The Corner Colmado – With Delivery

The “colmado” is a thing there in the Dominican Republic. It’s like a corner drugstore or a bodega… basically, what you need, or want, you can get at your local colmado. They deliver. The important thing is that they deliver beer. Really cold, icy, beer. “Bien fria” is the phrase for an icy cold beer. That’s easy Spanish. So, if you find yourself at an Airbnb or some other place here, get the number of your local colmado, and learn the phrase “bien fria” so that you can get your beers delivered. The colmado will deliver anything they have to your home. Even a single egg.

sm2_RAGnEBaotENYvaUtsxLzF41-z7plZ3_1Puf_1kszttpJkCC-2s-CQ8nnuTLVi-oSqCRMSKF8FtqKZT4ZpB6_Fje3X8qIobPF_lBFFh7XhYjVdayZ8E-AKab7zBcolpLqUIONmDVK1AlwENN7NmyPm8SesCN6OjIpb1LJXiFOvgJ8wmqVcoei_TThere are colmados on every street, which is hard to tell from my blurry photos out of the car…

For the Dominicans, this is their local pub, bar, local watering hole, hangout, a place where they go after work, on the weekends, to get a “bien fria” and chill. Maybe followed by some dancing. Not your stuffy organized “dahnce” but just the pop-up impromptu salsa that happens because your feel it in your feet, your arms, your soul. The music is in your DNA. And it wants to get down and express itself.

The Dominicans will turn any place into a party, from their local gas station, barber shop, corner store, and so on — into a place to chill with beer and dancing. Not just their colmado.

t02RXp57vYKJqZveiRDjrUZTxwuvrk1EvelAyuhgGFZA3MOJSgONYVedAF0ze8g1ImNFLVcrs5ihVjOI3b_TVH9eD5xRRZ_ZNM_3_NUVwM7fI0Ob3KoGaI8POg6QkbBXUxubLolT6soLqKGYYzSLVm11TVtgVphIKGGzKHVFE0uM4VB_jC3NWtZTJSThis may be a class thing… not sure, but I don’t think that the “upper” class hang out at their local colmado… but I could be wrong.

Tenth Day – Tsechu Festival in Bhutan

The plaza outside the "dzong" in Thimphu with tsechu crowds.
The plaza outside the “dzong” in Thimphu with tsechu crowds.

Dzong… dzong… dzong. That’s the deep basal reverberating sound that the Bhutanese alpine horns make during the “tsechu” in the “dzong” which is the building where the festival takes place.

One year later, from a completely different mountain range (Bogota and Thimphu are at the same altitude) on the other side of the world, I remember the tsechu I saw when I went to Bhutan. “Tsechu” is the word for the “tenth day” in Bhutan.

Boys wearing formal wear.
Boys wearing formal wear including the kabney scarf.

In Bhutan, the second largest “tsechu” festival of the year takes place in April in the town of Paro. The biggest festival is held in the fall in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. The tsechu festival is extremely complex which is evident from this sample itinerary:

“We can continue attending the Thimphu tsechu day 2 where you will get to witness Chamms (religious associated dances) like The Black Hat Dance (Shana), Dance of the 21 black hats with drums (Sha nga ngacham), Dance of the Noblemen and the Ladies (Pholeg Moleg), Dance of the Drums from Dramitse (Dramitse Ngacham), Dance of the Noblemen and the Ladies (Pholeg Moleg) and Dance of the Stag and Hounds (Shawa Shachi). Not all dances will be performed in the morning but we will be able witness at least two.”

Bhutanese women covering their hair from hot sun while watching the tsechu.
Bhutanese women covering their hair from hot sun while watching the tsechu.

Although I didn’t understand most of the stories being told, I enjoyed the colors and costumes. For the Bhutanese, the very act of watching the dances is good for their souls. It’s also educational. The monks who perform the roles of the gods and demons must be in excellent shape as the dance is a marathon. Also, of note, is that the costumes are never washed because washing them would wash away the spirits. After being used, the costumes are immediately packed down until the next time they are needed. No airing out allowed…

A Black Hat dancer.
A Black Hat dancer.

A popular dance is the Black Hat Dance which tells the legend of how the wrathful gods (good guys) draw out the demons by inviting them to a dance. Then during the dance, while the demons (bad guys) watch, the Black Hats take the bows and arrows from their large sleeves and kill the demons.

Everything, from dates, numbers, directions, hand motions, shawl knots, etc. have Buddhist significance in Bhutan.

Another thing that I found interesting about the festival, and Himalayan Buddhism, is that embarrassment is a tool used to¬† open up the spirit to enlightenment. This was evident at the tsechu with the lively antics of the jester. The jester wandered around making lewd overtures and gestures, including climbing on to the laps of foreigners. I’m sure that his antics made for many a Facebook photo.

And speaking of embarrassment leading to enlightenment, my friend and I had our own enlightenment experience. My male friend and I both bought the cream colored large sash called a “kabney” that the men wear as part of the their formal attire with their gho (see photo). Then we went out in public wearing our kabneys as scarves. This caused embarrassment and my friend was “talked to” by some Bhutanese men. They were embarrassed on his behalf that he was wearing the sash without the proper traditional clothes under it. As a woman, no one said anything to me because it was clear that I was a clueless foreigner… after all no Bhutanese woman would ever wear this piece of male attire! We quickly packed them away, to be worn outside of Bhutan.

Happy tsechu to my Bhutanese friends!

The jester with phallus in hand and phallus hat.
The jester with “enlightenment” tool in hand and matching mask.

Ethiopian Food in Ethiopia

A traditional Ethiopian meal.
A traditional Ethiopian meal.

Washington, DC’s Ethiopian restaurants are well-known. Yet, I tried Ethiopian food for the first time in Ethiopia. The food was new to me. It was perhaps not so different from the bhorta of Bangladesh, but it was a world away from the sancocho of Colombia, and the burgers of America. When I was in Ethiopia, my friend took me to a restaurant serving traditional Ethiopian food. First, we sat at low tables about the size of chair. The food was served on a large platter (about a yard/meter wide) on which the waitress placed our different dishes along with the national bread, injera, a spongy flat bread. The waitress brought a silver pot and poured water over my hands so that I could wash them, although I only ever dream of using my right hand! We had a boiled egg, stewed greens, a curry, etc. I found the food to be on the sour side and immediately thought of certain friends who love sour foods — like lemons.

As we were at a tourist friendly, the other guests appeared to be a mix of expat Ethiopians, families, and the national football (soccer) coach. For dessert, we had coffee. After all, coffee comes from “Kaffa” in Ethiopia. It was strong in the “Turkish” style. I enjoyed it.

A male dancer at the beginning of the evening.
A male dancer at the beginning of the evening.
Traditional dancing.
Traditional dancing.

During the meal, traditional dances of Ethiopia were sung and performed for us. I’m sure that the stories being told in the dances were those of battle, courtship, and harvest, and they involved a style of dance which required high impact step aerobics and what is fondly called the “chicken” dance. As the evening progressed, the men changed into costumes that seemed to allow them more air during their feverish dances while the women continued to put on more and more clothing like sweaters and headscarves. I don’t know if any of the restaurants in DC have dance performances like the one I saw in Addis but I found the dance and the music uplifting and I’d watch it again.

Coffee served with air freshener and popcorn.
Coffee served with air freshener and popcorn.