The Body, The Internet, The Mind
May 6, 2007
Bhutan Lets the World In (but Leaves Fashion TV Out)
By SOMINI SENGUPTA
THIMPHU, Bhutan — “Explore the World,” promised the signboard outside.
Inside Norling Cyberworld, in a second-floor corner of a busy shopping arcade, Dorji Wangchuk rolled up the sleeve of his Puma sweatshirt and offered a glimpse of his worldly explorations. Inscribed in blue-black ink on the pale inside of his left forearm was the image of a dragon, a tattoo that he had drawn himself, with instructions from the Internet.
Nationwide, the number of Internet users is estimated at 25,000, according to Druknet, the state-owned Internet service provider. Initial efforts to block adult content have been scrapped. They were simply ineffective, said Druknet’s general manager, Ganga R. Sharma.
To Singye Dema, 17, the Internet has proved irresistible. Her page on the chat Web site www.hi5.com, is a sparkling pink creation, with a cheerful photograph of her and a description of her interests, including “playing with kids.” Her page is festooned with family pictures and a string of conversations she has been having with friends from home and strangers abroad.
Their lives confound her. In other countries, she observes, teenagers go on field trips abroad; they have computer classes at school; when they are 18, they move to their own homes. Like most urban, educated Bhutanese her age, Ms. Dema is completely at ease chatting in English.
Ms. Dema, an 11th grader, finds herself coming back for these online chats almost daily — and on the weekends, she confessed half disgustedly, sometimes twice a day, for up to three hours at a time.
“That I hate about myself,” Ms. Dema said, staring at her pink screen. “I don’t know. I get addicted when I come over here.”
From New York Times