Thursday, March 21, 2013

International Happiness Day

You've got to love a country that urges the United Nations to add an International Day of Happiness to  the already long list of days to observe around the world.

It was only last week that hushed rumours went round to let us know that the government had announced the official holiday for Wednesday the 20th March on the BBS (Bhutan Broadcasting Service).

The Kuensel (national English newspaper) reported that the Prime Minister hoped Bhutanese citizens would take 'the opportunity to think, reflect, contemplate and meditate on what we need to do to attain happiness.'

I took up the challenge wholeheartedly to pursue happiness for the day, perhaps a very western and unenlightened way of going about things, but we had a thoroughly enjoyable day together as a family.

Food rates highly when it comes to happiness for me. We started with buckwheat pancakes with organic plum jam and local honey and tea at our new dining table. Sunlight streamed in and we gazed out serenely at the himalayas. Pure delicious happiness!

Next, more culinary happiness, I set to work to bake my favourite chocolate date brownies in our toaster oven. I think Bill Granger (Australian celebrity chef) would smile to think that his recipe brought us much happiness in far away Bhutan. I wrapped some up to share the joy with the principal and his wife.

We packed a thermos of tea, sandwiches, fruit and of course the brownies and started off down the road heading towards a small monastery on a hill in the distance. A brief stop at the momo shop and we had a bag full of vegetable cheese momos and chilli sauce to add to the picnic.

Remy threatened to disrupt the happiness of the day, whinging about his broken toy phone until I carried him and he feel asleep, quiet but heavy.

We found a way to cross the river and then decided to put Remy down for a nap on a bed of pine needles rather than carry him up the steep hill. We broke open the picnic supplies and sat on the side of the path, looking over the river and across to Chumey. Of course Remy woke up when he smelled all the food.

A villager carrying a basket on her back came towards us and stopped to take in the unlikely scene. Sadly our Dzongkha skills are very lacking when it comes to small talk: she talked to us in Dzongkha (or it could have been another local language for that matter) and we replied in bewildered English. When we were ready to move on we all climbed the hill together and she waited for us while Remy and Xavier walked slowly and carefully on the narrow path.

At the top of the hill, we came to the little monastery that we look at from our window at home. It was deserted, so we climbed over a stile, heading towards some ruined homes that lay beyond.

All the way I had enjoyed taking photos of the early signs of spring, especially the beautiful pale pink peach blossoms. As we descended through the ruined village, the biggest and most beautiful peach blossom tree came into view. Remy and Xavier ran to sit under what Remy thought was a 'fairy-floss tree'.

Meanwhile the lady we had walked with had returned home and then came to find us and invited us for tea. It was a lovely offer, so we climbed another stile into their property, the only one in sight.

It was very special to be invited into their simple wooden home, and we were taken to sit in the altar room on a simple cloth mat.

The lady and her husband busied themselves lighting a fire, fetching water and making tea in another room while we surveyed the room we were in.

Eventually the lady reappeared with a large thermos full of sweet milky tea. Only four cups were filled: as is the custom here the couple did not join us for tea. We offered her some brownies and fruit which she took to her husband in the other room. After we had taken a few sips she determinedly refilled our cups to over flowing. Refusing was impossible, Bob joked that she would have poured it down his neck if he hadn't allowed her to fill it!!

With warm tea in our bellies our host started talking to us in earnest, still we couldn't understand a word, but some universal hand gestures for 'give me some money' made it clear she was hoping her foreign guests would be generous. To seal the deal she showed us some children's boots in need of repair so we gave her some cash. She seemed to hope for more, but as we left everyone was happy again. What a strange exchange!

Anyway, we returned back the way we came, the sun still warm, and the pine forest fragrant. We had fulfilled the agenda for the day perfectly, taking a day away from the chores of life to find happiness in the simple things of life: family, friends, nature and of course food. I'd love it if Australia would consider observing Happiness Day too!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment