Saturday, October 27, 2012


Lost Sailor

“drifting and dreaming”

My health troubles continue and every day brings a new ailment, the flu, earache, diarrhea, and cough. But despite my feelings I hit the trail on a bluebird day in Bhutan. The distant peaks of Tawang sparkled with a fresh coat of snow and fluffy clouds hovered on the horizon. The East side is a rugged landscape with deciduous forests and bare earth exposed. A huge round mountain demarcates India from Bhutan and is about ten miles as the crow flies from my door. This land was disputed and fought over in the Indo China war of 1962. The area remains sensitive and China still claims Tawang as part of Tibet. From my stoop I can see a road on the Indian side but it is not connected to Bhutan. This leaves a buffer of no-man’s-land between the two countries. In this territory is a bumpy ridge that looks like the spikes of a dragon tail with spires and pinnacles. At the end of the tail is a tabletop peak that looks like a lone tooth or crown jewel which appears only a few hundred yards in diameter. Although there is no possible way up to that point, it is my geographical paradise. I am not exactly sure how such complex formations were ever formed and how thousands of mountains roll out in all directions. Most of the endless geography within view is impossible to reach as it is virgin wilderness. I traversed to the west side of the ridge towering over Shali a hamlet that clings to an olive slope descending to the Kulongchu far below. The colors of the forests are spectacular with every shade of green turning to golden brown. Flowering bushes of pink, purple, blue, and white decorate the dark hollows within the pine forest. The pendulum swings revealing a spell bounding autumnal magic. The earth itself seems reflective and mature and Becky’s words echo in my head, “bash on regardless.” Despite all the hardships I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I spent the day interacting with students in the forest and at school. Here are some standout moments. My class 8 student Sangay Dema was herding cows in a turquoise kira near my favorite overgrown chorten. A class ten boy studied in the woods while chewing on a wad of dolma which he gleefully exclaimed was part of Bhutanese culture. And I chatted with Karma and Yeshi while watching a perfect sunset at my favorite rock. Exams are near and the students are in study mode. I went outside to star gaze at 4:30 AM only to find a shivering student huddled under the light outside my door.

I hope to open my heart as wide as the view, to lose myself in the void. This is my most sacred land which is interesting since my heart home is the American West. But Trashiyangtse resonates on a deep note striking my rusty umbilical cord. Loving nature is a special kind of love grander than any other version. People come and go but the rhythms of nature last indefinitely. We have two dramatically different scenes unfolding from the central mountain paradise of Tsenkharla. I feel like a stowaway on Mt. Olympus. I can’t believe that five years ago I had never heard of Bhutan. Now I can’t imagine spending my days anywhere else. The reader might wonder how this boy is all over the map. Well its hard living here and at times I want to run away. But on a basic natural level this will always be my home until the day I die. How does the author except the forces that brought him hear? How do I let go so I can embrace the profound beauty of now. We all have those moments of ah in Bhutan. Thanking our auspicious stars for getting to be here. Just like we all have our moments of utter frustration. Whatever happens from here on out I got to see the view and help some students along the way. When Karma Eden asked if I would remember her I realized that I am a teacher, A novice, but a teacher. After a life of drifting and dreaming this epiphany has profound significance. But your shaky eyed author has a long way to go in the land of spiritual awakening.

Saint of Circumstance

“Odds against me been increasing, but I’ll pull through”   

Becky always calls me a prophet regarding my choice of tiger in a trance for my blog title. Maybe your author is an ESTIMATED prophet who is ambling towards the light. Last year in Eugene Bobby pointed up to the night sky before launching into Lost Sailor. I followed the arrow and here I am. I have time to reflect on the songs that make up my soul but still can’t crack “Saint.” It hints of unseen forces that drive the dreamer to the brink of an illusion. It is a song about Bhutan conceived in a Wyoming ditch during a rogue thunderstorm. So for now the author is content, going on a feeling! When I am absorbing the view surrounded by roses and ravens I can feel the raw current of love flowing around me.  All around the world Bobby lights up a crowd, Reed smiles, and my former lovers make love to their new lovers. With sunlight penetrating my dusty third eye it all makes a semblance of sense.

Forgive your author who gets squirrely with the full moon. On an academic note I managed to put in several hours making exams today and am nearing completion. I am trying to prepare my students but they will struggle with the unseen essays and poems that I am forced to include on the exam. I wonder how teaching in rural Bhutan will develop my career. I have limited resources and students with limited English skills yet somehow WE develop. Teaching on the fringe is exhilarating. Maybe in some ways it parallels the challenges of an inner city job. ESL teaching is my bread and butter or my rice. There is something magical about forging relationships on the other side of the globe. Part of what struck me about Karma’s comment was that I will be remembered by my students throughout their lifetimes.  And although I am far from all that is familiar and everything I love, my reach is expanding into new realms. It wasn’t an easy row getting here and I must exert as much effort as possible while in exile.         

Ladies Luncheon, Trashigang Bakery
The Estimated Prophet

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fear and Loathing in East Bhutan

 Part 5: From Shooting Stars to Shooting Diarrhea

“Lost in a fever dream”

Being sick in Bhutan is a drag. The last week has been hard with the flu segueing into diarrhea. The squat toilet seems to add insult to injury. I wonder is my health deteriorating or is it just the normal wear and tear of living in a developing world. As I lay in bed in a neurotic ball I assess and reassess my life.  I had hoped to develop myself as a man here but sometimes it seems just like survival. I have realized how dependent I am on others affection. I have not been in a relationship for five years and I realize my path is going in a different direction. Suddenly approaching 35 my body feels older and my spirit wayward. The fact is I am more alone than ever before and must be okay with that.  Blah Blah Blah.  For whatever reason I feel the need to extend my time here but this week I have pined for some home cooking and hugs. Maybe I ought to make a cloth doll like that baby monkey in the study used. The weather is crisp and blue but I haven’t felt up to roaming these days which is probably why the author has the blues. In Buddhist beliefs we all enter this life with baggage from previous karma. We must try to detangle ourselves from attachment on the stage of samsara. This is a tall order, isn’t it? As my past disappears I have an opportunity to reshape myself and develop my career skills. But am I being proactive or merely the same old Tim in a different place.  When I wished on a shooting star to come to Bhutan I might have known there would be days like this. The truth is I am luckier than 99% of earthlings. It’s a tough world with starving kids and people killing each other and my anxiety and shaky eyes don’t amount to a hill of rice. Mostly I am a whining boy with a pension for self induced drama.  Please forgive me and I will check in with something positive soon.

(Trick or Treat Interlude)

“Shake the devil out of your head”

The second best Halloween I ever had was at “Dad’s Ball” in Minneapolis. The Rads hosted an annual masquerade ball in that city for twenty five years and I was fortunate enough to make a pilgrimage in 2008. The nightclub was packed with a coterie of wholesome Midwest babes in unwholesome costumes. We made Snow White, Cinderella, Naughty Bo Peep, and a French Maid with a tickler. The miraculous part for a Radiators show was these chicks were under thirty!  I wore my mask and Fearless Krewe cape for the party. The boys ripped through two spooky sets of fishy swamp rock making it a legendary evening. I was grinning ear to ear striding back to the Ramada in the frosty night. Of course the best Halloween was Sector 9 at the Fillmore with Morgan. The tribe came out with amazing Native headgear and warped and woofed us to another dimension. We merely melted in a pool of our own ecstasy from what little I recall.   

Part 6: Socrates and “The Covenant of the Rainbow”

“The seeds that were silent all burst into bloom and decay”

Things improved today as my health stabilized and I was able to take food. Becky was a trooper on the phone listening to my torrent of complaints and misery. I halfheartedly told her I wanted to go home and woe is me.  But I felt half human upon waking and I enjoyed teaching outside sitting on the grass reviewing short stories with my students. I felt like Socrates on a sunny Greek afternoon. Not to say I have his teaching ability but I was trying to employ the Socratic Method nonetheless. It’s tough going to coax comprehension from the kids. For instance while teaching a short story I must explain a lot of vocabulary and try to connect the content to the experience of a rural Bhutanese kid. When you see something click it’s exhilarating. Some cases seem more hopeless and these pupils are some of my favorite due to their infectious personalities. Take Phurpha Neima for instance. He is a ham in the classroom and rarely stays on task. His writing is atrocious but his Justin Beiber songs are a smash hit. Then there is Kesang who started struggling but has worked her tail off in class and shown awesome improvement. She is also cute as a button and looks much younger then Class Seven in her cropped haircut and oversized teeth. She used to be painfully shy but has come out of her shell even participating in class. My students make it worthwhile and make this old rover smile. I try not to forget how precious the teacher student relationship is and what a rare opportunity it is to be teaching in Bhutan. Students like Tashi Wangmo remind me of the triumphant spirit of humanity. She is an orphan sponsored by the King to go to school. She finds her community at the hostile. But she has the sweetest disposition for enduring such a hard life. Or Sangay Tobgay another “King Student” who lost his father to a demon and has been at Tsenkharla for eight years. He has a gregarious personality and is a joy to teach. He disrupts lessons and is a class clown much like your beloved author as a student.  

While it is true I came here eager to explore the country, I realize the school routine is the meat of the matter. It is hard to get away in Bhutan with six day work weeks and vacations scheduled into the worst climate of the year. But what we might forgo in treks and sightseeing we make up for in interpersonal relationships with the students. Hopefully our influence will outlast our stay. From a teachers perspective we will never forget the students, and that’s a fact. Their smiling battered little faces covered in sores and boils, and their oversized dirty feet. For my part an Indian teacher remarked on how weak I appeared today. So for now the author takes it a day at a time with only 300 and something more to go! Tonight we are blessed with a full moon dancing with the Dagme Chu to a gusty tune. The surrounding landscape turns brown but the oasis of Tsenkharla bursts with late blooming marigold, rose, and dahlia. But these will soon be gone returning the terrain to the earthy bareness.

I must be hard up for companionship as I even enjoyed a compulsorily tea party. I had a nice talk with Principal La about my goals for next year in the classroom and for Social Service Club. I will only admit 20 students to minimize bunking and insincerity. Those members who worked hard this year will have priority. I have been beat down with the trash problem lately but I know I must be patient and vigilant. I even still purge the forest once in awhile if the trash is near a chorten or power spot. I would need a forklift and drivers license to finish the job. The key is education and changing habits. Really the lamas and principals must help in the effort spreading awareness and a sense of civic duty. In short there is a lot to stick around for, so Mare, I guess that trip to Glacier will have to wait.  But for what it’s worth I am upholding the “Covenant of the Rainbow.”

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fear And Loathing In East Bhutan

“Trouble ahead trouble behind and you know that notion just crossed my mind” K.C Jones

Part 3: K.C Moaning in a fool’s paradise before Chasing the Dragon

On my last trip to Trashigang I washed photos for my kids and spent the night in room 113. I felt like a ragged king seated at my throne by the window. The view from the room lords over the gingerbread Dzong, the wooded valley, and sweeping mountains. The vegetation is a mix of pine, banana, and eucalyptus and colorful chalet style buildings hug the cliff. Like every Bhutanese place of significance an ornate painted gate straddles the road at the entrance of town. The hot spot is the bakery adjacent to the greasy prayer wheel featuring an enclosed bamboo alfresco dining area with tropical flowers. One can get a decent meal before retiring to their room to watch sitcoms until their eyes pop out. As far as evening entertainment I choose to banter with Phuntsho at her shop in front of the locals who give me curious looks. Nowadays one might glimpse Norwegian tourists of advanced age snapping photos from minivan windows. The K.C Hotel is run by a gaggle of comely young ladies who give a suitable rate of 600 NU a night and lock the front door at 8. The hotel provides another link to the “Tour” lifestyle of yesteryear. I don’t leave my room in the same disarray as Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo in Vegas but the girls will find sullied towels, coke bottles, and cookie wrappers strewn about with the key thrown on the nightstand. Perhaps there is a reason the corner room is reserved for me. The second I step through the lobby the head girl sheepishly fumbles for the key and like most Bhutanese woman my boisterous personality frightens her. On the night in question your Wild Child roams the curvy street in search of pork singing the slow version of “Odessa” just like Bobby would’ve done in 01’ when he played it with “The Rocket,” a honky tonk steel guitar. We were all more innocent back then before the bloom wilted off the thorny vine. But the ruined heart is an empty paradise where a bachelor can explore the dark root of his beastly nature. The mind becomes his psychedelic brothel where no thought is deemed unseemly or bizarre and only the prickly stars and chiseled moon remain to laugh at raunchy innuendos. Now he is free to lasso that horny and elusive “raw” moment and ride IT bareback. T-Gang is also the place to pick up odds and ends like wash cloths, dish towels, corn flakes, Coke, and Oreos. The 42Km return voyage takes an hour and a half crossing the river checkpoint at Chasm Bridge, then winding through a rough and tumble valley past Gom Kora and the sealed mine to the outpost of Doksom. This forlorn village is a ramshackle collection of half abandoned shops with stones weighting down tin roofs and is situated at the confluence of two mighty rivers. From there a traveler traverses multiple switchbacks climbing through broken scattered pines and brittle grasses up a barren ridge to Tsenkharla. The route follows the scaly crumbling tail of the dragon where it lashes into the hinder land of the subcontinent. The road is immersed in rivulets and blocked by fallen boulders and only tattered prayer flags remind a hitchhiker of a cantankerous god.         

(The Jupiter and the 119 Interlude)

“tell me have you heard the story of the Jupiter”

Last Halloween at Hang Town the rail rats and hobos dawned masks of the characters on stage. Mine was naturally the face of the Squirrel as he rocked the Jupiter to start the second set. The Squirrel banged a hole in his acoustic while Timmy scratched the course of the American on his fiddle. In the morning after meditating under a gnarled oak Tim remarked he envied me for going to Bhutan! And that night under a slivered moon the boys picked for zombies, pixies, and a nasty ballerina in a frilly tutu. When it was over I slumped through the dark arc of the Afterlife which was adorned with skulls and wagon wheels, just another portal between worlds. If you happen to go this year blow the whistle of the Jupiter for me.      

Part 4: I can’t come down licking the techno colored sugar cube, Face to Face with the Guru on the Wackiest Wednesday

“A peaceful place, or so it looks from space, a closer look reveals the human race”

Bhutan is far different from California although the two share the ancient fern. But I sailed here on another spore altogether. The local brand of Buddhism is palpable and permeates the sweet mountain air. A religious scholar could have a blissful time deconstructing and reconstructing the rich structure piled onto a muddy foundation of myth. As for me I try to capture a feeling but my cherry was popped by Jesus long ago. Himalayan Buddhism is a tornado of color and sound that would unhinge Mr. Tambourine Man. Instead of swirling ships we have flying tigers and hungry deities with an appetite for sex, blood sacrifice, and alcohol. No wonder a Tsechu brings reverence along with fresh growlers in the woods. Once you get on the merry-go-round you can’t get off until the music stops. Just hope you don’t get a wobbly horse for the rise and fall. If you believe in reincarnation you can pace yourself with karma but if you are a hedonistic atheist you must suck from the tits of the dragon drinking blood. That means serving the party of life before you get too zonked and break the hourglass. If you can’t follow the plot don’t bother the author will reset the cube. It must have been knocked off kilter when that white goat charged me in a bowl of stars.      
Your procrastinating author slowly makes his exams and prepares for the busyness and obligations of his career. There is the cool side of interacting with kids all day. But then there is the rigorous aspect of actually teaching them things. In Bhutan teaching is a dream but exams are a nightmare. The exams must follow a formulaic pattern and adhere to government standards. This will be ensured by the administration who will edit the exam questions before they reach the student.  The rub is making a fair exam while satisfying the requirements of the gho’s. While playing cards with Sangay Dema (class 4) I thought how much I missed teaching the younglings. It might be nice to teach different age groups next year but of course that is not entirely up to me. Teaching each age level has its boons and challenges. My very first teaching encounter was with preschool students in South Korea. They tested me to the limit but I have yet to connect with students in that way since. Every stage of education is equally important to a child’s development. It’s a heady gig but worthwhile and soul fulfilling. The author realizes that he can grow and assert himself more as a teacher. I imagine all teachers are self critical in this way. I realize that this is not merely a job or for that matter a career. Rather a way of life or calling. I wasn’t called to this profession but am learning to embrace the path. Actually the students pull me along and motivate me to try my best when I am tired or lazy. I need to put more effort into my students which means extending the workday and sacrificing things. Sacrificing is “like that only” you give and you get. My family and donors gave so much to get me here. Now it’s my turn to sacrifice for the kids.  Everything is a trade off and you can’t have it all. Overall it’s been a successful year and I am proud of the work I’ve done so far. I think I’ll reward myself with a cold coke.

The final day of Zongdopelri Tsechu was an auspicious one. I spent the morning preparing exams before ascending the mountain. The place was packed and trash was everywhere. I spent the afternoon talking with Butterfly and students and circumambulating the small temple. The masked dancing was especially poignant on this Wacky Wednesday. The main Cham featured a procession of students in a fine assortment of gho and kira escorting a masked Guru Rinpoche under a rainbow tasseled parasol. The mask was a golden cast of the Guru’s serenely smiling face with downcast eyes and curly cue mustache. In the center of the circle the masked dancers enacted the century’s old saga of the Guru adorned in breathtaking regalia. While the dancers twirled the entire community formed a great line to receive a blessing from the lama who sat under the glimmering mask of the beloved Second Buddha. The lama touched a sacred object to my forehead giving soothing warmth to my brow. As the sun sank behind the ridge and light crowned the mountain the dancers peeled off and disappeared into heaven. I was deep in rapture watching the amazing footwork and techno colored robe of the last dancer.  Dancing is my instrument and primary means of expression transcending everything that I am. I was hypnotized, my soul connected to the movements and rhythm of the ancient ceremony.  Although I often feel displaced here there are moments of oneness like watching the final dancer disappear behind the gloamings curtain. Something about it reminded me of the beauty of life and certainty of death.                

Cubed (Zongdopelri Tsechu 2012)

We are made of light*
only particles chipped off
the techno colored
Guru’s Cube
reincarnated endlessly
wearing our enemies mask
tearing each other apart,
making love
in samaras’ icy fire
all told in finite dance
kicking dust
upon golden earthy crown

*Line from the Jonah Bornstein poem, “We are made of light”

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hands Across The Himalayas Review

“Gravity’s rainbow, childhoods end, nobody else but a Fish head man” Zeke

Namkith Lepcha and Dechen Tshomo asked me to define gravity in homeroom. I explained it to Namkith who relayed it to Dechen in Sharshop. Gravity is the great equalizer and we all must learn to live under its heavy influence. Another Saturday at Tsenkharla brought haircuts for the boys. One teacher mercilessly chopped my Class 7 boy’s hair leaving them all with ridiculous receding hairlines. One boy left the classroom in tears and I had to run out to console him. Hair is an important expression in male adolescent Bhutanese life. Many like to spike it up Korean style or as Principal quipped, “like porcupines” Students wear uniformed gho and kira so they look to express themselves as individuals through jewelry, tattoo’s, and hair. Ironically male teachers have hairstyles that are against the school code. I am too sick to roam so I cleaned up the hut instead. I am on the mend but still am suffering flu symptoms. At assembly we were all informed that there will be no class Monday through Wednesday due to the Zongdopelri Tsechu. I am fortunate to receive a second share of Tsechu. The time off will allow me to heal and begin preparing my exam papers and review lessons. I am beginning to get nostalgic about completing my time with both my classes. Lately the rapport with my students has improved dramatically. My class 8 captain Chogi hung out in my hut for an hour. He is a delightful boy who has never been beyond Trashigang. He is very curious about how much everything in my home costs. I am very fortunate to be able to teach and travel experiencing different cultures and meeting fascinating people. Living in Bhutan and building relationships with vastly different people is a wonderful thing. Bhutanese students are incredibly savvy and hip for remote village kids. They have an instinctual humor and earthiness that is unparalleled. I get visited frequently by Sangay Dema and Tswering Choden who remind me of Kate and Cal, twin girls I babysat back in the USA. I dug deep in my care packages for lollypops and super- balls to give them. Kids are the same wherever you go on a base level. The landscape turns from green to gold to brown while exotic birds with rainbow hoods and impossibly long tails skip from branch to branch. The compound explodes with orange marigolds and soon the trees will lose their leaves, roses will fail, and the temperature will plummet. It hasn’t rained in two weeks. I got a courtesy call from Meena at headquarters to talk renewal. Sabrina was in the office traveling with her parents and said hello. Her tone was positive as ever! We have five teachers extending including Becky, Delaine, Sheal, Andrea, and myself. Many others are moving on to amazing opportunities including Ian and Vicky who are going to Tanzania. They will be missed in the east. They have put up dozens of people the last two years in their lovely home. A stopover in Rangjoon included impeccable hospitality, gourmet food, cocktails, and tons of laughter. I was fortunate enough to travel with them to Sakteng and fulfill a dream in the process. At the same time I look forward to an influx of talented new teachers and potential friends. For now I embrace the dragon and the idle hours of Bhutan.

“And gravity has made a fool of you” Grief Snafu

Cows are Omni present in Bhutan. They roam the National Highway and the campus. They are woven into the fabric of life used for work and producing cheese, butter, and milk. One brown cow at Zongdopelri is an impressive behemoth that would make a devout Hindu reverent. Lost in the forest one hears the tinker of cowbells carried in the wind along with a hungry or anguished moo. Along with the cows we have goats and cicada type insects who rattle in the bushes like Zeke’s maracas. And of course the stray dogs!  Outside my door students study on my windowsill and have set up desks on my porch. They utilize the night light cramming before exams. It’s quite cozy in a rural village and every creature plays a part. I can’t believe how weird my life is here as a lone American immersed in a Bhutanese village perched atop a mountain with views in every direction. Perched atop a mountain with views in every direction! I will never have an opportunity to live like this again and make a profound difference. One might say that even on a difficult day, life is good. Slowly my perspective changes a few degrees as the Himalayas push up another millimeter towards heaven. It’s a slow process and then there’s an earthquake.  Maybe the experience has toughened up this soft shelled crab a bit. At least the author has his delusions to cling to in this fairytale, evading the dragons bite or the Wicked Witch of the East. Or is it the West? As it turns out Bhutan is more challenging then I had imagined. I remember my dad groaning, “Oh my son, do you really want to go there” He had been reading the blogs and was concerned. God I can’t imagine a skeptical parent’s reaction to “tiger” and the author apologizes. I am not a normal earthling so these words may be taken with a grain of salt and freshly stirred colortini. As for the anecdote I only grinned at pops and changed the subject to an episode of Louie. But daddy-o you were right, it is not easy in the LOT. But great endeavors never are. Dad your son is like a Catholic missionary spreading truth in the form of education. My mind often turns back to the pages of “Archbishop” the book Morgan gave me the evening before I left. All I can remember is what a brat I was to her that night. How would Willa Cather describe this landscape? I can’t do it justice although Zeppa did it nicely. And Jamie if you ever talk to Catherine give her a hearty “What Up” for me and tell her to drop by “tiger” and that Madam Dechen misses her. I am teaching class seven in one of the original structures, a relic from her time at Rangthangwoon. What would Miss McAdams think of the five new roads and cell tower above the temple? I try my darnedest to continue the legacy of those who laid the track always mindful not to “destroy the culture.” Finally I am reaping the harvest of the seeds I have sown with my students. As cliché as it might sound I have learned as much from them as they have from me. It’s been an amazing journey from fundraising to the conclusion of my inaugural year. The author and protagonist extend a hearty thank you to his readers and donors across the universe. You inspire me to put my best foot forward and keep this blog prowling in cyberspace.     

“Lord feel the gravity; feel that humidity, it’s great to be where you’re supposed to be, like a fish beneath the sea” Fountains of Neptune

There are several indispensible elements of my current life including Trashigang, Zongdopelri, and Becky. We burn up the invisible wires like sixth graders gossiping on a Friday Night. Becky is a useful soundboard and non judgmental counterpart. The truth is she’s a bit nutty herself but don’t tell her I said that. She’s a salt of the earth type who attracts many people as friends with little effort. Our conversations are ridiculous, hilarious, and occasionally insightful and have even blown my mind. I value humor among human traits and she possesses an abundance of it. We have lived similar lives yet are extremely different people. You would think we’d more likely have met on “Shakedown Street” than the Dragon Roots conference room. Nonetheless we united at an auspicious junction on this turn. Her friendship is valued more than gold and if the author goes mad you will have to count on her for the pertinent details. It’s remarkable to imagine another twelve months together after we both vowed for one year on a cold Thimphu walk to Nancy’s house.  What were we so upset about anyway? Disorientation was rough I reckon. Another thing Becky and I have in common is a love for strange village encounters. She recently witnessed an impromptu Brokpa masked dance in “downtown” Phongmay celebrating the arrival of winter. (I KNOW IT’S NOT A TOWN!) I just fly by the shops bantering with the crazy auntie who slobbers dolma juice like a lion gorging on a zebra. Meanwhile kids run and bow dancing in the street. Paint it with a crescent moon for evening moods.   

The Tsechu at Zongdopelri was much smaller than the Shakshang affair. The temple never looked finer draped in gold tapestries flapping in the breeze. There was some nifty masked dance interrupted by spinning dust devils. Rinchen Wangmo served lunch as I chatted amicably with students. The gold landscape introduced itself to a purple dusk. Even in a friendly crowd I felt homesick as I walked the pyrite path down the mountain. I have fallen out of my routine or perhaps just miss my family. I realize another year will be a long time to be away from home. Now I must dig in for the grind of the long distance haul. I pause to watch the white river cut through the narrow parched valley.  The moon rises over the rumpled ridges of Arrunachal Pradesh as I tiptoe along the border reviewing everything that came before. For I moment I forget who I am.