Sunday, July 17, 2011

Trashigang and back

Yesterday was something of a red-letter day in transport terms so having blogged about an earlier disaster I think I should set the record straight with a much more positive tale.

At about 12.30pm, after our half-day of teaching we headed out for what is now the usual transport waiting game when we want to make our way to Trashigang. On this occasion it was for long over due haircuts. We walked down to the gates of my school and waited for about 10 minutes without any vehicles coming by and then a half-loaded truck came along. Ian flagged it down and sure enough it stopped and after a brief chat with the driver, we climbed up into the cabin and his off-sider climbed back in on the passenger’s side and away we went. It was a smooth run into T/gang and the driver happily chatted away with Ian about our jobs and his job and the state of the roads, all the time apologizing for his poor English. We were impressed and reassured him that it was much better than our Dzongkha or Sharchopka. The view and perspective from high up in the cabin was quite different to the one we usually get and we are now familiar enough with that 16kms of windy mountain road to know when we are approaching the few sights we pass along the way. Ian called Deepak the famous barber just as we were passing the Dzong (Administrative and Government centre) to book in for cuts. Once we were in the bustling metropolis of T/gang, it took a little convincing before the driver finally accepted our offer of the usual fare the 4-wheel drive taxis charge but he did so at the mention of it paying for some of his meals for the rest of the journey, as he was continuing on to Mongar.

The impressive structure and location of Trashigang Dzong

Soon enough the main business of haircuts and in my case another dye too was done and dusted. The charming and well spoken Deepak, was very impressed with the "new technology" of my Australian made hair dye and mixed up a bit more than was required. He called to see if I was happy with it last night as I have to wash it out at home. How’s that for customer service! On the phone he said that he and his young employee and the woman in the shop next door all tried the bit that was left and liked the results. Of course the colour is only visible on the grey hairs in their jet black hair. He is such a nice man.

After he had finished both our haircuts he asked us to have a coffee with him. We were both amazed that there is even somewhere where you can get coffee in T/gang and of course we agreed. We headed off to a hotel and restaurant that we have eaten at several times before and sure enough 3 coffees and ├ęclairs from the bakery next door arrived at the table. Now they looked like real cappuccinos but were actually instant coffee with frothed milk. Still very nice of him and when we tried to pay he wouldn't have a bar of it. I think he probably spent all that we had paid him for our haircuts on the coffee and cakes but he was happy to do so.

The executive director of BCF Nancy was his teacher in 1989 when he was in class 2 and he remembers her fondly and is very impressed with the work she does now. He has also cut His Majesty the King's hair and his father’s before him! Another famous customer is  Garab Rimpoche, who is the founder of the local monastery in Rangjung and many other community based serices and is an esteemed and honoured local identity. Deepak had great tales to tell about both of them and has amazing English. As a barber he has quite the reputation and yet he is a really lovely down to earth guy working out of a box of a salon smaller that the average bathroom.

One of the shopping streets in T/ Gang-did I say metropolis!

I spent another 2 hours wandering around T/gang with the dye still in my hair and didn't even care. I guess we foreigners are considered so odd that most people didn't even notice and there was certainly no surprise or staring!! I don't think that would be the case in Adelaide if one went out shopping with hair dye plastered to one’s head!  

We got ourselves an armload of supplies and treats and a few unexpected items including spinach, which we were thrilled about. At the moment the vegetable supplies are very limited. Most of the time the only things we can get locally are potatoes, chillies (of course) tomatoes, onions, garlic and eggplants with the occasional bunch of asparagus appearing. So the spinach was the find of the day though gin and tonic water would have to come a close second!

T/gang the town built into the cliff face!

We wandered back down to the bus station where the local taxis all hang out and as luck would have it, a driver who has taken us before and speaks some English too, instantly spotted us. He called out “Rangjung Rangjung,” and there were already 2 other passengers waiting and as often happens another just materialized out of thin air at the very mention of the vehicle leaving, so we got into the cab and were on our way home in five minutes flat. 2 of the passengers were graduates from Rangjung HSS and were happy to chat about their time there about 5 years ago. No waiting and no delays on the transport front this time round. That is an absolute first and now I have my fingers crossed that Kuenzang Gyeltshen, our driver and native of nearby Changmay, will often be right there when we are searching for a lift.

Only this morning did it occur to me that I should have asked that driver for his number so we could actually call him when we want to book the whole vehicle to go further afield. Oh well, hopefully we will see him again and be able to do that before we implement our plans to visit some of the other BCFers out here in the east during this term.

Every shop front needs a prayer wheel doesn't it?

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