Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Monsoon in Monyul

For Reed and Paige the two cutest forms in the void

One cannot possibly measure all of the space in the Eastern Heavens. Diamond Sutra

Monyul translates to dark land and is a former moniker for Bhutan as is Lhomon land of southern Darkness (South of Tibet) what a world right? We scream Free Tibet but long ago Tibet threatened Tang China itself. So we should whisper free humanity isn’t it? Bhutan just hosted elections in their fledgling democracy. I don’t have must interest in politics in general but only hope democracy won’t run amuck. Bhutan has been blessed with noble royalty but His Excellency the Fourth King wanted to ensure a promising future giving citizens a hand in governance. Bhutan is a special place and the world needs Bhutan even if they don’t know it exists. The tigers need Bhutan too climbing ever higher along forested slopes following prey to 13,000 feet.  Bhutanese themselves take a keen interest in politics and travel long distances back to their native villages to vote. It’s inspiring to see such vigorous participation and passion for their countries affairs which is definitely a Drukyul trait. Long Live the King and Democracy in Bhutan. Bhutanese unanimously adore the royal family which is a fairytale ideal in today’s world. And here I am perched on a precipice at the fringe of this magical Kingdom looking into peaceful Tawang which might be similar but ain’t Bhutan. As far as I know there are no tigers in Tawang.  

Tonight is Thursday Night in the backwash of Eastern Bhutan but the circus is subdued yet present in the rich aroma of foggy woods and the hymns from the students in the MP hall with a bank of butter lamps glowing and cedar smoke billowing outside as a student feeds the fire. Oh fire thank you for your blessings! They amaze me at their dirge so focused and communal and I sometimes envy their devotion but mostly just hope for that contact high riding their golden coattails to heaven. They are adept at taping into that source that sustains the Dragon folk bonding them together harmoniously. As Nancy says we are fortunate to view Bhutan from the inside and without Nancy we all wouldn’t be here and that’s a fact. The rest of this soggy night will be consumed planning lessons and reading yet another Tom Robbins mystery. I realize the mood of these last few posts has been rather solemn but not to worry mom I am doing alright just growing pains in tangled samsara. I love you guys more than anything and am fortunate to be born into such a loving and supportive family. Without your tireless support both emotionally and financially I would have never made it to this outpost in East Bhutan. I don’t mention enough how grateful I am. Thank You! Give Reed and Paige a hug and kiss from Uncle Timmy...Also thanks to the donors like Professor Gholson who contributed $200 dollars to help fulfil a former students dream. Now I’m the teacher handing out chump change Ngultrum to buy Tashi new shoes.

Tiger! Tiger! Burning Bright
Won’t you FREE my soul tonight?

A Mid Summer Nights Nightmare

Finally I have resumed teaching lessons with both a mix of enthusiasm and fatigue. I find teaching a taxing profession but I love my students so the effort is worth it. Nonetheless I have worlds to progress in technique but focus on preparation. A teacher’s work is never done and can always be improved upon, especially in Bhutan. To wit, despite the hype Bhutanese students are poor in speaking and communicating in English. When I called students to the front to talk about their vacation, they could only stammer out a few words. The problem is obvious students only use limited English at school since English is the medium of instruction. But they are not expected to contribute much to their subject classes since lessons are mainly delivered as lectures. Furthermore they never use English in the hostel or in the schoolyard so how can they feel at ease speaking in front of peers in a classroom setting. I challenge them to commit to speaking English with friends and reading and writing each day. But reading and writing are not revered in Bhutanese culture and free time is spent praying or working on traditional dance. It’s an uphill battle for an ESL instructor to improve the skills of his or her students. Many Bhutanese students are incredibly bright speaking multiple languages but very few feel at ease in communicating English. There are exceptions including my pal Phuntsho the shopkeeper or Indra, the spritely young lass that works in another Trashigang shop. A few years back she missed the mark for advancing past class ten by a point thus ending her academic career (tragic) and putting her into the workforce. Now she seems quite adept at her trade and speaks relaxed and coherent English. Like many Southern Bhutanese of Nepali descent she also possesses the easy manner of her clan. I happened upon the shop she worked in to order plastic chairs for the library, part of my generous BCF grant. Yeah about that reading program I initiated. It has been commandeered by another English teacher who is frankly abusive to the students hitting the boys aside their head and berating the girls. The poor teenage boys getting slapped around could kick this teachers butt if they rebelled but that isn’t the Bhutanese way. Anyway the vibe in the reading room is pensive and fearful and I feel my role as helper is diminished. I can’t be an advocate against violence as I learned long ago that a foreign teacher cannot change the system. What’s worse is students are conditioned to only respond to blunt force rather than positive reinforcement in the classroom. They know I won’t beat them so I have to find other ways to motivate them to behave. There are many challenges and I’m still ironing out the kinks whilst trying not to destroy the culture.  I also do my best to facilitate group work and individual expression both devalued in the current system but when I have to resort to rote methods the students lap it up like Emadatsi sauce. What to do?
It was nice talking to Bra and hearing about his incessant revelry in both sports and music (Not that that boy don’t work for it) but Christ for a moment I questioned my own position as he was off to the Mother ship to see Bobby, DESIRE! I guess my chattering on impermanence and death poppies has rattled my dad’s cage and the folks at home are wondering whether your compulsive author might fling himself over his rock into oblivion. Not to worry daddy-o I’m in it to win it but I would be lying if I didn’t admit to a giant sized pinch of angst, perhaps a hippie midlife crisis of sorts. This world has always felt unreal and illusionary for me and now the dharma has revealed that my suspicions are correct, but what now? Life is an empty vessel sinking midstream and we are born to depart so what’s the point. I always cashed my chips in the rib eye of hedonism which looks pretty juicy on a bland monsoon evening. I try to invest my energies in hard work but my mind is eternally restless and my soul is a patchwork of melancholies and wistfulness. WELCOME TO THE VOID if you’re looking for CLUB DESIRE its two continents back. I bristled when my brother suggested I leave Bhutan if I ever wanted to find a mate. OH YEAH that old loveless tune like the velvety roll of Wasserman’s Bass soloing, shaking the foundations of the earth. NOTHINGNESS! If there was a moon your author might HOWL at it, perhaps I saw that old moon last night or I might have dreamt it. Who Am I anyway or who are you reading this? Can you really tell me true? Blah Blah Blah Words Words Words.  

“Bolt of inspiration, the way you strike me now”

Is Bobby singing to Guru Rinpoche during Supplication? That old thunderbolt striking each moment in powdery blue gold illumination. The power of the moment is the sucking lotus mandala of breathing Chrysanthemum Mountains. Throw down your neurosis and jump naked into the cosmic soup, the formless elixir that we all bubbled up from before putting on masks proclaiming identity and reinforcing the ego that separates IT from US. If it’s all too cryptic for the reader I apologize but I learned it that way from the reptilian queen raging in ruby dawn who banished her king on forked tongue. So you want reality okay here it is. My lessons are planned and tomorrows a new chance to reach the students. Although how much they understand me is anyone’s guess.  An ESL teacher’s work is itinerant and we rarely see the reward that often reveals itself in a student’s later life. Back in my other itinerant life of cosmic gaiety it was much the same dancing a blue streak with glorious Buddha’s I will never know again. Just the other night I found some musical tertons hidden by MK on a hot desert night but I couldn’t reach him to say thanks.   

“Knock Knock”
Who’s there?
“Karma Sir”
“What’s up Buddy?”
“I need money!”

Karma wants cash for clothes but I insist that we go together so I can verify the expenditures. Life in Bhutan for these kids is hand to mouth and it’s hard to refuse needs and in Bhutan lending money or an object means giving it away. What the kids give me exceeds anything monetary as one gleans what’s truly important in this salty liquid universe. Love makes the world go round and there is plenty to spare in the birds and trees and affection from the students. So dearest dad don’t worry on me since a touch of grey will always permeate my wayward soul just as my eyes will always shake like terrified bunny’s. What to Do Kathmandu? I will concede that I think far too much and am guilty of attaching meaning to those obsessive thoughts. But occasionally I’m a man of action (The international man of mystery) a comet of chalk dust blazing across the Himalayas in this funky illusionary transitory parade called existence. Just don’t forget to dance while the music is playing!  

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