Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Cheese, Jam Session, and Traditional Dances

There was a ton of stuff going on during the last few days but only now I have time to write it down. Saturday night, a Jam Session took place at the NIE Samtse. A Jam Session in the Bhutanese context is more or less a European disco. Boy, it was a ton of fun. I'm not a party guy - but last Saturday, I realized that I have missed it a lot. It was fun to shake and dance with all the trainees. All the guys that you mostly met in Gho and Kira now freaked out in western clothes. People were a bit more relaxed and it was easier to get in contact with them. You had even some of the games going on that we know from the European or American context.
But even considering this a bit more relaxed atmosphere, I was still called 'Sir' and 'Mr. Sam'. It's a bit weird because all those kids are about the same age as I am. Telling people to forget the 'Sir' doesn't really help - it's a sign of respect. Well, sometimes I'd prefer to talk to them in a relaxed atmosphere instead of just getting called 'Sir'. But it's probably something that takes just a lot of time.
And yeah, I'm still this special guy. So when I arrived at the place where the Jam Session took place, everybody had a - hidden - glance on what I was exactly doing. So Sam dancing (and everybody that knows me well knows that this is not really a strong side of me...) - and all the trainees watching. We'll, that's what you run into while staying abroad.
But don't get me wrong; I enjoyed it a lot, we had a ton of fun, and it felt really good. The music was - well - special. The older generations might be able to recall Rednex; Cotton Eye Joe is a huge hit here in Bhutan. And then, there was all the Hindi music. And for sure a ton of American stuff (even American country music...).

On Sunday night, Joy and David Laird returned back from their trip. They have visited several places in Bhutan - and they have even been to Bumthang. Bumthang is the Switzerland of Bhutan (that's what everybody is telling me) - and there is even a Swiss guy producing cheese down there. So among Swiss guys in Bhutan it is an open secret that one has to get Swiss cheese from Bumthang. David got me some Swiss cheese - and not just a little bit. I got a complete cheese - 5.2 kg!! Wow, I just had to laugh really hard - 5.2 kg! Well, we'll see how long it'll take to eat that cheese. Guess that I won't finish it on my own - today, a first lecturer got a portion of cheese ;-).

On Monday, the NIE Samtse celebrated its foundation day. In the morning, there was an official ceremony. All the students, all the lecturers, and even some external guys attended. Prayer in the beginning and speeches following. After the ceremony, everybody moved to the sports ground and the final of the
khuru game took place. Khuru is some sort of a dart game - similar to archery.
I was considered to be one of the guests and had to sit in the front row. I was even shaking hands with the chief guest (he was some sort of a high politician). After the khuru game was over (I went working in between - most of the lecturers did the same...), a lot of the lecturers and trainees were dancing a traditional Bhutanese dances. Well, as soon as I came even close to the dancing group, one of the trainees integrated me into the circle. There is not a lot you can do about that - so I was dancing for the first time a traditional Bhutanese dance - and that in front of the complete institute...

Then, lunch was served. Naturally, no spoons or forks were available; Bhutanese guys are just used to eat with their hands. Have you ever eaten rice with your hands?? It's like eating rice with chop sticks - if you are not used to it, you starve. Again, I was this weird guy not being able to eat with his hands ;-). After a few minutes one of the trainees step up to me and offered a spoon ;-).

You see, life in Bhutan is exciting and I learn a lot. Sometimes, it is as well not entirely easy to adapt to different customs - but that's what I'd call a learning experience. Guys, expect somebody different to come back home. In the beginning, I freaked out because of all the ants in the rice. Now, I don't even care...

Let's just add two more pics:

Trainees in the computer lab - one time not in Gho and Kira ;-).

That's how the electrical situation sometimes looks like - voltage dropping down to 150 Volts. Once, I even observed 50 Volts...


Razib Ahmed said...

I am happy to find this blog. I write about South Asian Business and also
about Bhutan. Now, Bhutan is trying to perform well in call center business. I
wish that there was more media coverage of the changing face of Bhutan. Bhutan
has its

first blog

Unknown said...

Hi Razib,
Glad you like my blog. There was an article during the last few weeks that mentioned that Bhutanese students might not yet be ready to work in call centers. I haven't read the article myself (that's probably why I cannot find it) - but people here discussed it quite a bit.