Monday, August 6, 2012

Armchair Anthropology

“Tinsel tiger’s in a metal room stalking satisfaction” Picasso Moon

Progress is happening in rural Bhutan. Since I have arrived a cell tower has been erected above Zongdopelri. And now they have widened the tiny road up to Tsangma and the temple. Luckily Tsenkharla Dzong is buried in the forest a hundred yards off the track. Almost every village in Bhutan has electricity and many have roads. Overall the wilderness is unspoiled and constant. To best explain to my U.S followers it is like living within a National Park, except it’s the entire country. Bhutan’s political border is actually a geological boundary protecting a biological oasis stretching from the plains of India to the snow clad twenty five thousand foot peaks of Tibet. Bhutan boast jungle, broadleaf and pine forests, moraines, and a vast river system. The wildlife is equally astounding including a list of animals I will probably never see. The short list includes: tigers, snow leopards, common leopards, and a myriad of big cats. Elephants and unicorn rhinos in Manas, all kinds of birds including the renown black neck cranes. Also bears, wolves, Tonkin, red pandas, and Asian Buffalo. Around here we have bores, porcupines, deer, a lot of birds and insects including awesome butterflies. The terrain is the most attractive and startling I have seen. One can never absorb it all. The mountains are steep and lushly canopied. The rivers zigzag through a maze of valleys. In places it is unyielding and impenetrable and other spots undulating and rolling. In the east it is rugged and gnarly.

Settlements must be scratched into humongous mountains. Fields are carved and from a distance look as if they will slide off the cliff into the abyss. Providing infrastructure is a tremendous challenge and speaks to the grittiness of the Bhutanese folks. Another reason they remain the only sovereign Buddhist kingdom is their remoteness and isolation due to the unconquerable terrain. Trashigang Dzong gave the Easterners a literal upper hand in repelling the Tibetans. Otherwise we’d be in China now. I mentioned before, it has been a succession of miracles to enable the survival of Bhutan as an independent nation. Watching the students hack grass, prune trees, and move about the land you notice a difference to their movements compared to Westerners. We are not as strong or fluid. The Bhutanese are connected to the land in an intimate way. I don’t want to romanticize or mystify the reality, but it is true. I am convinced their feet and hands are larger and they are in very fit condition. There is no gender bias when it comes to working the land as both sexes harvest the fields. The children have knowledge of farming and the earth that most of us don’t possess. The Bhutanese have many things going for them. They have the ability to survive here and are extremely patriotic. They will need these qualities to face the challenges ahead. I am confident they will endure at least through my student’s generation but problems will exist. They must preserve their precious culture and continue to be faithful to sustaining the land that has sustained them. I am merely an armchair anthropologist but these are my early impressions of Bhutan.    

I also found out today from a class 8 boy that Zongdopelri means paradise. I couldn’t think of a more fitting name for our temple perched up on the ridge with views in all directions. This spot is quite possibly my favorite spot on earth. Surrounding the perfect pagoda are vertical prayer flags, cypress, a pear orchard, grass, and chest high marigolds. And of course from my inner sanctuary the attic, one can see in both directions including the two rivers racing to meet at Doksom, thousands of feet below. Inside the temple (the brain of the guruda) is an entire universe as vast as our own. One has the urge to simply sit and wait for all truth to manifest while watching the statue of the Guru and his tiger come alive to engage with fierce tantric deities who escape the mural walls. There is actually a fourth chamber, a sidecar on the second floor. This dark room has only a huge “space drum” and a frighteningly ferocious deity. This is a room I don’t linger in long.     

“We’re sitting here stranded though we’re all doing our best to deny it” Visions of Johanna

Tonight the students and I got special curry for dinner. I rarely eat at school but when there’s beef and emadatsi then game on. The students sure deserve it, although my 8B was naughty this afternoon making spit balls and throwing them at the roof where they stuck. Today we were blessed with sunshine and stars which is unbelievably rare in the summer. All of us BCF teachers fulfilled our destiny at our placements and we all have our pitfalls and boons. I am ecstatic to be on top of this diamond peak surrounded by daisy chains of mountains. I desperately try to convey the beauty to you and by now readers are surely board of my lackluster descriptions. But this is the focal point of my life here along with my work. So hang in there eventually I might report something interesting. For now my BFF (Bhutan Friend Forever) Becky is stranded on the east side of the river in Phongmay. I wonder how Martha is holding up as well. Becky is fortunate enough to have a fellow felincpa close by. I am hoping to see Bunks for her 35th next week in Rangjoon at Ian and Vicky’s. My twin sister is actually five months my senior. Am I really approaching 35? I guess Bhutan qualifies as a respectable midlife crisis, tee he. It’s safe to say with my large debt from loans and no companion I won’t be living a stable life in the foreseeable future. I guess I am destined to gallop in Mare’s footsteps. It’s nice that Becky is so similar in her wanderlust ways. Her existence validates my own ramble down the lost highway. At one point I imagined a family and kids but was always far more concerned with the next show, powder day, or adventure. Since Tyler and Beth had Reed and Paige I feel content to be an uncle. Certainly as a teacher I get my fill of children. As for true love that’s a whole other blog. My notions have changed since twenty two. I know love exists in many forms on this planet on a grander scale than any human relationship that might temporarily embody it. For example my love for my family is as true as love gets and right now I want to send good vibes to my mom who is getting shoulder surgery. I love you mommy!

This is an important time for me to be alone in this world. If I never find the ONE then there was no ONE to begin with. I have already exceeded my allotment in being loved in this life. This is my opportunity to give back to the universe. We all have a debt to pay back to the maker. I realize I am rapidly firing off the blogs with little significant content. It also seems I am repeating myself or experiencing déjà vu.  Maybe if I write it out, something will come of it. So pull up a log around the campfire and lets watch the sky awhile. Sorry I am out of colortines at the moment. 

Class 8  

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