Finding Solace and Bliss in Words..................

Thursday, March 31, 2011

I am certified with Motor vehicle accident certificate




Its been three days since I had the worse motor vehicle accident of my life. But thanks to almighty god, I made it alive from the rubbles of my damaged car. I escaped the scene without a slightest injury on my body. My clean shaven head banged the windshield which broke into million pieces, but its pretty amazing that  my skull withstood that thud. My knees hit the dashboard, but medical reports confirmed it as 'stable'. My chin crashed on the steering wheel, but amazingly escaped without a small bruise. The hand of divinity has done a magic to save a catastrophic end in any sense. So I thank you almighty god for this. I sincerely do.

However the post accident-incidents are more chilling. The magnitude of the loss of property not only  bewildered the beholders but victimized three commoners. For one, it was a loss of his hard earned family asset. I think that damaged taxi was the only property he had.  For another it was a loss of his family's entire savings.  As for me. loosing an only asset, that I annually declared to National Anti Corruption Commission was something that was by any measure disheartening and shocking.  If my car cannot be repaired then, I will have nothing to declare for the ACC, next year. Such was the state of nature!

I called home to inform my wife about the mishap. But it was my mother-in-law at the other end, who  fumbled and stumbled to converse with me. However in the background, I could hear my elder daughter, (4 years) telling me not to panic. She was in fact suggesting me to buy a car of "Mr. Bean" next time though.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

A concise guide to dreams; The book I read this Sunday.

Did any one dream of my death yesterday ? If you did then, Bhutanese interpretation of dreams are true. I over ate yesterday; -all the three meals. It appears to me that, I did it involuntarily to compensate those meals I usually loose in course of my duty in my office on the week days. 

Coincidently, I also happen to borrow a book from my friend titled "A concise guide to dreams" by Philip Clucas and Douglas Clucas. It's  a book worth not only reading, but also worth owning one. It's a very detailed guide for all kinds of dream we experience in our dream lore.
A CONCISE GUIDE TO DREAMS
By Philip Clucas and Douglas Clucas

Well, I may not be in a position to share everything that I read in the book, But I thought, I would at least share few tips (as in the book) to have 'sweet dreams'.  Sweet dreams, according the author, requires any one to have an "untroubled and relaxing sleep in order for the body to awaken properly rested and rejuvenated". following are the tips for having a good night's sleep. 
  1. One should not worry about the amount of sleep we are having. 
  2. Live a active life. 
  3. lessen your tension before you go to bed. Do some light exercises, go for a gentle walk and if possible have a warm bath.
  4. Don't over eat before going to bed. Leave at least 2 hours between your last meal and when you go to bed. If you want to eat at all, then try restricting to only light meals like a piece of fruit etc.
  5. Don't drink any thing that is caffeinated. Don't even smoke or drink any alcohol.
  6. make sure the bed is very comfortable. 
  7. Also make sure that our bedroom conditions are ideal for our sleep. Check the temperatures (16-18 degrees on thermometer) the room should be neither too dark nor too bright. play some soothing music like a sound of nature, 
  8. Keep a dream diary to record some of the thoughts that worries you and avoid pondering into them. 
  9. go to bed 30 minutes before we actually sleep. during that 30 min, read something that relaxes your mind but don't get too absorbed.
  10. If you feel you have problem falling asleep, then try tip No 8. try to divert your attention. Think of a place or a person that makes you feel safe and secure. Focus on a image that comforts you.This will make your mind easier to slip off to sleep again
Grab a copy and find it out for yourself. I think the book is available for sale in Pekhang store in Thimphu and a Handicraft shop in Paro airport for about Nu. 495 (approx USD 11)
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Friday, March 25, 2011

My light in the dark hours, My lovely princeses

Nima in Orange, Sonam in Red and Peldhen in Blue
Of late, events are uncovering fast and swift, both at home and abroad. Unfortunately not in the good direction. This has, in many ways left in me in a confused and enigmatic situation. 

To begin with, In the month of January, the fire disaster at home broke not only my  heart but also broke the fragile hearts of my aged parents. It claimed the lives of 15 yaks, which are considered as the most prized possession of my father. The news of fire disaster never subsided since. So many hectors of forest has been damaged. The schools and homes and huts, on numerous occasion have also succumbed to the similar fate. 

Similar to the apocalypse of fire, the fury of the wind in recent weeks have made its impact felt as well. Homes were left roofless, glasses crumbled, trees up rooted and cars crushed. falling sheets of metals have made streets,an unsafe place for our evening walks 

Back in my office, I am equally in a confused state too. A thing of implementing Tobacco Control Act took away all my strength and energy to serve my fellow citizens. The story of a "third catch" has not only tarnished the image of my office, but  also nearly got at the good and harmonious working relationship my office have with our Police department. Journalists, all over the country followed my office like a wolf that sensed a dead carcase. Not only this, one of the most credible media house in our country, recently, even ran a story, in which they misinformed the general  public about my office. Thanks to my bosses initiative. It Finally got clarified in their next issue. 

Away form home, things are even more worrisome. The mass civilian protest against the governments in Arab world, financial crises in Europe and America, and latest one, the the earth quake trigged tsunami in Japan now threatening the world with nuclear meltdowns. Are these the shape of things to come as predicted by poet W.B Yeats in his poem,  A Prayer for my Daughter????

Amidst all this chaos and insecureness, It's from the face of my lovely angels, that I draw reason to continue ahead in my life. They are truly the light in my darkest hour. I love you girls and I hope you'll  read what papa wrote here, someday. 
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I am a beneficiary of MTCP Program 2009; Part Four



Of the 14 days program, I have spent half of it in AKMAL. There, the weather was hot and humid all the time. It often rained cat and dog. The very first sight of tropical rain frightened me because, the powerful rain not only  cut off the power supply, but also sent water gushing into our conference hall. Our classed got called off and my colleagues gathered at the lobby either for cigarettes or for  coffee. 

Suddenly, after 15 minutes of relentless rain, the serene and radiant atmosphere of Melaka returns to normal, The chirping birds returns to the rubber trees and sings again, The lush and green soccer field appears even  greener and calmer,  Ramana, the turtle and school of multi colored fish (that live in an artificial pond, next to hostel) resumes feasting on the bread (dumped in by our friends) All in all, the life in Melaka was beautiful beyond.

The memories from Melaka mall are unforgetable, because it was there I did my major shopping. I bought toys and garments for my daughters and  shoes and socks for my wife and parents. Our colleagues from  Malaysian customs, sometimes took us to a different mall and treated with traditional Malaysian tea too.
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Monday, March 21, 2011

Look I had a hair cut yesterday

 Having long hair during my schooling days was considered indiscipline and folks often got bitterly punished for breaching that rule. No matter how severe those punishments were, we still  preferred having longer hair. We preferred having longer hair even if it meant begging for hair oil and hair gel and borrowing dendruff infected comb form our  friends who were less willing to share. We preferred having longer hair even if it meant running out of washing soap and least of all we  preferred having longer hair even if it meant relentless canning by the (so called) discipline teacher.

What ever may have  been the reasons and intentions, I resented the idea of short hair with deep sense of remorse and regret.

 In my childhood days, I preferred to have longer hair to combat cold air of Shingkhar, -my birth place. There were days when my unattended hair rumpled like the tail of a sick Yak in the cold and freezing breeze of  Shingkhar.
Back in  my high school days, I wanted my hair long,  not because it was considered stylish and punky but  so called the "good looks" were mainly associated with the way one maintains hair on the head. Perhaps, young girls in our time liked young boys with fanciful hair cuts.

Yesterday, I had my hair shaved for the first time in my life and my wife laughed at me. My kids ran away from me and my colleagues in my office greeted me with unusual remarks. They surely sensed some change in me just because I got my hair shaved. 

Today morning, I realized that having no hair has many benefits too. I saved 10 minutes while washing my face. I may have also saved some grams of soap and few ml of water too. 

Get your hair shaved and see what other benefits it has.
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Sunday, March 20, 2011

My understanding about the International Health Regulation.

17th March 2011

Sub: Meeting with the International health regulatory experts

The International Health Regulation (IHR) experts from World Health Organization (WHO) along with the senior program officer, Mr. Tshering Dendup, Ministry of Health, Bhutan were here in Paro airport to sensitize; the representatives of the different agencies, on the importance of public health services at the point of entry. The team said, that they were on an “assessment Mission” on Public health facilities in Paro airport.
With only handful of  participants from airport, our meeting rather started on a very casual and informal note. The program officer, asked the participants about some of the threats that our Country is facing today. There were three of us who responded immediately. I responded by saying ‘Tobacco’ while two other responded by saying ‘terrorist’ and ‘pandemic’ respectively.

As the meeting proceeded further, the experts educated us on many aspects of public health, history of IHR regulation and International conventions related to WHO. Bhutan is signatory to the convention called International Health Regulatory Authority and hence we have obligations to be fulfilled (in near future). This will enable our system to comply with international regulations in times to come.

In my understanding, our country can comply with the IHR as follows:
1.       Educate all the service providers about the international conventions like WHO constitution, International Health regulation and Universal aviation/land crossing  safety etc 

2.       Designate competent National Focal point that will communicate about the potential health threat in their jurisdiction to a competent authority. 

3.       Designate point of Entry, with all the core capacities (both for all times and times of emergency) both for air and land.

4.       We can rethink of integrating this health regulation to the airport emergency plan

Over 4 million passengers flying 24 hours a day around the world, the potential of spreading a communicable disease (overnight) is a  foreseeable thing.  This has in turn called for Universal Aviation Safety Audit, which consist of concepts like Aerodrome safety, facilitation and Co-operative Arrangement for the Prevention of Spread of Communicable diseases through Air travel (CAPSCA)

The team also enlightened me and my friends on the need of integrating WHO and ICAO. Air traffic management under the regulation of ICAO can act as a crucial information provider  to the flight Captain/pilot about the passenger who boards the plane with the potential health risk. In this way the the potential high risk passenger can be identified and located way before the flight actually lands at the designated point of entry.

Universal  Aviation Safety Audit, will conduct aviation safety audit and publishes its findings to the public. The public will be informed about those point of entry, that have low safety compliance record and hence not worthwhile for the travel and vice-versa.

The main aim of IHR is to contain the risk at the origin through public health services and public health surveillance. Therefore health is the security is everyone. Without a secure health system, we are as strong as a weak link in the chain of security system.


Note: I am afraid, that this article is rather haphazardly written. The points are not in sequential order and I would like to remind all my readers that this is what I have learned in just 1 hour about the IHR from the experts.  

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

I am a beneficiary of MTCP Program 2009; Part Three

Our formal training session began on 3rd Aug. There were more than 26  participants form around the world and it was yet another proud moment for me to be representing my country. We were all asked to come in our national costume for the group photograph. I did present myself with my silk athang marthra gho.

Having done with the introductory session in the morning, we, the participants were called for the formal class, but in informal dress. An elderly man (a retired Customs official) began the lesson with his introduction. He introduced himself as Mr. Hamza. In his late 70s, he still proclaimed himself as an old man but with young and vibrant at heart. From him, I have learned a great deal of wisdom which I wish to share with my readers some other time.

That evening, we were all invited for a formal welcome dinner during which participants were briefed on the history of Malaysian culture and tradition. We were also educated more on the MTCP program, its aims and objectives.

I took a seat near my colleague from Nigeria. But we were soon joined by our colleagues form Maldives, and Mauritius. We were like back benchers. We dined voraciously and soon emptied the table. We were served our second share when some of our friends were still hesitant to start their first share. It was a real fun altogether.

From next day, we were into a serious business; -the training on traveller's management. Besides the presentations form the participants, classes were also taken by some of the most experienced and experts form the Malaysian Customs department. We were mostly trained in reading the behaviors of notorious people, nabbing smugglers, prosecuting them and finally sending them to the gallows. We were also trained to facilitate and expedite legitimate travellers with respect and diligence. In between, we were also oriented to the international terms like advance passenger information system, Kyoto convention, WCO -safe framework of standards and risk management.

These trainings went on for days and took away all our energy. Most of the participants lavishly smoked cigarettes to relax, but for non smokers (like me), an occasional sip of coffee along with  a trip to different areas in Melaka, (that are of historical significance to Malaysia) arranged by our organizer was just enough. The holy sites like Melaka; -the heritage site; and  various departmental stores were good places to be at the end of a busy day.

Most of our friends shopped garments and electronics. Some even bought diamond rings! since I had not much money for shopping, I opted to become an unofficial photographer of our group.

Here comes your  Photographer

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

13th March is my Birthday

On the joyous occassion of my Birthday!
We are from a very remote place and therefore, my family didn't have the luxury of marking my birthday on the calender in 1980. I was infact born on a date and time unrecorded. My mom, (now in her 70s) has a vague recollection of moments as to how I was born.

I called her today and she told me that she (still) cannot remember my birthday in gregorian calender. She, however told me that  I was born healthy and strong with black hair and black eyes on 13th day of the first month in Bhutanese calender.  She also told me that I was born not in hospital and that my father, (now in his late 70s) was my nurse.

So here is how I got my Birthday. 13th day in Bhutanese calender is equated to 13th of March, which usually coincides with the first month in Bhutanese calender. Since I was born in 1980, I became a person, ultimately born on 13th March 1980 in the Monkey year.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!
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Thursday, March 10, 2011

I am a beneficiary of MTCP Program 2009; Part Two

Towards late evening on 2nd August, I boarded the Malaysian Airline Flight No ??? and began my onward journey to Malaysia. -the land of true Asia. As the flight gained height and became fully airborne, the darkness outside engulfed the airplane.

It has been a long journey in the dark. Most people preferred sleeping than  listening to flight captain and in-flight services form the flight attendants. Captain of the flight, at regular interval of time reminded all the passengers about the grim consequences of importing any illegal drugs to Malaysia; -the death sentence.

 My flight finally landed in Kaula Lampur International airport at around midnight. I met my guide, perhaps a person form the travel agent. He looked neither young nor old and spoke good English. He sounded so friendly and reminded me of my good old friends.

As we proceeded to collect out luggage, we also met a person from Mongolia who have come for the same course. She looked exactly like a Bhutanese lady and that brought me more comfort. She told me to call her Magie.

With H1N1 pandemic sweeping the region, not many people were seen in the terminal (which was otherwise designed to accommodate thousands) The ladies in the immigration counter spoke less but did their job of expediting our clearance. The customs was not in my worry list.

Suddenly, I was outside the terminal building, sweating in the heat and breeze of tropical vegetation. An old  cabbie took me in his old and noisy  cab along with Mrs. Magie from Mongolia to Melaka.  As he stopped at a nearby gas station and to refuel his gas, I could see his elderly  muslim white bear around his mouth and a beautiful taqiyah on his head. He spoke not even a word to us. He occasionally used his cell phone while driving and conversed in language, far foreign to me and Magie. I tried my best not to fall asleep but to no avail. The racing cars and motor cycles on the high way, along with the occasional screams form Magie, however kept me awake.

We reached the Customs Academy of Melaka, popularly known as AKMAL at around 2 am. Exhausted and worn out, I immediately went to my room and slept on the bed.

 I was given room No 26. It had all the facilities far far better than the ones I have seen in customs academy in Faridabad, India. The bed was comfortable and cozy. The mirror; large and clear, and LCD TV screen fitted on the wall. The bathroom appeared bit old but was clean and hygienic. The sleepers in the bathroom were worn-out but were still usable.

The surrounding was clean and calm. It had all the beauty associated with the academy. The dining was well set. The utensils bore a testimony of all the good foods it served; starting form orange juice to lemon tea, tasty fish curry to sticky rice and fresh banana to juicy melon.

The staffs of the academy were friendly and were very hospitable too. They helped me understand more on Muslim culture and tradition. They told me that drinking liquors and eating pork are considered gross. Visiting a lady's room for a man is prohibited and if found, one will be charged for a breach of sharia law. 

With all those beautiful things and beautiful  people around, I anticipated my trip to be a success, both in terms of knowledge gaining and familiarizing my self to the uniquely Malaysian society.
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Friday, March 4, 2011

I am a beneficiary of MTCP Program 2009; Part One

Recipients of MTCP Scholarship, Aug, 2009
After a long gap of 17 months (after my first trip), my administration again nominated me for a trip abroad. This time, I was to travel to Malaysia in the month of August to attend a training on Passenger Management. It was funded by the Malaysian Technical Co-operation Program known more in Bhutan as MTCP. It was a 14 day program and involved participants form the developing countries world wide. It was more of  knowledge sharing among participants than a formal training.

 Since its inception in 1980s, MTCP has long a history of support to Bhutan. MTCP  supported different agencies in different fields and in different capacities. Many Bhutanese officials, both at head office and filed have immensely benefited from MTCP scholarships.

 Of all the agencies in Bhutan, Customs administration in particular has received a lion's share of support from the MTCP program. Today we have a good number of MTCP beneficiaries in Bhutanese Customs administration, spread  over 9 regional offices, actively engaged, both in revenue collection and protection of the society.  It was an honor by any means, for me  to join  my predecessors on this count.

Whatever may be the reason behind this noble initiative, (by the Malaysian Government) people in Bhutanese Customs officials have their own opinion and feedback about the program. Most of the beneficiaries widely  acknowledged and commended the initiative. The trainings it offered were all relevant, practical, rewarding and enriching. The Customs Academy in Melaka has groomed a good number of customs intellectuals and today it is being revered by most of the beneficiaries.

The training nomination, both short and long were always done at the head office then. This has invited lot of criticisms, both form within and outside. The officials in the filed  have always accused officials in the head office for not being fair and square in the nomination process. They were accused for deliberately withholding information on trainings that accorded higher daily allowances and explicitly pursued officials in the field to avail the trainings that accorded meager daily allowances.

MTCP programs were such programs, that invariably (if not always) got pushed for the field officials. And as accused, It was not because of it's relevance that it got filtered to the field level officials, but more, because of less net allowance the program accorded for the participant altogether. However the justifications from the head office always stood right and correct, because the MTCP programs were always need based and based on the practical aspects of the work. The programs were deemed more appropriate for the field officials than those in the policy makers; -the (most) officials in the head office, who are policy makers by default and (not by design).

But for me, It was a different story altogether. A thing of "daily allowance" was too little a deterrent for me in taking up the opportunity. The trip brought me a sense of excitement that was ungovernable.  I  became even more eager to find out how truly Asia, Malaysia was. (as advertised in the TV commercials) The idea of rejecting a trip to Malaysia on basis on the allowance story  sounded stupid and naive. I also thought to my self that rejecting a trip would be like rejecting a lifetime award form my administration. So I decided to accept and embrace my nomination with utmost sincere gratitude. 

I remember completing my pre-departure formalities with ease and on time.  As demanded by the organizers I  have submitted all the required information like Passport details and travel itineraries along with my lengthy essay, describing my administration, highlighting some of the -so called good practices in passenger management in my work place. I did  also submit my presentation in power point format. 

The organizers acknowledged my genuine mails instantaneously and kept silent whenever I asked something silly and nonsense. They directed me to arrange my own flight ticket for Paro-Bangkok-Paro sector and told me, that the flight ticket for Bangkok-Kaula Lampur- Bangkok would be issued by a travel agent known as Kedwang Travel Agent in Malaysia.

It was a proposition I awaited form my organizers for a long time. With this, I immediately made up my mind to capitalize on the close and symbiotic relationship my office had with the Royal Bhutan airlines;- the Drukair. It was like fairy tale and I firmly believed that the Chief Executive Officer of the airline would consent to my requisition. I wrote an application requesting his esteem office to issue me a discounted air ticket. I personally  met him and  he indicated for me to wait a while which I did for a week.  

Finally after a week, the company secretary of the Drukair called me up and said that my request has not been considered. This came as a lightning and I went numb. I couldn't believe his words and I couldn't respond to him for a while. It was agonizingly painful to know that a man who has been making and would continue to make thousands of request from me and my office, turning down my only request.  The sense of betrayal was outrageous and I started to regret beyond words, the kind of flexibility I have accorded him, both officially and personally. I felt insulted on all counts; -as a customs in-charge and as a person making request.

With my first option yielding no result, I went for my second option. I approached the accounts section of my office. To my relief and satisfaction, the accounts personal agreed to lend me the money on reimbursement basis. I bought a full fare ticket and with that I shifted my attention to other things like arranging money for my shopping and buying souvenirs for my fellow participants. I went to bank and not only emptied my saving account but also emptied my wife's saving account too. I took a months salary in advance to be on safer side too. For my fellow participants, I bought few bottles of Bhutanese whiskey and few badges of our King. 

I reached Bangkok on 1st August. I remember how I walked in the airport with an air of confidence. Unlike my first trip, I didn't need any assistance (not even from my Thai friend)  I found my way through. I spent my night at my friends residence before I finally flew to Malaysia on 2nd August.
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Thursday, March 3, 2011

My Trip to Tokyo; Conclusion



As we came out of the bus, it was a bright sunny day then, the officials from the Customs Training Institute (CTI)  of Kashiwa came to receive us. There were three men and four ladies to greet us at the gate. All of them looked young and I supposed them in their mid 20s. They all looked gorgeous in their tidy dress. All men wore black suits while ladies wore skirts and long jackets. They all bowed their head to welcome us.

I smiled back and bowed my head  in response. I shook hands with all of them and told them that I am Kuenzang form Bhutan. They reciprocated the same, but my poor memory couldn't do justice in remembering their lengthy and difficult-to-pronounce names.   

As we proceeded further inside, the hostel had a standard far better than those 5 star hotels in Bhutan. It had electronic doors that required password to open and close. The wooden floor were well polished and looked very bright. The hostel also had a kitchen, laundry room and a separate TV rooms. Everything looked well planned and well arranged. They handed us the room keys and told us not to take our shoes to our room. (Because they feared that we would destroy the well maintained wooden floor) Instead we were given a pair of soft rubber slippers to wear while moving into the room.

I walked to my room with the slippers on and finally made to my room. The room had a metal door and it didn't have a number. They have put my name and along with the National flag of Bhutan. This honestly made me feel proud and happy. I took out my camera and took a picture if it. I felt like I was given VVIP treatment.
My Name on my door
I was soon called to the conference hall where all the participants from different countries gathered for the opening ceremony. The ceremony was chaired by one of the senior most official form the Tokyo Customs along with the technical experts of World Customs Organization (WCO), Regional Office for Capacity Building for Asia Pacific Region, Bangkok (ROCB) and the officials form Regional Intelligence and Liaison Office (RILO) Beijang.

Opening ceremony was soon followed by an Introduction and orientation program. All the participants choose to introduce in English. There were people who spoke fluent English while there were also few who could not converse well in English. During the orientation program, other than the history of the Institute, participants were mostly briefed on dos and donts of the hostel. We were strictly advised not to cook in the hostel kitchen and that we would be served all the meals form the official mess in the dining room.We were also given our long and most eagerly awaited daily allowance. For people like me, the organizer even reimbursed the cost of air tickets. We were all paid in US Dollar.

That moment surprised me because I was paid a hefty sum of US dollar 1400/- for a five day seminar with free accommodation, free food and free air travel. I honestly couldn't believe my eyes. To pull myself back to reality, I even approached the organizers to find out whether the amount they paid to me was right. That was a lot of money and it truly was a windfall gain and cornucopia of fortune. As the day drew closer to dusk, I went back to my room, with my hands still holding the money in disbelief.

In the evening, we were all invited for a welcome dinner. I couldn't eat much but  talked a lot. I talked with  most of the delegates and all of them had a fair knowledge of  my Country. They knew about the benevolent king we have. They also knew that development in my country based more on human happiness than material well being.

Next day, the seminar on IPR actually began. We were given countless handouts and reading materials. There were also some delegates who gave their presentation on the status of IPR infringement and IPR protection action plans in their country. We had few of the resource speakers from companies like YKK, HONDA, NOKIA, MPA and SONY etc. Participants were mostly educated on the subjects like, IPR policy of Japan, Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), WCO IPR strategy, IPR and the problematic postal system and WCO Model legislation of IPR. Some of us carefully took notes form the presentations when some of our friends peacefully slept on their chair.

Back in the dining hall, I felt comfortable dining with my colleagues for India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal. We basically had the same manner of dining compared to those people form China, Japan and Europe. We were mostly served rice and fish. Sometimes we were also served egg and and vegetables too. Of all the meals, I enjoyed breakfast most because of its sheer varieties. I went to thank cooks after every meal and sometimes our conversation got prolonged. They were mostly elderly looking ladies and they had very good  knowledge of geography; Mot of them knew where Bhutan is.

We also had a day  half day program in Tokyo Customs in Odaiba. The officials there basically took us through the working areas of Customs like the scanning area, assessment area and to the Customs museum where the seized IPR infringed goods were displayed for the public to create awareness. The museum also had a collection of uniforms of the different customs administrations around the world. The seized wild life products like crocodile skin and polar bear skins were also displayed.   
During my shopping day in Akhiabara city with my friends
Soon after our half day program with the Tokyo Customs, we were all taken to another part of Tokyo called Akhiabara. The guide in the bus told us that, it is the City of the Electronics (of the world). People often had the saying that " you name it and Akhiabara has it".

We all went out to check the authenticity of the statement ourselves. We were given only limited time but it was worth spending. I spent  most of my time in just one departmental shop. They virtually sold anything between the sky and the earth; from food stuffs to flowers, garments to garlands, cameras to candy and toys to truck. They had it all. I bought a gold plated spoon which had a picture of a lady in traditional Japanese costume and the beautiful mount Fuji. I bought it for my daughter. 

Most of our friends came back with different items. Few of them bought digital cameras without even knowing how to operate. Few of our friends, whose main purpose of the trip was to ensure IPR protection, came back with counterfeit laptops.

On our lat day of the seminar, we were all given a CD that contained seminar materials and the pictures taken during the seminar. The organizer of the seminar reminded us to get proactive with the IPR enforcement. They also gave us the certificate of participation along with a gift form Japan Customs, which was digital watch. The certificate with the WCO logo looked prestigious and digital watch with the logo of Japan Customs looked precious. We were also given a list of all the participants which also included details like e-mail address and telephone numbers. We all agreed and promised  to keep in touch, both officially and personally. We took numerous photographs and vowed to remember the place forever. As we bid adieu to each other some participants went emotional.
With that, I closed my beautiful and fairly tale like stay in the beautiful city of Kashiwa. Today after 4 long years, I still fondly remember the city in its full beauty; the beauty of  foot paths where elderly people went for walk along with bicycling youths; the beauty of noiseless and unperturbed traffic; the beauty of peach trees and the spring festival; beauty of the sun rays and the clear blue sky; beauty of cold ocean current  in the early mornings and late evenings and the beauty of the warm breeze in the afternoons, Those memories still enchants me and makes me nostalgic.

 Today I look at a faded gold plated spoon, a non functional digital watch  and certificate with torn edge and tell myself that I have lived in my "dream land" once.
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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Trip to Tokyo: Part Two


Me, during the seminar
I waited for nearly an hour, (enough time to conquer the whole world,)  but still no one showed up. I pretended to look normal even though I felt the abnormal sense of loneliness in the middle of bustling crowd. To sooth myself,  I kept on  moving between the bank and information desk. I pretended that I was in no hurry to leave the airport and that I didn't require the services of the information desk which was nothing but a  noisy piece of announcement. I Kept myself busy by going to Bank and reading the information brochures that were available for public.

By then I realized, that I have waited more than an hour. I reluctantly approached the information desk and requested the lady there to do me a favor. Although she understood my need in advance, I, in my most  polite manner still, requested her to announce my name and that a person, waiting for me could kindly come and pick me form the information desk. Another person followed my suit too. His looks confirmed me that he was a Thai  national, His round face, some what flattened nose,  dark black hair and  tropical fair skin said it all to me. On seeing his jacket, he became a subject of more interest for me because the logo on his back read "Customs". I choose not to be explicit about my interest and kept silent

The lady at the information desk proceeded to make the announcements, but faced a difficulty pronouncing the name of a Thai man. I tried to help her out and amazingly it worked. A minute after announcements were made, a pale and exhausted looking lady soon appeared. I saw in her hand, a torn chart paper with my name along with the name of that very Thai man. Before she could even utter a word, I told her that we were waiting for her. But she had her own points to prove to us, She told us that we have come through a wrong channel, (the residents returning) and not through the right channel (Foreigners channel)

She not only dragged our bags but dragged us as well. She warned us about the possibilities of missing a bus to our hotel. We ran helter-skelter down the steps and finally made it to the bus that was about to move. We hurriedly got into the bus and took a seat next to each other.  As I took a deep breath to sigh out all the anxieties, he finally gave me his visiting card and at the same time began his  introduction. I had no visiting card  in response but I gave him my introduction too. Later, we also went on to discuss about the same flight we took from Bangkok. We also discussed  how popular our future King was in his country, known as "Prince Jigme"

With those discussion, we finally reached our hotel. The large sign board read "Washington Hotel" and the huge concrete building dazzled in the evening light. Inside, there were few hundred people who eagerly waited for the room keys to be distributed by a man at the counter.

I finally got my room key, which rather looked like a voucher card and not like the keys that I was used to for the last 27 years in my life. with key, I was also given a complementary breakfast coupon too. I was given a room at the 6th floor and there were also others who had the room on same floor with me. I cautiously entered the elevator with other people and carefully observed which buttons to press for exit and entry respectively.

The sound like a gong indicated that I have finally reached the 6th floor. I got out and went on to open my strange door with the strange key. To my relief, the instructions were clearly given and I could easily open the door.  It was something like  "insert the card and twist the knob when the green light blinks"

I entered my room expecting so many surprises. I carefully vouched the room with all the leaflets and brochures in the room. One leaflet said "Never leave your key inside the room while you go out" I sincerely obeyed the instruction and  put my key in my pocket. I started to check my room in detail to find that there was a  bed  that  rather looked too large for a single person along with the side table that had switches at the side and lamp on it. The window appeared large but were permanently locked. I was later told that those windows were permanently locked to protect people form committing suicide. It had a rubber curtains which I did not bother to open or touch it. The small refrigerator was stocked with all the fizzy drinks. I later realized that it was my wise decision to have not even touched those items. If  I did, then I would have ended up paying a fortune for that. The Telephone set looked just like the one I had back home, so it drew no attention of mine. The television screen however attracted my attention. The thin and slim screen was connected to a cable but  had only one channel; -Japanese version of  BBC along with a channel that played short clips of porn movies. Later I came to know that TV subscription cards were available at the lobby for one thousand yen. I bought one thinking that I could also watch other channels apart from BBC and short porn clips.

Then I went on to check the bathroom. It was quite dark inside but never the less it was well furnished with a tub, toilet, detergents, clean towels, bathrobe, shower and a torch with a chargeable battery. I thought to my self that, perhaps, people in Japan also keep contingencies like torch. 

By the time I completed my inspection, it was already dark out side. I could see the resplendent street lights on the road and airplanes with lights, hovering in the nightly sky. I had no appetite for dinner. The light form lamp was simply too faint and dim and therefore I felt a pressing need for my room to be electrified. With the right option safe and intact in my pocket, I completed all my wrong options and ended up spending a night with a just  table lamp and a a torch lighting up my room.

With my bitter failure to put on the light, I was about to go to my bed for a sound sleep, when my door bell suddenly rang. It was a lady from the transportation department. She gave me a few handout papers and told me to be there in the lobby at 630 am. She disappeared immediately.

As I went through the handout papers, one clause suddenly worried me. As per the clause, it required me to pay a sum of Yen 26000/- next morning to the organizers. It also stated that the participants should at least have another sum of yen 26000/- to cover up the other incidental costs.

For gods sake, I had only USD 300/- which is equivalent to Yen 34800/-in total. where in the hell am I suppose to get that much money form. If the thing of light was insult, then thing of yen surely came as an injury to me. It took away all my sleep and peace. I regretted being there and thought that these people have all gone nuts. suddenly I started missing my home. I  became insomniac and became wretched. That was the first time I felt home sick in my entire life.

Deep inside, I consoled my self and said that, things should work out well because I have come here to represent my administration; -my country. I tried multiple ways to bring down my emotion with multiple self consolations.

 The next morning, I got up way before the wake call and got dressed. I tried to make a phone call to my family but someone in Japan responded and I was charged 10 Yen. I couldn't even eat my complementary breakfast.

I met my Thai colleague in the hotel lobby and I tried to discuss the same matter with him. He showed no interest and seemed least bothered. When I showed him the paper I was given, he took a glance at it  and said that I was given the wrong paper. He told me that those papers were actually meant for the private sector people and not for government delegations.

I immediately approached the lady and told her of the errors (of her) that took away my sleep and made me home sick. She was swift in acknowledging her mistakes and immediately apologized me.

Soon all the participants got into the bus, that apparently looked like a house in itself and we began our onward journey to Kashiwa. I slept the entire journey to compensate my lost sleep.

We finally reached, Kashiwa at around 9 am local time.
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