Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Money For Gasoline

 “Spin the wheel like Ezekiel”

Now that I got my message from Bobby I am packed and ready for the Mother Ship to swoop down and carry us off to another dimension which is merely a vast shift in consciousness. So we will remain on earth but it will be a “New Earth” for the chosen ones or more aptly the ones who are able to slip through the portal. In the waning hours of “Old Earth” I sequestered myself in a classroom and meticulously filled out my progress reports from the seven page spreadsheet. This task taxes my vision and I must be extremely careful to copy the correct mark in the correct space on the report card. I labored in the bare wooden room as sparrows hopped around the floor.  As dusk fell I finished and now am one step closer to departure as I only have to seal the marks and ask my principal for permission to leave. My vessel through the Mayan Portal will be a reserved taxi with Ashleigh for 6,600 Ngultrum.  We plan to leave early from T-Gang driving all day to reach Bumthang on a Saturday Night. I’ll be able to spend some time with Martin and Tara before joining them on a bus to Thimphu on the 19th. I will presumably have the option to meet Tyler and mom in the capital or receive them in Paro! God Bless Tshenkharla but I am ready to go. The weather has turned cold as the landscape sheds its leaves returning to a natural state of slumber. The High pressure has yielded to clouds that mix with wood smoke to create a silkscreen haze. I limp into my next adventure glad to complete my first official year as a teacher. I am winterizing the house and praying for water to scrub my dishes and do a final wash.

I have learned the last two weeks how much I miss my students and how they sustained me throughout the year with their humor and curiosity. I am very excited to implement some new techniques and ideas into my lessons next year. The Vice Principal complimented me on the improvement of the class 8 students in speaking English. It was nice to be recognized but the students deserve all the credit. The one accomplishment I feel most proud of is that many of my students are not shy when speaking English. Overall it’s been a humbling year of getting to know the student’s abilities and feeling my way through a different education system. Now it’s time to take the “Hands Across the Himalayas” campaign on a “Himalayan Odyssey” which will include a stop at the beach in Thailand before continuing on to Nepal. I have no expectations for the trip other then enjoying quality time with my family. I realize this is my third goodbye and wish you all the greatest holiday season and happiest new year. If all goes well the tiger will reappear in about two months unless the portal leads the beast into the cosmos forever. GRRRRRRRR!   

Sunday, December 9, 2012

2012 reprise

2012 reprise
Part 1: Lost in paradise

“…paradise I’m living for each and every day…” Jorma  

Each day I find myself in the practice of the wild, roaming the trails that lead away from my hut. The broader landscape can be defined by three temples, Zongtopelri, Shakshang, and Darchen. Darchen is the oldest and I have only reached it once with my class 8A. It sits on a mountaintop at the base of high pasture land that rolls out towards Yangtse and Arrunachal Pradesh. My only memory of this place was my students running free like characters from the Sound of Music in the illustrious green of July on the massive pastures. Shakshang is about two hours below Darchen and is quite old perched on a second peak with views in all directions. I took a student with me to talk to the lama about the horrible trash problem at this remote temple. Today I discovered a fourth temple at a village below Darchen where I serendipitously encountered some class seven boys. They are “farm kids” and let me in their tiny bare board temple, housing dozens of holy texts wrapped in cloth and sandwiched between wooden blocks. What secrets are contained in Sanskrit obscured from my limited western mind? This tiny settlement is where the new road ceases. They are planning a new temple to replace the old one and I felt honored to be perhaps the only westerner to step inside this site. The kids prattled on about monkeys and leopards while an elder served me tea. The temple was full of holes that were clogged by cow dung. The sun sank low and I descended to Zongtopelri the newest temple located only twenty minutes above campus. In between these sites are more minor temples, ruins, and wilderness broken occasionally by fields and farms. Most of the locals I meet on the path are out foraging or harvesting from the “jungle.” One beautiful woman I met on the canal (speaking no English) merely breaks up rocks all day with a tiny hammer. In rural Bhutan everyone seems to know their place. Society consists of family and neighbors which make folks accountable to one another. Where do I fit in? The huts and farmhouses seem built in to the landscape or at least in some unified space. On the eastern or dry side the river snakes through an uninhabited wasteland. Up high is the domain of ravens and wind, Blue Mountains Walking shoulders hunched to the sky and toes dipped into the glossy river. Below Kinney a giant phallic shaft presses its head into the tight crease of the river and ejaculates in cream rapids. On a chorten a stone engraving depicts deities making love in the lotus position. Yin and yang is the coming together of male and female around the natural universe. Hard wood enters the mossy cave, birth, death, growth, and decay. Nothing is immune to the sprouting mushroom not even the mighty ego of man.  

Mine is a small corner of the Himalayas which stretches for thousands of miles connecting various cultures, countries, and religions. On the other end of the chain Afghans and Americans blow each other up. (What business does the U.S.A have in the Himalayas anyhow?)  My part of the range flows down from Tibet and into the hinterland of Northeast India eventually crumbling into the Burmese hills, an odd locality for me to find my heart home. The world is a vast place and endlessly diverse. Being a creature of habit (or a habitual creature according to Phuntsho) it was hard to step out of my comfort zone when I sailed off to Korea five years ago. I was wounded in love and running away but ultimately happened upon a new world. That new world was the city of Seoul and its neon jungle and vast subway system, a pulsating vibrating Asian metropolis.  I briefly found companionship with a lovely Korean woman who I met through the internet. The lesson here is that anything is possible and now I bounce deep into the Blue Mountains finding love again. This time my connection is with Sister Earth as my radius expands beyond identity. But wherever I go I must contend with myself and my baggage accumulated from too many laps in samsara. ANXIETY is my teacher but I don’t want to learn the lesson. You ain’t gonna learn what you don’t want to know, right?  While I am slipping away into the dragon’s gullet my clan gathers at “home.” Tyler tells me he accessed Bobby’s lair (TRI Studios) for an intimate performance. Wow my bro and hero sharing the same space! That ten thousand course meal seems delightful compared to steamed rice. I am ONLY 1 + 9,999 and I hope the vacancy outside my celestial hut absorbs all the pain of this life and transmutes IT into peace. MAY PEACE PREVAIL! I know my head will always be a runway for demons but at least I can be the air traffic controller. For now I must sweep DESIRE under the rug especially the NEED for a mate. In the stillness inside Zongtopelri a voice told me to stop seeking and that I would be found. But as I veer off the trodden path I wonder WHAT will find me? Perhaps solitude is my price and as I mentioned earlier I owe the universe (friends, family, and government) tons of currency. Holding on tightly has made me sick and I can’t move on until I let go of the past. I’ve heard it said that love is the greatest possession we can have, but maybe we are ONLY possessed by LOVE.  And if that’s the case love can mutate and oscillate but not dissipate. (Love is like water) Perhaps I could love myself and be a better teacher since I have been notoriously greedy for my share while not sharing with others. This is my LOT in life standing naked on a ridge straddling the void.

(Sympathy For The Devil Interlude)

While sitting on a rock between Zongtopelri and Shakshang Lucifer rode up the trail on a ruby pitchfork. His body resembled a small dragon but his face resembled a bearded human with wavy black hair. He had an onerous charm and was draped in a crimson robe. He hovered next to me soaking in my aura for awhile before vaporizing into charcoal mist. From our intimate encounter HE struck me as confident in his clout with the HUMAN RACE as a subversive deity who always evades destruction by working closely with MAN. It’s only natural that MAN would identify with a fallen angel rather than enlightened BEINGS. I remained on the rock watching a RAVEN frozen in the jet stream for ten minutes before it tumbled left gliding towards India. 

Part 2: Oddball Endings AKA It’s Up To You OR everything I needed to know I learned in Bhutan

“Love is a service done” Kimock

I love Bhutan but things do frustrate me as you already know. For one thing my salary is always more than a month late. The exam process is also irritating since the students are not allowed to use their names only index numbers and both the making and marking must follow a specific format. But if the author adjusted his attitude these things might not matter so much.  Last night I felt so exhausted, and exasperated I turned in at 7. I awoke at 7 the next morning to magnificent golden light coating every molecule. So I got up and got to work cleaning and marking. The best advice I can give myself and new teachers here is to be proactive when the system gets you down. It’s hard to believe I’m so resistant to things after a whole year which is one reason I need another to gain perspective.  We had a whole hour of water today so I frantically scrubbed my stove, did a wash, and prepared lunch and SPECIAL TEA. Eating regular meals always helps my head instead of Kit Kat’s, Coke, and Cheese balls. You must stay friends with yourself and keep an internal ally when the going gets Bhutanese. Luckily the landscape doesn’t give a damn about my ups and downs and always IS. I had a good day letting my negative thoughts float away like a red balloon rising to the sky. Sensing my frustration Meena (from BCF) reminded me to be courteous and patient and I reminded myself to smile throughout any difficult tasks.
I enjoyed reading Reidi’s article for her hometown newspaper as she is an exceptional writer. You can find the piece on the BCF blog page. I echo many of her sentiments about the travails and triumphs of teaching in Bhutan and believe we had similar boarding schools and experiences. I would have liked to get to know Reidi better but in Bhutan we are all spread out so far. She is a remarkable woman who strived to find success for her students in the classroom each day. Kudos Reidi for a job well done and I wish you Tashi Delek in your next adventure! Speaking on behalf of my colleagues we all enjoyed personal and professional growth this year, and for some of us it was our first year in the classroom and/or traveling abroad. Those 2013 teachers who might follow Tiger through the neurotic jungles of my mind may think Bhutan is a harsh place. I am melodramatic and outrageous in my complaining and each journey into Bhutan will be different. I hope all go in with fresh eyes and take this blog with a grain of salt. On the other hand I hope my rants have been informative in some way. The truth is I am thin skinned for such endeavors but have learned something of myself throughout this academic year. If any 2012 teachers are reading this THANK YOU for all your help and inspiration…And Vicky sorry for spilling the beans early about Africa J

Back at Zongtopelri the miracles of the elements unfold in a configuration we call life. Rinchen Wangmo grinds chilies into powder while kids play at her bare feet. Pine needles fall to the ground as a raven shows off its aeronautical prowess. I sit on a rock with the blues missing things I don’t really need. But the panoramic view provides solace and for a moment I forget who I am, eyes cast down to a carpet of russet needles bathed in bullion light. One moment free from thought sparks an expansion of consciousness same as death. WHY BE AFRAID OF SOMETHING BILLIONS OF LIFEFORMS HAVE EXPEREINCED BEFORE? I crack my billionth Coke in paradise and take a swig of the real thing. I am like an advertisement for the stuff and even Becky and Vicky have consumed more of it around me. Upon descending little babes who can barely speak yell Mr. Tim before cackling and retreating. I poach a free meal of pork at the mess and recall Becky’s tale of a Brokpa dragging half a cow carcass up a muddy trail. NOONE EVER ADMITS SLAUGHTERING THE BEAST SINCE THAT WOULD BE NON BUDDHIST! Darkness finds us early as the winter solstice creeps nearer and night can be lonely and cold. THE HUMAN CONDITION IS LONELY ISN”T IT? Yes it is but that’s okay too as I am left to sort through my bag of karma. For instance what is the penalty for destroying one love and abandoning another? And what is the toll of fear, anger, jealousy, and hate? AIN”T NO TIME TO HATE BARELY TIME TO WAIT. Negativity spins its own psychic wheels with their own propulsion and momentum. When we spin the prayer wheels we reverse course taking a moment for reverence. WHAT ARE YOU THANKFUL FOR? I am thankful for all of YOU reading this nonsense and for being placed at Tsenkharla.

Ten Things I’ve learned in Bhutan (if not put into practice)

1. Be patient with culture, students, and self
2. When you fail don’t get discouraged and try again
3. The kids (although shy at first) are the best in the world
4. Be polite and graceful with the locals/ Don’t destroy the culture
5 Laugh at yourself whenever you can
6. Don’t rock the boat, work from within
7. Always inform your principal La where you’re going
8. Love Emadatsi
9. Make a good friend at orientation, your gonna need them
10. Enjoy the ride!


“Storyteller makes no choice, soon you will not hear his voice, his job is to shed light, not to master” Terrapin

Time might be on my side, but it’s running out on this academic year. I am sifting through computer issues and slowly knocking out the drab task of entering grades. I still have hours of paperwork and entering data before the task is done. Exams in Bhutan are tedious and take up half your calendar. I am also trying to clean up and pack for vacation and still have not set a date for departure and am facing some logistical complications. You will just have to take my word that I finished my first year teaching and am successfully on my way towards Paro to meet my family. Clouds have recaptured the mountains and the forest continues to shed its leaves. The trails are unusually quiet with little harvesting or foot traffic. Even the birds have migrated somewhere except the presence of a vocal raven on a pine bow. Class Ten students remain engaged in two weeks of examinations that will dictate the rest of their life. A few will go on to free college while most will return to villages or enter the workforce. The ones who don’t pass the standard can attend private school for a hefty price that most families can’t afford. Boys study outside my window on the sill at 4 A.M with blankets wrapped around them and three Indian teachers from Mongar, here for invigilation, are sleeping in my home classroom. The flowers have died except a few hearty roses and geraniums and the nights are hazy with no stars in sight for the foreseeable future. It’s time to move on. There is not much going on in the village but I enjoy sitting around Sonam’s shop eating rice with Dooktoe and the village children. In these easy silences I feel a part of something and not such an outsider.

Back in Marin Bobby graciously recorded a video message to me from TRI. My bro’s phone cut out after five seconds but I did get, “Oh. Hey. hi Tim, I hope you’re enjoying Bhutan…He was very animated with a cool wave, and his eyes lit up and he smiled when mentioning Bhutan! Here’s my brothers account,

Bobby saying Hi to you and hopes your enjoying Bhutan.

the BRUTAL part is that my phone died RIGHT after that (5 seconds long), but i pretended to keep filming as he went on to tell me that he has always wanted to go to india and bhutan and that he hopes you are finding lots of adventure there.  I told him that you want him to bring scaring the children there and he laughed. 

off camera i also told him that we call you ratboy, and when i asked if he wouldn't mind saying hi to you in a video, he asked if he should call you ratboy?  i said no, Tim.

I am deeply grateful to both my brother and Bobby for the message that filled my heart with joy. I am also satisfied that I am fulfilling my hero’s aspiration and now must go to India.


Here is a poem I have resurrected from June and combined with “Tawny Moon.” I can’t believe some of the “raw” poetic material I have posted most of which should never see the light of day. Let’s call them works in progress…


The four winds blow
on an erect white flag
carrying a scrap of Sanskrit
down tawny terraces
over the Dagme Chu,
where the Guru’s hinterland
reveals a bare lotus
with exposed folds
pulling on the surface  
of a russet shaft
now spurts the silver river
creamy liquid
sloshes pyrite sand
through a wasteland
palisades on crags,
and the ring of mountains
crowned by clouds

(Note to self if selected for BM double space as a means to create airiness between the lines)

Monday, December 3, 2012


“Sometimes we must lose in order to gain” Morgan Morning

Part 1: Perfect Strangers

Today was brisk and hazy with magic swirling in the breeze. I sat by a cooking fire while Rinchen Wangmo made corn feed for the cows. She has two bulky female cows who she grooms and whips. Bhutanese and cows have a symbiotic relationship where people get milk, cheese, and butter. Rinchen braided her lustrous raven hair displaying her classic Bhutanese features in front of the decaying orchard. Rinchen spends her life humbly serving the temple, lama, husband, and children. She seems peaceful and content going about her daily chores with a babe strapped to her back in colorful striped fabric. We had a pleasant conversation even though she has never been to school. The forest above the temple was quiet except for the wind whooshing through the cypress. Pine cones cover the ground and thistles cling to brown stems. At 4:20 a smoky haze permeated the cerulean sky making the contours of the mountains appear soft like a Chinese masterpiece hung with a tawny Tawang moon. I communicate with a raven in an interspecies dialogue; she took notice of my position gliding overhead. Maybe Nancy was right when commenting, “Why would you need to go anywhere?” Yet coming home is my favorite part memorizing the endless twists and turns of the road from Doksom to my doorstep. The barren brown landscape that depressed me upon arrival now soothes my soul. Watching the earth return to slumber is a beautiful phenomenon and I love this time of year on the mountain. I have never lived in a place where I have appreciated the seasons this much. The pristine river runs a course of liquid emeralds and pearls and the canyon between Chasm and Gom Kora is rough as a Boise cowgirl at a midnight rodeo. Above Doksom thin pines disperse into sweeping amber grass and roadside plots adorned with bamboo, orange, banana, and poinsettia. The farms are a tiny oasis etched into the rocky slopes where grandmothers herd cattle and goats chew grass. This aspect of village life resonates deeply with teachers in rural placements. Living here is reclamation of something lost in the western psyche. This is Shangri-La, a hard and immensely beautiful place. A fantastic mosaic of Himalayan peaks, verdant valleys, and steamy jungles. There is more beauty here then the senses can absorb but slowly I rub the sleep from my third eye and start to see clearly. I can finally feel my feet on the dusty trail like Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the lunar service.

 Part 2: Fake Out Endings

My class 7 and 8 kids have left campus for the year. They will return on results day where I will see them one final time. The end of the year fades out like stars in the fog. Next year I will surely have a party enabling better closure. The class 10 students keep a skeleton crew at the hostiles as they prepare for their exams. It’s a mixed bag since I miss my students but enjoy the quiet respite.

I like getting together with other BCF teachers to discuss our experiences in the field. We can address culture clash and student rights in the privacy of the KC Hotel or on the phone. We all love Bhutan dearly but also are advocates for student rights. Issues include corporal punishment (beating) and gender equality. Most schools favor boys in athletics and school life. Some schools lock the girls up in their hostiles for “their own protection.” I have talked with most of my colleagues and we all care deeply for the welfare of the students. This should not be seen as slanderous towards the Kingdom in any way, but merely observations from educators outside the culture. Culture is Bhutan’s greatest asset but also entrenches the population in patterned behaviors prescribed primarily by religion. I enjoyed talking to a lovely national teacher at Phuntso’s shop in T-Gang. She was from Punakha and had traveled outside Bhutan to neighboring countries. This enamoring lady engaged me in a lengthy conversation on a variety of topics. It was so refreshing to have an earnest chat with a Bhutanese. As a teacher we can only change the system by positively interacting with our students. I support my kids pride in Bhutan but also challenge them to think independently and draw their own conclusions. In a culture where Buddhism is so engrained it is easy to understand the fervent nature of Bhutanese faith. Elaborate ritual is the lifeblood of the local brand of religion mixing Himalayan Buddhism with aspects of animistic bon, and a generous serving of Ara. As an outsider such a mysterious faith is both attractive and appealing. Although one BCF teacher remarked the country couldn’t move forward until they left their religion behind. Out in the east the villagers toe the cultural line wearing gho and kira and living a relatively simple life. It will be interesting to return to the capital and see the teens with dyed hair and leather jackets. I most enjoy my solitary hikes among remote farmhouses with families tending the fields and animals like they have done for centuries. I can’t imagine a world without rural Bhutan. This place will always throb in my heart and run through my veins like the waters of the Kulongchu.
As I mark the pile of exams I am pleased at my student’s progress in writing and their retention of the stories. I extensively reviewed for the test since they will see a similar format on their board exams in a few years. Obviously there is a range in scores but overall I have seen vast improvement. I have a lot of work to do this week but hopefully should have all my ducks in a row soon. I don’t favor the administrative aspect of teaching and prefer the classroom activities. But I am giving the exams my full concentration on behalf of the students.

Winter approaches and the days get shorter and the nights colder. I go to bed earlier tiring of huddling around my heater watching reruns of Curb. I like my life here but still get lonely and crazy. One experiences extreme highs and lows while in Bhutan. It is a physically and mentally demanding place that takes a toll. I am actually missing my routine as the fall has been an unsettling stage. But it all hinges on attitude. A classmate of mine at Dominican called it PMA or positive Mental Attitude. It’s the same for everyone on earth, from a paraplegic veteran, to Tony Robbins. Sometimes a rich man is miserable when an ascetic monk is enlightened. Whoever we are and whatever we believe, we all have a diverse lot in life. But attitude is a personal choice and one of my personal challenges. I have a knack for recognition of beauty in everything but myself. Deep down it is hard to love yourself and if we did there would be no strife in this world.  Blah Blah Blah you would probably get sounder advice at Lucy’s Dime Psychology Booth. But on a freezing East Bhutan night your author has ample opportunity to pontificate on such matters and let it all spring forth in a torrent of consciousness. Bottoms Up!

Here’s a fun fact. I am actually the third foreign teacher at Tsenkharla. The first was a Canadian named Vera followed by Catherine. Then Mr. Tim arrived twenty years later. Nancy told me this at the picnic by Tsangma’s ruin. I feel embroidered into the historical fabric of East Bhutan. But the brocade is grander than that patch. We all play our part in the history of the world and may rewind back through the slime and meteors to the antediluvian techno colored cube; located in an undisclosed location through a black hole at the center of the pre-universe. It’s fun at night to lie awake and consider such quandaries as god and the nature of the universe. Perhaps god was blasted from the nucleus of that cube contained in the very same stardust that created us, which would mean our gods are imperfect as their children. And if there was no divine force (which we will name god) would that be any less astounding. Perhaps the ONE we call god is merely another boundary imposed on the unknowable universe by man’s imagination. I caught a whiff of IT in the fragrant opaque mountain air, an aroma distinctly Bhutanese or Brokpa in essence. The scent of burning wood and horse manure makes the soul howl eternal YES!

As I sit here Jerry picks a nonfictional banjo tune singing in a raspy voice, “I truly understand you love another man and your heart shall no longer be mine” Fuckin’ Jerry! Goodnight y’all from the LOT…

Part 3: Too Much of Nothing

 Outside the entrance to Zongtopelri is a fifteen foot high cactus spire. Rinchen Wangmo says her uncle brought it from Arrunachal Pradesh. The haze in the atmosphere made it as if we were talking inside a snow globe waiting to be shaken by a child’s hand. I lingered deep into grey twilight finally taking the familiar path home, descending through the forest passed Tsangma’s ruin and into Tsenkharla Village. I felt heavy upon awaking. I did three hours of marking then slid into the cold woods. I noticed the swirling lines on the surface of bark and a plethora of pinecones hanging from one of my favorite pines. Under the tree is a huge flat rock atop the ridge that is a great platform for sunsets over the mountains and Kulongchu. If you spin your bum around you can glimpse India through the branches. The forest on top of Tsenkharla Mountain is not tightly packed but thick with rhododendron and other shrubs. This wedge of earth is the head of the pin in a wilderness spanning two countries. Rocks of all sizes are scattered about the glades and meadows over the ridgeline. A few farmhouses fall off the trail in either direction and tucked in the folds of the mountain are small villages. The people get what they need from the land or so it appears. I always find myself on that particular trail at sunset feeling my way home in the gathering dusk. To live on the fringe is difficult. One must be at peace with the voices in their head. They must let go of all that is familiar jumping into a brave new world. The first step isn’t always the hardest either. Eventually life here becomes a glorious grind where survival is the key. If you can carve out a life here more power to you. I feel like a nomad wandering out of my hut. I have my ties to the students who keep my feet planted on the ground.

I finished marking my exams now comes the tedious part of entering them into spreadsheets and collecting and entering marks for my home class. I have been working in the morning and roaming in the afternoon. Then I report back to you the day’s philosophical blatherskite. Up at the temple I held Rinchen Wangmo’s baby girl who is Paige’s age. I miss my niece and nephew and family for the holidays. I am very fortunate to see my mom and bro for Christmas in Bhutan! (What would Jesus think of that?) So much of our perceived identity is wrapped up in context. For example your author identifies himself as the hard rock kid, the victim, the teacher. But down deep I might be something more and yet to be discovered. This first year has been an exercise in letting go. I am still reluctantly shedding my skin, a painfully slow process. Early on in life, I was fortunate to bind to a love bigger than the universe, and form some unique relationships with my heroes. Only now do I realize the “blessed” nature of my formative years on earth. On the surface nights of dancing and love made ripples of ecstasy spreading outward forever, while the pebble plummeted to the murky bottom to rest. Your author worked that metaphor for ten minutes and it still doesn’t convey the sentiment properly. Oh well, I won’t quit my day job but in the metaphor I was the pebble. Your author appreciates talent, but unlike Zeke I am not a genius. There is no shame in mediocrity as we can’t all be the tallest tree or have a ten inch phallus. I would settle for the gnarled oak above Shakshang with dead ferns spawning from its forked branches. This twisted tree radiates dark energy in the eerily silent grove. Shakshang has a powerful deity lurking around its crumbling temple and chortens. But the tree might be as old as that unnamable force. The road up there has disturbed the old growth forest slashing a z up the mountain. Shakshang used to seem a thousand miles from nowhere until I saw a tractor munching the mountainside. I have taken familiar trails only to be stuck in a landslides swath of destruction. Leaving a leaning dusty oak surrounded in a sea of death. Is it worth it for a few cars a day? Tsenkharla used to be the end of the road but now the Shakshang road snakes above campus from a different origin. Like the cell tower at Zongtopelri it’s all part of progress. Zongtopelri itself is only twenty five years old. But progress in Bhutan seems threatening or dubious, obviously a narrow minded and western outlook since I am only an employee of Bhutan.
I Hitchhiked to Yangtse and back today. I can’t get enough of the jungle and ravines along the way. The farms subside to undisturbed forest cut with gleaming waterfalls. Ivy chokes humongous oak, bamboo, and pine. The scene is a panda’s wet dream. Bumdeling has the elusive red panda which belongs to the raccoon family. I sloughed to the bridge at the mouth of the park before reversing course passed CK to Tsenkharla. Your author is left to go mad with his lovely students dispersed across the kingdom. What comes after losing the plot? Losing the book? My monkey thoughts rattle around my skull, and how long have I been wearing these socks anyway? I have a strange allergy and am addicted to “crazy cheese balls.” Perhaps the two are related? Your disoriented author concludes that one year is a long time in Bhutan and if it wasn’t for the T.V at the K.C Hotel he wouldn’t be sure the world outside the Kingdom exists. Thank God for Julia Roberts and Pretty Woman. Which reminds me, I had a dream I snuck into India for some KFC. Pathetic!   

In Yangtse today I lunched with Cricket who was Kendra’s former student. She wished me a “Merry Christmas” and told me about the “room” in Yangtse where nine families congregate for worship. She is Southern Bhutanese of Nepali origin. Trashiyangtse seems a long way from Bethlehem although in mileage its closer than San Francisco. But for both Jesus and Mr. Tim East Bhutan is the frontier. I last saw our savior taking a sun bath along the banks of perdition. That was August and I was parched to the point of hallucinations so that report might not be accurate. But if Jesus lives in the heart of a bright eyed Bhutanese girl then he is alright by me.

Part 4: The Deep End/ The Power of Wow!  

We have had so much fun with the losing the plot reference, isn’t it? Thanks to Vicky for handing that one down from last year. But I have driven it into the ground so for the rest of this year we will say “off the deep end” Is it?  This resonates with the author who was terrified of the deep end at his first swimming lesson.  And still feels uneasy in Lake Tahoe watching sunlight filter down into a cobalt abyss. Your author currently ONLY craves a French Dip…
This tiger winds down for hibernation or winds up for takeoff. I will be heading for Thimphu to meet my family and a grand adventure beyond the gates of the Kingdom. But as per my duty I will keep you updated on the goings on until departure. But the golden days of 2012 are a rank purple haze, a year that began by kissing a dragon. My mantra for 2013 is diversifying and intensifying!  
On a recent visit to Yangtse I sat on a park bench like Eckhart Tolle staring at the mesmerizing white dome of Chorten kora. The spell of this edifice unravels with each visit. The whitewashed kora is adorned with several points and the geometry of the structure connects the divine to human. The crags of the Himalayas tower overhead as rainbow prayer flags whistle along the emerald river. I hooked up with a lama for lunch then watched a man carve wooden bowls. The craftsman was the primary source for these famous bowls known throughout Bhutan. He operated out of a shed overflowing with sawdust and burls. Watching him Make the bowls was an intricate and intriguing process.
Nowadays the forest looks like the skin of an apple, all golden and red. There is richness and texture to each organism as Tsenkharla reveals her true beauty only at the end. The deep blue sky is pierced by prayer flags and pine tops. Ravens soar overhead making the run from Tsenkharla to Shakshang effortlessly. The mountains rock and roll in infinite contours but there is equal exquisiteness in the closer details. For example the endless variety of lichen on rocks with undersea colors of green, grey, and mauve. Or the splattering of a December sun on cypress needles. Or the babies rattle of the breeze in the oak leaves by the ancient ruin. Wispy whirly clouds twirl and curl around the peaks in a simper and the air is full of natural rhythms older than TIME. Where do I fit in? By the ruin I lay in the rocks as leaves fall over my body. I leave a trace of my DNA behind as I pick through the shrubs finding the overgrown trail. The sun sets in the west on its daily journey to California.  (The author associates the sun with his home state) Two ravens fly as one over Tsangma’s ruin in the fading daylight.

In this late hour your author is in rough shape. He misses his students, is thirsty, and struggles to complete his work. I had a breakdown today since I couldn’t locate my spreadsheet and no one was around to help me. The system here remains confusing and I have a hard time visually with the computer work. It involves entering other teacher’s marks for my home class. So I said FUCK IT and headed up the mountain to Zongtopelri and my bonpo shrine. Once in the forest my troubles washed away in the TIMELESS vista. In the woods the power of wow pulls the weary protagonist into the present moment. Its moments like these that I traded my life for. I hope to gain something from the sacrifice. All the things that brought me pain actually delivered me to this moment. Love lost, wrong turns, missed opportunities all led me to this greatest adventure. But the dragon is a fierce and fickle mistress who can eat you up at any point. I remind myself why I’m here and that is to serve. I must take care of myself so I can effectively inspire others. So perhaps this is a good place to end my words for this year of the Male Water Dragon. Now we are playing in the realm of odds and ends so I am sure I will have a few more parting shots for the reader. But if we get cut off before saying goodbye I would like to say thanks to all you out there in internet land who have visited this blog. I am eternally grateful to all my donors and well wishers around the globe. (If you dig a hole in the Santa Barbara sand you end up in Bhutan not China) When I feel alone and like an alien I draw strength from those who have supported and believed in me. Folks look to god or the heavens for inspiration when it can be found in humanity right here on earth. It took a village to deliver me to “my village” at the edge of East Bhutan. Although it is not a fairytale ending I look forward to completing my first year as a certified teacher. Perhaps if I knew what it takes to be a good teacher I would have given up before I started. But you have to take one step at a time and fake it until you make it. The kids make it all worthwhile in a profession that challenges my weaknesses. This mad dog typically runs amuck in an unstructured universe and this must be balanced against the responsibilities of being a teacher. GROW UP! If I had a dime for every time a loved one uttered that statement I would be able to pay them back. 2013 will be a hardnosed year at the grinding stone of Rangthangwoon. Everything I need to be content is here and it’s only a matter of attitude (or altitude) While deep inside the mountain the clockworks tick, a pendulum swinging forth the big shift in humanity. (Make sure to pack fresh undies!)

I can still remember believing in Santa and tossing and turning awaiting his arrival toting presents. One joy of being a teacher is recapturing the spark and innocence of wide eyed youth. I miss teaching the younglings but also enjoy influencing the burgeoning adolescent mind. Meanwhile I attempt to find my voice as a teacher with my first year behind and a career ahead. Yesterday at Zongtopelri Butterfly introduced me to some visiting Indians as a “new teacher” I liked this label and found it liberating in essence. My skills as an educator are raw and only beginning to develop and I can go up from here. The fact that I am writing these words to you is proof that dreams come true…


Love Mr. Tim