Saturday, February 25, 2012

Thimphu Orientation

Early February
When I travel to different cultures the game I tend to play is: ignore the ex-pats and mingle with the locals.  Not a chance at this point.  I've got such a long way to go before I can cope with the basics.  For starters, most of us feel trapped in our bodies at this altitude, unable to negotiate a single storey of stairs without being breathless and nursing our quads!  Dzongkha is a language hanging way out on a remote linguistic branch near the fork of Nepalese and Tibetan.  Rice is about the only food immediately recognizable at mealtime.

We are 15 BCFers living in the Dragon Roots Hotel, located just to the side of the central square in downtown Thimphu.  We spend a few hours a day in the Conference Room learning about the culture, the people, their language, religion, material life, values, education.  There are local trips together to visit dignitaries, Ministry officials, monuments, and lots of opportunity to shop for our essentials: kitchen equipment, mattresses, towels, furniture, water filters, etc., and of course we're being fitted for the national dress, ghos for the guys, kiras for the women.
 Here's the famous Thimphu traffic light: controlled traffic circle.
Not a single electric traffic light in the country!

Thimphu sidewalks rarely this easy to walk on; so many ups and downs, ditches and gutters to leap across.  Don't look up too much.  I fell 1m down a hole, had a bruise for 2 weeks.
OK, most houses don't have the dragon waterspouts and corner gargoyles, but much of this is pretty standard traditional architecture.
They fit fine, but we still need locals to help dress us.

Becky, Dave and I at our one night testing Western food: damn fine pizza here at The Zone 
What a fun bunch of people we are: teachers with varying experience from Canada, US, England and Australia.  There are also 4 or 5 returning BCF teachers who'll go straight to their posts from last year when school starts in February.  We range in age from early 20's to barely 50's, single, married, some with partners waiting at home.  Tara and I are the only couple in the new group, and I'm so glad she chose to be part of the Orientation.  I can't imagine life in Bhutan without this, and we all seem to be quickly falling in love with one another.

Food's great, lodgings too, and there are plenty of people around to help out.  Nancy Strickland comes by regularly to check in on her new children, Karma and Minah are on hand daily for logistics and work/life-related stuff, and the hotel staff are generous with their time, typical of Bhutanese.

Dragon Roots lobby jammed on moving day.
Loading our new-found worldly possessions onto the bus, soon to take off and drop us one-by-one at our postings for the year.

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