(I cannot get this blog to Weebly, so it is here!)
We left Thimphu for Gangtey. A long ride of very few paved roads. As a matter of fact, they were digging and making the road! It was a long 5 hour drive, fortunately with our guide sharing information and a few stops.
Few notes: 1. parent’s property stays with the daughters and their husbands would move it. 2. If marriage occurred and there wishes to be a divorce, then at court the woman always is right. If there is no certificate and divorce, then woman is not supported right away and court decides. 3. When a Bhutanese person goes for education outside of the country there is a mandatory two week orientation as a reminder of their Bhutanese culture. 4. Not exactly sure on this, 2 months later the university student sits for RCSE specific exam for position in the country. Could be about 3400 people hoping for 360 government jobs. 5. There are no special education classes. The wood carver we met has been taken cared for by the queen and he received his training to now create the wood products. 6. The government is beginning to see the importance of vocational education so there will be plumbers, electricians, etc. Our guide thinks it is important for parents to provide their children with direction of what career to pursue, and to reinforce the importance of education. 7. Free medical care includes surgery which may be done in Calcutta or if necessary then even out of the country. The government pays for the medical care plus the flight to wherever and back. 8. If a person has an alcohol, smoking or drug problem, the government will provide medical care; however, if a person continues to drink, smoke or use drugs and need help then that person pays for their care. 9. Military here is the Army, the police and the Royal Body Guard.
We took a village walk to see how Bhutanese homes are constructed. Window tops are like the back of Buddha. You can see head and shoulders shaped in the window frame. Bricks are made of clay and cow dung then dried before use. We went into a home, up some stairs into the kitchen and reception… a bird chart on the wall! Two back rooms for bed rolls on floor and an alter. Water is at a community pipe where people wash their hair and clothing. The woman’s husband is doing construction at a fortress that had a fire a few years back. Our guide said the people ran to the fortress and threw statues and important pieces out of the building to save them. Now this generation is rebuilding the fire-torn fortress somewhat like earlier generation of their family had first built the fortress. So they see it as a responsibility to do the repair.
Lunch was at a very nice place and I enjoyed the rice, potatoes with rice noodles in a sauce, and chicken. We learned how to say “I am happy”. Sem gaye…. Sounds like sem gi e….
Tibetans who live in this area have no citizenship card so they will never get a passport; however, they have all the Bhutanese rights: free education and free medical care.
Over paved, and barely paved, dirt, ruts, and winding roads we stopped at Dochu La mountain pass where there are 108 chortens (the designated number indicating death). In approximately 2001/2002 four Bhutanese were killed in a conflict with militant Indians who were warned to leave the area and did not. The Bhutanese army took action. At this location we saw the Himalayan Range; it was pretty clear! We had time to wander around the area and I waved to a herder and his son as they moved their animals in an area just down the road and below the road surface. A gift shop is here, and we had tea. It was a beautiful place to stop.
Our drive continued through areas where bulldozers and trucks were moving rock, gravel, dirt and all else for necessary road construction. The funny moment was seeing a young man trying to stop a barrel that was rolling downhill. He tried to throw rocks in front of it to stop it. The scariest moment may have been after some soft sand was bulldozed into place and our driver had to accelerate through it to keep moving and then squeeze past a truck on the other side. Other crazy moments were when the van was close to cliff’s edge. We would definitely roll down a thousand feet if we went over the side! Apparently an accident in Bhutan did just happen like that and was in the newspaper a few days ago. We found out we need to return on this road again in 2 days! I think we are fine with our driver and if it does not rain.
Another wonderful stop was to meet a woman on the roadside and another further down the hill who is actually a nomad. She has 40 yaks that have wandered down into the valley as she weaves pocketbooks, belts, etc dries her yak meat and cheese, and moves with the seasons. When it is time to go she will go where the yaks go. She packs up her home and moves her yaks higher in the mountains; now there is a wandering soul with purpose. We asked about her husband. He was supposed to be gone for a week and it has now been a month. She believes he will come back. She sells her woven products and seemed to be of good humor with some of her answers to questions we asked. I have to follow up on one thing our guide mentioned. She had a small amount of a caterpillar plant combo he called cordyceps. It is a medicine and most often wanted by Chinese travelers. The interesting thing to me was when I was in China a doctor felt my pulse and this was one medicine recommended to me. It has been 8 years since then and I had taken it for about 4-5 years since I could order it from Swanson Vitamins but I cannot recall the reason I took it for a period of time. Will check another time about that, plus I thought it was a fungi.this woman was planning to only have her 2 daughters go to school till grade 5, but the girls wish to stay in education and are now a few years beyond that grade. I was glad the girls chose education since they can always weave and work some day, and not solely live a nomad’s life.
Finally we are driving in Phobjikha Valley on our way to Hotel Dewachen Gangtey. This area is known for its potatoes and cabbage. As a matter of fact potatoes are exported out from this area to other Bhutanese villages and to India and Bangladesh. It is a beautiful area. The marshland within it is where the black-necked cranes land in their migration. We will learn more tomorrow about them, but unfortunately they are not here now for us to see.
The hotel is simply beautiful with its designs and woodwork throughout. My room has a wood-fired stove, which I will stock before going to sleep, and electricity that goes on and off every so often. There is no Internet so time to enjoy the views instead! A few of us played “Heads Up” after a delicious dinner of rice, pad Thai, mushrooms and cheese and a fruit salad that included pomegranate.
It has been a long day. I am looking forward to a hot water bottle in my bed and a good night’s sleep after I spend a few minutes with the stars in this very black sky. Need to be sure to carry a flashlight in case electricity goes out! The generator kicked on at dinner when lights went out and I suspect they will be out for the night. Got my flashlight in a ready position!
Sweet dreams, when nightfall comes your way!