Here now and now here or nowhere

The title of this blog comes from a play on words that "now here" is also the same letters as "nowhere" just with a space added in the middle. I am always trying to get better at being in the here and now, and I've always been a bit of a joker so that is why I chose this name.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

PoTD - Hardly Chinese

They call it chinese food, and authentic at that, but the two places in Thimphu that serve Chinese food are nothing close to any of the chinese food I've ever had in my life.  At Chopsticks, the more known local chinese food joint, they serve sichuan rice missing the key ingredient... sichuan pepper.  Now this wouldn't be a big deal as it's hard to get in most parts of the world, except the peppercorn grows natively here in Bhutan.  It was a huge disappointment for me, as a Jew I need to have chinese food every now and then... it's in my blood (well, sort of).  Alas, I think I will need to wait till next month when I leave Bhutan to have proper chinese food again (I'm looking at you BKK Chinatown)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The dog goes to the farm...

Bhutan has lots of dogs in the country. Some are pets but most seem to be stray. Each lodge I work with has a few "lodge dogs" that they take care of but strays always seem to try to work their way in as well.  In Thimphu there was a stray who was barking too much so the staff brought him somewhere far away and dropped him off, leaving him to find new quarters. Somehow, me made it back.

At the Paro lodge, where I am housed mostly, there was a very cute new girl stray that had been hanging around recently.  She was adorable, and liked to follow me around and I really wanted to take care of it. But sadly, as I move around a lot for work and also will be leaving next month, it wouldn't make any logical sense.  Still, I liked the dog a lot and would feed it extras of my food.

One night I brought my dinner back to my room to eat in privacy. I had a plate of Indian food and also a little basket with raita and flatbread. I put the basket down a top of higher ledge near my door, opened the door and walked inside to put the plate down. When I went back outside to grab the basket, I also had a little meat for the dog. The dog was gone. He had followed me back but then disappeared. Was he scared of me? I couldn't find him anywhere, and then I noticed my bread basket was gone.  She had somehow gotten up to the ledge, grabbed the basket and then ran away. I was surprised and upset. Upset because I really wanted that yoghurt with my food and also I needed to bring that basket back tomorrow and now couldn't.

Luckily in the morning I found the basket and ramekin a few houses away with a mess of white raita everywhere around it.  I saw her later and was going to be upset, but she was too cute to be mad at. (see the first picture to understand why.)  However, it wasn't just me she was stealing from. Sometimes when guests would eat outside the dog would act all cute and beg for food. Then when the guests weren't too careful, she'd steal a muffin or croissant from the table. A smart but sneaky dog, and something you can't really have around a 5 star hotel.  So there was talk of getting rid of this stray.

I came back to my room the other afternoon and off to the side was a crate with food in it and a door open by wire.  Clearly a trap of some sort for this stray.  The dog had followed me back to my room, as usual, and then when it got the scent of food in the air she left me and headed for the box.  She was just sniffing all around it at first, not going in as it was like she knew what was up. But then she went in and started to eat the food. The cage had to have the wire pulled to drop the door, so I pulled it. I felt bad and conflicted.  I knew that the dog had to leave, but I really loved playing with it and looking into her cute cute eyes. But, it had to be done. And if not me, the security guy would have been over in a few seconds to do the same. In fact, when he got there he kept thanking me for doing it. Not that it made it any easier for me.

I hope this stray makes it back ok, but I'm not sure she will. I was told they'll bring it to a farm to play with other dogs and be taken care of and better fed. Hmmmm... does Bhutan have the same sort of fairytale story to tell the kids about dogs dying as we do in the western world?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten. Round 2

One of my favorite places to visit in Bhutan is Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten. It's a beautiful stupa on top of a hill overlooking a valley with a river running through it.  I find that I can have peaceful thinking when there, clear thoughts as well as this wonderful feeling of contentment from being in such a beautiful place.  This visit found me there during a festival of some sort. There were numerous monks praying and walking around as well as local people painting the surrounding stupas. I found out that the queen mother was going to be there as well, though I found this out after I left. Every other guest who went met her, but I sadly did not. :(

Last time I posted photos from here I didn't get a good shot of the chorten. This time I wanted to show you all a little more of the stupa itself. I wish you could all go there and feel the presence that is felt when at Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Takins... Round 2

When I was in Xian, China I discovered an animal I had never seen before. The Takin. A sort of goat meets cow hybrid of an Antelope.  The chinese one was yellow, these a darker color.  Sadly, I couldn't get too close as the fences prohibited this as well a making it hard to get a good shot of the animals. The Takin is the national animal of Bhutan, which makes sense as they are a very peaceful and seemingly happy animal.

The nature reserve also had a few other animals such as deer and antelopes of various sorts.  Not the most exciting of zoo type places, but always cool to see newer (to me) types of animals.

Friday, April 13, 2012

PoTD - Another Big Buddha

The title says it all.  It's another giant Buddha.  I've seen a shit load in China, Japan, and even in Mongolia.  So this wasn't the high point of being in Bhutan but still always fun to see.  What's odd is this is more of a Chinese style of Buddha vs a Bhutanese one.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The forest smelt of dirty sweaty sex / a marijuana plant grows in Bhutan

Going to the Khamsum Yuley Namgay Chorten in Punakha is one of my favorite places to go on Bhutan. It's beautiful up there and something magical/mystical flows through the air. Last time I got lost on my way there so this time I knew the way. I seem to always get lost on my walks in Punakha, it just sort of happens. I make the destination in the end, but always have to call my friend Navina to say "I'm lost, where do I go?" Almost on queue, 30 minutes after the call I arrive at the expected place.  She's like a lucky rabbits foot. :)

As I approached the chorten I remembered a story about this bridge further on that has a push cart type cable car thing where a farmer will pull you across, over the rushing river. Sounded cool to me and I thought it would only be about 30 minutes past the chorten so I could go and come back.

Well as tradition has it, the walk was much further, about 2 hours further. So as usual I felt lost.  I was wandering through thick forest and the deeper I went, the more I felt lost. It was wet and muddy and there was a smell of stale dirty sweaty sex. Sorry to make it graphic, but it's the only thought that was running through my nose. I'd get into clearings and the smell would be gone and then I'd go back down in the middle of it all and there the smell was. I kept looking for Bhutanese couples making out,  but none were there. It must have been something in the trees or in some flowers.

I felt lost at every minute, and I kept walking further. Why not turn around? Honestly, this cable car river crossing thing sounded really cool, too cool to miss out on. Plus I had time.  I lost the trail and re-found it, and lost it and re-found it again, for a few times. Met locals and asked them if i was on the right path. Of course they couldn't speak English nor I Dzongkha. It was hand motions and smiles to power us through.  At one point 3 cows and some herders passed me on this tight path, I had to scoot to the side to let the cows go past me. At a different time I dropped into this open meadow and a cow was staring at me. He turned around and started to walk away, almost as if saying to me, "follow me, I'll get you there." I hopped a fence with a cow locked inside (was worried it would attack me) and soon came to a small farmhouse.  The people inside spoke ZERO English but my charades like talking helped me convey that I needed to be pulled across the river. Luckily this was the house with the cable car.  As you can see below, it was a little different than one might expect. But super fun!

Once on the other side I found a bunch of fresh pot growing.  Now don't  misunderstand me.  I don't use narcotics anymore, nor have any urge to use. But I love finding it growing wild. I found some in China and Mongolia and was always looking in Lao for it.  It intrigues the child in me who you say "no" to and he therefore wants to rebel.  It's forbidden and mysterious and so draws you closer. Also, it smells really nice.

From the other side, I called my driver to come pick me up as I had no urge to walk back for another 3 hours.  This part of the countryside is a little less visited and as I walked down the road to meet my driver, cars driving by had very strange expressions on their face as chillups (white people) aren't usually in this area or alone on the road.

All in all it was a fantastic hike and a very nice day.

Paro Tsechu

Tsechu (literally "day ten") are annual religious Bhutanese festivals held in each district or dzongkhag of Bhutan on the tenth day of a month of the lunar Tibetan calendar. Tsechus are religious festivals of Drukpa Buddhism. The Thimphu tsechu and tha Paro tsechu are among the biggest of the tsechus in terms of participation and audience. Tsechus are large social gatherings, which perform the function of social bonding among people of remote and spread-out villages. The last day of the four day festival also marks the unfurling of the Thongdrel, a very large scroll painting or thangka, which is unfurled with intense religious fervor, early in the morning. This painting measuring 30 metres (98 ft)×45 metres (148 ft) has the images of Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) at the centre flanked by his two consorts and also his eight incarnations. Devotees who gather to witness this occasion offer obeisance in front of the Thongdrel seeking blessings. Folk dances are performed on the occasion. Before sunrise, the painting is rolled up and kept in the Dzong, untouched from any sunlight,  before it is to be displayed again one year later.

People will come in their very best clothes for these events.  You'll see amazing Kira's (the woman's dresses or skirts) with such intricate handmade details and stitchings that just blow you away. Sadly, I didn't take any pictures of them, though I wish I had for reference.

The last photos are of the 4th day. We woke at 2:30am to head down to watch them hoist the Thongdrel. It was beautiful to be there. Sadly, as I'm getting old, I found that it took me a few days to get back to my regular sleep schedule and to stop being so tired.

Monday, April 9, 2012

PoTD - YAK!!

Well, it's been over a year since I've been at high enough plateaus to see such a marvelous animal as the yak but on my way to Gangtey I came across a few of them just hanging around. I love yaks.  I find them to be very gentle and beautiful animals. The royalty of bovines, in my eyes.  Water buffalo are lovely as well, but in not such a majestic way.

Hello there, Mr. Yak!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

PoTD - Another Amazing Sign (which i don't really understand)

I honestly don't know why they can't just say first officers mess.  Is there a need to add the information about the second?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

watching weaving

Having been in Laos for a while, a place where textiles are such an important part of the culture, I've adapted a new found love for textiles and weaving.  Conceptually, it still blows me away. It's something that's been around for AGES, and is a part of every culture. Furthermore, when you start to see similar patterns and styles between Himalayan, SE Asian and even South American weavings, you can't help but feel this cultural connectedness in the world (as well as believe in the Beringia theory of how people came to the Americas).  I love watching weaving, because as simple as it is, I still never fully understand it.  I also love how you take a few strands of string and make something beautiful from it. Something from nothing.

I went to this weaving workshop in Thimphu, but sadly no one spoke any English to explain anything to me.  Take a look at some of these patterns and designs.  I tried to capture the weavers in the midsts of their intricate details work.  Also the colors and fine details were truly just dazzling.