Thursday, July 03, 2008

Field Trip: International Travel the easy way

A week ago (July 2nd), we took the littles back up to our Nation's Capitol in order to get in a bit of international travel. No, we didn't fly out of IAD or BWI - instead we attended the 42nd annual Smithsonian Institute's Folklife Festival held on the Mall for two weeks in the summer.

Each year, a state and a country are chosen for the festival -- this year, the festival highlighted Texas and Bhutan. Texas, the festival shows, is much more than Texas swing, beer and barbeque -- altho you can find those too. Texas wines, technology and avant garde music are fascinating to see.

Bhutan, a small Buddhist country situated between India and China, is just being "discovered" through eco-tourism and the recent opening of air-routes to this unique world whose name translates as "Land of the Thunder Dragon". An authentic traditional Bhutanese Buddhist Lhakhang (temple), a gift to the US from the people of Bhutan, has been built on the Mall -- the paintings and carvings on this building are amazing. Within the temple, Buddhist monks chant while English-speaking interpreters explain the prayers, rituals and symbolism. LegoManiac was a little put-off by this -- "it would be like people walking thru a Catholic Church and talking while Father is saying Mass. That's not right."

Bhutan crafts and industry are highlighted -- woodcarving, textile weaving, painting, sand-art, string-art, basket-making, wood-turning, homeopathic medicines and cooking -- giving the kids and dh and I a wonderful look at this country and how they live in the Himilayas.
Bhutan goes from steamy jungles at sea-level to over 24000 feet in the space of West Virginia! No roads led into Bhutan until the 1960s and air travel started about 10 years ago. This is a country I'd never even heard of -- and one that was a very closed society from Western eyes until quite recently!
NASA is also highlighted at the festival (which goes until July 6th) as it's NASA's 50th birthday!

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