1. I introduced myself as “breast-milk” to the Prime Minister. Apparently my nickname, Nunu, has a different meaning here in Bhutan than it does in the country where it originates (Burma) where it means “gentle.”
2It’s a very bad idea to put an entire dried chili pepper in one’s mouth…especially in front of distinguished hosts. I learned in practice a few important Buddhist lessons from the experience: that of restraint (although my tears slipped out of my control, I thankfully kept myself from screaming out loud), generosity (the other two expensive chilies ended up underneath a leaf of lettuce for the deities to consume—I’m sure that they are more capable of handling such delicacies), suffering (I didn’t know that food could cause physical pain!),and impermanence (the pain of the chilies faded after the longest twenty minutes of my life.)
3. Bad karma can follow you even in to your Buddhism and Social Theory class: the seat of the chairs at RTC do not attach to the frame. The entire class laughed for a solid minute after I fell off my chair in heels and full traditional dress. Closely followed by…
4. Being inconspicuous as a pchilip or foreigner in Bhutan is absolutely impossible. Although the other day I was mistaken for a Bhutanese and someone asked me “sister, what happened to your hair?” (I have very curly hair.) Of course it’s become much funnier now that I can understand a little of what people say when they talk to each other about me!
5. Finding parallels between the two Tibeto-Burman languages of Burmese and Dzongkha isn’t something you should attempt. After accidentally throwing out a dirty swear to my new friends while saying the word “chicken” in Burmese, I save my linguistic endeavors as comic relief instead.
6. It’s time to drop the habit of cutting my nails at the end of the day. Apparently it shortens the life of your parents (sorry mom and dad!)
7. Practice language only on close friends: in my attempt to practice Dzongkha pronunciation I ran through most of my Dzongkha Commission phrase book with my roommate. Unfortunately my interpretation of the phonetic spelling was unintelligible until I came across the phrase Choe gi awa na le bup thoen me ga? “Do you have worms in your stools?” which apparently came out crystal clear.
8. The 50 Ngultrum note looks a lot like the 500 note in a dark taxi (or in a well-lit café for that matter.)
9. When riding a city bus, prepare to use your full lung capacity to combat the compression from your neighbors on either side of you.
10.Chewing a piece of dried yak cheese is a serious commitment. It took me two and a half hours to finish the eraser sized lump. When I asked if most people took so long to eat the cheese, my friend responded “My (toothless) grandmother takes a little longer.”
For more blog entries go to: http://lettersfrombhutan.tumblr.com/
Majors in Anthropology and Asian Studies
Class of 2014