26.10.2013 - 30.10.2013
It's taken me a while to write this, because I honestly didn't know where to begin. I'm still pinching myself everyday and can't quite believe it's real. Bangkok was dark and sleepy and with a 3am wakeup call our first 18hr day travelling from bangkok-paro-thimpu was a blur of amazing Himalayan views from the plane, naps, markets that turned me into a vegetarian for the next fortnight, dzongs, headaches, decorated trucks and just beginning to get a sense of this incredible place.
The next morning after a solid 12 hours shut eye was the Amazing Race, trying to find out way around Thimphu and managing to go the the new and old cinema and the new and old bank neither of which were the right ones.
The Chorton was definitely the highlight, seeing an entire community come together to pray and immerse themselves in faith amid a kaleidoscope of colour and life was mind blowing. Contrary to calm temples and dzongs it was very evident that the Chorton was a part of people's everyday life with people catching up, sharing meals and watching children play.
That afternoon working on our presentations was a rude reminder that we are actually here to 'study'. Whoops. Also managed to put together the most incredible performance that you will ever see of the anthem, kookaburra sits in the old gum tree (in rounds!) and happy little vegemites, ready for the welcome dinner that night.
Walking into the Royal Institute of Health Sciences I have never felt more welcomed in my life. The staff and students of RIHS organised a dinner and bonfire with traditional entertainment that although important and meaningful, I had chills receiving the traditional white welcome scarf, very quickly became friends singing dancing and learning from each other as though we'd known each other for years.
The next day was back at RIHS in the morning for info sessions on the Bhutanese healthcare system, gross national happiness and public health in Bhutan. We then toured the Thimphu referral hospital where we are doing nursing shifts later in the week.
The following day we visited the HIV and health information drop in centre, drug and alcohol drop in and community health centre focussing on child and maternal health.
I'll leave all the nursing/healthcare things for another post, it's an essay in itself and it's taking me a while to sort out how I feel about it.
That afternoon we visited the school of traditional arts, where students are selected and their entire education is based around either painting, sculpture, woodcarving, mask making or embroidery in an effort to preserve Bhutanese art culture. The attention to detail and skill was incredible, finishing some courses took up to 5 years.
It's very hard to capture what makes Bhutan so special, I could say it's because they've never been colonised, or because of how stunning the landscape and architecture is, how hard they work to preserve their culture or how with a population of under 750,000 people are either related or went to school together, but there's something else I just can't put my finger on so stay tuned.
I am continually reminded how lucky I am not only to be travelling to such an interesting and not so accessible country but also how unique the opportunity to work with and assimilate into such a unknown and protected culture is. The chance to see first hand, learn from and integrate into Bhutan and their healthcare system to this depth is so rare and something that will change how I live and work into the future.
It's currently about day 5..I've honestly lost track and this barely scratches the surface of the first couple of days so there's more on the way! I'll also add some photos when I can, didn't think through the camera to phone logistics without a computer!
Stay smiling xxo