Facebook in Bhutan

After watching invigorating archery and giant dart matches in which men sang and danced after each series of successful trails, I proceeded to the Memorial Chorten and walked around its white dome until I got to a small enclosed meditation hall where a monk was carefully placing food offerings in front of an alter. I sat quietly in the back and looked at the beautiful hard wood floor, the statues of the Buddha and the traditional instruments set around the room.

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One of the wonderful things about Bhutan is that most people can speak very good English. This sometimes feels unreal. This morning I was walking around the weekend market and decided to have a meal of fried red rice there. The old Bhutanese man who worked at the small cafe spoke excellent English. Sometimes it feels like I am living in a dubbed documentary about Asia! The Bhutanese I have met so far are invariably polite and courteous. Combined with the amazing mountain scenery and the wonderful way time stretches here (especially since I have not had Internet here for the past few days), there is a feeling of magic that I try not to get to excited about lest it is disrupted by a jealous twist of fate!

Once the monk had finished setting up the offerings. He came and sat besides me. “Where are you from?” he asked. “Canada”, I said and smiled, happy at this wonderful opportunity to talk with him. We talked a little bit about the length of my stay in Bhutan, what I was doing back home and his life in the monastery. To my surprise, he pulled out a smart phone and showed me Canada on Google Earth. He told me about cranes who fly to his village every year from Tibet and stay there for the winter. He showed me their pictures. They were majestic beautiful birds.

Next, he asked me of a good program for translation to which I responded by showing him Google Translate. He wanted to translate something a friend had written him on Facebook. Before I knew it we were Facebook friends and he invited me to his Monastery which is about 8 kilometres north of Thimphu. He kindly offered me some tasty milk tea and as we sat there sipping tea and eating rice puffs, an older monk entered with a child on his back. My friend told me that he was a senior meditating monk. This was hard to believe as he put down the child and proceeded to play with him in a carefree and fun manner, giving him the ancient looking instruments to play with and teasing him with a loud brass instrument. I loved his fresh, childlike presence. After tea, I said goodbye to my new found friend and walked back to my apartment.

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Printing Yoda

My first 3D printed object is an ornate Yoda head! The design is not mine and is from a website (Thingiverse.com) that hosts a repository of designs for physical objects. Our school has recently acquired three 3D printers (3D Touch from BFB) and I am lucky to have access to them. It took about 30 hours to print. Because of the cavities there were a lot of support material and it’s almost impossible to take all of them out. There might be a way to melt the support material but I don’t want to risk anything with my first Yoda yet!

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I would love to make a skin for Yoda’s head, perhaps one can be made out of resin. Combining 3D printing with traditional sculpting techniques would be very interesting and might make sculpting more accessible to amateurs like myself 🙂

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Play with your food!

Before leaving for Asia, I spent a few days hanging out with friends and family. One of the fun activities was playing Pacman using vegetables as interface! We used two zucchinis and two cucumbers, each corresponding to a computer arrow key. This was made possible by the wonderful Makey Makey kit from MIT.

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A few days earlier I had played the same game with a slightly different vegetable set (four zucchinis, two of which were eaten before the second gameplay session!) with my two amazing buddies, Luke and Grace (ages 6 and 9).

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Other than them being a lot of fun to play with, using vegetables as interface allowed for a more collaborative gameplay. In both cases, players chose one or two vegetables and attempted to collaborate (with mixed results) with other player(s). Players soon would realize that communication, especially at the learning stage of gameplay was key and one of them would assume a leader role, saying (often shouting with excitement 🙂 ) directions to other players. After the game and a mock dance, the cucumber part of the interface was chopped and eaten!

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A few days later in Kathmandu, I saw various groups of men huddled over boards, consumed in games. I later found out most were playing a traditional Nepalese game called “Move the Tiger”. I am unsure as to what is the history behind this game or what are its rules but am very excited to find out when I have a chance. I wonder if it’s possible to combine Makey Makey with Move the Tiger to create an edible board game!

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