Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Gross National Happiness

Tashi Delek!

Recently, I've been learning all I can about the Kingdom of Bhutan, called 'Druk Yul' in Dzongkha, the national language. I've been reading the national newspaper, the Kuensel on-line. Why, you may ask, am I interested in Bhutan, one of the hippest tourist destinations for the jetsetting Western eco-Buddhist set?'s not 'cause I'm a jetsetter. As a student of Buddhism, an adventurer, and a teacher of English as a second language, I would love to teach English and live for a time in a land which operates according to Buddhist principles. So, I am going to explore this feeling I have to visit Druk Yul.

In Bhutan, Gross National Happiness (GNH) is a core value, considered much more important than the conventional indicator of a nation's [economic] well-being, Gross National Product (GNP). GNH includes well-being, cultural preservation, environmental conservation, and self-reliance for the Kingdom of Bhutan. GNH is a much talked about value inside (and outside) Bhutan--the term itself was coined by the present King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuk--and a question on the national census asks, 'are you happy?'

What kind of 'data' will the government glean from answers to that question? From my perspective, a country that designs policies that value the emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being of its' land, animals, air, water, and citizens more than the 'more-is-better' economic development model with its' goal of increased productivity and per capita income that destroys the earth and living beings can ask me that question, simplistic as it seems.

The articles on GNH that I've read address the historical background of Bhutan, the difference in western and non-western economic views, the question of quantification (i.e., how is GNH measured?), and, what exactly does the GNP measure anyway? In the USA, for example, we produce millions of cars and build lots of buildings and highways and things, all GNP indicators, but the GNP does not reflect all that we destroy in the process: air and water quality, trees and other vegetation, animals, human cultures who coexist with the land, and the life events and artifacts that emerge from all of this. The GNP also does not consider all the unpaid acts and volunteer labor that support a society.

If you are curious to know more about GNH, click on the following links

For info on the second international conference on Gross National Happiness held last week in Nova Scotia, see:

Click here to download "Gross National Happiness: Towards Buddhist Economics", a paper written by former international banker, Sander G. Tideman.

Oh - here is another interesting fact: His Majesty the King has four wives.

**Tashi Delek! = a traditional Tibetan greeting which means 'Welcome!' and/or 'Good fortune'.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Desert dessert

I went early to the University library today to work on my portfolio. It's nice and quiet, but way too cold due to the contrast between outside heat, inside cool, and me in my shorts, sandals, and tshirt. Tomorrow i will bring a long sleeve shirt or an old sarong for warmth. Every 45 minutes or so I had to go out into the heat to warm up. The library has an adjoining outside café, so i ate my snack of pb&j sandwiches, an orange, and water at the outdoor tables in the shade.

One striking feature in Southern AZ (especially during the summer months) is that most everyone carries around water bottles wherever they go (or their cold liquid of choice from super large icy cups). I don't drink iced drinks very often; it feels too cold in my throat. However, my hydration strategy is to nightly freeze about half the water in my water bottle then top it off with room temperature water in the morning before i get on my bike. After ten minutes or so of riding in the sun, my water is the perfect temperature (for me). Another Southern AZ feature is all the hats. Most everyone wears a hat in the summer--all kinds of wide brimmed straw hats, cowboy hats, baseball caps, and canvas hiking hats. And, of course, most people wear shorts and sandals (or light weight pants/dresses/skirts) from April through October. It's just too hot to wear anything else. And, only a sheet to bed.

Tonight on our evening walk, Yuki & I saw a quail family scurrying through a neighbor's yard, then two white tailed bunnies who froze when they saw the larger white furry thing that Yuki is. We crossed paths with two horses in the nature park by the rillito, an appaloosa and a pinto. They had riders atop them--perhaps the riders had markings, too--what would we say? a freckled and a splotched?

The sunset was yellow then deep orange. The peacocks were screeching on the ranch nearby, along with the whirring buzz of the cicadas and the low, percussive cooing of the mourning doves. My vibram-soled sandals sunk softly into the silt. Near where the datura will bloom after the monsoons, an owl flew over us silently, from the old burnt tree, to the tall stand of eucalyptus; bats somersaulted and did flips as the sky turned to dusk.

The mesquite beans taste astringent still, but are gradually turning yellow. They'll sweeten as they get drier and turn yellow. I'll chew one as I walk, spitting out the tangy seeds as mountain shadows blend with sky. Then maybe, like tonight, we'll pause infront of the desert willow tree to enjoy delicate blossoms of lavender-pink-and-white.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

A hot Sunday

Now it feels cool at 92ºF, but today was a hot one. I rode my bicycle with my friend Ronnie, from my neighborhood in North Central Tucson, to the university area. On the way back we cycled through the U of A campus and stepped into a cool fountain up to our thighs. In Monterey I missed the intense heat and the cleansing action that occurs in the body from drinking lots of water and sweating. The wierd thing, though, is that I am often freezing here in the summer because many public buildings, cafés, markets, and especially supermarkets blast their AC. I cannot shop in a supermarket in the summer without a sweater, yet it would be crazy to wear a sweater outside in the heat.

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I've been reading a blog posted on the Christian Science Monitor online. It's written by a second grade girl who is accompanying her mother to Senegal. Like Tucson, Senegal is very hot. The people they are staying with stay up until midnight and get up early in the morning. Sounds like my life here. I cannot go to sleep early in the summer heat, so I am up most nights until midnight.

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At night, I've been allowing Jesse to go in and out of the dog door, into the backyard, and over the fence. I hope she won't become a coyote's snack.

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For two days there was a little baby mourning dove who stayed behind the big potted plants in the front gated alcove of the house. I think one of its' wings was sore. The dove is gone now; I assume it flew away.

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In the NY Times today I read about a 17-yr old boy from Bihar state, India, who loves math and wants to study astronomy and work at NASA some day. He has been studying very hard to get into one of India's prestigous and competitive ITT schools. The first time he failed the six-hour chemistry, math, and physics test, but the second time he made it. The article says that getting into and graduating from that type of school will profoundly change his family's life (economically, and probably in other ways, too). As an Indian with a higher education, he'll be able to afford getting water into his family's household, to put a real roof on their house, and to have his father quit his job as a rickshaw driver. All this and a chance to do research in the area of his interest.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Slide show @ flickr

By the way, you can view the drawings that I have posted so far as a slide show at:
When you first click on the slide show, the screen might be black and it might take a few minutes to load. So, take those few moments to breathe in and breathe out while you're waiting for the show to begin. Enjoy!

Jesse & teaset

Here are some of my Jesse drawings.

Floating tea set & Jesse

Jesse on pillow

Jesse napping

Jesse looks at the moon in my bedroom

Long streaks of lightning in the sky

It's raining and the desert smells so fresh. My temperature widget (OS X Tiger) reads a cool 91º F.
There's thunder, too.

This evening, I bicycled home from the University area under a sky of puffy white clouds and some darker monsoon-looking clouds. At home, I was greeted by the after-effects of a little storm in my bedroom. The tatami mat that Chi gave me was bunched up with a little chunk bitten out of it and pieces of tatami strewn about. This had to be the work of Jesse. Usually, this kind of scene means I will find a mourning dove half eaten or dead, or a lizard head severed from its body, or maybe a thick lizard tail and some dried drops of blood. But, I found nothing. It's still a mystery. I turned the tatami mat over.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Full moon

Tonight is the lowest hanging full moon in 18 years.

Gray-dark monsoon type clouds fill our Tucson sky tonight. Tonight I walked with Yuki, Darci, and Darci's dog, Sadie, on the dusty Rillito path in back of Darci's house. The sunset sky was a blend of carmine orange, oleander pink and cardinal red with squall lines from distant clouds over the mountains. On the other side of the rillito a paint rode by with her rider in the saddle. Here at my desk I hear the whinnying of neighbor horses across the rillito. Maybe it'll rain tonight, maybe not. The temperature has cooled to 94ºF from 106ºF this afternoon. Yesterday it reached 109ºF! I saw a Somali refugee woman with her young son waiting at a bus stop yesterday. She was wearing a pale orange and deep orange sari-like dress and a cloth over her head. She is one of the approximately 400 Somali refugees that have been resettled here in Tucson. As I passed her in my air-conditioned hulk of an SUV, I wondered if she was accustomed to such heat in Somalia. Later, I went on-line to see which agencies have need of tutors or other help for the Somali people here.

I will walk outside now to see if the moon is visible with all our clouds.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Cactus book

This is a book cover of one of my hand made journals depicting prickly pear cactus. Watercolor, crayon, and glued bits of torn paper (kirigami).

Wavy Cactus

I love this cactus. It's been growing for many years in front of Old Main at The University of Arizona. Old Main is one of UA's original structures, built around 1885 when the University was founded as a land-grant university in the desert.

Ocotillo house

I used this drawing (and the 'cats at night' one) as a cover for the small calendar schedule I carried while at MIIS. If I had to be on a schedule, I was certainly going to enjoy looking at the schedule book (my first since jr high days and "Chandler's" notebooks).

Cats at night

The black cat is Jesse, the other cats are her friends.

Day Dreaming

Back in Monterey one day, I caught Jesse and Yuki daydreaming about the desert--or was I dreaming?

Sunday, June 19, 2005

epic cafe

epic café is a favorite local hangout. I sketched this on site while sipping a soy chai latté. I showed the finished sketch to the guy in the red shirt--he smiled and said delightedly, "Oh, you were drawing me?"
Look closely and you will see that I forgot to draw in the table where Mr. red shirt was sitting, so his laptop is floating.

UA cactus garden

I figured it out! It's easy to send photos/sketches/drawings with the directions on More watercolor sketches to follow.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Turtle Log

This is my first blog creation. My friend Carol has a splog on her new laptop--a shy person's log, she calls it. She doesn't actually post her splog via the internet; instead, with her html skills, she has created a splog on her laptop that she shares with friends one at a time. Face-to-face, rather than interface.
I'll call this a slog--for slow log or snail log--because tlog (turtle log) doesn't easily roll off our English speaking tongues. You can call this a Turtle log, if you like.
I plan to post sketches and drawings here when I figure out how to do that.
It's a cool 88ºF in the Old Pueblo as I write this tonight (that's about 31ºC) and the stars are bright. Tonight I was at the Solstice festival held on the lawn of the Arizona State Museum on the campus of The University of Arizona. There were a lot of hands-on craft booths, several high-powered telescopes were available to look at the sun and the moon, the solar race car was out on the lawn, Native Seed SEARCH offered bean and corn samples, a biodiesel booth gave out info on using vegetable oil to run your car, there was refreshing (and free) watermelon sponsored by our four Trader Joe's stores, and other environmental, cultural, and historical booths exhibited and offered interactive crafts. I ate fry bread with red chili from the O'odham food vendors, then sat on the lawn next to a friend and we listened to Odaiko Sonora, the local taiko (drum) group. After Odaiko Sonora, a Yoeme group from the Pascua Village here in Tucson played rancherita dance music. The sun set into a mellow pink, orange, and purple sky, and the jaggedy silhouette of the Tucson Mountains faded into the darkening purple. But the mountains didn't really fade. Only the light did. Oh, there were Hopi chanters and dancing, too. What a wonderful night. I'm back in sandal land. Desert land. Land of the turtle.