Prayer Flags, Karaoke, and a Himalayan Mountain Kingdom.
I thought I’d give myself a little time before writing this post to settle in, especially after three days of laughably slow and rough driving on the “highways” and mountain passes to get to central Bhutan and unpack at Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment, aka my home for the next three months.
Between starting classes and exploring our beautiful little valley, I finally got the chance to sit down, transfer some photos to my laptop, and think about what a crazy few weeks it has been. Two weeks ago, I was landing on the tiny, mountain-encircled airstrip in Paro, Bhutan for the first time with the group of 21 students I’ll spend the next three months with.
Since then, its been a hilarious, inspiring, patience-testing journey through Thimphu (Bhutan’s capital) to Bumthang, the very remote valley that the UWICE campus is located in. We’ve learned about Buddhism while sitting in the shadow of one of the largest Buddha statues in the world, and walked amongst hundreds of prayer flags drifting quietly over the town below. We’ve given local women a good laugh by trying to put on the frustratingly complex traditional Bhutanese outfits (kiras), by ourselves.
In our less educational moments, we’ve tried out the surprisingly popular Bhutanese Karaoke scene, theorized on the lives of dog gangs that rule the streets here, and learned about mixing high altitude with Druk 1100 (the “super strong beer”) the hard way.
Now we are more or less settled into our days spent learning about this tiny Himalayan kingdom and all its quirks. The power will go out at comically inconvenient times, drying your sheets on the line will become a battle of wills against the temperamental weather (you lose), and no one will bat an eye when you almost cry at the dinner table because of an unexpected mouthful of super-spicy chillies- but you couldn’t pay me to be anywhere else.
“Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.”
— John Muir