I've come to one of the few coffee shops in town in
search of a decent wifi signal. Upon choosing a table outside I am
immediately joined by a very small little girl dressed in patterned
fleece leggings, jean jacket with sequined strawberries, fuzzy red boots
and a high pony tail atop her head. (Of course I didn't bring my
camera.) Her tiny teeth are rotting in her mouth and neither her Ama
her Auntie are anywhere to be found. Her brown hands are wrinkly and
dry, like those of an old dwarf farm worker. I've managed to gather that
her name is Nisha. We're playing a hilarious game of ducking under the
table and squealing as we pop up. After she spilled my cappuccino I
taught her to say "coffee is good."
I tried to entertain her
with markers and paper to draw on but she is much more enthusiastic
about stirring my coffee, licking the spoon and trying to stick it back
in my cup. She did finally managed to dunk the contaminated spoon with
only a sip left. I drank it anyway and she tried the last few drops
making a face that expressed serious doubt in my beverage tastes. Two
ladies at the table next to us just ordered her a brownie (after I
offered her a handful of cashews and she threw them at me) and with no
further ado she ran away. Later, I spotted her running hand in hand
through the parked cars with the parking attendant.
The living room
is filled with potted plants and in the past two weeks I witnessed two orchids bloom. Our little green children add a real sense of home
to the place. Life is
starting to feel more normal. I have my preferred veggie venders and have memorized the stock of the three import grocery stores. I've established a bit of routine tutoring for a French family and teaching Spanish twice a week. After a month of dancing with strangers on the sidewalks I've finally gotten used to passing people on the left. I still wave at the kids hanging their heads out the car/bus windows but no longer gasp when drivers stop without warning in the middle of the street to answer their
cell phones (it is illegal to talk on your phone while driving, but okay
to abruptly park your car in the middle of traffic). The Gohs
on motos are my favorite, whizzing by with their helmet heads and knobby brown knees exposed between skirt and sock.
Yesterday I ate a pomegranate directly off the tree in our yard. Today I found a litter of eight trash dump puppies.
|favorite look; goh paired with fresh Nikes and flat brimmed hat|
will never tire of the human rainbows that form when a group of
women walk down the street in jewel hued kiras
, and continue to marvel as they climb asphalted hills in stilettos, stepping down strategically from the three foot curbs. This is the only place I've ever lived where the
women actually smile at me when I walk past, and where a female
doesn't have to brace herself for a slurry of cat calls when approaching
a group of men. The only verbal bombardments are those high pitched
'hi, hello, good days!' that burst
forth from gaggles of children. I always try to time my afternoon
strolls with the final school bell, as the streets fill with kids in
their tiny gohs
toting picnic basket lunch
boxes. Anxious little guys immediately drop the top half
of their goh
and tie it around their waists for a more comfortable after school look. The teenage girls always grin sweetly and the boys, shy but
respectful, smirk and giggle when I pass. I make faces at the bobbling
baby heads strapped to the backs of their mothers, their sideways
raindrop eyes staring back curiously. The babes old enough to walk tumble around the streets like little Michelin tire men, barely able to stand in their mini puffy coats, furry hats
and fake Uggs.
haven't made any Bhutanese friends yet, but am hopeful that I will
eventually win their trust and pass the threshold from formality to
friendship. I still haven't quite gotten used to being called 'madame'
by everyone. Our Nepali cleaning ladies are two of my favorite people
here. We always manage to joke and tell stories in Nepali, broken
English and charades each afternoon when they come to tidy up the
apartment. I was invited to celebrate Diwali
with Jashoda and her family a few weeks ago.
|with Pooja Mishra and Jashoda|
|twins, Ram and Laxman|
|Joshada sent me home with leftovers and a mala for Michael|
|hiking with Lindsay and Vivi|
We do have a nice little group of chillup friends;
Ayesha from Los Angeles via Whidbey Island, who works as a conservator,
preserving ancient paintings and wall hangings in the surrounding
monasteries; Signe (pronounced Cina) from Copenhagen, working as a
freelance writer reporting on the state of Bhutan as it relates to the
Danish people (Denmark has had a Foreign Aid office in Thimphu for ten
years); Lindsay and Rebecca and their daughters Ceiba, Layla and little
Vivi, here from North Carolina working as a forester and nurse
anesthetist. We all tend to shy away from the larger
community of 'white people' in
Thimphu as they are largely made up of self-touted 'Legends', but it is nice to have some like-minded people around to share in the many frustrations and hilarious encounters.
|Halloween bonfire and pumpkin carving|
|the apartment kids|
|The pumpkins were eaten the next day by the Bhutanese families|
|his very first Jack o' lantern! |
|Michael's new favorite buddy. Not sure she would say the same about him.|
|Team Tandem playing in the final match of the futbol tournament. They won second place|
|kid at halftime|
|the country just celebrated the 4th King's birthday|
had plans to go camping for the last two weeks, but some sort of
Bhutanese virus ruined the first attempt, and the following weekends
socked in by clouds and fog made the idea of sleeping at almost 4000 meters much
less appealing. Finding gas tanks for camping stoves has also proved
impossible so yay (!) for eating cold meals at freezing temperatures. While my tent eagerly awaits it's Himalayan debut, the day hikes
have brought us face to fang with some
mean ass country guard dogs, jingle belled pack ponies, the new tween crush boy band, the future Bhutanese bobsled team and many painted penises...
|fall colors amongst the evergreens|
|post harvest rice fields|
|we gave him the 1...2...3...jump!|
|Bhutan's new heart throb sensation, The Jirry Boys. yeeeeah jerry|
|slum kids havin' blast|
|genius. making something from nothing.|
|Bhutan Bobsled Team. Kickstarter campaign to follow|
|complete with steering foot pedals|
As I sit in another coffee shop trying to publish this post, the world outside has turned into cotton candy. Every evening at dusk, the setting sun washes the sky in shades of sugar spun pink and purple, the mountains recede into shadows and the temperature drops faster than the sinking sun.
I'm dragged back inside coffee shop world by the two Legends
behind me team writing the next heart stopping, adjective injected book about the one and only, BHUTAN! Back and forth they toss one prophetic statement after the other. The cleverness of their descriptions is mind numbing.
This is where the wide world of chillups
gets their information about Bhutan. Let this be a lesson to you all the next time you read something about the Thunder Dragon.
Leave it to the burro to keep bringing you more real talk from this crazy place.