At moments it seems I have been here a lifetime. In manmade time it has been ten months since I stepped off the plane in Paro. Phew, it has been a wild ride. A terrifying rollercoaster that has made me sick but I rush through the turnstile to jump in the coaster again! The task at hand is correcting exams and filling out paperwork and computer spreadsheets. Brief encounters with students are a delight. I see the girls on the way back from the woods and the boys around the hut. One of my class seven girls was chewing dolma in the village her pursed lips stained red like a pro. I wonder how the mild stimulant was affecting her hyperactive and jovial personality. But the year grinds on towards completion in a most uninspiring way. I shouldn’t complain too much since teaching is easy here. Not that it isn’t hard work but the perks are plenty and the students a delight. Plus you are not dealing with North American hypocrisy rather Bhutanese hypocrisy.
The journey began at disorientation in Thimphu where I was fortunate to make connections with 14 other interesting folks. It was a mixed bag of cordial meetings, tea, and more meetings. I won’t miss the interior of the Dragon Roots conference Room. But get used to it, formalities are part of the charm of this unique culture. But on one hand the first two weeks in the capital were some of the best in Bhutan. Those fortunate enough to be heading east enjoyed a long sightseeing sojourn across the lateral road AKA The National Highway. I was mighty sick pretty much upon arrival, in fact I spent the first night in the bathroom doubled over. Of course the real fun begins when you reach your destination, most likely a backwoods village up a dusty road or in Becky’s case across two rivers.
After indoctrination the author doesn’t remember much but the reader can comb the blog for some of the details. I recall my first glimpse of Sakteng like a baby’s first breath, driving the eastern roads with Becky and Dorji, and one hellish excursion to the plains and back. At the end I feel a bit crispy like a deep fried insect from a Bangkok street stall, or a frickle (fried pickle) FYI, if you’re looking for this missing person, don’t bother, Bhutan has him now…
On my last trip to T-Gang I had dinner with Becky, Ian and Vicky at the bakery. After supper we ambled out to the lookout where the Dzong glowed like Guru Rinpoche’s golden crown. We stood as “The four friends” in the heart of East Bhutan. It was sad to say goodbye to Ian and Vicky, the Aussie couple who were so gracious in arranging the Sakteng Trek and opening their riverside home on numerous occasions. These two intrepid teachers and travelers will remain a source of inspiration for years to come and I wish them Tashi Delek in Tanzania.
This has been the most challenging and rewarding year of my life but my journey off the trail and on the path has only begun. Thank you for taking the time to track the tiger in a trance. I hope you are enjoying your own grand adventures around the world. Happy Holidays from Shangri La…
God Bless You or whatever you believe in.
The four winds blow
on an erect white flag
carrying a scrap of Sanskrit
through tawny oak
over harvested terraces
to the Kulongchu,
where the Guru’s hinterland
reveals a velvet lotus
with sensuous folds
pulling on the surface
of the moon