Happy Losar

Year of the Tiger

Losar Tashi Delek!

I wish all our readers happiness, success and prosperity in the Year of the Iron Male Tiger.

The banner and the picture accompanying this greeting features the Sokpo Tag Thred (The Mongol leading the Tiger). Lam Kesang, my friend, tells me that the combination of the Mongol, Tree and Tiger is one of the representations of Rigsum Goenpo (The Lords of the three Families) with the Mongol symbolizing Jampelyang (Manjushri), the Tree Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara), and the Tiger Chana Dorji (Vajrapani).

Murals of Sokpo Tag Thred can be found on the entrance walls of some dzongs to protect their relics against external threats.

Hounded dogs

Dog house

About two weeks ago, after returning from Gakiling, I visited the dog pound in Haa. The pound, located several kilometers above Jengkana and right beside the dzonghag’s landfill, is in fact a sprawling facility of cement, corrugated iron and wire mesh spread over an acre among blue pine forests. I was immediately impressed.

Namgay, the caretaker, proudly took me on a tour of the facility which includes separate pounds – each neatly divided by wire mesh – for new arrivals, puppies, recreation, weak dogs, dogs undergoing medical treatment, and “dada” dogs. He explained that the resident dogs are fed twice a day, and that a network of concrete channels drains their faeces to a nearby septic tank. I was truly impressed.

There was one problem though: the boarding facility had only nine residents! Namgay clarified that when the pound first opened, about three years ago, they had about 200 inmates. Many of them escaped, by digging under the fence or simply climbing over it, to the unfurnished but much more promising landfill, located immediately adjacent to the pound.

But they mainly died, in the pound itself, from hunger, sickness and cannibalism. Most recently, on New Year’s Day, 30 of the animals lost their lives due to the extreme cold. It had snowed that morning.

So Bhutan Observer’s report, that the Government is rethinking its approach to control the stray dog population in our country, comes as very good news.

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Photos from home

All our members of parliament would consider visiting their respective constituencies to be one of their most important duties. And I’m sure that they visit their constituencies as often as possible. I certainly do.

So when I wrote “Happily exhausted” I didn’t mean to sound like having done anything extraordinary. But, somehow, I had ticked off “Toula” who commented:

You made this trip of yours to your own constituency where you made all the promises sound like you were traveling to the end of the world where no one else ever dared to do. Wow! wow! wow!

I obviously didn’t travel to the “end of the world”. And I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. I was just doing my job, visiting my constituents to brief them on the proceedings of the parliament, to talk about development issues, and generally make myself available to discuss anything else. No big deal.

For those of you who may be interested in visiting Sombaykha and Gakiling, I’ve posted some pictures, from my last trip there, in the Gallery.

Biking right

About a month ago, I’d written about bicycling with my son. In response to that article, two readers, TOJT and Romeo, cautioned against biking in Thimphu – they warned that inexperienced motorists and road rage make biking in the capital a dangerous exercise.

I’ve been biking a lot recently, and find that Thimphu traffic is generally respectful of bikers. But there are times when our roads can become unsafe: immediately before and after office, when every one seems to be in a hurry, for example. And, sometimes, when negotiating passing and oncoming taxis and trucks. And, when confronted with the occasional angry motorist.

So, yes, we need to do need to make Thimphu’s roads safer for bikers. In this regard, I’ll be calling on several agencies in the coming months. These include:

  • Thimphu City Corporation to discuss improvement of existing roads, and their plans to construct biking paths;
  • Road Safety and Transport Authority to talk about existing and new regulations on biking; and
  • Associations for operators of taxis, trucks and buses to explore means of promoting better awareness for bicycling safety;

But, most importantly, we, bikers, need to learn how to ride safely. We need to ensure that our bikes are roadworthy; that we always wear safety gear, especially helmets; that we undergo adequate training; that we ride in control; that we respect other forms of traffic; and that we obey traffic rules.

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Connecting Bhutan

Many of you would have noticed that I was able to regularly update this blog during my recent visit to Sombaykha and Gakiling. And, that I was able to tweet about my experiences there. Romeo, a regular commentator, was sufficiently impressed to remark:

It is indeed incredible that you are connected through out your trek and able to keep us informed of your whereabouts and also update your informative blog. How is this possible? Are you carrying your laptop along and that you are connected through satellite to the internet? Hasn’t Bhutan progressed in terms of communication?

Yes, it is incredible that I could stay connected through most of the trip. After all, both Sombaykha and Gakiling are remote gewogs that can be reached only by undertaking an ardous journey on foot.

But no, I did not use a satellite service to connect me to the internet. That would have been expensive and cumbersome.

What I did use was B-mobile. You see, they had recently expanded their coverage to many parts my constituency, and wherever I could catch their signal, I could access the internet. This is possible because I have subscribed to B-mobile’s 3G services.

3G allows me to connect to the internet at a blistering speeds of up to 7.6 Mbps (but more likely 2 Mbps as the bandwith is shared among concurrent users). But 3G is currently available only in Thimphu. In other parts of the kingdom, the 3G subscriptions automatically downgrade to EDGE or, if that is not available, to GPRS. EDGE, which is available in all dzongkhag headquarters, allows speeds of up to 128 Kbps, and GPRS, available everywhere else, up to 54 Kbps depending on signal strength and hardware configuration.

All this means that I can now connect to the internet on my phone or, if I use a data card, on my laptop anywhere I am able to receive a B-mobile signal. That was basically how I blogged and tweeted through most parts of my constituency.

But that’s not all … Tashi Cell, Bhutan’s second cellular service provider, has also expanded to my constituency. And, I’m sure that they too provide mobile access to the internet. So, I actually had a choice!

Yes, Romeo, Bhutan has indeed progressed in terms of communication.

Sombaykha

Hidden paradise?

Tomorrow I’ll be in Samtse. But before I leave Sombaykha, I should share with you its etymology.

Sombaykha = sang as in sangwa or “secret” + bay as in bayuel or “paradise”

Sombaykha = A paradise hidden by Guru Rimpoche

Bjamdabchen

Bjamdabchen is a small meadow surrounded by oak forests, where herders from Sombaykha graze their cattle every autumn. We’ve set up camp in that meadow. I’ve latched on to a caravan traveling to Sipsoo – they’re carrying smoke-dried cardamom and will return with rice, salt, tea, cooking oil and clothes. So, there are quite a few of us at the camp.

We have a roaring fire going. Dinner’s cooking. Ap Gep Tsheri is singing praises to his root guru. And, Rinchen is coaxing him to sing about beautiful Seldon. This is an unscheduled treat.

But, tomorrow will be a struggle. We start trekking at 4:00 AM! Otherwise, I’m told, we won’t make it to Sipsoo.

Housekeeping

About eight months ago, after I’d moved this blog from the earlier site, and revamped its design, one man, a close family friend, complained about the new format.

For me it is troublesome that I have to change all the time to another page after reading only a few lines of your statement. And, to be frank, I am not much interested in what other people are thinking and telling to each and every thing. However, I know that I am “out” in things like that.

I know that no layout is perfect. But, I’ve accepted that my previous one was especially troublesome, particularly for readers who visit only once a while. To read my latest few entries, for example, one would have to navigate several times between the home page and the pages that carry the full article. Troublesome.

So, after eight months, I’m heeding my friend’s advice, and am going back to the old layout. Even I find it convenient!

But, this blog is not just about me. Please click on the “comments” button, at the end of each article, as often as possible. Please continue to share your ideas, and debate issues.

The bigger purpose of this blog, after all, is to know about “…what other people are thinking and telling each…” other.

Retweeting

twitter-birdI’ve added a new feature in the sidebar that allows readers to see my most recent entries on twitter. Though I’ve been tweeting for about six months, I haven’t been very regular. This feature will encourage me to post “microblogs” more often. I hope you’ll find it useful.

Counting sheep

A reader sent me this joke in response to my last entry about McKinsey’s recommendations on our tourism sector.

A guy is driving around in his Porsche in the countryside. He stops outside a field full of sheep, walks up to the shepherd and says “I’ve got an offer. I’ll guess how many sheep you’ve got in this field, and if I guess right, I get to take a sheep with me, and if I guess wrong, you get my car.”

Shepherd thinks he’s on to a sure thing and agrees.

“137” says the driver.”Damn me, you’re right.” says the shepherd and dutifully hands over a sheep.

The man walks away, stuffs the sheep in his car, and is about to drive away when the shepherd knocks on his window. “I’ve got a proposal for you. If I can guess what you do for a living, I get to take your car. If I’m wrong, you can have all my sheep.”

“Done”, says the driver, counting up the number of nights he could be kept happy with 137 sheep.

“You’re a McKinsey consultant”, says the shepherd.

“Bloody hell, how did you guess?”

“Easy. You come in here uninvited, you tell me what I already know, and then you charge me for it.”