For Choden at the Ministry
Students have reported and the sleepy mountaintop village of Tsenkharla (formally Rangthangwoong) has woken up. The student body moves about in purple plaid goes and red and black kiras like drones of Guru Rinpoche or the dragon itself. They settle back into the routine run by the din of the bell sixteen hours a day, Eat pray study sleep repeat. Boys drop by to hang out with timid smiles and I am happy to oblige actually missing the buggers. Now is the time of handing back exams and pouring over mistakes (another drawback of center marking) the scores are added wrong or checked improperly so we must fix the mistakes and give new marks to the class teachers. Students react differently to their results some are finicky and always challenging their scores while others merely glance and chuck the paper aside to gossip with friends. Others are asleep on their desk since real teaching hasn’t begun and teachers are periodically doing exam business in the room. The whole exam process is a nightmare and center marking is unfair to the student and teacher IMHO. But no matter as lessons will begin soon and I’m taking this informal period to chat with the students who are more shy than before and must loosen up again. Moreover they haven’t been speaking English during the break using only their mother tongues. But they are great kids anyone who ever taught in the kingdom can attest to that. Kind hearted simple and even hard working especially on physical tasks. Naturally there is a lot of social work going on these days like grass cutting and gardening. Kids hammer the weeds with sickles like little reapers and lug desks here and there, sweep gutters and hide out beyond the sight of supervising teachers. They are self regulated and communal beings who really see the world differently from western kids. They truly respect their culture and cherish their religion (the Himalayan branch of Buddhism) When they pray they are in a spiritual zone their voices lifting into the woods where I sit cross legged under a tree to listen. It takes time but I have gotten to know some of the boys rather well especially the ones who come over frequently like mischievous Karma whose eyes twinkle as he scampers around my abode barefoot. Lots of good kids around yet loneliness too, more than that my acute anxieties that plague me on any continent flare up in isolation. But despite feeling nutty too often I am also extremely satisfied with life here. If only I could abort those rapid negative thoughts and further embrace the specialness around me. Staying in the moment can take lifetimes to perfect and I have a long haul ahead. It’s an adjustment coming back from socializing over hamburgers and milkshakes in Thimphu back to the scrounging east where water lacks veggies lack but the view is sublime. Oh Choden I can’t imagine you would be reading this but you are my angel. Tsenkharla is paradise. Sitting halfway up a mountain on a pinnacle overlooking India and Bhutan we are blessed with minimal monsoon rains and no leeches. The landscape unrolls like an endless gold and silver scroll unfurrowing in all directions in a magic organic mandala. In the center of the circle is Mr. Tim (the madman of Tsenkharla) the miracle I perform is just holding it together! In the afternoon my daily rainbow stretches over the borderlands where I enjoy it from my stoop. I sleep to a lullaby of crickets and awake to the eager cry of ravens. On the ridge we have both Zangtopelri and ruined Tsenkharla Dzong to boast, it all comes together in the most soul filling way. I gaze down two thousand feet to two magnificent rivers on either side of campus and can’t help feel that I am inside Gloria’s snow globe. In the forest cows and horses feed on the grass while Wangmo and Zangmo track their way to Shakshang Goempa. Like I say if I weren’t a bit crazy I would have nothing to complain about. All that open space teaches me to stay open to it all. But sometimes it’s not quite enough and I feel poisoned by my mercury mind. Becky read somewhere that age 35 was considered youths end. How appropriate as I feel a darker connection to this pearly plane than before. My extended youth was all snowshoes, lovemaking, and dance parties and now I’m paying the piper. But working with kids is one way to stay in touch with youth’s exuberant pulse. As Bunks pointed out we are truly blessed to have an opportunity to work and live in rural Bhutan colliding karma with the wacky Bhutanese. This is living the dream and thanks to Choden I made it back home to Tsenkharla. Boy I still recall my first cup of tea served by Poop on a hazy winter afternoon overlooking the void. A pale eager moon rose that night and by golly I haven’t seen her since. There was also a deluge as if to welcome me and that was 1.5 years ago. Fast forward to a misty afternoon in mid July as I curiously survey my life, how the heck did I end up in this wildest place making connections with people so different from myself? Of course we are also the same and if folks realized that there might not be any wars. Or if I realized it I could love everyone and not live in neurotic fear. As for the aforementioned unease and anxiety it must be residual karma from past lives or a chemical imbalance but we all muddle through the best we can and work with what we got. For this empty golden boy I have a platinum opportunity to make some sort of impact here. Well a group of boys including aforementioned Karma has come by to hang out so I will leave you here. The boys like to investigate my electric razor, look at photos of my family, and try peanut butter for the first time. I wish I could sneak y’all through the portal and take you for a walk up to Zangtopelri and I truly appreciate your readership and interest in my endeavours. Being alone and far off one has time to contemplate their loved ones. I lay on my bunk thinking of my donors, former teachers, friends, family, and my heroes who pulled me along. I can feel your silent support from all over the spinning ball of blue someone named planet earth. As a confused little being I can’t offer advice except to say love is the answer to all questions.
“We’ll be back in just a little bit”
Okay well kiddos went to evening study and I went to the village for sundries. I woke up neurotic and upset but around noon said enough and slapped a smile on my face and things got better. A dog has adopted me as an owner who looks a lot like Red who died last summer. He chases me about burying his snout in his paws in submissive playfulness as dogs do. Pup Dawa Dema is also doing well and a nice addition to Karlos and Sonam’s family. I really miss those two and her home cooking. While it’s true I’ve been guilty of begging I miss their company most of all. They are at the shop 24/7 so I don’t go over and sit on nice furniture and shoot the shit or listen to them ramble in sharshop. My trip to the village also yielded fine local chillies including lovely red ones amongst the sea of green. You weigh the chillies on a scale using a counterweight to establish one (cagey or KG) Auntie Kesang even stoked me out with some cilantro and the funny thing was I had just been thinking of how I wanted some. Manifesting form in the void is a renowned Jedi trick as Bra and I witnessed with the string bean bikini beauty at Furthur Fest. MANIFEST! Okay she had a bit of a butter face but what a bod and the trick with the manifesting. But the rub is to not DESIRE but to humbly request of the universe. Karma is cyclical and can pay off immediately or over a thousand incarnations. Another words the girl that got away could be gotten in the next life. Ha! You can’t possess another human or even love for that matter which just scatters in the wind or blows through you like the wind in the willows. Right now the evening wanes but there is still plenty of light at 6:09 P.M to stare into T-Wang that gaping void I adore that shimmering Himalayan scroll rolling out into the Subcontinent. STILL CAN’T SEE THAT OTHER MOUNTAINS OTHER SIDE NOW” IS IT BOBBY??? Wedges of sun hit hidden amulet valleys gleaming against a temple on the adjacent slope. With my poor boy eyes merely a fuzzy white dot since mine is a fuzzy world. But my eyes work and I am blessed to see all this wonder and smell that bouquet that is the fragrance of East Bhutan. Oh how delightful to live in a unique culture in lost world South Asia, a configuration of countries including India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Burma, and Bangladesh. The vast Tibet is 50 miles north and according to a map in a Thimphu bookstore there are some huge lakes above Bumdeling. All the lakes are in the inaccessible glacial north as East Bhutan is river country. Bhutan is a biodiversity diamond with tigers prowling the forest expanding higher into the mountains from overcrowded India. Isn’t it yummy to know that undisturbed habitat supports wild beasts hardly found anywhere else on our planet? We’ve all come for refuge in this inhospitable paradise. Or some of us might be returning home from another lifetime, like Nancy who seems to possess a Bhutanese soul. Alas I know I am only passing through Bhutan in this transient life and I try to remind myself of that every day. Well Mister Tim you must cherish the moments of interaction with students or gliding on the far gone trails through my territory. In life attitude is everything, take it from one with a cosmic chip on his shoulder and a tight sphincter. I’m tightly wound which is why I go for big blow outs but the real life is found in the duller moments of washing dishes or preparing Emadatsi by candlelight. At this very moment nature has IT wound up like a Swiss watch as the globe revolves twirling on a GALACTAL pin reeling into a placid hazy night. The nightshift in East Bhutan no moon or stars just inky blackness and the clickity clack of unseen critters. At 9 P.M the final bell will gong the kids to sleep but I can see torchlight in the boy’s windows much later. For me it’s a time to be alone with mournful or monumental thoughts that tamp themselves down into the peaceful dream bowl of sleep. Last night’s edition saw Morgan’s colorful face close enough to touch and she was smiling. That chick and I had some good times playing in the void and I hope that the Mountain Maiden and her Mount Tam Man will reunite for a walk in the woods someday. But for now I’m on a mission of some sorts in the hinterland of this crazy kingdom and the work part s not done.