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!                

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