Getting Locked in the National Library – Bhutan

One morning I took a taxi up the hill to see Mynak Tulku, the archivist at the National Library in Thimphu. He wasn’t there so I spent hours between the stacks painting all alone. Manuscripts are imprinted using wood blocks. The prayers are printed or written on long strips of handmade paper. These are stacked between two pieces of wood and  are wrapped in brilliantly colored cloth or in silk cloth held together with a leather thong. When I was hungry and tired I packed up and went hunting for the exit. All the lights were turned off. There was no one in the building. I wondered if they would come back after lunch or if they were closed until the next day. I had no phone with me. Deciding I’d better find an alternative way to get out I checked windows and any other possible exits. No luck, so I went back to the huge tall main door, went up to it and unlocked it, pushed and it opened quite easily. I was out in the bright sunshine, still all alone. So I started walking down the hill, eventually finding Thimphu. Click on the image to see the transfer print and sample of traditional textiles used for Bhutanese clothing.

Painting with a Three Year Old in a Prayer Room – Bhutan

After buying a gift of sugar and powdered milk, my friend took me to her mother’s home to meet her family. A taxi drove us outside of town where we were dropped off near an old wood bridge;  someone was giving the bridge a new coat of paint. It was a beautiful day. Peach trees were in blossom Player flags on high poles were fluttering in the breeze. We walked the rest of the way past water fountains, past pigs and a cow in bamboo pens, past hunting dogs tied up in front of a home and past clothes hung up in the sunshine. Looking ahead of me, sitting up on top of a hill, was Karma’s mother and sister traditionally dressed with their black hair cut in the traditional style. Not having a telephone, they didn’t know we were coming. I was offered yak butter tea or tea with milk and sugar and maze, “corn picked, fried and pounded.”

After tea my friend took me into a beautifully decorated prayer room which, among other things, had a photograph of the Dalai Lama, an altar and a cabinet filled with twelve holy books collected between carved boards, wrapped in orange cloth with blue, orange and gold ribbons. The older ones were made up of pages of calligraphy wrapped in silk and tied with a silken ribbon or leather. The classification system consists of tiny satin flags, color coded to match subjects. I painted with my friend’s three year old niece. She was shy, but I gave her a few crayons and paper. In a few minutes she was drawing, too.

They didn’t know I was coming, but my friend’s sister had prepared a full meal. We ate in the livingroom with her mother, sister and niece. The meal consisted of red rice, spinach, cheese potatoes cooked with onions and chilis, pork and green ferns from the forest. I asked how they had prepared our meal since they didn’t know I was coming. They grow their own potatoes. The rest of the meal was prepared from dried foods they had in their home,

This day was special, never to be forgotten.