April 2009


happy birthday to ME!!

happy birthday to ME!!

Throughout your 40′s, you get a birthday week.  (i made that rule when i turned 40)  At 50, you get a whole birthday month.  (Again, my rule–as i remind HK, “jules rules”).  My month is coming to an end, so i celebrated this weekend w/ 80 or so friends. It was tons of fun, with music by Wade in the Rhythm, a local band that plays reggae-inspired, feel-good music with a message, 

queens for a day

queens for a day

lots of dancing, laughing, eating and drinking. I had a carrot-cake with tie-dye icing from rhodes bakery. YUMMY!  BBQ was from low country barbeque-they do the BEST ccarolina-style pulled-pork–mmmmm, melt in your mouth good eatin’!And everybody brought a side dish to share. (we’ve got some great cooks in the ‘hood).

Everybody wore a hat (theme was hat’s off to jules, and yes, that is a tiarra on my cowboy hat) and i really racked-up on great cards and gifts!

while reflecting back on the party yesterday, i believe-especially as we get older (and better),  that it is important to share special occasions with people you love (or really like a lot), reinforcing goodness and joy in this life.

so, thanks to everybody who celebrated with me, you helped make my birthday month very special, indeed! 

wade in the rhythm

wade in the rhythm

justin1sylvie1paige2

 

"Trails" and Tribulations

"Trails" and Tribulations

April 4, 2009, my 50th birthday, was the most difficult physical trial that i have ever endured. OhMyGod, it was soooo hard!  I woke up with major stomach issues and no appetite (high altitude zaps your hunger), and we set off early to make the pass at a reasonable time.  We climbed 810 meters (to 16,000 ft) before descending 1090 meters. After a couple hours trekking, we passed a yak herders tent, where nomadic people live for months on end. The tent is actually made out of yak hair, and is completely waterproof! 2 women and a 2-year-old lived there. They were gracious enough to let us in for a visit. Wood is the main source of fuel, and there was a little makeshift wood stove in the middle of the 1-room tent, and i felt like i would choke shortly after crawling inside the tiny enclave. David and i wondered aloud (to each other) how they could live that way, but it is their way of life, and, like nearly all Bhutanese people, they seemed happy.

yak herders tent

yak herders tent

 Making our way to the pass was an extremely slow process, as the snow got deeper, the ice got slicker and our bodies got weaker. My stomach problems were only aggrevated by HAFE–high altitude flatulence epidemic–and by 15,500 ft, i thought i may explode. (more…)

earthI hate to admit this, but normally i am pretty “doom and gloom” about this world on which we live.  i see evidence of the abuse that we heap on our planet. when i return home to Appalachia, i look  at what once were the majestic mountains that i loved while growing up, and they have been raped of their crowns, beheaded, even, in the name of greed and short sightedness for the coal that pollutes our planet.  Glaciers are melting, species are disappearing, people are wearing masks to keep the air out of their lungs.

But today is earth day, and i am going to rejoyce in her beauty. i am taking the dogs to the park for a picnic, i’m going to inhale the clear air (after i take my allergy pill), and i’m going to do what i can to preserve some natural resources.  (i bought the cutest little 2-wheeled shopping tote so i can walk to do my shopping easier).

i hope that you can get out and enjoy the day, enjoy the earth, treat her with respect, and appreciate what we have. i’d also love to hear ways that you have found to save the planet, even seemingly little
shopping tote
shopping tote

ways, that we may learn from and use for our future.

Our Bhutanese team

Our Bhutanese team

Bhutan offers so much for the traveler looking for a completely different experience. The main reason that we chose Bhutan was it’s combination of culture and trekking-we always choose a destination that will challenge us physically.  OOOHHHHHHH—and challenge us it did! Trekkking the Himalayan mountains in Bhutan is not for the average day-hiker. We knew it would be tough-we have hiked the 200-mile Annapurna Circuit in Nepal (for my 40th), and knew that high altitude treks are demanding, but this particular 8-day trek ’bout kicked my ass!

Our travel partner, David Frieder from Denver (who was a total stranger prior to this trip), finally made it to Bhutan after several failed flight-attempts. We immediately hit it off and knew that he would be a great traveling team mate.

After 5 days of cultural touring and tough day-hikes, we set off on our journey.  I finally got over the worst of my giardia parasite with the help of 2 grams of  Tinidazole. (Giardia is nasty–one “eggy” burp can clear a room!!)

We were introducced to our staff-there was Minjur “cook”, Tenzin “lunchboy”, Gyaltshen “cowboy” and of course Jambay, our guide. We had 7 ponies and pack-mules to carry our baggage, the cook-tent, our tents, and all food and supplies.  The first day was fairly easy, 17 km, winding through small villages and rural farm houses. It seemed absurd (more…)

Flying phallus

Flying phallus

“Was that…?”  “Yep, a flying penis. They’re everywhere!”

And they are, indeed! Driving  from Paro to Thimpu, my eye caught several of these symbols painted on the front of houses, shops and stupas.  And these aren’t just little pictures discreetly drawn–they’re huge! I’m talkin’ 10 foot, 15 foot penises right there for everybody to admire! I decided that I needed to be recording these giant phallus symbols, because I knew my peeps back home would assume that I was exaggerating the truth without hard proof.

In Bhutan, the phallus is an integral part of ceremonies observed by communities, commonly used to ward off evil spirits as well as to bring newly married couples luck with fertility.

I’m sure HK and our driver were a little unsettled every time we passed one and i’d yell, from the backseat of the van,”PENIS ALERT! PENIS ALERT! PULL OVER!!!!”, then i’d jump out and run up to the house, or wherever we happened to be, and start snapping photos.  Well, hell, it’s not everyday, short of surfing porn, that you get to see so many, well, you know.

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It seems that there is nothing out-of-the-ordinary with having a huge dick pointing towards your front door in bhutan, all the better if it’s squirting seman or surounded by snakes or other scary images.

Here are some examples of different phallus we encountered in Bhutan.cimg2730

 

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this one was at the army checkpoint.

this one was at the army checkpoint.

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It’s no secret that I’m a dog fanatic.  I LOVE dogs–any dog (but especially my own). I’m like the annoying kid at the park who has to run up and pet your dog, even though you pull your dog back and snarl at the kid.  I just love ‘em (the dogs), it’s that simple.  So I was taken aback when everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE, I looked, there were stray dogs. There are only about 720,000 people in Bhutan, but I swear to you, there are at least a million dogs. Being a Buddhist country, it is strictly forbidden to kill (euthanize) any animal. The dogs aren’t pets, either. They’re just there, breeding and multiplying like mad. There has been a move to build shelters, but without any type of sterilization program (or money to do it), it seems to be an exercize in futility.

Jambay, our guide, explained that Dog is the next reincarnation before becoming a person, so people aren’t mean to them. They are fed scraps (mostly rice), and tolerated, altho they are never let indoors, and sleep wherever they can.  The dogs in Bhutan are a lot like the cows in India.  They lay on the shoulder of the road, and, if the mood strikes, may decide to go lay in the road. They know that no good Buddhist would dare run over them. So they just hang out in the road, oblivious to the honks, with a “yeah, right” attitude. Here are some of the dogs we encountered on the trip.

We called this dog "Bolt", she lives at base camp and would bolt ahead of trekkers up the steepest mountains, giving chase to small mammals.

We called this dog "Bolt", she lives at base camp and would bolt ahead of trekkers up the steepest mountains, giving chase to small mammals.

cimg2852cimg2870cimg2585dog1So now that we’re home, every night before eating their dinner, Kismet and Roxie say a prayer to the Dog-Gods to find these many beautiful creatures a nice meal and warm place to sleep. Only after i say the word “AMEN”, they dig in.

Sleep tight, Angels.cimg2634

Paro airport

Paro airport

“There’s going to be some turbulence, but that’s normal. Just be patient, we’ll be on the ground soon.”

That ‘s what the Druk Air pilot–some of the world’s best trained, I’m told–assured us as we made our initial descent into the ragged Himalayan mtns. that surround the tiny, single runway into the country’s only airport. Flying into the country requires a “sight-only” landing, as modern technology is futile here.  Looking out of the window of our airbus, I felt like I could practically touch the mountains. WTF???!!! After 2 passes, a couple of sharp banks to the left and right, we landed smoothly.  

After meeting our guide, Jambay, and driver, Pema, from Windhorse Tours and Treks, we waited for our other travel mate, David, to arrive on the next (and only) flight in. His plane didn’t make it in that day. (more…)

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