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Thimphu, Bhutan

March 3rd, 2003

New Year's Day

It is New Year's Day in Bhutan. Robin says Bhutanese celebrate New Year's quietly with their families. He and Tshering bring everyone in our group a gift basket of homemade Bhutanese cookies. They are a buttery dough cut and shaped geometrically and fried. Sweet, but not too sweet.


Solar Prayer Wheel

He had the idea before coming to Bhutan and brought solar panels and motor from home.

The prayer wheel was bought in Bhutan and modified to fit the motor.

Tashi made sure Eric, Pat and I had the necessary accutrements of incense, yak butter, and scarfs to properly make the solar wheel offering.

Then he takes us to a temple to give the solar prayer wheel a home.

The Temple is up a little hill.

We drive most of the way, then walk.

Before entering the Temple we stop to put an honorary scarf on the gift.

We got some stares from interested locals.


Of course, no cameras inside!

Also, surprisingly NO WOMEN!

The Temple Caretaker came out and took the solar prayer wheel from Eric and put it on the alter inside. Then he took the white scarfs Tashi helped us to get and put them inside on the Buddha of Compassion (with 11 heads and 1000arms). Then he came with a tray and we rolled dice. He had a very old book on numberology and from it read our fortunes. First you put money on the tray. Eric rolled a 9, which was said to be good. I rolled a 15 and the Monk turned to some pages and read in tongue we didn't understand but Tashi assured us it was the best you could roll. He told me the Monk said that the "desires I want will come to be." Geesh, f I only know what I wanted! Then Pat rolled. Also 15.

Then Eric and the Caretaker went into the alter and Pat and I were given little brass bowls of melted yak butter and lit wicks to meditate and pray. I raised the bowl with both hands over my head and bowed to the Buddha. Pat got down on her knees and put her forehead to the floor. Then the Monk took our candles and put them inside on the alter. He came back and touched our heads with a carved wooden thing in his hand painted black and gold. Before we left we were given a handful of Holy Water.

This Temple is a place for guidance. I think because it houses the Buddha of Compassion it is especially a place locals bring their newborns. Several locals were there with their babies for blessing and naming. They bring food; eggs, oil, etc as offerings. The Monk names the child.

We walk out of the Temple clockwise and spin the prayer wheels on all sides.

The exclusive nature of the Buddist Temple certainly will not be forgotten.


Telcom Monastery
After lunch Eric and I decide to go 'trekking' up to a Monastery above the Telcom Tower.

View from the Tecom Tower

There are a lot of prayer flags here - are they too praying for a fast internet connection?

Just kidding.

From the bottom of the path you can not see the Temple we wish to hike to. We are told it will take an hour or so to get there. The flags are always here. Today is New Year's Day in Bhutan so many families have come here to have picnics.

Well past the flags we near the top.

Walk around the Stupa.

The Temple looks so much like a house to me that I was not sure we were in the right place.

It was unearthly quiet when we arrived except for the barking dogs. Still looks like a house. We didn't go any closer. Some children came to where we were, as it turns out we had stopped by their well. They fetched water. I tried to speak to them, but they spoke no English. They were the first kids we met that didnt' as English is taught in school, or rather, school is taught in English in Bhutan.

The view from up here is magestic.

Tashi Delek = Happy New Year.
On the way down at the bottom some Bhutanese children tag along and follow us. The kids ask us if we want to learn any Bhutanese words. Na=I, Chee = you, La = mountain, also when spelled differently it means a way of showing respect by adding it to the end of a sentence. Ga = smile. Mop = yellow. Sep = white.

Pema, young boy, Irene

They continue walking with us even as we head down the road away from the Telecom tower. They ask if America is about to start WWIII. We say "No."

Pema and Irene are their names. They look like 6th graders. Irene has a deep voice for a little girl and is very serious. Pema is in the moment. She is very spontaneous and laughs easily.

Irene says she saw me at the theatre. She remembers that I wore a big hat. She tells me the film is about a boy who gets aids from a blood transfusion after he breaks his leg. "Do you remember the white jeep in the movie?" she asks. And we learn that it is her family's car. Art is life. Her family pulls up in the white jeep from the movie and there are about 10 people already in it. Pema and Irene get in and all of them hang out the window just like in the film waving good-bye to us as they drive off.

Eric & I walk all the way down the mountain and across the river to the hotel. It takes about 3 hours and is dinnertime when we arrive.


Riverview Hotel

Because we were going to be leaving the next day, Tshering came to give everyone a going away gift: a carved Bhutanese mask.

She told us to hang it at the front door, or inside where it is facing the front door. It will ward off evil.

Is the mask Hevajra? He is portrayed with eight heads, wearing a crown studded with skulls, in the center of which is a head a sage who became a Buddha, named Aksobhya. I ask becasue Aksobhya is often associated with Mongolia (by some Indian and Tibetan scholars). It is said that because of this association the Yuan-Mongol Emperor of China, Kublai Khan, became a Buddhist convert. Just an interesting connection.

Then Robin served tradtional butter tea called "Suja" and Bhutanese Apple Brandy.


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