Monday, October 3, 2011

Last Minute Stuff

Most recent additions to the suitcase o' protein? Dental floss for Professor Kim and very high-heeled shoes for student Marijose, who apparently has found that her "kira" (the Bhutanese national dress for women) drags on the ground.

As busy as I am, at least I'm not planning a wedding with a guest list of about 600,000 (the population of Bhutan, all of whom will be attending, watching, or at least thinking about the King and his bride). They're a fine-looking couple, by the way. I wonder where they're registered.

My sister-in-law Joy wondered about the whole "Thunder Dragon" thing. The people of Bhutan call their kingdom "Druk Yul," which is Dzongkha for "Thunder Dragon." Thunder dragons are creatures that apparently have appeared in the sky throughout Bhutan's history. We don't have them here, unfortunately. We have seagulls and pigeons, which really don't inspire greatness, but are probably quieter, and eat less, than your average thunder dragon. The King is known in Bhutan as the"Druk Gyalpo" or "Dragon King."

Speaking of dragons, that's where the name of the Bhutanese airline comes from: Druk Air. Druk Air started operating commercial flights in 1983, using Bhutan's lone airstrip. In 1987, it purchased its first jet at a cost of $25 million, which required the country's first-ever commercial loan. When Bhutan purchased two Airbus A-319s in 2003, it was the single largest purchase the country had ever made. The first one arrived in the country on the 19th of October, 2004, a date chosen by a Buddhist astrologer as a particularly auspicious day.

When planes fly into Paro, they follow a flight path through the Himalayan Mountains (on a clear day, you can see Mt. Everest). The pilots navigate a narrow stretch that brings the planes through steep turns, low enough that apparently you can see the nervous expressions on the faces of people who think they're about to be plucked from the earth and eaten by a thunder dragon, until they realize it's just the old Airbus, coming in for a landing.

I've watched this a few times on YouTube, just to prepare myself for the experience, figuring if I know what to expect, I would not be overcome by panic and could instead enjoy the view (of people's kitchens through their windows). This logic may be flawed, as watching something on YouTube from the comfort of my kitchen is probably a pale substitute for the real thing. I don't know. I'll keep you posted.

Tomorrow night: JFK. Wednesday/Thursday: Bangkok. Betsy has the snacks, we've got two iPads and a bunch of movies between us, and I'm packing the Ambien. And tucked safely in the cargo hold: a suitcase containing dental floss, high-heeled shoes, a hundred and one protein bars and one Wheaton blanket, destined for the land of the Thunder Dragon.

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