Sunday, May 20, 2012

 (Whooping Crane Interlude)

Well I finished “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” a fantastic novel by Tom Robbins an author my former Girlfriend turned me on to. Now the story of Morgan and Tim (you know pieces of it by now) recedes into the ambiguity of time like a western movie sunset. I can only offer that she taught me many things including lust, love, loss, femininity and magic. All these themes and more are embraced in “cowgirl” but I am left with the thought of whooping cranes. In the book after coming off a steady diet of peyote buttons they leave the Rubber Rose Ranch in the Dakotas and embark on an around the world flight, last spotted in Tibet. I can’t help relate to their saga and am reminded of the (non fictional) Black Necked Cranes now residing in Tibet who return to Boomdeling every winter to roost. Even though I can’t see them I feel the elephants, rhinos, leopards, tigers, wolves, and red pandas of Bhutan. In fact it is for them I pick up the trash more than the confused homo sapiens of the kingdom. The residents of Bhutan embody their landscape in collective ruggedness and toughness but many can’t comprehend what this land means to the world. It is one of the last wild places where animals live free. With each piece of discarded trash and WWF broadcast I fear for the habitat of the Blue Poppy, Snow Leopard, and Yeti. And once gone from here the world will suffer catastrophically and the dreams of young children will die. We need this place like the heart of Africa or the last roaming Buffalo of Turtle Island, warming their hides by cracked fishers along Yellowstone Lake. This author reminds you that we are the only animals who use money. But the animals have not forsaken us completely as proven by the (water fowled) inland bird who paid a visit to Rebecca and I while we melted by a Chorten. They will talk to you too if you are listening, if you just sit still.

In my corner of paradise I taught bare foot children in a classroom with no windows on a warm afternoon. Still Bhutan offers glimpses of a life all but extinct from our world. Where women have been herding Yak for four thousand years. But even this primitive culture is but a shadow of the ancient grace of maternal ways before the horned god was made a goat (the devil) or Guru Rimpoche hailed a flying tiger to ride to Takseng. Were the demons he subdued merely powerful women? Why did wine replace magic mushrooms and the pagan rituals reduced to a float on Bourbon Street? Can we fan the spark back into the fires of creation and balance? Or are we doomed to follow paternal destruction into the fires of our man made hell? You decide.

Part 1 The Ecstasy of the Grinding Stone (Or) 119 and Counting

“There a place in the sun when all you’re running’s done, you got to run red run to the end of the line” Zeke

Note to dad, even with our savior Andy back it looks to be a long year for our pinstriped boys of summer. I do however admire his ability to compete at this level as a major league dinosaur. This iron will is what brings superior athletes back into the game long after their prime. As a society we label it sad when a star lingers and performs poorly but in reality we should applaud the effort and grit it takes to stay in the game no matter what the result. This can apply to life as well, and to you dad. I admire how you have endured and prospered after your stroke in 2004. You can still drive, fix things, and do tasks that I cannot complete, and you are my star! Enjoy the games for us both as I miss rushing home from Trout Creek to fix dinner and commiserate about Zippy or CoCo Butters latest slump. As for me I am entertained by girls playing hoops in kiras enthusiastically gallivanting around the court seemingly never scoring a basket. By now many readers might want to abandon ship wondering when if ever I will get back to the plot of the story called “Tim’s life in Bhutan” Well hang onto your baseball caps as I am rounding third and heading for home. Run Rickey Run!    

Today was a hard and lonely affair. It began with students peeping in my window watching me sleep. I now know how a baboon at the zoo feels. As the monsoon tunes up like Jerry and Bobby crossing swords it knocked out the power with a saber crash. I was raked over the grinding stone sodamized by the Male Water Dragon. Namkith and Thinley got in a fight in the middle of class resulting in Nanu flipping him the bird. I was tired and flustered today feeling ineffective. I know this is not entirely true because when I substituted for class 9 they were much more timid in their speaking English than my class 8’s. But it’s an uphill battle to mark and improve 120 student’s writing. I try to present a fun and engaging atmosphere in which to learn while learning control in the classroom. I have implemented one minute of meditation at the beginning of class to focus my students before starting the lesson.  Today I retired to Karlos’s house watching nature documentaries all afternoon about, sea birds, Asian Elephants, and Dragon Flies. Did you know the Dragon Flies were here millions of years before dinosaurs?  Then the rain came but fortunately the power if not contentment has been restored. On days like this I feel very isolated in a culture far different than my own. And as clean as I keep my house the flies land on my face every morning waking me up. I am busy with school and trying my best to help the students best I can. I sooth myself by keeping my eyes peeled to the mountains and the flowers at my feet. After all life’s a garden, dig it! Mom I started bone stimulating again as my arm has been throbbing of late with the intermittent weather. (I’m very thankful my arm suffered the catastrophe and not my legs.) I’m sorry to hear about your pain mom. Happy b-day to Reed as its hard to believe the little guy is already turning three. I hope the tyke’s party is a whooping good time! I’ll give the prayer wheel a good spin for us all…Sometimes I wish I had someone special to share this place with but I know deep down this time is for me alone.  I am lucky to have Rebecca as a friend although we may form a fake relationship to stop all the local questioning. I’m still coming down off the effects of this weekend’s trip. In Bhutan sobriety is stranger than dope and reality is stranger than fiction. (The author would like to emphatically state that he has not touched any drug in Bhutan other than his consumption of ara and beer one night last month and his aborted Fosters) My time here is a lucid dream dreamed by an aboriginal boy. All references to any chemical or organic substances are purely for dramatization purposes and should not be taken literally. For example at the Chorten this weekend I was merely in a parallel dimension and NOT under any narcotic influence. Not to worry mom. The author will try to clean up his blog and his act henceforth. And that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Whoop! Whoop!

“Oh the daylight life, the pod people and the machines, they can’t tell what to do, they can’t tell us what be” These Fugitive Dreams, Zeke

Tsenkharla is a beautiful campus perched on top of a ridge with views in all directions. I have never seen anywhere like it before. It is quite possibly the most enchanted spot in the universe, A Mt. Olympus or mountain Eden. We have a row of thick Cypress lining our main path and another huge one of unknown species sprawled on the western edge of campus overlooking the valley. Our rose bushes resemble rose trees. As the raven flies we are closer to Arrunachal Pradesh India then Doksom which is 14KM away. I am charged with keeping this holy place clean and teaching my students how to speak, read, write, and listen in English. It’s a tough job but I am pleased to do it. This week they will be learning how to compose five paragraph essays which will be carefully revised to produce competent and interesting writing. I will meet with each student individually to review their work and help with corrections. I try to cover a different skill every week in relation to covering the syllabus and teaching grammar skills. But most importantly I hope to teach them how to be considerate human beings and adept critical thinkers. For the most part I enjoy my job and life here. And if I could only learn to embrace the challenges with more zeal, life would be rather perfect. Ones attitude is merely a state of perspective. Humans can tweak their perspective and tilt their universal outlook. So for me life in the village is mmmm okay. How are things in your town?   

And today it got even better. My class eight class was like a dream. I applied the Socratic Method and for awhile our discussion of “The Magic Brocade” was conducted like a college class as many “quiet hands went up.” I assigned Namkith and Thinley to work together after yesterdays blow out. They did fine. Things seemed bright today and relaxed with the kids. The shy ones are able to make eye conduct and utter a few words. Partly I was more positive today which always yields better results. Better a butterfly then a bitterfly. I granted my 7A a free period to go watch the track and field tryouts for the older students. Once outside the classroom they mobbed me with enthusiasm (especially the boys.)  The kids really thrive outside the pinewood box. I sat on the stoop with Tandin (8B) who argued that beating was an efficient means of classroom management and was beneficial to the students.  In other fantastic news I also received a grant from BCF to initiate my recycling program on campus. I am also petitioning to make more trash cans from oil tins and place them in strategic locations around the entry points of campus. We still have a lot of work to do and I must target the younglings, boarders, and day scholars. I also need to target my attitude to get the best out of myself and my students. Working in Bhutan is hard and often frustrating but look! It can be rewarding too. One of the most important tasks is to be a role model for the kids, building a bridge between the vast cultural differences and teaching them how to be citizens of the world. Meanwhile twilights silver wings bead into moonless night. 

Part 2: The Lost Supper

Since there is no water right now I couldn’t clean my dishes for supper so I decided to have mutton from a can. But since there are no can openers in East Bhutan I used my Swiss Army Knife which didn’t work. I managed to pry the can a quarter of the way open cutting my thumb in the process. I resorted to pounding the can against my cement floor like an otter cracking an anemone against his chest to no avail. Meanwhile blood and mutton juice poured onto my Ratdog sweatshirt until my kitchen resembled a slaughterhouse. So it came to pass that on the eve of Reed’s third birthday I had mutton juice for dinner.

However before this sad and ridiculous meal I went up to the temple to meditate via Tsangma’s house. It was a solitary evening with a distant thunderstorm brewing over India and a magnificent cloud set over Bhutan. The hallway leading into the attic is a perfect viewing spot for the main event and a raven joined me from a nearby treetop. The colors were pastel patches of unrefined gold, silver, and opal. The evening air smelled of incense and Himalaya. On the walk home in the dark the stars poked through like pin holes in carbon paper. The Big Dipper rested upside down dumping its celestial porridge into the tribal bowls of Arrunachal Pradesh. Now I will go clean up my mutton spots trying to avoid the giant moth-bat creature that is banging against my fluorescent lights. These moths are not chalky ghetto butterflies rather thick multicolored beasts of the night. Right off the walls of the Karmeling Hotel and that other dimension I dare not mention for fear of being sucked into it. Half moth half dragonfly they buzz like electric razors going Vroom, Vroom around the room. Who knows what tomorrow will bring in the “Land of Terror” or the lost isle of Avalon. One thing’s for certain you better take it as it comes. Authors note, to the class (group) of 2013, when they say this is the adventure of a lifetime, they aren’t kidding. Come join the fun, I promise you won’t regret it! But bring your sense of humor and a can opener.   

Part 3 Fresh Squeezed Sunrise

“Sunrise has burned my eyes again” Seven Story Mountain, The Squirrel

I have seen many epic sunrises. From Mt. Tam, on Lake Tahoe streaking through glassy rainbow colored water, the silvery beach of Cosumui, the citified glow in Anyang and the billowing misty plumes over the indigo pine ridges of Quincy after 24 hours of dancing. But this morning’s from my rock at Tsenkharla wins the blue ribbon of sunrises. As I stepped out my door an air show of sparrows was displaying their acrobatic aeronautics. However the main attraction began at quarter to five and by quarter after the ball of fire was warming the dew soaked grass. It was clearer then I’ve ever seen here illuminating distant Indian ranges in the dawns early light. Ah, snow encrusted twin peaks at the end of the valley which winds from Arrunachal Pradesh all the way past Kaling to the west, hundreds of Kilometers away. (One wouldn’t realize this is one snaky valley unless flying or traversing East Bhutan. I am still not sure where the valley ends but I know my sacred river drains in Manas.) My favorite ridgeline, including the molar tooth, triangular fang, and baby bouncies was illuminated against turquoise curls. Once the day began the film of built in haze washed gently over the land but for a moment it was pure as the waters of aforementioned Tahoe. The sun upon its scheduled arrival kept its life affirming appointment and rose as an orange orb with fingers of juice pouring over the earth tones of terra firma. Sunrise has burned my eyes again!    

I rolled back to T-Gang this weekend via Doksom. At the convergence of my two favorite rivers is a dump. Doksom has chosen to use the riverbank for a dumping ground. In the third world it is difficult to dispose of trash but this broke my heart. I will make the Dzong people aware of the problem but unfortunately it’s out of my jurisdiction. My whole crusade seems to amuse people more than inspire them. Some even mock me and ask why bother. Another discovery from my latest venture was that the guard at Chasam was back in business. The lion bridge is no more a free ride. (There are painted lion statues on the Yangtse side) Back in T-Gang I got a haircut from an Indian barber whose father opened up the shop fifty years ago. Nancy was his third grade teacher. The shop and barber were right out of 50’s America but with Bhutanese flare. Barber music piped out of a stereo as the artist cut my hair with Edward Scissorhands precision and stealth using giant shears that could of lopped my head off. (Morgan would undoubtedly say it’s too short but I rather like it.) Afterwards I took a long walk to the Dzong and retired to my room at the K.C and caught a Yankee game on TV. The next day I visited Puntsy (the demoness) and sat at the prayer wheel for five hours until my principal picked me up on his way back from Bartsham. T-Gang is more tropical jungle than Himalayan glacier these days. Sitting in the garden outside the bakery amongst the tropical flowers I might as well of been in Southern Vietnam. As we finally left the city the lights were out giving it an ancient feel. The only illumination was from the tecnicolored Tata’s with their General Lee horns. I was very happy to be back in my clean hut which had a bird in it, just another bird in a house dying to get out.    

Up until now the author of this blog has mixed reality with a hefty dose of fantasy and memory. Memory is often fiction and many of these flashbacks might seem self indulgent to the reader. But this is a blog after all. More then one of you have suggested keeping a journal for the stranger notions. But if a strange notion falls in the woods and no one reads it, does it make a sound? In Trashigang I met a shopkeeper (one of Puntsy’s friends) She remembered me from weekends past when I came into her business to try on pants. She said she never heard anyone talk so much comparing me to a radio, or as she put it “like a radio” Apparently that particular evening I had been left on the complaint station (WCOM) with this just in. “These pants are too small, they’re made for Asians, nothing fits here, I’m fed up with rice and potatoes, blah, blah, blah, ECT, ECT, and ECT.” (Mental note cheer up or keep your god damn mouth shut.) This is my rep in E. Bhutan, a negative Neal Cassady. Well on with the story if anyone still cares. My X is AWOL; my own brother is several blogs behind busy raising my niece and nephew. My father always reads these posts promptly and for that I am grateful, (just like I was grateful when he pulled my zombie corpse out of bed to buy Special Rehearsal Furthur tickets on January 1 2010.) So the author would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to any and all interested participants joining in my dark ranting and light raving. It’s not easy leaving all you know behind, when that life was a charmed rainbow soaked in gravy. Especially when you have no idea what is leading you on this sojourn, maybe going on a feeling like a tiger in a trance.     

1 comment:

  1. Tim:

    Thanks for the nice personal comments! I have just finished reading this latest blog and talked to Marti about your student loan issue which I will address when I am in Marin in a week. I will also bring your boxes back to Dunsmuir along with your bike for storage in the warehouse.

    Remind me to tell you the next time we speak about the Bucket List Road Trip I am taking to the Midwest in July-August. It will be allot of fun for me!

    Stay well and ask for a can opener in your next package. Isn't there an opener in one of the multiple blades on the swiss army knive?? It is designed for survival you know and you are in survival mode most of the time!!!

    Love, Dad