Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Flying into the smoke

The smoke was denting as we flew closer to home from Vancouver.  Here are some photos. It was even denser in Castlegar, but the (female) pilots did a great job of the scariest landing I have had. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Takin Reserve

There is a reserve in Thimphu for rescued animals. The first photo is of a takin, the national animal. Everyone says they are lazy looking. They do seem to move slowly. The young ones were running and jumping and chasing and wrestling. They remind me of the Bhutanese people, slow, steady, strong, fierce looking and resilient. Although the people are not as unfortunate looking as the takin. The second picture is of a barking deer and 2 goats. 

Paper factory

Traditionally paper is made from the daphne plant. Here from white daphne, in the past from black daphne. 

Leaving Bhutan . . . Again

I am actually in the air nearing Taipai.  I left Bhutan on the 22nd of August and spent a night in Bangkok.
After Chukha we had a day in Thimphu. The Mountain Echoes Literary Festival is a big event for writers, both Bhutanese and other.  Actually I get the feeling that it is a lot of work for the Bhutanese.  There are speakers, book launches, films, performances and art.  On Saturday morning we went to a book launch. A very interesting book by Serena Chopra. She began photographing Bhutanese in 2003 in remote areas of the country. She spent  about 6 years travelling and taking black and white film photos with her Hassleblad camera. It sounds as though she made a personal spiritual journey through that time also.  She met the Queen Mother unknowingly at first as Serena was a business woman and was shutting her company and donating goods. She came across the Tarayana Foundation which was created by Her Majesty and donated a lot of household goods.  A book of her photos was published, but another publisher asked her to create a bigger book with text from her journals.  The three women were on stage, talking about the book, the process and the Bhutanese. The first edition was presented to the Prime Minister. Those of you who have been in Bhutan will be able to imagine and picture the ceremony and simplicity combined of such an event. Lots of standing and sitting and standing again as officials and royalty enter, stand and sit. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Foggy Chukha

Visit to Chukha

On Wednesday night 4 of the 5 volunteer teachers travelled to Paro. We stayed at the Gamgtey palace. I had the room where Andrea and I first stayed in 2013 and the couple that was with us had the beautiful corner room that Rob and I were lucky to have before he flew out. 
The other teachers were headed up Tak Sang on Thursday morning. 
At 6:45 am Palden and I got on a bus that was headed to Samtse, and rolled down the foggy road to Tshimilakha. Luckily the fog lifted enough to be able to have a good view. We got off at the zero point and did the walk up to town that we did together so many times in 2013. We were both nervous and excited as we were surprising our old Chukha high school friends. Well the effect was overwhelming. My face is still sore from the enormous grin I had all day. First in the village, then I went alone to the staff room while Palden waited for Chimi Pem to get her a Kira. The look on teacher's faces when they saw me was heartwarming. We had tea, then my class 9 students gathered around. I also visited them in their classes and chatted. 
Anju planned to have Palden and I for lunch, but the women all wanted to hang out so we went to a new hotel in the bazaar for fried rice. Then to homes to visit the babies. I did not have time to return to the school for more visits and photos of the students, which I regret. The fog closed in and we took a bus to Thimphu. Passang, the BCF driver, called and the gang met me at Chuzom, which was awesome because Palden and I had time to say good bye. I have so many rich memories of my year at CHSS - it was a wonderful day.

Gas cylinders

This photo goes back to Bumthang. The night before the long drive west I did not sleep well. There was a lot of noise outside, all I could imagine was someone in the fields clanging  pots together to keep the wild boars and the bears away from thier crops. That would not be unusual in the countryside, however we were at the River Lodge in Chamkar. When I woke up there was a traffic jam in front of the gas station and lots of horn honking. A delivery of propane cylinders had arrived the day before and everyone had lined up to exchange their empty cylinders for full ones. They arrive by truck from Phuntsholing, so they make the trek across the bumpy road... 
Here is a photo of the cylinders lined up, in order along the highway below the lodge.