Sunday, October 30, 2011

Crazy Chillips -- Expats in Bhutan


Note: This blog is to be read in a dry British accent in the style of old fashioned anthropologists... with your pinky held up!

Chillip: n. a white foreigner in Bhutan. Could describe both those working and those on vacation.

Observe the chillips in their natural environment. See how they congregate at the Zone, Cafe Klein and Ambient Cafe. Like parched animals approaching a watering hole, they find any place with non-instant coffee and free wifi. Most can be seen on their computers or reading books: typically some sort of guide to Buddhism in Bhutan, trekking, or ironically, “The Art of War.” You can spot a tourist as one reading “Beyond the Earth and Sky” or “Radio Shangri La,” two memoirs by chillips who have lived in Bhutan.

The most fascinating chillips to observe are those who work in Thimphu, rather than the tourists. These chillips establish their station through regular interaction with cafe proprietors and other chillips who spend time there. They are so articulated by other chillips as “regulars.” It is then that other pre-established chillips will begin to notice them and, at the critical transforming moment, will sit at their table and start a conversation.

There are some chillips though who seem to be ostracized by this “regular” community. This is especially obvious if you observe the way they wear the national dress of Kira and Gho. It is survival of the fittest and chillips who have learned to wear this dress properly can be seen giggling or openly laughing at the “sloppy” and disheveled appearance when chillips try to put them on without the help of a local.

At the point when the chillip has become a part of the community and he/she will be invited to special gatherings. Those chillips who are working hard to integrate in the community are able to infuse their gatherings with locals as well. Quiet now as we approach one of these groups. You will see the evening start at one of the favorite local watering holes, specifically ones that serve beer.

The chillips seem to be fixated on food throughout their conversation. They discuss the best items on the menu, then which of the Bhutanese dishes they have learned to make, comparing strategies for lessening the spice. And finally, you will notice how they end up talking about the food they cannot find here in Bhutan and how to creatively make it out of what is available.

Quick, watch as they decide who's apartment they will migrate too. Once inside, the group will continue to drink while listening to “western music.” At about 10:00pm, the internal clocks inform chillips that it is once again time to migrate. They will arrive at Om Cafe at about 10:30 to book a room for Kareoke. The chillips choose songs characteristic of their past including those by the Beatles, Queen, and Lincoln Park. 

Watch as the chillips then move to Space 34, the most busiest and most popular night club in Thimphu. Here they will listen to tasteless pop, techno and electronic music while dancing in their group. Sometimes they will mix with locals while dancing but the wild dancing style of the chillip can sometimes deter the unknown local from approaching.

The club closes sometime between 1am and 3am (longer if a member of the royal family is spotted and wishes for the club to remain open later) and the chillips split into groups based on their destination: an after party on the side of a mountain or to return home to sleep.

--- Heather Wilson ---

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