Friday, July 5, 2013

So Far

Greetimgs From beautiful Paro Valley

Well I made it from one side of the country to the other. I left Tsenkharla exhausted from marking and met up with Becky, Sharon,, Ashleigh, and Jon at the K.C. We had dinner and hung out in my room for the opening of summer tour. At six AM on a misty dawn we lit out from T-Gang on an excruciating 12 hour bus ride to Bumthang. The lateral road crosses the Kori La East of Mongar, a fern palace wilderness of creepers and mist. From Mongar the bus dipped into the steamy jungle near Limithang before starting an 11,000 foot climb over the BIG LA. This gorgeous five hour drive switches back on a precipice with uninterrupted natural views. Unlike the East there are no villages only rugged ranges with mixed vegetation. Waterfalls cascade over the roadway falling vertically from unseen places. The tires grind against the edge of a bottomless chasm and finally we summit and begin the ride into Bumthang. The deciduous forest transitions into spooky pines dripping with lime moss. The mountains flatten out stretching into gorgeous valleys and rolling ridges of pines. ENDLESS PINES dripping with strange moss is the heart of Bhutan. The holiest place. (Holiday is Holy Day)

In Bumthang we settled into the River Lodge Hotel meeting the other teachers from the West in a merry celebration. Mr. Mark the hostess with the mostest had imported salami from Canada that made my mouth water like a dog outside the kitchen door of a Sizzler restaurant. After dinner a dance party erupted in the wooded dinning room. It wasn't my kind of music but I enjoyed watching Bricker swing some gal around. Over the next few days I talked to each of my colleagues having especially riveting conversations with Singay (Roaring Lion) a Mormon raised convert to the monk body, Sarah who is headed with Bricker to Sakteng, and Arwen who is obsessed with snakes. Sarah is an older woman from Maine who is all guts. I told her about my trek to the Brokpa realm last summer. Matt who is placed with his wife Lucy in Thimphu, told me about a BBQ party with HM and his wonderful interaction with his excellency and Heather told me about riding on the back of Dave's motorcycle out west. It was very cool to swap stories with the group. The bus took us to Burning Lake an enchanted spot where Pema Lingkpa worked miracles. The lake is actually a pool in the rive that swirls in an unearthly fashion. A malestrom portal to another dimension that threatened to suck Singay in maroon robes and all. Then we headed out to Tang valley to the estate of Kunzang Choden who wrote Dawa the Dog a novel I am teaching. The estate actually a small Dzong is a living museum perched on a hillock overlooking the secluded valley. We had a savory picnic lunch with all the Bhutanese fixings including smoking hot emadatsi. Truthfully this spot was breathtaking a verdant pine clad paradise with green fields in a spot where it all comes together, Shangra La. An Alpine haven with flowers and butterflies and swirling misty horizons. Kunzang Choden is married to a Swiss man named Walter who joins Fritz Mauer as a second Swiss man in the valley. IT was a very edifying day and felt blessed to see Bumthangs most sacred valley. BCF did a commendable job in preparing a great retreat for their employees. The highlight of the weekend was talking with Choden the woman who is responsible for all of our placements. I tried to be coy and asked straight away what she could do about my water problem. But then I thanked her profoundly for placing me at Tsenkharla. I asked about the process of placing people and she responded that it is simply what we request on our form, rural or urban and what the schools needs are. But behind her proper demeanour was the glint of a fortune teller and in my heart she is an angel.

The next day I hired a taxi with Becky and Ashleigh and continued west. I had forfeited my bus ticket to see Kunzang Choden but felt pressured to get back on the road. After another rough ride we rumbled int the capital. Thimphu is more like San Francisco than it is like Tsenkharla. Its a drastic change. People walk the streets in designer clothes and kids play on lap tops on park benches. A person can get decent pizza, cheeseburgers, and most anything they DESIRE. A popular spot with the expats is the Ambient Cafe a hip coffee house on the second floor of a building that also has basic nice rooms. Lee had a mocha, Becky granola yogurt and bananas and Collin some Humus. We chat and I recognize an old white monk who I saw on T.V when I was in Omba with Baghi. It is the fourth of July and Mr. Mark who taught twenty five years ago with Jamie and Nancy is throwing a party . Mark is Canadian and there are only a few Americans on hand. Jon, Lee, Becky, Ashleigh, and I. Mr. Mark lives in a remarkable home at the end of a cypress lined gated driveway that is replicated from the Dark Park of Larkspur California. His traditional Bhutanese style black and white cottage has exotic flowers trailing everywhere and a spacious front lawn with rose garden.. The sky was grey of course "tis the season" but it wasn't raining and was pleasant Ashleigh had spent the day toiling in the kitchen helping some Bhutanese women prepare for the feast. It was an interesting blend of attendees including Bhutanese, foreigners, and Nancy who came by to have supper and wish us all a happy Independence Day.

The house was incredible with plush furniture and pieces of art hanging about. The meal was beyond description with chicken kabobs, grilled chicken, potato salad, and green salad. And of course a late night salami session. The mood was gay as we sat on the balcony talking about GNH and of course snakes since our reptilian expert was present. Mark is a legend in Bhutan in fact both Nancy and him have dishes named for them at a local restaurant. It was a great cap to spending time with the group of intrepid teacher travellers who volunteer to make Bhutan a better place.

I visited the National Memorial Chorten the sight of slipping through the Mayan Portal and in a somber mood I circumnavigated the pearly chorten with elderly toothless Abi's and hunched over meme's. My time was coming too and something else was weighing on me, perhaps a part of my heart was in Quincy. DESIRE! But moods are funny they can hang around the heart like monsoon mist.

Things I enjoyed in Thimphu, joking with friends, hot showers, TV, view of the grand Dzong, Himalayan weeping willows lining the iridescent river. I went to the Indian consulate on an estate called India House. A handsome plot of willows, fountains and pines a regular old walled compound. Little India. It doesn't seem they are eagerly enthused at my intentions to go to India. Well I'm not so sure myself but I get the visa for winter time. It will take a week to process so I will linger in the West like the phantom sun.

Which pretty much catches you up as today I hopped in a crowded taxi and split for Paro leaving my best friend on the street. Becky has been doing errands in town and we had met for lunch where we might of had are first tiff. She was "suffering" from tooth pain and I couldn't find my way up to the second story in this glass building. (like a hummingbird in a celarium) Well I wanted Becky to retrieve me like some toddler and when she found me I was banging on the glass. We had a good laugh and a nice lunch and hope to reconect tomorrow in Paro so keep your fingers crossed for safe journeys everywhere.

From a financial stand point things on the road are expensive and I have a bad habit of staying at mid range instead of budget lodgings. After all I live in a filthy hut ten month a year. But I write to you from an Arcadian lobby with wood floors and huge windows revealing views of Tigers Nest! A thick soup of clouds hovers just above the monastery which clings to a mile high Cliff face. This is sacred stuff the Bhutan Tibetan Link. I loved visiting this valley with mom and bra and now we swap sunny skies for green rice paddies under a thicket of pines. And so many boulders hiding out in those hills. In the fog lingers Jhomolahari the goddess herself. Yelloma!

The migoi the blue poppy and the tiger in a trance...        

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