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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Deadliest Roads in Bhutan

Leaving Thimphu for Bumthang

I'm sitting next to the the secretary of education (she's in orange)
During my two-week orientation in Thimphu, BCF spoiled us rotten.  We ate fancy Bhutanese food and had a fun schedule everyday.  We listened to several interesting lectures from the Secretary of Education, a Buddhist professor, the Minister of Education and we even got cooking lessons as well as Dzongkha lessons, which of course I am beyond help for cooking and Dzongkha.  It was fun hanging out with the other teachers all day and night.  The best part was the endless shopping we did during our free time for everything we thought that we needed: mattresses, mosquito nets, heaters, filter, rice cooker, curry pan, kettle, etc.  I made close relationships with some of the teachers in those two weeks and it was a little sad to pack up our home base, but I was also very ready to start the next chapter.

Pretty Views!
Loading Up the Bus
We loaded up a bus and a truck all the way to the sky.  It looked like the vehicle in the IKEA commercial and I prayed my plastic red tub wouldn’t fall off.  I actually enjoyed most of the 12 hour windy bus ride to Throngsa, but then again I got to sit by a cute and funny Australian, so what gal wouldn’t like that.  The bus went up, down, and all around enormous mountains just like in the reality show, Deadliest Roads.  The scenery was breathtaking with snow here and there, endless blankets of green trees, crossing yaks, waterfalls, and glimpses of clear rivers.  I was surprised that I had no problem looking out the window down 100 feet sheer drops.  I liked looking at the tires of the bus as they drove inches away from the edge of the cliff.  I felt like I was staring death in the eyes and a couple of times I whispered, not today friend.  It was a little chilling to drive around gigantic boulders that partially blocked the road and not knowing if at any moment some more could come tumbling down on us. 
8530 - 13125 feet above sea level???

Most of the ride was like a bumpy rollercoaster that sent some of the teacher’s stomachs tumbling.  It was almost impossible to film because I had no seat belt to hold me down.  The bus would throw me side to side or up and down along with the camera.  If you watch my videotape, I advise you to take a motion sickness pill and that’s not a joke.  You will even see people in passing cars sticking their heads out to puke. 

Tata Trucks
The worst part of the road trip was taking bathroom breaks on the side of the road behind any bush or boulder you could find.  I guess that I shouldn’t complain since I wasn’t one of the unfortunate ones who had diarrhea, carsickness, or altitude headaches.  Our bus driver was talented and maneuvered the bus with ease.  For the most part, we all felt like we were in safe hands, even when cars flew around us missing us by a strand of hair.  The funniest part was when we would get in old western standoffs with the Indian truck drivers who were traveling in the opposite direction.  There would only be room for one large vehicle to pass, so our bus and the Tata trucks would come to a stop, nose to nose.  Then the standoff would begin to see who would make the first move.  Once the truck drivers got out of their trucks to stretch or urinate, we knew we lost.  Our bus driver would back the bus up along the crumbling edge until he found a large enough space for the Tata trucks to squeeze by.  To top it off, all of this was done with no communication: not one word or signal.  Talk about skills! 

When we reached Trongsa we stayed the night for a day and said goodbye to several of the teachers because they were not assigned to the east.  Then eight of us hopped back into the bus and traveled another three hours to my location, Chumey, Bumthang.  I was the first to be dropped off and I started to get nervous about if I would have a squatter toilet or hot water.  I didn’t want to embarrass myself by crying if I didn’t like my new home.  I kept reminding myself of the prayers I said in California before I was given my location, which were to send me wherever I was needed the most or where God or the universe knew I could utilize my teaching skills the most.  I also prayed to send me to a location that could bring out my highest good or something better.  These silent reminders brought excitement running in my blood and I just knew it was going to be amazing.   

My Favorite River
The Wooden Bridge
When I arrived, I saw that my prayers had been answered and some.  Oh my goodness, the scenerary is unbelievably beautiful and it’s frequently compared to Switzerland.  The best part of my location is not the view of the forever rolling mountains covered in green trees or the prettiest school in Bumthang, but the most gorgeous river that runs just feet away from my door.   I fall asleep every night to the melody of the river and it’s music to my ears and heart.  The river is crystal clear and you can see that the bottom is covered in smooth rocks.  It also has huge boulders thrown everywhere, which makes perfect seats for basking in the sun or going fishing.  It reminds me of one of my most favorite places on earth:  Yosemite National Park.  I tell you, I am in heaven!  Some other favorite features of mine are the two bridges I cross everyday.  One is a cute bridge covered in prayer flags and the other is a suspension bridge that I love to jump on because it’s so springy.  I feel so blessed! 
The Suspension Bridge

My Room
When I entered my two-bedroom home, I was pleased that it was cute and doable for me.  There would be no tears.  They definitely have different building codes and tenant laws here than America, but it will do.  It just really needs a nicer paint job and a little TLC, nothing I can’t handle.  For now I have just banned myself from looking at the walls or up at the ceiling, which has lots of spider webs.  The floor is really interesting.  I feel like I’m mopping a boarded fence and my mop snags in the cracks.  The windows are also different from than the windows I’m use to.  You don’t slide them open instead they open like gates.  However, they are really cute and are painted with pretty flowers.  I like them!  Sometimes when I look out my window, a cow or bull peering in startles me and I laugh.

Front Door
Front Window
The doors are my favorite.  It took me a couple of days to get used to not having any door handles on any of my doors in the house, including the front door.  My doors are like barn doors made out of a thin piece of wood and you lock it with a latch if you want to close it depending on what side of the door you are on.  When I leave my house, I lock my door with a pad lock.  It’s strange to grasp that my house key is for a pad lock!  Now for the bathroom, dun dun dunnnn, no comment other than I’m grateful that my squatter toilet flushes, so I don’t have to use a bucket of water to flush it all down. 
In My Sitting Room
I hardly have any furniture and it’s a huge change, but I love it.  It’s my new home and everyday it feels a little homier.  That first day I saw my new location, I was so pleased that I did the best happy dance I had ever done.  I can’t wait to discover what Bumthang has in store for me.  I have a feeling it’s going to be something great!  

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