Thursday, March 4, 2010

Simple Pleasures

I’ve always enjoyed simple pleasures. Today I enjoyed many.

This morning I used my washing machine for the first time –very exciting. It worked perfectly. I hung my clothes on a line above the line of prayer flags. They flapped in the breeze together. I don’t think my socks and underwear have quite the same power to send prayers into the beyond, but who really knows?

I went for a walk up the road from my place. I started off along the main road, which is the road which crosses Bhutan. Although it is cloudy this afternoon, each new bend in the road provided an exciting new view. I can only imagine how beautiful it will be when it is clear. The hillsides are quite lush with early spring growth. I don’t know many of the plants, although Mindu kindly gave me a guide to the plants of Bhutan. I’ll take that with me next time. There are small fruit trees covered in pink and white blossoms. Lots of ferns of a few different varieties. I had noticed fiddleheads for sale at the market, and I see them growing on the slopes. The first rhododendrons are starting to bloom, bright red.

The road has a sheer drop off one side, to the valley below. The other side is mostly a shale wall, with interesting nooks and crannies. Many of the rocks are embellished with Bhutanese “graffiti”, Sanskrit letters with the mantra om mani peme hum. Many of the nooks have heaps of mini chorten-like sculptures made of clay.
When the traffic got too heavy (I think 10 cars passed me in half an hour) I headed up a path through the woods. It wasn’t unlike hiking the Bruce Trail. I wandered along a damp creek bed, and along a ridge. A simple outhouse was the first indication that I was near a home. Next I saw a couple of cows in a wood and thatch enclosure. As I reached the top of the hill I could see a home with a woman working outside. I didn’t want to alarm her, appearing from nowhere, and then not be able to explain myself, (my few words to name vegetables would not have been very helpful), so I turned around before I was noticed.

On the way home I heard a couple of new birds. I couldn’t see them, but they sounded big. They were speaking a language I don’t understand, definitely not chirping or tweeting. There are lots of small, pretty birds, which do speak a language I am more familiar with. I think I need a bird book too to identify them.

When I got home, Tashi was here to greet me. It turns out she was a stray dog who my neighbour almost ran over when she was a tiny puppy. Sonam brought her home to add to her family of four dogs. She said I can adopt her if I like. Yesterday I wasn’t sure, but today I am getting quite attached to her. She is so sweet. We shared some peanuts today, and I let her come into my house. If I do adopt her I will get her spayed, because we really don’t need any more dogs around here.

My neighbours are very kind. The women speak excellent English, so we are able to talk about all kinds of things. I think we’ll become good friends. Sonam is a reporter for BBS (Bhutan Broadcasting) and covers eastern Bhutan. Chundun is a stay-at-home wife and mother. I’m getting tips from her about how to do basic things like keep a carpet clean when there only seem to be soft, short-handled brooms. She said I can either use a damp rag, or a ball of dough to roll over the carpet to pick up dust.

Chundun also said that she thinks the ban on killing animals for the first month each year is ridiculous. She said that she just ends up stocking up on meat ahead of time and putting it in the freezer. She pointed out that instead of saving animal lives, this actually shortens their lives by an additional month.

I noticed that among the plants on the hill below me, there are lots of nasturtiums (which I nibbled), lilies and geraniums. I will ask Chundun if she thinks it would be okay for me to dig some up to have on my balcony.

Chundun’s cousin checked out my tv and determined that the cable wasn’t connected. He tapped into Chundun’s line, so now I get lots of channels. Perhaps I’ll check it out this evening.

Time for dinner. I’m going to warm up the delicious rice and vegetable dahl I made for dinner last night. I can’t really cook big quantities of anything because of the lack of refrigeration.

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