While on our low-elevation excursion to contrast the different environments of Bhutan, the past two days have flown by. Yesterday, Tuesday the 21st, we split off in groups of five and conducted three field interviews with local residents of the Lingmethang area, where we’ve been for the past four nights. The interviews covered multiple topics including livestock management, forest management, and farming practices. The exercise took all day. The Bhutanese people are generous and good; our interviewees welcomed us to their shops, homes, farms and offices. A general air of contentment overcame the bus as we rode back to the hostel campus from our last interviews.
We arrived back at campus to make momos (dumplings) as part of a Language and Culture class. After making a few dumplings, I ran off to play with the kids from the surrounding houses, one of my preferred activities wherever we are in Bhutan. After dinner I played guitar. The kids wandered back into our yard and sat with me; one sang, carrying the tune well.
Today we arrived in Mongar. A thousand meters higher and a few degrees colder than the sub-tropical Lingmethang, Mongar is a ‘metropolis.’ Before stopping at our hotel, we visited an agricultural research center, as well as a community forest. Our professor, Purna Chhetri, had once worked at the center. We received a presentation from his friends and colleagues before a tour of the various plants they are cultivating. Orchids, olive trees, various citrus fruits, and the seed bank were a few of the tour highlights.
After a languorous lunch in the sunshine of a mountain afternoon, we drove a short way to the nearby community forest, where a community leader and forest manager met us to describe their management and conservation processes. We asked questions focusing on inhabitant interactions with the forest and wildlife, while also probing matters of forest administration and general habits. We arrived at our hotel, but not before the community forest manager treated us to a cup of chai and some smashed dry corn kernels, a local specialty. We went into town then. Feeling overwhelmed by the buildings and people, we dove into ladhus and sweets at a local bakery before spending time observing the town and mountains from the local helicopter pad.
The longer we stay here, the more each day takes on a dreamlike quality. The beautiful and kind people; the sweeping mountain ridges; the star-filled evening sky; the drone of the monks and the pouring rain on the temple roof; these could not be more than a product of my wildest imagination. Sometimes reality is madder than dreams.
In the picture, you can see most of the chilips (Dzongkha for foreigners, us) sitting courtside. In the distance, you can make out the Mongar Dzong, or castle of the town.