Trashiyangtse's part of the national celebration took place this morning at the Public Grounds, which are a bit of a hike up a pretty tall hill:
Upon arriving, the students took their places for the grand March Past:
While William and I, deeply honoured and, frankly, surprised, were invited to the special viewing box:
There, we were in the company of the Cheif Guest, the venerable Head Abbot of the Old Dzong, as well as other senior monks and government officials:
The festivities began with the most beautiful unfurling of the flag. It had been filled with flower petals. They swirled in the wind before landing by the alter. Then there was an offering, a rousing singing of the national anthem, and the long awaited march past:
There was a full cultural programme. Here is the Head Abbot watching one of the dances:
Midway through the morning, a flock of black necked cranes, the first that I have seen in Bhutan, flew over the proceedings. This is a very good omen:
Dances were performed by even very young students. This troupe from a community primary school a few kilometres from Trashiyangtse Town performed beautifully:
There was a quiz competition for the higher secondary students. The questions were in Dzongka so I didn't do very well:
There was a skit by some VERY dramatic students from my school. It was the woeful tale of a boy who got in a fight in class and dropped out:
He bussed to Thimphu hoping for work but because he was illiterate he went to a public toilet there instead of a hotel. And he almost got hit by a car. So stay in school!
The best part of the Birthday Celebration, though, is that we got to participate! William joined the teacher's tug-of-war team. They pulled their hardest but lost to the public officials:
We were both invited into the morning's closing dance. Which is just so symbolic because that's what living in Bhutan is. Living in Bhutan is being welcomed wholeheartedly to participate in something you've never seen before and it doesn't matter that you don't know the moves and doesn't matter that you don't know the words. You watch those around you, you are encouraged by their smiles and then, suddenly, if only for a moment, you're in step.
Long live the King.