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Bhutanese consider it impolite to say no. So they have many different forms of yes ranging from “very unlikely” to “it is certain”. If they say yes three times it’s definitely not happening. 

Bhutanese Ngultrum is the local currency. A one Nu bill is the smallest denomination; there are no coins. So when change of less than one Nu is owed, it is paid in hard candies or throat lozenges.  “Your change sir, 27 Nu and two peppermints”. 

Most Bhutanese parents take their newborns to the temple to receive auspicious names. Unfortunately, the monks don’t concern themselves much with surnames or gender. So Sonam the office girl who helped us with work permits is not Sonam, the boy who took us to Tiger Nest Monastery. Tashi Wangchuck one of my residents is no relation to the royal Wangchucks. 

My typical day starts with a short 20 minute walk to Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH). The pinnacle of the Bhutanese healthcare system, and where I will spend the morning in the OT (operating theater), doing hands-on clinical trading with two anesthesia residents. My afternoons are spent lecturing or various anesthesia topics. 

Until very recently Bhutan has been unable to train its own healthcare providers. Instead, doctors were trained in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand and Cuba. JDWNRH and the attached Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences is trying to change this. It is the only teaching institute in the country and it is crawling with students, interns, and residents.

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