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Today we'll go to school and take a hike and have a picnic and even visit a monastery or two. Or three.

Everybody's getting ready.


Leslie and Nina are excited.


And Sharon is locked in her room.  The manager sprung her out before we left, though.


Tim stopped at a store before we went to the school because he wanted to present the principal with a nice gift.  Remember what that is?


As part of our learning experience in Bhutan, Road Scholar has arranged for us to visit an elementary school.  They recommended we bring along gifts for the students, so I'm prepared.  I wonder why they put the school behind barbed wire?


Guess we'll find out if anybody's trying to escape.


Nope, they look like perfectly happy students to me.


Multiplication tables on the steps.  I like that.


We've arrived before classes have begun.


Their garb may be traditional Bhutanese, but their backpacks look straight out of the good old USA.


The kids seemed genuinely happy to meet us.


Leslie and Jean quickly made friends.


So did Bill.  Everybody wanted to see how the camera worked.


And they especially wanted to get their pictures taken.


Take our picture!


Charlotte obliges.


Over here, mister!


We'll make faces for you!


We know all the tricks.


Time for morning assembly.,


Everybody get in line.


And behave yourselves.  We're going to sing the National Anthem, all forty-leven verses.  (This video has been edited to one verse.)


Thanks to Mary Sladek at NASA HQ I had some nice NASA Science Mission Directorate educational materials to share with the principal.  I think he's not chewing his betel nut yet.


The kids are learning English.


Jean's a natural teacher.  See how the kid is enjoying this?


The language of Bhutan is Dzongkha, but by law everyone is taught English in school too.  These teaching materials on the walls look awfully familiar.


This could have been straight out of Graves Elementary School, 1958.


I sat with four kids at their table.  This little girl was a charmer.


The boys were fun too.


And they were all eager to practice their English with me.


And get their picture taken.


Time to hit the road.


We've arrived at our first monastery of the day: Jambay Lhakhang, built in the 7th century. 


These nice ladies seemed fascinated by the tourists.


The place is old.


And the prayer wheels are colorful.


They've been here awhile. 


The metal artwork is beautiful.


And the elderly Buddhists are devout.


I'm glad I wasn't going down on my knees on that hard stone.


Do that enough and you will leave an imprint in the rock.


This lady has her malas.


And this lady has her mani.


That's an interesting sign for a simple trash can.  If only it were that easy.


Impressive clouds.


Souvenirs, anyone?


Nah, no time for that.  Let's take a hike.


We're going to see some countryside now.


Drying chilies in the sun.


Hiking in the mud.


Careful not to let your foot slip into a rice paddy.


Farmers out standing in their field.


These cuties were yelling at the top of their lungs, "Bye tourists!"


Those clouds have arrived and it's starting to sprinkle.  Maybe we can wait it out by this stupa.


It's a nice place to stop for awhile.


There's even a shelter.


And we can get to know each other better.


And when the rain stops we can carry on.


Cute kid in a doorway.


Who'd have thought we'd find a general store out here in the fields?


Mom has left the kids in charge.


Ah, here we go.  That's our second monastery of the day, Kurjey Lhakhang, built in the 8th century.


It's old.


And the grounds are lovely.


Tim tells us all about it.


Traditional architecture.


Traditional monk.


We went inside, but we couldn't take pictures.


Doesn't matter.  What we saw looked very much like this.


Couldn't resist taking this picture.


OK, let's so some more hiking.  Isn't it about lunchtime?


Let's go down to the river.


And climb over a fence.


And what's that up ahead?  A picnic?


Tim and Sonam and the folks at Road Scholar really know how to put on a spread.


It's been a long hike.  Let's chow down.




Wayne and Nina are certainly enjoying this.


Bill too.


But especially Tim.


That suspicious liquid in the fancy jug is ara.  I had a taste.  Nope, not for me.


Enough eating.  Let's hike across that fancy foot bridge.


It's a very shaky foot bridge.  Seriously, it's not the ara, I swear.


Bill made it across.


We walked past a lady spinning thread on her porch.


We walked past a raven.


And we walked past a flour mill.


It was unattended for the moment, just going about its business of making flour from wheat.


And here we are at our third monastery/temple of the day, Kenchogsum Lhakhang.


The original structure was built in the 9th century but it was destroyed by fire in 2010.  Now it's being rebuilt on the site of the original, bigger and better than before.


The artwork is magnificent.


And the quarters for the monks are first class.


You can tell they like it here.


Looks like somebody died.


There's an airport here in Bumthang, but it's for domestic flights only.


Now we're back at the hotel. This is Yeshi Dorji, a former member of the national assembly, and now a candidate again. His district is further to the east of us and he’s just staying at our hotel for the night. He wanted to schmooze with some Americans, I think because he enjoyed his time in the United States when he studied at Washington University in St. Louis. Not a vote in our group, but he was a charming man who spent some of his time with us anyway.

When my mother saw this picture she wondered if I'd forgotten to take a comb to Bhutan.  Thanks, Mom.


And a little while later we were joined for dinner by Mr. Jimtsu, the former principal of the school we visited this morning, and now the principal of a middle school. We chatted with him for an hour about the school system in Bhutan. It was very kind of him to give us his time and his very interesting insights into how education is managed in Bhutan.

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