Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Snippets of Bhutan


OK, Bhutan’s done it, why can’t the rest of us? A day without vehicles! Throughout this little Kingdom, the government has legislated that one day per week, Tuesday, every town will keep cars out of the main traffic areas from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM. The only exceptions are taxis, delivery vehicles, and a few government cars with a trip permit. My students are proud of this and sending letters to a Canadian environmentalist, sharing what Bhutan is doing to make a difference.

A group of women sits on the curb selling their garden produce.  They’ve chosen a place where the road widens and serves as a nexus for many travelers.  We see them there every day but Tuesday (no car day) and Sunday, beneath the shade of a willow, their tarp spread out for piles of cauliflower, potato, cabbage, tomato, green beans, chilies, and plastic bottles of buttermilk.  There are four of them, always with the same produce, and seem just as happy to help you buy from their neighbour’s pile as from their own.  As in the shops, you buy by the half kg, and one of them keeps a collection of graded weights and a scale for measuring: a stick on bamboo with two tin plates, balanced from either end with three strings. 
clockwise down:lamchukuli, lambinda,
laphumaap,  goen...don't know eggplant

They speak no English, but discuss our purchases with one another.  Behind us the odd car negotiates the corner, slowing down for horses coming back from pasture, honking to remove cows that have become inert in the heat, or picking up children on their way home in the monsoon downpour.  Often, drivers park in the middle of the road, lean across the open passenger’s door, and negotiate materials for dinner.

You’ve heard it before, this is bovine country.  They are all over the roads during the day, and many sleep on them at night.  Going to school, we veer away from fresh cow patties, and the rest of the journey is spent judiciously avoiding the smeared ones.  Walkers at night, beware.  If you don’t sink into a fresh dump planted in your way, you might bump into its donor, lying--or standing--asleep in the middle of your lane.  The cows come and go at milking time, leading their calves in a long line that alternates sides of the road, depending on who’s honking, how much, and from which direction.  The bulls are on holiday, and do little more than blink dumbly when you pass.  Sometimes two will push one another around a bit, rubbing heads playfully.  But they seem to lack the energy for real aggression.

Tara bought a set of Khuru darts for our anniversary... it's OK, probably doesn't mean anything…. But yesterday it proved more difficult than it looks.  I had a hard time getting a good straight lateral spin on it, let alone reaching the full 25 metres to the target.  A twelve year old showed us what is possible if we practise: nice and straight, 15 cm from the target after 3 throws, which nets 1 point. Next weekend’s a staff tournament, so I know what I’m doing after school this week.  Like archery, there’s a whole singing/dancing protocol to be met if you reach the target for the full 3 points.  The drinking that goes on apparently helps, and these are full-day events, continuing in the dusk.

The school Khuru pit, with 25 metres between targets.
Tshewang in action for his team:
1 point is a hand-width from the marker
2 points for hitting the wooden marker
3 points for landing in the target colours
Pema in coloured glory, his 2 darts ready

A bullseye means your team sings and dances a traditional victory display, same as with archery.

This means soccer in Bhutan, and locals are all pretty passionate about it.  The buses that ply the Lateral Road are festooned with FC stickers, usually Manchester United or Chelsea. You’ll find these emblems on shop windows, car bumpers, schoolbooks, restaurant walls, hotel desks….
Playing the game is easy, and any spherical object will do.  I’ve seen many shapes and sizes of balls, often barely inflated.  Children will even roll up old clothes in a ball and kick that through the dust, as well. 
The possibilities for girls are growing, too.  In February, two girls from my class were away playing football for the Bhutan National Junior team in an Asian tournament. 

But the fields are rough, sometimes in terrible condition.  The surfaces are so uneven that many players never seem to develop the strategy of simple, direct passes.  The game is ‘kick and run’, won through sheer athleticism rather than strategy, with both teams fighting for contact with the ball and field position rather than for ball possession.  Often their one-touch is good, wacking the ball in mid air to send it forward.  Back-passes are rare, it’s all one-dimensional.  I usually play defense, and I'm still baffled by their positioning.
My Wangduecchoeling Team is made up of a combination of Middle School and High School students and Middle School teachers.  We’ve been in a couple tournaments this year, and just last night lost the semi-final match in the Chhumi tourney.  Now that field has the worst playing conditions I’ve ever seen, even in National Geographic.  Although the field is surrounded by a drainage channel, there is so much clay that a quarter of it is swamp!  Playing right D,  I had to scoop the ball up with my foot to release it from its hydrostatic state, then kick it in mid-air.  It's a whole new dimension to the sport, so I'll take back my comment about Bhutanese only playing in one direction.

OK, I hope your getting
the swamp factor here...
Capt. Yeshey, content with another win
the Bench

No comments:

Post a Comment