Archive for the 'Bhutan' Category
Monday, November 3, 2008
When we were in Bhutan, we asked our guide, Dorji, if McDonald’s had arrived in Thimphu, the capital city, yet. “Oh yes,” said Dorji, gravely. “It is the only place in town where you can buy hamburgers. Would you like to see?” I wondered if the hamburgers would be cloaked in chiles and cheese, and if the Playland would be festooned with merry-go-rounds fashioned after prayer wheels. Or maybe the Happy Meals would come with a McBuddha action figure. Instead, we arrived at a small place called The Swiss Bakery, what amounted to a chalet-style cafe, with no iconic golden arches in sight. Inside, we could choose from a menu that consisted of dodgy-looking pastries, coffee and tea, and hamburgers. It dawned on us that, in Dorji’s mind, McDonald’s wasn’t a brand name but an institution synonymous with hamburgers. And since the Swiss Bakery was the only one serving up patties in this neck of the woods, it might as well have been McDonald’s.
We couldn’t bear to let him down, so we ordered a desiccated chocolate cake and settled down at a booth, the only thing that bore any resemblance to a real McDonald’s. Within minutes a Bhutanese woman breezed in the door with a pack of school-aged children dancing in her wake. Her English was impeccable, with a slight British inflection, and the children’s language abilities were equally impressive. These were Bhutanese of a certain class, the ones who go abroad to study and return to cushy government positions. Dorji had told us that they have a propensity towards all things Western, so we weren’t surprised when she ordered a round of hamburgers for everyone. The arrived wrapped in limp plastic steaming with condensation; the whirring of the microwave in the background moments earlier gave a clue as to their heat source. An emaciated patty was sandwiched between a bakery-style bun; there were no vegetables.
As the kids doused their hamburgers in ketchup, they chatted in English. The woman, obviously the mother of the girl dressed in pink, suddenly turned toward me and asked me where I was from. Within moments, the woman, talking a million miles a minute, revealed that she had recently appeared in a Bhutanese film, Travellers and Magicians. Although she worked professionally at the Bank of Bhutan and had never acted a day in her life, she landed a role in the film, and even went to Los Angeles for the premiere, where she was given “the red carpet treatment.” She even got to ride in a limousine. Deki was eager to know if we had seen the film; I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I’d never even heard of it. “Well,” she sighed, “it was back to Bhutan for me. No more limousines. Just my little red car.” She jotted down the name of the movie and her email address as Dorji approached our table. They spoke a few minutes in Bhutanese, and suddenly she was off.
We watched her make her way out to her little red car as the children piled in. “She was in a Bhutanese movie,” we told Dorji. “I know,” he said, “she told me.” He had never heard of it either.
* * *
Yesterday we found ourselves at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne, a must-see for anyone with an interest in film. Home to a number of exhibitions pertaining to the cinematic world, it also contains a number of theatres that play host to a rotating series of independent films and thematically exciting film festivals. An image of Buddha on a poster caught me eye as we passed by. “It’s a Buddhist Film Festival!” I said. Maikael studied the poster, looking at the list of films that were being screened. “Look what’s playing!” he cried. Travellers and Magicians. We glanced at the dates of the week-long festival: it was ending today. “What are the odds that this film is playing today?” we asked ourselves. Miraculously, its one and only screening of the festival was in a few hours.
The film was the embodiment of Bhutan, and everything was immediately familiar, like a giant memory blowing into my mind. Sweeping scenery, flapping prayer flags, dried chiles, terraced rice fields, gray ghos and colorful kiras, balls of rice, Indian trucks filled with hitchhikers, monks, magic, mystery, and folklore. The opening scene showed three men yelping as they scored an archery victory, and we smiled broadly, remembering the day we watched the Prince of Bhutan play in the national archery semifinals. This audience tittered when one character warned another about ghosts on the highway at night. Unless you’d been to Bhutan, you’d never know that warning was no joke.
The storyline revolves around a government worker who is dying to leave Bhutan for America, and when an opportunity arises he tries to make his way to Thimphu, a journey that takes days from his tiny village and is thwarted at every opportunity. The government worker meets a monk along his journey, and when he tells the monk he is leaving for America, his “dreamland,” the monk warns him against chasing empty dreams. The monk shares a fable with the government worker to illustrate his point, which becomes a parallel storyline.
I squealed when Deki’s unmistakable face appeared on the screen, the starring woman in the alternate storyline. Leaning across my seat I whispered to Maikael, “Can you believe we met that woman?” She was a pretty good actress for a government worker, and we found it ironic that she was starring in a film about the dangers of chasing Western ideals. The film was as much about Buddhism as it was about Bhutan: just as I experienced when I visited, the two things are inextricably bound together. Bhutan is struggling mightily with the encroachment of the Western world; most people used to be relatively happy with their lot, but with television in most homes, people see there is more to want. Buddhists believe the only path to happiness is to desire less.
So there we were, watching a Bhutanese film starring a Bhutanese woman we knew in a movie theatre in Australia, on the only day at the only time it was showing at a one-week film festival. It was all a little too bizarre, and I knew the Bhutanese would say it was no coincidence. We were meant to see that film.
At the end of the screening, a graduate student of Buddhist philosophy, visiting from Sydney, was on hand on answer questions about the film. He wasn’t Bhutanese, but with his shorn head and long, gray robe I guessed he was Buddhist. Someone asked him to give his interpretation of the film, and he stated that the central theme was a struggle between accepting our lot in life and aspiring for something greater. “At the end of the day, do we remain content with what we have, or crazily chase after our dreams? Which is better?” He explained that he wasn’t there to say which one was right, and that Buddhists believe that you have to inquire and question and struggle with yourself to find the right answer; the reason, he explained, why the ending to the film was intentionally left open-ended. “You have to give meaning to your own life,” he insisted.
This Buddhist man had unwittingly summed up the central struggle of not only the film but my own life. For years I have wondered if I should accept the fact that my life didn’t turn out as I had planned and continue with the status quo that I had set for myself, or if I should try to aim for something that’s more in line with who I am as a person. The greatest thing I’m struggling with now is that I don’t have a dream to “crazily chase after.” In the past, I have tried to solve the big questions of my life through occupational means, convinced that choosing a new career would be the key. In fact, I’m fighting not to fall into the same trap again, as new career ideas are percolating in the background.
That night, I had the most vivid dream. I dreamed that I was a substitute teacher for a small, mixed classroom of elementary and middle school children. When I took over the class we were working on an art project that I was helping the kids to finish. As I stepped into this role, largely unprepared, I felt immediately comfortable and at east, as if I had been a teacher my whole life. Suddenly, I found myself in a conversation with my “dream self,” who I can only guess is my subconscious, that great ruler of the dream world. This has never happened to me before.
I asked my “dream self” what this meant. “Does this mean I should be a school teacher?” I asked. “No,” she responded, confident and clear, “it’s a symbol. You will be a type of teacher, but not in a traditional way, or the way you think.” In fact, I have always regarded my role as a counselor as a teacher more than anything. In the dream I was teaching art, and my “dream self” somehow seemed to know that what I would teach people would have to do with creativity.
I’m not sure what the dream means, but I can only guess that seeing that movie unlocked something in me. I am vowing to make a conscious effort to avoid immediately jumping into a new career or endeavor when I return from this trip, to begin a quiet search for the different ways that being a teacher might manifest itself in my life. The astrologer in India told me that I would come into contact with many spiritual people during this year, and so far that is holding true. The path I’m on is invisible at the moment, but I feel my feet are treading on something, real and true.No comments
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Being a tourist in Bhutan is an unusual experience. There are so few of us here that we are perpetually running into people from our flight. There are zero tour buses. A group is officially considered three people. And while there are certainly tourist sites, there are so few tourists that nothing feels that way. Last year, the country received just 20,000 visitors, most of whom were American. (To provide some context, Jordan’s Petra alone saw 400,000 tourists.) While Bhutan doesn’t officially cap the number of tourists allowed, economics and geographic difficulty keep most people away: you’ve really got to want to come. The Bhutanese tourism board is forthright in declaring that they are trying to avoid over-development. Bhutan prizes its natural environment and puts its money where its mouth is: over 50% of its land is protected forest.
We left Thimpu one morning and drove an hour outside of the city to hike to Cheri Gompa, where Bhutan’s first body of monks was established in 1620. Within 10 minutes we were deep in the countryside, twisting our way over narrow roads, as ice blue streams rushed through rolling green hills. The air smelled like spiced cider – a scent I’ve always associated with autumn, but that will forever remind me of Bhutan. I laughed when I saw the sign indicating that we had arrived at a national park: we were the only ones in sight. We picked our way through the canopy, passing local families carrying bags of mushrooms. At the top of the path sat Cheri Gompa, clinging desperately to the hillside. Goats munched grass from the abiding field as monks in maroon and gold robes studied us carefully. Ancient prayer wheels spun. Maikael went to soak in the view below, acres of trees stretching as far as the eye could see. A shroud of mist floated through the valley below. I truly felt as if I had stepped into a fairytale. I find myself constantly shocked by my surroundings: am I really here? Does this place really still exist in 2008?
The greatest crowds we encountered – between 15 and 20 people, a virtual stampede by Bhutanese standards — were on our way to Taktshang monastery, the site in which the great Guru Rinpoche flew on a tigress and proceeded to meditate for three months. It is considered Bhutan’s holiest site, attracting pilgrims from all over the Buddhist world. “The Tiger’s Nest” clings to the sheer rock face 900 meters above the valley floor, and the only way up to the top is to walk: there are no trams or animals to assist in the journey. I huffed and puffed as Dorji effortlessly maneuvered his way up the rugged trail, the top half of his gho wrapped around his waist to reveal a T-shirt emblazoned with a suitcase. The Bhutanese are a nation of accomplished walkers; I am convinced they must have all been mountain goats in previous lifetimes. The higher you climb, the thinner the air and the crowds. We walked through stands of pine trees; the ones near the top were delicately draped with Spanish moss, looking like tinsel.
The view from the top is unreal. I have seen photos that epitomize Asia – rustic structures perched on great cliffs, in which tufts of fog billow by. That is exactly that Taktshang looks like – no more and no less. I felt as if I had stepped into a painting in someone’s living room.
I feel so grateful that I could experience Bhutan before things change too much; the signs are already there. TV and DVD has arrived. (“We get CDs and cassettes,” Dorji boasted.) Even monks carry cell phones. Bigger, sleeker hotels are going up left and right, washing away the dowdy, but charming, digs that currently dominate the lodging landscape. And yet, who am I to judge progress?1 comment
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Bhutan is not known for its contributions to the culinary world. We were surprised when we got to our hotel the first night and were served a strange fusion dinner of international, Chinese, and Indian fare. “What is traditional Bhutanese fare?” we asked our guide. Chiles, cheese, and red rice, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Chiles seemed like a very odd thing for the Himalayas, but the Bhutanese eat them like fruit, giving New Mexicans a run for their money. As we toured around we noticed heaps of chiles drying on rooftops, in every shade of red imaginable, and long chile ristras hanging from rooflines. This was the last thing I had expected to see in Bhutan and I wondered, like Bugs Bunny, if I had taken a wrong turn in Albuquerque.
Given the country’s strong agricultural roots, we looked forward to farm-fresh eggs and meat. But each day our hotel informed us that they were out of eggs and chicken. Having visited the local vegetable market, where we saw crates of eggs, we weren’t sure how this could be. India has been hit with the bird flu, preventing the import of poultry products and byproducts into Bhutan. Local eggs are too expensive. As for the chicken? “Because Buddhist don’t believe in harming living creatures, all of the meat is imported from India,” explained Dorji. Some Buddhists eat meat (although the strictest ones don’t), but the slaughter of animals is forbidden.
When we’re out in the countryside we stop at small roadside stands, enjoying corn roasted over an open fire, the biggest cucumbers I’ve ever seen, crunchy apples, fresh whey, and succulent fiddlehead ferns, which cost a king’s ransom in the US but grow wild in Bhutan.
Towards the end of our stay we had the opportunity to stay in a traditional farmhouse with a local family. These are not tourist attractions, but a glimpse into the way most people live in this highly agrarian and rural country. Before dinner we relaxed in a hot stone bath, traditional in the Bhutanese countryside. Rocks are heated over a fire for hours and then shoveled into a sectioned off portion of a wooden tub filled with water. The stones warm the water, which is slowly displaced into the main tub, providing a most memorable bath (note to self: excellent business idea for U.S. spa industry).
For dinner our hosts prepared a great feast, and we sat cross-legged on the living room floor to enjoy. Pork with turnips and vegetables with beef were specially prepared for us, accompanied by the ubiquitous chiles and cheese and a heaping clay pot of red rice. The Bhutanese eat with their hands, and we watched in amazement as everyone deftly formed their rice into compact balls and used it to collect all manner of foods on the plate. The meal was accompanied by butter tea, which was exactly as it sounds: black tea laced with slightly salty butter.
After dinner, we were served apples for dessert. “Why doesn’t anyone else have dessert?” Maikael asked Dorji. “Betle nut is Bhutanese dessert.” The adults passed around small, hard, beige nuts, which they wrapped in large green leafs smeared with a pink lime paste. The leaf was rolled into a neat roll, which was placed into the mouth and chewed slowly. The family’s grandmother produced what looked like a thick metal candy cane. “What’s that?” we asked. Dorji explained that when you lose your teeth and can’t chew betle nut anymore, the tool grinds the nut into a fine powder.
“You want to try arra?” asked Dorji, a “local wine” which we would call moonshine. I nodded eagerly, and two small, wooden bowls were laid before us. The thin, clear liquid was poured slowly from a vegetable oil container. We took a tentative sip of the liquid, distilled from wheat. Our hosts smiled and looked on eagerly, laughing when I raised my eyebrows at the unexpected potency. The father stood at the ready, cradling the container with his hand, “It’s traditional to have a second pour,” said Dorji, after which the cups were once again filled. After two cups I was drowsy and happy and ready for bed.
Our last night in Bhutan we stayed in a lovely hotel in Paro, where more semi-Bhutanese food was served. “My primary goal is for people not to get sick,” shared the proprietor, but we were getting a little tired of the food. The next table over, a luscious bottle of red wine sat at the ready, and a steaming dish of lasagna was served from the kitchen. A hotel guest, having grown tired of two weeks of Bhutanese food, had asked to make dinner for herself and her husband. Soon, portions were being served all over the restaurant. “There’s pizza coming, too,” said the proprietor, and a small wave of cheers floated through the room. When the piping hot pie was served, sprinkled with baby corn and exotic mushrooms, everyone clamored for a piece. When the proprietor asked if I’d like a piece, I shyly said yes. Arriving assumed I just arrived, he said, “You haven’t been here long enough to get tired of Bhutanese food.” “I’ve been here a week,” I said. “That is long enough to get tired of Bhutanese food,” he exclaimed, letting out a big guffaw.
The pizza was a huge hit, and the proprietor declared “prices are going up next year!” We left the restaurant late, bellies full and hearts happy. Only in Bhutan.No comments
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
To understand Bhutan you must understand Buddhism. There is no division between secular and nonsecular life; one flows seamlessly into the other. Every home contains an altar in which daily offerings are made. Monks in long maroon robes trimmed in elegant gold are everywhere. They walk down the street casually, chatting on their cell phones. They flow out of temples. They take taxis and airplanes. The landscape flutters with brilliantly colored prayer flags. Ribbons of horizontal flags zigzag over hillside, traverse ravines, and swoop over bridges. Vertical flags, skewered on long toothpicks, perch high on hilltops. “They must always be in place where the air is clean,” explains Dorji. When a person dies, their family climbs the steep terrain and perches 108 flags on the hillside.
The religion is such a pervasive part of the culture that it informs every aspect of daily life. The air is filled with the tinkle of prayer wheels, brightly colored cylinders that people circle and turn in a clockwise direction, sending their prayers to heaven. My favorites are the ones housed by streams, miniature water mills, the churning stream turning the wheels in a lovely, chiming rhythm. There are always old people at the wheels. “That’s because they have a lifetime of sins to wash away,” explains Dorji. It’s not uncommon for people to circle all day, chanting softly to themselves.
We visit countless dzongs, Buddhist temples, which are not only of historical and architectural interest, but form the backbone of a community. Dzongs breathe life. They are home to monks; the main dzong in Thimpu houses 4,500 of them, many of whom are children. Newborn babies are brought to the dzong to be named. Ceremonies are performed for the dead. Rites and rituals, for nearly every purpose you can imagine, are performed on a routine basis. “There is a special ceremony today,” says Dorji nearly every time we enter a dzong. At first we consider ourselves incredibly lucky to have arrived on such an auspicious day, but It soon becomes clear that everyday is special.
One afternoon we visit a dzong in Thimpu valley, one of the most important in the country. Dorji explains that the inner courtyard is packed with tourists at festival time, but this afternoon the square was nearly empty. Flocks of pigeons peck at the stone tiles, as monks duck in and out of secret doorways. We hear throaty chanting and bright horns floating from an unseen window above, not unlike a school band warming up. Dorji asks if we’d like to see the ceremony. We climb a dark, narrow stairway, leading to an open foyer where we remove our shoes. The sounds grows louder as we approach the colorful felt curtain separating us from the next room. The curtain is drawn, revealing two rows of monks, tidy rows of maroon and shorn heads.
We take a seat in the room, lit only by the late afternoon light that inches its way through the windows. Butter lamps flicker on the altar and spiced incense fills the air. The room throbs with sound. Some monks hold large drums supported by handles, looking like giant lollipops, tapping the surface with a twisting red candy cane drumsticks. Two monks play long brass horns, not unlike the Ricola commercials, which produces a low belch. The rest of the monks chant rhythmically, rocking back and forth, completely aware of our presence. We stare at them and they stare at us, caught in a trance of the senses.
In Bhutan, legends and myths are not things of the past; they are living, breathing, present beings. There is no “once upon a time.” There are no dusty fairy tales. Ancestors whisper in Bhutanese ears. At one dzong we learn that the statue of Buddha has been known to talk to the monks. There are stories of a great saints flying on tigresses, taking ferocious animal forms, burying evil spirits under great piles of rocks. One lama died and did not decompose; it was considered a miracle and he was interred in the lotus position in a great stupa. These stories are not told as myths, but are reported as actual historical events. We learn that the reincarnation of one of the great saints that lived hundreds of years ago is living in India. “You can go visit him,” says Dorji.
Astrologers are consulted on a variety of issues, from determining the dates of coronations to good days to travel. There are auspicious numbers. Three is lucky. So is seven and 108. In many cases Dorji can’t explain why these numbers are good. “The monks know.” It’s hard not to get swept up in the magic. I ask Dorji if we can visit an astrologer, but it’s something that takes time to arrange. And besides, he explains, I must go with a specific question or problem, of which I have neither. He offers an alternative; we can throw dice the next time we’re at a dzong.
When the time arrives, Dorji speaks to the monk, who disappears into a back room. He emerges a few minutes later, with an ancient brass tray holding three dice, which are ivory and impossibly old. “Each dzong has good numbers. The ones here are 9 and 14.” I am instructed to have a wish or hope in mind as I roll the dice. I concentrate hard, squeezing my eyes shut. “I want to be happy and find my purpose in life.” I release the dice, holding my breath. The number is neither nine or 14. The monk murmurs something. “A good number,” Dorji translates. I am guided to roll again. This time it’s 13. “Another good number. This is a good wish,” concludes Dorji.
I am confused, so Dorji tries to explain. “Sometimes we wish for things that are no good.” I think I understand: they are hopeless dreams that have no chance of being fulfilled. The dice tells you if it’s something worth wishing for. If you roll good numbers, it’s a worthwhile dream. “And if it comes true, then you know Buddism is true.” He says it with such conviction and clarity that I can’t help but believe in the mystery.1 comment
Saturday, September 13, 2008
We awake this morning to clear blue skies and cotton ball clouds perched above the densely forested peaks of Bhutan. From outside our hotel we can turn our head left and right and see the whole of Thimphu’s main drag – the only capital city in the world without a traffic light. Instead, a traffic cop in a smart navy and white uniform directs traffic from a colorful pagoda in a the town’s main traffic circle. His arm gestures are graceful and precise, the white gloves flashing in elegant sweeping motions. To the left we can see a beefy pick-up truck marked “Police” in English, with a crowd gathered close. Our guide, Dorji, dressed in a heather gray gho, the national dress for men, required to be worn during business hours, approaches, and we hop in our Kia Sorrento. “What’s with the crowd?” we ask. “Dead body.” This is not what we expect to hear. Bhutan is a very small and very safe country. “I don’t think it’s murder, though,” continues Dorji. “I think he, like, drink too much or something and falls.” Still, it all feels a little surreal, just like when we see wisps of smoke billowing up from a house in the valley later in the day. “You see that smoke?” asks Dorji. “That is where people are cremated. Everyone from the province goes there when they die.” Everything is more raw and real and vivid in Bhutan, life in Technicolor.
Bhutan is known as “The Last Shangi-La,” and it’s evident as soon as you arrive at the Drukair ticketing counter at the airport. We are issued hand-written boarding cards, and are disappointed when we learn that, despite arriving three hours before our flight, all the seats on the left-hand side of the airplane are taken; these are the seats that offer dramatic views of Mt. Everest, promising the most stunning scenery you will ever see from a plane. Just as we walk away from the ticket counter, the agent runs after us. “You are very lucky today,” he says. “I have seats for you on the left side.” Everything about this trip has been guided by a divine hand. In Istanbul I searched, unsuccessfully, for Beyond the Earth and the Sky, an obscure Bhutanese travel memoir. When I got to Jordan, Kristi had a friend who loaned me the book – a friend who grew up in the same, small Canadian town as the author. I am not surprised when fate has stepped in once again.
We are greeted by flight attendants wearing delicate lavender kiras, the national dress for women. The cabin is a mix of Bhutanese, Indians (most of whom deplane in Kathmandu), and older American and European tourists. We are by far the youngest ones of the bunch. As we drop out of the clouds outside of Paro, my eyes have a difficult time registering the spectrum of greens that I am seeing. It looks as if a great patchwork quilt has been draped over the countryside in every shade imaginable: jade, lime, mint, sage, moss, evergreen, grass, emerald. We are just outside the airport, notorious hinterlands of industrial cement buildings, and there are more trees than I have ever seen in my life. Towering pines elbow each other for space, and it looks as if we’re going to crash into the side of the mountain: we are that close. Soon the airport comes into view, and I have never seen anything like it. Each building is constructed in the traditional architectural style: trapezoid rooflines, intricate wooden cut-outs, brightly painted designs. The main terminal looks like a Buddhist temple.
Our passports are stamped, the exit date and tour company hand-written in ballpoint pen. We meet our guide, who is not much younger than us and speaks excellent English. Bhutanese youth learn English in school, and most signs in the country are written in English. But for such a small country – only 600,00 people, about the size of Albuquerque – there is an astounding number of dialects spoken. Still, some Bhutanese, especially those educated abroad, choose to speak English, even amongst each other. “It’s a pride thing,” explains Dorji.
As we drive into Thimpu, we learn that the road connecting the airport and the capital city has recently been improved for the king’s upcoming coronation. In fact, there are all sorts of construction projects taking place. The drone of heavy machinery and pick axes hitting stone soon becomes Thimpu’s soundtrack. “The coronation was supposed to be last year, but the astrologers said it wasn’t auspicious. We just learned three weeks ago that it will be in November.” It will take place in the soccer stadium, another traditional building that looks as if it were built hundreds of years ago, not your average sports arena. The new king is only 29 years-old, but his father decided to retire. When we visit the School for Traditional Arts the next day, all of the students are busy with projects related to the coronation, from weaving fabrics to constructing ceremonial garb. For most Bhutanese, this is the first coronation of their lifetime, and there is obvious excitement in the air. We learn that the current king lives not in a grand palace, but “in a small cottage.” As we’re walking down the street one evening, an American gentleman we met here leans in and whispers, “That was the prince who just walked by.” We twirl around to see four young men ambling off, three dressed in jeans and T-shirts and one in a traditional gho. There are no bodyguards. This is Bhutan.
Everything about Bhutan is unique. Of the utmost importance to this nation is preserving its cultural identity, from its dress to its architecture and natural environment. Even the national animal, the takin, is extraordinary. “We’re going to the zoo,” said Dorji. When we arrived at The Takin Reserve, we were confused by the presence of a singular fenced area. “Our zoo has only one animal,” explained Dorji. The takin has eluded taxonomists, looking like something between a cow and a goat. Its curly horns are affixed to a great shaggy body, not unlike Scotland’s Highland cattle, but with a much flatter head. As we entered the Reserve, a wooden sign told the story of how the takin came into existence – a myth involving The Divine Madman bringing a heap of cow and goat bones to life through his magic. Everything – from unusual animals to lightning strikes – can be explained through a secret, hidden meaning. Mythology and symbols rule the day.
I find myself struggling to adequately capture this remarkable country in this limited venue. If I have piqued your interest in any way, I highly recommend checking out Bhutan’s national newspaper, Kuensel, which can be accessed online at: www.kuenselonline.com It will put you on the pulse immediately. (Today’s cover story, for example, involved a recent lightning strike producing a namcha, a stone with magical properties.)
I also recommend Beyond the Earth and the Sky by Jamie Zeppa, as well as the Bhutan chapter of The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner.
I am writing this post from Bhutan, proving that you really can get Internet access anywhere in the world! I have two posts ready to go (one from Jordan, one from India), but we can’t get the USB card to work on this public computer. However, wanted to let everyone know that we’re here, having just flown into the most pictaresque airport that you can imagine. This place is extraordinary, and we’re so excited to begin exploring tomorrow.No comments