Wednesday, June 26, 2013

CAN YOU PASS THE CHILLI TEST?



To Cousin Larry from Balky of Mepos

Big kaleidoscope
lavender lotus warbles
for the time is now    

Avid Simpson’s fans will remember that classic episode where Homer went to the Springfield Chilli cook off and ate the super hot chilli and proceeded to run into the forest howling and hallucinating. The voice of Johnny Cash was his spirit guide as a coyote and Homer woke up on a mini golf course after being mowed down by a ghost train. Well a similar thing happened to me lately after eating a dried red chilli. (Smokin Hot Emadatsi) I also ran for the hills in frantic ululation and in the forest saw a kid who had fastened a beard and long Jesus hair out of shaggy leaves, he looked ridiculously amazing. My spirit guide was Bobby naturally. The Bhutanese have a quirky side that is revealed especially after ingesting fire chillies. For three days I’ve seen a rainbow over Tawang actually more accurately, a slice of rainbow, a dollop of rainbow, a smear of rainbow, a piece of rainbow, a patch of rainbow, a smudge of rainbow, a splatter of rainbow, a splash of rainbow, a splotch of rainbow, a drop of rainbow, a segment of rainbow, a splay of rainbow, a spray of rainbow, a swatch of rainbow, a vaporous rainbow, a rainbow blotter, a trail of rainbow, a tail of rainbow, an arc of rainbow, a flare of rainbow, the beginning or end of the rainbow, rainbow dust, rainbow coil, radiant rainbow, rainbow roll, reading rainbow, rainbow feathers, a gold potted rainbow, a peace rainbow, a rainbow bridge, a backwards rainbow, an inverted rainbow, an out front rainbow, an outright rainbow, give me a rainbow, a resplendent rainbow but definitely not a complete rainbow. OH NO! (Rainbow, Clouds, snow, and lightning make it fun!) The thick squat colors ranged from topaz to violet in that dazzling arrangement that I can never quite reassemble. ARRANGEMENTS WHILE YOU WAIT! This rainbow was particularly peculiar being that it appeared on the first day of the monsoon floating on a sea of clouds smothering the mountains in a steamy paste. Night time brings rain that dins on the tin rooftop (Do you remember the rain Jamie?) So for three months we will live in a steam dream of clouds. These are strange clouds that get inside the forest of our mind, curling around our brain trees a warm thick soup of sweaty clouds that digest the ripe landscape of our grey matter. A tide of clouds in the sea of dreams. Now is a magical and dismal period with mud everywhere a Woodstock for birds and beasts. Excuse the psychedelic allegories but my first word was bus. So let’s go Furthur into the mists...Like the ghost of Neal Cassady haunting Mexican rail yards. Gliding in a delirious speed dream rolling down the tracks of imagination while juggling a ballpoint hammer.  NEAL IS GOD, THE TRACKS ARE SAMSARA, AND THE HAMMER IS YOUR SOUL...YOU UNDERSTAND!

Central marking is in full swing. Locked in a room for five hours at a table full of papers as we pass them assembly line style. The septic tank was also backed up sending noxious fumes inside. Yum! But the grind is almost done and the students trickle by for help now and again and I scramble to get my puddle ducks quaking in a nice little row. Quack Quack! The system still confounds me a bit to wit.  In the USA 70% is passing but here its 40% So a teacher must lowball the kiddos according to the standards. As they say “we don’t want them feeling too good about themselves” And so it goes central marking every day from 1-6. Exams are not permitted out of the room so I can’t mark my own papers like last year. It’s a hell of a thing that I feel depersonalizes my efforts and obstructs assessment. But I’m talking to myself here!  Can’t wait to get back in the classroom proper and meanwhile I enjoy casual encounters with the students. On Saturdays a group of boys came over to rap and have lunch.

As the rain rattles on my bar car it sounds like I am rumbling through a waterfall, or one of those monstrous carwashes. As a child my biggest fear was getting permanently stuck in that evil apparatus with giant soapy tentacles sloshing me to death. That and the monster at the bottom of the lake. As an adult I still fear the deep but not the dark. The locals think it mighty odd that your author goes night walking, insisting I ought to be afraid of the demons. Perhaps being a host for a few demons of my own makes it easy for me to become acquainted with external menaces. In between downpours I went roaming into the cypress grove an emerald cathedral of ferns, rocks, bark, lichens, and mosses. Through the foliage one can sneak a peek at the gaping void. The mountains at the edge of the earth veer left into Tawang. Countless summits, pinnacles, and spires reside beyond the huge humped Shampula. Temples gleam in both Tawang and Bhutan almost in synch. In the void live abundant animals and birds and many cows. Not to mention swerving light orbs, Himalayan elves, pixies, sprites, demons, and deities. I’ve seen some of it and felt more of it. The bon stuff is the same round the world, but the pantheon of Buddhist entities are more mysterious and elusive to this woodsman. Perhaps a few incantations might lure them out to play. But the ancient elfin and pixie inhabitants of the world’s forests are tricksters but proven benign. Meanwhile the land teethes and grows in front of the eye. Maize that was planted seemingly yesterday is twelve feet tall. From the raven’s perspective it’s a lurid green labyrinth with some dry craggy slopes and others furnished with thick forest. But endless ranges stretch in all directions with secret nooks and crannies harbouring lost world civilizations. LET IT GROW! It’s juicy ripe and smells like backcountry. Standing on the lip of the precipice I peer out over the olive basin trying to assimilate with the mountains. (Mountain Worship at its peak) But no success yet!  Probably for the better, how can one teach being a mountain? But I do get to teach atop a mountain which is also pretty good. In fact from different points on campus one can see both the Kulong Chu and Dagme Chu but not where they converge. We go deeper into the onion this second lap peeling back layers always getting closer to the thing. Coming to Bhutan is a constant collision, of culture, ideas, and karmas. It’s not a violent clash but a cosmic collision of the most intriguing kind. CALLING ALL INTREPID TEACHER TRAVELLERS, COME JOIN THE PARTY. BE WARNED I HOPE YOU DIG YOUR VILLAGE CUZ THAT’S WHERE IT’S AT MOST OF THE TIME! 

I have a lot of bug bites but it’s nothing like the legions of insects Becky reports from Phongmey. You remember Becky right? My friend out in Phongmey...  Both Phongmey and Tsenkharla are the end of the earth for vastly different reasons to wit. Becky lives across two sloshing rivers that often swallow the road whole stranding our heroine. Her locality is known for demons and intense religious fervour. The rounded  perfect MEME is shipwrecked in a gorgeous narrow valley with enormous mountains towering everywhere (gateway to the Bropka/Migoi world cue the clouded leopards and blue poppies) Where as Tsenkharla looks out on the open basin at the edge of time perched on the deity superhighway. So for those reasons and many more that I will not state provide evidence that both Becky and I live at the end of the earth. YOU UNDERSTAND...

I lunched with Karlos today and tried to be more open and cheery with the nationals. I try not to take their good natured ribbing at central marking personally. But we all get hung up on the cultural gap at times I suppose. Bhutan Stretchable Time, the jelly warp of the monsoon afternoon. I awoke at four Twenty in the morning to here a haunting blend of night creatures like crickets mingling with the early birds and ravens. (Ravens caw sixteen hours a day hereabouts)The strange grey lag outlined this ancient medley. Older than dirt birds, ravens calling out to the morning sun. Have I written that before since I just got déjàvu?
Anyway what have you missed while I was foraging in the void for truth trinkets and celestial nuggets? Oh yeah it was Guru Rinpoche’s B-Day last week. Long ago in Afghanistan or the Swat Valley of Pakistan Guru Rinpoche spontaneously emerged an enlightened eight year old from a blossomed lotus in the middle of a huge lake. I took a stealth Tuesday trip up the mountain hoping to get in synch with the second Buddha. (Could there be a separate or second Buddha HMMMM?) receiving a blessing from Zangtopelri as a bare footed Rinchen Wangmo looked on with baby strapped to her back in colorful cloth. Ah Rinchen Wangmo embodiment of Bhutanese beauty, the essence of a country girl. (Worldliness is overrated as these people truly know how to live skilfully) At this point I can hardly separate the temple from the woman. From there I got lost for several hours in the woods finding a remarkable Chorten with a stunning view of Gods handy work. I never did commune with the precious master having no epic vision. Only the swirling sky, a giant phallic cloud growing into the ether, and the mountains breathing in that soft light vortex. (The Holy Matrix, The Seed, the sacred spore) But I did get an inkling of a message in the dragon’s breath reminding me that Guru Rinpoche was a precious teacher and I should strive harder for that aim. Okay Mr. Dragon or is it Miss? Us mortals always are hung up on gender. DOES GOD HAVE A SEX? OR DOES GOD HAVE SEX? Polytheism seems much more fun, isn’t it? Heck god might get lonely too, right? While I was out there I again postulated a theory on the Bhutanese extraterrestrial link. Those pointed Chortens could be beaming signals and hiding alien objects in their base. BASE! Too much entropy and not enough action for MR. FROG MAN! (Rocket Man!) So I abandoned the alien theories and thought up strategies to improve my teaching in the precious few moments that remain in this long strange trip in Bhutan. ARE WE THERE YET? NOT YET SON YOU HAVENT AWAKENED? BUT I WANT A YAK BURGER? HEE HEE...
Okay so this is my last update before I hit the road on a journey West. What will the next sojourn entail? Stay tuned or rather in tune with the moment which always delivers on time. I intend on reaching the capital city Thimphu and from there, who knows? I say intend because roadblocks are par for the course on Bhutan roads actually dirt tracks jammed with multicoloured ta ta trucks and compact cars. All agendas and planning have been abandoned and the nets have been removed for this cosmic crusader walking the tightrope of terror. THIS IS NOT A TEST...   
TO BE CONTINUED...



Just in under the wire a work in progress for the PRECIOUS MASTER

 Flight of the Guru

An aquatic sky shatters
in gazillion shards
refracting topaz clouds
into Tawang funhouse.
the mountain mandala
sucks from an organic lotus
under a pastel fisheye encrusted
by shimmering ivory disc,
and a festering mushroom
transmits the rapturous pock faced Luna
who bangs on our earthen drum
with translucent silver palms
accompanied by the click clack
percussion of a million insects.
her mischievous eye
spy’s an azure serpent
wriggling through gashed valley
 liquid lightning
activated in galactic jar.
a raven’s thunderous caw
rocks the basin
its metallic velvet crumple
vibrating vacant terraces,
spilling a bottle green carpet
over austere terrain. 

Pull up the fringe and ride
the tiger of your imagination
to Zangtopelri on copper ridge
where a lovely gold pagoda sits
at the cusp of cypress coppice. 
touch your forehead
to the refreshing emerald marble
prostrate to the flickering butter lamp
and gilded Guru Rinpoche,
take a sip of grainy water
from a golden chalice.
then chase the leopard
through air fragrant
with wood smoke and manure
to Prince Tsangma’s Castle
rubbing noses with pixies
in the twilight,
playing hide and seek with psilocybic elves 
under a string of rainbow prayers
...Bhutan is the lushest bride!



Long View

Tawang Rainbow

Monsoon Kick Off

Merry Pranksters





Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Happy Summer Solstice 2013!

Summer Solstice 13
,


Ribbons of sunlight sprawl over the mountains like a golden cobweb and at the other end of the gulley a rainbow paints a Tawang slope. Ah just another day in paradise, those sweet moments before the monsoon bursts in your eye. But now it’s a pastel lotus, a breathing void engulfed by breathing mountains. On an oaky ridge Asiatic Elves play hide and seek with the trail so I plop at a lost Chorten shaded by two regal cypresses. An angry silver horse brays and sputters at me as I slumber against the mossy stupa, left to ponder the series of coincidences that led me to that very spot atop that very mountain near that very ornery horse watching clouds expand into the ether. Later a raven almost steals my face off my head and I am greeted by a plethora of pixies at Tsangma’s brokedown palace. This is how your author entered the portal into summer 2013! 

YOU UNDERSTAND...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Hog of a Sunday... Picture Walk...


Kulongchu

Afternoon Nap Near Bumdeling

Eyes of the World

Road to Tsenkharla

Tawang View From Kamdung

Sunset at Tsenkharla

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Big Top Bop...


Forest around Prince Tsangma's ruin


Cool Flower

Hands Across the Himalayas

Throwing Stones

Western View of Trashigang Area

Shampula and Dagme chu, in evening light

Sunset from Tsenkharla

Thursday June 13, 6:30 P.M

We have had a spell of sublime weather with warm sunshine spreading joyful nutrients on everyone and everything. A deep blue sky and puffy cloud formations that encourage the imagination to make forms and assign identities, I see this or I see that. Why can’t animals reside in the clouds or clouds in the animals just like the clouded leopard? Water is in everything including in those mountains that dance when no one is watching. It is a bluebird day as skiers would have it, or as Jonathan said of his bus trip from Wamrang to Yangtse proclaiming his journey was like a Disney Movie, “Leaves were waiving to me and saying hi Jon!” Well I can relate to that remark on an afternoon in middle June like this one. I didn’t make it far out of doors on my constitutional flopping in a grassy green terrace flooded with golden light overlooking Trashigang and Kanglung. The rays saturated each blade of grass in brilliant luminance and at that moment I wished to be a cow so to thoroughly enjoy that grass. I rolled about on it as it was the length of fare way turf and watched the billowing cloud formations wrangle in the sky.    
At school we read the Cherry Tree outside under a beautiful tree of our own. Sither an earthen girl was jubilant and barefoot as the boys threw grass at each other on the sly. The story takes place in the Indian Himalayan Foothills and as we read about a butterfly our very own butterfly fluttered by the students huddled in patterned gho and kira. (On a day warm as this I appreciate wearing slacks and a collared short sleeve shirt) The story is appropriate for their ability and can be easily related to the students own background which is a bonus. Before reading I had the students write and share about their experiences in the fields working alongside their family. I was talking with one class nine girl who lives in a tiny village with her brother on the Bhutan side of the border near the new Indian road. She hasn’t seen her mother or father (who live in the South) for five years and has been a boarder for three years. She transferred up from Kinney and now is acclimating at a new school. Can the reader imagine growing up at a boarding school away from the care of their family? They are a wholesome and hearty lot aren’t they? On the canal a group of primary students and some of my class seven kids were crouched in the shade of a pine playing a stone game where they toss stones into the air and catch them fast as they can. (They also play grassy sack with homemade balls of grass) Class seven is about the last time its proper for such games I’ve noticed.
Evening sun splashes Shampula washing out the border in dreamy light. At this exact place on the planet I find my essence somewhere among the hidden amulets and barren rivers bed. A hardscrabble existence on the fringe but a nice perk, the view is boundless!   

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words...







I can’t begin to express the joy of living in the mountains of Eastern Bhutan. From a rock in the forest the scenery looks like the last page of a child’s storybook. Of course in the LOT this book might be called Dragon’s Bait. Nonetheless the illustrations are lurid and it is a popup book with scratch and sniff characters, like cows with fragrant manure piles while overhead a rainbow stretches across a cloud kingdom. On the opposing slope villages are etched onto the face at 90 degree angles. How can people live hanging off a Cliffside? The stereophonic river echoes off the mountains and reverberates up to my ear beneath the cypress. The feathery foliage drips off the page of the three dimensional scroll. The road to Zangtopelri is like the yellow brick road with pyrite ground into the dirt. The path leads up from the temple through fields of maize along a ridgeline with sweeping views of the Dagme Chu. The valley floor is the river itself enclosed by interlocking mountains, a chain running from T-Gang to Tawang. On that yellow brick road on a wooded incline a horse bounds down the trail and my only recourse is to dive into the thicket. You got to keep on your toes in Bhutan. On that walk I also was trailed by a group of Shakshang student’s who pointed out a rainbow over Shampula, “Look sir a rainbow” These conversations are always quite amusing and are the nuggets of this Arcadian life. The rain has retreated in the daytime leaving clear blue skies with green mountains double dipped in pale gold light and whipped with ribbons of vapor from the dragon’s pipe. The mountain tumbles towards the river its abandoned terraces unoccupied in a wasteland scratched with a few rice patties on the rocky shore of the Dagme Chu. The mountains are so immense that things will likely remain the same in these parts for centuries to come. If there is an end of the earth, this is it...

Back at school my exams are printed for class seven and I am wrapping up the grammar for class nine. The term is grinding to a halt and the next two weeks will be a blur of marking and administering exams. Every day I marvel at the course of decisions and happenstances that landed me into such remarkable circumstances. Many of you reading this are directly responsible for depositing me here. Life couldn’t be sweeter if it were an icy bottle of coca cola, as the world shrinks away the impact of village life expands especially the relationship with the students.

I was fortunate to receive my package from Cousin Larry in Colorado. Thanks for all the treats including the Buddhist material, jerky and sitcoms which I’ve already devoured. I also love the Grateful Dead photos from Oakland 94 (a memorable show in the fact that I can’t remember any of it, except for some planet of the apes theme and sloshing in a giant paper cup of Coca Cola) Tyler and Beth thanks for shipping the goods and as it turns out I do like fig Newton’s (or are they lizard figs) Anyhow it’s nice to have support from the home front, and more pictures of Bobby for the hut. The weather is muggy with crickets making a raucous at night. Tsenkharla has nice cool nights where Doksom swelters down below. Don’t get me going on microclimates in Bhutan. At night thunder claps and rain showers plop on the tin roof. The moon is still on vacation off frolicking with the stars somewhere in the first quarter of the twenty first century. June is a beautiful and steamy dream in the land of the Thunder Dragon and every second we get closer to stopping the world. On a recent chill session up at Tsangma’s broke down palace I observed a Bhutanese family picnicking under the string of prayer flags we’d put up. This gave me a sense of satisfaction! I will never fully belong but I try to add to the benefit of Bhutanese people whenever possible. The ruin complex is overgrown with towering lemongrass that smells as good as its name and the air of late has taken on a delicious taste. When the sun pokes out it bakes the wet ground creating a steamy mud oven. On campus flowers burst their blooms in a festoonery of colors. Vines climb on trees and students study in trees and I examine the gorgeous cypress bows. In class I ask students to write about their labor in the fields and I chuckle at the vastly different experiences between suburban American Culture and Rural Bhutanese Culture. I am fortunate to be able to be exposed and form connections in this place.

Lately I have been pursuing the perfect Emadatsi dish. I have enjoyed my cooking more of late. Tonight I made a vegetable and cheese curry with eggplant, chilli, onion, and copious amounts of garlic. It turned out spicy and delicious. I have spent a lifetime neglecting veggies but here they are to be revered. The chilli is beautiful in its glossy green and red splendorous sheen. Inside its devilish seeds can ignite the taste buds and cause fire to shoot from your fanny. Farming is hard work and consumes villagers for much of their time. It’s not uncommon to find elderly folks toiling in the sun. Life in the Himalayas is hard.

Yesterday on my walk home I encountered a group of class three boys. One was squatting trailside taking a dump. I scolded him and he ran away without so much as wiping and leaving a pile of feces in plain sight. That’s the other side to this Arcadian life. If one would ask me how I spend my time up here I would reply, “Well there’s the teaching, and I like to stare at the mountains a lot”. And that’s about it!                

Sunday, June 9, 2013

View From the Vault...A Himalayan Winter Flashback

Mt Jhomolhari, December 2012

Tigers Nest

The Mighty Fishtail

Anna South 2013

Give me a Rainbow

Bodhnath, Katmandu

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Thursday Circus Extravagansa!!!



"We can't play anymore like kids right after school" Dave Malone

The sun burst through the ocean of clouds bringing extraordinary light to the area. When the clouds part an observer at Tsenkharla can observe hundreds of miles of scenery. The broad vista stretches from Kanglung in the South along the Dagme Chu to Tawang in the East. The West offers a tight ravine nestling the Kulongchu. After the afterschool reading session I went roaming, encountering children and old men on the trail. Rinchen Wangmo was in good spirits and requested I snap a photo of her and her bovine. The cypress grove was cool and fragrant with yellow edible berries (taste like sour blackberries) and blossoming purple. The hollow clicked with the percussion of birdlife having a tete a tete accompanied by the river three thousand feet below whose sound is quite audible strumming the pine bow. I eavesdropped on the student’s dirge a testament of complete focus and devotion. It should be mentioned there is no adult supervision as the prayer captains monitor the student body who chant in a trance. The air around the MP hall was saturated with sweet plumes of cedar smoke and back in the hut Nima Geilston drops by asking for money to buy new slippers.
In the classroom it’s a scramble to finish the syllabus and review for the exams. It’s a tiring time for teachers and students alike but there is certain exhilaration in the air like in a vineyard just before the grapes are plucked for the vintage. Last night I was invited to Thinley Sir’s house for dinner with IT and Poop. It was enjoyable to spend time with these two power couples of Tsenkharla. (These are the dudes that fixed my computer!) Tinley’s wife has a rounded face and an infectious smile and speaks virtually no English although she is twenty. Both IT and Thinley are handsome and hip and IT’s betrothed Poop is slender with a certain grace that is common to such people in all corners of the world, and when she set down her teacup the molecules were hardly disturbed but actually rejoiced in the gesture. Dinner was boiled pork, bean curry, and rice. And that’s the extent of the action up here at VI, oh by the way how are things in your town?     

The Dragons Tail

The Mother Ship

Hitting the books

Slim Shady

Mr. Namaste away from his wheel?

Rinchen Wangmo and Ummadumma

Raven

Smokin' Hot!

Ace and Dawa Dema in Village Incognito