As I have discussed in previous entries, the concept of time in Bhutan lacks the rigidity that one finds in more western societies. The people of this country simply do not feel bound to a particular temporal scale and are seemingly unhindered by it. Within this culture, labor and work are practiced for the benefit of the soul and not necessarily for a particular deadline…
How’s that for an excuse as to why I haven’t posted anything recently?
In all seriousness, folks…
The past two weeks have been a rapid succession of essays, research, radio shows and exploration—all culminating in the rapidly approaching departure date for our trip with the Taryana Foundation.
Unfortunately, I do not have too many photos to post this week, simply because a great deal of my time recently has been spent researching for my final research paper. The prompt for this assignment is simple:
Write a 20-page paper on ANY aspect of Bhutanese society/culture that is of interest to you.
Couldn’t possible be more broad, right? After several weeks of searching in the beginning of the semester, I became quite attached to the discussion of alcohol use and abuse in Bhutan. From research in local and national newspapers, scholarly journal articles, and interviews, I have narrowed down my paper topic to answer the following questions:
-How is alcohol embedded in the culture/traditions of Bhutan (with an emphasis on religion)?
-Why do people in Bhutan drink and what are the social and economic implications and health-related issues?
-What are several strategies to decrease alcohol consumption in the country?
Since arriving in the country, numerous experiences have aided me in providing me with insight into these questions and because I love all of you so much, I will post my final paper to this blog as an attachment upon its completion…should be riveting :-)
Two weekends ago, Bhutan celebrated it’s annual “Tsechu” festival in Thimphu. This religious festival, which was held from September 17-19th, focuses on social gathering and the marketing of goods (mostly to rich European tourists). Bright colors and endless decorations painted the streets and buildings with brilliant blues and reds and magnificent oranges and yellows. Even the city buses joined the party…
After boarding the bus (the inside was decorated as well) we set off on the 30-minute drive to downtown Thimphu. Stepping off the bus and onto the street was, in every “sense” of the word, a sensory overload. Every car in sight was decorated with vibrant colors and even the population of Thimphu sported radiant Gho and Kira (the national dress). Not one inch of the city was dull or untouched by dramatic color saturation. T
That day during my show at Kuzoo FM, we had NO call-ins. At first, I was a bit discouraged, however, I was later struck by the sheer magnitude of dedication to this festival; the astounding extent to which each and every member of this culture participated in the solidification and development of a national identity.
With no callers, the weekly topic that Atsu and I chose, “Censorship and Vulgarity in Mass Media,” fell upon deaf ears. Regardless, we decided that, “the show must go on,” and discussed the topic amongst ourselves. Naturally, I had no problem blabbering into the microphone for two straight hours.
To escape from the noise and commotion of the city, I came here, to the botanical gardens. Along with several Bhutanese friends, I explored the vast area, which was established as a dedication to the fourth Druk Gyalpo (King IV):
Snacking on a bag of fried banana chips, we wandered from one breathtaking garden to another, snapping pictures along the way. It seemed that even leaving the city did not separate us from the brilliant colors of the Tsechu Festival:
After walking along the trail for half an hour or so, we came to one of the many lookout points, where we found a large Bhutanese family enjoying a late lunch of rice, steamed dumplings and tea. Suddenly, the once-delicious banana chips lost their appeal…To make up for this, we searched the trees and indulged in some fresh fruit, straight from the branch:
Of course, I realize NOW the lack of sanitation practice exemplified in this photo…especially because it was taken after a half-hour motorcycle ride….delicious nonetheless.
Before exiting the botanical gardens, my friend Yonten insisted on taking this photo of us on the edge of the lookout point. Note the attitude.
So now to explain the title of this blog (many of you may indeed be scratching your heads). At Wheaton, the programming council arranges themed dances two or three times per month. The themes help to boost enthusiasm and creativity and to increase group cohesiveness (not sure where sobriety fits in there….). Thus, after observing two dances at RTC, the Wheaton students decided it was time to inject RTC with a little “Wheat.” After much deliberation and many irrational ideas, we decided on “The Stoplight Dance.” Please allow me to explain:
The dress code consists of the following:
-Red: In a relationship, engaged, married. No means no.
-Yellow: It’s complicated, it’s a secret, I want to get away with making bad decision etc.
-Green: Single and ready to mingle or simply desperate.
It was only after posting signs and advertisements that I brought up the fact that Bhutan has no stoplights…too late.
I will say that green certainly dominated the dance, although yellow was quite prominent as well. As the DJ, I dedicated certain songs to certain color groups:
-Green: Single Ladies by Beyonce
-Yellow: It Wasn’t Me by Shaggy
-Red: I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing by Aerosmith
As strong advocates of commitment and monogamy, Yuri and I represented the color red, which some referred to as, “the bad color.”
The dance was a massive success, running from 10pm-2am. Activities included face painting, dace competitions, dedications and even the “Cha-Cha Slide.” Some of us decided to apply the face paint liberally, while others went overboard and ended up looking like some Christmas edition of Braveheart.
As the night came to an end, I said my final words into the microphone and left the crowd with “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan (currently one of the most popular songs worldwide; I strongly recommend listening to it). Of course everyone screamed the words at the top of their lungs and left with smiles on their faces and face paint all over their clothing. We plan to arrange one more dance before the end of the semester…
We are now two days away from our 10-Day trip with the Taryana Foundation, a non-profit in Thimphu dedicated to providing professional training and support to rural areas all over the country. On Friday, we will board a bus and drive nine hours to the rural village of Jigbu, where we will work in schools and on construction projects. Living day-to-day among the villagers, we will be completely immersed in a non-English speaking community (camping just outside of the village). We will also spend a total of four nights at various hotels and resorts both before and after our time at the village. After four days of not showering (thank god my girlfriend isn’t here with me), I plan to soak in the tub for several hours.
Upon my return from this trip, I will certainly have COUNTLESS pictures and videos, which I will post on facebook. If you would like to see all of my pictures, please feel free to visit the photo section of my FB page at www.facebook.com/raffi.sweet
I will also be cutting and pasting all of my videos together when I return to the US in order to make a video blog accompanied by music :)
Another blog will follow as soon as I retain the feeling in my fingers.
As one final note:
I have recently discovered that I have a son here in Bhutan. I really cannot recall what happened, when it happened, or who it happened with—perhaps he is my “love-child.” Regardless, I must take responsibility for my actions and begin to acknowledge the newly discovered fruit of my loins, Dado (pronounced DAW-DOE):
Book recommendations of the month:
-The Lovely Bones—For everyone who has a really sketchy guy living in their neighborhood.
-The Alchemist—A short novel consisting of more memorable and meaningful quotes than any other piece of literature I have encountered
-Atlas Shrugged—A twisted view on a society where all the brilliant minds in the world throw up their hands and say, “I give up; do it yourself.”
-The Time Traveler’s Wife—You think YOUR long-distance relationship is tough? Think again.
50% done, 100% changed.