Saturday, June 26, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
This is the traditional hospital, which is about three minute's walk from our house. When you enter the gates there's a palpable calm, and that ubiquitous ting ting ting sound of a little bell above a prayer wheel that someone is always turning. It's quiet and lovely and just going there makes me feel better. I went recently to get treatment for some mild indigestion and had a happy reunion with my favorite doctor there, Dr. Dophu. Infinitely patient, with a face like a benevolent Buddha, he's also got an ironic sense of humor, which always catches me by surprise.
His office is large and cool with beautiful Bhutanese thankas on the walls, a big desk, heavy drapes, and a sitting area with a chair and couch in one corner. This visit, one of the hospital's pharmacists was working on some papers at a table at the other end of the office. He never looked up. Dr. greeted me and we sat down, me on the couch and he in the chair, and we had a little chat. Then he took my wrist in his hand. Three fingers of the other hand he placed on various pulse points at my wrist. He seemed to be concentrating as he pressed his fingers on my arm. Suddenly he looked up and said, "Linda, have you been being mean to your husband?"
"No!" I laughed. "I promise. You can't be getting that from my pulse!"
"No," he said. "It's just a little digestive disturbance." I was thrilled. He got it. Unlike visits to western doctors, you never go in to a traditional medicine doctor's office and tell him your symptoms off the bat. It's his job to figure it out by looking at you and by taking your pulse. In all these years Dr. Dophu has never been wrong.
In olden times, if a man was too ill to make the trek from a remote village to visit a traditional healer, the wife would go. The traditional doctors were so adept they could diagnose the illness of the man by reading the pulse of his wife-- or vice versa. Now, that level of skill is lost.
The ancient medicine and the skills come directly from the Buddha's teachings. All medicines are herbal and are collected from pastures and forests in the Himalayas. There are thousands of flowers, herbs and plants that, when analyzed, have the same chemical properties and healing powers as many modern medicines.
Dr. filled out my patient sheet using a beautiful old fountain pen that made a pleasing scratching sound as he wrote incomprehensible symbols on the green page. We said goodbye, and he gave my prescription to the pharmacist, whom I followed to a room on the other side of the compound. Its walls were lined with shelves full of huge glass jars of round pills and capsules. He grabbed jars and counted out three sets of pills-- for morning, noon and night, in little plastic bags. He gave me instructions for taking the pills and sent me on my way.
A week taking the medicine and my digestion is in perfect balance. If all this seems too perfect and lovely to be true, I hasten to add that all medical treatment in Bhutan-- western or traditional-- besides being available to everyone, is also free.
Monday, June 14, 2010
One of the things I love most about walking in Bhutan is the smell. This June the wild roses are spectacular and give off an intense aroma. It, combined with clean mountain air, the pungent smell of pine resin and the slight whiff of smoke-- a smell that is forever associated with Bhutan-- makes me feel kind of drunk. Walking in Bhutan is one of my main reasons for living. Some kind of physiological thing happens apart from the endorphins that separate my head from my feet. As my feet and legs negotiate the occasionally trecherous mountain paths, my head goes off into infinite space.
Often the custom in Buddhist Bhutan is to save the lives of roosters by letting them live out this samsara on the grounds of temples and monastaries. So you can see lots of roosters at many of the temples in Bhutan. Wangduetse has two monk roosters, and here they are. They, along with a little black dog, visited us as we ate a small lunch of jam and bread. The "pecking order" was obvious. The dog got whatever scraps of bread he wanted as the roosters deferred to him. He'd take a piece and walk over to a tree and chew on it and lick it for a moment, until we threw down another piece. Then he'd go and get it and put it with the old piece. Clearly he didn't really want the bread. He just wanted to keep his place. The smaller, more colorful rooster was dominant, and as we finished eating and were admiring the view of the valley he jumped up on the table and started crowing, I guess maybe to make sure we were clear about his position. The other seemingly more sensible rooster went and sat down in the shade under a tree and puffed himself up nicely.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
We followed a group of monks who were also having a Sunday roam up past the Druk Hotel, the Clock Tower, and then over to Hong Kong Market. Suddenly hungry, we hiked over to Karma's Coffee for some chicken lasagna (me) and kewa datse (Kinlay), and some of Karma's world class coffee. Fortified, we hiked up the hill to my favorite new place, Shopper's Store, across from the RICB Colony. I bought some French's yellow mustard, which is a delicacy here. Not sure what I'll do with it, but it appealed to my sense of irony. In three hours we'd walked from one end of Thimphu to the other, and we took our time getting home along the upper road that parallels Norzin Lam, just below Changankha Lhagang. We passed lots of kids chasing each other and groups of men playing darts, or kuru as it's called here. It occured to me that Sunday is definitely not a day to work in Thimphu. Everyone was outside, having fun. Back home on the computer with the windows open I can still hear kids playing and kuru players egging each other on, trying to catch the last bit of light as they finish their games. If I were in the U.S. I'd have worked all day, and would have been slightly dissatisfied right about now. Instead, I'm happy and a little tired from walking the giant Stairmaster that is Thimphu. I definitely wouldn't have taken an aimless walk around town, or bought overpriced crap mustard just for the hell of it. I love Bhutan.