Sunday, November 4, 2012

Trip to Wangditse

One day, on holiday from school (5th King's Coronation Day), my father and I decided to go on a small walk. After some discussion, we decided to go to the Wangditse Lhakang and have a nice old-fashioned picnic there.

We took a cab to the BBS Tower, the starting-point of the trail, then started on our mini trek. It was beautifully natural, how the whole world was supposed to look.

The quiet calm and the green, fresh surroundings made me want to jump for joy (which I, of course, did). We walked on and on, from time to time chatting. Beautiful flowers hesitantly took our attention, buzzing inside with striped bees.

"Kuzuzangpo, la", we would greet others, smiling from ear to ear. The view from the trail was amazing, but the highlight was the enormous Tashichhoe dzong. When we reached the Wangditse lhakang, we were immediately struck by the big monastery. I was especially surprised by the haughty cock making his way through the dense bushes. A small chorten filled with butter lamps stood in the side of the big grassy plain. We went around (clockwise, of course) and tried to find a nice place to sit down. All had marvelous view looking onto the whole town. The only problem was, the whole place was really windy!

Finally, after few rounds (and after I was getting dizzy from walking in the same direction), we found a place, though windy (what to do, la) looking over Thimphu.

After finishing our scrumptious meal, we headed back down . While reaching the road, we passed by a tinkling mule pack (more like they passed by us). We even got a peep at three policemen riding by us.

In other words, it was a wonderful trip.

A top-and-lofty cock strutting around in pride

A wise trash-can
View of the Thimphu town

The Tashichhoe dzong
Policemen on a mission!

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Rice is the most common food in Bhutan. Each meal, either breakfast, dinner, or lunch, is usually served a big heap of rice, which is the main dish. Sometimes the rice is red, white, or even yellow, but it's rice. The children in my class, almost everyday bring ema datsi with rice, or any other datsi dish with rice. I don't bring rice every day, and one day after peeping in my lunch box and seeing no rice, a girl said: "You never bring real food, do you?"
And the cheek of it!

In Dzongkha, rice is mentioned as toh. Toh also means food in Dzongkha, which shows how often rice is eaten.

Local meals tend to consist, especially in monasteries and local houses, of simply rice with a "curry" like ema datsi.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dream Girl - My Masterpiece Poem

I'd like to share with you a poem which I wrote in the exam room, after continually being bored - I forgot to bring a book and we are not allowed to leave the room before the bell rings.
I worked on it about 1 hour! Hope you enjoy it.

Once there was a girl
who had some girly dreams
Once she found a pearl
but once some smelly beans

She was the greatest hero
in dreams, I only mean
Near her, god was zero
She was so much very keen

Once she went to Transylvania
and met vampires there
She ate with them some goo lasagna
made from blood and pear

Oh, the places Dream Girl went
and all the things she saw
except in school she only bent
upon her little paw

Because my readers smitten
Curiously you stare
Dream Girl was a kitten
and had four paws in mere!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ek Dupa

A simple game, which originally consisted of five stones, and now one small ball and four stones, is one of the most beloved games in schools.
In other countries, the original name is Five Stones, with the ball namely Jacks.
This season is it. The game's hot and everyone is buying the famous ball. The commonest conversation in order to join or play an Ek Dupa* game is usually: "Wai, can I play?" If approved, will continue, "Everything is there, okay? But no touch and shift. And no zig-zag."  (By the way, if not approved, the meanie will say after some persuasion with a tone of determination and irritation: "Please, wai!!"
If there is an even number of players, somebody usually suggests partners, followed by an: "Okay, partner first!"
The game starts out with Major; each player takes the four stones into their palm and throws them in the air, trying to catch the most stones on the back of his hand. After some fall on the back of the hand, the player throws them once again to catch them in the palm. The final number of stones in the palm counts. If there is a team of players, they all follow the process and the number is summed up. The player or team with the highest number start the game.
Next, the player throws all the stones on the surface and throws the ball up, letting it bounce once while taking one stone from the floor. He repeats until all the stones are in his hand. He throws all of them a second time, this time taking two every time. The process is repeated for a third time, taking three in the first round and one in the other. This is the basic starting of Ek Dupa. Sometimes rules are made that when you are taking a certain number of stones you are not allowed to touch the other stones.

The player crowds all the stones in one hand and with the thumb and pointer finger holds the ball. This stage is locally called Dapi. He throws the ball up and lays the stones on the floor, catching the ball after a bounce. Then, like the basic starting, he takes all four stones with his hand while throwing up the ball and catching the ball again.
Next comes the repeated process, the only difference: after laying the stones on the floor, then instead of catching the ball in your palm you have to catch it on the back of your hand. The name is Zillicutor (pronounced Zil-li-cau-ter)

Next comes Cobra - in this stage you don't need a ball. You throw all the stones in the air and catch some on the back of your hand. You throw them from the back again, and while suspended in mid-air, catch them from up with a jerky movement (with an upward movement). Like a cobra charging.

Next come the am or ams. The player throws all the stones on the surface again. The fingers are bent in a particular shape. The player throws the ball up, and passes one of the stones through the fingers. He repeats that until all the stones are through, then picks them up with another throw of the ball. Once again, the player does this, though this time the fingers in a different shape. The shape of the fingers is hard to explain - there are so many possibilities. One of them is to bend your thumb and pointer finger into a semi-circle and then set that on the table, passing the stones through the circular "gate". Another is to use your pointer finger and the middle finger and stretch them, until they become a triangular roof. Then you pass the stones through.

The next step is calendar. Your opponent holds an open hand up, the little finger touching the surface. You take the stones into your hand and drop them over the opponent's hand. Your opponent has to choose two stones and take them away, so that only two stones are left on the surface. Then you have to flick your hand at one of the left-over stones and try to hit the other stone. If you don't hit it, you're out. So, a tip to your opponent: try to take away two that leave really far away stones, so that you have more chance that your opponent will be out.

If you are out (if the ball does a double bounce, or if you don't take enough stones e.g. you have to take two but by mistake you take one, if you don't catch all the stones which have fallen on the back of your hand in the Cobra stage) the turn will pass to your opponent.
After you finish the ams, there will be a stage called Game; a number of stones is decided (it can't be above four). You can also choose more than one number, for example 3 and 4. The player has to get an equal or higher number, and then can pass on to the next "level", called Game x (1,2,3,4,5,6 etc.). All the games are the same; including the same stages and same rules, though someone can call out a change (e.g. from Game 5 there is no touch). You can decide on a final Game like when someone reaches Game 10 he wins and the game is over.
Though I've never finished a game... Can you??
Good Luck... Tashi Delek!

*Ek means one in Nepali and Hindi, and the stage in which you take one at a time (the first step after major) is usually called ek dupa. You'll take four rounds to take all the four stones one by one, right? After taking each stone, pronounce each vowel: Ek-Du-Pa-Ek/Panch
Later exchange the first Ek for Dui and Teen.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ema Datsi, Kewa Datsi, Shamu Datsi...

Ema Datsi
Shamu Datsi
First of all, what is datsi? It's the Bhutanese cheese, a soft, melted cheese which the locals use to make local delicacies (and bound to disagree with your digestion, too). Ema means chilli. Kewa is potato, and shamu is mushroom. Did you, then, guess what these foods mean? Ema Datsi is the national dish, a plate of chillies served mixed with datsi. Not only is it the national dish, it is also one of the spiciest dishes. I've tried it only twice or thrice, and got out with a fiery tongue. I'm not saying it's bad! But is it ever spicy! Kewa datsi is pretty much the same thing, but, as you might guess, instead of chillies, it is served with potatoes. The datsi in this dish is quite hot, because otherwise the taste would have been bland. The shamu datsi is my favourite, because it's full of mushrooms, and  I personally adore mushrooms, especially the sangay-shamu and button mushrooms sometimes found in the local market in Thimphu. These are big, tough mushrooms, which, in good cooking, can be simply heavenly. Anyway, back to the subject. The datsi in the shamu datsi is also quite spicy, but not as much as the ema datsi, of course.
Kewa Datsi
All the Bhutanese love these dishes, and mostly eat them every day... with... rice, rice, and more rice!

Monday, July 2, 2012

The King

The current king, His Majesty the king Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, is the fifth Druk Gyalpo (ruler of Bhutan). Lately, as response of shocking disciplanary problems in Kelki High School, the king began to visit the sschools especially in Thimphu. He visited Changangkha middle secondary school, Kelki High School, Pelkhil, Jigme Namgyal School, and finally Druk School (of course). He left a great impression trailing after him after each visit.
The king is the only person in the whole Bhutan "allowed" to wear a yellow kabney (except for the religious leader the Je Khenpo). This separates him clearly from the rest of the crowd. Fortunately, our king, and all his royal Wangchuck ancestors, ruled and rule Bhutan kindly and justly.

The crown of the past and living kings of Bhutan is magnificent. It carries the national bird on top: the raven and is decorated at the bottom with skulls and on the top with many wonderful Bhutanese patterns. It was passed on to all of the Druk Gyalpos through many decades.K4 is still living. He passed the crown to the Fifth Druk Gyalpo at an early age. The Coronation was done at 2008, all the people of Thimphu, Bhutan viewing it in between the bustle in the streets.
The king also recently married a charming young lady, now named Ashi Jitshen Pema. It was the talk of everywhere, and still banks, museums, cafes and other sorts of buildings hang their famous photo.

The Queen

Ashi Jetshun Pema, a recently queened queen, was and still is the main talk of the year. Her Majesty and the His Majesty were married in 2011, and the message sent the Bhutanese floating with joy. Buildings hung marvellous neon lights, and most importantly the photo of the two royal lovers together.
The queen is a lovely woman, constant lover of children, and altogether a wonderful queen. By the way, she's really beautiful too!
"The Royal Wedding" has become a household word already.
And of course, you mustn't forget, a mother means a child (usually), and the Bhutanese citizens are waiting expectantly for the birth of the auspicious sixth majesty, who can continue the wonderful monarchy of the Wangchuck royalty.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


The official language of Bhutan is Dzongkha (pronounced dz-ong-ka) , a confusing, hard-to-learn, interesting.. etc. language. Some people, especially in rural places, have a difficulty or even don't know how to speak Dzongkha. In the provincial lands, some common languages are Sharshop (often also called Sharshogpa), and Nepali. In Bumthang, Bumthap is spoken. There are many, many, many kinds of languages in Bhutan, and now in Thimphu most schools teach in English, Dzongkha as a second language.
Hindi and other Indian languages are not too uncommon, too. But don't worry! People, especially in Thimphu, will have a good vocabulary of English, and if you are from other nations, Bhutanese guides with knowledge of different languages like Spanish, Japanese, German, French, Chinese and other strange and wide-spread languages are being paid 100$ a day!
If a urgent desire urges you to learn Dzongkha, then Bhutanese friends are just the people to teach you, so come on - it isn't as complicated as it looks (well, kind of).

Bhutanese Clothes

Where should I start?

Well, Bhutanese clothes, women's wear called kira (pronounced kee-ra) and men's wear called gho (go, not jo), are very, very complicated to wear. The kira is basically a big piece of cloth wrapped around the body with a belt and clipped back with pins. Along with it come two "jackets", one which has to be worn and folded under the kira itself. The other "jacket" is a big, starched, well... crispy one which you put on after the ordeal of wearing the main thing.
The gho is also a piece of cloth, but it already has sleeves sewn into it, so it just has a short white jacket.
When going to dzongs and lhakangs, or when dressing formally, women wear a rachu, a red belt with criss-cross designs. It is wide and long and after being folded over some times, the rachu is slung over the shoulder.
Its partner, the kabney is a big soft cloth, white for the "common people", blue for the Parliament, orange for the ministers and yellow for the King and Je Khenpo. It's worn over the body with some complicated twists and is finally slung over the shoulder (again).
Rachu and Kabney
So be ready to sweat! Kiras and ghos are designed to be warm - and in hot days, so it won't be very clever to wear one of these in a heatwave (even if you want to show off to the neighbours).
But the current generation is eager to wear "foreign dress": pants, shirt and sweater. It seems "cool" to wear foreign clothing, imported from Korea or Thailand.
Fortunately, in schools it is mandatory to wear the national uniform, so the culture is safe for a while.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My School

Do you know what Druk means? It means Dragon, or in this case Bhutan. Can you guess what’s my school’s name? Yes?!! It’s Druk School, and has been graded the best school in Bhutan for quite a few years now.
On May 15 2012, His Majesty Druk Gyalpo Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck visited our school.
Our school has recently been upgraded to standard 9. It is a middle secondary school.
Druk School is near the Buddha point in Thimphu. 

We have five fun activities throughout the week - Arts, H/PE, Library, IT, and Music. There are also a lot of school events like the annual concert and sports day.
The Druk School Principal: Ms. Tshewang Choden Wangdi
The uniform is a checked peach-colored material and the tego is flaming red. The wanjo is lightly skin colored. On days when we have HPE and on Tuesdays (Pedestrian days) we can wear our school tracksuit - a sleek silver-blue with two white stripes on the sides. The jacket informs: Druk School, Thimphu
Druk School has 65 teachers and almost 700 students!
I enjoy being at school. I think the majority of kids are!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Travelling to the Moon - An Essay for School

Travelling to the moon was once considered science fiction, but now people can be sent to the moon by spaceships. Spacesuits help a lot in outer space, too:
  • They have a pressurized atmosphere
  • They give oxygen and remove carbon dioxide
  • They keep a comfortable temperature
  • They protect from micro-meteoroids and radiation
  • They allow to see clearly and move easily inside the spacecraft.
  • They also help communicate with other astronauts and some can even communicate with Earth!
The moon has 6 times less gravity than earth, so objects and people can float on the moon. The moon doesn't have oxygen either, so astronauts have to take air balloons with them.
In the spaceship, things are kept in safe places as to keep them in place. A 100 kg weight on earth would weigh less than 17 kg on the moon!

One of the first living things sent to the moon, Laika, was a dog sent to outer space by Russia, died after 4 hours in the spacecraft. Laika was a street dog before her sending to outer space. She was trained to sit in a spacecraft and to be used to loud noises that the spaceship's engine made. The Russians, at that time competing with America, wanted to experiment sending an animal to an orbit with earth. First the Russians claimed that Laika had lived for 3 days inside the spaceship, but 45 years later they admitted that she had survived for only 4 hours. This raised a protest on animal cruelty among the Russians.

The moon has no water of its own, so astronauts have to take their own water.

The Apollo Missions were many spacecrafts sent into outer space. In 1969, an American named Neil Armstrong, mission commander of the Apollo 11 (the third lunar landing of the Apollo Missions), took the first step on the moon. His famous words on the moon are: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." These words became famous throughout the whole world.

Sadly, Apollo 13, sent on April 11, 1970, on its way to space, burst its oxygen tank and had to return to earth. A movie was made about it called Apollo 13.

Travelling to the moon has advanced the modern science very much. Astronauts sometimes take notes when on the moon and bring them back to earth. The astronauts have to take pencils as the ink inside pens would not go down onto paper and instead go up because of the less gravity.

The view on the way to the moon is absolutely wonderful. Stars, planets, and other galaxies lay on the blackness of space. Some spaceships, in order to capture this fabulous sight, have high-tech cameras planted on them.

The moon has some steep cliffs and big craters so it can be dangerous. It's also made of rocks, just like earth.

Astronauts must train for years before they can go out into outer space or even to the moon. They need to learn how to fix the spaceship if it breaks down in space. They also must learn how to use their spacesuits.
Astronauts must have excellent eyesight. Many people train for years to become astronauts but cannot travel into space or to the moon because of their eyesight or other defects.

Astronauts are not very safe on the moon, but high-tech sensors and radios installed on the helmet or spacesuit help the operators on Earth to know whether the air pressure and temperature are comfortable for the astronaut. The operators can also sometimes change the temperature and air pressure inside the spacesuit!

Travelling to the moon has developed modern science a lot, and as Neil Armstrong said, is a giant leap for mankind.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Journey from Thimphu to Bumthang

This is the first post about a journey. Our journey was from Thimphu to Bumthang, stopping for a night in Trongsa.
The eight-hour travel by car to Trongsa on the first day was very exhausting, but very very rewarding. Trees surrounded us from every direction, and from time to time we would catch a glimpse of a chattering monkey. We passed Wangdue, where the view changed from dense, thick layer of willows to a light encircling of pines. We stopped on the way for lunch. Our restaurant was a small, home-owned place, where we were served red rice, dahl, and ema datshi (chilies boiled together with local cheese - beware!).
An amusing sign on the way
We stayed in a nice hotel called Tashi Ninjay, having a good restaurant and a marvelous view over the huge dzong (ideal place for photos).
The next day, we were in the car about two or three hours to Jakar, Bumthang. We stopped in a pass called Yotongla and ever so grateful to stretch out our aching limbs. When we passed the border to Bumthang, the landscape changed again. Now there were more houses and especially stone buildings. Still, it was much more "treey" than Thimphu... obviously.
I was looking forward to the longest straight stretch, which lasted (on car) less than 3 seconds.
We finally arrived at Kaila Guest House, our habitat for the next three nights.
The next day, we drove over to UWICE (Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation of Environment), and my parents helped the institute install a moodle. This also happened for 2 more days,  in which I got the chance to update this blog and my other website, Bhutan Baby Book Reviews.
We took the flight back! It was absolutely wonderful. Snowy mountains, green valleys and misty clouds drifted about. The plane was really small, only fit for 8 people, and all these seats were packed.
We landed at Paro, and took a car back to Thimphu - home sweet home.

Archery Matches and Kuru

Archery is the national sport of Bhutan, and by far the oldest. Traditional bows can be as tall as an average man, but the recent modern ones are less than half that size. Archery is always professionally played by men. The Bhutanese tradition of archery consists of two teams, taking turns to shoot at the target. The target is usually very far away and I’ve seen one that was 5 km from the archers. The archery performed is very, very dangerous. The team which is at that time not playing (it is not their turn) dance cheerfully in front of or very near the target (!) while the other team is shooting! A father of one of my classmates is an archer, and he often goes to other dzongkhags for the matches.
Kuru is a heavy dart, adorned by a great variety of colourful feathers, and again, the game consists of two teams, taking turns to shoot at the target. One difference is that Kuru is commonly played by women in official matches, while men often play it on holidays as a hobby.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dance, dance, dance...

Dancing is a frequently found hobby in Bhutan. The twenty dzongkhags all have a similar style, but there are a few different movements that emphasize the culture. Dancing these days is now done mostly by girls, but boys also have a unique way of Bhutanese dancing.
I, for instance, love dancing with my Bhutanese friends Chimi and Gyem, both naturals. "Cheerleaders" dance at archery matches, and have a special short dance when they get a good hit.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Follower of the Gautama

Have you heard of the Buddha (also called the Gautama), Guru Rinpoche, or Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel? All these three auspicious characters in the Bhutanese history have: either killed all the demons in Bhutan, or saved Bhutan from the armies of other countries, or did auspicious deeds for many famous kings, or... Well, I guess you got the idea. Monks in Bhutan follow either of these leaders. Monks in Bhutan follow Buddhism, the teaching of Zhabdrung, Buddha and Guru.
Anyway, don't be too surprised to see a monk with his mobile phone clasped to his ear, or a monk enjoying a leisurely ride in a car (or even driving one!). Monks now don't have the serious sense of religion that I think monks back then had.
Bhutanese citizens can be very touchy about their religion, so a bit of teasing or a hot debate about religion may be enough for you to end up without any friends... or get thrown into jail.

Our gang of dogs

I used to have 4 dogs (and ten puppies), all stray dogs, and now 3 of them (and 1 puppy) happily lick me whenever they get the chance to. "But what about the fourth one?" is the expected question. Well, the cutest of my dogs passed away. R.I.P. And that doesn’t mean ripped in pieces. Just.. died. Because of some kind of virus or bacteria, I guess. But another reason that could perhaps be the cause is that someone deliberately poisoned the food. That dog’s name was Puppy, and he was the biggest of my dogs. An auburn coloured one is called Sushi, a frizzly cute golden young adult called Toto (but she’s actually a girl, as we figured out!), and a golden calm mother called Pinky. I’ve already told you that we also had 10 puppies to care for. Pinky and Toto were to blame. Pinky had a litter of six and Toto gave birth to four. Five were happily given away, one disappeared, two were unpurposely taken, and finally we were only left with one puppy, by the name of White Paws. Now we have a total of 4 dogs.
I forgot to tell you that Pinky is a very extraordinary dog.

  1. She can climb a ladder. We think she must be a circus dog!
  2. She bites all her puppies and Toto especially (Toto is also her daughter)
  3. Extraordinarily, she's not forgiving and loving like dogs are supposed to be.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Stray dogs in Bhutan

The population of dogs in Bhutan might be bigger than the human population. Everywhere you look, if you notice, your eyes are met by a scraggly-looking dog or even a gang of them staring at you maliciously. You might suppose incorrectly that the stray dogs are dangerous and bite often. That’s not true. They are usually frightened of humans and any sharp movement may cause them to be nervous and likelier to attack.
These gangs keep up people all night with their barking, howling, whining or what not. So bring your earplugs if you want to get a good night's sleep.
And, when you see all these pet dogs, don't suppose that there's a pet shop around. People sometimes tame stray dogs. So if you feel that you like one especially, don't hesitate. Unless, of course, it doesn't even let you get near.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Let's play chunki!

“What is chunki?” you might ask. Well, chunki is a small plaything made of a collection of rubbers tied together. The rubbers are usually black and a new chunki can give you black stains on your hands. It is played by hitting it against the side of your foot, and as it flies down again, to hit it again. All this might seem very confusing, but the thing is to get the knack of it! Chunki is played by almost all the children in Thimphu, and they love it. But don’t get the wrong idea - I’ve seen lots of adults enjoying it too! So mind you catch the hang of it, and hopefully you’ll hang on to it. The biggest amount of times you hit it in a row are popularly called your chunki maximum, and your normal hits are called your chunki average.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Chugo? Yumm...

“Have a bit of chugo?” is the question which most foreigners are so very eager to refuse - understandably. The unappetizing looking cheese is a fave snack in the less developed villages and towns. It’s actually real yak cheese, and... well, takes at least 30 minutes to chew. Yes, it’s a hard cheese which smells like an especially smelly yak. The chugo, which is sold in Bhutan for about 70 ngultrums a packet, is marketed in America as a special treat for dogs and sold in three chugos a packet which cost... 50 dollars.

Chugo is not exactly a mouthwash, so I recommend you to use some toothpaste if you want to get married.