Monday, 22 September 2014

Book, Book, Book! (What did the chicken say when he went into the library?)

Mouse tally: 94, the peanut butter (bait) was a bit old and so I was surprised to find a furry friend when we returned from our trip (see below). We’ve stocked up on peanut butter again and I expect to reach the century in the next few weeks.

The Divers have just returned from one of our regular trips to Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu. Regular readers will know, I have to go now and again to get my eye examined (a slight improvement on last time). The other reason for going was to buy some much needed books for the junior school library. There was no budget for books at all this year and many of the books are falling apart from repeated use.

We were very lucky because my friend and former colleague Elizabeth Turrell from Cudgen School in NSW offered to do a fund raiser in Australia to help Chumey School in Bhutan. Liz organised a school pancake day with strawberries and chocolate as toppings and very generously bought all the ingredients herself. This initiative alone raised around $280. Also, Justine was given $500 from one of her many schemes and she kindly donated the money to the library giving us $780 to buy books. That money goes a long way in Bhutan as books are specially priced here. In total we bought 280 books – that will really make a huge difference to the students here and it is nice to again have some new books that they will be really keen to read.

In October, we are going to organise a Chumey Reading Challenge in which students will be encouraged to read books at their level – we’ve kept a few books aside as prizes plus some games of Uno and Chess.

This has got to be a Dutch person's car

Just to go off at a tangent. We love going to Thimphu now and again as it gives us the opportunity to go out for dinner (the restaurants there really do serve food – unlike the ones in our village) and personally, I was desperate to buy another bottle of the extremely pricey (but oh so yummy) Kikkoman soy sauce (equivalent to about two thirds of a day’s pay for one bottle). What I find very strange about Thimphu (the nation’s capital) is that there doesn’t seem to be many street names. Directions are given in the form of e.g. “Walk past the Ambient Cafe, turn right at the policeman who directs traffic and the shop is on the left hand side. That’s fine as long as you’re near to the centre but it gets tricky once you go further afield. A Japanese friend invited us to dinner at her house and the taxi driver didn’t have a clue how to get there. We had to call her from the taxi and she somehow managed to explain to our confused driver. 

Country bumpkins enjoying dinner out and city lights
Incidentally, our hostess (Kimi) recently cycled from Bumthang to Thimphu in 16 hours in the Tour of the Dragon race. It’s about 270km and needless to say it’s a bit hilly. Unfortunately, the worst stretch is very close to the end so I would just like to publicly acknowledge what a star Kimi is for finishing in such a good time.

Only in Bhutan would you find a shop dedicated to monk wear

Only in Bhutan would you find chillies drying on every street corner

Did I ever mention before that Bhutan has no traffic lights? At the one big intersection in Thimphu they put some in but nobody liked them so they removed them and re-instated the traffic policeman and he has become quite a tourist attraction.
Another great thing to do in Thimphu is go to the post office and buy some stamps with your own photograph on them. You can either bring your own photo or they will take one of you. We chose to have them photograph us in a family shot and now we have a highly exclusive set of stamps that we are a little reluctant to use on postcards. Justine doesn’t like to admit it but she is a closet stamp collector and I think she wants to put all the stamps into her album.

Our family stamp

Memorial Chorten in Thimphu
Of course, any trip to Thimphu involves a very long bus journey – it usually takes about 11 hours as you usually get caught by at least one road block and have to wait while they work on road widening or clearing the road after a landslide caused by heavy rainfall. The monsoon season has just about finished (next Tuesday is known as Blessed Rainy Day) and officially marks the end of the rainy season. So it’s a great time for just looking out of the bus window as you drive slowly along the winding roads. Most people consider Autumn to be the best time in Bhutan as it’s not too cold and the views are at their most spectacular with verdant fields, vivid blue skies and lots of fluffy white clouds.

Loading up the bus
Another great thing that we did was buy a nice loaf of brown bread at a Seasons pizza restaurant in Thimphu. It’s funny how you can take bread for granted in the West but the only bread we can buy in Chumey is sugary white stuff that doesn’t taste nice at all. I felt like Charlie Bucket staring at that loaf of bread and it was such a treat to finally get home and eat it toasted with butter, Marmite (specially imported from England) and eggs on top. Happy Days! 

Drying meat out the front of our bus lunch stop, we all ordered the vegetarian option and really appreciated eggs on toast for dinner!

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