Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Fairly Typical Saturday Afternoon

I just returned from a very pleasant walk into town. I walk into town almost every evening, but Saturday afternoons are so much more relaxed. The week’s work is done and I have a whole day and a half off!

Today is particularly nice, because it is sunny, and not too hot. I took my small backpack and some plastic bags, to be prepared to buy some groceries, if there happened to be anything good available today. As I walked into town, I met many locals along the way. Most had the usual greeting, “Where are you going ma’m?” I met some kids from my school and was given “a chewing gum”. Further on, more kids, another chewing gum.

I had to pass by above my school, hoping not to be noticed. There is a football (soccer) tournament going on, and I had been asked to be the “Chief Guest” today and tomorrow. This would have meant sitting through hours of soccer, occasionally making an announcement, and at the end congratulating the winning team. No thank-you. You know what an ardent sports fan I am. I apologized, using “other plans” as an excuse. Passing by unnoticed was not easy. With my bright red hair, and being the only woman in Mongar over 5 foot 2, I am easy to spot. Some people have said they can always see me because I look like a torch.

Further on, more kids, but this time I was given a little packet of Churapi, a snack I enjoy. It is a little foil pack of tiny pieces of very hard dried cheese. You can chew on one piece, about .5 cm cubed, and it lasts about a half an hour. I like it. I’ve tried the bigger more rustic version, which is about an inch cubed, but it is like having a rock in your mouth. Your cheek bulges way out and you can’t talk properly. I spat that out after a minute or two.

In town I first went to the vegetable market. Slim pickins today. I got some brinjal (eggplant), a small cabbage, some plum tomatoes and a ball of local cheese. I am making a pasta dish for a picnic tomorrow with my buddies, “The Bhutaniacs”. They asked me how I would normally make pasta, so I’ll see what I can do with the ingredients I have. I have lots of garlic and onions, and I have basil which I grew from seeds sent from Canada. It should be tasty I think.

I bought a few grocery items at my favourite shop, known as “The Tibetan Shop” because it is run by a Tibetan family. I keep hoping they will get a new shipment of butter from India. The butter on the shelf has been there since the beginning of the summer, and the cardboard packages are almost transparent from the melted fat. Yuck. I could buy local butter, which is wrapped in a banana leaf and sold at the vegetable market, but it tastes more like cheese than butter.

The main reason I want butter, is that I am in the midst of making my third loaf of whole wheat bread, using Chundu’s flying saucer shaped oven. The first loaf was weird because Chundu and I used what she thought was atta (whole wheat flour), but was actually tsampa, roasted barley flour. I don’t think it had any gluten, so it didn’t rise at all.

My second attempt was last weekend, and it was much better. It still didn’t rise as much as I would like, but it was tasty. I gave two thirds of the loaf to Chundu’s family, and they enjoyed it. I had a little each day, with real Swiss cheese from Bumthang. What a treat!

This third loaf is doing its final rise, and it looks promising. It is the first loaf-shaped loaf, because Chundu lent me a real loaf pan.

As I wandered around town, I saw quite a few vehicles still decorated with ribbons, bows and flowers. Yesterday there was a special puja for vehicles to protect against accidents. If I had a vehicle, I would probably do it too. Better safe than sorry. On these roads, one needs any protection one can get. We are still getting major rain, so there are landslides, accidents and road closures. The sunny days are becoming more frequent, so I hope the roads improve too.

On the walk home, instead of just crossing over the creek which is on my route, I walked up the creek to gather some watercress. I was careful to avoid touching the stinging nettles, because I’ve made that mistake before. The water felt very nice on my feet, and my sandals needed a wash. I had noticed the watercress last week when I was there with Class 6A, cleaning up. In English class we had read a story about a bunch of kids saving a creek, and they were inspired to do the same. That day they worked for about an hour and a half collecting plastic, metal and cardboard from the creek, and then they repositioned some stones so that the creek now flows unobstructed. As I said to them, the creek even sounds happy. They were very proud of their work, and many say they are inspired to clean up other areas.

I can hear shouts and cheers wafting up the hill from the soccer pitch. Time to go and put my bread in the oven.

I promise I will add photos in the next couple of days.

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