I Speak Dzongkha, Marriage Probably Approved

Another interesting week in Bhutan. Our Marriage Certificate looks very positive. We’ll find out for sure tomorrow when results are posted. I’ve been studying Dzongkha and continue to meet relatives in Lama’s enormous family.

We harvest chili peppers, a mainstay of the Bhutanese diet. My sister Ghalem’s garden is enormous, so they eat lots of fresh veggies including cucumbers, beans, squash, pumpkin, corn, etc. Chili peppers were introduced in Bhutan in the 16th century after Portugese ships brought them to India from the New World. They’ve really taken over here. Peppers are spicy, easy to grow, and are very healthy for most people. Fortunately my nightshade allergy has vanished, and I can enjoy them.

Emma Datsi is the delicious national dish of Bhutan. It’s easy to make and very nourishing. It consists of peppers and freshly made cheese. The British brought even more New World foods. Everyday foods in Bhutan from the West include peppers, coffee, sugar, potatoes, sunflower, bread, wheat, pumpkin, corn, tomatoes, potato chips, chocolate, avocado, and Coca Cola! Milling rice also came with the British. Milling rice turns it whiter and discards nutrients. I wonder, what did the Bhutanese eat before the New World was discovered?

We’re making butter tea in my sister Ghalem’s kitchen. Just boil the tea in an earthenware pot, add salt, fresh butter, and whirl with a forked stick.

This week was busy preparing more papers for the High Court and Immigration Office. My Lama and I take a break between appointments to enjoy butter tea.

Ghalem and I visited a jewel of a monastery up on the mountain above Thimphu. Overseen by a group of Bhutanese led by Ghalem’s school friend Pelden, it is small and rich in energy. He showed us some caves above it where Rimpoche Pemasambhava meditated in the 8th century. No photographs are allowed of the two sanctuaries. This is the entry room.

After a delicious lunch, we enjoy a quiet moment with Lama’s sisters Dorji Dema and Ghalem. This is Dorji’s legal office in the Ministry of Education. She has been a huge help preparing papers for the visa and marriage certificate.

Lama made over 12 trips to the High Court bringing papers and waiting for our interview. The High Court holds interviews for foreign marriages only once a year in October. Fortunately we were able to extend my visa by a few days to try for approval. The interview is tough, and most couples get rejected. I studied very hard. This year there were over 170 applicants to interview in two days. We had to wait over 10 hours Wednesday and Thursday.

After waiting 5 hours Thursday at the High Court, I started to get tired. The judges announced they were taking the legal lunch break from 1 – 2. Yay! Just then Tenzin, Lama’s best friend, showed up with a picnic lunch for the family. We drove to a cow pasture near the High Court for red rice, emma datsi, dried beef, and butter tea. It was a life-saver!

Finally we had our High Court interview late Thursday. I had studied hard and knew much information about Bhutan. I memorized the King’s names, pillars of Gross National Happiness, what’s in the Constitution, and names of the states, national flower, etc. But our interview didn’t cover any of the usual questions. Instead I gave my prepared speech in Dzonkha. Slowly they started smiling and seemed quite surprised. They asked very few questions and said: “You have exceeded our expectations, Well Done, Good Luck”. Official results aren’t posted yet, however I’m pretty sure we passed.

After the High Court interview, I was very relieved.

Lama was happy too and kept taking more pictures. The Kira is a hand-woven skirt wrapped with a sash around the waist. It is worn with a Wonju (long-sleeved blouse) and a short jacket or Toego. The Rachu is a long scarf for formal attire required in the High Court and some other offices. These are all on loan from my sister Ghalem.

We’re pleased the interview is over. Lama says he’s proud of me. If we passed, this is the culmination of months of work.

This morning we drove an hour to Paro for my flight to Kathmandu. I’m required to leave Bhutan by October 6 when my visa expires. If the marriage certificate is approved, I can go back soon.

Good bye to my Lama and my two new sisters at the Paro airport. I have to fly to Kathmandu to wait for a new Bhutan visa.

On the flight from Bhutan to Kathmandu, we got a fabulous view of Mount Everest.

Now I’m in Kathmandu waiting for my new visa to Bhutan. Kathmandu is fun and beautiful with good internet. However the traffic and air quality leave a lot to be desired.

It’s lovely to be back in Kathmandu. This is the Boudha Stupa. I take a walk and circumabulate three times before bed.

Thanks for tuning in. Next week is Nepal’s biggest festival of the year. Hindus celebrate Dashain for 15 days, October 09–23 ending on the full moon in the Hindu month of Ashvin. During Dashain, many businesses and public buildings are closed. Dashain celebrates the triumph of good over evil, tied to ancient Hindu stories. See you next week!


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