Mr Bhutan—The Extrovert
(For lots of pics on this evening go to my Facebook wall)
As the greased up, almost naked and ripped finalists (humbly) strutted the stage in the final pose-off of the evening, the packed auditorium went wild. Wild! It was as if I were finally seeing all of Bhutan’s behind-closed-doors-true-colors. While the contestants worked hard posing-off in the sweltering and dilapidated stadium to pick out each judge and gain our approval, the audience was having its own cheer-off. Each group making it well known who was their favorite. I’ve never been drawn to body building as a sport, but the guys on stage giving their all and the crowd doing their best to influence us judges was such genuine and sexy energy. I was drawn in from the beginning.
Prior to the competition while Tshering from the BOC helped me put on my required kira (it is complicated for the uninitiated), I admitted that I was a bit nervous about being a judge. I had gone on the internet earlier that day to study the protocol for judging such a competition—I wanted to ensure that I gave the guys my best shot for the evening.
Body building in Bhutan is minuscule by American standards, but these athletes work just as hard in their sport and were putting themselves on the line publicly—which is not a common occurrence for Bhutanese. I was honored to be a part of what proved to be an intense and exciting evening.
It was obvious from the start who was experienced on stage and who was a bit more Bhutanese-ish. Bhutanese are very humble by nature so for them to get in front of a crowd with little clothes on and engage narcicism at its finest, is a bit of a stretch. Body building is showy at its core, and the Bhutanese tend to look down on showy. But a few of the guys had done competitions prior in Bhutan or other parts of Asia and their experience in playing to the crowd and the judges stood out dramatically. They also happen to be the guys who made it into the top 5 and who by far, exude the most sexual charisma.
The Kira Experiment:When traipsing around any exotic country where I look and dress quite
different then the norm, its common to get a lot of glances from everyone. I’m used to this, especially as a woman with a strong looking body—and Bhutan has been no different. But I got the most visual and verbal attention from the Bhutanese men last night than in all the weeks of Expedition Bhutan—because I was dressed like one of their women. Yeowsa.
Now the ironic thing about this is that a kira—a floor length skirt/jumper, which could second for a full-torso-hip-and-leg-thick-cotton-straight-jacket—is covered by a jacket which only exposes your wrists and the upper part of your neck. The jacket is loose-fitting and crosses in front of the entire chest, covering all but the very upper part near the neck. This is not what most of the world would call a sexy garment. But for Bhutanese men it seems to be a magnet—especially if worn by someone ‘else’. The guys, including the contestants, weren’t just staring at me, they would go out of their way to come up and tell me how beautiful I looked. I had to go on stage a couple of times as a judge, once to hand out awards, and a couple of the bodybuilding contestants actually made verbal comments to me about how nice I looked—right in the middle of the festivities.
The day before, I had seen most of them at the weigh in and was wearing a short skirt, bare legs and short sleeve shirt. I did get inquiries about whether I was an athlete but all comments were usual. Wrap my torso, hips and legs with 2-3 thick layers of cloth that feels like a mobile sauna in the summer heat, and the men leered openly at the possibility of what might be under the 10 yards of bomb-proof fabric. Though the tight kira skirt, always with horizontal stripes, in no way flatters my box-like body and causes me to slow my walking pace dramatically, this was a social experiment I may have to try again while I’m here.
So, Mr Bhutan the extrovert came out in a big way last night. And not only in the contestants and the crowd but in the participants of a youth program which teaches singing and dance, and who were our entertainment in between rounds. Bhutan expanded its social repertoire and even though my #1 pick for Mr Bhutan got second place, we all had a total blast.
For lots of pics on this evening go to my Facebook wall!!