He is Singapore’s former deputy Prime Minister, elected as the nation’s seventh president in 2011.

    This visit highlights the UK’s increasing economic ties to Southeast Asia.

     

  • Cambridges To Welcome Royal Baby #2 in April!

    William and Kate are expecting their second royal baby next April.

    April 29th, 2015 will mark the Cambridges’ fourth wedding anniversary. This baby will be a good wedding anniversary gift! When my daughter was born last September, we put a little gold bow on her and said she was our fifth wedding anniversary gift. Her birthday comes just one week prior to our anniversary date in October.

    What better way to celebrate than have a new baby in the family? Lots of good wishes to the Cambridges, the Middletons, and the whole Royal Family.

  • Norway: Dueling Tiaras

    Who wore it better?

    Princess Mårtha-Louise of Norway

    martha louise

    © Getty

    VS

    Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway

    Mette-Marit

    ©Sølve Sundsbø / Det kongelige hoff

    Who Wins?

    Comment below or chat on Twitter: @mandysroyalty


  • Haakon Could Teach Harry A Thing Or Two

    Crown Prince Haakon of Norway could teach Prince Harry a thing or two about dignity.

    While the UK’s royal scamp is scandalizing his family, Haakon is out and about discussing Dignity Day. It is an initiative that was started in 2006 to “help youth and adults to become their best self and help others to achieve the same”.

    The creators are Professor Pekka Himanen of Finland, John Hope Bryant (founder of Operation HOPE), and Haakon. The three got the idea while meeting at the World Economic Forum in 2006.

    From the website:

    The three friends realized that the one thing that everyone in the world could agree on, irrespective of their differences is: We all want our dignity to be recognized. Dignity is the very foundation of our humanity. Dignity is universal. Dignity is also the source of human rights.

    Crown Prince Haakon of Norway is showing Prince Harry how it’s done. Here he is presenting during the 2011 Dignity Day in Finland:

    I realize that Haakon will be the king of Norway one day, while Harry is the “spare” to the British heir, Prince William. Harry is not expected to shoulder as much burden as a future king would, but it would be nice if he could have some… what’s the word? Oh yeah. Dignity.

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