Saturday, March 20, 2010
3.20.2010 - I leave this morning (Saturday) for Paro, Bhutan. I will sightsee there for the day and check into a hotel.
3.21.2010 - My flight from Paro to Dehli, India leaves a little before noon and will take about 3 hours. I will me met at the airport and taken to my hostel in India.
3.22.2010 - I have the entire day in Dehli free, though I am not sure if I will see some more sights or just head early to the airport. My flight leaves Dehli for JKF in New York at 12:30AM.
3.23.2010 - The flight from Delhi will take 16 hours and from here I take 2 more planes, the first to Salt Lake City, the second to Portland. I land there at 2:55PM on the 23rd.
3 days, 4 planes, and more than 25 hours in the air... away we go!
Friday, March 19, 2010
The main temple houses the ashes of the father of the man who united Bhutan and the entire structure has been in place since the early 16th century. The site is deep in the forest and was exactly the scenery I was hoping for. Birds flitted in the trees around us and the dirt path was all ours until the hike back down.
The goral around the monastery are wild, but well habituated to human presence. It took some time to find them, but after an addition climb of just under 300 stone steps, we came across a little herd. The trip down went quick and we cam across some French tourists. We (Jigme and Pem joined me on the hike) stopped for tea, zhau (fried rice snack), and biscuits. It was a lovely, energizing morning and a great way to say goodbye to Bhutan.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
My final day in the main city of Thimphu wrapped up today with a sprinkle of rain. Apparently Bhutan has decided to help me get ready for life back in the Pacific Northwest!
The first stop was to one of the weaving centers in Thimphu. Women were seated in front of their looms hand weaving the kiras and ghos for the men, women, and children of Bhutan. This particular shop was owned by a male weaver (quite unusual), who has won the national award many times and weaves for the King himself.
Next was the public library so I could unload the most of books I purchased to keep my mind busy in Bumthang. The weight limit for the flight out of Paro was my main motivation for donating the books, but any excuse to lose some baggage is fine with me... plus I was able to give a little back to a society that has given so much to me. I was eager to get one more look at one of the strangest creatures I have ever seen, the takins. They were much more habituated than before and cooperated for some fun pictures.
The last stop was a little off the beaten tourist path and we found our way to the National Library. Here some of the oldest texts in the region are stored. There are also letters from the 1700’s and mantras written with bamboo pens from Tibet.
Tomorrow we head out for a 5 hour round trip hike to one of the more famous dzongs in Thimphu and I am hoping to glimpse some wildlife along the way. One more day in Thimphu, then one in Paro, and then its all airplanes until I see some familiar faces on the 23rd!
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Today I turned in my final report on my placement with WWF Bhutan. It was strange to revisit all the projects and events in Bumthang and to be writing about them in the past tense. Even more strange to put a conclusion on it all. It made it really seem over… how surreal to know that all my tasks here are complete. The website is ready to go and Jigme is working on mastering the design system, I have imparted all the photography knowledge I can, and edited more papers than I care to remember.
Fittingly, Tashi and I sat down to brainstorm the last few places to see in Thimphu before I get on the plane Sunday morning. We came up with a list of 9 more “must-sees” and Jigme graciously agreed to take me around town. I will explain more about these places later, but wanted to get some photos up and show off some cool experiences.
We first went to the Folk Heritage Museum. This is site has a dwelling from 150 years ago preserved exactly as the people who once inhabited it lived. It was, amazingly, not too different from the houses of friends I visited in Bumthang.
Next we went to the Institute for Traditional Arts and Crafts. Here they train students in the formal aspects of the traditional painting, sculpting, and casting. Since the program just began a few days ago they were not yet working so hopefully we can return Friday to see them in action. Some of the more experienced students were working on their final project… a huge clay sculpture of The Four Friends.
A few other temples and a giant statue of Buddha (when it’s finished it will be one of the largest statues in Asia) rounded out the day. Another neat stop of note was to the handmade paper factory. Its really more of a large house that has been transformed into a place were paper is still manufactured the old way. Down the street was a place where thangkas (painted wall hangings) were being produced.
A few more stops tomorrow and Friday and my week will be complete. I am running into tourist groups in the streets and visitors from all over the world are stopping by the headquarters. I remember leaving for Bumthang 3 months ago wondering what it would be like to be on the other end of this trip… I never imagined it would feel like this.
Life is something glorious, because in this life we can awaken to who we truly are. – Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
Friday, March 5, 2010
One of the ladies who works in the WWF Bhutan office approached me on Thursday and invited me to an office dinner on Friday night. She said she would arrange for a driver to pick me up from the hotel around 6:30 and we would head over to the Golf Country Club Restaurant. I had been to a few dinners before when in Thimphu, so I was expecting some drinks, the office gathered around telling stories, and a simple dinner. When I walked around the corner from the parking lot I had a feeling this was going to be a little different.
On the back patio of the restaurant was a huge bonfire, tables and chairs for 20, and the royal dancers were getting ready to begin their performance. I quickly found a familiar face and was then introduced to some Bhutanese girls in their 20’s who had been studying in the United States and were back visiting with their boss. That answered my question about who the other white-face at the party belonged to. Shortly after 7:00 things got interesting as a large group of caucasians came around the corner. They were donors here with WWF visiting Bhutan for the first time. I made small talk with a few of them and found some were even from the Bay Area (such a small world).
WWF Bhutan’s Country Representative called me over to meet a few people he was speaking with. He has done this before because they enjoy the fact they have an intern and I had become somewhat of a novelty to the Bhutanese. Since he was standing with some foreigners I was, however, instantly nervous. CR introduced us by first names only and left to mingle. I fielded the usual questions: “How long have you been here?“, ”What are you doing while here? ,“Have you enjoyed your time so far?”, and then asked them the same ones. Apparently I was the only one not informed of who was coming to the dinner party. Unbeknownst to me I had been shooting the breeze with a member of the governing board of the WWF US and its former Vice-President (a man who currently runs the Bhutan Foundation). I instantly blushed, but that went unnoticed since I was saved by the arrival of the former Prime Minister of Bhutan.
This was no normal gathering… we were entertaining some of the highest people in the WWF organization. I also met the cousin of the founder of the WWF and a safari leader from Kenya looking to expand into Bhutan. Needless to say, I was bouncing off walls when I got back to the hotel!