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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Turning 26 in Bhutan...

Saturday morning came early as usual, but since it was my birthday the normal routine of housekeeping and trying to catch up on sleep was scrapped. I sipped hot chocolate and ate corn flakes next to my heater reading a James Patterson book for probably the sixth time. A surprise came at 10:15 when Mom and Dad called to wish me happy birthday. I didn’t realize how much I wanted to hear someone say those words and it made it seem more real. It had been easy to let Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s to slip by on the calendar… those day aren’t celebrated by anyone here. Birthdays are different though. Everyone has them, everyone celebrates them.

The call got me going and I was up and out the door before 11:00. My plan was to walk to town and pick up some souvenirs… spend a little of the money I have been so protective of since I got here. What better way to spend my birthday than getting myself a birthday present? Unfortunately the Handicraft Emporium was closed since the family went out of town to celebrate the New Year on Sunday. I wandered into the market and picked up some grapes and a Sprite for a bit of a treat.

My walk home was shortened when Rinzin saw me walking and offered a ride the rest of the way. After a quick text message to Kinga to confirm our plans for the evening, I took a Saturday afternoon nap. I splurged on buying lunch instead of cooking… red rice, potatoes with chili and cheese, spinach soup and a Coke cost me 95 ngultrum (just over $2).

At 6:00 on the dot Gyeltshen and Kinga arrived to take me out for my birthday. Gyeltshen even brought me a bottle of rose-colored ara! We drove up the road and picked up some more foresters to come to town. Our little posse of 7 was excited and anxious to have some fun. The next stop was at the snooker bar Kinga, Gyeltshen and I had been to before. The actual bar isn’t connected to the snooker room so when we went in we were mostly unnoticed. Once the game started, that changed. One of the waiters mentioned to someone in the bar that not only was there an American playing snooker in the other room, but it was a girl and she was holding her own against the boys! Our group of 7 quickly grew to almost 20 and all the Bhutanese men were rooting for me. It was hysterical as they cheered when I made a shot, groaned when I missed one, and incessantly taunted Kinga and Gyeltshen. We passed around the ara bottled, drank a few beers, and laughed through the whole game. I thought the windows were going to crack for sure at the uproar that came from the locals when I made the winning shot!    

Kinga has been talking up his singing abilities since our first trip to Ura so we headed to a dance club. They convinced me to get up on the stage and learn a Bhutanese dance with the in-house dancers, we convinced Kinga to show off his singing skills, and the evening closed with all 7 of us on stage dancing to an English song. All in all, not a bad way to spend a birthday, foreign country or not. My 26th birthday will definitely not be forgotten… I mean how often will I have a group of Bhutanese men attempt to sing Happy Birthday to me? 

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