The moment I stepped off of the plane in Paro, Bhutan my lungs filled with air so clear and fresh I felt like I had never breathed air before in my life. We have had over a week to settle in, though we have been very busy starting in on our academics, getting to know our fellow classmates, and adventuring to significant local sights. So far, we have seen torrential rains, visibly moving over the mountains before finally drenching us. We have tasted the wonderfully spicy local chilis and the sweet milk tea, available throughout the day. In just two weeks I have fallen in love with the majesty of Bhutan and its deep culture and rolling mountains.
Only a few days after we arrived in the country we traveled to Thimphu, the capital, to file some paperwork and experience the largest city in Bhutan. Overlooking the city is an enormous, ornate, gold statue of the Buddha atop a hill. We made the zig-zagging climb to the temple on which the towering Buddha sits. The statue was so grand and powerful that it was hard for my eyes to completely comprehend the magnitude of the statue, I could only stare and marvel at its beauty and complexity.
View of the Buddha statue which is said to “emanate the aura of peace and happiness to the entire world” (Bhutan tourism council, 2018).
The statue was opened to the public in 2010 and stands a massive 51.5 meters (169 feet) tall
Even in the short amount of time that I have been here, I recognize within Bhutan the sense of deep interconnectedness between nature and the predominantly Buddhist culture. Monasteries and Dzongs dot the landscape, embedded into the mountains, and every so often, the distant sound of chanting floats down into the valley where we live in Paro.
Everywhere I look, prayer flags are blowing delicately in the wind as if being waved by the kind, positive energy that emanates from the residents of Bhutan – the “happiest country on Earth.” Here, the mountains are our classroom and the sky is our constant companion.
View of Thimpu after a short hike.
Molly, one of the semester interns, reads during a lunch break. She is wearing a Kira, the traditional woman’s dress
There is still so much to learn and experience over the remaining weeks: we will track the path of the Divine Madman, complete and defend research, meet locals, eat wonderful food, experience the unique landscape, hear lectures from expert guests, optimistically search to catch a glimpse of the elusive red panda and breathe the wonderful Bhutanese air for four more weeks.
From the left: Laura, Fiona, Meryl, Shannon, and Elianna pose with Thimpu in the background on the hike up to the statue of the Buddha (seen above)
Students take in the view from the local Dzong in Paro called Rinpung dzong on our first day in Bhutan.