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!