Thursday, January 24, 2013

First Impressions

I'm so happy to announce that after a year or more of planning, we are in Bhutan! I still have moments of needing to pinch myself to believe that we are really here in this almost otherworldly place.

It's been a busy first few days here, we're already into orientation which means getting to know our fellow teachers and meetings in the conference room and visits to important offices around town to orient us to our new work environment. 

The amazing view of the Himalayas from the plane.

Arriving at Paro airport.

 This is the moment I had been dreaming about for more than a year!

Xavier making his first snowball! We stopped for lunch at Paro and there was icy snow all around on the ground from snowfall a few days previous. The boys had so much fun throwing snowballs at us all!

It's a great honour to be among such an experienced group of teachers from a variety of English speaking countries who are so keen to be here and share their unique skills with their Bhutanese students. We're enjoying chatting over the breakfasts, lunches and dinners that we are served up, especially as our kids have found friends among the group already which has allowed us a little break from being the primary entertainers.

Xavier in particular has been 'working the crowd' and has very confidently made friends among the other teachers, finding himself a seat next to different people at every opportunity! Both boys have enjoyed all the attention,  and in particular have made friends with one of the new teachers, a recently ordained Buddhist monk from the UK. Remy has been calling him the 'funny man', and I find it very lovely to see him sitting on Thubten Senge's lap wrapped up in his maroon robe. 

Remy had a ride on Thubten Senge's shoulders up to the Takin Reserve.

Last night at dinner Xavier sent a Chinese whisper around the table to invite the group of twenty to our hotel for breakfast! Unfortunately the hotel needs forewarning for such a large group, but it has been arranged that the group will come for dinner at our hotel on Saturday night to celebrate Australia Day. We are staying a five minute walk up the hill from the others at the Yeedzin Hotel in a large room which has a separate living room and also a kitchen. We have a large bath too, and it feels like a real luxury to have a hot bath.

The Bhutanese people who we have met so far have really impressed us. We have been welcomed wholeheartedly and made to feel instantly at home. It has been surprising after our time in Thailand where English is not widely spoken that all Bhutanese we've had contact with speak perfectly fluent English. It's really refreshing to be able to strike up a meaningful conversation with locals (as we did at the toy shop this afternoon) and I look forward to make some Bhutanese friends. The eductional policy of school being taught in English has been very successful and allows the Bhutanese who already speak a number of local languages such as Dzongkha, Sharchop, Bumthap, Nepali and Hindi to have an international language that opens up opportunities for study, work and travel.

The boys have already made their first friend and are playing with him as I write. The toy shop owner's nephew Jigme at 5 years of age speaks excellent English and they are squashed together on a chair playing computer games. I feel really positive that the kids will have a  great time here - it has started so well.

This morning we were taken on a sightseeing drive around Thimphu, mainly to show us the shops, banks and government offices we need to visit. It's fascinating that all buildings here are built in traditional style with ornate paintings around windows.

Almost all buildings have these beautiful designs painted around the windows.

 The shopping areas where we will soon be buying up all our household supplies.

I bought a lovely supply of fruit and veg at the markets today for the boys who are in need of some plain and simple vegetables.

 The Yeezdin Hotel where we're staying.

 Xavier at the top of the 'piazza' area.


As a capital city, Thimphu is small and easy to get around on foot. There are no traffic lights: at the busiest intersection a policeman directs traffic by hand (at one time this was replaced by traffic lights, but the public did not like the change and the traffic lights were removed!). 


Approaching the main intersection in Thimphu, with a lady in foreground wearing a beautiful kira.
We took a diversion on the tour to the Takin Reserve on the outskirts of town where we could see the Bhutanese National Animal - the Takin, a strange looking, slow moving animal whose habitat is the high altitude mountains in the north of the country.


There are many shops but they are small and mostly sell a general supply of different things which means you have to pop your head in the door to scan the contents to see what they sell. There are no big western chains at all, and we visited one of the two supermarkets yesterday which sells a neatly organised array of mostly international food items, and has a scanning machine at the checkout, but is very small compared to supermarkets at home. It will be a good place for us to stock up on things like pasta, tuna, sushi nori, peanut butter and cereals before we head twelve hours east in two weeks time.

The weather has surprised us - in the middle of the day the sun is high above the Thimphu valley and it feels hot. At that time a t-shirt and jeans is sufficient. But an hour later when the sun goes down behind the hills that surround the city centre it is suddenly cold. The heavy down coat I bought on eBay has been perfect and along with gloves, hood, and thermals keeps us warm as we walk between our hotel and where our meals are served at the Dragon Roots hotel. We were told it was -3degrees yesterday morning as we walked to breakfast.

With little time to write in between orientation sessions and spending time with the boys, I will post this first post now and look forward to write more of my observations in a few days. Most importantly we are all settling in well, and enjoying being here in Thimphu.

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to Bhutan! Would love to hear more updates from a Chilip in Bhutan :).

    Have a happy stay!