Photos to follow.
Forty-five minutes of switchbacks and roller-coaster roads east of Paro is Thimphu, the densest urban concentration of the country. Every building is a work of art, painted with Buddhist symbols, geometric figures, animals, or — in a few cases –penises (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phallus_paintings_in_Bhutan).
Nearly all people wear the traditional garb of gho (wrapped knee-length jackets) for men and kira (long, wrapped skits) for women. I am required to dress similarly while teaching, so we spend entire afternoons going from one fabric shop to another to buy the hand-woven lengths of material for the skirt and coordinating fabric for the jacket (tago) and its lining (wanju). The decisions are exhausting as there are hundreds of patterns to choose from and finding color and pattern schemes that seem harmonious are mathematically staggering. At last, we are laden with bags of material and head to the tailor’s shop where we beg to have the garments sewn quickly before we leave the city on Sunday.
Through the rain, we drive about the city from one administrative office to another securing visas, work permits, telephone numbers, bank accounts, and duty free cards (which allow expats to buy alcohol from the duty free store). Many, many hours are passed waiting for forms to be processed, required documents to be procured, and signatures to be scribbled.
The city is a quiet one, but for the myriad songs of birds. Sidewalks are full of bustling pedestrians. Flowers and trees proliferate. The city seems more of a busy park than a metropolis. Tobacco is illegal, so there is no one smoking. The air is delicious.