I repeat Bhutanese Doldrums...
(Caution, weird content enclosed)
“It is silence leaking from
cupped hands like ice-cold
mountain water” Deki Tshomo 8A
Although the monsoon season has not arrived, it is already raining every evening. The rain usually begins after 8th period. We have had some tremendous and powerful T-storms with streaks of lightning and clasps of dragon thunder. Mostly we have intermittent showers that patter on my tin roof and plop in the mud outside my open door. It is still cool but warmer days are promised by all. A shout out from across the ocean to Lisa Marie Marcantonio, happy birthday in Tucson where I’m sure it’s warm and pleasant. Play a fiddle tune with pops for me okay.
“Take this child lord from Tucson Arizona, give her the wings to fly through harmony, and she won’t bother you no more” Under African Skies, Paul Simon.
I’m so happy you are reading since my readers whoever and wherever they are keep me motivated to share my wacky experiences. That reminds me I have to get that letter off to the boy in Spain who is collecting letters from around the world. I also have outdated postcards from Thimphu for Mare, Morgan, mom, Tyler and Beth. My b-day post card for Rabes might arrive by her 39th birthday since the mail here is so slow. I did however receive my parcel and now have two pictures from Reed hanging on my bleak wall.
Part 1 The Limit
“Just one thing that I got to say, I need a miracle every day” Weir, Barlow
Becky and I concurred on the phone that this was the limit, the outer edge of adventure. On the map you can’t get any furthur away from home. But things are slow in this black hole. They can come to a muddy stand still where a body is left in the void of thought. Ones life reflected back at them in the puddles. What to do, what to do!
Here are some strange instances that make up Bhutan. My student Sangay Tobgay from 8A lost his father as a boy. I know this since he is a king sponsored student, which means the government is paying for his education. If he succeeds and passes the class Ten Exam he will have the opportunity to study abroad courtesy of His Majesty. I took Sangay shopping to buy some essentials and he told me his father went into the woods and did not return. His mother found him dead on the ground. When I asked how he died Sangay replied in earnest, “the local demon killed him” Another oddity is that none of my students had ever heard of Easter and many students have swastikas drawn on their hands. Remember this was a Buddhist symbol before Hitler adopted it for the Nazis. The students never knew the sorted history of the holocaust. We truly exist in a different universe here, a brave new world of immersion and self reliance. What would Jesus think anyway? He’d probably dig these earthy folks and then tell them to pick up their trash. I always liked the Easter story the best. I can just picture the apostles sliding back the stone and poof no Jesus! We do need our miracles to carry on. Anyway I have never felt closer to Christ than this wasteland away from the churches and crosses. What was it the devil said to our golden boy out there in the desert? Did he offer him a cold beer or a slice of pizza? What tempted our savior anyway? Cravings are the worst. Our shop is down to onions as the last surviving vegetables. Rice, onions, butter cookies, coke, and ramen, a meager diet. This is a strange place indeed. The school librarian frisks the boys checking their giant marsupial pockets in their ghos for books. She frisks in a professional manner like the security at a Dead show looking for contraband. I have heard reports from a BCF’er of teachers whipping students with stinging nettles. A more pleasant use of plants is the grassy sacks (hacky sack made of grass) made by the kids.
I went to the Lepcha’s for supper. I got into a spirited discussion about Christianity and Buddhism. Salim was preaching his Christian beliefs with passion. I admire the convictions of true believers. But for me the universe is a murky uncertain place. Nanu was listening intently to our conversation (I wish I could adopt her and bring her back to America) When Salim pronounced Christ spoke to him I rebutted that the trees spoke to me. It’s nice to have deep talks with a Bhutanese and I always go for a free meal! On the way home I could see the lights of T-Gang and the college at Kalung off in the distance like distant galaxies. One morning I woke with the burning urge to read the entire bible, but I don’t have one…
This week was up and down both emotionally and professionally. We had a great time making comic strips in class 7. But the curriculum for 7 is ridiculous. The stories are far too difficult for them to comprehend. Teaching them is tortuous to all involved. I try my best to make the material accessible. In class 8 we had a great discussion and made a chart comparing the life of day scholars and boarding students. These kids are interesting. Some of them appear quite dirty and unhealthy with boils on their hands and snot drizzling from their noses. Also they steal from one another in the boarding houses and someone even swiped my American flag from my porch. Luckily I got another one from mom in my latest parcel which arrived containing much needed jeans and shirts. In my class I am dealing with excessive chatter and feel some of the boys might be taking advantage of me since I don’t whack them. Overall the behavior is pretty good in the classroom. But hitting is acceptable even among students. I saw two little toddlers smacking one another, and then of course the littering epidemic.
Emotionally I found myself feeling painful remorse about my loves lost. I even drank alcohol for the first time in five years, swilling two Bhutanese brews and a few cups of Ara (the local brew) Hopefully it will be at least another five years before I touch the demon fluid again, or even better never. I still feel too connected to my old self. One must release much of their identity and assume a new role. I am hoping to just be Sir. That is, only a teacher. Not a lover or the Hard Rock Kid. I have a lot of work to do psychically. I tell Becky aka Pelky or Pokey (Bunky Brewster) that we are doing “psychic penance” here. We both lived charmed lives on the rainbow trail bouncing freely from show to show and job to job. I love Becky since I can tell her sorted twisted things I would never think to share with someone I am wooing! It’s great to simply have a buddy here. I am hoping to bunk to Mongor via T-Gang and Chasm, or “that damn bridge” as Becky calls it, to attend a book fair and see ALL the eastern krewe. These are some great folks including, Reidi, Scott, Ian and Vicky, Martha, Sheal, and Pelky. If it happens, we will unite from four different districts to meet in the mid evil town of Mongor. Mongor proper is essentially the gateway to the east about five hours from my post.
“Don’t worry about tomorrow lord you know it when it comes, when the rock N’ roll music meets the rising shinning sun” One More Saturday Night
Well I woke up thinking I was going to teach three periods and then hitch to meet the group in T-Gang but plans changed. Instead the entire school hiked up the mountain to a blessing at the temple I had visited on my second day in Tsenkharla. Before leaving I asked for final clearance to go to Mongor for the book fair. The principal replied that the book fair was not confirmed basically snuffing out my plan. Of course the book fair is happening meanwhile Becky, Martha, Vicky and Ian are on their way at this very moment to meet Reidi and Co. I am sad to miss a gathering with 7 BCF teachers, who are some of the coolest cats in the universe. As for me, I trekked up the steep slope to my own community gathering, a blessing for long life from several lamas. The Bhutanese children are surreal. They blast up the mountain in ghos, kiras, and flip flops. Little children glide by me hardly breaking a sweat, where I am profusely perspiring. I think this quality is genetic from hundreds of years of walking the most rugged terrain on the planet. They all have Sherpa mentalities and super strength. It makes me laugh to remember the Korean hikers dressed like they were embarking up Everest with funny suits and ski poles to accomplish the wooded hillsides of Anyang. While the Bhutanese navigate gnarly steep paths in their national dress and slippers (as they call them) I fell into a group of girls from class 9 who guided me up the mountain. I even showed the girls and a few boys from my class my bon shrine along the way. The entire student body and Tsenkharla community joined with many other villagers within walking distance. The dilapidated temple is perched high on a slope several hours below the next peak. Tsenkharla School could be seen far below. We all sat on grass, on walls, on rocks to watch the lama and monks prey. The monks in red robes and the lamas in extravagant costumes with funky head ware. This of course was accompanied by drums and blowing horns around several campfires.
After lunch I went on a hike with some fellow teachers. We hiked through oak forests with ferns lining the path. We came to several farms which were growing potatoes, garlic, and onions. Many beds had lovely marijuana plants (pigs food) sprouting from the soil. I have never seen pot plants growing wild before or realized just how beautiful they are in their undisturbed element. They were merely babies incubated by the latest rains. We also saw a few rhododendrons which grow on huge bushes the size of small trees. Once in awhile even a cypress would appear next to a banana tree with tropical looking leaves. My beloved wasteland below is in stark contrast to the highlands, that reveals substantial vegetation. We made it back to the site just in time for the blessing which included the lamas walking through the crowd softly bonking people on the head with sacred objects. It was pretty cool to be the only foreigner (felincpa in Sharshop) in the crowd. I got to bond with many students and am slowly learning names. On the way down I saw Nawang Zangmo (the girl with the nightingale voice) I was also surrounded by some class 9 boys who were all rapidly asking me questions and making lewd comments about girls. When I arrived home I texted Becky the sad news and did three and a half hours of washing and cleaning. Obviously I haven’t washed clothed in a long time! They are drying outside overnight. By the way mom thanks for the tevas they are essential for washing and bucket bathing. So now I find myself alive on another Saturday night in Bhutan. I will most likely get to work marking the sixty portfolios from class 8 and planning next weeks lesson. Oh the joy of teaching. In reality teaching in Bhutan is a pretty nice gig if you factor out the four hour meetings in Dzonka and the never ending daily chores. As the rain began to fall I got a nice call from Sarah all the way from Gasa. She told me how happy she is in Bhutan. I imagine here in the northern forest under snowcapped glaciers keeping warm with her wood burning stove. (I have a Chinese heater) She just had a visit from U.K Dave who finally got to see his mountains. Sarah is indeed a solid woman and I look forward to seeing her face again in Bumthang this summer!
Today I came to realize how adept the Bhutanese are at daily living in a difficult environment. They can walk for hours wearing their national dress in sweltering heat and bitter cold. They utilize what little food is available to survive. This is a hearty group of people that make up the mosaic of Bhutan. It is as if they reflect in their actions the literal landscape. Tough and beautiful!
Introducing a sad poem about love lost…And the demons of the past
Run Away AKA Bhutanese Nightmare
I am lost in paradise
where even the roses and clover
of Eden’s garden
My mind is a golden languor
beating my skull from within
wanting to escape and leap into the forest
to swing on a cypress branch.
my ass stalked by the hungry leopard of memory
two muddy feet tethered to the past
by rusty chains locked with fear.
trying to remember to forget
my first love presently waiting tables
at Foreign Cinema
in fine dim light, a San Francisco angel
gliding across the floor
rushing to meet her beau at the Fillmore
for a bluegrass show
where they’ll burn away the foggy night
under purple chandeliers.
And my second love, her tiny porcelain hand
grasped tightly by a stranger wrapped together
in Seoul’s neon blanket
snuggling in a Korean dream.
but I’m ONE alone, SCARING THE CHILDREN
who run away giggling
as I prey they won’t grow to torment.
the kids in kiras and ghos happily consort
and I know I can’t run any FURTHUR before
starting back towards home.
Trying to remember to forget is a lyric from the Little Feet song Easy to Slip. Furthur was a psychedelic bus driven by Neil Cassady which now rusticates in Oregon on the late Ken Kesey’s farm.
Part 2 Wanderlust
“You know the cursed look of wanderlust
but you did not know the hell that
lust was leading you into
you must go through a winter first” Sometimes a Great Notion
Speaking of Ken kesey I am reading “Sometimes a great notion” It’s pretty good so far. He switches points of view and ties together all the various characters crashing towards one another, in fates epic collision. I have just begun the novel. I love the statue of Ken across from the McDonald Theater in Eugene. I always hang out there when I breeze through town and watch the street kids peddle or panhandle. Wookies on unicycles and pretty girls who let themselves go with unwashed dreds sitting on blankets in army fatigues. And of course the Saturday Market, DIG IT! The spoon man and the washboard jams. Listen! crunchy gals making vegan food, fresh raspberries, candles, edible jams, and crystals in street stalls. This is a hippie haven, a counter culture oasis. One might even glimpse Liora Sponko on her cruiser bike riding away in the impeccable Oregon sunshine! (If you’re reading this kiddo say what up to Chuspi for me…) Back at the McDonald and Bobby crooning Wharf Rat right after Kesey passed, wearing a T-shirt with two aliens sitting back to back their bulbous heads touching. Weir’s beard sprouting- yeti roaming. Remember? The same scene played out at the Cutbhert several years later on a dewy summer’s eve by the ever flowin’ Willamette. At intermission sweating a poison China Cat’s waterfall all over your back… Remember? the crooked moon melting into that tree… Remember? the horseshoe amphitheater pulsating in the rain, The Mountain Song, hearts beating… The history of a town rushing back to me in a maelstrom on a whistling pacific bound train.
Eugene couldn’t be furthur away…Tonight another storm with purple lightning and peels of thunder crumpled over a rolling landscape with villages etched into impossible nooks on sheer cliffs. It all seems unreal at times and every day I am seeing it for the first time. Its vast spaces can exhilarate or petrify the soul. How many lifetimes have I walked this mountaintop alone? I wonder what the gang is up to in Mongor right now. It feels like we are living in a Lord of the Rings novel. Becky pointed out that the Bhutanese children have hobbit like feet. They scamper around with oversized dirty bare tootsies. In places with names like, Trashigang, Mongor, Jakar, Rangjung, and Tsenkharla! In a landscape little changed over the centuries. If you come here you will see why development in this countryside is a daunting task. Nonetheless it creeps along. We are paving our road slowly covering the last KM of rocky dirt with tar. The tar is boiled in huge fire pits along the road just outside the school gate near Kesang’s shop where I have a ten thousand Naltrum debt mounting daily. The good news is she got bread from T-Gang which means (kind) grill cheese sandwiches two for a buck…
“Hog of a Sunday, dog of a Monday, get it back someday, what I say” Corrina, Hunter, Weir
Today was a hard day, hard as the landscape along the riverbed. Hard as the phallic plateau perched over true rushing liquid. So goes the holy babble. The sky was tremendous with silver and white billowing clouds that kissed the highest peaks of India then tracing along the borderlands. My favorite peak in the universe is a square tooth jewel above the rugged jawbone of an impressive range, somewhere between the giant subcontinent and the little Dragon kingdom. Its perfectly square chipped top seems to be higher than Everest from my point of view. From there I imagine peering down into Phongmay and Pelks place, and off into the golden sea past the tip Karalla. This will always be gods dwelling, the one true goddess that gave birth to Christ, Buddha, Ganesh, Mohammed, Krishna, Great Spirit, The Creator, the mumbo jumbo deities inhabiting the forests, paganism, atheism, the poor ol’ agnostics, and you and me. A place I can never reach except in my dreams. Below on the terraces (freaky) Deki roams with a friend, the pair moving like ghosts through the scene. Their red cuffs, black kira tops and blue checkered skirts (school uniforms) patterned against the pit of emptiness in my stomach? Walking on the moon and feeding the cows. What to do? Don’t get all worked up about it! Queen Bee Nancy’s last words to Becky at Dochela echo in my overloaded mind. But she was only trying to say goodbye! There are no goodbyes anyhow, right? Nancy’s wise enough to know this. Ah well What to do! Becky was kind enough to check up on me, probably sensed my dejection from missing the Mongor gathering. She told me her and Reidi surmised that living in this wild loneliness was much like looking into a vast mirror. This perfectly captures the landscape projected outward or inward from my meditation rock. (If only I knew how to meditate)
“If I thought it would do any good I’d stand on the rock that Moses stood!”
I did sit a spell with Booty taking in the gaping landscape that throbbed in my heart as salty tears welled up in my eyes. He gently marked me with this tabby tail. And cried! Always crying is Booty. I don’t want that demon of depression and haplessness to get a tow hold, familiar and useless patterns. A brisk walk and nice chat overlooking the twinkling lights of distant villages lifted my mucky spirit. As did a nice meal of wild fern over rice at my neighbor’s house, and watching tiny carbonation bubbles (coca -cola) fizz swirl in random synchronization reminding me the universe is merely physics-atoms and so forth. Electrons and the nucleus of sugar particles (forgive my ignorance Dave) After all the world is benign in its transient and intermittent natures. Death decay cycling to birth and renewal. It’s only the mind in its awkward awareness that creates such pain and atrocities. Fear loathing love and compassion, all playthings of the mind. Call it the soul if it suits you. Listen! we are all alone and afraid of loneliness. What are we? Take away the other, god, family, friends, babies, pets, and finally identity. What are we?
“She comer’ and git me if she could and carry me home again” Lucinda
Part 3 Casual Day
“The deepest journeys pass through the wilderness, the desert where the burning question resides; to taste the magic we must first suck the emptiness, from a cup that is always dry” Barlow, Lucky Enough
I went into Yangtse on Tuesday for a “casual day” to deposit my paychecks and mail my obsolete postcards. It was a good day, a crest between the deep troughs of April where Bhutan has had the opposite effect then desired. I have been living in the slums and ghetto of my own head instead of fluttering like a prayer flag in the breeze. But Tuesday was a respite on a misty day. My departure from school coincided with a festival at Chorten Kora. This gathering was subdued in comparison to the Gom kora Circus. There was little vending and mellow praying. The magic of Chorten Kora was finally revealed. The impressive whitewashed Chorten imposed against the grey heavens. After several clockwise circumnavigations I went to town and shopped. I bought vegetables including ginger and garlic, and fresh fruit including bananas, and apples. I haven’t seen any of these items in Tsenkharla. I went to another shop meeting two lovely sisters who sold me a portrait of the Peoples King being crowned with the “Raven Crown.” I have been seeking this print for months. Next I ventured out of town across a wooden bridge bundled with prayer flags and headed down a muddy road towards Boomdeling Wildlife Sanctuary. The place of tigers and seasonal black necked cranes. The flat road wound through red and green deciduous trees with large ferns along a glassy green river. I happened upon a sandy white beach to sit for a spell away from the litter and people. It felt like home, a rare moment of contentment and the reason why I came. Hopefully someday I will press further into the park in fact I wasn’t even within the boundary. It was an ideal setting in contrast to the dry sucking void of Tsenkharla; where after rounding a bend out of Yangtse the land dramatically looses its cover like a lover shedding her gown in lustful haste. Remember? (Did you know that the Bhutanese regard oral sex as “acca” or dirty?) Leaving behind the gust of green and sailing back into the brown hills sparkling mauve in a drizzle. Idling in Rangthanwoon embodying the grinding stone.
“All work and no play make Tim a dull boy!”
“All work and no play make Tim a dull boy.”
drifts its way into scattered mist
a red and chartreuse puzzle
of dappled deciduous entwined.
where dreams begin
a river sings Hallelujah,
sitting with Lord Buddha
in wind brushed sand,
a natural mandala of secret whispers
shhhhh, welcome home!
my hearts shell cracks
revealing the nut,
a golden light of creation.
a tug of truth
from muddy bosom
floating in milky current
to the place where nothing matters
Part Four and Twenty
“The earth will see you on through this time” Mountains of the Moon.
So the work goes on and the rain pours down. It feels like the monsoon already but it is a cold winter rain. The land reaps the benefit. Blood red, scarlet, and pink roses bloom at school. They make me think of my own roses blooming in San Rafael by the bay. How can the same plants grow 40,000 miles from home? But which is home anyway? Is Bhutan home or California? There is a chicken pox outbreak here and the students are all coughing and wheezing at assembly. It’s an unhealthy place for sure but I am doing okay. Slowly I am learning some dishes to cook and falling back on grilled cheese sandwiches. Always a good midnight snack anywhere one finds themselves in the world. But where am I? I sink my troubles into my novel, Sometimes a Great Notion. It is a simple sometimes slow story with the most far out writing ever! It’s hard to believe Kesey wrote this in 64’ at whatever age he was then. It has sage like wisdom and unbelievable depth of prose. Some folks “just got it.” I am condemned to mediocrity but always recognize and appreciate genius. I suppose we all do.
I am getting some clarity regarding this strange uncertain career I have fallen into. At times I truly believe teaching is just about the worst fit for my personality. It challenges my patience and focus. But I do realize I would like to specialize in English. Teaching multiple subjects at the elementary level is too strenuous for me. This is a good insight but means I must take it upon myself to rewrite my grammatical faults before I reach back home. I aim to become a middle school English teacher someday and must shore up my grammatical weaknesses including spelling. The fact is I most enjoy working with this age group. It’s been adventitious to have worked with kindergarten through eighth grade giving me valuable perspective. There is something magical about a child’s transition into adolescence. At this point they are beginning to recognize themselves and their capabilities and interests. This is also a challenging age for the student as they seek their identity.
I wonder what is happening in my former world. My new planet extends only as far as my blurry vision can distinguish. From my areal shelf I peer into the haze of India, its dwindling settlements and bleak nothingness. How can it be so empty yet still so damn beautiful? I dream I am walking up Bush Street in another life with a bouquet of spring flowers. I can smell the sewage and sourdough. I can here the clang of the trolley and see the neon sign announcing “Uncle Veto’s” up ahead. This is Tim’s bell! The face in my hand held mirror seems foreign and young, except for the reseeding hairline lurking beneath brown curls. Shaky eyes that were once hazel turn a faded greenish blue, the color of swamp water pushing out to the gulf. I rejoice in the hummingbirds and their kamikaze routines. Dive bombing at sleeping hounds before cork screwing and spinning away at the last instant. This is Tim’s bell! The din of prayer wheels that revolve all day long, somewhere in the Dragon Kingdom, the students murmuring strange prayers in rapid fervor. We all exist on a cliff at the edge of the universe. One pensive and exuberant alien, sticking out with sore circus thumbs. Overhead the ravens circle beating black wings, kings and queens of the sky, bringing shadowy life into luminous death, This is Tim’s bell! So smoke em’ if you got em’ fire up the colortinies and watch the pictures as they go flying through the air!
Part 5 Rangjung to Rangthangwoon (Is it?)
“Confess your hidden faults, approach what you find repulsive, help those you think you cannot help. Anything you are attached to, let it go. Go to the places that scare you.” Machik Labron (collected from Becky’s front door)
I obtained all the proper documentation with official seal in order to strike out to Phongmay. But wouldn’t you know it that a major landslide closed the road near Chasm. So I tried again on Saturday slipping out into the dawn. After walking about an hour down the hill I was picked by a taxi who rode me to T-Gang. There was actually three slides the biggest one a real whopper at Chasm bridge. As monks, police, and students from a Science fair watched a tractor remove tonnage of muddy earth dumping the debris into the ravine. After crossing “that damn bridge” and producing the proper ID and note I proceeded to T-Gang hopping another taxi to Phongmay. Oh, Phongmay! The rode out of T-Gang follows a swift river through green terraced valleys as the vibe grows warmer and sub tropical. Poinsettias mingle with pine and thick deciduous stands recouping from the rainfall. First up the cozy hamlet of Rangjoon, its cute streets lined with markets and a large chorten at the center of town. Perched up on the hill an immaculate temple a perfect postcard of Shangri-La! Then up the road we turn off onto an endless and bumpy dirt road rolling past Radi and its stunning terraces carved into the opposing hillside of the long narrow valley whooshing back to Rangjoon. Over the two rivers swelling by the minute, an emergency tram is a harbinger of days to come, finally reaching Becky in Phongmay.
After a few moments in homey Phongmay I felt more connected to the land then all my months in Tsenkharla. An endless carpet of vegetation rolls out in all directions broken only by the occasional terrace. The robust farms blend seamlessly into the rolling mountains. And then there’s MEME, a perfectly rounded mountain at the center of this universe. So the story goes, an Indian was dragging the mountain west from the subcontinent with a giant rope. The rope snapped and the mountain rested in its plot sending the man away brokenhearted. I always imagined my first love Morgan and I were two hobby cats sailing in Lake Tahoe connected by a rope. But eventually the rope snapped and she floated away on her vessel out of my reach. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who lost my mountain. When I told her my sad tale Becky said she thought the mountain resembled a ship. The mountain is perfectly resting in the middle of a sleek river valley. It is a triplet. Her sisters reside in Selma and Quincy respectively. The middle twin is called Dollar Mountain watching over Aunt Mare in Selma Oregon, and the youngest (runt) twin is watching over the airstrip in Quincy California. I used to watch the light on the baby turn gold, green, and red in the warm Sierra night. Three sisters in three ranges bonded in perfect rounded unison. Our heroine in East Bhutan has a nasty scar cut across the bottom of her breast, a haunted road unfinished by the royal government which only adds grave grace to this natural cathedral. This is Becky’s bell! Becky’s abode is off campus and made of earth with protective penises hanging from the rock covered roof. It is quiet with no students or barking dogs.
We met Martha and scamper off to the head of the Brokpa trail which eventually leads to Sakteng and finally these yak herders highlands. This is the home of the elusive blue poppy and Yeti. A few Brokpa wandered by us with all knowing smiles and regal wool crimson regalia. The old women glide by in their woven hats that resemble dreadlocks adorned with amazing jewelry. Above a crew chews up the sacred wilderness, building a road to conquer these eternal mountain dwellers connecting them to Bhutan and our own hungry imagination. They already have a mobile tower, electricity, and Justin Bieber T-shirts. This trek was only opened up to (falincpas) tourist last year after decades of isolation for the twin villages of Merak and Sakteng. The road is slated for completion in three years connecting these tribal folks to us all for good. Building a road is a violent war waged against the forest. Plowing past a banyan tree archetype its twisted roosts exposed to poison air. But progress can not be aborted. Perhaps the Brokpa too want an easier life. A few more walk on by, faster then any mortal can stride. They make the two day trip in one. They are noble and exquisite. They are slowly going extinct like all of us. Progress cannot be aborted.
Later, Becky and I walk to another chorten this time in a hail storm. We meet Martha’s student a girl who exclaims, “Is it?” to all my statements, a typical and classic Bhutanese response to just about anything and the mantra of the weekend (repeated in jocularity in Ian and Vicky’s parlor while the breeze blew through the curtain.) The class 9 student in green kira remarks with genuine sincerity how great a teacher Martha is especially how funny she is. I am pleased. We get picked by a van and plopped off in the village with the heavy drops. We avoid the rabid dog. If we get bit according to Scott, “it’s too late we will die!” We borrow two umbrellas and make it on home. Phongmay is homey as Truckee. It is the end of the road. It is the end of the earth. This is earth’s bell! I wake Becky up at 2:55 AM to see a canopy of glowing stars and lightning blinking in rapid succession in a frosty clear sky. The dipper dips over MEME. The Milky Way wisps and creams. The sky impossibly flashes. Is it a dream? Is it? Two shooting stars streak the heavens. A pixie explodes against the blackness. The moon is lost. This is the end of the universe. This is the end of time and the beginning of the last road. Somewhere the Brokpa dream of naked masked dancers whose bodies writhe and ungulate in this last dance, the prey of the night. This is the Brokpa bell!
In the morning we connect with Martha and walk to Radi then catch a comet to Rangjoon where I finally encounter JD, the last teacher to meet from last year. He is French Canadian and he and Martha speak French in the blazing sun. He is on his way to T-Gang to collect clothes for the needy with his students and they ware T-shirts specially made for the event. My impression as he departs is that he is a confident and compassionate individual who cares about his work. We find Ian and Vicky who have prepared vegetarian sushi for us. These two are as solid as they come. They have accumulated enough merit for us all. They have “value” in spades. They tell us stories of the far gone cats of last year’s group, epic walkers and drinkers, people who choose to volunteer in Tanzania, Canadian national forests, and Bhutan. These are the greatest of men and women and I am tickled to share their path. What am I doing here? Vicky and Ian have taught in China, Japan, and Thailand and are on their second year here. Now Ian teaches me to make Dal in their kitchen. There house is a home in an ideal place. They are the patriarch and matriarch of the group. They encourage us and feed us. We all commiserate about culture clash and challenges in the classroom. We all care so much for the students here. They are our children. I leave with a full stomach and placement envy. They call me a cab that slings me all the way around the fertile mountain range into the naked wasteland of my own place. Right on past Gom Kora still rattling from her festival, over the rickety bridge above the rushing white river and through the darkness of Doksom. The driver is from Tibet via Sakteng where he married a Brokpa. He tells me how to hike past Kinney to the border of India beyond which Tawang and Tiber. Two borders that emperors and kings have sealed from me. I arrive at HOME. Will it ever be home to me, this harsh and haunted land on the wrong side of the mountain? This the short end of the stick where god ran out of trees scraping the bottom of the divine pan for the twiggy dregs, placing one here or there. I think of Buddha setting out from the palace at 34 (we are getting older now) under an Indian moon to seek enlightenment, starving before choosing the middle path. A tree here or there is all one needs for shade.
Lightning flashes scream
At exhausted bulldozer
MEME cries starlight