Tuesday, October 2, 2012

weekend escape to Phongmey

Last weekend we took ourselves back up to Phongmey ostensibly to see the Tshechu but also to stay with Becky and to have more than a few fleeting moments in the town.

We went on a brief walk around the outskirts of town. I just love that it was a loop and a daily routine for our BCF colleague. We did have one heart thumping moment when a huge (at least 2-metre long) cobra at the side of the road, raised its hood as we passed. I missed that spectacular display in my eagerness to flee but I did capture it before it disappeared down a hole nearby.

We circumambulated the small town, before plonking ourselves down on a bench conveniently placed to view the whole township and contemplate the universe. Apparently it is a favourite resting spot complete with picturesque crumbling chorten. As we were heading down we were insistently summoned to share tea with a local couple, who live nearby and were no doubt aware of Becky’s frequent visits to that spot but we managed to decline without offending.

There was an even more enticing village above us but at dusk with the light fading we did the gracious thing and saved it for another day.

At almost every turn in the main street we were greeted by Becky’s students and it is so obvious how much they adore her.

As is always the case the time simply evaporated once we got back to Becky’s beautiful little forestry department cottage. She had warned us, that the power was likely to go out and that it was damp and mouldy but it sure seemed like a comfortable home to us. Right on cue the power did go out and we were instantly grateful for the readymade momos and the plentiful supply of beer we had brought with us. On that account I am sure we were the bad influence.

Shortly after the power returned we had a squealing and chasing episode with a small but unwelcome rodent and managed to at least see how it exited. This inspired diligent closure of the gaping hole and we never spotted it again so it might just have been both dissuaded and excluded from reentry.

The next morning we donned our traditional attire and made our way up to the Lhakang for the second day of the big festivities. Becky doesn’t wear kira that often but she stole the show once one of her students fixed up my poor effort at getting her into her beautiful new hand-woven kira. I can dress myself in this attire but I am not at all adept at putting someone else into it. In fact that morning I had to take my own off to work out how to do it.

We wandered around and enjoyed the crowd, the atmosphere and the performances. I now realise that we understand a lot more of what happens than we did in November last year when we saw our first Tshechu in Trashigang.

It was wonderful to see Becky’s students’ eyes light up at the sight of her and how eager they were to interact with us all. Of course there were also a few of my own and Ian’s students in the crowd.

We had the chance to enter the costume room as well as being almost in the performing area. 

The black hat dance I am now familiar with and really love but I am still not quick enough to capture the flow and grace of the dancers.

One masked dance was all we got to see as we planned to walk the 16 kms back to Rangjung and wanted to leave with plenty of time to achieve that task before dark.

As it turned out we had incredible good fortune at the crossing we were most concerned about. While we were staring it down and considering the best route, a vehicle came through heading to Phongmey. The driver instantly indicated that he would turn around and drive us across and we jumped at the chance.

Our good intentions of hiking all the way back were tested a few times with offers of lifts as the afternoon progressed and at the half way point we succumbed and accepted as we were both feeling the effects of the 8kms we had covered already having done little walking recently.

That turned out to be a good decision as I think one of my toes is broken and that was causing me to walk oddly and I ended up with blisters on both feet from the distance we did cover!!

Time to get back into some serious walking as we have a 16km walk to Trashigang coming up in November as a part of the Sherig Century celebrations (100 years of education in Bhutan.) 

Thanks for a great weekend Becky. I just know that Martha would have loved Tshechu.

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