Spain’s King and Queen Make Introductory Tour

Spain’s King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia are in the process of introducing themselves to their European neighbors.

Crowned in June of this year, King Felipe and his wife began their tour by visiting Pope Francis at the Vatican. The king and queen then stopped in Portugal to greet the President in July. They continued to Morocco, France and the Netherlands. They recently met with Luxembourg’s Grand Duke Henri and his family and neighboring Belgium with King Phillippe and Queen Mathilde last week.

This tour is a formal acknowledgement of their new position, though these recently crowned monarchs have long been known to the world at large. Felipe and Letizia have already made news crossing the globe to the United States, South America, and Europe in their working lives as Prince and Princess of Asturias.

See photo/video

Descended from Queen Victoria (through her daughter Beatrice), Spain’s new king is certainly no stranger to other royals. To him, his tours to countries such as Belgium and Luxembourg are simply a family reunion. A very official one, but a family affair nonetheless.

I look forward to more visits by Spain’s new king and queen!

Remembrance Sunday

Wear a poppy with pride today as we remember those who gave their lives for us, and for future generations.

Remembrance Sunday is especially bittersweet this year, as 2014 marks 100 years since the start of the Great War, now known as World War I.

The Field of Remembrance, organized each year by the Royal British Legion, was graced by Prince Harry on Friday. He spoke to several people, some of whom served in World War Two and, more recently, in Afghanistan.

Dressed in the uniform of the Blues and Royals, Harry planted a cross with his personal insignia into a larger cross made of poppies. He looked very solemn.

After looking at Harry, I was especially touched by the remarks of one man named Don Sheppard, 94, who landed on Juno Beach on D-Day in 1944. Mr. Sheppard, who was representing the Normandy Veterans’ Association, said: “The Prince was asking me about our plot and how long it took to do.

“It’s so important to do this so that the younger generation can see what we have done.”

It is absolutely vital that the younger generations know what the generations before them have given. A young man like Harry, thanks to his service, knows exactly what has been done for him.

There are no veterans left from World War I, and the remaining World War II vets are into their 90s. When we lose them, we lose a living piece of history. Their personal stories and reminiscences are crucial and valuable.

The Field of Remembrance began in 1928, when just two crosses were planted, but it has grown in popularity over the decades and is now a mainstay in national remembrance celebrations.

Remembrance Weekend In Photos Express

Along with Prince Harry, several members of the Royal Family have been commemorating the War dead over the weekend. The Queen led the nation’s tributes to the fallen at the Cenotaph today, November 9th, despite the recent threats to her safety. Britain’s The Sun newspaper revealed that police uncovered some evidence of a terror plot against Her Majesty. Four men have been arrested in connection with an alleged Islamic terror plot to stab the 88-year-old monarch as she made an appearance at the Royal Albert Hall Saturday.

Like the rest of her proud nation, The Queen carries on with her duties. She is a monarch for whom one would gladly fight, for Queen and country!

Girls’ Education Gets A Boost In Bhutan

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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.

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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.

Happy Post-Halloween!

By: Saturday, November 1, 2014 0 No tags Permalink 0

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