Wednesday, June 20, 2012


 Atypical Days

“St. Stephen with a rose in and out of the garden he goes, a country garden in the wind and the rain, wherever he goes the people all complain” 

Tsangma’s ruin bulged against a sweeping sky. A cloud bow hovered over Arrunachal Pradesh as Ravens perched. It was one of my hardest days at school and I will be burning the midnight oil making exams. Coming out of the forest I saw Pema Tsomo and her little sister capturing bugs on the bluff. The little one ran down in the straining twilight and opened her hands releasing enormous brown insects that jumped all over me. Today was a perfect example of the trial and rewards of life in Bhutan. I’m not healthy, I’m homesick, and I’m exhausted. But there is no place I’d rather be. A horse eats grass outside my door where I have hung some prayer flags. I pet a newborn calf while absorbing the view. Let Scenery Dazzle my senses, like the vibrations of Bobby’s blue modular guitar. You know the one with the lightning bolt engraved on its side. Standing on Tsangma’s ruin, the world at my command, I realize how far from home I am. A three days drive to Thimphu, and a 23 hour international flight. But it feels furthur. I am eating a Hershey Bar courtesy of my moms care package. Boy does it often feel like summer camp here. In fact I haven’t felt so close to the land since living with the Colfax family outside Booneville at “Farm Camp.” I think David, Mickey, and Reid would approve of this lifestyle. Right now I am looking at a photograph of nephew Reed courtesy of home base. I might as well give a shout out to Reidi (to complete the trio) thanks for your consultation regarding the exams and see you soon. Vicky if your tuned in, I borrowed from you’re title “A typical day.” I could picture you and Ian getting ready for school perfectly. You are an inspiration to us newbie’s.

The next day I was met on the trail by the same girl bearing small plumbs. Very similar to the small ones produced by the Ginsberg’s plumb tree before it died. Extra bonus points if you’re dialed in John and Angela. Congrats on the impending baby!   


For you other North American monkeys, I predict a 2012 on the Main Stage. Toast one for me! And Morgan No Climbing! Be Safe, Hydrate, and Sunscreen y’all! I understand this is the 10th anniversary of the Kron and Grossman meeting. I don’t recall all the histrionics but I do recall something of Tyler biting the crust of Cara’s slice. But the relationship survived anyway.  Hey Cara look out for falling bats. And Morgan you know which garden to find me in. Remember the bees and ravens?    

Number Two Pencil

“I was stranded in a long lost driveway, when a smile came floating through the gate, I saw you were out in the daylight too, and now I’ve come to love, someone like you” Zeke       

Today I breezed on down the mountain to visit Manu. She is the lab assistance at a dusty school above the settlement of Khandung just up from the junction. Manu is the young women I met at the lama’s house in the forest. It was a hot spring day with a cool breeze. I caught a ride with a man taking (sister) Urie and her girlfriends down to Doksom. The little rebels were bunking. Kungdung has sparse vegetation but includes hearty Cypress, banana, and oak, spaced out on arid soil on steep slopes. Below Manu’s house are fields of maize, potato, rice, and chilies. As she walked through the fields she carefully and intuitively stepped around the crops in her slippers. Her home was built of earthen mud and stone. Manu and Pema (her roommate) served me the hottest emadatsi I’ve ever tasted which melted my face off in a small alter room with several rugs on the floor. She remarked several times about “how dirty her house was” but I found it modest and comfortable. I felt very content chatting with Manu although she is only 22 and not fluent in English. I lay on the floor and listened to the river and birdsong while she sat in lotus position twiddling her mobile. Manu is dark and petite with lush black hair arranged in swirls, twists, and loops. Her slight upper body was covered in a white blouse and she wore plaid shorts. Her eyes are dark brown but appeared golden in the afternoon light. When she is not smiling, which is rare, she appears especially beautiful, and for one instant time ceased in her earth kitchen. When time stops there is only light. In back of her house was a tiny patch for homegrown vegetables. Across the valley was a view of a dark rolling ridge with a white temple perched on its crest. From this lower elevation you feel a part of the valley which stretches from Arrunachal Pradesh to Khaling. The light played with shadow on the surface of the opposing mountain and the sky was throwing all manner of clouds from wispy to billowy. We also were playing with the light, like two children. Yonder over the bouncy humps rested the valley of Bartsham and beyond the Brokpa universe. Prayer flags rippled on the road and I left Manu feeling euphoric at the simplicity of life.     

Part Fee

“Fee was a Buddhist prodigy, long past the age of maturity; someday he knew it would set him free, like it did for Floyd the Chimpanzee”

My care packages were the talk of the village for the day. Everyone wanting to know what I got. People in unique national dress going bananas over my long sleeve Gap T. Manu inquired if I had Maize in my village? The village of San Rafael has a nice ring to it. Meanwhile this chili scene is out of sight. Imagine basing a whole cuisine around this devilish veggie. My addiction grows to what I previously regarded as less than desirable plant matter. I have a sneaking suspicion that this chili craze has something to do with there ability to grow in this unforgivable terrain. Just like exam moderation and central marking make sense as a means to check each others English abilities. And then there is rice subsequently keeping billions from starvation. I was probably quite the scandalous scoundrel seen with two local girls by the tribe. And oh they love to talk! I am the only felincpa in Trashiyangtse district after all. Ho hum back to the grinding stone and test making, planning lessons, and the chores. Life is maintenance as Mare would say. And we all know how much Marilyn enjoys the maintenance. (How’s your arm anyway, No climbing for you either.) The forests in Far East Bhutan are alive with sounds, a medley of cows, crickets, and birds; a whir, moo, and chirp trio that beats the band. A sparrow flew through my window and walked under the crack of my front door, signaling that I have suffered enough bullshit depression this week. Life is waiting in the form of bright eyed students and cloud formations. As noted in “Eyes of the World” the heart has its evenings its seasons and songs of its own. But Trey gets the nod on this installments caption (ISN’T IT?) Electronic acceptance from BCF came during “Alaska” under a Heavenly Moon last August Ninth (RIP Space Pilot Jerry!) Or was it the monk’s tarot throw at Drametse, or the throw of a dart in Thimphu. Excuse me for being cryptic but as Dave Malone said when I informed him of my whereabouts, “don’t get too pure!”

“Sonam what are those things on your shorts?”

“I don’t know”

“There reindeer”

“What are these reindeer?

“Have you heard of Christmas, you know Jesus’ birthday?”


“Have you heard of Santa Claus?”


‘Where did you get them?”

“Samdrup Jongkhar.”

What does that say on them?”

“Jingle my bells!”

Suddenly it occurred to me how similar Santa Claus and Guru Rimpoche are. Santa has flying reindeer. And the “Precious Master” had his flying tigress who was actually his consort Yeshi. Both are quite adept at performing miracles. Apparently Guru Rimpoche (The Second Buddha) was born from a lotus flower on a lake. I don’t know anything of Santa’s genealogy and how he has achieved immortality. Even Guru Rimpoche and Jesus gave up the ghost. This puts Santa in rarified air as the longest living fat man on earth. He must pine for the pagan rights by now. Guru Rimpoche along with Drukpa Kunley had multiple ladies in their life. Since Santa has lived forever and is a traveling man, it stands to reason he is getting some mistletoe on the side. So hats off to Buddhism and Santa for embracing the sexuality of MAN. I wonder if Manu could transform into a tigress. She does possess the simple playful grace of her Nepali root. The Indian, Tibetan, and Mongoloid people all united under the Wangchuk Dragon Banner, wearing national dress to solidify their identity. Reading the mythical and mystical history it’s hard to believe Bhutan immerged as an independent nation. There is no doubt aggressive Buddhist missionaries had a lot to do with the success of the kingdom. Cleverly dodging and negotiating with China, India, and the British. A tiny country immerged with a strong sense of self. Bhutan is Bhutan!  Bhutan is also ONE mountain, I call Mt. Bhutan.

She’s brown as the bank where she kneels down to gather her water” Let It Grow

Weather Report: Becky says the monsoon has hit Karalla in Southern India and is barreling our way. Asia’s sultry mistress slathers the erect palms with her wet thighs. Gushing nutrients on the parched lands of: Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Papa New Guinea, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Taiwan, China, and even her Northern Lover Korea. Becky also informs me that the Brokpa elders have requested that the road cease several hours walk from Sakteng. For now the “last road” will not complete the circuit of civilization. We all need these gaps from the bushman to the man in his air conditioned skyscraper. Just like people need tigers even if we never see one in the wild. My tigress consort roams in Boomdeling in the jungle or IS IT alpine tundra? She moves through the blurry territory between reality and imagination. Our heroine is a tiger in a trance visiting the realm of a snow leopard which is dreamed by the snow-lion. Maybe the one perched at Chasam, the bridge to Far East Bhutan.

Medical Report: My eye infection has subsided but my Bhutan belly has avenged again. It seems Pema’s emadatsi has made me feel as if sodomized by a giant red chili. I even have a touch of giddiness!

Book report: Due every other Friday. Please choose appropriate reading material.

Mare, it was great talking to you on the phone. I feel this is all a dream dreamed around a Pebble Creek campfire under the bosom of the Milky Way. Or was it Spalding Bay? If you dive into Trout Lake you might immerge in the waters of the Kulongchu. Those water molecules do like to travel. And if we are made primarily of water, would this mean we have a collective aquatic soul? And Becky if you’re still awake what happened to that portal of light over Phongmay? Where did it take you? Was there a fresh tossed salad and latte on the other side? The author of this blog is thirsty and will break for a coke and a smile. Goodnight Family, Goodnight Booty, Goodnight Cow, Goodnight Gom Kora, Goodnight Chorten Kora, Goodnight Lisa, Goodnight Nanu, and Goodnight Manu…            

“You know it’s gonna get stranger, so lets get on with the show” Feel Like a Stranger

Any night when you get a call from Dust Particles is a strange one. Tonight the power went out yet again. I am convinced that Bhutan is a land most comfortable in darkness. Technology seems obtrusive in this place. I went in search of Pema’s (secretary’s) house and a Puja. Along the way I saw the boarders all sitting on the b-ball court taking dinner in the dark. (You got to admire these kids) Their morale is good for what they endure, including the same meal for weeks on end of potatoes and rice. I found Karlos at the Puja and sat down. The Bhutanese hospitality can seem nuts to a foreigner, the filling up of ones cup after every sip, and the musical chairs. Tonight I felt restless as I had tests to finalize. I was trying to channel my inner (patient) Nancy as Karlos took a sip of his “last beer” only to have it refilled. The room was crowded with mostly female shopkeepers, kids, babies, and flies. The meal consisted of dried fish, cow stomach, rice, and a bomb potato radish dish. As a friend of mine texted, “I repeat this place is insane!” So it seems a great place for an insane person to spend a year.

I struggle to get my exams finished. Today I was pulled out of class to help others assemble their tests. The tests are printed on an archaic crank printer. Teachers are covered in ink and wearily assembling hundreds of papers. I didn’t appreciate sacrificing my classes to assist others when my own tests are not complete. I did finally sing “Blowin’ in the Wind” to the kids. I picked a beautiful spot under a tree in view of some prayer flags. They loved it and several of them were singing the verses all day! We also made up our own lyrics posing more questions like, “How many people have died, before I was ever born?” or “How many people have suffered, before Bob Dylan suffered?” Teachers can be very self critical and its important to step back once in awhile and pat yourself on the back for your classes achievements. Looking back I realize despite my imperfections, the students are learning! I am proud of the work I am doing here. I also congratulate all my BCF coworkers for meeting the bizarre obstacles that appear daily in the Bhutan Education System.

Three funny sayings translated into understandable English.

1.     By heart it= to memorize something
2.     giddiness=dizziness
3.     IS IT? = Several varied meanings (I’ll get back to you on this one)

I didn’t like linguistics in school but language is a trip. Imagine how different the world would be if humans spoke only one language. (Oh yeah that’s my job.) There are many languages being spoken on this tiny parcel, Sharshop, Dzonka, Nepali, Hindi, Lepcha, and numerous local dialects. The language gap between east and west keeps the regions separate.  

On my walk to Kumdang I actually saw a chicken cross the road to get to the other side!


“I know its pretty country, it boarders on the sky, I only got my faith to say I will see you bye and bye” How Far to the Horizon, Dave Malone

“The only truth is there is no absolute truth, and that’s the truth” Timothy Kristopher Grossman

What is this intangible quality we call identity. The first unit I taught in class was, “Who Am I.” Perhaps I knew myself better as a child. But since 2006 I have turned off the path of knowing. Sitting alone in a dark wood I read that love is a virtue not an emotion. Yet my emotions have always guided me to some strange arenas, amphitheaters, clubs, and discos. But usually I end up dancing alone. Oh, that’s not the world’s tiniest fiddle playing for the one who begs to call the tune. Deep down I prefer the hermit life. But is a hermit complete? Can nature connect the cosmic circuit? Or does one need a human companion to fully enjoy the Circus? What can fill the void, work, sex, music, religion or nothingness? I am still a sexless soul with a river of anxiety coursing through my veins. Seeking answers where none are to be found. I mean, if there is a god why would he permit such suffering. Is it to let humans work out there own dramatic play. But life isn’t fair! I have it so much better then some but still I complain. Guilt, panic, fear, jealousy rattle around in my brain. Love is a candle in the wind tentative and impermanent. The debate always leads back to square when the question is circular or some shape yet to be identified. If the reader is confused then the author has accomplished his goal. But won’t you love me anyway? My mantra for the year is truth is beauty, beauty is truth. But WTF is truth? All I can say, IS IT? Or ISN’T IT?  The crickets outside my open window don’t seem overly concerned about these questions nor does the horse nibbling grass. The animals teach humans so many things but what does the naked ape teach the monkey?  Tonight I celebrate one year Radiators free. I will allow Morgi the eulogy in her hastily scribbled note passed to Dave at the Great American Music Hall,

“Here’s to first times and last times.”   

Say a Prayer for the cowgirl

“And there’s nothing to follow, nowhere a go, he’s gone like the summer, gone like the snow, and the crickets are breaking her heart with their song, as the day caves in, and the night is all wrong”

Clinging to the fragments of my old self I woke up in pain feeling the bone fragments floating in my arm. This is a challenging stretch for me. Depression and sickness threaten like a monsoon sky and Excalibur is sunken to the bottom of the lake. So I plod on through the work feeling like an alien. Life in Bhutan is surprisingly busy between endless chores and teaching. I have not been reading lately and lost my muse for poetry. In some ways this blog is the only link between me and the world. Moist clouds cling to the ridges as patches of faded sun spots the riverbed weaving its way into Arrunachal Pradesh. The landscape appears heartbroken but free. I make a point to enjoy this time between rains. Becky and I did a good job traveling this spring both together and separately. I spun the wheel for all the cowgirls in Bhutan and around the world and asked myself if I can’t be happy here, can I be happy anywhere? Fortunately Bhutan allows one to remold themselves in clay. So I will make a ball and start on over.

I took a walk with Karlos and Sonam down a new dirt road. It was a dramatic scene with clouds, mist, and a view deep into India. I learned that Guru Rimpoche meditated east of Doksom on my favorite seemingly unreachable stretch of river. (I need a serious hiking buddy.) The Precious Master has captivated me just as Drukpa Kunley has before him. On the way back up the road Pema Tsomo asked “how I was feeling” I think she could intuit my internal break up. I reassured her I was fine and she told me I was her favorite teacher. On days I can’t do it for myself I will do it for Pema Tsomo and the kids. Meanwhile onward with the aesthetic ascetic life.     


“One of these days and it won’t be long, gonna climb to the mountain gonna sing my song, I will sing it loud and I will  sing it strong, let the echo decide if I was right or wrong”  Silvio

The rains have come, veiling the mountains in mist. It has been a light sprinkle to start. This is definitely a different feel for Bhutan. The seasons are distinct here and pure sunny days are rare. Usually we are layered in haze, or mist. The real treat has been the fog is hovering on the peaks and the valley is a smokescreen of mist as the river bends into India. The eastern and Western views are distinctly different. The dramatic eastern vision is like peering over the continental shelf into the Aleutian Trench. I favor the West when I am depressed. Looking NW to Yangtse and SW to T-Gang. These are more rounded mountains but huge. Both directions offer sublime glimpses of the respective river forks. It is possible on a ten minute stroll to see a 365 degree vista. At times it seems there are hundreds of crags, peaks, and summits. This next little poem is written from the point of the eastern view. From the rock downwind of my doorstep. It’s also for “The Precious Master” The second Buddha came to Bhutan in 746 thus introducing the religion. As mentioned above he had female consorts and often was a warrior and king. In contrast to the original Buddha who according to one friend, “Just sat around.”

    GOAT: For Guru Rimpoche

An Open rugged space
of swatch stitched green, and mauve
made by Earth Mother
whose vagina spring
     penetrated by massif phallic, 
     burst a silver serpent river
carving bare earth,
her creamy liquid swashes pyrite sand
a force MOVING
through thicket and brush
signaling prayer flags on rocks
the ring of mountains
hugs the clouds
The Last Post

“I like the days here, I like the nights here, Oh how the world spins around, I like the summers and I like the winters, here I will sleep in the ground” Old Man and the Land, The Squirrel

     I am still working on my exams as there is a lot of pressure on both students and teachers. The mist in the hills is a brand new Chinese painting every day. The strokes shift all day long rearranging themselves. The sun poked through the foggy blanket after a 23 hour nap and then went to bed again. The saturated ground has begun to puddle from the dawn rains. Dalia flowers of magenta are splaying themselves. The challenges of work and maintenance has been overwhelming lately. No water when I want it, power outages, poor diet. All of these in reality are manageable problems with effort and for sight on my behalf. Hopefully I can push through midterms and go explore a bit for break. At present flies buzz me. Today I was looking at a yellow and white flower and the petals took off as a butterfly. How does Ma Nature make a duplicate butterfly and flower. I wonder where my butterfly or flower could be? At school I saw a pink and brown moth the size of my hand. Throughout it all, I am blessed to live in this wonderland. Alas didn’t have an easy trip herself. And like Alas, it feels a dream but being surrounded by beauty is good for the soul. I briefly saw Manu again (any readers hoping for romantic storylines don’t get excited she is engaged) The truth is I am struggling with loneliness realizing I am on my own in a third world country. I have realized I am a needy individual. It seems I need constant love and affection and if I don’t get it I dry up. This wasn’t the actualization I was hoping for, but an insight nevertheless. I hope you are good and enjoying whatever you are doing. Thanks for sacrificing a few moments to check out this blog. I will check in after the midterm break, hopefully with some fresh adventures and a refreshed attitude. I would like to once again thank my donors if any are reading this. I truly wouldn’t be here without the help of so many people. I realize this blog reports my hardships and struggles but hopefully you all realize what a gift this endeavor has been. Personal growth is not an easy task but Bhutan is more beautiful then in my dreams. On my Sunday hike I went to my Bon shrine and the Zet Temple. I spent a long time looking at the paintings on the wall and the statues and three dimensional moldings. The second floor has tantric Buddha’s making love and wild depictions of multi headed deities and elephant trunks melting into women’s faces. Naked women dolls being subdued by twenty foot statues. This place is a sanctuary. I sat in the shadowy main floor chamber for some time until I felt I was inside the head of a rainbow feathered guruda. I feel particularly close to the Guru here. The murals depict the human condition from the mad, serene, lustful, enraged, devoured, dismembered, and enlightened. The details of the place are astounding and I believe the answers of the universe are contained in these depictions. I also heard a female voice in my head that alleviated one of my biggest concerns. I can’t count this as my second vision since it was only a voice that never manifested in form. It was also the voice of a Western gal. I sat there on a cushion in the gathering pools of darkness and had a good long argument with myself.   

     Back on campus my VP, a jolly man, informed me that he has been   reading my blog. This always makes me blush and wince at once. I am happy people are enjoying my blog but cringe at my own neurosis flooding the PC screen. I am not writing for any particular audience but realize my flashbacks and perspectives must seem obscure and confusing. I favor a Sylvia Plath confessionary prose. I also forget that a few Bhutanese people are reading and hope they realize that I have the utmost reverence and respect for their culture. I shared my blog with Karlos early on and I am sure it’s public domain now. If any prospective BCF teachers are tuned in id love to hear from you via the comments section. I also recommend reading the other teachers BCF blogs for a counter perspective. If anybody has questions I would be more then happy to answer them. God bless you all on this Sunday, whoever and wherever you are!


     I am sitting in the staff room waiting to take my turn at the ancient printing press. The whole building smells like the inside of an octopus. That is to say very inky. This test making process has been hellacious. It’s very important to the Bhutanese that the exams be uniform. This uniformity is essential to their culture. I have had to reedit and mess with the format for about ten hours. Next I will go through the tedious printing process and then make answer sheets for central marking. I am very disturbed that after making these exams for several hours I will not be able to assess my students myself. Big fat what to do. Yesterday I found a hidden valley through a lush forest including a grove of cypress trees laden with ferns and duff. It’s hard to believe such a place exists near here. Every time I venture out I discover more. I try to wander daily and am considered a regular at the temple. This place is the most beautiful and challenging spot I have ever been. On the solstice a black and yellow butterfly rested in the palm of my hand for five minutes. I even stroked its satiny wings before it flew off circumnavigating me three times. The exams are done and I am completing the answer keys tonight. Life at school has been hectic. The printing process was crazy hand cranking hundreds of pages only pausing to paint the roller with black ink. Fortunately I only assisted. So it appears we have almost made it halfway through this year. The next week will be a blur of marking and then back on the road. We have had little rain and the trails here are in excellent condition.  Despite being in the rain shadow the scrappy farms I once noted have become robust, the network of trails progress through forest and farmland. All plots are on steep cliffs affording remarkable views. After tampering in the kitchen I can now make edible emadatsi. A dish only my father could appreciate.  Stay tunes for the part two of my adventures as I will check back in after midterm break in July. Happy Solstice! Happy Festival! Happy Fourth!  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Home Is Where The Dzong Is!

Part One: Yangtse Excursion

“So I cast off my apparel and I dove right in” River Run, Special Ed 

The original Yangtse Dzong was built in the mid sixteen hundreds. It is now home to only a few monks since the new Dzong opened in 1997. The Old Dzong is a national treasure. So here’s the report. I had lunch at Cricket’s and said hello to Chorten K then took a taxi to the old Dzong. The aged edifice is perched on a knoll several kilometers before Chorten Kora overlooking a salad bowl of vegetation. It guards a side valley which beyond, beyond, beyond, is Jakar. Under the Dzong and a giant cypress is the trailhead for the trek to Bumthang. This is the old trade route between India and Tibet an isolated vortex at the convergence of Trashiyangtse, Arrunachal Pradesh, and Southeastern Tibet. The area around the Dzong is the play date of jungle and forest. The Dzong itself is enjoying graceful retirement with overgrown flowers and weeds growing along a steep ascent of crumbling stairs. An ornate gate passes one into a courtyard.  About a third of the way across the old cobbled stone I was suddenly attacked by a pack of stray dogs. The half dozen hellhounds circled me like k-9 sharks before moving in. I challenged but they charged, forcing me to turn and run screaming. As the alpha black dog bore down on my calf with his fangs a monk materialized from nowhere and beat him back with his wooden thunderbolt. He then swirled like a Jedi knight dispersing the whimpering dogs. Thank you Sangay Dempa, I was indeed in God’s fury pocket.  The wind gushed through lush valleys rustling in a million leaves. I was allowed into the bowels of the whitewashed building via a bronze key. The interior was completely abandoned but clean, made entirely of ancient cherry tinted wood. I climbed multiple ladders ascending into various empty chambers harboring states of nirvana. On the top floor was a dim and rustic alter room with a young red robbed boy attending the shrine. Once emerged, I toured the grounds guided by the Jedi monk. It was an auspicious setting for a ghost ship wrecked on the rolling emerald sea between Tawang and Tibet. The living canvas evoked the voice of Bob Ross imploring you to dab a little more chartreuse onto the mountainside. Beneath the Dzong rested a Giant Cypress with the girth and splendor of a Costal Redwood. She was similar in height and dimension to Cassidy on the far side of Friendship Bridge in the Canyon. I worshiped at the big toe of (my new gal pal) Bertha for some time listening to a thousand shaman rattles shaking in her cascading needles. Or was it Zeke’s maracas? This was the immovable iceberg that stopped the ship. Her roots immerged from dust and duff as tangled serpents. I followed the trail down to the river where I tore off my clothes and waded. After my wild child bath I sat my naked ass on a hot rock watching an alien butterfly’s dance. This turquoise winged creature was one third bat, one third insect, and one third Karmaling dream moth. It eyed me through malted amber eyes its crimson antennas probing. I followed the trail into the penetrating narrow folds, a tangled maze of ferns, rhododendron, blackberry, and cannabis. Cotton candy clouds chugged along in a powdered blue sky. It was a Hailey’s Comet day in Yangtse served up courtesy of the Clock People. A mild breeze broke through the heat that was searing downriver in Doksom. The tributary moved towards The Kulongchu as I moved towards Central Bhutan.

 Back at home I wandered through the grass growing on the terraces watching Angkor Wat clouds turn a purpled orange, their beehive lotus tops swallowed by a froggy gloaming. A chipped crescent winks at a tumbling Raven silhouetted on Blue Mountains. I can only think of circles!        

Part 1.5: Shamalamadingdong!

“Crickets and cicadas sing, a rare and different tune, Terrapin Station”
I went for a long hike departing from Tsenkharla past Sangma’s Ruin, the Temple, my bon shrine, and the oak jungle and the Lower Ruin. At Tsangma’s I lay my head on his stony wall listening for the seashell echo of ghosts. I moved past the second temple where a dog lay dead with countless flies swarming his lifeless body. (Wild boars are known to be in the vicinity and one elusive porcupine!) Once past the farm with the cypress and banana trees I was in unchartered territory. The trail inclines through a stretch of deciduous forest with a few rogue bushy pines. This segued into several high altitude shires with Hobbit Hotels. I walked through a few back yards to the confusion of the inhobitants and ended up at a lama’s house overlooking the borderlands. The lama had built a rock fish pond without fish in the center of his garden. The house had a rounded front and was made of sticks and stones with Bhutanese style painted trim. The dwelling overlooked everywhere. I didn’t go inside but I understand he has cable. I introduced myself to a lovely young woman of Nepali origin. She was wearing a kira with a silver top and purple gray bottom. The ensemble looked like the skies above. She was hunched over pulling potatoes from the soil. She invited me into the garden for tea and I sat on a red plastic chair at a wooden table. There was a fly in my tea which I plucked out while chatting with Manu. The Nepali ethnic Bhutanese seem more outgoing and down home than the classic Bhutanese. She served me a lunch of local rice, potato and beef curry and radish leaves on a heavy plate. Her two companions, an old women and a young woman, giggled at her translations of me being a bachelor. Manu teaches down near Doksom, She was up to help the lama with his gardening. She worked the garden in a Kira and hiked up a thousand vertical feet in flip flops. This is a Bhutanese lady at her finest. After lunch I descended with the head BHU Doctor who incidentally shares my passion for cleaning the community. We have now joined forces and I learned some very interesting things on our hour and a half descent. For one thing we both share the same heartache over the Doksom situation. He also showed me Tsenkharla’s nasty little secret, a town dump in the forest behind the archery range. Apparently this waste pit has been in existence since 99. The good Doctor recently organized a clean up of the area while I was downwind on Mass Cleaning Day. But the townspeople have clandestinely been dumping again. There seems to be tons of trash intertwined with the thicket on a precarious slope, a decades worth of broken glass and plastic. It most likely is layered six feet beneath the soil. (Authors note: Sorry folks I’m afraid this isn’t the “Last Shangri-La” It is however the most beautiful place on earth. And not even a cell tower or ten thousand pieces of rubbish can deter the landscape.)

This week will begin with the students sharing their five paragraph essays and voting on their favorites. Later in 8A we will read the lyric to Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.” I have some fun activities planned around the song. I will also use half of my emergency paper supply to have student’s create trash posters with catchy slogans or dialogue. My example will be a cypress tree with several pieces of trash at its base. The tree will be saying, “HELP I CAN’T BREATHE!” We will then place the posters around campus. This project was Morgan’s idea! Unfortunately this situation in Bhutan is dire and likely to get worse before it gets better. None the less I am undeterred. I have been a busy-fly marking 120 portfolios and compiling questions for my mid term exam. The test will take students between two and three hours. We have covered a lot of material in the first three months. As the tests approach one can see students studying under outdoor fluorescents after curfew. All day long students peep and peek in my window which kind of freaks me out. The boarder life leaves a teacher totally immersed to embrace the community, and when the students ask “where are you going sir?” I inevitably reply, “ROAMING!” 

Part Two: Technicolor Sugar Cube

“Like an angel standing in a shaft of light, rising up to paradise, you know I’m gonna shine” Estimated Prophet

This evening there was a raven perched on the crest of Tsangma’s ruin. I took it as an omen. An omen seems merely a natural vision. The raven croaked out a message to its community. Three croaks, Ah! Ah! Ah! Her calls echoed up and down the ravine. The birds were communicating, insects buzzed and crickets chirped. From up here the river hushed but down in the valley the river roared.  Its no wonder Prince T established his castle fortress on this spot eleven hundred years ago. I love hanging out in spots that were more advanced thousands of years ago. These places turn the tides of time with reclamation from nature. I was reaching for a piece of cardboard when my phone slipped my pocket and fell down a rock face. I had to bushwhack into the undergrowth and shrubs and amazingly recovered the phone. Upon doing so I celebrated by calling Becky for a “Bug Report.” Every time I call her she notes the appearances in her hut of different insects including giant spiders, leaches, moths, and a flea circus of creepy crawlies. Phongmay has been getting steady rain and as I type this a light rain falls on Tsenkharla. Thank the goddess either way. By the way we have a website now and I wrote the introduction. There is also a staff picture! Check it out by goggling Tsenkharla M.S.S. Right now, my oval of Bhutan has enjoyed a series of gorgeous days like prayer flags strung out across a valley, (Although we here in the east favor the vertical flags mounted on wood poles.) The Bhutanese landscape feels like my ancient HOME. It also shares ferns and ravens with my birth land. There is no place like this on earth. That is why I am devastated by the trash. This patch of earth is sacred. Looking into the mouth of the subcontinent and beyond, I realize it is all Bhutan expanding out from the source, a hidden valley in Lhuntse. A universe exploded from a Technicolor Sugar Cube, (an event known as The Big Bang, again my apologies to the creationists.) As a result Bhutan is California and California is Bhutan. After returning from my constitutional I ate a gourmet meal at Sonam and Karlos’s house. They were hosting a puja for Sonam’s ailing mother. There were hunks of steak, combined with red chilies, greens, producing a myriad of flavors. All These ingredients were carried in on horseback from the rural outskirts of Tsenkharla. Even the dal was exceptionally delicious. (We have only potatoes and onions available in the village at the time of report.) For this meal the local red rice set the tone, “and it reminds me of… um... the beach…” It’s hard to complain when well fed in “God’s fury pocket.” I could have devoured the whole buffet like a pride of lions devours a zebra carcass.

Across the valley from my perch at Tsangma’s, a DEAD lightning bolt is etched in the opposing mountain like marbled fat in tenderloin. It’s weirdly auspicious. The natural world pops like a Cuckoo Clock, its springs reveal a lovely medley, Cows >Slipknot>Clouds. Kids are moving through the forest in national dress with Purpha Nima calling out for Sonam Choden like the ravens speaking to each other. Back at school my students remind me, “This is not a dance club, it’s a place to study!” and Butterfly reminds me “Not to destroy the culture!”      

Part Two and a Half: Bellaghana in Bhutan

“This is not the way I chose, the way has chosen me” Banyan Tree

MEEEEENNN! That’s for you dad. How’s this season anyway? Not the same without old Charlie, IS IT? Speaking of seasons what about the Yanks? I am prophesying a tough season for COCO and the boys. As for my own batting average I’d say I’m hitting about 288. I broke out of my dismal early slump and was RED HOT (or hot to Tejada) for a time. But tonight I went 0-6 in an excruciating extra innings loss. I’ll explain in none baseball ease, here goes. It was a long day in the classroom plus grading essays during my free period. After school we had a compulsory meeting which went on for five hours (Bored-fly.) The meetings are essentially held in Dzonka with a bit of code switching to English. It was decided without my knowledge that the midterm exams will be graded on a dept. basis. Essentially other teachers will grade my tests and I will grade theirs. This made me irate when someone explained it to me. How can another teacher who is unfamiliar with the syllabus mark my Exams? What’s more, how can one make an efficient answer key for questions that ask for responses stressing creativity and critical thinking? My vocal objection did not go over well. Principal quipped I was only here for a year and might enjoy it? I assumed he meant the mass correction and not the year in Bhutan. I reminded him I was considering a second term and asked if he was trying to get rid of me? A foul ball of Bhutanese protocol I’m sure. All remarks were said in good humor on both sides as I have no animosity with principal La or staff. However some staff joked that I should act more Bhutanese. Perhaps they are right. Anyway the day ended with grading student portfolios into the wee hours.  

The other night (or a future night since Today is Tomorrow) I saw the whole student body PRAYING in National Dress including their traditional white sashes for boys and crimson scarf for girls. It was a moving experience hearing their voices rise up to Guru Rimpoche and Sangay Dempa in palpable worship. The reality is this is not the USA. It is a wonderful culture but can rub against the grain. I am up against 34 years of experience and a former belief in Santa Claus. Bhutan is a communal identity. With mass dances and mass (marxing) marking. A culture submerged in Buddhist beliefs, rituals, and superstitions. As one BCF friend put it, “They just can’t help it!”     

I spoke to Sarah who is in Gasa. She told me the Navajo word for white person, which is Bellaghana. It has a nice ring to it but here I am known as felincpa. Felincpa translates to foreigner or outsider. Well they may be right but what they don’t know is that I share there Heart Home. We did not have a choice to come here. We were chosen. All you BCF’ers, who might be reading this, evaluate the circumstances prior your to arrival in the Kingdom. It’s no doubt a fated tale. Look at who you’ve met so far and what you’ve learned. It damn near makes me believe in reincarnation. Didn’t we all come home? Weren’t we all crying Reidi’s tears at Paro International?

Morgan if you are tuned in, the posters came out nicely. Thanks for the idea. These kids are born artists. I hope in a small way they will stop and make people think. If nothing else the six coed groups worked well together, sharing the limited crayons, colored pencils, and markers. (Thanks for the crayons mom) The idea and supplies, a joint effort from my family back home. They will present their posters to the student body on Social Forestry Day on Saturday. In class 8A we will make paper prayer flags before I sing them ‘Blowin in the Wind” under a stand of actual prayer flags near the football field.        
Part Three: Drametse Goemba  

“Wolves at our doorstep, drums in our hearts, songs from the ancient furnace, bringing us back to start” Zekemoto 

It all began with a pastel rainbow over Chorten Kora. This was the beginning of an auspicious weekend in East Bhutan. Yangtse was swirling in clouds and river. Grey and emerald streamers flowed together into the white contrast Trashigang felt more like the jungles of Vietnam then the slope of the Himalaya. I met Miss Rebecca and we headed back towards Mongor and the Drametse Goemba Monastery. The dirt road climbed for 18 kilometers through prime potato country and dry pine stands up to the site. We climbed through a hole in a fence at into old Bhutan. This impressive edifice was built in 1511 and was beginning to sag and crumble at its corners. But far from ruin it was an active monastery. Its main purpose is to house the artifacts in the region. This is the Bhutan that tumbled from the roof of the world (Ancient Tibetan Culture.) We made our way inside. This monastery was established by Ani Chhoeten Zangmo who reportedly blew a conch as she traveled east from Bumthang searching for the most beautiful sound. She settled on this spot which she named, “The peak that has no enemy” The actual origin of her tune was above an enchanted lush pine forest swirling with a mist thick enough to conceal the mystery machine. The ancient vapors of that conch! Where does sound go anyway? We know it vibrates long after one ceases to hear it, but for how long? Between the monastery and the forest is the village school which was hosting an archery tournament. The hills echoed with hoots, hollers, and cheers. Back inside the ancient building we climbed a ladder through a shoot and into a second chamber. On the dimly lit walls were Karmaling moths including one painted on a dilapidated corner. This painted creature at the apex of two walls was a portal to another dimension. As we melted through the vortex we spun around an indoor prayer wheel inscribed with gold Sanskrit, through a creaky wood door, and into a secret chamber. Materializing inside, Becky was startled by a Chinese looking monk with a pencil mustache, letting out a cry she stumbled backwards. We had interrupted his meditation. He might have been in that room five hundred years. On the left side of the chamber was a dusty glass case containing relics and artifacts. Among them was a deck of dirty tarot cards (with naked images on them) Intense red and green masks frozen in terror. Also, several black brass tantric bells which radiated power. These were sacred objects with a heady vibe. The monk led us into another room with an amazing psychedelic- Buddhist mural, including a pair of dancing skeletons that would have made Stanley Mouse cream in his grave. There was also the horse-headed protector deity among tigers, elephants, and several other spirit animals. We led ourselves into a third sanctum containing the shrine. I incorrectly prostrated to the dismay of the robbed and barefoot monk who with Becky’s help led me through the proper procedure. He seemed far more approving of Becky’s reverence. The third floor had several padlocked doors containing weapons, a stuffed lynx, ghosts, and imprisoned demons. After minutes or years we immerged silently creeping down the shoots and ladders like two kids descending stairs on Christmas morning. Judging by the stares and bowing from the children outside, we gathered they didn’t see many tourists up there.    

Trashigang was the place to be on that auspicious day. I chanced to see Vicky, Ian, J.D and Martha all unexpectedly outside Phuntso’s shop. I was   buying fruits including bananas, pinnacle, and a local sample with a spiny skin and opaque flesh. The name of the young proprietor is Phuntso but I call her Phuntsy which translates to “dust particles” A perfect name for our resident demoness. Her form, a few crystals flaked off the old Technicolor sugar cube. But Trashigang has another pervasively distinct creature. “Igor” is an Armenian looking man who appears to be made out of sun baked clay. He wears sandals and shorts and has a bulbous doughy head. (Think an ethnic Homer J Simpson) It seems as if his tour bus left without him and he just stayed behind. He is always and only seen in the vicinity of the chorten at the edge of town, circumnavigating with the natives. We know less about him then Phuntso. Alien, Demon, guru, Eastern European, or exiled cartoon character, you decide?

(The Last Watusi Interlude)

“I’m happy to know you, now what did I show you, nothing that ever been seen, we ride the wild waves” The Forever Man (Ed Volker, Dave Malone)  

I woke up with a gnarly eye infection on my left eyelid. It was swollen shut and had some puss. Pretty disgusting and warranted my first trip to the local BHU. The Doctor said it’s a bacterial infection and gave me ointment and drops. I was feeling healthy lately and consider this boil a mild setback. I am also suffering a bout of homesickness. A big battle for teachers in Bhutan is keeping up their health and morale. Honestly the lack of running water is very detrimental to ones overall health. For instance when I wash my hands it’s in standing water. But fortunately the magic is never far off yet for now I feel like a Cyclops Alien. You also face a lot of quality time with yourself here which can be intense depending on the individual. I need to summon a reserve of enthusiasm to keep me on task and from losing the complex plot. Old mental challenges are rearing their green ears and I must lasso them before they get the upper hand. It’s always a game for the homo sapiens to invent reward and meaning. Make dreams then fulfill them. Maybe even fall in love and create a family. On this tiny spec of Asia the monsoon edges in closer with intermittent rain. One things for certain, you never know what’s coming next. No weather reports, no expectations. But today I feet disconnected from myself and surroundings. Nevertheless I have a big month at school preparing for the midterms so what to do, la. I still feel lucky to be here and realize my problems are an extension and exasperation of my core being and not Bhutan. Right now my head is in the clouds and I need to dig into the earth. It’s always hard to get your bearings in the LOT (Land of Terror!)   

A quote collected by Namkith lifted my dreary spirit. “Marriage is for those people who are afraid to sleep alone” Another winner from Nanu! Hang it up and see what tomorrow brings.    

It’s been one year since the Technicolor Universe that was the Radiators stopped expanding, a barreling train that ran out of track. Whose heavy engineer pulled the E break screeching the boxcars to a halt at Tips in the wee steamy hours on June 12, 2011. .The hot tight jams evaporating in totality popping screws, the engineer screaming Everybody off! Heartbreak is always sudden even if you know its coming and you usually do. Like prey senses predator before the attack. I loved that music as much as life. And with all love it lives in my heart. The break up of the Rads and my appearance in Bhutan are intricately connected. RIP boys! I’ve never heard your equal. (Authors note: Thanks mom for the trip of a lifetime!)

Part 4: Death of the Blues

“We can’t play anymore like kids right after school, all the real important people got important things to do”  

As the semester comes to a close I am evaluating the positive aspects of my teaching along with areas that need improvement. For one thing I have covered an adequate amount of material in the text. I also feel that student comprehension is acceptable. However I must focus on their writing skills and do more grammar and spelling tests. I also need to be more efficient and organized in the classroom, since we all know students thrive off routine and consistency. These are not two of my strengths. As a teacher you must focus on the positive while never being complacent. One must give their full attention to areas needing improvement while not forgetting what positive qualities you can build on. I have a positive foundation to build upon with many areas that need improvement.    

At school today they told me that I had to make my exams by tomorrow. We are always the last to know. I told them it will take three days to complete the exams and demanded a model from an English exam. We are always the last to know and they assume we somehow know what we are doing. It would be nice if important things were translated into English before the last minute. WTD. On a brighter note the class 8A prayer flags came out nice and are hanging on a string in our homeroom. The rain has swollen the river by Phongmay as the skies over Tsenkharla begin to grey. We might have a monsoon any day.