Monday, August 13, 2012


“Even in a time of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people."     

We live in a primal place. One BCF teacher was relaxing one Sunday evening when a band of monks young and old burst into her home to perform the rights of a puja to pacify the evil spirits. The company (some painted black) blew horns banged symbols in her face then dowsed her bed with water, spit on her floor, stung her with nettles, and cornered her with an aggressive dance. They left only after spreading grain all over the floor. Back at home this would be grounds for incarceration. I asked around and apparently this is “normal” You would think they might spare the foreign teacher this ceremony. The poor teacher was left with soaking sheets and a filthy house and no doubt felt violated. Luckily this teacher is easygoing and could laugh at the intrusion where some of us might not be so forgiving. We all must face up to excepting and living in a culture much different than our own. I had a more relaxed Sunday watching the Olympic B-ball finals next door, that is until the power cut out in the last minute. I assume we carried through to gold. Many of our BCF teachers are also struggling with illness in this mucky monsoon season. Bhutan will challenge anyone especially those who dare to deploy into the LOT. It’s hard to figure out this culture and realize I never will. On one hand the inhabitants can be very community minded, giving, and gentle but there is also brutality and severity. As a westerner we aren’t even in a position to judge and are delegated to observer and occasional participant. WHAT TO DO LA???
Today I was TOD (teacher on duty) which meant I had to supervise morning study from 6:30-7:30 then speak at morning assembly. As usual I spoke on the importance of picking up trash and not littering. After classes I supervised evening study as well. Lately I have been enjoying class 7 more then 8. I used to enjoy 8 more than 7. The students in 7 are more kids and rambunctious but in 8 they become rebellious and form groups. I am still struggling to keep them obedient without becoming militant. I strongly feel that my more casual and non abusive style may be hampering this. They now I will not use a stick to keep them inline. Classroom management is not my strength and is problematic for many novice teachers. These students have to motivate themselves since most are boarders living far from their parents. Generally parents in Bhutan don’t take as active a role as in America or Korea since educating the masses here is a new concept.

This next generation in Bhutan will be the make it or break it era. People in their 50’s still remember a feudal mid evil society with no money, electricity, or roads. Still today few of my colleagues and none of my students have been on an airplane but they have all seen WWF and most own mobiles. What will become of Bhutan? I’m afraid wearing a gho and kira will not sustain them nor will having an excellent and noble monarch. They will need to solve the problems themselves. When a sixth of the country can squeeze into the Rose Bowl this will be a challenge. Individuals have enormous responsibility and must be civil minded in the newly formed democracy. I am scared for Bhutan! The Dragon folk are adaptable, strong, and, survivalist but this will be a perilous era. Yes Bhutan will be sovereign but in what capacity. Will Thimphu turn into Katmandu and what of the villages? Will my students want to farm? All my students in class 8 want a car someday. Will the mountains remain the habitat for big cats, and the jungles remain a sanctuary for the elephants or will the land of Southern Herbs become a shadow of itself. Over cultivation, litter, road building, selling hydro power to India, and worst of all the perceived glamour of Western culture threaten the kingdom from within. Bhutan has its fate squarely in its own hands at least, as nor China or India will march on these proven warriors who now are members of the UN. I am cautiously optimistic but don’t get the impression my students truly understand what they are up against. But why should they at such a young age. It’s not my place to save Bhutan but many of us felincpa’s fall in love with the wild environment that nurtures something in our hearts lost long ago. Most Bhutanese have not the means to venture beyond the mountains to see the misery of the planet. From where I sit typing this with my door open, I am looking back into a prehistoric landscape. Ironically, into a valley of the second most populated country on earth. It comes down to resources and population. How much can the mother endure before she breaks? We are exhausting are abundant ball at an astronomical rate and not many of us care. I caution the reader from my own hypocritical position as I am hardly an ardent environmentalist in my daily habits. I consume enough Coke to add significant circumference to the plastic blob floating in the sea. But awareness is the first step towards turning the tide and healing the earth.    
At present, sun spots the valley and sprawling peaks are crowned by mist. The mountains snuggle the rivers in a tight embrace. In actuality there are three interweaving valleys surrounding the “green nucleus” of Tsenkharla. I watched my 7-8 students rehearse for a song and dance competition in the dirt courtyard as the sun turned the cypress trees a golden green. Dzonka songs are ribbons of ethereal sound and not comprehending them might make them even sweeter. When paired with dance the effect on the viewer is mesmerizing. Something feels off in my head today but nature is in harmony and balance. It was Julia Butterfly, one of my heroes that said “Life is a never ending process of letting go” and this will be my greatest challenge in this incarnation.  

 Letting go of the love might be the hardest. Everything I love is thousands of miles away across a vast ocean, except my truest muse who envelops me.   

1 comment:

  1. Hey Tim, you raise some very insightful questions about Bhutan and I can tell from your post that you really do love and care for this country. I also think about Bhutan's future, especially when I look at my sweet students little faces.

    Just remember that everyday your presence makes a difference in your school and students lives, which you may never know the ripple effect it can have. For instance, you are inspiring children to recycle and they may grow up to be adults who may make laws to better the environment all because a teacher once taught them how to love the environment. So remain optimistic and take care of yourself. Enjoy your beautiful scenery!