I've been in Bhutan for about two days now, and I have to say-- I definitely dig it.
First off, let me just explain the title of this post. The people of Bhutan are absurdly beautiful, in my opinion. They have these delicate features and sort of dusky skin, and it seems like every single one of them is slim and graceful. I have so many girl-crushes, it's out of control. Even with all that, it seems like every time I'm introduced to anyone, beautiful or not, I end up jabbering on about Jake-- which come to think of it, is something I do all the time anyway. But still, aesthetically speaking-- wow.
Yesterday my parents and I just wandered around the town. Thimpu would be pretty unremarkable, were it not for the fact that it's nestled in a valley surrounded by these huge hill/mountains that are covered in evergreens. It's 360 degrees of beautiful, and when you take the people into account, look out! The buildings all have the trappings of traditional Bhutanese style (by law, actually) and there are people and stray dogs all over the place.
The people here, aside from being stunning, are also super super hospitable. Our guide, whose name is Sonam, and our driver, whose name is Ugyen, look physically uncomfortable if we try to do anything for ourselves--order something, buy something, carry something, anything. I actually started making a game of trying to beat them to my backpack before they could snatch it up and refuse to give it back. At first I thought this was just part of the hotel's schtick, and they were required to act that way, but then this morning we went to a house consecration.
After a Bhutanese person builds a house, it has to be consecrated. This is after the foundation has been blessed, and yet another blessing must be made on the house before the roof has been put on (it seems like there's a lot of consecrating going on in Bhutan). Anyway, we drive up to this house, a three-story structure made of wood, with beautifully painted window frames and covered with colorful flags. There was a tent out front with people singing and dancing, and chairs for people to watch the show. Inside the house was just as colorful, with prayer flags and all kinds of adornments. As soon as we stepped onto the property, the nephew of the man who had built the house rushed up and thanked us for coming, and accepted our gift of a six-pack (which is part of the tradition, apparently). He then insisted on seeing us into the tent where the dancers were performing and brought us food and something to drink. My mom almost refused it (you know my mom-- she's picky :) ) but Sonam gave us one of those meaningful eyebrow lifts that people give you before you're about to make a huge faux pas, and we all accepted. Sonam explained that it's considered pretty rude to refuse the offer.
The rest of the people there were just as nice and accommodating, and seemed to enjoy practicing their English on us while pressing even more drinks into our hands. That would have been okay, except for the fact that they were mostly alcoholic drinks (which explains the beer thing, actually), and I really didn't want to be the drunk American at the house consecration, you know? So I had to start refusing, which Sonam said was okay since I had already accepted a good amount.
The house consecration was amazing-- there really is no other word. There's a room in every Bhutanese house (I think it's in every house) that is dedicated to a shrine for Buddha. In this room were about eight monks, chanting in Sanskrit and playing instruments. There were two monks playing two huge horns; they would blow in unison for about thirty seconds, take a breath, and then keep going. I was honestly surprised they didn't pass out. These two guys were accompanied by a man with cymbals and three other men playing instruments that looked like flutes. There were a few monks in there not playing instruments (they were just helping with the chanting, I guess) and one of them who looked about my age busted out a cell phone from his robe and started texting. My mom saw him and pointed him out to me, but when he saw us looking he got all sheepish and put it away.
Amidst all this chanting and horn blowing and whatnot, two men in masks at the center of the room were dancing around with bundles of grass, the ends of which were on fire. Every so often, they would throw dust (apparently gathered from rotting pine trees) onto the flames, causing the fire to burst up in the same way as when you spray a lighter flame with hairspray. The men in masks then went from room to room, blowing the flames around in the wooden house. My dad and I were nervous; my mom LOVED it. The masked men would also blow the flames at people, people like ME-- but they were good enough at it that nothing (including myself) caught on fire. The flames are supposed to purify and cleanse the house of all the evil spirits, and if they get blown at you, then you're purified and cleansed as well. So I think they were trying to be nice, since it's considered a good thing to have the flames of a blazing sheaf of grass purposefully directed towards your flammable person. But it was so much fun, and like I said, the people were incredibly hospitable.
Okay wow, this turned into a total novella-- but frankly, there's not that much to do at night in Thimpu. I'll try and get some pictures up, especially of my SWEET pad, which has three bedrooms and two porches and is basically super-swank.
I miss all of you, and am very touched if you've read through all this blather up to this point. Keep it real stateside, and I'll try not to catch on fire over here.