Village life

Boots and Hats

Boots and Hats

Agfest comes but once a year… but is planned for over months.  Agfest is the biggest rural show, run by all of the local Rural Youth groups who put in massive hours in planning and organising, as well as staying on site for the 3 day duration of the festival.  (I’ve heard the parties at night are pretty spectacular…) Anything to do with agriculture is on show – massive machinery, the sweetest lambs you ever saw, clothing for farmers (and wannabes), food, crafts from wool, wood, whatever.  It’s all there.

Agfest as traditions as well.  The main tradition is that it always rains.  Always.  So, the flow on tradition – new gumboots (or wellies).  I didn’t own a pair of these delightful feet covers, so had to skip off to buy a very fancy pair in a leopard skin print.  Hats, and beanies are necessary too, but I had a lovely striped, pink number so was set – until I saw the serious head gear everyone else had, so slipped mine into my backpack. Better to be wet than weird, right?

By skipping the machinery that wouldn’t fit into my veggie patch, we managed to cover the rest of the festival in one day of pretty solid walking.  Let me take you to Agfest – without the need to buy new gumboots.

Posted by DeborahH in Australia, Community, Cultural dimensions, Fun, Tasmania, Village life, Weekends, 0 comments
Why Tasmania?  Community.

Why Tasmania? Community.

I’ve mentioned a few times the festivals that different little towns run in Tasmania, designed to bring tourists and visitors from out of town into town. These are fun, and add to the interest of living in an island state without a big population. As well as these festivals, there are also local activities designed to bring the local community together for a common purpose.  In a big city, there are many activities that people are involved in, but the majority of them seem to revolve around events that support a particular interest of each family – school fetes, sporting competitions, dance recitals etc. There seem to be fewer activities that are specifically designed as ‘community building’.

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be invited to an event I would call truly community building – a winter solstice celebration, in a small community about 2 hours from where I live. This annual event is designed to bring people together in the middle of winter for food and fun, and at the same time, raise funds for the community hall. Local community members made a ton of amazing food, donated items for the chocolate wheel spins, more items for the produce auction, helped decorate the hall and encouraged their neighbours to turn up and enjoy themselves.

The fire at the back of the hall and the heaters were warming, but not as cheering as the camaraderie, the chat, the team of volunteers who cleaned up and served all night, the laughter and stories told.

Posted by DeborahH in Australia, Community, Cultural dimensions, Fun, Tasmania, Village life, Weekends, 1 comment
Day trip #2

Day trip #2

Going north is pretty hard when you live less than a kilometre from the northern coast of an island. BUT, if I am to do a day trip in each direction, I needed to make it happen.  So my rules were simple: a few kms in each direction, less than a km from the coast.  I explored beaches, turned off to see what the signs along the roads meant, and looked at what weekend life for the people who live in my area was like. What I found was fun. Enjoy day tripping with me!!

Posted by DeborahH in Australia, Beach, Cultural dimensions, Daily Life, Fun, Nature, Road trip, Tasmania, Village life, Weekends, 0 comments
The Forgotten Tibetans

The Forgotten Tibetans


Publishing day has finally arrived! This book is the outcome of close to a decade of travelling to one of the most beautiful and unspoiled parts of China – the western provinces of China – Gansu, Sichuan, Qinghai, and Outer Mongolia. Frequent trips, particularly to Gansu, allowed me to make friends with some of the kindest, most welcoming people on earth. They welcomed me into their homes (or tents, depending on the season), gave me the opportunity to spend festivals, weddings, fun days and work days with them. I was lucky enough to be able to volunteer as an English teacher for nomad students during their winter school vacation, and enjoyed the enthusiasm and dedication they gave to learning during what should have been one of the most relaxing times of year for nomads.

During the years of visiting, I was able to see the changes in lifestyles and place that rapidly accelerated, partly as a result of increased tourism, partly as a result of government policies. Tourists changed the village from a quiet nomad town, focussed around the two monasteries, with a few cafes, two or three hostels and hotels and several shops selling nomad necessities to a small town, with numerous larger hotels, more cafes and souvenir shops. Government policies ensured nomads started to change their traditional way of life to become ‘sedentarised’, and needed to seek work in the restaurants and hotels.

This book is a collection of photographs and stories, giving glimpses into the daily lives, and the changing lives of the Tibetan nomads who live outside the map of Tibet, in lands that the Tibetan Empire once controlled, but now, through internal revolutions and war, have been incorporated into China.  It is intended to highlight the commonalities of our lives, as well as to present a brief history of a way of life that is rapidly disappearing.

I created this book for my nomad mates, hoping that their lives, culture and traditions would find a greater understanding in the wider society.  (And special thanks to Ray and Sabrina for editorial and design work!)




Signed hardback copies are available, please email me for details at:

Posted by DeborahH in Cultural dimensions, Photography book, Tibetan culture, Travel, Village life, 0 comments
Travels with my brother

Travels with my brother

My brother came to visit for a few weeks, and this gave me the opportunity to explore much more of this beautiful island I live on. Seeing things I am getting used to with new eyes is wonderful. We pretty much covered the island, creating as many adventures as we could into a short time.

Posted by DeborahH in Australia, Cultural dimensions, Road trip, Tasmania, Tourism, Village life, Weekends, Wine, 0 comments


Spring, and festival time.  Island villages and towns all want to make a name for themselves and so festivals abound.

Table Cape Tulip Festival is special, and visitors come from round the world to enjoy the beauty.  I’m lucky, it’s only 15 minutes drive.

Tiptoe with me.




Posted by DeborahH in Australia, Cultural dimensions, Daily Life, Village life, Weekends, 0 comments
Chinese Dream

Chinese Dream

Each Chinese President creates a ‘catch-phrase’ to inspire the Chinese people.  Xi Jinping, elected in late 2012 as President, has created ‘Chinese Dream” as his catch phrase.  There is no official definition of what this phrase means, but to most people is it very similar to the ‘American’ or ‘Australian’ dreams – house, car, education for children, financial security, travel.

China is rapidly changing from an agrarian society to an urban society, and the dream is part of this.  The jobs and good schools are in the big cities, better medical services are there, and access to a broader range of services and consumer products.

These images trace the changes in Chinese society – and is the dream becoming a reality, or creating a nightmare?



Posted by DeborahH in China, Cultural dimensions, Daily Life, Photography in China, Village life, 1 comment
Dancing in the rain

Dancing in the rain

“I’m as wet as a shag on a rock”, she said – and it was true. The rain came down, the raincoats went up and the show went on. Tasmanians are a hardy breed, and a little rain wasn’t going to stop them from enjoying the “Music in the Vines” day out.

Tickets sold out well before the event and more than 1000 people turned up to party at a local vineyard. The music covered everything from Johnny Farnham to Shepherd, with a stop or two on the way for Hotel California, and a touch of Whitney and Queen.

From the beginning people were up and dancing, so the wine couldn’t have been a major factor. The ‘elite’ bought the pricey tickets and sat inside and were able to buy from the menu. The rest of us had tickets in the outer, supplied our own chairs and could buy food, coffee and wine from the various outlets set around the outside. We had the best fun – we could dance down the front near the bands, or near our chairs.

Did the rain stop us? NO WAY. Forget singing in the rain or dancing in the dark – we’ll dance in the rain any day.

Posted by DeborahH in Australia, Cultural dimensions, Music, Village life, Weekends, Wine, 0 comments
Close to home – thanks Stuart!

Close to home – thanks Stuart!

The excitement of the new, different and exotic drives us to explore, to leave our hotel rooms and walk out into new cities looking for interest, quaintness and, hopefully, a bit of understanding.   When I lived overseas I gladly took every opportunity to explore the city I lived in, the surrounds and the whole country.

However, since I’ve been back in my home country, despite living in a different state, that same excitement and wonder at difference hasn’t been a motivator. My friend, Stuart Sipahigil, is a great advocate for a ‘close to home’ approach with photography, and I took a leaf from his book.

So yesterday, with a rare day off work, I decided I would treat my new home exactly as if I was in an exotic location in another country. (And for people from other parts of the world – this IS an exotic location). I slipped on my good walking shoes, packed a spare battery and went off to find the interest, quaintness and, maybe, understanding that the many international visitors look for when they arrive in my little part of the world. What catches my eye, and camera, in other countries? Beauty, signs, glimpses of fascinating activities, people living ordinary daily lives that I will never lead. Patterns and textures, the foundations of ‘why’ and ‘how’ of that city, town or village. Interesting juxtapositions and contradictions.

Was I able to find them in my own small town? In abundance. This was not a brisk walk, this was a meander, with turns onto sea walls and paths beside railway tracks and rivers. I chatted to the local fishermen, lazing away their afternoon with a couple of rods leaning on the guard rails. I waved at train drivers, and waited while the big Pacific gulls drifted on the wind above me. I shared the attempt to shoo the silver gulls away from a picnic lunch and found it interesting how the natural beauty of the coast could, within metres, become an industrial site.

Close to home is exotic, and worth the walk. Next week, another direction to explore.


Posted by DeborahH, 0 comments
Allie the Alpaca

Allie the Alpaca

Last week was Roaring 40s weather – cold, windy, rainy, chilly, nippy, and did I mention cold?   There were reports of snow at 6oo-700m level, so with an early shift end I decided to head off to play in my favourite landscape – snow.   However, as happens driving in country areas, odd signs catch your eye and the one to the Alpaca Farm and Teahouse caught mine.

A quick detour I thought, until I met Phil, the alpaca man. Phil is filled with passion for, and information about his animals, particularly the alpacas. He took me out to see them, and allowed me to lead Allie, a large creamy-fawn coloured male around on a lead. Allie adores eating and leading him involved a fair bit of pulling on his lead as he happily munched his way round the property.

Alpacas are related to the camel, but definitely not built for carrying loads. Llamas, like Pirate, are able to carry up to 30kgs still not adult human size though. Several of the alpaca females had cri (alpaca babies), and these fragile, leggy little things are gorgeous. All colours – white, fawn, brown, black chocolate and one gorgeous multi-coloured one.

The mums spit at the males as soon as they are pregnant, and given that they are usually pregnant 3 weeks after giving birth, there isn’t much time for the mums to be in a good mood. Playful cri will be spat at, even Allie – a non-productive male – will be spat at. We went down to meet Allie’s dad – and not much love lost there either. Male alpacas are not friendly with any other male alpaca. Jealousy…

Phil won’t breed his alpaca females until they are 2 years old, even though many commercial breeders will start them at 12 months.  With an 11 month pregnancy, and another cri on the way within 3 weeks, the females can have a fairly short lifespan – around 12-15 years.  Phil’s herd are looking at up to 18 years of comfort on his farm.  And they aren’t eaten at the end of their breeding life, which he stops at 10 years.

Phil doesn’t only have alpacas and a llama on his farm, but also a variety of native and introduced bird species, rabbits, sleek little ferrets, happy Christmas-fattening pigs, trout in ponds, sheep, a crazy goat, a couple of rescue dogs (the ugliest in the home, Phil said, as if he hadn’t taken them, no-one would) native plants and an emu.

The history behind the animals – ancient history in some cases from Egypt and South America – was fascinating, and the knowledge behind the native plants and wildlife was interesting. People who love their work, do the research and enjoy it all are wonderful to be with.

I ended up buying a soft, silky alpaca scarf, woven from the wool of some of the alpacas I had seen, didn’t actually get to the tea drinking bit, and promised to come back with family.

Um… I didn’t mention that the crazy goat likes to pull out the emu’s feathers and eat them, did I?




Posted by DeborahH in Burma, Cultural dimensions, Daily Life, Village life, Weekends, 0 comments