Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Stories From The End Of The Universe (Chapter 2)

Chapter 2: Remember Where You Live-Shop Talk-2013-The Promised Land 

“This place is a battlefield and the only way to survive it is pure will power” Bear Grills, Man VS. Wild

Well I never did find that elusive reset button in Trashigang and now it’s Sunday Night in Tsenkharla, a spanking crescent moon reclines in the black hammock of night accompanied by a few dim stars. The ground under foot is muddy as a body slurps along circumventing puddles and pitfalls to score coke in the village. The cows have been led to their sheds except one derelict bovine munching maize leaves in the darkness. (My class seven students are huge fans of my cow impersonations ranging from docile cow to tormented cow) This past weekend, when we weren’t telling jokes or playing bananagrahms my colleagues and I conversed about the future of our prodigies. Many will likely return to the farms to toil in the fields which is an absolute necessity in this agrarian society. But will they be satisfied after tasting the rewards of education? Bhutan might propagate a philosophy of GNH but life is not easy in this blessed kingdom. The proof is in students written accounts of their summer vacation where the majority of students laboured either in fields or in part time construction work to supplement their family’s income. What’s more families are short handed for harvesting crops since their kids are in boarding school. Of course despite the Kingdoms admirable efforts not all children are being educated, case in point a 16 year old girl I met along the road who had never attended a day of school and could only speak a few words of English. But as Principal La says, Bhutan has pulled its socks up and done incredible things as a nation. I am proud to serve the ministry in their continuing efforts to bolster the student’s English skills. Can the reader imagine studying all subjects in a foreighn language? As someone who flunked Spanish multiple times I respect the student’s aptitude and tenacity in communicating in a secondary language.  

Ah back hillside, it’s always refreshing to climb this rocky top. Between T-Gang and Doksom the land resembles a moss covered rock, a magic green carpet with the odd tree sprouting up. A rugged terrain cut only by the torrent of the Dagme Chu at its muddy zenith. In one part of the east the Gamri Chu swept away a bolero and tram, everywhere water cascades off ledges, rocks, cliffs bounding into roads or forging rivulets rushing to rejoin the source. It’s a sacred water wheel older than dirt playing its seasonal tune on cloud pipes and rain sticks. When Guru Rinpoche gallivanted through the region not so long ago he must have marvelled at the same juicy spectacle of liquid ejaculations, but fortunately flying tigers don’t mind getting soaked. Coming home I remember how lucky I am to live here and in some weird way the hardships and travails make it all sweeter. We are not tourists but are immersed in rural communities doing some sort of providence. It’s a powerful reality that I take for granted too often since many of us intuit that this is the greatest experience of our entire lives, as if we are an elect. But one doesn’t have an opportunity to get a swelled head about that since Bhutan keeps you humble and the Dragon under the tutelage of Ganeshy places obstacles in your way. Openness is the name of the game an ongoing lesson I’m still learning. But each day gives ample opportunity for growth and if your author could get off his psychic duff and morbid introspection kick he might just be capable of anything. As it is I have to remind myself that I have done good things here and of course actions speak louder than words. BLAH BLAH BLAH...       

In the village Momo and Chimney- Chonga talked dirty at the shop joshing that they wanted to eat my banana (bananagrahms!) I politely excused myself and took fluffhead Dawa Dema for a walk in the woods but our path was obstructed by an ornery bull so we retreated back to Tsenkharla. Today was creamy with sunshine glistening off my new yellow dust bins strategically placed around campus. These are the overdue replacements of the ones that went missing last year. I’m stressing responsibility for trash more than ever with mixed results. I appeal to the student’s duty to earth and even sneak god into the diatribe yet litter still piles up on the worn trails and in the village itself. But the forest is pulsating with insects and pungent with forestry incenses and the un-bottled premium perfume of olfactory Bhutan. MMMM let’s call it Scent of a Mule. So it goes in the friendly village of Rangthangwoong where little Sangay Dema twirls her hair chews bubblegum and talks on a mobile phone in an angry birds T-shirt. It takes fifteen minutes to stroll thirty five feet through the village mucky thoroughfare. I begin at Karma and Sonam’s shop dropping Dawa Dema and shocked to see Karma in traditional gho listening to Zeppelin’s “All of my Love” on Bhutanese radio through bumping speakers. Next on to the naughty women at the next shop and then to Auntie Kesang’s to gossip and throw some business to my steady and beloved proprietor. Than I have an informal conference with Phuntsho a boy from class nine at a clump of prayer flags. The Bhutanese call it “time pass” and there is always some of it that leaks through the strainer of BST, on the Christian calendar its 2013 and on the Mayan calendar its one tick past the end of the world, how are you enjoying the afterlife? Never have I experienced this life more through the senses and seasons with Huckleberry Finn awareness. That part of life is awfully sweet as Aunt Mare might say, surveying the mountains and rivers that manifest my Promised Land.

Summertime rolls and labours in a steamy drawl and I’m thankful to have some water even if it’s brown. This is when BCF teachers tend to lose the plot and loneliness/restlessness creeps in. As for me I have the advantage of being born restless and lonesome so I’m merely busy at work trying to improve student comprehension and always evaluating my own methodologies. Across the way Becky Story is spending another birthday in Bhutan which is actually a present for me.   

You decide what it contains
How long it goes
But this remains
The only rule is it begins
Happy happy oh my friend

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