Monday, 11 August 2014

Holiday in the East - Part II

Mouse tally 82 - no good stories I’m afraid. It’s creatures of a smaller variety that are giving us trouble at the moment - fleas! Yes, our house is made of untreated pine and the fleas just love it. For some reason, they much prefer biting Justine to Yours Truly and she’s been on a bit of a mission to get rid of them. She began by spraying Mortein around but that had little or no effect and we weren’t too happy about repeatedly breathing in those fumes. Having consulted the internet, we’ve found that the best approach is to vacuum every 2 days to suck up the eggs and stop the breeding cycle. Justine also mops the floors with disinfectant and has water traps around the house to try to capture the blighters at night. It helps to control them but it does not eradicate them. We suspect that birds in the roof may bring a constant supply of new fleas to replace the ones we kill. Oh well, at least when it starts to get really cold again we should be ok. Ho Hum.

This post is (the long overdue) part 2 of my recount of our holiday travels.
It was sad to bid farewell to my fellow teachers with whom we had spent the last 5 days and also trekked together to the monastery. They were heading off to Lhuentse to visit a fellow teacher named Keith, then on to do a trek in Tang, Bumthang. The Diver’s decided that poor Keith would have enough trouble contending with his car load of visitors without having to deal with the stress of 3 noisy kids plus mum and dad in the house. 

A fellow teacher, Ash very kindly invited us to stay at her place in Trashiyangtse. Although the East of Bhutan is generally even hillier than the West, Trashiyangste is a delightful village; it has a proper centre with several residential streets that radiate out from it. The village is also home to Chortern Kora which is a very large chortern (stupa). Built in 1740, it is an imperfect copy of the Bodhnath Chortern in Kathmandu that many Bhutanese used to make the long and arduous pilgrimage to. The story is that a lama named Ngawang wanted to make a copy of the Kathmandu chortern to save the Bhutanese the difficulty of travelling such a long distance, he also needed a chortern to subdue the local spirits. He got someone to make a copy of Bodhnath Chortern by carving it into a radish. Sadly, by the time Ngawang had travelled back from Kathmandu to Trashiyangste, the radish had shrivelled somewhat and that is why it is not an exact replica. On a more sinister note, when the chortern was built, a girl from India was sacrificed (buried alive) inside it to appease a local demon. 

The chortern is in a beautiful location, very close to the centre of Trashiyangste and people come from far and wide to pray, turn the prayer wheels or simply walk around it. Buddhists believe that such acts build up merit that will help them to have success and happiness when they are re-born. Reincarnation is a firm belief in Bhutan and people talk of it as fact rather than faith.

Students fighting crime on the mean streets of Trashiyangtse!

On one trip to the chortern I saw loads of fire-flies. Everyone I was with had seen them many times before and couldn’t quite understand why I was so excited to see these little creatures with glowing bottoms – but for me it felt like I could cross that simple sight off my bucket list.

After 3 nights it was time to bid farewell to Ash and head back to Trashigang. Trashigang is a very pretty town but we had difficulty finding a good place to eat. Seriously Bhutan, isn’t it time you started putting a menu outside your restaurants so that passers-by know what food you serve! Every time you want to eat a meal you have to go inside and ask what they have. A restaurant may serve something fantastic and we foreigners wouldn’t know about it because we don’t know what to ask for. Hey, at least they served food (unlike the restaurants in Chumey) so I guess I shouldn’t complain too much.

Staying at the hotel in Trashigang, I felt I was in that movie – The Shining. We were the only people staying at this very large hotel. At night, all the staff left and we had the whole hotel to ourselves – luckily Johnny never showed up. There were no other guests because it is the monsoon season but we were quite fortunate with the weather most of the time. 

We took a day trip to Ranjung to visit fellow Aussie teacher, Travis. Travis took us on a botanical tour before the kids enjoyed an icy dip in the river.

After 2 nights it was time to head back on the long journey home. We were incredibly fortunate to get 5 seats on the bus because we were initially told that there would be no seats available for the next 4 days. The ticket seller very kindly phoned someone who had bought tickets and asked him if he would postpone his journey – and he very kindly let us have his tickets. How many other countries would something like that happen in?

The journey back was long and hot, and the bus had about double the legal number of passengers. We were all cramped like sardines with luggage and vegetables covering every square inch of the bus – but whenever someone tried to flag the bus down, he would let them onboard and we would all squeeze up even more.  Needless to say I was very pleased to finally arrive back in Bumthang.

We needed to do some food shopping, so we stayed at a hotel in Chamkar. We had arranged to meet our fellow teachers that we had trekked with to the monastery and it was great to see them again. They were all enjoying a very tasty pizza when we found them and after days of fried rice it was great to finally eat something a little more Western.

At the hotel I got talking to a fellow Englishman (Mark). He has a maths degree from Cambridge University and he was just about to begin teaching English at a nearby monastery. He was a little anxious about his teaching conditions and told me that he didn’t think his classroom even had a blackboard.

The following day the whole gang of teachers came to stay at our house and our washing machine was much in demand. Listening to the teachers talk about their living conditions, I realised how lucky we are with our ‘Western luxuries.’ One teacher – Mack – doesn’t even have running water and has to fill buckets from a tap 10 minutes walk away. Mack is able to do the Rubik’s cube (something I have never been able to do) – hey, he teaches maths, of course he can do the Rubik’s cube! He began coaching me and by the time he left I could do two layers. I really wish he could have stayed another day to show me how to do the whole cube but maybe I could find out from You Tube or something.

All too soon it was time to bid our fond farewells to our fellow teachers. I didn’t envy them the long journey back east to places beyond Trashigang. It was nice to finally be back ‘home’ and simply lounge around and read books. I really have been reading a lot of books in Bhutan. I guess that it the upside of having a T.V. with such a poor signal that it is almost unwatchable – but that’s another story.

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