Chapter 4: Wrong Way Feeling- Cradle of Civilization-Busy Timmy!
Last week Tsenkharla received a distinguished visitor in the person of Dasho Tashi Phuntsho, a member of parliament who represents Trashiyangtse Dzonkhag. I rallied my class nine students and we purged the entranceway of trash and then I sponsored some juice for refreshments. I was told to meet after seventh period in the staff room to receive our guest. At lunch I ran to the shop to purchase a white silk scarf (the traditional offering in Bhutan for special events) after seventh period I ran home to drop my book bag and upon returning I ran headlong into the regal procession, yikes! Coming directly down the driveway was The Dasho, followed by Principal La, our two VP’s and tarrying submissively behind was the entire staff. Yelama! No one bothered to inform me of the actual meeting place. Charging in the opposite direction of a Dasho might be the worst cultural offense ever committed in the Kingdom of Bhutan and I was mortified as the parade proceeded towards me in slow motion. While I blushed and awaited the awkward meeting I could hear Nancy’s matriarchal voice inside my dome scolding me, “Don’t walk in front of a Dasho mmmkay” Of course The Dasho was gracious and unflappable despite my foe paw since he was an upstanding gentleman of the highest calibre who had studied in Canada. I did my dandiest presentation of the scarf which paled in comparison to the adept Bhutanese who suddenly transformed into their trademark transcendental reverence a brand of eloquence that doesn’t exist in American decorum. You got to hand it to the Bhutanese when it comes to observance of culture, decked out in traditional sashes slung over their national garb and in their resplendent regalia they appeared royal and majestic compared to your author in his dirty socks and dragon tie. The next day I walked by a set of prayer flags counter clockwise and was reprimanded by another lopen. Luckily I can’t destroy the Bhutanese culture which can easily withstand and humour your trespassing author. Either way I’m proud to serve the ministry as one of the first Americans to ever teach in Bhutan. Canada has a long history of service in this nation but Americans are newcomers yet strong showers. All four returning teachers from last year were bred of stars and stripes, a fact I discussed during a recent interview with Becky over momo’s. Becky and I enjoy a different experience but deep down in our marrow we love Bhutan equally. We don’t even know the nature of this mysterious attraction perhaps the greatest love of our lives. Loving a country truly is like loving a person and certain persons of Bhutan are loved by both of us. Actually I envy the impact Rebecca has with her students and only hope I reap a fraction of those results. So we pass the afternoon swapping stories of our students and classroom antics like when one of Becky’s little ones stepped onto a table during interval and proclaimed that he would kill all Americans with his bow and arrow. This was in response to the boy learning somewhere that America was NOT a peaceful country. Look out Obama and Pentagon little Dorji is armed and dangerous. Even our nukes are no match for this chilli eating sharshop warrior.
On the weekend I made the run to T-Gang admiring the historic Dzong perched on a hillock above Chazam. We blow through Chazam these days thanks to Scotty’s resistance as we no longer have to concoct tall tales to visit the hamlet to get money or buy veggies. T-Gang is the Cradle of Civilization in East Bhutan an essential respite and getaway for BCF teachers of yesteryear and today. I was afforded the lovers sweet at the K.C hotel with a giant bed to sprawl across and thusly enjoyed the weekend. I also had some work commandeering items for my grant project but mostly I watched T.V with Becky and ate Chi Chi’s Chilli Chicken at the bus stop gossiping with local acquaintances. The town was blossoming with pastel flowers a verdant green paradise nestled in a secret amulet glade protected from the next Tibetan attack by the imposing Dzong (I LOVE MY DZONG) Back at Tsenkharla the dog days are upon us. There are lots of meetings, classes, the afterschool reading program, and night study with class ten. It’s a busy time as the monsoon rolls on with foggy mornings becoming partly cloudy with radiant sun followed closely by afternoon thundershowers. Flowers decorate the gardens delighting the nostrils with citrusy olfactory hues; actually the brain itself is lit up in floral ecstasy. Cows moo and munch and at lunch villagers nip whisky and laugh at Dawa Dema attacking everything that moves (She killed a rat last night) I walk her often trying to explain to Karlos and Sonam that dogs need exercise every day. The classroom remains center stage in this three ringed circus as I implore different modalities to teach the students. Its hard work with setbacks and advancements, one perk was working on an argument for debate with Tenzin, a class ten student for over an hour in the MP Hall as it’s a privilege tutoring individual students. Next to me on my desk are 120 notebooks and portfolios waiting to be marked. Woof Woof and Bow Wow these are the dog days, Buckle Up kids!
Chapter 5: Give me five I’m still alive-Goodnight Neal
Life in Bhutan is dirty and all around me unwashed kids with boils on their hands are sneezing and shooting diarrhoea. Somehow my golden immune system keeps this golden boy kicking. But I do have low energy and stomach troubles probably due to a steady diet of chillies and Coca Cola. Take it all around my health is good since let us not forget we live in a developing country (THE THIRD WORLD) a scary proposition that I like to shuck out of my mind like an Acme oyster shell and hopefully I don’t have rabies since I bit my health buddy. The monsoon is particularly funky with black water and bugs. But boy oh boy I am grateful for any water at all and have seen noticeable improvement in that arena. Everybody gets a new life in Bhutan here’s hoping it’s a healthy one too. A curtain of rain falls penetrated by blurry headlights beaming on a windy Tawang road. The only other light is from a remnant prosperous moon, a scabby radiation sore on the black skin of sky. At morning assembly today Principal La imposed mandatory haircuts for the girls sighting that when Guru Rinpoche entered Bhutan he subdued demonises with long hair and nails. After assembly I cut my toe nails which could have lacerated a lassie in Tawang. Life is maintenance and upkeep, hygiene and chores, most of our time is entwined in these basic activities so it’s best to meditate on them but I don’t. I recall the ecstatic joy that Aunt Mare performed her toilet duties in Yellowstone brushing her hair and washing her face, which brings to mind the time she bumped into me on the trail at a Rainbow Gathering and dragged me to her tent to scrub me clean. Mare you would be happy to know I take a bucket bath every few days which is very satisfying. There is something inherently pleasing about a bucket bath with hot water. I know one former BCF teacher who vowed to keep taking them upon her return to Canada. Of course there is nothing wrong with a proper shower at the K.C either. Becky laughed hysterically when I told her I reckoned the geyser was the spicket when in fact it is the water heater. Then I launched into an impromptu diatribe about being a geezer in an old folk’s home reminiscing with fogies about my glory days in Bhutan, grumpy old man style. The bamboozling rant had her in tears which left me mighty satisfied. Yep tons of fun with Bunks in Trashigang laughing into the wee hours chatting over the white noise of the television set. It’s ironic we never crossed paths at a show but literally might never attended the same concert which is hard to fathom. Did I pass her once in a parking lot carrying a basket of burritos? No my mistake that was some other kid but we now tread in the LOT (Land of Terror) and there aren’t any handmade burritos. Alas this is the weirdest circus I’ve ever attended and I’ve been privy to some far gone carnivals on Turtle Island. And up on Hideaway Summit I share it ONLY with the students who are the engine that pull my lead and drive me onward. While they read in pairs outside by the grinding stone, a drunken toothless Meme rolls up selling chillies breathing Ara fumes like Lancelot’s dragon. Dogs run in and out of the classrooms and sparrows hop about gleefully, scenes of a rural boarding school.
Presently I unplug the wamp machine at Club Desire, put out the lamp, and turn in to the gyration of crickets, their dirge sailing over the precipice and into the dreamy rift. Time is pain and misery so one must learn how to step out of it (STOP THE WORLD SON, Sorry Don Juan I can’t stop the world but I am TOO STUPID TO STOP!) and like Neal Cassady counting his last railroad tie, I am not yet free!