Monday, April 29, 2013

Auspicious Picture Walk 2013!



Namaste Namkith 

Mr. Tim


Dagme Chu

Tsenkharla family Hoisting Prayer on a stick

The Boys with the Noise!

Monday, April 15, 2013

April Apparitions

“What an evil road I took to find God. What a forsaken incline, all cliffs and precipices! I called and called, my voice rebounded from the Uninhabited Mountain and I thought it was an answer ” the Last Temptation of Christ

Darting Desire

On Saturday we held our first annual kids athletic events for the primary students with such fan favorites as tug of war, cross dressing dancers, and an obstacle course. I woke up early and headed to the temple to prostrate and pray. I’ve never set foot in there before noon and the golden light flooded through the curtains in the attic resting on the smiling eyes of Buddha. On the first floor I touched my head three times to the cool patch of marble and noticed the peacock feather I had given Rinchen Wangmo was placed on the altar. I could enter the sanctuary a million times and always notice something new. Today it was a character on the vast mural, a naked woman dancing holding her decapitated head. I perused the statues of Guru Rinpoche and Dorji Drolo his wrathful manifestation fornicating with a tigress while holding implements of torture, all indications pointed to a long day. After the school event I grabbed my knapsack and trod down the road towards Doksom. I wasn’t particularly craving company but fortune joined me to a soft spoken boy named Karma as we walked all the way past Kamdung before the Tsenkharla bus picked us up. The VP and some students were on their way to the river near Gom Kora to collect rocks so I accepted a ride. We stopped in Doksom where a topless woman bathed in the dusty street and marijuana sprouted from the gutter. The serpents of desire were coiling and copulating in eastern Bhutan but regardless I found a canteen and ordered beef curry. I continued on with the bus and watched the class ten boys haul huge stones for landscaping before I backtracked to Gom Kora to try to purge my deviant soul. Upon arrival I noticed how well the monks had cleaned up after the festival and hurried to the interior of the complex climbing the rock where Guru Rinpoche subdued the serpent demoness centuries ago. The tree of life bent and creaked in a subtle breeze and I sat in this power spot trying to dissipate the black energy that clung to my core. The pagoda radiated blissful peace and I sat motionless for a spell then returned to the outer promenade to circumabulate. A few old women and a bare foot grandfather dutifully spun the handheld wheels and twisted rosary beads in their free hand. After my first lap I went inside the temple my bare feet gliding across the glossy cherry wood floor to receive a blessing from a novice monk wielding a brass jug, fake sipping the holy water with my right hand and running it through my hair. Back outside on my second lap God placed another serpent in my path in the form of a fetching woman cradling a sleeping toddler. After my third lap I ambled up to her for a chat. She was an elfin lady with pointy ears and extra teeth and a hard knotted chin with huge bare feet which I found myself fondling, next to her a satchel of mint wafted into the spring air. I tore myself away and walked to the road where the school bus was already waiting. On the way home I dozed off and in the flat light of evening we reached Tsenkharla.

On my walk home from the village I wondered what has happened to me. Is my heart harder or softer now? And when will this tiger awake from his trance to seize the glory of god’s kingdom, to pounce on his mate and devour her? The whole village had turned out for a Bhutanese film and I spied Rinchen Wangmo looking plump and ripe in a red fleece and matching scrunchy and my neighbor’s daughter who’d returned from Delhi dressed in black velvet decorated with painted pink toenails caused my loins to ache, “So you like chinkies do you!?” she proclaimed “Yes I have yellow fever!” I retorted “Chinkies are dangerous don’t you know.” she replied “All women are.” I rebutted. You might be gagging at the author’s insatiable perversion but I am running on nature’s fumes and apparently in rut with only my right paw to insatiate me.
As I prepared my Emadatsi it occurred to me that Bhutanese people’s moods are far less perceptible than my own. Of course some are jolly and others reserved but they stick to their disposition and don’t fluctuate wildly like phelincpa’s do. As I returned home I observed how much boarder life resembles prison life. The students are encased with barbed wire and they sleep in crowded barracks given tasks to perform throughout the day and are rationed free time. They don’t seem to complain but it’s a tough life and despite having considerably more freedom it still seems necessary for me to flee from campus whenever possible. Today’s excuse was to get off the mountain and listen to the river spirit!    

The Sabbath Lament

The water workers have increased the flow on Sundays so it’s a fine opportunity to deep clean the house. I am not that fastidious but even I have my breaking point and it was time to scrub the bathroom and floors of the wash room that were coated in thick goo from washing my dishes. I often laugh and think about if my aunt Mare lived here, she would spend every waking hour absorbed in cleaning. Today I even cleaned out my buckets and then cleaned the cleaning utensils but I’m sur Mare would walk in and say "Oh Timmers” and start scrubbing and ordering me to do the same. But I do the best I can and wouldn’t say that I’m living in squalor exactly. Even when my modest hovel is shaped up flies buzz around and one never forgets they are living in a developing country (THE THIRD WORLD) now with cleaning done I turn my attention to planning lessons for the week.

In the afternoon I went up to Zangtopelri spending most of my time in the main chamber where I noticed on the wall a character sprouting blue angels wings and on my way home I passed Amadamma who had given birth to a calf and was nursing it. These days my heart is weighed down with loneliness and I wonder why? Am I like a missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle that escaped the box or a lone sock left at the Laundromat? I scan the terrain trying to commit the ridges to memory but they constantly shift like Blue Mountains Walking! All I see will someday perish and what then? Are we merely just dust and bone encapsulating a drop of liquid which will someday rejoin the river carried to the sea whence it came? Why do I feel afraid? What funny little creatures we are, how can I know what’s in your heart or you what’s in mine? But what happens to our souls when we die you cry? Do they ascend to heaven or jet into the bardo to be assigned a new body? In my marrow I believe we are ALL dispersed as light into the furthest reaches of the universe to be reformed into the collective...

Ranting and Raving

I always learn astounding things from my students. A few of their mothers and grandmothers have multiple husbands although this is less common with each passing generation. It could be viewed as a very communal and evolved way of thinking compared to our views of proper relationships in the West. The Fourth King has four comely wives who are sisters but the current King has only one wife a sign of the changing times. I think Bhutanese are much less stingy with themselves and possessions than us in the west. When they come over, they root through my belongings and read my postcards. Can you imagine that behavior in the west? They also take more rice and less curry and I am sure they view me as a greedy pig when I do the reverse. But you famished author is fed up with rice but always down for delicious curry. One common phrase a foreign teacher will here is “When in Bhutan act Bhutanese” Of course veneration and assimilation to the culture is important but it is equally imperative that we show them a different way. Most BCF teachers wear the national dress which appeases the locals. But I feel more comfortable in “shirt and pants” and reserve my gho for special occasions and still need my students help to dress me in the regalia. But as you probably glean I must let my freak flag fly and remain myself since that’s all I have to cling to. I revere Bhutanese culture but must retain my own link to American culture as well. Living here has made me both proud to be an American and proud to be a Guest of Bhutan. Make no bones about it these are a special group of people (their god’s chosen) I look in the smudgy mirror and see the same tired face but I am not the same. I’ve been Bhutanized..

As hail hammered the hut my dad called and we spoke about the future. My dad is both supportive and pragmatic and we enjoy a solid relationship supported by mutual admiration and humor. He advised me that the deferral of my student loans would expire in August 2014 and it would be prudent to return at the end of the year. Assuming this is my last year in Bhutan I must appreciate each moment living on Guru Rinpoche’s Copper Mountain of Paradise. He always relays his concerns about the Education job market in California and we discuss the International teaching scene. I am in no hurry to depart but must consider my next move to develop my career and begin to pay off my $35,000 debt. What I do know is that I enjoy teaching and living in Bhutan, a golden age for this golden boy. I also know I am doubly blessed to have a great family waiting for me when I return.     

Life in a village is strange and so are the Bhutanese. They like to get drunk in the Land of Terror and there seems a fair amount of voodoo too. It’s rumored that some even stick brown powder up their nose or huff chemicals and either cops or robbers are cutting the cannabis stalks at the entrance to Trashigang. Some smoke and chew tobacco and eat dolma, while others run pills and syrups from Assam. But I haven’t seen any of that, around here it’s just good old fashioned moonshine and maybe a little night hunting. My class seven student read that sometimes when she visits her granny she’s a little bit drunk and sometimes she’s a lot. Nothing is as it appears and demons run amuck getting into the invisible phone lines and coursing through my veins until I want to scream enough! Then a hot cup of tea or cuddle with Dawa balms my soul. Tonight I wandered through the village like Jesus in Galilee begging for alms in the form of supper. Dookto took pity on me and I devoured the simple curry on the bare wood floor listening to a curtain of rain cascade from the roof plopping onto the muddy road. If you haven’t noticed your author suffers from a pinch of cabin fever with restlessness burning his heart like hot coals. It seems just into the second lap his tank is out of gas but fear not cubbies I have a reserve!

So like all God’s children I wile away the time marking, planning, thinking, sleeping, and defecating frequently. I want to cry sometimes but nothing comes out so I sigh instead. My soul pangs, clangs, and my phantom spur’s jangle and sometimes when I feel like it I make a song. It seems I’m in a scene from Dances with Wolves as the locals banter in sharshop in dirty clothes with bloody dolma juice drooling from their mouths their half naked babes running around my feet. When I ask what is being said they merely ignore me or share a laugh at my expense. To sum it all up it’s primal out here on the fringe of the dragon’s tail but despite the histrionics life is alright...

School life brings routine and relief joy and frustration. I constantly ask myself am I making a difference. I check and recheck their writing but with so many students I can only do so much. I try to isolate errors but find I am weak in teaching grammar. I know they are improving in conversational English and that provides solace and satisfaction. They look at me like I’m from Mars when I howl like Dawa the dog and I have to explain so much from the novel by that same name. But teaching a novel is fun and it’s my supplication that they exalt in reading. But when will they have time to practice between prayer, dancing, chemistry homework, and sports. The boy’s hostel is more like a monkey house than a study hall. Any prospective BCF teachers out there if you like challenges this is the setting for you. When you do get through it’s a breath of fresh air and the atmosphere in my class is often exhilarating. Today one of my brightest students Nawang was being obstinent and I asked her to repose. She replied that she wanted to get beat by a phelincpa teacher, “Sorry kid no such luck!”

As a teacher there is nothing like the feeling when the class is engaged and interactive. You can see them sitting on the edge of their chairs with fire in their eyes, when they are relaxed and working together to solve problems words flow between students and teacher like a waterfall of wisdom. It’s not always like that though and its hard work but we take the journey together for better or worse. This job I chose becomes a career and finally one afternoon a calling and way of life. I have crossed that threshold and there’s no going back which means I better get my ass in gear to become an effective leader. But what else could anyone ask for than to have a chance to impact youth. Not having children of my own I find myself in a position to have a positive influence on so many youths. It’s a heavy burden that never ceases to freak me out! Like all teachers deep down I want them to respect me, remember me, and learn something of the world and themselves. It’s a heady responsibility that I am growing into. I am growing up too alongside my students as we discover together.           

Friday, April 12, 2013

Hands Across The Himalayas "WE Made IT"

Confusing Musing

“It froze clear down to China it froze the stars above, at a gazillion degrees below zero it froze her logger love” The Frozen Logger

Howdy Folks,

The last few days I succumbed to a nasty flu which had the same symptoms as last Octobers strain. Overall I have been blessed by fair health but crud prevails in my body this year. As I compose these words its 5:30 Am and the students are at their dirge in the M.P hall as ravens pronounce another day on the border. All is seemingly calm after last night’s epic electrical storm with a scourge of lightning and thunder. Usually thunder dominates the stage but lightning hosted this memorable tempest tearing the sky with thick white coils personifying the dragon. Bolts shot up from the river and sideways across the valley as flashes furrowed in a purple banner of light illuminating Tawang. The lightning was incessant occurring numerous times per second and I was transported to when this valley was uninhabited much like it is today. 2,000 years ago when Jesus anguished in Nazareth this landscape looked virtually the same untamed by civilization the rough riverbed superseding the will of man. Like then thunder drums, crinkles, rumbles, and rolls endlessly through the corridors and bottomless valleys shaking the earth to its core and vibrating my cot.   

For all its development in recent years Eastern Bhutan remains largely unchanged. For example people can watch the Big Bang Theory in a mud thatched hovel and may have a dirt road to their village but they still farm the same terraces they have for generations. There is only so much development the land will yield. There are only two narrow roads leading into the region from Thimphu and Samdrup Jongkhar and both are prone to landslide closures. The domestic airport above the college has recently reopened but flights are limited and it’s a harrowing approach. Roads cannot be widened and now feeder dirt roads are the order of the day. For instance my buddy Becky is currently trekking/ teaching in Merak and Sakteng which have both started constructing roads to the Phongmay area. These roads will connect the Brokpa people with the rest of their countrymen and make their life considerably more viable. On my own sojourn to Sakteng I marvelled at the strength of the Brokpa who carried everything 30 miles up the trail to their community and I was surprised to see electrical poles dotting the pristine valley. But it seems the changes will soon plateau as the narrow gorge like valleys of the East keep development at bay. Part of the reason the west is the best (according to most Bhutanese) is the wide valleys of Thimphu, Paro, and Bumthang which afford easier cultivation and settlement. I was shocked to learn that almost all my students were born in their homes and not hospitals. Many of their villages were not connected to roads and some still aren’t. Nowadays most babies are born in Mongar. In certain ways Bhutan is centuries behind much of the world and likely to remain that way. Of course they have quickly fallen in love with their mobile phones and like westerners stare constantly into the viewers of their knock off I-phones. And unlike the U.S it is not impolite to receive a call during a meeting. There is also a distinct generation gap and all one has to do is amble a mile down the trail and encounter barefoot (sometimes drunken) grandparents in dusty gho’s or teenagers pitching rock who never went to school and don’t speak a word of English. While in Thimphu issues like drugs, gangs, and television addiction are popping up. Bhutan is a country in transition and this trend towards modernization and westernization will undoubtedly continue. Overall the culture is strong especially in the rural east but one might occasionally spy a cover girl in T-Gang or observe the trendy students of Sharubse. In my village tradition rules and I love that about the kids here. The seasons rule life out here and spring brings planting and sprouting of seeds. It must be a sacrifice to send kids off to school thus losing farmhands in the fields. It goes to show how dedicated HM is to educating the youth and Bhutan is one of the few countries that provide free education and healthcare to its citizens. Now how is it that the richest country in the world (USA) can’t do the same? When I leave Bhutan I will carry with me the sense of community and the smiles of the children that warm my heart on this cold spring morning.

This time of year in the East is notoriously hazy due to smoke from wood fires and burning of fields but a hard rain breathes color back into the landscape and days as this one pull a body through. Suddenly I can see down the gullet of mountains into the open mouth of Tawang and I trace a raven’s flight across the abyss. Clouds cast dreamy shadows on the green-brown patchwork below. The cypress and pine grove beneath Zangtopelri sparkles in radiant dimension and tumours of deciduous growth cluster along the ridge above Shakshang. The naked earth near the Dagme Chu begins to cover herself with a modest olive sheet and the cream river bounds from Tawang towards Doksom. The rivers here slope down causing torrents that increase with the rain. One can imagine stalks of fish shooting the rapids unbothered by the reel. 

In class we discussed mothers and fathers and their traditional roles in Bhutan. Poop Gem an adorable girl in class seven almost broke my heart when she told me her father had run off and she missed him so desperately. I tried my best to assure she was loved but I wept when I got home for lunch. These kids face difficult obstacles and challenges despite living in the land of GNH. Families are flexible and kids are sent away to aunts and uncles with a better station and means to take care of their younger relatives. Divorce is not uncommon nor is having a death of a parent. Some of my favorite students come from difficult situations. Furthermore as I’ve mentioned a gazillion time’s life at a boarding school is rough and being a day scholar is no picnic either. Imagine walking home for two hours in a deluge in the mud AKA the Grumpy Old Man skit from SNL (When I was a boy we walked six miles in the snow with no shoes, and that’s the way it was and we liked it!) In my second turn I cherish these lessons that I can learn from the students that I teach. They have strong constitutions and never complain. On the other hand your author’s constitution is flimsy and he complains to beat the band. I never could have anticipated the strength of character in my students before I arrived and the more I shut my mouth and open my heart the more impressed I am. But alas I am living on borrowed time now and it is imperative to cherish all the moments that remain (Okay maybe not the bouts of shooting diarrhoea but you get the idea) as my fever breaks I find myself reflective about my experience thus far for all its ups and downs. At my lowest points I might curse Bhutan but these outbursts are only a reaction to sickness, loneliness, or frustration. Perhaps even Christ (son of man) had these doubts on his own journey at the crossroads of east and west being tormented by the talons of god. Like the Messiah this way has chosen me and all I can do is enjoy the ride!      

In class 7 flies swarm around Karma Sonam who desperately fans herself with her text book. It smells ripe and I think of turning the hose on them and myself. Some kids have the swastika an ancient Buddhist symbol scrolled on their hands a profound indication of how far removed this world is from western civilization. This ancient symbol that causes my blood to chill has a harmonious meaning to them. Most of them have never heard of the Holocaust until they read Anne Frank in class eight. They line up in front of me like penguins in their checkered gho and kira and they bow and say “thank you sir” with authentically innocent smiles. Class nine are obedient and polite for teenagers who are searching for identity and discovering sexuality. There are accounts of pregnancies at other schools but not at Tsenkharla to my knowledge. Last year I stumbled on a boy and girl in the forest but they appeared to be only talking and the girl ran in shame. There must be occasional drinking or marijuana use but outwardly they are well behaved and self governing. I pray there is not too much bullying and they genuinely seem to support one another the older ones mentoring the younger ones. I try my best to lend a hand yet strive to do more even if it’s just chatting or playing Frisbee. For all its challenges, water shortages, close proximity to the boy’s hostel, and limited privacy I feel blessed to be at a boarding school as they are the pulse of the Bhutanese education system. I have even become accustomed to shouting boys sweeping my stoop at 5:30 A.M and roll over back to sleep listening to the birdsong as they evacuate to prayer.

The Boundless Love that Makes Up the World

“Come together right now, over me”

On days I don’t roam I astro- travel across the valley to the whit dot temple set upon an adjacent ridge. Or I simply watch my beloved blackbirds soar, swoop, and beat their wings on the wind which makes a strange metallic sound. Ravens are adept communicators and extremely intelligent in fact as I write this one is cawing in accordance. From my own perch on my rock I meditate on the love that delivered me to these far reaches and the boundless support of my family and friends back home. The simple effort of “you” the reader also adds to this current of merit that envelops me. I often think of my donors and those friends from years gone by. I don’t know if I believe in god although my agnosticism fades as I mature and I tend to embrace the possibility of a divine spring from which our collective waters derive. But I can feel the love of humanity either unto itself or as a reflection of God. But humans have their own way and even Great Spirit must marvel at our kindness and the love that binds us and makes the world turn. That love counterweights the madness that many men favor.
In my last post you heard me bitch about my lack of romantic love. So be it! It is abundantly clear that this is not my time and that’s okay. Much like Jesus craved Magdalene and Arthur craved Morgaine, I also have ONE I crave but like my King and Saviour I’m destined to be alone...And for what I lack in carnal love I make up for by having a lot of sisters around the globe. Being a glass “half empty” kind of dude it wasn’t until recently that this epiphany struck.     

My stint with influenza left me stranded in my hut for a whole day which I had to call in sick. The next day after classes, despite fatigue the splendid conditions beckoned me out onto the trail. Walking through the village which means a hard packed stone mud road a climber has three options for roaming. Following the road will take one to Zangtopelri via Tsangma’s ruin where a trail leads another hour uphill to Shakshang (know a road intersects the trail briefly) Above Shakshang is the outer rim of Darchin and the pasture lands of the high country that I have not yet entered. From Shakshang one can also find the trail through some heady deciduous to Namkhar temple and the lamas house where I met Manu. There in a secret amulet valley that is reminiscent of the space between Bartsham and Bidung the trail peters. The next option is to veer left following the drainage canal to the west towards the thick forests approaching Yangtse. I have followed this route several hours past power lines, chortens, and a new road that led me to Shali. If you stay on the channel you lurk into vegetation that nears jungle with lush deciduous full of birdsong. A few solitary cypress and spindly pine eke out a living in the thick multicoloured plumage. It somehow feels like a Chinese painting with waterfalls splashing into ravines, secret hideaways, and the Kulongchu far below. Winter finds this direction spooky and barren with late summer being the pinnacle of beauty. Several cow trails lead off into various stands of vegetation where ferns grow from the branches of trees. The third route is the channel heading east arcs around the valley affording glorious views of the Dagme Chu (the Kulongchu lover as they are actually birds) as it bounds into Bhutan from India. Out in the distance is a triangular pinnacle where I want to hermit with only a sack of slim Jim’s and cokes. This is the point between the two countries and since there’s no sign of human life, it is a no-man’s-land. This trail winds through a scented pine forest beneath the cypress grove tucked under Tsenkharla ridge ending at a sacred Chorten which after today will be referred to the Grandfather Chorten. This is due to meeting a boy singing in the forest who proclaimed that his grandfather constructed the stupa. It is a slender but regal shrine standing fifteen feet tall with faded white washed exterior surrounded by ferns and rocks. Somehow my cleaning efforts from last November have remained and the site remains litter free! As I kicked it at the Chorten trying hopelessly to stop the world a little thing named Sangay rolled up and placed a red rhododendron bloom perfunctory into a stone crease before giggling, pointing out her village, and gliding away. Shortly after the Chorten the trail is broken by a new road that leads to Sonam Choden’s village and karma Om’s school about an hour away. At the Chorten i gazed out on my territory and imagined Bunks over the next range fulfilling my wettest dream wading in a sea of blue poppies and strange foliage in the wilderness between Merak and Sakteng.

(The Name Game Interlude)

Names in Bhutan have important meanings and our given by lamas not parents. To name a few Sangay means Buddha, Dawa is moon, Pema is Lotus, Nima is sun, and karma is star. I might of gotten one wrong but anyway it speaks to the interconnectedness of Bhutanese culture as these celestial objects relate in the Buddhist pantheon. Dechen Tshomo an impish class nine girl wrote her poem on wanting to see a lotus which made me recall the many lotus blossoms floating in the vast reflection pool at Angkor. In a flash the myth of Guru Rinpoche made perfect sense. As the lotus appears from nothing floating in the lake so was the miraculous conception of the eight year old prince in Afghanistan (Or was it Pakistan?) But I digress if nothing else the names themselves are poetic and magical as the setting they encompass.

Boundless Love Reprise

“ and one and one is three, got to be good looking cause he’s so hard to see”

So returning through the woods I caught a fresh wind and sailed it up to Zangtopelri where I completed three circumambulatory rotations and spun the big prayer wheel with silver Sanskrit lettering (or was it Dzonkha?) In another flash I couldn’t help grasp a certain alignment with this spinning wheel and the earth’s rotation around the sun, the moons rotation around the earth, and the gazillion other circular rotations in the universe. It must have been an auspicious evening as Rinchen Wangmo invited me in for tea and porridge. She nursed one babe while I entertained the other kids as Tom and Jerry blared on the T.V. The porridge was traditional but made with care and quite delicious accompanied by fragrant lemon tea. On the way out I gave Amadamma a pat rubbed the wooden phallus for luck and headed down through the blustery gloaming pausing to view the stage of my final dance a circular area of dirt and grass. At that moment an omen flew high over my left shoulder. At Aunty Kesang’s shop we chatted about Catherine who was posted here twenty years ago when Tsenkharla was a primary school with fruit orchards growing on campus and had no electricity but did have a regular Saturday transport to T-Gang (but with no KC Hotel what would be the point!) On the way home I heard the evening dirge from the MP hall as cedar smoke perfumed the air. The whole day had the fortuitous timing of an acid trip as I slipped inside my hut and curled up with Dawa the dog stroking her velvet ears as she slept.    

That night I dreamed I was standing behind Jerry, Bobby, and Phil on an elevated platform on Treasure Island on a glorious day. I could see the crowd a hundred miles below and the slumbering emerald peak of Tamalpais to the West across the bay, and a snow clad pyramid resembling Shasta (out of place) to the Southeast. The band was merrily tuning up and I should have checked my hands as Don Juan says to hold the lucidity because the scene shifted and I was writhing in a cuddle puddle with a bevy of Sector Nine beauties who caressed every inch of my body, next a nightmare where my teeth were rotting like mush and I was pulling them out of my gums in horror. I woke up tired and homesick.
It was an emotional day in the classroom with Poop Gem crying about missing her father and a class nine girl crying for unknown reasons. The other students seemed unaware of the tears or stoical towards the sufferers. At lunch Dechen Choden a reticent and intelligent girl asked me to revise her essay. It’s great working one on one with students and I don’t get to do it enough. I like holding informal sessions with the boys in my hovel or working with students in the classroom at lunch and find it profoundly rewarding. After school Karlos delivered a three hour presentation speaking very well and I returned home to delve into the “The Last Temptation of Christ” Becky called from Sakteng with news of her journey over the high pass and stories of the Brokpa kids. She also gave a prophetic account of an encounter with another Dawa that set my heart on fire. The embers of desire burn hot and melt away my equanimity plunging me onto the coals of longing. That old battle of spirit and flesh that rages inside us all, will it ever end? Will I ever find my mate, or god, will I ever be whole again? Is your author being to cryptic? Does the reader furrow her brow? Does it matter anyway? Two plus two is four. The other night I called my mom missing her tremendously. I am 99.9% sure that I will return to California at the end of the year but when I hinted at renewing my contract my mom didn’t bristle. Playing the victim I asked wouldn’t you miss me if I stayed and she said that a year ago she would have been sad but after visiting Bhutan and seeing the beauty of the place and “what Bhutan has done for me” she wholeheartedly supported my being here. She also hopes to return to visit the east if she gets an opportunity. The comment alleviated much of my guilt for leaving my family to come here and shed new light on my purpose. I asked about my niece and nephew and revelled in the news from home. Everyone is healthy and that is all I can ask for. My mission here has not yet solidified but daily events keep me from worrying about that.

My mind wanders back to the capital where in the flat light I met a migoi (yeti) who spoke of mountain worship before he receded back into the mountains. There are many oddballs, levitating lamas, and sorcerers hidden in this land and as my aunt Mare would say “I’d better hide and watch” I’ve never been much adept at that instead I blather on and on even in the form of this self indulgent blog. What the reader might glean from these rants I don’t know? Perhaps it’s merely verbal masturbation and I remember at Farewell Bend in Eastern Oregon aunt Mare gently telling me that every story doesn’t have to revolve around me. Of course I recoiled like a defensive snake and here I am three years later still talking about myself. Shit I’ve burned a hole in Saint Becky’s ears I’m sure and my friend Liora once told me that I need to learn how to listen which I haven’t yet learned how to do. Ironically I implore my kids to be good listeners, a lacking quality in many humans. I’ve actually intended to change the format of this blog for some time but fall back on this egotistic confessional prose like a morbid shadow of Sylvia Plath. Ah shucks, thanks for staying put and indulging your maniacal author as I try to work it out, lighten up, and let it go. Let’s pause and take an opportunity to ponder the bioluminescent creatures in the deepest trenches of the furthest planets.

I think Jesus was a hep cat because he loved all creatures but he still revered the white bearded archetype as god. But all life comes from the womb so wouldn’t Great Spirit be feminine. A patriarch would retort that a seed must be planted to grow life and then a fierce chicken and egg debate would ensue. Does that mean god is transgender like the creatures walking the neon avenue outside Uncle Veto’s Pizzeria? Or like one of those asexual aliens I encountered in the Missouri bush? God is infinite and god is good and lavishes decay on all matter equally while karma keeps a ledger tallying our deeds for the next life. Hey Deadheads did you know Tennessee Jed is a song about living in exile, dig it! How’s that for a discombobulated thought?


Monday, April 8, 2013

Subsidence In Samsara

Subsidence in Samsara OR Shanghaied in Shangri-La

(For Miss Train wreck from Mr. Weight of the World)

Tiger La

“I’m still walking so I’m sure that I can dance, saint of circumstance, tiger in a trance, rain falling down” Ace

When I last left you I was hoping for a more auspicious day and I got one. I was invited for lunch at Karlos’s house which is really the other side of the duplex hut. We had delicious potato dates and dried beef while watching a special on BBS (Bhutan Broadcasting System) about tigers in Jigme Dorji National Park north of Thimphu. Still pictures of these cats were amazing as they looked the size of lions! Tigers are found in several areas in the country including the jungles of Royal Manas Park in the south but they have migrated to an altitude as high as 13,000 feet, sharing habitat with snow leopards. Bhutan acts as a last bastion for these endangered cats as here they are safe from poaching and habitat denigration. My spine tingles knowing these majestic animals roam the forests of Bhutan considering the worldwide population is estimated at only 3,500. A top predator needs lots of space and plenty of prey and apparently our population is thriving. Jigme Dorji also has red pandas and blue poppies among a stunning array of mammal and plant diversity. Suddenly my beloved Tsenkharla seems devoid of animals but no matter it is home for this tiger.

Watching Sonam Choden cook is amazing. She has incredible knife skills and using simple ingredients produces mouth watering cuisine. Strips of drying beef hang on strings in the living room and when it’s cooked it is hard to chew but good protein. I supplied the rations for the meal and closely observed the chef at work and for some reason my potato datse never comes out so flavorful. Rain smatters the land spurning sprouts and buds in the school gardens. Roses and asparagus fern flourish and remind me of my mom’s garden that I worked so hard to maintain at Baypoint, there are many similar species here which makes me content. In the classroom we enjoyed a relaxed pace as students finished their comic strips as rain pelted the roof. If I could eliminate the incessant chatter in my own head then the scene would be just exactly perfect. But even with a pervading neurosis it was a pleasant afternoon. Clouds curl around Darchin and sift through the cypress grove as rain comes and goes making love to the earth. Sometimes in a gentle rhythm that builds to an orgasmic intensity before subsiding into a gentle cadence then building again, the clouds ejaculating Cumming everywhere. One can’t help but think that we are also made of water and how rivers flow underground or into the sky. Like the title of Jamie’s novel we are caught somewhere between the earth and the sky perched high on a ridge as mist rises from the flaring nostrils of the dragon hovering under the lip of Tsenkharla. Moisture drips off the stones of Tsangma’s ruin, this is eastern Bhutan, this is HOME!

Another Wacky Wednesday

“Well the sun gets bloody and the sun goes down, ever since the watermelon, and the lights come up on a black pit town” All Around The World Or The Myth of Fingerprints

Outside ribbons of sunlight cut through the bands of clouds. Your storyteller is about to gather his books and go to class. The world has shrunk to a cloud, a tree, and tiny figures in gho and kira. Where am I? Is this place real or just some kind of dream cartoon? I always felt that the world was an illusion and this distressed me, now I know the world is an illusion and it comforts me. The Buddhist call this samsara, a merry-go-round of suffering that only ends with enlightenment. Sort of like repeating a class until you pass but in this scenario we are almost all flunkies. Helpless souls lost in space or on a sinking ship with nothing to grab hold of and no ore. The life preserver is this moment but to grab it means letting go of everything. Buddha left his palace, hot wife, and baby to go seeking truth. Who among us is ready for that commitment? Not I say’s the fly and although my journey might outwardly parallel Lord Buddha, I am not on that yellow brick road to salvation just yet. Instead I dwell in a vastly different representation of samsara and find new things to tempt me and new things to cling to. As Bobby sings to some ex girlfriend, “I may be going to hell in a bucket but at least I’m enjoying the ride! Touché. But the path has been lay if you dare or care to follow in the footsteps of Buddha or Jesus or the numerous avatars that live the truth. But it’s lonely and you certainly aren’t going to get any cock or pussy. Maybe in the next thousand lifetimes I will get around to going for the gold and checking into Zangtopelri permanently but for now I WANT a juicy cheeseburger and strawberry shake from Phyllis’s joint on the Miracle Mile. Ah shit! I guess that ain’t happening is it. Perhaps a Kit Kat and can of coke acquired from T-Gang!  

Today is Wednesday and I cancelled Social Service Club AKA Trash Picking Club due to the rain. Instead I will finish marking the stack of portfolios that have been burning a hole in my desk. If one can teach effectively in Bhutan one can teach effectively anywhere. I’m not there yet trying to facilitate the learning process of 120 ESL learners is incredibly challenging. I recall the tremendous effort put forth by Vicky last year and she taught class 11 where the stakes are high. She was a meticulous marker and planner and what all teachers should aspire to be. Her husband Ian was no slouch himself but Vicky was veracious. They both spent most of their summer break marking exams and now are down in East Africa volunteering for no pay. Kudos! We miss them tremendously on the home front especially Becky who has been left all alone in her neck of the woods across two mighty rivers on a dirt road at the end of the earth. But Becky is strong and doing fine and she has an adoring staff doting on her. When she considered leaving at the end of her contract last year a Bhutanese colleague shed tears, luckily for all of us she stuck it out another year. I chuckle recalling our walk to Nancy’s for a cooking class in Thimphu where I exclaimed I might not make it through the night, I had diarrhoea and the jitters but here I am a year later still with diarrhoea and the jitters. Like Jamie says anyone can live anywhere and I’m living proof!  

One of my favorite sensations is when a super cell passes over dumping its load shaking my hovel. This intense downpour can last from a minute to an hour. Although the summer is the monsoon season Tsenkharla is an anomaly getting more measurable rain in spring (at least last year) than summer which is often cloudy with steamy vaporization.  It just occurred to me that I write about the rain incessantly. Well consider where I live and the subject matter I deal with. Perhaps I should write more about students. Last year I felt confounded by their shyness but a gentler demeanour in the classroom has helped coax them out of their shells. Suddenly shy ones blossom and become vocal in class. Bhutanese students are a delight and extremely polite. They instinctively know their place in their culture since in Bhutan culture reflects your identity. They’re individuals without seeking individuality and in certain ways Americans seem a jumble of ideologies that leave us disillusioned. I can only imagine the realities in inner city classrooms where students come from busted homes. I often joke about the hive mentality in Bhutan but a hive takes care of itself. Any Westerner that spends substantial time here probably comes to this realization, as soon as someone asks who takes care of your parents when they get old, and a dank feeling bubbles into your consciousness. Are we monsters casting out our young and abandoning the old? I always employed this argument being a 33 year old living with my mother. My friend Sonam Lhamo lives in Bumthang with three generations under the same roof. I can’t pass judgment on American culture since I prize rugged individuality, if I didn’t I wouldn’t have ended up here exposed to the other side of the coin.             

On this rainy Wednesday evening I rode into Doksom on a whim with Karlos, Sonam, and Thinley for shopping. Thinley picked up a refrigerator and I was amazed at the stuff this tiny outpost offered. Doksom might be considered a town compared to Tsenkharla which is most certainly a village. The 14 KM drive down the curvy road is harrowing especially in the rain and fog. The mist created a whiteout and I felt like Shaggy riding with the gang in the Mystery Machine to some haunted capper. (On the return Scrappy Doo would join the episode) We barrelled towards the black pit town surrounded by rough and tumble mountains on three sides and the narrow river valley of the DagmeChu to the east. We loitered in Doksom as I sponsored a round of beers for the group and was now on Bhutanese Stretchable Time (BST) Going from one shop to another in what a westerner might equate with bar hopping where the equanimity of my companions disintegrated in amber liquid. In one shop Karlos admonished me for flirting with a gorgeous Pema Something who sold me socks and kit kats and said she was unmarried but was “telling lies” as Bhutanese females typically do, at least to me, and from my side they are rarely single and ready to mingle and I’m just being frank. The truth is I am not actively searching for anyone but like to hone my flirtation skills just to remember I am a 35 year old dude and people around the world copulate. 

At another shop we ran into a man from Thimphu who works in the education department and had just returned from North Carolina. He was very intrigued with my work and of course Nancy was his 4th grade teacher in Trashigang twenty years ago (he credited her for his career choice) The other big event of the night was that I bought a puppy for Sonam Choden that I named Dawa after the novel “Dawa the Dog” She’s an adorable fluffy gold pup with black eyes and only two weeks old. After handing the pup over to Karlos I strolled to the river to urinate and pontificate. While pissing my mobile phone flashlight shone on my member casting a disproportionately large hooded shadow on the rock and I thought of Drukpa Kunley and began to shake my wang furiously leaving an imprint which someday might be a pilgrimage spot. Finally at 11:30 P.M I stuffed into the back of the cab with three other Bhutanese and a puppy and commenced the uncomfortable drive back up into the cooler climate. Karlos had the pup tucked in his gho, yet another use for the awkward garment. The gang went for a nightcap at Sonam’s shop meeting some vivacious villagers with black shinny eyes that glimmered in a psychedelic manner and one man told me that Dawa meant moon as I smiled in agreement. I was exhausted and fell into bed after reaching my hut but was tormented by demonic dreams that flooded my body with poison. I woke up with a sore throat but solid stool so health wise it was a push.           

Fragmentation and Unravelling OR Thursday Blues

“Standing on the moon where talk is cheap and vision true, standing on the moon but I would rather be with you, somewhere in San Francisco on a back porch in July, just looking up to heaven at this crescent in the sky”

As I’m sailing along for no reason the bottom will drop out and I find myself standing at the edge of terror. It might be the lack of distractions here but today I called Becky on the verge of tears for support. Fortunately Bunks handles me with kid gloves and knows how to put your author back on the track. But this unravelling makes me feel weak and inadequate and ask myself why it’s so hard, then comes the inevitable closing down, shrinking away from the ONE. If I ever reread my posts I would recognize patterns and know that I will snap back to attention in time but each run through takes a toll on your author. Classes have been going well and that is my point of focus while an internal tempest rages. For all I like to believe I AM an independent soul in reality I’m needy and co-dependent and deeply miss being in a romantic relationship. Fuck spiritualism and just give me a shoulder to cry on. God might be real and powerful but it’s in the human form that we seek comfort. My heart is not big enough to merge with the divine and yet I AM not evolved enough for true love with another awakened being. Yup this is purgatory and samsara and I might as well set sail on a river of tears towards an ocean of despair.  Luckily my heart is just big enough to keep a smile on my face for the sake of the kids who bring me eternal delight. This kind of rant should be confined to a private diary but you people are the pages that I scribble on, so I encourage you to take this passage with a grain of salt. Just a few bars of the Bhutan Blues...You might shake your head and ask is the author unhappy? Well it seems the path to become a warrior is not forged with happiness or unhappiness but rather awareness which would transcend conventional emotion. To say I AM on this path would be a leap of faith but we all have our doubts isn’t it? Here’s what Carlos not Karlos has to say about it.

“The only flaw is that in order for me to have a different orderly view of the world and myself, a view even more suited to my temperament, I have to walk along the edge of the abyss, and I have doubts that I have the daring and strength to accomplish that feat.

But who is there to tell?

It’s a wonderful community here and I play my small part and impact the lives of my students but I am not Bhutanese and always will be an outsider. I deeply crave a sense of belonging yet always find myself at the fringe on the borderline, like a lone tiger prowling the jungles of samsara always seeking his next kill.   

In the classroom I’m focusing on speaking something that some of my class seven students have trouble with. They presented their comics but many had difficulty speaking in sentences and some were extremely shy. When a Bhutanese kid is shy they stick out their tongue like an iguana and shield their face with their callused hands. In class nine I am having the students read in front of the class instead of facing the chalkboard from their desks. Whenever possible I am doing group work and pair/share for comprehension assessment, with 35 students it’s a challenge.
Currently my panorama reveals shades of grey as the melodic dirge from the MP hall strums my severed heartstrings. I grabbed my prison tin plate and crept to the mess for Thursday Emadatsi. Cedar burns from a hollow clay stupa as I listen to the kids pray. But they aren’t kids NOW they are the voice of GOD and I want to sail on their dirge transcending the world to Zangtopelri. I want them to sing me to the next life and for A MOMENT pain subsides and my jaw drops at the most moving sound EVER heard. Amen and Hallelujah! Out roaming I had a vision concerning three ravens flying in formation tinting my aura with melancholy hues, and that’s all there is to say about that.
(Rads Interlude)

Readers of TIAT are privy to talk about my love for a band from New Orleans called The Radiators. The reason I love them dearly is that these 5 road warriors are tough and vulnerable spilling their souls to their fans while building a misfit community known as Fish Heads. Morgan nailed it when after her initial exposure to the band in the barn she said, “They want you to love their music but if you don’t there’s the door man!”  

Take Your Dead Ass Home

“If you ain’t gonna get it on, take your dead ass home”

As Thursday trails into Friday I am sipping a Coke and readjusting my attitude. My classmate in grad school, a voluptuous blonde named Nicole’s mantra was PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) which sounds cheesy but is appropriate thought for this mad world.  I’m more of a night owl although being an early bird is advantageous in the kingdom I only walk in the mornings on weekends and fail to get much down before 7 AM. Conversely at night there’s nothing happening but its still and quiet. This is when I plan lessons, listen to tunes, hang out, read and write. So that’s all I have to report and suddenly your author feels bashful for his maniacal rants. These words flow forth and I often have no idea what I’m saying (Some of my finest moments in the classroom are like that only) and that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

TGIF, on a sunny morning in Eastern Bhutan. I took a bucket bath and put on a new pair of black slacks (thanks mom) and my best blue work shirt. My lessons are planned and I’m off to class. It’s been an interesting week with the usual manic ups and downs. I adopted a puppy named Dawa and a little sister named Sonam Lhamo. You might recall that Sonam Lhamo is the Bumthang beauty that I slipped through the portal with in Thimphu. That is not a euphemism as I am referring to the evening of the end of the Mayan Calendar at the National Chorten in Thimphu. Becky gave me a snap of my family, herself, and Sonam (which means lucky) at the Chorten that is framed on my desk. Well I hope your day is prosperous, auspicious, and all that shit.      

T-Gang Tea Party

“..Yeah and its tea right here in T-Gang, where the little girls know what to do” Minglewood

After class on Saturday I piled into a bolero with Butterfly, Jigme, and another Indian teacher and his bride and went to T-Gang. Upon arrival I introduced Butterfly to Becky and we all had lunch at the hole in the wall Nepali owned joint. Later on Becky and I were joined by Lee, Jonathan, and Collin three eastern teachers who call themselves “Jungle East Massive” They had planned to meet as did Bunks and I so it ended up being a gathering and celebration. It’s not often that so many phelincpa’s join together in the same place. At Jon’s suggestion we adjourned to the bus station to a restaurant that he thought resembled an English Pub. Jon had taught at an international school in London for a decade but to me the eatery was more Japanese style with lanterns and booths. We ate some succulent (fatty) beef and curry and the boys had some ara and brews. After dinner we hung out in room 209 and chatted. It was nice to check in and here stories from others placements as the last time I saw that crew was at orientation and know they are seasoned BCF teachers. (It doesn’t take long to get indoctrinated here) This group has a rapier wit that tends to be perverse so naturally your author was amused. Collin quipped that they acted like sixth graders when together and I rebutted that that would make them on par with the students they taught. We had a blast laughing, talking shop, and commiserating and it reminded me of other nights with Ian and Vicky. The next turned out to be a “No vehicle day” but by 5 P.M Lee and Collin got taxis while Jon and I stayed behind for the night. Ironically the Tsenkharla bus was across town purchasing meat but my colleagues (who knew I was there) neglected to call me so I was stranded at the K.C. This gave me the chance to converse with Jon about International Schools, woman, edible plants, local deities, and life in rural Bhutan. On Monday morning I lugged my shopping bags into a taxi and returned home Wabash Cannonball style in time for first class. The KC store is like Costco by Eastern Bhutanese standards as I bought, pasta sauce, chips, chocolate, cans of coke imported from Thailand, cereal, a Bhutan mug, carton milk, and baked beans.

As you already know the author fancies Trashigang and would like to pause to tell you more about “Our Town” I have tried in previous blogs to paint a physical picture of the splendour of this secluded glade that encapsulates the town. I often imagine I’m a raven flying in the stratosphere and looking down on the labyrinth of mountains that form the spine of the Himalaya from Tawang to Pakistan. Lost in the folds and furrows are settlements towns, villages, and cities like Itanger, Tawang, Thimphu, Kathmandu, Delhi, Lahore, and Kabul. But really just massifs, blocks, pinnacles, spires, valleys, cut by snaking rivers it’s claustrophobic except to the raven that soars above. But Trashigang is a sparkling jewel and center of trade for centuries between Tawang, Tibet, and Eastern Bhutan and the town retains a fire that won’t go out. For a small town clinging to a wooded slope tucked into the vaginal folds of the Himalayan hills Trashigang hosts an interesting mix of characters. My favorite character is Phuntsho who has absconded to Thimphu and is MIA but there are others. Many sinewy Indian road workers live in shanties working construction jobs breaking up rocks and digging pits ceaselessly. Schoolgirl aged girls forgo education to work alongside their families even managing to smile with twinkling eyes. These are the hero’s of the earth and the meek that Jesus prophesized would inherit this ball of blue. These Indians appear hard but crack into light with a grin from your author. Without them no one in Bhutan could move just like in California we depend on Mexican labor. Their work is backbreaking and heartbreaking even more intensive then Bhutanese farm work. The centerpiece of the town is the Dzong (I love my Dzong!) which was built in 1667 in the bad ass gingerbread style reminiscent to all fortressed Dzong’s in Bhutan. This edifice doesn’t possess the grandeur of Paro or Punakha but is exceptional on its own perched on a hillock overlooking the Dagme Chu facing east. At night gold lights illuminate the ancient edifice which might actually be an alien spacecraft piloted by Zorron.

 On a solo morning walk I met a raven perched on Igor’s stupa (Igor has left the planet) and we had a tete-a-tete. From room 209 one enjoys lording over the town observing the ornate entry gate, the racetrack road, and the Dzong, along with a mesmerizing montage of scantly vegetated hills dotted with assortments of prayer flags. The traditional buildings in town fall into place painted in pastel colors. If you breeze through T-Gang make sure you hit the bakery for carrot cake in the thatched bamboo enclosure set among tropical flowers pollinated by enormous bees. In the forests around town are fading poinsettia, blooming bogenvia, fragrant cannabis bushes, and cream, russet, and lilac blooms. It’s a cornucopia of scents which reinvigorate a body except I hadn’t come just to smell the flowers but to visit the renowned barber Deepack for a trim.

“Don’t let the sound of your own wheels, drive you crazy”

Deepack is the maestro of barbers, a class act, and a throwback. If you are residing in Eastern Bhutan and in need of a haircut go to Deepak. One can’t help but conjure images of Edward Scissor hands as the handsome Indian expat cuts hair with lengthy metallic sheers while chewing a wad of dolma, all to the soundtrack of the Eagles “Take it Easy” He gave me a proper cut, shave, and facial all for 100 rupees. He even offered that I pay him later but of course I didn’t. I wanted to tip but was unsure if that was considered appropriate. On the way out of T-Gang I dropped a postcard of a blue poppy in the mailbox to Morgan for her b-day. I dropped seven postcards into that drop box last month and no one has mentioned receiving them so I can only hope they arrived.  

Where Tigers Rule OR Giblets

Lately I actually feel old and in the way, which I mention since I’ve always considered myself young in spirit and appearance. Although my face is aging two other body parts give it away.  Someone recently pointed out my veined hands that look like they belong to a senior citizen and then there are my saggy balls. I used to consider my member as one of my finer physical attributes but these days my nuts hang lower in their forlorn sack. A reader recently remarked that the Tiger was becoming tamer so that one’s for you!

Health is a continuous battle as many phelincpa’s can attest and lately I had had some stomach pain but I returned from my sojourn temporarily refreshed in mind and spirit and was grateful as grass to rain.   

After class I went roaming with Wangmo and Zangmo in toe and thought I ought to write a poem about these semi fictitious day scholars and their route to and from school. Shakshang Goempa is hours away and I have only reached a dozen times and this pack of tiny girls and boys do it twice a day. Our lower temple Zangtopelri was abandoned and locked as only Amadamma the cow met me licking the spot on my hand that Dawa bit and I could hear Scott’s words echoing in my head, “If you get rabies you will die!” I sat on a newly constructed bench enclosed with leafy trellis marvelling at the holy temple listening only to the birds and faint white noise of the Dagme Chu thousands of feet below. On the temple wall above some ornate trim is a crest depicting two deer nudging a golden seal with their black noses. I imagined these sculptured deer to have moist noses and warm breath just like Amadamma. On the way down at Tsangma’s in the cypress and eucalyptus grove I met Rinchen Wangmo and her toddler son Pema. She also had a baby strapped to her back in stripped cloth. If I was a painter I would’ve commissioned a masterpiece of that timeless Bhutanese scene but instead merely paused to watch the trio disappear over the knoll, and in typical Mr. Tim style yelled “Goodnight Rinchen Wangmo, I Love You!” The unrequited phrase hung in the air as they vanished into a silver screen. In the sky one of Becky’s portals briefly snapped open as a pinhole of golden light before abruptly shutting over a mountain that looks like a refraction of Tamalpais if she were hoisted on two huge mounds.  

Today in class nine I deviated from the syllabus affording them an opportunity to write nature poems. It was satisfying to facilitate the creative process in students who don’t necessarily get an opportunity to express themselves. Even after a gratifying weekend in Trashigang it’s nice to get back to what matters a fact that was cemented when timid Jigme Choden contributed a great comment in class. Jigme has a pension for eating paper, sucking on pens, and saying “don’t know” when asked anything. She is painfully shy and it took a summation of trust and courage to share her opinion with the class. Small moments like that make a teachers day.  

Final Four

Today is Championship Monday with Louisville facing Big Blue. Although content at the moment your author wouldn’t mind plopping in front of a flat screen TV with a tub of guacamole and chips to watch the game. Exactly six years ago I was touching down in Inchon beginning an ESL career under a plump Korean moon. I hadn’t yet heard of Bhutan and was a bundle of nerves scanning the unfamiliar landscape a row of stunt pines outside the airport that were soon swallowed by a neon metropolis. That event relates cyclically to this moment as time is not linear. But things do evolve as I have gained some insights and my balls have sunk. At the same moment everything seems far away from Tsenkharla mountain but also close enough to touch. Like a train wreck memories collide and stack on the side of the tracks. In a rare moment of clarity I can view these events as they are, meaningless and amusing like a free bird pecking at seed not a mechanical bird pecking at the wall. In Buddhist ease words like nothingness and meaningless reflect different connotations of enlightenment not despair. Death is a realm where ego and body dissolve leaving only an essence of light. Escaping our shells we enter a crystalline dream that serves as a portal to reality, a dimension inhabited by Karmaling Dream Moths and Machine Elves dribbling down the cosmic court, adept at mountain worship and play.

Kesang quipped that I was an English Teacher for Local Deities which cracked me up. But the truth is we don’t know anything of the mysteries of the universe and each of us can only glean an imperceptible fraction of the whole.  

Thanks for the care package mom especially the salami and slim Jim’s which I promptly devoured. Also thanks Beth for the book on India which was endowed with magical power, turned by phantom fingers that led us right to Goa. Becky and I hope to go there for Christmas and we think Bobby would approve! Outside the boys clink their plates and sing on their way from the dining hall to the hostel. A few stars twinkle in the sky which reminds me of a girl’s poem about a missing star. I love and miss you family more than I express nevertheless what a fantastic situation I find myself in at a boarding school lost in Lhomon.    

With Love for ALL sentient beings from Mr. Tim