Sunday, 8 June 2014

When is a restaurant not a restaurant?

Mouse tally still 54.

Last Saturday was a funny old day. The previous day a colleague had told me that I was Teacher on Duty for Saturday. That meant, I had to be at school by 6am to supervise the morning study of the boarding students. Needless to say, I wasn’t very happy about it – I’m not exactly a morning person and frankly I don’t think I should be at school on a Saturday at any time of the day.

Chumey main street, 6am Saturday. At least I wasn't the only one up!
Let sleeping dogs lie

“Oh by the way,” he said. The Teacher on Duty for Saturday also does Sundays. As I rapidly turned apoplectic, he quickly added. “Don’t worry; you only have to supervise the evening study on Sunday.” So, I get to have a bit of a lie-in on Sunday morning - I should be grateful for small mercies.

Now forgive me if I approached the school with some trepidation. The last time I was Teacher on Duty, 3 of the high school girls went sick. One literally collapsed in the assembly area and appeared to be wailing in tongues – (some of her friends said she was possessed by a bad spirit) she was eventually given a piggy-back up to her hostel (dormitory) by one of the strong boys and appeared fine the next time I saw her. 

Thankfully last Saturday went without incident; I performed my duties and all was well. There was a definite buzz of excitement in the air because the school was about to take delivery of some statues that had been ordered a long time ago. The school secretary had gone to the capital Thimphu in the school bus to personally take delivery. The statues are of various gods and will take pride of place in the school altar. Such statues aren’t just regular cargo; they have to be treated with the utmost respect. 
Now, whenever an important dignitary visits the school, they are met beforehand at the point when they cross into the district ‘city limits’ and then they travel together to the school. The same was true of the statues and I was lucky enough to be invited by the principal to accompany him to meet them. The meeting point is an unbelievably beautiful spot with an ancient monastery nearby. I was privileged to be given a tour of the monastery by a friendly monk called Jigme, known to many as Jimmy.

Jigme (Jimmy) leading us around the monastery
Eventually the bus arrived, laden with a multitude of cardboard boxes. Now, regular readers will know about my battle to get my T.V. fixed. It was last seen languishing in Thimphu awaiting repair. I had phoned the repair man about 5 times in total, trying to get him to fix the T.V. in time so that it could be collected by the school secretary on his visit to the big city. Of course, on that very Saturday that the bus returned from Thimphu, I received a text message saying that I could now pick up my telly! Great timing! I wanted to text back but what was the point. I have no idea how I will retrieve my telly now – other than an 11 hour bus ride which I don’t really fancy right now.

Jimmy and I. He said he felt short!
After the statues were safely installed in the school altar, tea and rice were eaten and the mood was festive. By now it was around 6pm and neither Justine nor I particularly felt like cooking dinner.

“Let’s eat out!” Justine suggested.

“Great idea!” I replied. “Let’s go to one of the restaurants in the village.”

Now, there are several establishments with the word ‘RESTAURANT’ writ large above the door. The first place we visited had plenty of empty tables. The young couple who run the establishment looked visibly uncomfortable as we asked what food they were serving.

“Try next door,” they suggested, looking keen to get us out of the place.

We dutifully went next door and asked. Again, they looked decidedly uncomfortable at being asked to serve food in a restaurant.

“It may take some time” they said. Can you come back at 8 o’clock?

“Hmmm, not really,” we said. We rather wanted to eat now.”

“Try the KTM bakery,” they suggested.

“Will they definitely serve a meal?” I asked. Not keen to walk 15 minutes to a restaurant if we were going to come home empty stomached.

“Oh yes, they will definitely be serving meals,” came the reply.

A restaurant that's not a restaurant (as we know it)

Fifteen minutes later, we arrived at the bakery, taking care to fill our pockets with small stones to ‘deter’ the many barking dogs who can become quite aggressive once night falls.

“Do you serve dinner?” we asked upon our arrival.

They looked nervous. “It may take some time,” came the familiar reply.

But we can do you some noodles, or momos or puri if you like.

“We’ll take the lot,” we said, “Oh, and we’ll have some of your samosas too!”

I won’t claim that the food was very healthy – nearly everything was deep-fried. But we were just glad to sit down and finally eat some tasty food that we hadn’t cooked ourselves.

So, if you ever find yourself in Chumey on a Saturday night feeling slightly peckish, maybe you should just make yourself a sandwich!

A restaurant that is a restaurant (as we know it)

Not lobster but deep fried bread, mmmm....greasy!

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