Friday, 21 February 2014

Paul's Post 21/02/14

The King's Birthday

Today was the King's Birthday, so that called for a school celebration and half a day off! Also, very importantly, we were given Saturday off too. Yes, in Bhutan you have to go to school on Saturday mornings too. Personally I think they should shorten the very long winter holiday and give everyong Saturday's off in return - but I digress. The morning rush was even worse today as I had to wear my gho for the first time since arriving at my school. I accidently put Thomas's gho on first - they are such large garments that I thought it was the right fit for me. After Justine spent 5 minutes trying to dress me, we realised the error -needless to say Justine wasn't very impressed.

All the gho! - looking very snazzy in the national dress
When I got to school, I asked a friendly teacher to straighten my gho up and he practically re-dressed me. I'm glad I made the effort though as it really is a special day and the teachers all seemed to appreciate the gesture. After a speech about the King from the Principal we all went to the school hall for praying/chanting in Dzongkha which was very moving. As I looked around the large, cold hall I did not see one student giggling or talking during the prayers. There is a beautiful shrine in the hall and I was invited by the principal to light a butter lamp. It was a solemn, religious occasion in which the school monk took a leading role.

A monk prepares the butter lamps

Teachers cover their mouths as they light the butter lamps

A local toddler has a sneaky look at the proceedings

Once the ceremony was complete, we went to the playground for a generous helping of spicy rice, all washed down with a cup of butter-tea. It's a kind of pink tea with a large dose of salt. The rice was delicious but I don't think I shall acquire the taste for salty tea anytime soon.

Waiting patiently for rice and butter tea

Don't I look smart!

Thomas, Rinzin and the gang queuing for their spicy rice
 All too soon it was time to go and we headed home for a cup of salt-free tea before heading out on a short hike to a local nunnery with some of the school kids. Unlike the kids back home, these kids actually want to hang out with the teachers in their spare time. As we headed down the street, I felt like the Pied Piper as more and more children joined our merry throng.

One boy Rinzin only has the use of one leg and supports himself with a crutch. He refuses to exclude himself from any activity or let anyone help him. As I struggled to climb a particularly steep section of the hike I watched in awe as Rinzin almost flew up the hill.

A brief stop at a water powered prayer wheel

Thomas with his new mates
 I've seen a great deal of monks in this country but no nuns so far. Sadly when we got to the nunnery, there was just an old couple who explained that new living quarters were being built for the nuns and until then they would stay in Thimphu. Nonetheless, it was still a beautiful walk and lots of fun was had chatting to the excited children.

Let's hear it for the girls.

Our motley crew of hikers

On the road back home

A brief stop to watch some archery

Justine and I rounded off the day with a toast to his Majesty the King, with a shared bottle of the local Druk beer. It was our first drink in 2 weeks. I think I should write a post on our changed diet sometime soon. Until then - Happy Birthday your Majesty! Cheers!

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