Summer break (June – July 2014) Angie’s school holidays began on 29th of June and technically ended on the 15th of July. With school programming to begin back on the 16th of July. The holidays began with three of our great friends, Ashley, Mike and Mac hitch-hiking up to Khaling from Pema Gatshel and arriving to our house for an electricity-free evening. The time was spent sharing stories, laughs, food and drinks. It was wonderful to enjoy the company of other native English speakers and like-minded individuals. The following day began our Lingkhar Lodge retreat for the Bhutan Canada Foundation teachers. Nima, the BCF driver, kindly picked us up from Khaling and hauled the 5 of us to Lingkhar Lodge, where we met up with other BCF teachers. It was a wonderful 3 days and nights of laughter, venting, relaxing, chatting, discussing, sharing, drinking and eating. To be with most of the other BCF teachers was a good relief from slow talking, misunderstandings, and uncertainties. We were with others who spoke our language, understood our jokes, shared similar feelings, and commonalities.
On one of the days while at Lingkhar Lodge, we visited the Trashigang Dzong, which is currently under construction. The Dzongpa gave us a tour of the Dzong and provided us with tea and biscuits. It was enjoyable to finally visit the Dzong of Trashigang, which is like the ‘capital’ of the Dzongkha. The plans for the summer holidays, which Brett and our friend Scott had spent time planning, was for us to all go trekking along the Merak Sakteng path. However, upon arrival at Lingkhar Lodge, we learned that the bridge, which is vital to completing the trek, had been washed away by a recent flood in the area. Therefore, we needed a new plan.
Brett and I chose to go with our friends Mike and Ashley to Dagala, which is near Thimphu. On the bus we travelled for two full days. We rode from Lingkhar Lodge to Bumthang, which took about 11 hours. For the night, we slept at Kailas Guesthouse, then we left early from Bumthang for another 11 hour drive to Thimphu. The wonderful part about the long ride is the chance to view the country and its amazing landscape. The last time we had crossed the country was on our trip out to Khaling in February. So, this gave us a chance to see the summer landscape with the greenery and roaring rivers. In Thimphu, we attempted to trek up to Dagala, but Angie got sick and we turned around. Mike and Ashley continued up to Dagala to spend a few spectacular nights with the yak herders. We returned to the big city of Thimphu. Some of our days in the capital, we shopped and just enjoyed the variety of foods. On other days, we met up with Elizabeth, an Australian volunteer, to complete sight-seeing and a nice journey up to Phajodhing. We visited several different monasteries and temples. One was quite unique because the temple was red on the exterior. All we had viewed prior were white. Also, in this temple, we mistakenly entered and were kindly asked by a monk to leave the temple, as we were possibly the first foreigners ever to enter the temple. Oops.
On our 10th anniversary, we took a full day trek up to Phajodhing. It was uphill about 1000m, looking down on the Thimphu valley. Angie continued to be motivated to keep going, as we had a small group of elder Bhutanese join us as we were walking. One lady was in her 70s and another in her 60s. They were walking uphill like it was a breeze! Lower Phajodhing has many temples and meditation retreats with a large monastery. The monks were super kind and friendly. We were pleased to spend our anniversary with a group of monks and in such a beautiful place. Another hour trek uphill took us to Upper Phajodhing which house a small temple, several sacred spots and one monk on a 17 year meditation retreat. A really neat and interesting place. We continued to enjoy time with fellow foreigners, eating western-like foods and just relaxing in the hopping town. Later in the holidays, we met back up with Mike and Ashley to complete more temple sight-seeing. We visited Tango and Cheri Monasteries. Tango is an university for monks and upon arrival, we were kindly greeted by a monk who took us around to the various temples after serving us tea and snacks. This was a special day for Tango, so there were puja’s going on in the alter rooms. With a lack of taxis at the bottom of the hill by Tango, we were able to convince a tour driver to take us over to Cheri. He was friendly and we appreciated the short ride. At Cheri, we walked up hill to the main temple. It was an interesting alter room as there was a large chorten in the main room. At the end of the holidays, Brett headed to Lingmethang for volunteer work and Angie stayed in Thimphu to provide some assistance to the only classroom in Bhutan for students with autism or significant disabilities. Angie later returned to school on the 21st of July after some silly shenanigans.