Rotary hears of member’s trip to Himalayan country

Published 4:51 pm Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Bainbridge Rotarians were given a visual trip to the remote country of Bhutan this week. Fellow Rotarian, John Harris, who recently made a trip to Bhutan, showed videos and spoke on the little-known country.

Situated in the high Himalayas, near India, he said it contains the world’s highest mountain at 2,400 feet.

The country is most Buddhist, which Harris said was interesting, considering the most detailed history of the country was compiled by early Spanish friars who came through in an effort to convert the population to Christianity.

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The isolated country has one airport that is serviced by one airline. Being between mountain passes, the planes can only fly in the daylight when the weather is clear.

The capital is Thimphu, with a population of 104,000, and there are no traffic lights.

As the country is a large producer of electricity, most of which is exported to India, they prefer electric automobiles.

The countryside is dotted with strange structures called Stupas. They are where the cremated remains of the deceased are kept.

The educational system is government owned and for many years there were only 11 schools in the whole country, with 400 students. In 1968 the country began a modernization of the educational system, and there are now 450 schools. The country has many dialects, but English is being taught in all schools.

In a country with a total population of 820,000, 230,000 of them are below the age of 15. The literacy rate is 64.6 percent in those above age 15.

Even though the country is mostly rural, primitive, and poor, they are concerned with national happiness, and do a country wide survey every few years to determine how happy their citizens are.

Harris said there is a slowly rising index, where now 67 percent of the population consider themselves happy.

Harris attended the lone Rotary Club in the country and found they have a very progressive agenda, with a list of a dozen or more projects they want to undertake to improve the lot of the public.

One of the projects cited by Harris was their plan to build a hostel for students to stay in through the week while in school, so they don’t have to walk miles to and from school each day.

Harris proposed the local club write a grant coordinated with other clubs in the area to assist the Bhutan Rotary in some of their projects.