Friday, October 14, 2016

I'm with Her

I got a new hat pattern - I'm with Her.  It's free and available via Ravelry

Did you hear Michelle Obama's speech yesterday? If you haven't, you should. Both Paul and I had tears in our eyes listening to our first lady.

But, this hat is not just about against Trump and all the vile things he'd said and done.  It's about supporting a very qualified candidate who also happens to be a woman.

I have a lot of respect for Hillary's grit.  She may not come across as a warm and sweet mom and grandma the way our society expects woman to be like, but she is tough, intelligent, knowledgeable, and eperienced.

She fought for universal health care, a very important issue to me, when she was the first lady and knowing well she'd be the target of much hate.  She endured a lot of mud slinging since then and is still willing to do the job as our president.  She is my president.  I'm with Her.

After Hillary's term as president, I would like to nominate Michelle Obama as our president in 8 years :)

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Trip of a Life Time - Part 4

After Thimphu, we proceeded to Phobjikha Valley.  The drive was 8 hours over mostly unpaved road. We had to applaud our driver Nangay's skill.  Most of the time we were driving along cliff side, and 2 way traffic on mostly single lane, unpaved road.  We all got slightly nervous when coupla times the van got a bit stuck in the mud. Fortunately, it only started raining the last 1/4 of the way so the road wasn't as muddy as it could've been.

View from Dochu La looking out into the Himalaya range

Vendors selling produce along the side of the road. 
Our driver Nangay bought a giant cucumber and shared it with us.

We started very early in the morning, and drove over Dochu La pass, had lunch in Punaka, and continued on to Gangtey.  It was raining and late in the day when we arrived at our hotel. The stay at Gangtey Lodge was amazing, and the most awesome part was we were the only guest for the 2 days we were there. The view of the Phobjikha valley was beyond breathtaking, just endlessly green.  

view from the hotel

view from my room.  Even though I'm really not a bath tub person,
 I did soak in it for 5 minutes.

The next day we visited the Gangtey Goemba temple. It was on top of small hill with a tiny village leading up to it.

Then the real highlight was our hike through the valley, passing the area where Black Neck Cranes would migrate in November.  The hike was easy and beautiful.  It first went through potato fields, then through the woods, and then back on more pastures.  This was probably my favorite hike of all the places we went, and the only hike where we saw no other tourists at all, just us.

tiny village of Gangtey led to Gangtey Goemba.

a house in the village

Gangtey Goemba

Most tourists don't make it to Phobjikha because it takes so long to get there and the road condition is not the most comfortable.  Once we're there, it was such a treat to be away from the more well-trodden places.  It was quiet, beautiful, and peaceful. Even our guide Deechan said she would love to live in Phobjikha one day. She joked that maybe she can marry someone from here.  She also pointed out people in Phobjikha look slightly different (not that I could tell the differences immediately) because they're nomad origin and they have more reddish cheeks, more similar to the Tibetan look I suppose.

Farmers harvesting potatoes.  It immediately made me think of Van Gogh's drawing

Phobjikha Valley

Phobjikha was truly a gem that made the long and rough drive really worth it.  The whole Bhutan was like being in Shangri-La, but Phobjikha tops all for me. It also didn't hurt that half of the time we were there it was gently misty, then it was sunny and beautiful during our hike until the last 10 minutes when it started to drizzle. I felt like I walking in a dream.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Trip of A Life Time - Part 3

Cheri Goemba

On the second day in Thimphu, we hiked up to Tango-Cheri Goemba, a monstary and Buddhism college that was at the outskirt of the capital.

The hike was not long, about 45 minutes or so, but it was steep.  By the time we got to the monastery, everyone was feeling the steepness and the altitude. Our guide made the driver hike up with us.  Halfway up the driver wanted to turn around. We kept up cheering him along, he finally made it to the monastery with us.

As we were touring the monastery, a foreign young lady walked by and said to us if we'd like to see their work of conservation of ancient wall paintings.  She exclaimed that they very rarely get tourists coming by because no one knows they're there working.

A team of about half a dozen young people from around the world were working on the conservation of the ancient wall painting in the monastery.  I got to chat with few of them and asked about their conservation work and their findings, as well as the material the wall was painted originally.  They all recently got their master degrees in Conservation from University of London.  They had been coming to the Goemba for few years now and 4 month each time. While the conservation work cured, they'd go to other conservation sites around the world.

I was very impressed. I was also envious of their work.  Every morning they'd hike up the mountain and work on the beautiful old paintings.

It really was a neat experience to see them working.  I had been to backrooms of museums to tour restorations but I'd never seen conservation on site until now. Also, having many art friends myself also meant having to listen to egos. Often, that ego was paired with an arrogance of caring about nothing else in art but what was immediately relevant. It was sad that this disregard and willful ignorance of art older than 50 years old seemed to be not uncommon among artists that I know. It was even more disturbing to notice many college art programs fostered that notion of caring about only the hot and the trendy art.  So the chanced encounter with these young people from England, China, Korea, Columbia, etc, working on the conservation felt really good. It was a treat to chat with people that have a deep appreciation of art and culture and worked in painstakingly slow pace, no rush, no ego. It was a total treat to see the paintings that most tourists are unaware of. Our guide Deechan said she'd never been to that part of the temple and never seen the paintings all these years of taking tourists to the Goemba.  The colors used on these paintings were derived from the natural pigments were much more subdued than the bright, saturated colors that tend to be used in the newer temples in Bhutan. The overall composition were the most beautiful and thoughtful one I've seen in the the whole trip to Bhutan.

I don't have any photo to share how amazingly beautiful the paintings were as no photographing were understandably  allowed in any temples.

local Bhutanese visiting the Goemba

After lunch back in town, we visited the ongoing building site of the big Buddha statue and its temple.
The project was funded by a millionaire from Hong Kong. People of Thimphu seemed to be happy with the shiny giant golden Buddha being built on the mountain visible from the city

The last visit of the day was to Trashii Chhoe Dzong, where both the Thimphu administrative government and the leading temple were located. We had to put on our long sleeve shirts to visit Dzongs.  Dzongs were basically fort structures that housed both municipal government as well as the main official temple of the area with large courtyards between the buildings that often held festivals. This one in Thimphu was impressive. This was also where the king of Bhutan worked. His modest palace was right next door. Speaking of the king, Bhutanese really love and revere their king. The king's picture was everywhere in the country.

Deechan explained to us that Bhutanese don't have last names. Only the royals have last name, so it wouldn't be proper and respectful if commoners have last names.

Trashii Chhoe Dzong

After returning to the hotel, we walked around the one block downtown nearby.  Yes, the downtown of capital of Bhutan basically was just one block, and no traffic light.  In fact, there was no traffic light in the entire country. In the late afternoon the downtown was happening with many young people walking around. Many stores were like corner store type that sell soda, cookies, etc. Some were clothing stores, and there were quite a few cell phone fixing places, only a handful of souvenir stores on the block.  We bought some drinks and chips and headed back to the hotel to hunker down for the evening as there was not much to do at night. I asked Deechan what do young people like herself do at night, she smiled and said, "Karaoke." 

She warned us not to walk around downtown after dark because all the stray dogs would come out. She said there is probably more stray dogs than people in Bhutan. The good thing is, according to the guide, city governments are starting to spay and neuter the stray dogs.  If a dog's ear is clipped that means the dog has been fixed.

We started noticing our guide Deechan would pat any stray dog that came up to her, and sometimes she would feed them. She would talk to the cats, dogs, cows and chat with old folks. She laughed and said, "I'm loud, that's why the old people all like me. They can hear me."  She said many people feed stray dogs.  Temples feed stray dogs too.  

Downtown Thimphu

Dogs chilling in the afternoon on Thimphu street