Friday, May 04, 2007


Samtse is a border town and the institute is only about 800 meters from India. That means that it is an easy walk to go down to New Chamargi (not quite sure how to spell that) - or Checkpost as it is called by the Bhutanese. Checkpost is a small trading town next to the border between India and Bhutan. Because it is really close to the Bhutanese border, I don't have to make a proper entry to India and can therefore go to Checkpost whenever I like. Well, this is not entirely true as I should not go on my own. In case questions are asked, it might make sense to have a Bhutanese friend with you that can help to communicate.

I bought my Gho from Checkpost a couple of weeks ago but haven't paid so far. As a guy that has grown up in Switzerland, I felt really bad about that. I tried to pay several times but the shop owner was never in. Together with Tashi Wangchuk, I went down to Checkpost today and luckily, the owner was in. I paid my Gho and felt relieved. Tashi had as well to pay a few debts. After he was done, we went to a nice food shop. I have been to this food shop last year and the owner could instantly tell me what I have eaten last year. This might give you an impression of how difficult it is to hide down here - it's just impossible...

In the food shop, we had a long talk about what we should be getting. I'm never quite sure what I should get and I normally ask people what I should get. The problem is that often they don't feel like telling me because I'm higher up in the hierarchical system and it would be strange for them to tell me what I have to get.

In the end, we got Lassi and Piri. Lassi is boiled milk that is cooled down and that has a consistency somewhere between a yogurth and milk. Piri is fried bread with white beans and hot pickles. I enjoyed both of them although I had problems finishing my meal because my stomach was telling me that it was more than satisfied. I haven't eaten a lot during the last couple of days and lost some weight - it's probably the hot weather.

Tashi insisted that he wanted to pay and I felt bad about it. But it is hard to argue with somebody in a shop; you are never quite sure when the point approaches where you embarrass folks. Next, Tashi got his haircut. A tiny shop close to the street served the purpose. While he got his hair cut, I was waiting outside and looking around. People came up to me and started talking. It's always fun to talk to people and not difficult with the Bhutanese folks as their English is just really good. A young mother came up to me and told me that she was from the eastern part of Bhutan and has stayed down here for the last seven years. A couple of teens next to me very waiting for a friend that got his haircut and used the opportunity for a short flirt.

It was amazing for me to realize how comfortable I felt in this environment even though it is so different from whatever I'm used to. Chickens were running around, cows resting in the middle of the street, street vendors, cloth shops with one fat guy sitting on a carpet and guarding the money while there are about four other guys around that actually do the work, and taxis that need to be pushed by a couple of men before they can take off. It's hard to describe this setting and I don't feel like taking my camera down there because this will put me back into the position of the tourist - and I was fighting really hard to get rid of that position.

In the end, Tashi bought a fresh water melon, I insisted on paying, and we were walking up again. End of the day :-)! Enjoy life!

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