Tag Archives: Bhutan

Old Fashioned Blanket Making

Old Fashioned Blanket Making

As a nation, I feel like the United States has pulled away from making things with our hands. Sure, we talk about workers on the assembly lines all the time, and we seem to be extremely good with fancy desk jobs in high rise office buildings. Somewhere along the way, however, the idea of creating things — actual goods by hand — was mostly shipped overseas to the lowest bidder. It’s nice then to travel to places where a majority of the country’s goods are still created by hand.

While my wife and I were in Paro, Bhutan, we visited a small shop where blankets were hand sewn. The room contained about a six or seven contraptions (like the one pictured above) and had women of various ages hand-sewing. (At one sewing station, a baby was laying on a stack of blankets doing what babies do best — “googoo” and “gaga”.) The lights were only on in the back as the front of the room had plenty of natural light. It was refreshing to see, as the women were chatting away about all sorts of stuff and paid no attention to their guest with a camera.

As we made our way out the door, I recall thinking about how we just don’t have situations like this in the US anymore. Gone are the days with six or seven people sitting around sewing blankets by hand, and even if a place was like that, I’m sure some management-type would, because of my camera, escort me out of the area.

0212. (0117)

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Abundance of Prayer Flags

Abundance of Prayer Flags

Traditional prayer flags are rectangular cloth squares comprised of five different colors (blue, white, red, green and yellow). They are often found along ridges and peaks (windy areas) high in the Himalayas and believed to have originated with Bhuddism, although some theories suggest they originated earlier.

Hanging prayer flags in elevated and windy places, will allow Mother Nature to slowly break down the flag, and carry the blessings of peace, compassion, strength and wisdom into the wind.

While traveling through Bhutan, my wife and I saw prayer flags everywhere. At one point in our travels, we made our way high atop the town of Paro, and could only see prayer flags seemingly as far as the eye could see. As the wind whipped across the mountain town, the constant sound of the flags flapping in the wind was as therapeutic as it was amusing.

0212. (0371)

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Snow-Covered Prayer Flags

Today in Chicago we set a record of 280 days between “measurable snowfall.” (The key factor is the word “measurable.” Measurable snow is defined as one-tenth of an inch or more — any less is considered “trace.”) So while I was driving home from Iowa late the other night through some snow, nothing was measurable and, therefore, doesn’t really count, I guess.

My wife and I go back-and-forth frequently between staying in one of the world’s greatest cities, or selling everything and moving to a remote town in Italy. The seasons, and specifically, snow, are a big argument for me staying here. I love the snow and want more of it regularly. However, with global warming and general weather inconsistencies, it’s not working out too well.

Quite honestly, before my drive home from Iowa, the last time I saw snow was in early March, as my wife and I explored the tiny, mountainous country of Bhutan.

The temperature was chilly during our stay there, and as we’d climb higher into the mountains the snow would make more of an appearance. As we hiked to the Tigers’ Nest, it was early and cool, and we saw plenty of snow. As we made our way up the mountain and the sun rose in the sky, eventually, all of the snow along the trail melted. As much as we saw prayer flags throughout Bhutan, it was pretty cool to see them covered in snow alongside the trail to the country’s most well-known site.

(0648) 0312.

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Band of Children

Traveling through the small, mountainous country of Bhutan, my wife and I found ourselves in the super-tiny village of Sopsokha. There are, probably, less than a dozen homes in Sopsokha, one restaurant, a rafting company and a number of rice fields.

We arrived in Sopsokha by car, had lunch at the one restaurant and then hiked our way to the Temple of the Divine Madman. On our walk back, we passed a nearly-dilapidated house and I noticed there were five children playing in back. They had various metal things in their hands and were making their way towards the main road, which is where we were walking.

For a brief moment, I was curious if the kids were up to no good, but then quickly realized they all had various “instruments” in their hands and they were making music as they walked. Their instruments were nothing more than sticks and parts of metal pipes, but it didn’t matter to them. Their instruments made noise and other kids came out of their houses to see what was parading by.

(0526) 0212.

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Father and Daughter

While traveling through Bhutan, our guide (whose name is Choki) asked my wife and I if we’d like to stop by an old, traditional farmhouse. She knew it would be a fantastic photo opportunity for me, and she also knew my wife would enjoy the time as well. Saving the fun story of our visit for another blog post, this weekend I received a nice e-mail from our guide.

I had printed the pictures up of the family we visited as 5×7 and 8×10 pictures and shipped them to the tiny, mountainous country. Our guide’s husband worked at the post office, so he found the envelope and brought it home to give to her. The next time Choki was passing through the area, she stopped to drop off the photos. The process took about four months to complete (a month of which was probably just getting to Bhutan), but it was fantastic to get the good word the other day: The photographs reached their final destination.

I’m not sure what the family will do with the photos, if anything, but it is always nice to have decent pictures of oneself, and I proud to have provided them.

(0860) 0312.

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Young Woman Under Prayer Flags

Climbing to the Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan was a fantastic experience. The higher we’d climb in the mountains the less tourists we saw and the more spiritual it became.

Our guide was a delightful young twenty-something woman who had been up and down these mountains several times, and has done it all with a great deal of patience. She had told us some treks involved scampering up the mountain trail as fast as the she could go, and other times she would spend all day climbing only to reach the lowest observation deck. She would trek at her clients’ pace, so we were proud we were able to keep up with her experience and energy.

As we approached the Tiger’s Nest, the prayer flags blowing in the wind became more and more abundant. With the next turn revealing the holy site, our guide stopped to wait for my wife and I so we could experience our first viewing together. With my wife only a few steps behind me, I saw our guide quietly standing under the prayer flags enjoying the fresh air of the cool mountain breeze.

(0670) 0312.

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Buddhist Prayer Flags

I have always loved Buddhist prayer flags, so while we were in Bhutan I was excited to see them.

Everywhere.

In the small Himalayan country I took 861 pictures.  I think all but a few have prayer flags in the image somewhere.

February 2012. (0311)

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