This blog is rated X for adult content, strong language, and sexual situations. Parental discretion is advised…
“She moved in for the winter, made a garden in May, summer came then the cold autumn grey” This Time Forever
The day began as any other in Bhutan, except Sunday. And as one student said, “not every day is Sunday so enjoy the day.” For us BCF’ers, our six day work week inevitably begins with a morning assembly. The assembly commences with the singing of a Buddhist prayer which segues into the Bhutanese National Anthem. Each rendition is sung differently according to the weather and mood of the students. I’ve noticed they take it down on Saturdays to a slow drawl. Each time I here the anthem I am reminded of my dream coming true. Today was the third sunny day in a row, a warm and wonderful occasion. Spring is in full swing with roses blooming everywhere along with geraniums and other flowers including white trumpets with a sweet fragrance. It’s hard to believe this is the same parcel that greeted me in February. Even though the valley floor a thousand feet below struggles to green, Tsenkharla is a little oasis. In class 8 we discussed women’s roles in Bhutan both traditional and modern. I posed the question to the students if they thought men and women were equal in society. The discussion generated some interesting ideas from the class. Many sexist ideals were reflected by the male students. My class captain thought it was okay to have multiple wives since men were “oversexed.” One girl rebutted that if girls didn’t stand up for themselves “the boys would pass stool on their heads.” It was only one generation ago that women here married and had babies at 14 and were uneducated. Overall the country has made tremendous progress. I pray that the royal couple will have a baby girl who will eventually become queen. Today was my light load of five classes. I usually teach six a day totaling 32 45 minute classes a week. There are BCF teachers here teaching more so I feel thankful. It is hard to handle the large class sizes mainly marking the work of 120 students with varying abilities. Some students are rather poor in English which does not reflect their overall intelligence. They all speak 4-5 languages and have terrific savvy and sense. If I were dying in a ditch I’d take a Bhutanese kid over an American any day and twice on Sunday. But how is one ESL teacher supposed to make a difference in this system. For now I do selective marking and gather the most common mistakes to review as a class. One advantageous aspect is that my students are speaking English and critically thinking. I firmly believe I am improving their conversational abilities and anxieties about our language. I’m not confident yet that I am improving their writing, reading, and grammar. We do have a lot of fun trying though. I’m even getting more names except the boogers keep switching seats. Today on my trash patrol I found we had three black pigs in our sty on the edge of campus. All I could think was BACON! BACON! BACON! Hope your reading Cousin Larry (Mepos sends it’s regards)
Golden rays glowed over a black depression between two peaks. Soon after a plump full moon the color of cheddar cheese rose over the ridge, accompanied by a burst from Sylvie. The lunar appearance struck up a nighttime symphony with a tender cricket (not Cricket) solo. We rarely get visits from sister moon who must have other obligations elsewhere often unable to drop in on poor old East Bhutan. But tonight she showed up early to the party and stayed late streaking across the sky in lonesome delight, lightening as she went. When it happens like that a body can loose themselves in the eternal dance of the universe and for one second become the moon, mountain, and everything everywhere. But these peaceful moments never last.
“At the end of the endless game, there is friendship” Zen Proverb (To Rabes)
Outside one of the shops in Tsenkharla the same purple flowers grow that are found in the Lost Coast of Humboldt County where we were “Lost Coast Locals.” These luxurious purple bells have white speckles dappled inside. They lined the grueling trail all the way to Wheeler Grove at the end of California where Morgan panted in a tight pink t-shirt. I was so proud of her for showing Bhutanese like endurance that day covering many vertical miles while continuously inquiring “Where are the redwoods?” We finally found them descending into camp in the warm October air. Strange ones blackened by lightning, scared and broken as we would soon be too.
I recall the first time I heard the word Bhutan ring out like one of those purple bells. It was a smoggy spring evening in Anyang City South Korea and I was eating a gourmet meal on the floor of a lunatic’s apartment. This particular lunatic happened to be an incredible chef and incorrigible maniac. He had made some pork in his curry cooker that melted in the saliva bath of my mouth. Why he wasn’t cooking for kings and queens or presidents was beyond me. His name was Paul but he referred to himself in the third person as Daddy. Saying things like “Daddy fucks” or “Daddy gingerates.” He was also a notorious whore monger who would often spend his nights at the brothels on Hooker Hill in Itaewon with my best friend, why I dabbled on Korean Friend Finder (a social networking sight.) I digress; we would often have long discussions about travel and philosophy and on this particular night we began to discuss the Himalaya’s. He insisted I check out Bhutan and spoke about the rhododendron forests and one horned rhinoceroses’ along with the tariff and mandatory guides. He had been there briefly as a tourist you see. Perhaps the forbidden and exclusive nature of the place first allured me so after that orgiastic meal including various curries and goose eggs and the before mentioned pork I retired back to my apartment and immediately googled Bhutan. Paul was fired a few weeks later and vanished pulling off a Midnight Run or Runner. (This means bunking your contract and leaving the country without giving proper notice) Last we heard he was teaching in China but that’s another story altogether.
And now I am here but I still haven’t seen those damn unicorn rhinos yet. They are hiding in Manas with the elephants and tigers. But Bhutan is more beautiful and free then my wildest imagination, a mountainous paradise, the end of the road and the beginning of God’s playground. Desperate to escape my own head I bought four Fosters but after half a can remembered how much I despise alcohol and gave the rest away. I went for a walk picking up trash as I moved, well aware that as soon as I leave this place the compulsive littering will continue in earnest. The evening star immerged waiting for his date the moon. Over one ridge and another range is Tibet, a three days walk if it weren’t for those awful Chinese in power. Dead ahead is Arrunachal Pradesh and Tawang just out of view. And of course Trashigang sparkles like a diamond. Somewhere out there my “spin sister” Becky (mistakenly adapted by a student from the word spinster) makes a fine meal with real ingredients. I will make grilled cheese with plastic dairy imitate. Beyond Becky the Blue Poppies think of sprouting on the slope between Merak and Sakteng. Here the afterglow of day settles over the rim of a mountain that looks like Tam if she were stacked on ten green and brown blocks. To the west Karma Om’s sister moves across the old trade routes for home while J.D levitates over Bidung. In San Rafael Jazzy sleeps on the sofa. But for now it’s just me and Booty who follows me to and fro from my rock like a dog, a loyal companion. And as for the moon she is conspicuously absent again.
“Doing the mess around, everybody doing the mess around”
Teaching here can pose its own challenges. The class sizes are large which can present classroom management issues. Also some of the students do not take their studies very seriously. This is probably true anywhere and I am trying to exercise patience. The lack of resources and low English ability can make lessons challenging. On the brighter side it’s another perfect spring day in the east. I have tons of work to do and lessons to plan. I am trying to come up with activities that maximize student’s involvement and engagement. I went to touch the grinding stone since its one of those days. Popped my head out the door at 5:25 AM to see the sun rise over India, and then crawled back into my bag. Hope to ride that high pressure system for awhile before the trough of rain puddles us again. Went into a fly infested hut and witnessed a strange game of dice being shaken and slammed down on a pad while screaming in Sharshop. Saw a perfect sunset and talked to Becky, Ashleigh, and Sarah on the phone. Ironically I had to come to the remote corner of the planet to make a few friends. Then I took dinner at the mess with four hundred students asking me the same question, “Is it delicious sir?” Now I’m procrastinating planning lessons and reading “Even Cowgirls get the blues” watching fleas, flies, roaches, and spiders dose do around the concrete dance floor, while the dogs call out the tune.
(Cowboy of Tsenkharla Interlude)
I wonder why being naked in the wilderness or in public for that matter is illegal. It seems the most natural thing in the world. Yet I have only achieved this a few times. Once strolling around a Rainbow Gathering in Arizona (with only my Yosemite cowboy hat) after I had been robbed blind. This was more of a statement march then a freedom march, and it made my primitive inner puritan a tad uneasy (although I have nothing to be ashamed of wink wink) I have even made love once or twice within a mountain hollow or sandy beach but that might have been a dream, I’m not sure anymore. There was a rumor that a Canadian teacher in the 80’s lost the plot and circumnavigated the prayer wheel in Trashigang in all his circumcised glory. Maybe he was the sanest one after all; this place is naked as they come!
“So instead I grab a bottle and a girl who’s just fourteen and a damn good case of the Mexicali Blues” Barlow
As mentioned above I have been stressing the equality of boys and girls and men and women in class 8. Like I said, we have been comparing modern Bhutanese women to their traditional counterparts. Heck we even made a groovy chart! To repeat myself, backwards one generation the girls were wedded at 14 promptly popping out babies. Thankfully this is not the case anymore and girls are allowed to grow into women with aspirations and independent dreams. But it’s a rough river to row for these young ladies. As with the rest of the civilized world (yes I’m including Bhutan) men still dominate. Did you know up until 1962 there were no roads in Bhutan? While Jack Kerouac was “On the Road” chasing down Neal Cassidy, the folks of Bhutan were walking across an unforgiving landscape. Even today many of my students have never ventured as far as Trashigang but they all know who Justin Beaber (or Beaver) is. Our girls are not naughty like the sex fiend teens of the USA although they do flow on a river of estrogen coalescing with a river of testosterone. The two bodies intersect somewhere on make out point at Sharopsi college in view of Ashleigh’s balcony. Today was a tiring day just like many teaching days. This profession saps my strength but it is a labor of love (excuse the cliché) not to be trotted lightly. I shiver at the thought of being a role model and after reading my posts you might as well. But I take it seriously and channel my demented musings into good clean comedy in the classroom. Of course they do know I carry a torch for Miss Bhutan. At the end of the day all I want is for these boys and girls to achieve their goals and be happy.
Life for students on this rustic ranch is tough, playing cowboys and Indians. Except we have real Indians from Krishna’s Tribe and the natives are never restless, but they do have bow and arrows. The chime of the oval brass bell clunked with a rusty hammer controls their movements and actions. They are forced to pray the live long day which for an agnostic American seems unusual if not cruel. They are born Buddhist, they have no choice. A few abandoned Sangay Dempa’s ship and board Christ’s vessel. I am yet to meet one enlightened and brave atheist. Pishaw, I am not even an atheist afraid to accept or deny that damn being who shines from “the clear light of the void” staring back at us and laughing at our narrow minded interpretations and dualistic reasoning. The crickets back me up on this, chirping there merry tune forever in cheery darkness. We are all bound together like the weavings the Druk Yul’s covet and cherish, all being spun on a cosmic loom. But who is doing the spinning anyway. Whose feet work the WA WA pedal? If anyone knows the answer I urge you to post a comment immediately.
P.S We had an earthquake tonight that put East Bhutan on the cosmic tilt-a- whirl for forty seconds. It was a 5.3 centered near Guwati India near the border.
TGIF (Think Goofy It’s Friday)
“Small wheel turn by the fire and rod, big wheel turn by the grace of god, every time that wheel turn around, bound to cover just a little more ground” The Wheel
Updates from around the kingdom! Sheal called me as I just had “night crawled” into bed. She is a night owl you see. We talked for over an hour and I am happy to report that she is doing marvelously in Mongor. She loves her co workers and has made many friends. Her highlights are group meals, socializing, and shopping for organic produce with her confidants on Sundays. Like most of us she faces many challenges in the classroom but has little time to complain between hosting tea parties, dinners and learning how to weave. Sheal has truly embraced this culture and adapted well. She is already remiss about having to leave in the winter to go back to Toronto and resume work. I noticed on FB that Sabrina was fulfilling my fantasy as she mentioned His Majesty had visited Chummay. OMG! Her angels are working a double shift for her now. Sarah says it’s still cold in Gasa, haven’t heard a peep from Simon. Ash is on her way to see Reidi whose blog I recently read and can certainly relate to. Having patience is difficult for me as well and I applaud Iman for her efforts in this regard. I think Reidi is making more of an impact then she might realize and should never feel humiliated about anything. I feel the same at times and that is why I am speaking to it. Adaptation is a bitch in these parts but resistance is futile. There is a theory floating around by many of us that we all ended up where we needed to be for our particular life lessons. This will be a trying year for many of us and we will learn things we might not want or expect. I sure wish I was closer to you Reidi and could throw my arms around you in a BEAR HUG. I owe you a call soon. I feel very connected to your predicament of isolation. Reidi in particular is far off the path in Lhuntse. We both are the only BCF teachers in our Dzonkhas. Hang in there sis and as for life long memories here’s a few. Miss Reidi crying tears of arrival in Paro in the customs line and her glowing continence trekking up to Tigers Nest, where I followed her regal path basking in her footsteps. Reidi if you’re reading this tell Dave to call me. Dave if you’re reading this, tell Reidi to call me. Or heck I could call y’all too. Is the Laya Trek calling, is Bigfoot on the line???
As for me I feel alienated not from Bhutan but from my own monkey mind. It will pass, just a fit of anxiety for Mr. Tim. I have a pinch of that in my soul which bubbles up on its own accord. In Bhutan I can often dismiss these attacks quickly. God misconnected a few of my hard wires but it is nothing to get worked up about. This same flaw in wiring provides shortcuts and surges to the divine playing field. (Pick up the ball Reidi and run with it for the goal. You can do it girl!) Back on earth in the classroom I taught grammar (verbs) which the kids loved, go figure. My students comprehend concepts well but need to work on their writing. Overall I believe some progress has been achieved. The high pressure remains and its warm today with partly cloudy fly’s. Tonight I met the illuminating Tsewang, (Karma Om’s sister) who has been working at a luxury hotel in India as a beautician. Like Karma she has a husband and son living a thousand miles from her. She is beautiful if not a little skinny and is moving back to Mumbai on Monday. In the spokes of the wheel we are all nestled in god’s furry pocket for one more revolution towards revelation. As the students say before making speeches, “To all my dear friends out here” Happy belated Teacher’s Day to the entire BCF Krewe, you are my constant inspiration. See you soon!
Happy B-day Mom and Aunt Barb! XOXO (and Mare too)
“There’s an aching pain in my heart for the name of the one that I hated to face, somebody else come out to win her, and I came out in second place” The Race is On, George Jones
Regular scheduled classes for the day were scratched as the students of Tsenkharla competed in a mini marathon race. This meant getting up at 5 AM to assist facilitating the event. My student Kesang came in second! She is so little and cute with boyish hair and ferocious scowl to match her heroic vertical run up the road. Here I will switch to the past tense as I have just returned from a bizarre weekend in Trashigang, details to follow.
Saturday was a good day. I got a fine meal and met Becky at the KC hotel. We got the Norbu suite with a nice flat screen TV which we kept on the African channel all weekend long. T-Gang was hot and muggy for an extraordinary walk to the extraordinary Dzong. The Dzong is a classic edifice and one of the most spell bounding Dzong’s in the Kingdom. It sits on a large humped mountain amongst a sea of other rolling massifs perched at the head of an endless narrow valley. In this way it resembles a New Orleans Riverboat that has sailed out the gulf and into the Atlantic during a violent hurricane. At night the Dzong lights up in orangey gold light that bathes the whitewashed ornate exterior. In actuality this Dzong was founded around 1666 by space aliens and it’s not a Dzong or ship at all but rather a UFO. It will take off again someday. The aliens came to visit Bhutan sometime after Rimpoche and his flying tiger. They made a deal with the Bhutanese being allowed to stay in secret in exchange for their assistance fighting off the Tibetan invaders. The Tibetans have stayed away and the aliens live quietly amongst the demons and ordinary citizens. In fact some of the aliens chose to interbreed with the demons to create a new shape shifting form of extraterrestrial -demonic changeling. These new creatures can even appear as attractive young women as we would soon discover. The aliens even built a gigantic satellite in the middle of their colony to communicate with their cohorts in outer space constantly transporting signals into the sky. Check it out when you breeze through town. The Dzong at sunset is surreal with deer nibbling on its slopes and the cobblestone courtyard echoing with celestial footsteps.
Walking back to KC we met Phuntso who called down from her second story castle like a fairytale character. And just like a fairytale she was sinister as a black goat. Somehow she instantly appeared on the sidewalk and we agreed to dinner the following night. Alas Becky and I made the journey up the flights of stone steps into the upper reaches of T-Gang and a late night bull session. We talked in our twin beds at one point simultaneously scratching our legs that were extended to twelve o’clock. We lost it then.
Sunday (5-13) Happy Mothers Day, Mommy!
“Trouble ahead oh lady in red, take my advice you’d be better off dead” KC Jones
We reunited with Martha, Vicky, and Ian for the obligatory carrot cake and tea. Ian looked as relaxed as a Sunday golfer ready to hit the links. I enjoy the company of all at the table but before to long me and Becky lit out for Bartsham. A place that cannot be classified but should be classified as “a hidden lands. The road up to Bartsham crisscrosses rugged and semi barren mountains, with alternating glimpses of our UFO boat riding the high seas and the wilderness leading towards the Brokpa galaxy. We reached the top of the mountain and the school which is situated in a spacious salad bowl. We soon agreed this was the most visually appealing place our earthling eyes had ever seen. The trees were of many varieties and carefully placed among the boulders and terraces. The ridgeline above the town was a dragon’s tail with triangular and rounded scales. The dragon was hungrily waiting for the ship to blast off, ready to chase it in hot pursuit. This was the land of chortens with magical bells that pinged just for us and thick white prayer flags fluttering like cloth flames on wooden candlesticks. This land was pink and powdered blue, a child’s snow globe recovering from Thursdays 5.3 shake. We hiked out to a tiny chorten at the center of the globe, half way between Bartsham and Bidung. (Maybe its JD’s snow globe?) Sitting down we melted into the surroundings in an opiate daydream where we were greeted by a humongous blackbird with a floppy whimsical gait that glided like rubbery kites except not like that at all. It was the magic bird. We reversed course past the water driven prayer wheel which served as the clockworks of the universe. When the splintered spokes cease to spin and the rusted wheel makes its final revolution and stands still, the entire universe will implode on itself into a pin of extinction. But the wheel creaked on, the water flowed, and we had had a great hike. But at the top of the mountain an ominous wind blew through the pines at the reconstructed temple where hells generator buzzed in its own race against the water wheel in a bid for supremacy of TIME. We were lucky to escape Bartsham in the last chariot before sundown descending out the lips of the hidden lands like smoke rings and into the scorched and burned wilds towards the Alien outpost known as Trashigang. When we arrived we had some momos and I realized I had lost my mobile phone.
Authors and shamans alike put great stalk in for- shadowing. And it doesn’t take a soothsayer to recognize strange events blowing in a swallow wind like the dust from an agitated dirt road. We headed towards Phuntso’s shop and down the rabbit hole into the thirteenth dimension.
Phuntso is a young Bhutanese woman reportedly of 21 years of age. But she is really named Zet and is the product of a demoness and a creature from the planet Zanidu. From the outside she is a stalky girl with rounded face and plump posterior. She is not fat but an Asian cherub with built in sex appeal highlighted by black painted fingernails. Yet her watery eyes resemble a lizard eying a fly while basking on one of hells rocks. Her slanted slits are watery membranes with eyeballs that roll around on their own accord. Once in a while her forked and pierced pink tongue darts out to taste the air looking for prey. (Prey not pray) Look here folks I think she’s got one. On the way to dinner she picked up a “friend” another Halfling or cocktail. (A dash of demon and a pinch of Alien) This young creature had on a green shirt that said “I get high because the world is low” He looked like an irie iguana with the same fluid floating eyes. They dashed us into “Alice’s Restaurant” and the madness commenced. (Enter stage right two Americans and two Bhutanese) I ordered the pork and was soon attacked by Zet who chastised me for eating the flesh of animals. Ironic for the offspring of a man eating demoness. She burrowed into me with hateful eyes asking me “what pigs had done to me to deserve such treatment” She had a point but her delivery needed refinement as she possessed all the social grace and etiquette of a jackhammer in a monastery. As I ate my pork she interrogated me. But that wasn’t the real scene at all. She talked like a demonic Neal Cassady on Bennies cutting me up into a sushi roll like a vengeful samari. She asked a question then asked another and another in great succession before I could answer the first. Every once in awhile darting her forked tongue out into the air. Becky stared in bewilderment and on and on it went. Words cannot capture the palpably lysergic atmosphere of that restaurant that may or may not exist in a town that may or may not have been resettled by Aliens around 1666. When it was all over and Becky had paid the bill we immerged into the warm ozone where our Alien vegetarian threw a wadded up paper into the street and I let her have it! I screamed, I ranted and raved as the locals peered out of their windows at the commotion. Well the 1% of Zets Bhutanese genetic code (her vestigial tail) was deeply offended by the disturbance. (Mental note: have more tantrums in the Far East) She completely withdrew into her pod shell emanating nocturnal metallic green waves which turned on the dormant satellite and were immediately broadcasted to Zanidu at the speed of light. She led us up an alley threw me into a car muttered a frozen goodbye and we were driven backwards by the little green man back to the KC, as Z skulked down the narrow crooked street like an irate gnome.
Alone Becky and I broke into our hotel and crawled into bed barely able to speak of the wonky events. I could only think of the title of the Brent Mydland song, “Never Trust a Woman” especially if she is an extraterrestrial demonic Changeling from Bhutan.
“Oh sweet siren, I never could resist a witch, Oh No” Wrong Way Feeling
On Monday we swung by Phuntso’s shop and did our best to make amends. Who wants a demoness on their ass anyway? After that I replaced my cell for 1,500 NU and we collected our money from Western Union. We said goodbye as usual and I headed in a taxi towards Yangtse to collect my paycheck and go to the bank. Dashing past Chasam (Iron Bridge) which has been abandoned by the immigration police thanks to Kendra’s and others tireless tactics and circular logic. Past Gom Kora’s shinny gold pagoda, over the rushing white water and Doksom, through the arid region, and into the waterfall jungle. Finally spotting Chorten Kora’s white dome announcing eureka to Yangtse. I did my business and bumped into Karma Om, her sister (who is actually not married and was telling lies) and Hatchet Boy in the bank steady spring rain played a fried rice track on the windows. . The driver ran them up to Bayling to see their sister and drop off a care package. Then the two of us, driver and passenger, made it on back to Tsen Tsen. Ah my placement with its lone trees stretching into oblivion as a fried rice track plays upon the window.