Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My Home Is On The Border

"Me I'm sitting here so patiently, trying to find out what price, you have to pay to get out of, doing all these things twice" Memphis Blues

I am sitting in my new home in Tsenkharla. And what a long strange trip it's been. From Bumthang we went high into the Himalayas crossing the biggest pass on the "National Highway" which is sometimes no more than a narrow dirt road. We stopped for a flat tire. Several rock slides and the games of chicken with the tricked out Indian trucks. At one point our tire was floating over a 4,000 foot cliff yet somehow our better angels returned us to the road. It was very frightening actually. The road between Bumthang and Mongor province is indescribably gnarly. It switchbacks no less then 108 times on a sheer cliff. We ascended through icy snowfields passing densely packed forests of pine and Cypress. Then descended through ferns, vibrant red poinsettias, and banana trees. Around 420 in the afternoon we were greeted by a group of little brown monkeys scampering on the roadside. The descent into the East lasted hours and hours becoming extremely lush with plants I'd never seen before. Vines grasping tree trunks with luscious orchards all carved into 90 degree slopes. It was basically a lush wall of vegetation. The thirteen hour drive covered less than 200 miles as we veered into Lhuntse to drop off Reidi. At one point our driver stopped along the road to meet his mother at his childhood dwelling. We enjoyed an impromptu game of ball with some children on the roadside before arriving at her placement at sunset. Reid's placement was astounding, nestled in a deep canyon that opened up into a small valley. The most enchanting river runs through the community which consists of a few shops and the boarding school which was immaculate. After dinner Becky and I strolled down the riverbank in the moonlight. The river was lined with the thickest furs I've seen in Bhutan, their large trunks reminded me of dragon scales. The school had the feel of a perfect campground at the end of a long days ride. And the climate was sub tropical and warm even in February. We completed the walk at a white Chorten (small religious shrine) that glistened in the moonlight. Aside from one encounter with a dark spirit that sent chills up our spine it was paradise.

"Tuesday Blues, still looking for an offer I can't refuse."  Bob Weir

My morning was dampened when I realized id lost my rice cooker in Thimphu. I was able to replace it and get last minute Internet access in the town of Mongor. At lunch in the middle of nowhere I said my goodbyes to the four remaining teachers in the bus and headed out with Karma towards Yangtse. Arriving at a bridge spanning an emerald river, I was asked to march across to the other side to present my work Visa to the guard who wrote down my information neatly in his ledger. After that we were on our way. To my shock and chagrin the lushness of the East had tapered off into a barren landscape of rock and earth. A few stands of bamboo clung to the riverside along with a straggling pine and stray patch of vegetation. At first it seems the end of the earth was little more than a wasteland. Steep mountains of brown earth loomed above on all sides as the sky hazed over from the smoke of winter forest fires. Was this still Bhutan? I felt the irony cut to my bone, how can a tree worshiper be relegated to this desert landscape. Sadder still we turned from the salvation of the rushing river passed an outpost of a town and up the road to Tshenkharla. About ten miles up a windy grade passed hard scrabbled farms, tiny oasis's growing thin banana and orange trees I reached the gates of hell, the entrance to my boarding school. In an effort to beautify the road was lined with a half dozen meek pines. I was greeted by Pema the office assistant,  Madam Poo, a stunning small brown woman, and a group of men who promptly began unloading my supplies. My "sick room" as it is called is a newly constructed stone edifice perched on top of a humongous and empty mountaintop. From my stoop I can see down into an enormous valley surrounded on all sides by more treeless mountains, some of which are in India. Far below the river scratches itself into the valley floor flowing then vanishing into the subcontinent. Here in this unfamiliar and haunting place I was welcomed most hospitably with tea. After which the men completely set up my entire house assembling my stove hauling in my fridge and curiously riffling through my boxes. Within an hour a desk and chair appeared, curtains, and a bed frame. If that wasn't enough they made me an amazing curry dinner in my little house refusing to take any for themselves. It was overwhelmingly gracious. As I happily ate my food, a hazy moon rose above India. From here, even through the smokey atmosphere I can see miles to the East, the setting of hundreds of sunrises to come. Slowly the unfamiliar and alien beauty began to take hold of my weary spirit. This harsh view is the scenery of the end or the beginning of all things. A place where water is in short supply (village water shortage) everything seems precious. It is not a familiar place but it will be my home for the next year and I am grateful to be here. Trahiyangtse is "The land of Spiritual Awakening" The dream has ended and the waking has begun. How will I identify myself in this space with sparse vegetation. The sweeping pine valleys of Bumthang behind me. The Oasis of Lhuntse in the rear view mirror. Here from my watchtower on the top of the world, I am born again.

"My home is on the border, it's made of sticks and stones" Ed Volker

Mr. Tim (That's what they call me here)


  1. Astounding reports you're sending! Thanks for taking us all with you. Try to remember Edward Abbey's loving descent into the deserts of the SW, where he came to peace in his soul and total love in his heart. The same awaits you. Strip away the distractions, and it's easier to find the Divine. I'm ALWAYS with you, Timmers.

    Got your poems yesterday and was in tears. We did a momentous thing, taking that Yellowstone trek. It changed us both and melded us forever. I love you.


  3. Sounds like you're doing great, especially maintaining a positive attitude. And you have access to internet in your new home?! Awesome; hope you can continue to provide updates. They are a treasure to receive.

  4. Heya Tim - FYI I am keeping up with you. You are so brave! Looking forward to more - I love the song quotes. ;)

  5. Tim: Do you have an internet connection at the school or in your room? Let us know the situation. What is your phone situation?


  6. We love and miss you Mr Tim!

  7. Now he's gone, now he's gone, Lord he's gone, he's gone.
    Like a steam locomotive, rollin' down the track
    He's gone, gone, nothin's gonna bring him back...He's gone.

    Nine mile skid on a ten mile ride, hot as a pistol but cool inside.
    Cat on a tin roof, dogs in a pile,
    Nothin' left to do but smile, smile, smile!!!!

    Now he's gone, now he's gone Lord he's gone, he's gone.
    Like a steam locomotive, rollin' down the track
    He's gone, gone, nothin's gonna bring him back...He's gone.

    Goin' where the wind don't blow so strange,
    Maybe off on some high cold mountain chain.
    Lost one round but the price wasn't anything,
    A knife in the back and more of the same.

    Ooh, nothin's gonna bring him back.

  8. I miss you man. WhenI read your stuff I miss you tremendously.
    and somewhere out there taz, moonface, and dom are missin you, too.

    "you roll up your socks first?"
    "sure. I'm not an animal."

  9. Hey Tim, man that road trip sounds amazing. I can imagine exactly how you felt when you left the lushness for the uplands, but the rugged has it's own beauty, perhaps more conducive to them spiritual awakenings they talk about. I walked down to the river at the bottom of the valley yesterday and found lushness! apparently this place is full of leeches when the rains come. waiting for students now... slow and steady pace of life here. Hope it all works out pal.