I’m really feeling part of my surroundings this morning as I walk to school. In national costume, I’m dressed like half the people I see walking or driving: many walking towards me are field workers and shop owners, the rest are students. Some make eye contact and we greet each other with “Kuzoo Sangpo” or “Kuzampo” (slurred version), though the students in groups mostly turn and bow to me in unison: “Good morning, Sir”, their beautiful quasi-English accents ringing in the crisp morning air.
But however you look at it, we’re definitely alien beings. Last night Tara and I returned home in the rainy dark, so we hopped in a taxi, $2 from town. We missed directing the driver onto our narrow rocky lane, but the driver made the turn anyway. Of course he’d seen us walking last week. As they warned us in our Thimphu Orientation, we’re so visible, and the locals know all about us, when we're coming, where we're going…
|Wearing Kira and Gho, we blend in completely, of course...|
The only reason the Bhutanese don’t clean up at the Olympics is they’re not used to the shorter regulation distance! On the other hand, they have some unique medical issues related to their national sport: three times I've met people who were visiting the hospital and reported someone coming in to have an arrow removed from their body: one from the leg, two from the head. The local Hospital administrator told me the skull ones are dealt with in Thimphu, so they just cut off the shaft leaving a good handle before putting them back in the ambulance.
|Bridge to get us to the other side of Bumthang valley|
Today Tara and I walked to Kurje, where the holy water comes straight out of the mountain. This time we continued around the corner. Stopped at a little shack of boards with no light, known as a store. There the monks from the monastery could buy nails by the kilo, shampoo, mango juice, tinned mackerel, or Indian potato chips. We chose mango juice and chips. Around the corner the Chokhor River we’d been following became a deep torrent, swirling around huge rocks. Crossing a wire suspension bridge festooned with colourful prayer flags, we looked down into blue pools, imagining ourselves soaking in the back eddies in the summer heat. Tara hopes we’re not just dreaming….she’s committed to returning later with her swimsuit.
Next stop was a communal forest of 190 acres, supporting 33 families. At the entrance was a flourmill, with a woven bamboo funnel for the grain suspended over an enormous millstone disk. The grain flows through a hole in the stone, where it’s channeled down and ground between it and the bedstone. The flour on the edge was tan in colour, probably the local buckwheat which grows well at this altitude. After we did our clockwise walk around the small forest of vertical prayer flags, we continued on our hike through what was essentially a medieval farm community: the only thing to suspend our fantasy was the odd section of powerline, spliced together with different colours of electrical tape as it runs in and out of buildings.
|Our sweet, generous, landlord Karma, backed by family, living upstairs|
|so this is considered a state-of-the-art kitchen in our neighbourhood|
|local kids love having pics taken|