Bhutan Part Three

Tue 24 May 2016 in travel

Only little more than a month to go. Time for an update. I'll try to make this one quick.

This article is part of a series. Check out the other ones if you haven't yet.


So what's been going on in the big small city? Well for once there have been a couple of more forest fires. One was so bad that I couldn't bike home that evening because the smog was to thick.

Smog of nearby forest fire

And the three of us (that's my sister, my brother in-law and me) actually started Dzongkha lessons. That's the official language of Bhutan, besides English. That's definitely the most exotic language I'll ever learn with around 400k users. That if you don't count Latin which of course has close to zero users.

Languages in Bhutan is a little messy since it's a small country so most people I know speak four languages or more. The school system is in English since most text books and curricula and some teachers are important from India. That means every Bhutanese who went to a school has some pretty robust English skills. Dzongkha is usually taught in school as a separate subject and sometimes history is taught in Dzongkha. Besides that it's mostly used for official communication. Then everybody with access to a TV probably knows Hindi since there are only two Bhutanese channels and many many many Indian. Then most people speak their local language which can be very local or one of the other two big ones. Many people speak also Nepali and one or two local Indian languages.

This creates a pretty mixed-up day-to-day communication. If two Bhutanese talk to each other you can probably grasp the topic since about 20% of their words will be english.

So twice a week the three of us sit in this very nice looking classroom in the Dzongkha Learning Center and listen to our lopen. There are no books on grammar and no consistent spelling of words, at least with the Latin alphabet. So it's a little bit tricky but none the less big fun since the classes consist mostly of our quite old and very experienced teacher telling us about his life and how life in Bhutan is in general. SO it's as much a social class as it is a language class since protocol plays an important role here.

Our classroom

Paro Tshetchu

End of march was one of the largest festivals of the year in Paro. Allegedly it's also the posh one where everybody dresses up the best they can and it's all about see and be seen. So of course we all dressed up including my little niece and I bought a Gho (the traditional garmet) for the occasion.

I went with a friend and stayed at his girlfriend's parents' house which was quite the experience it itself but the festival was really something. But let pictures speak.

Paro tsechu

My own Gho

Farming Potatoes

A couple of days later I was on my way to Paro again. This time with a sleeping bag in my luggage. My destination was the new Happy Chips potato-farm-to-be a little north of Paro, just underneath the ruins of the Drukgyal Dzong.

For three days I helped Farmer Sangay and the rest of the Happy Chips gang to prepare the fields for plantation. First order of business: build picks. The rest of the days was spent clearing the fields from rocks and weed and digging a pool to wash the potatoes in. On the last evening we soaked in a hot stone bath which took four hours to get hot enough because none of us had a really good idea of how to heat stones.

Our self-made picks

Digging the pool

Clearing the irigation channel to fill the pool

Morning view

Wanna talk about it? Found typo or wanna add something? Edit me