A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: pebergman

BYE BYE TO BHUTAN

Leaving the Dragon Kingdom

sunny

These 5 months in the Land of the Thunder Dragon have flown by....whoosh!

The highlight of the last month was a trip to the central part of the country with a wonderful group of American tourists who invited us along. Having spent now a total of two years in this country, I suppose we do know something about the ex-pat life in this peaceful Buddhist country. But rather than give you the details of this area (which I wrote about in more detail in my last blog done in 2014), I will simply send you more pictures with some captions---again, just to give you a sense of how different, delightful, and eye opening it has been to be here.

First of all, let a yak say hello to you.large_9A03F176DE9F67F43DF8EED8EB0F784B.jpg
and then let a New Mexican smile at you:
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and lastly, let a headlight blink at you (I want to do this to my Subaru):
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And now, just simply enjoy these pictures and captions.
Art and beauty is everywhere---in the rice harvest and in the prayer wheels (note it is an antler that is ringing the bell)
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My favorite dzong is this one in Punakha, which will now be forever connected to the sad memory of learning the election results:
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We visited a secondary school. Here's the morning school assembly and a kid with attitude:
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Then there's this wacky foreigner telling a story and the same one teaching the hokey pokey. After all, the Bhutanese also needs to know what it's all about,right?
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We saw old monks and nuns--
a nun washing her socks and a happy old monk in the countries only old age home, just for monks.
(A favorite bumper sticker I once saw: After enlightenment, there is still laundry.)
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We saw young monks: boys will be boys? and teenage monks
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We saw young nuns and a monk band:
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We saw hard working people rebuilding a dzong and others carrying wood for the winter.
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We saw simple barns, a water powered flour mill and a magnificent monastery with dancing monks (all in celebration of the black necked cranes returning to the Phobjikha valley):
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We hung prayer flags and poised for pictures with well dressed Bhutanese men (I am wearing the traditional dress for women, called a kira)
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Here are some better pictures of the handwoven kiras---stunning textiles!
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This part of Bhutan is big into phalluses: Wonder where the toilet is? + How would you like to be blessed with this red one? Hope she doesn't mind.
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The highlight of this time was the return to our favorite Tshechue (festival) in the small village of Prakar. The monks dance in the courtyard of an old monastery. It lasts for hours and just by being there you gain merit for your next life. We were thrilled to be so close to the dancers. I took a thousand pictures but have selected a variety of the best for you. Perhaps merit is also gained by simply seeing the pictures!
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Can't embed these videos but here are the links if you want to see them on u-tube.
First one is 9 seconds of the monk band. The music is quite eerie. I want one of those drums!
[[https://youtu.be/g10p03fl1Ic]

And here is 22 seconds of dancing monks, music and all. Amazing.[[https://youtu.be/r8Q5Sb3qSjM]

Recently saw a sign for a coffee shop called Karma Coffee: No menu. You get what you deserve.
Yes, the Bhutanese do have a sense of humor!

Driving to the central part of Bhutan took us 12 hours, averaging 12 miles an hour. Flying back home took 1/2 hour---with a spectacular view of the Himalayas:
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One final photo for you----at Chele-la pass, a place that can literally take your breath away. That's Jomolhari in the background.
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This is probably my last blog. We leave here 12/10, with stops in Thailand, Saipan, Berkeley, Oregon and HOME Jan 1st.
Thanks so much for reading this.
Much love to you all,
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Phyllis

Posted by pebergman 01:38 Archived in Bhutan Comments (2)

Odds and Ends

The quirky and the strange in Bhutan

Dear ones all,

I have these little bits of tidbits to share with you---not enough for a full blog, so will group them together---may they make you wonder or smile.

Just coming out of the house the other day and saw this around the sun....never seen anything like it!
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As you know, I adore odd signs. Here are a few worthy of a picture:
Yaks do the clean up here!

Yaks do the clean up here!


The Indian Army organizes much of the road work here. The roads disintegrate in a few years, but thankfully, the signs last awhile
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Some of the hiking trails have these painted bins for trash. It's a good idea but they are rarely emptied. I like the thought tho---even if the English is a bit off.
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Bhutan has LOTS of holidays. Perhaps one of my favorite is the day for the blessing of all tools and engines. All mechanical businesses take the day off so they can get their parts blessed and decorated!
A festooned gravel crusher.

A festooned gravel crusher.

Roadside stall to get what you need to decorate your car.

Roadside stall to get what you need to decorate your car.

This picture needs no explanation:
Resting dog

Resting dog


Well, maybe it does---I think someone had a little extra hair dye....

Speaking of canines---they have an important role here:
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Thimphu has an amazing huge Buddha statue on the side of a hill. We can see it from where we live. Around the base are larger than life figures and everybody loves to play with them:
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The Buddha itself is magnificent:
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There are some strange foods at the local market---not only fruit we've never seen but also yak cheese that look like hockey pucks
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and ferns
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If you have been to Bhutan, you know the Bhutanese adore their kings. If you have never seen a picture of the present King and Queen of Bhutan, then feast your eyes:
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After 5 years of marriage, the produced a baby boy--the next King. The nation is nuts about this baby--and they should be!
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Here are just two of the hundreds of events and celebrations in the name of the new prince:
This is from a power point presentation at our college .Many Bhutanese have pictures of the baby or the K and Q as their screen shots.

This is from a power point presentation at our college .Many Bhutanese have pictures of the baby or the K and Q as their screen shots.


A dance contest dedicated to the prince.

A dance contest dedicated to the prince.

On a walk one day, this kind woman came out to give us some apples from her tree:
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And this is the ladder she climbs up and down just to get into her house...yikes!
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Archery is huge here (the national sport) but so is KURU, or darts. These aren't your puny darts of childhood!
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One of the many things that monks do is to make these elaborate butter decorations. It's close and difficult work. Eventually the butter sculpture is put outside to dissolve in the sun and rain, reminding you of the impermanence of all things.
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And with that, I'll end here.
But with the promise that I will continue to look for the quirky and strange things in this most amazing and impermanent world.

Posted by pebergman 17:58 Archived in Bhutan Comments (1)

A Hike to Heaven

where the air is thin and lungs are working

There are numerous mountain passes in Bhutan. The Himalayas are the youngest mountain chain on the planet, and as a result the mountains are steep, the tops pointy and the passes are literally breathtaking. The closest pass to our house is Dochu-la , a mere 3,150 meters (10,330 ft). It is usually misty and cloud covered, but on this spectacular day in October, the spread of the majestic Himalayas could be seen all around us. At the top of the pass are 108 Chortens. 108 is a very auspicious number and you see it repeated in many places in Bhutan. Each Chorten is supposed to connect heaven with earth. I think that worked here!
Rick, a friend with her two dogs, and I cranked up our rickety 800 cc Indian car and started out for the pass. It was not an auspicious beginning as both dogs puked in the car (need I say the road is winding, steep and rock strewn?). But with several mantras of I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can, the little engine that could did finally make it up the pass.
But that's only the beginning---there was still a 3 mile hike up to a small monastery that overlooks at least 6 steep valleys and a dozen snow capped peaks. Up we hiked---and up and up. The day was gorgeous, the sky was clear and it was totally worth the effort.
It was, in short, exhilarating (and yes, breathtaking, too!) Enjoy the pictures:
Happy to be here. Snowy peaks in the background.

Happy to be here. Snowy peaks in the background.

A few of the 108 chortens connecting heaven to earth

A few of the 108 chortens connecting heaven to earth

Prayer flags everywhere, all sending peace to sentient beings

Prayer flags everywhere, all sending peace to sentient beings

This is the highest unclimbed peak in the world

This is the highest unclimbed peak in the world

After several hours, our first glimpse of the monastery

After several hours, our first glimpse of the monastery

Looking down

Looking down

Monk at the temple..note the hats they wear for sun protection

Monk at the temple..note the hats they wear for sun protection

Lunch with a VIEW!

Lunch with a VIEW!

Phyllis amid white prayer flags

Phyllis amid white prayer flags

Taken from the temple window

Taken from the temple window

Hike back down, amid more prayer flags

Hike back down, amid more prayer flags

I do believe we touched a bit of heaven here.

If you are feeling stressed in this mad election year, take 9 seconds to watch my video of prayer flags at Dochula. The fresh mountain air of Bhutan will send the blessings of peace right to you!
With love,
Phyllis

Posted by pebergman 02:56 Archived in Bhutan Comments (2)

Oh, those dancing monks...

THE THIMPHU TSCHECHU

OK--so what in the world is a TSHECHU? When you say it, it sounds like you're sneezing.

A Tshechu is a religious festival held once a year in different temples, monasteries and dzongs throughout Bhutan.
It's the time when the monks dance! The dances are religious in nature and sometimes tell old stories, but without words. Many are based on stories from as long ago as the 8th Century, when Guru Rimpoche was alive.

Tshechus were initiated to thank gods for peace and prosperity and to invoke the power of the higher beings to grant us continued prosperity and happiness. It's also a very social time, when people from far away villages walk to the temple and spend the day(s) watching the dances, eating and gossiping with friends (Bhutanese gossip a lot).

According to the Bhutanese culture, it is believed that everybody must attend at least one Tshechu in their lifetime and witness the mask dances to clear all sins and receive blessings.

According to that, Rick and I have attended at least three Tshechus, so perhaps we are sinless (doubtful) but we are most certainly blessed (we're here after all!)

Better to just show you the pictures. You have to imagine eerie music from long horns and cymbals that accompany the dances. The Thimphu Tshechu is the largest in Bhutan. It lasts for three days and thousands come to see it. This year we all saw it in the rain.
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The crowd is amazingly patient, even the little ones.
They all wear their best kiras and ghos (the national dress) and are as colorful as the dancers!
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There is also a joker type guy who works the crowd, asking for small donations. He wields a large wooden phallus and if you donate, he'll bless you with it! Yes, of course we did that! Wouldn't you?
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Between the dances, the women come out to dance, all dressed in their best clothes.
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And even the dogs get in the act. What a place to take a nap.
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And here's a lovely police person!
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Here's a handsome Bhutanese family, all dressed up in their finest handwoven clothes.
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Despite the rain, we all enjoyed it. Plus, not bad to have all your sins erased and be blessed at the same time. Good deal.

If I had a wooden phallus, I'd bless you with it right now!

Posted by pebergman 20:30 Comments (1)

BACK TO BHUTAN

Here be the THUNDER DRAGONS!

Dear ones everywhere,

Sorry it's been so long since my last blog---just having too much fun, I guess.

It is wonderful to be back here in the land of Gross National Happiness, verdant green mountains and the smells and bells of Buddhism.

Briefly, Rick is here on a work visa for Royal Thimphu College (RTC). Here's a nice video done in August which gives you a brief overview of what it looks like here:
https://www.rtc.bt/index.php/prospective-students/447-take-a-virtual-tour-to-rtc.

Rick is working on RTC's data base development and loves his great Bhutanese team:

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We live on this beautiful campus at 9000 feet just outside the capitol city of Thimphu. The top apt on the left is ours:
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The campus has much of the traditional architecture you see everywhere in this small country:
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What am I doing? Much of what I did last time---teaching, traveling and enjoying reconnecting with old friends as well as making new ones. Here is a picture of me teaching at a small local arts school. My topics are about reproductive health, contraception and sexual consent. These topics are hardly ever discussed in the open here, but the students welcome a fresh and candid American approach. Or at the very least I make them laugh--either at me or in general--doesn't matter! We have a good time together. I also spent some time teaching all the 1st year college students here at RTC--same subjects, same level of embarrassment and all of it great fun.
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The rest of the time, we spend hanging out with monks

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hiking to amazing monasteries with incredible views

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or admiring the art
Sonam and Phyllis (1)

Sonam and Phyllis (1)


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door of a temple

door of a temple

It's really hard to take a bad picture here---there are views everywhere--and the people are so delightful.

I have just taken on a new responsibility here---that of the campus medical person--to be on called for emergencies.
It's not exactly womens' health, my specialty, but it will definitely be interesting.

Will leave it at that for now. There is so much to tell you about our lives here but you may get more of that in the next blog.

Love to everyone---
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Posted by pebergman 19:13 Archived in Bhutan Comments (0)

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