Saturday, January 26, 2013

Shopping for kiras... and everything but the kitchen sink!

This morning we embarked on the biggest mission of our time in Thimphu – shopping for all the household items we will need in our new home. All of the teachers will be moving to empty, unfurnished accommodation so we need to buy all the things that you need to get by in everyday life. It is surprising how much stuff that is, and for us with kids, it means many of the things we are buying are multiplied by four!

I opted for the most fun option first this morning – buying national dress. For women, this is a kira, a wrap around skirt, and a silk blouse. Actually this is a modern day, easy to wear version of the traditional kira which is usually a full dress with special brooches at the shoulders to hold it all together and a blouse and a jacket over the top. Lucky for us, we were taken to a shop which had readymade skirts in all sorts of fabrics and two in one blouses also readymade in a one-size-fits-all size that actually fitted me perfectly!
A pink and purple ensemble.

 Arwen (from Australia) goes for green and lilac.
Heather (USA) chose shades of blue.

 Valerie (Canada) chose red.
I intend to wear a kira to school each day as is expected of Bhutanese teachers. As foreigners we probably have a little lee-way in the way we dress, but after the Minister for Education’s talk yesterday which focussed a lot on the image of a teacher I want to present myself in a way that is respectful to the local culture and also shows how I value the cultural traditions of this country. It helps that I love the opportunity to dress up in vibrant, beautiful clothes (as I did when I travelled in India).

I ended up buying three skirts (pink/purple, green and gold with primary colour stripes) and five blouses that colour coordinate which hopefully gives me enough to last a week of wearing to school at a cost of just over $100. Just as we (the other girls and I) were nearly ready to leave, Bob and the boys appeared and it was the perfect opportunity for Bob to get his own gho which is the male equivalent. It is a long robe, similar to a kimono, which is worn over a white shirt and then hitched up and tied at the waist with a belt. Men wear knee length black socks with their ghos and in this weather still look a bit chilly!
Bob getting dressed up in his gho.

Xavier wasn’t keen to get a gho just yet, although his school uniform will be a gho when the time comes. Remy was already kitted out in his fancy dress – a batman outfit that Bob bought him yesterday.

After that Xavier and I moved on to start buying the household items. Let’s be frank, there are no ‘Harvey Normans’ here and so shopping for mattresses and bedding was a bit different to home. Basically there were a couple of options shown to me of which I opted for the most expensive hoping for the best quality. In a tiny shop that was packed to the rafters with products, I was able to buy a double and two single mattresses, double and single doonas and covers, blankets and pillows. It really didn’t take too long and our local ally Nyima was able to help liase with staff and label the items to load them in the BCF vehicle to take them back to the hotel to store along with all the other teachers’ items. In the process we were offered a discount of a few dollars on each item for buying in bulk, so altogether these items cost about $600. Quite a bit to spend in a morning, but considering  what they would cost at home, a good deal.
I love how this crossing sign depicts a man wearing a gho.

This older couple were sitting in the clocktower square feeding pigeons.

I’m by no means finished with shopping, but that was me all shopped out for the day, so I’m back for a rest with the boys while Bob goes out shopping for other items – a washing machine perhaps?

Tonight we are getting together with all the teachers for a dinner at our hotel to celebrate Australia Day. There are three other Australians in the group, and it is nice to share a little of our culture (vegemite on crackers, clip-on koalas and some made-in-China flags!) with the Americans, Canadians, British and Singaporean in the group. While some are attempting to dress in Australian costume (will be interesting!), I am going to wear my golden coloured kira skirt with a deep green blouse – green and gold! I hope everyone at home has had an awesome Australia Day in the sun and we’re thinking of you.


  1. ... there's no sun here for our Australia Day weeekend unfortunately - only wind and rain!
    I love, love your kiras!! (of course you chose purple!)
    How exciting this phase of 'setting up' is! Happy Australia Day x

  2. Thank you! Wonderful story, please keep them coming! With love x x