Tuesday, December 15, 2015

First week in the Himalayan Kingdom

 SO the flight into Paro from Bangkok was absolutely beautiful. The fear factor scale was not as I had read or feared. Yes, we flew very close to a few very large mountains, had a big right hand bank turn before landing, but no turbulence. We were lucky, on a windy day I think our experience would of been different. The plane had a quick stop in India, kids jumped off the plane just to say they had been in India. Not sure if that qualifies for  another travel patch for Owens backpack, thinking one might have to leave airport for that justification. We had a clear view of the Himalayas on the short 25 minute flight. So happy to see Daddy and breathe in the beautiful mountain air after spending 3 days in Bangkok. The international airport in Bhutan is in Paro, whereas the capital is Thimphu. There is nowhere flat in Thimphu to put an airport. The whole country is covered with mountains. After the hour and half drive we arrived at the apartment that HVO puts up its volunteers. The apartment is right in town, Brad can walk to hospital and kids and I can walk to most places in the city. Thimphu is the only capital city to not have one traffic light. They have a traffic cop in the middle of town that helps direct traffic.  The apartment is very basic, a lot cold and the beds are like sleeping on concrete. Lindsey is convinced she has slept on softer mats while camping....she might be right. We don't plan on spending much time in the apartment, as it seems our schedules are filling up.
We are on the third floor.
open space off kitchen

One of the three bedrooms

my neighbor, who has no running water
We were off to a pretty quick start once we arrived. I knew that the sooner the kids and I got settled we would  feel more comfortable and relaxed in our new environment. Brad had arranged for Skyler to play soccer every morning with the National team at the National stadium. Owen takes his rugby ball and teaches the other local boys how to play.  Lindsey and I usually go for a run, there is a beautiful track near the stadium or a beautiful run up to the golden Buddha Dordenma.

The National Stadium

The Buddha Dordenma is a 50 m tall steel statue that commands the entry to Thimphu.

Wherever we go in the Thimphu, there are packs of dogs. They are rarely kept as pets and instead live alongside humans in their own social groups. They are given food by the families or by the monks at the many monasteries. As Bhutan has become more developed the population of stray dogs has gotten out of control especially here in the capital city of Thimphu. Bhutan is a Buddhist country, and at certain times of the year the sale of meat is banned-but there is a black market. The dogs live off the waste product, since Bhutan is such a small developing country there is not yet a regulated mechanism of disposing the unsold meat. The growing number of dogs and the growing number of high-end tourism was beginning to clash. The dogs bark and howl ALL night long. Peaceful sleeping is impossible to come by. The International Humane Society got involved in 2009 and has sterilized 50,000 dogs. We had heard about a Vet from France by the name of Marianne. She has been here for 19 years with her partner Hendrix, who is Dutch. She runs the Buhtan Animal Rescue Center (BARC). She has over 200 dogs, a few cats, a pig and 20 monkeys. We contacted her once we arrived and have been going up to help out everyday since. It is 30 minutes outside of town, so we take a taxi up to her place and catch a ride back down the mtn. in the employee car. We have done everything from washing dirty puppies, helping sterilize puppies, organize her medicines, brushing the handicap dogs and lindsey has assisted with a surgery. She does not euthanize the dogs unless it is the last option. There are dogs that are paraplegic, quadriplegic, missing legs, eyes, ears. She even gives dogs chemotherapy, and has homemade wheelchairs for her dogs. She oozes compassion for all animals out of her every pore. Lindsey watched her give mouth to mouth to a dying cat. I accidentally made the comment about how delicious the fish are in Fiji and she promptly told me that I should not eat fish because each fish has a Mom and Dad. The kids seem to really enjoy going up to help and there is always plenty to do. We come home tired, dirty and hungry and full of awe and inspiration. She also has no filter with all of her funny stories so I often have to close Owens ears as she tells her stories.

These dogs control our block, they meet us every morning and walk us up to apartment every night.  The kids have named each one of them and we feed them our leftovers. They are very sweet dogs until another dog from another part of town comes into their territory. 

This is BoBo, one of the 200 dogs at the property. Marianne assures me that he is friendly even though he reminds me of Cujo, and she took him in because of his vicious dog bites to his owners. 

Getting ready for surgery

The 8 filthy puppies that we spent all afternoon taking care of, they had mites, scabbies and lice. They are Tibetan Mastiffs. I am still itching just thinking about it. 


  1. Great to read about your adventures.

  2. Wow! What an amazing experience! I am totally in awe of your family as I really would not have the courage to do what you do. ��