The seven Japanese volunteers and myself are receiving an intensive orientation of Bhutanese customs, history, cuisine, dress, arts and culture, and politics. The Japanese volunteers are all in their 20s and have professional backgrounds in engineering, education, health care, and information technology. They are associated with the Japan International Cooperation Agency--Bhutan, http://www.jica.go.jp/bhutan/english/
In the mornings, we listen to lectures on conversational Dzongha, traditional dress, Bhutanese cuisine, Bhutanese culture, and Bhutanese politics and history. In the afternoons we go on guided tours. So far, we have visited the headquarters of Bhutan's national newspaper--Kuensel http://www.kuenselonline.com/ and the studios of the Bhutan Broadcasting Service, http://www.bbs.com.bt/ Both of these tours were quite informative providing extensive background and the history of these two key media outlets. One issue, for instance, that the BBS has encountered recently is the amount of coverage that they can do while the Bhutanese parliament is in session. Bhutan about a year and half ago transformed from a hereditary monarchy to a constitutional monarchy complete with a parliament, prime minister, and U.S.-style Bill of Rights.
Today, June 30th, we visited the Royal Academy of Performing Arts, http://www.raonline.ch/pages/bt/visin2/bt_dance01.html The eight of us were entranced by a special dance performance of several traditional and classic Bhutanese songs and dances complete with cymbals and very long Bhutanese style horns. We later visited the Bhutan National Handicrafts Emporium in central Thimphu, http://www.colorsofbhutan.com/. The Emporium contains numerous traditional clothing, bamboo craft, fine jewelry, wood carving including masks, stone work, paper making and musical instruments crafted throughout Bhutan. Next door is a non-governmental organization--National Women's Association Bhutan, which sponsors artists who are painters and wood carvers, http://www.nwabbhutan.org.bt/ We watched as several of the artists painted before our eyes traditional paintings and carved traditional masks.