The drive from the airport in Paro to Thimphu was only slightly terrifying. I had flashbacks to passing trucks on blind curves in Colombia. I'm told this is the best road in Bhutan...
We stopped on the side of the road to buy apples, the last of the season, and in a short two hours of my face glued to the window, we were home.
These beauties were the first smiles to greet me...
|Our humble home at the Rabten Apartments compound|
The house is bright, the windows filled with warm sunshine throughout the day. The grass is green and soft, (but I learned the first day that it will make you itch if you roll around in it). The compound is made up of several houses and apartments separated by gardens full of flowers even as the season comes to an end. There is a greenhouse with basil, thyme, dill, red lettuce, strawberries, and a new hydroponic system with young fish that will soon provide food and nourishment to the plants. There is a corn field, and chiles, potatoes, pumpkins, beets, swiss chard, an eve of grapes and a walnut tree. I feel like we're in the third world garden of Eden. The weather is perfect. Mid- 70's and sunny in the afternoons, the sun is strong and hot. A steady breeze moves in with sunset. Nights are cool and illuminated by the growing moon. I haven't slept this good...maybe ever.
Michael works during the day, of course, I spend the mornings lazily drinking coffee and reading in the garden. After lunch, I stroll into the city to people watch and buy vegetables. The roads are steep and my sea-level lungs think a casual stroll into town is training for Mt Everest. I stare at the men and women in their traditional goh and kira, and they stare back. Lots of curious eyes and faces quick to smile. They are some of the most beautiful people I have ever seen; wide, open faces with strong cheekbones and plump mouths. Eyes round in the center, perfectly pinched on the ends like a sideways raindrop. It is easy to see that they are happy people.
The city is bigger than I expected. The water must be boiled, then filtered through charcoal. The meat shops are rancid. The construction is terrifying. Terrible smells attack you as you walk along the open sewers that parallel the road. Trash piles up in every crevice, ditch, parking lot. The streets are splattered with red stains, spit from doma chewing mouths. Monks walk by on I-phones. Tourists are shuffled quickly past these dirty places. The "Last Shangri-La" they call it... and you laugh. But then you look up...
We were invited to a wedding on my first Saturday here. I borrowed a kira
from one of Michael's co-workers, and he wore his custom goh.
I could hardly breathe due to the belt that is wrapped tightly around the waist to hold the skirt in place. Shallow breathing and small portions of food are the trick to the kira game. But I was much too busy taking paparazzi pictures and gawking at the colors and intricate patters of the women's dress to worry too much about my sweaty discomfort. The event was a swirl of colors and music and tents and high monks and a local movie star and a quick appearance of the four Queen Mothers. A local version of Celene Dion's, "My Heart Will Go On" serenaded us as we proceeded through the buffet line.
The next day, Michael took me on an 'easy' hike to two monasteries just outside the city. He underestimated how long I've been at sea level. In my many pauses to catch my breathe, I began to understand what inspired all of the long-winded, metaphor ridden descriptions that I had read about the majestic landscape that is Bhutan. There is much merit in the exaggerated praises bestowed upon these mountains. They are breathtaking.
|Tango, monastic university|
|back side of Tango, meditation houses|
|butter coffee break|
|Himalayan duende forest|
|washing her hair|
|'No Girlfriend, No Tension" |
|notice upper right|
|so happy with her shot|
|Cheri, second monastery|
|new best friends|
|'cats and money'|
|hobbit playground/ medieval shoots and ladders|
|military training carrying 50lbs bags of cement|
|for Good Luck, of course!|
|just a little backyard archery tournament|
We caught a cab back to the city at dusk and the music paired with the
scenery made me feel like I was in a movie. An evening mate session to
round out the weekend. Mmmmm mate in the Himalayas... Patagonia would be