Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Hello Bhutan!

Rose Goel, a Silver Award participant from Uttam School for Girls, Ghaziabad, shares her experiences of the Adventurous Journey.

The IAYP Adventurous / Exploration journey was an eye opener for us that changed our perspective towards life, culture, happiness, different nations and their uniqueness. Right from planning and preparing for journey, learning team spirit, exploring places, coordinating with mentors and friends, to moving out of comfort zone, overcoming cultural barriers, understanding culture, people and people were some of the things which this journey taught us and thus proved to be an experiential workshop for us.
We were all excited about our Adventurous Journey as we headed for our visit to Bhutan, which came as a surprise during our summer vacations in 2016. From the scorching hot weather of North India we reached Bhutan, a stunning Buddhist country sandwiched between two political giants -- India and China. Our visit to the country offered us a complete get away from our monotonous and stressful lifestyle. It was an exploratory journey where we understood and witnessed what makes the distinctive culture of a nation.
Bhutan,  often considered as an offbeat destination by many, surprises everyone with all that it has to offer. Exemplified as one of the first countries that adopts the concept of Gross National Happiness to measure its growth in terms of happiness quotient, where people’s happiness comes first, and then comes money, was interesting for us to take a note of.
It was encouraging to observe that in spite of being a constitutional monarchy, the people were extremely happy with the government and the king. That was evident from the hospitality of the locals and the playfulness of their young children. Both the rich and the poor enjoy equal status. Even the king of the country does not live in a luxurious palace but a small cottage, just large enough to accommodate his family. The love for The King and the Queen could be spotted everywhere, from tiny frames in shops and houses, to large posters on the roadsides. Unlike other countries, the people of Bhutan seemed to have been less influenced by the west. Their love and respect for their nation, the king and their culture generated reverence in our heart for the people and this nation.
We found that it was a place where the women were not born to be confined to houses but shoulder equal responsibilities as menfolk, be it in big hotels, airports, roadside shops, hospitals or other places. To see this status and regard for women was inspiring for all of us.
Besides rich cultural heritage, the country also boasts of its magical Himalayan kingdom, which is full of greenery, with beautiful landscapes dotted with bright flapping prayers flags and forests cloaked in clouds, thick with the scent of pine, garlanded with peach blossoms and with a remarkable abundance of flora and fauna. This all is a result of strong constitutional obligation and efforts made by the people to preserve and protect the environment, where at least 60% of the land is under forest cover. Added to this, is the fact that Bhutan is the only country in the world that has been declared carbon negative. Like the environment, the Bhutanese people also looked impeccable as they were always dressed in their traditional attire -- Gho for men and Kira for women. They wore it with pride and carried it with style. An important aspect that caught our attention was the use of public transport by people and very few private cars on the road, which resulted in smooth and well managed traffic.
Apart from gathering all this knowledge and observations we also understood that Bhutan is undoubtedly one of the most ethnic travel destinations where everything from the layout of the building to the god figures in monasteries was dictated by traditional Buddhist artworks. Religion pervaded all level of life in Bhutan, resulting in peaceful temples, red robed monks, deities and legends.
Some of the best places visited by us included the Buddha Dordenma Statue located in the capital, Thimphu. A scenic fortress Monastery, Punakha Dzong is framed by the confluence of two rivers and jacaranda trees in Punakha and the iconic Tiger nest monastery with golden pinnacles at its rooftops in Paro.
It goes without saying that the country was truly a slice of Himalayan heaven and was an eye opener for all of us. We realized the importance of contentment in life, how to be happy with simple things and be proud of one’s own culture and heritage. As a token of regard for this visit, we took a pledge to do our duty to protect and conserve the environment and save mother earth. We are extremely happy and grateful to our school and IAYP for giving us this opportunity to have such a wonderful learning experience. To appreciate and regard a nation as an outsider and then to look and admire what makes our country unique and distinctive was something that we all learnt.

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