Thursday, May 28, 2015

Pilgrimage to Omba Ney

“To orient ourselves at the interface of the visible and invisible worlds-which may be the purpose of all pilgrimages-we must embrace the search as well as the goal” Tom Robbins

What does anxiety teach us and what about fear? One that possesses these qualities might be a prime candidate for Satori riding the thunderbolt to enlightenment…Just got a package from mom with candy, slacks, binoculars and rat poison and I was paranoid at the proximity of the poison and sweets.  I ate the candy greedily anyhow and even chipped my tooth on a pistachio, what to do? The region has seen copious amounts of rain and I’ve awoken frequently awash in electrical storms with the drawl of thunder as it rolls up and down the valleys sometimes in a continuum lasting more than a minute before the next flash and subsequent boom. It’s a wonderful loneliness lying awake at 3 AM in a remote land hearing the roar of the Thunder Dragon which seems a blessing for those of us slumbering on earth, the pitch blackness suddenly illuminated by a dash of lightning briefly lighting the silhouettes of my beloved ridges. One can judge by the interval between thunder clasps and lightning bursts how far off the storm is (Grandpa Harrys’ old trick) and also where the cell is located on this night passing directly over my hut onwards to Bromla and west towards Buyoung.
On Sunday I went on a pilgrimage to Omba Ney one of the holiest spots in Eastern Bhutan. I dropped down to the dirt farm road walking an hour to Sep a traditional village that even with the scarcely used dirt track retains a traditional air. I went to Sonam Choden’s ama’s cottage and picked up pup Dawa Dema who squealed ecstatically when she caught whiff of me and pounced on me, I cuddled her and now I have her fleas biting my legs as I write this three days later. After the renewal of bonds Nawang prepared a cup of hot tea before me and pup set out on our way winding through the idyllic village of farmhouses weaving through fields of spuds along a rose lined pathway. Wandering through a Himalayan village on foot is one of the distinct pleasures of this life and particularly appealing to Western souls but for me it’s often a feeling of homecoming maybe from a past life or just a yearning to return to a simpler way for this life. Yes I romanticize that existence as Nawang complains about the backbreaking farm work that I don’t have to do and this painstaking toil is what drives the current generation into Thimphu or towns searching for a “better life” The trail resumes at a picturesque canopied prayer wheel perched on a ledge overlooking the Bey Yul between Nankhar and Shampula a veritable lost world tucked off the main Tawang Valley cozily hidden away in deep deciduous forest now in full glory. The trail drops steeply into a wooded ravine until after an hour we reached a brook where I encountered a stinky drunken man with a crusty beard who would incorporate himself into the next few hours of the trek. The sun was shining intermittently interrupted occasionally by soaring nimbus clouds that cloaked the high peaks thousands of feet overhead. The forest in this sector of my territory is practically jungle with thin trunked wispy stands interspersed with more formidable oaks with luscious chartreuse foliage alive with birdsong. Dawa Dema is an exceptional little tow headed creature growling menacingly at drunkard and bovine alike and even fending off much larger dogs with her no nonsense demeanor. And although she stands ankle high her rapidly moving legs carry her as far as I want to go and at just about the same pace although if needed she can accelerate quickly to catch me and bound ahead as the situation warrants. About three hours after leaving Sep we spied Omba village perhaps the most alluring village on the planet a cluster of farmhouses set on a slope in a field of boulders and banana trees in a verdant paradise of waterfalls and secret cirques and hollows. The temple Omba is perched on a cliff high over the settlement earning it the moniker (Tigers Nest of the East) We bypassed the village and continued to the cliff face where a host of prayer flags and altar announces the place where OM is naturally engraved upon the rock and from that rock marigolds and geraniums spring magically reminding me of my childhood gardens of Kentfield. On this day no one was in the vicinity and one could only here the lilting breeze and panting from Dawa Dema as we trod up the switchbacks which circumnavigated the sheer rock face rising a thousand or more feet to the secluded Lhakhang. The trail passes a whitewashed Chorten and covered prayer wheel finally reaching the small temple two thirds of the way up the mighty cliff. What strikes the wayfarer on this trek is the landscape which is unique for this area as if the cliffs appear from a dream out of nowhere. Sure there are numerable crags and near vertical slopes since the mountains in this sector of the east are steep but a cliff of this magnitude is singular. Vegetation sticks out of cracks and crevices wherever it can get a foothold and at the temple itself are wild roses, a cypress tree, ferns, and other assorted dainty flowers but as for the temple itself quiet surprisingly the little whitewashed pagoda was padlocked. In fact it was eerily quiet up there without a pilgrim or caretaker only the swaying trees and the imposing cliff dropping away a thousand feet into an emerald abyss. From the quant temple a narrow set of stepping stones leads up the rock to a platform where a miniature golf Disney style statue of Guru and two consorts commands an immense view of the hidden lands. The effigy of Guru is cloaked in robes and he holds his scepter impaling several meek skulls his golden head curly mustache and fixed stare which always contains a different expression. To his right and left Yeshi and Mandarava with sweet feminine countenances bedecked in white scarves and faux pearls. Above the mini golf statue another steeper set of stepping stones leads to a cavern a slit in the cliff that is a secret passageway also known as a sin testing cave. Dawa whimpered as I vanished in the blackness and began what quickly turned into a dangerous climb on a sequence of thin wooden poles with notches etched into them where brave pilgrims place their feet while shimmering up the walls of the cave until they are vertically clawing through the darkness. I thought of turning back realizing a fall would be perhaps life squelching especially without a friend or phone and only whimpering Dawa thirty feet below but one must exercise faith at certain times especially when symbolically trying to cleanse ten thousand lifetimes of iniquity. So I continued completely focused in the moment losing my foothold and hanging on in the darkness where I could hear the screeching of bats as I inched towards the light at the end of the tunnel. It was a remarkable accomplishment and even scarier when I realized after emerging onto a ledge that I had to descend again down the rickety poles in pitch blackness to safety which was even harder to do. I can’t adequately describe the scene so far from another living soul besides helpless Dawa who obediently awaited my return but oh how I relied on her keeping verbal contact each step of the way with my faithful companion. Afterwards I felt lighthearted and thankful to be alive so I sat on an outcropping dangling in space over the abyss and made a cheese sandwich and had a warm coke sharing the crumbly bread and some crackers with little tow headed Dawa, so soon after I tried to meditate in the shadow of Mandarava but all kinds of despairing images and presentiments floated into my mind. I contemplated all manners of sufferings, suicides and murders and tragedies experienced by people I’ve known and ones I’d never know but it’s all interchangeable and I felt like Yeshi at Singye or Buddha under his tree except I lost the battle. My heart was black when I limped away but I was consoled by the pretty flowers and solitude that I cherish in this life…The clover, the cliff the trickling spring and the cypress tree and wild roses that led me away. But where was the caretaker, the resident lama anyway?

On the return hike I stopped at a rushing brook, a rarity in the mountains of this region in fact I couldn’t tell you where that water came from since it couldn’t be the high Himalaya so far North perhaps some underground well in Bromla I don’t know. But a waterfall splashed into a waste deep pool so I got naked and submerged myself into the clear cold water letting out an involuntary yet delicious yelp as Dawa looked on getting her own muddy feet wet (when was life so sweet) At 4 we arrived at Sep under overcast skies where everyone knew Dawa Dema by name and Nawang had dried fish, potato and chillie curry waiting in the tiny mud walled kitchen and there she told me a peculiar thing quite queer that she hadn’t mentioned it before. She spoke in broken English saying the day before the old ascetic Omba Lama (who looked a little like a dreaded David Nelson) died while in meditation inside his little temple and the next day his body was found in that posture by some pilgrims and carried away down the cliffs.
                “Tiger Tiger burning bright -won’t you take my heart tonight”

Bhutan is a weird place. People make their own families here or everyone is somehow related maybe. I had Karma Wangchuk and Pema Wangchuk for tea and when Pema Chedup and Nima arrived they seemed put out by the other pair. Strange since Pema Chedup and Karma Wangchuk are blood brothers but often brothers will be closer to their chosen friends I guess. Meanwhile I played Sharchopoly as Becky calls it with Nima and Pema on Saturday night and had a feast of emadatsi and fried egg. The reader may recall that Sharchopoly is the fictional cousin brother to Monopoly and when one pulls a Community Chest card it might read, “Your Yak herd matures” receive 500 Ngultrum. Exams are approaching and I’m under the gun to get the confounded questions set. The rain continues to fall and I continue to itch and teach as it seems I’m living for Sundays this year. Or maybe I’m living for the grind which in Bhutan is a beautiful thing, I mean where else could I teach in this world left to my own devices with these funny little creatures in gho and kira on the fringe of the Dragon kingdom. Every day the beauty sees me through every trial and evil thought and it’s clear to me that this is HOME.

In class all 115 pupils gave impromptu speeches which highlighted there deficiency in speaking English although they did remarkably well since they never practice outside the classroom and hardly speak in class. They are adept at languages which is their saving grace. Only 5 out of the lot could elucidate on their topic a whole minute but remember they only got a minute to plan and couldn’t write it down. Even teachers admit they don’t feel comfortable talking to one another in English so this is the reality in East Bhutan where the language ability is the weakest in the Kingdom. Becky and I had a long conversation about the future of our learners who know have been exposed to education and don’t want to toil in the fields like their parents and ancestors. I could write a lot on the subject but am too sleepy now. Many of my colleagues concur that the board exams should take place at Class 8 eliminating the masses before they become resentful of farm work. Piet mentions better machinery that must be pieced together on the incised terraces might ease the burden of a difficult life that westerners can’t comprehend. Back pain cataracts from glaring sun and no medicine is the harsh reality of this happy kingdom. But with education comes confusion, the disintegration of one of the world’s last great cultures, and disillusionment as youth flocks to Thimphu and everyone wants I phones and cars, roads and electricity ETC. It’s naïve for me to speculate and I’m just grateful to live here in the far- east a stronghold of culture but I’m sure Nancy would notice the changes since 88’. In many ways Thimphu seems more like San Francisco than Tsenkharla if you’re picking up what I’m laying down. What’s great is we each get our own village and are completely submerged in our community’s with the nearest BCF colleague at least an hour away. This allows for our own adventure although phones keep us in touch when in Nancy’s day they were even more isolated. I consider this situation one of the last great adventures left on earth and like any adventure worth a damn it is taxing! Like Sam says to Frotto on Mount Doom, “by rights we shouldn’t even be here” I’m paraphrasing the movie not the book sorry diehards.

By the way Omba is one temple in the chain of holy places associated with Guru Rinpoche in East Bhutan and it is said by some that Yeshi also sang songs up in those mysterious cliffs. According to legend the Guru was wrestling with a demoness who sprang from a Tibetan lake and he tracked her into Tawang and eventually to Omba, Gongsa and Gom Kora before subduing her by a rock near Chazam (a serpentine deity) The miracle of Guru Rinpoche is that he travelled so extensively throughout Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan leaving his body print at Dechen Phodrang, flying on a tigress to Tigers Nest and entering from Singye Dzong on the archipelago of peaks along the Northeastern border with Tibet. He spent most of his time while in Bhutan in Bumthang so I wonder where he actually went and if he actually existed at all. I believe from oral accounts the Indian Saint (born in Swat Valley Pakistan) existed but did he really spend a month meditating in the scorching canyon near modern day Doksom? The truth well the truth is it doesn’t matter since it’s faith that matters. Whatever the Guru was in reality he spawned devotion that courses through Tantric Buddhists today and Monpa’s still cross the invisible line to worship him at both koras. That devotion and faith trumps truth and as it happens I believe Guru Rinpoche was an intrepid traveler who did indeed visit many far flung places even in desolate Eastern Bhutan which was a tribal no-man’s-land even then known as Lhomon the land of southern darkness. He slay the demons and subdued the bloodletting Bonpo’s and spread the Dharma in his magical fashion, a Buddha with an attitude! If the illustrious Fourth King has four fetching wives (all sisters) than Guru certainly could have two rocking consorts trained in mystical precepts learned in many secret caves on many chilly nights across the Great Himalayan Range. I believe that he must have skinny dipped and frolicked with Yeshi and company in the frothing Gongri Chu on a hot summers eve and she must have entreated him there and sang the sweetest lullaby’s in that Tibetan mother tongue converting a good many Sharchop ancestors along the way. GOD BLESS YOU GURU AND ETERNAL LIFE TO YOU AND ALL YOUR DAKINIS…HO! MAY THE BUTTERLAMPS ALWAYS BURN UNTIL SAMSARA IS EMPTIED…It’s a peaceful morning with birds singing and the hush of the river wafting up from the valley floor… This world makes sense to me…All that’s in my wooden classroom are a chalkboard a new handsome wall clock courtesy of the government and our own paper decorations and teaching aids along with an old scratchy chalkboard the students are talkative so I scold them and they halfheartedly abide, they’re clearly not afraid of me although I could make them that way if need be but I’d rather engage them and hear them speak English but mostly they chatter away mellifluously in Sharchop, outside Nawang rings the circular brass bell five times, it has a sweet chime…announcing lunch where the students receive gruel in a prison style line but they don’t complain.  

Omba Ney and Assorted..

Kulong Chu Near Zangposar

Doksom & kulong Chu


Omba Ney (Tigers Nest of the east0

Tashi Wangmo AKA Bromsha & Tendy Zangmo B


Friday, May 22, 2015

Assorted Spring Pic



Shampula from Bromla

Musings for Mandarava

“Your body dances in the sky like a rainbow, and with skill you move unimpeded through concrete form, you have destroyed the devil Lord of Death” Yeshi addressing Mandarava

“I bow down to you Tshogyel, immaculate maiden, through your skill in ascetic yoga you have liberated beings, sinful beings blown by the storm of karma and slaves to endless Samsara! You have established the Buddha’s teaching” Mandarava addressing Yeshi  

The centerpiece of the Main Chamber of Zangtopelri located against the back wall is a forty foot solid statue of Guru Rinpoche an august effigy packing real power and flanked by his two consorts Yeshi Tshogyel (Tibet) and Princess Mandarava (Indian Himalaya) Mandarava is renowned for her wisdom and yeshi her vibrant sexuality a mistress of magic. Although their parts are interchangeable I’d reckon. The exploits of the enlightened yogis and consorts put to shame hippie love inns to wit: The Guru has two primary consorts who have their own hosts of male partners and the Guru also has unlimited dakini’s too. Sex represents the perfect unity of male and female energies so I guess your author is out of balance and outdated- Sexless as a stone.
I just got off the phone with my brother stateside and now feel genuinely homesick which is funny since I’m already at home listening to rain pound my tin roof and peering out my foggy window at the smattering of lights on the Nankhar ridge and it’s a lonesome scene by golly. I can’t help feel a life has passed me by and still I struggle so mightily to outpace my demons that are embedded in my deepest root like a rotten fungus poisoning my better nature. I wouldn’t want to struggle anywhere else but that is curious too since the longer I stay I fade further into the mists wondering frankly what might remain of me when I return? So much work to be done here on my soul on my career but meanwhile something precious slips away. Bhutan’s a dream come true but also a loss of innocence and coming of age. My heart is pumping and I keep rapport with my cherished students but what have I lost and what has shriveled inside me, left alone with mighty mountains and stark beauty loosing the pulse on my family and eight years out of any meaningful partnership with a woman. Honestly this is my natural state and that affair was an anomaly. Boo Hoo again I subject my dear readership to the poor me blues but what is this blog if not an outlet or electronic journal and I’m afraid I’m as selfish and petty as they come. The rain subsides and crickets surf the ripples in the puddles and the land under cover of darkness turns greener by the minute, a paradise so wondrous that words fail completely. I cannot explain this aching loneliness that growls inside me either mixed with anxieties that never sleep and I wonder who and where I am now?  My brother mentioned that TIAT is sad lately and that’s alright since this blog might as well reflect my mood. I work hard and worship Nancy as the godhead who paved my way into the remote east a bastion against an insane world. I’d hope in real life I’m not as negative as portrayed on the screen but you’ll have to take my word for it. I used to dream of leaving my life and disappearing which seems ridiculous since in that life I was well loved. There’s just something inside me that feels different than the rest of mankind and makes me want to hide but ironically I haven’t vanished in Bhutan at all and despite loneliness I maintain a high profile. So this is a shout out for bra if you happen to be reading this oh and Dave since you might be tuned in too and my connection is cut so I’m again left alone with the crickets and rain well past midnight on a bygone Thursday in May with images of Yeshi walking backwards on a tightrope, STEP RIGHT UP Y’ALL!
When walking down an overcrowded beach in Goa I felt that my soul was ripe for something and that’s where I promised to improve my teaching. I have kept that promise and still believe I’m ripened in fact I might be overripe for that nameless paradigm shift that intuition promises. Stay tuned…..Oh and Mandarava we still have work to do yet…Hugs and kisses from Mr. Tim….

Two interesting tidbits from today while visiting Auntie Kezang’s shop I bumped into Augusta my Indian student’s mother (his pop is Chief Engineer for the Hydro project) and she requested that I place him next to a clean boy since she says he’s getting sick. Jesus! That might be a tall order protecting one from germs in this country. The other peculiar encounter was with a fellow teacher who I asked if he was beating his students and he replied, “No I don’t beat them but sometimes I have them bang their heads against the desks” How clever having the students beat themselves thus expunging responsibility, that was sarcasm folks n case you missed it!     

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Ramblings for Yeshi

“It’s all the same day man…”Janice Joplin

Not That Spicy

6 AM and no water…According to Piet we topped out at 3,600 meters which near as I can tell is approximately 12,000 feet on our hike to Tongbra Peak. This was a whole other world to the one I sit in now. But the views from Tsenkharla are spectacular with silver lined cotton candy clouds billowing from the spout of Shampula and a clear view down my beloved valley. Yes life is good if not a tad boring entrenched in a routine and working my buns off. Five O’clock flat light across the mountain mandala with warbling night birds winding up or down Cuckoo clocks springing throughout the groves. Just got back from a review meeting and off to supervise night study soon. Perhaps this periodical isn’t as piquant as it used to be either what do you say? The word of the year is SPICY not merely the food one ingests in the Kingdom but life itself and maybe that’s my buzz word since my life is duller than before focused on pedagogies more than adventurism somewhere in the midst of a fourth year on this voyage preservation and endurance is the name of the game. Does this mean I’ve shut down? In some ways I’m open, open house for Bucket and Radish and whomever else ventures by. Open to working harder but what of romance and love the 99% of life worth living, huh? Talked to Kirsten from Bidung on the phone a piquant one and she said there’s a gigantic beetle in her house so I retorted which one John, Paul, George or Ringo? No that segue doesn’t mean I have eyes for the lascivious blonde sorry to disappoint y’all in fact I have no admire girl at all these days except the occasional nameless Dakini that floats into my dreams. My other catch phrase for the year is “I’m still here…” but are you reader, are you??? No matter a writer must write even a novice hack like me and a writer also must read and I just burned through Brothers K a phenomenal story and now onto Brothers Karamazov which Duncan parodied although not in any cheap way. I like the Russian classic but it ain’t Duncan’s Western saga of a families pride and peril but I love anything that delves into Christian traditions and religious fanaticism, that’s why I live here! The Dharma presents itself every moment which is to say we can learn from everything and everybody and undo the mistakes or untangle our snares each incarnation until poof! ENLIGHTENMENT! I can’t buy in though it smacks of heaven and maybe simple death and nothingness is the ultimate release anyway. I’m not being cynical here just truthful meanwhile I’ll gladly take this neurotic ride as long as the universe allows, hopefully 100 years of able bodied antics. So what if my love root has withered and my world became sexless. I love the mountains I touch and caress them but somehow for all that love and loveliness my life is less sensual than before. Hip Hip Hurray! Gautama I’m on the right path I guess…We frantically search for meaning in this humorous tragedy but pointlessness is more piquant than anything. How hilarious our situation and the webs we weave those viscid entanglements that Shakespeare spoke of that drifted into cliché. I’ll do it for Tshering Penjor the young man who admires me and wrote eloquently about the effort I put in…Pride is a sin but so is attachment and just about anything else worth a damn in this mixed up world. I still remember my other life partying in the front row surrounded by white Dakini’s in ballrooms or under lysergic starlight and it seems more a dream than this cartoonish reality… I like to let the Sharchop noises carry me away oh how hilarious is East Bhutan it really is…My homeland is my love every stone and blade of grass and those syrupy colors a world with no sun or moon and scarcity of stars only clouds and the maze of mountains spreading from my radial heart a lone Westerner among Sharchops and an odd Indian living the dream…living the dream…scrabbling through a continuum of culture shock and somehow forging relationships that matter along the way.

The second section of skits went well and it was satisfying to observe previously timorous students acting in front of their peers. This is no small feat and a teacher in the Kingdom must shoot for small victories. IT means that we’ve created an atmosphere conducive to speaking and playing which might just equate to better outcomes in this long uphill battle of teaching ESL in the Land of Terror…I’ve noticed some improvement in reading habits but mainly for the toppers and still writing vexes me when I mark their notebooks. I have a runny nose and mild tummy ache ONLY so all is well from my side.

Drive by Blessing

Monday with diarrhea but I managed through morning classes okay. On Saturday my pal Surgit left our community for another job in India leaving only Prabu and I as expatriate teachers. On Friday many girls in 8B were teary eyed and it was difficult executing the activity since emotions swelled and I was surprised at the demonstrative display from the students. Many teachers accompanied Surgit to Zongposar to see him off which happened to coincide with a mass blessing from a Sikkim Lama as hundreds of Kamdang folks lined the road awaiting the motorcade as it proceeded to Yangtse. And when the cars arrived the antiquated Lama was sitting shotgun with a fishy gaping mouth looking barely cognizant perhaps a victim of a stroke or just very old in age as his attendants walked outside the vehicle which moved along at a snail’s pace the sidecar monk bopped folks on the head with a horn type relic but when my turn came he skipped over me so I never got the blessing. Truthfully the whole scene seemed sad with this old famous Lama who must be exhausted travelling hundreds of miles through the plains than up from SJ all the way to Yangtse. Whereas Thegsey glided on balls of lightning enlightening the whole damn party this poor lama couldn’t even hold the relic himself and the people all seemed so hungry for that blessing or hungry for something that cannot be named. The cars drove off and the people dispersed and we accompanied Surgit to a field and sipped tea awaiting the bus to carry him away. Later on I went solo to Gom Kora observing the effects of the rockslides from roadwork into my beloved Dangme Chu which rushed on in bronze and creamy waters despite the interference and I found my favorite spot along the rocky shore where I went with Becky when the river reclaimed my bottle of Coke in 2012, the shoreline where I finished Death Comes for the Archbishop my first month in Bhutan, the shoreline where I tried conversing with a clan of Monpa doing dishes, the shore where I rechristened myself after battling a mysterious illness last year, the river where I mark the high and low waters of my soul and this is where I came again and heard the ten thousand things roaring from the fountainhead of the void and the sound was terrifying and stayed with me so much power coursing six feet away enough to swallow me whole and drown me without thought. A roar that cannot be confined in words TERRIBLE! ROAR! In the gloaming circumambulating Gom Kora a humid night peaceful yet haunted as I circled lost too often in my own roaring current of useless clinginess a mind like a drunken elephant trumpeting and trundling was interrupted by the blowing of the conch which is always done at sunset and a sweeter more reverent sound one cannot imagine bringing the listener back to start the beginnings of life crawling from the ocean or void itself. Three long blows sadder than a jazzman’s solo smoother than Coltrane blowing an endless note wailing into the purple night sending ripples through the breezy canyon.

Tim on Double Duty   

My TOD stint lasted two days due to new rules involving Central School. What a journey it’s been for Tsenkharla in the last 38 years. The school was established in 1978 when the village and Primary School was known as Rangthangwoong and had 3 teachers and 130 students. In 1997 the school and village was known as Tsenkharla and upgraded to a Lower Secondary School with about 350 pupils. In 2002 the school had more than 20 teachers and was upgraded to a Middle School and now in 2015 we are known as Tsenkharla Central School with approximately 700 students and more than 30 teachers and on the rise. Catherine or Vera might not even recognize the place except for the mountains that haven’t changed perceptibly. Catherine’s residence stands at our front gate she’d be happy to know along with a scattering of other original buildings near the grinding Rangthangwoong stone that the village namesake before they honored exalted Tsangma and changed the moniker. The rest is history so they say. TOD starts with morning study at 6:30 AM with all the fresh morning smells similar whether in Ashland, Truckee, San Rafael or Tsenkharla with variations of course. Here its dewy cow pies…Flowers bloom enchantingly roses, hibiscus, and assorted varieties since all one can do is appreciate the beauty around here which is incalculable. My soul has been white bread toast without jam honey or even butter for my bland bread but the beauty remains making for an aesthetic ascetic delight. For once I don’t have much to say dear reader, the tiger sputters and runs out of gas…I’m very busy with teaching and feel exhausted more than exhilarated with that ordeal. I still love the kids and feel lucky to be practicing my pedagogy in this setting and with these pupils but teaching is teaching wherever you go, and the teaching goes on isn’t it?  The rat’s back some nights and lately I’ve been going to bed early and currently reading Brothers Karamazov which will engage me for about a month. This morning was a silvery dawning with a shaft of light beaming down from redoubtable Shampula holding Gongsa where the Guru took tea in its finite matrix. Perhaps it was the Guru himself embodied in that light while Yeshi still pines eastward awaiting his triumphant earthbound return…tearing at her spangled raven tresses wailing still bemoaning our hero…

Sweet Sangay Dema B was out of class for a few days and today she told me why, her father was killed in a car wreck particularly scary when one experiences the roadways in Bhutan. Poor little thing put on a brave face as most Bhutanese do since death is always close at hand in the Land of Terror. Perhaps their deep faith and belief in reincarnation comforts them or just their stoical nature serves them to carry on bravely in the face of tragedy. Buddhist tenants state we are born to suffer and die but why? I believe all the world’s religions invented by man (Like Joe Smith and his Golden Tablets) try to provide succor with one hand while controlling the masses and amassing power with the other (For example the cast system) Why then when I hear of such harsh realities and terrible accidents do I feel utterly alone and isolated. Energy cannot be created or destroyed that is true so my bones will decay to dust and blow in the wind eventually settling as part of a another thing and my spirit will dissipate and blow around that other realm and someday be the dreams or ideas of others. But that thread (a string of pearls) we call a soul likely is broken and scattered making me the stuff of the once born and that is sadder than any mortal can bear. Enjoy it while it lasts and although personally I am more resolute in seeking a middle path in my middle age it’s hedonism that rings truest. Compassion and fellowship have its place in that philosophy too but living for an unseen heaven like many Christians do seems ridiculous when faced against the parameters of this uncertain but always tragic play called life. At its best it’s a frivolous endeavor which is why we dance, eat steak, and make love and at its worst its raw brutal suffering which is what most humans deal with daily, so if you are able to laugh drink and enjoy the vices of our lonely planet more power to ya. Go ahead and search for meaning but know that that too is ONLY an illusion.  And if you eat steak remember an innocent cow was slaughtered in fear to feed your stomach.
The reason Buddhism is attractive is it incorporates animals into the wheel of life instead of proposing they’re merely beasts of burden put upon by god for the benefit of man. Also Buddha’s scientific approach to penetrate the illusionary nature of matter is admirable since he wholly left god out of the picture as an almost irrelevant phenomenon. To Gautama all was a phantasmagorical parade of sensual stimuli that baffled and befuddled an individual from seeing things as they really are- as NOTHING! A dew drop on an imaginary blade of grass floating in the void…Okay Buddha Boy I’ll consent your point but why not indulge in that illusion instead of turning away? When Mara (Satan) sends his nubile nudes to my tree trunk I’ll play Santa Claus even if they do turn to dust someday. My youthfulness has withered but like my heroes I can still play.

Sometimes teaching goes well and usually it’s when my attitude swells with positivity which is our birthright just like sadness. Negativity is not our birthright but I employ it anyhow. Back to the plot my last two classes a block with 8A did go swimmingly. They were in their jigsaw groups (they even nicknamed Jigme Sonam the kid who fell off the roof Jigsaw) Of course the workload wasn’t spread equally but the inactive ones spoke during presentation time. Overall for ESL learners they handled their tasks very well providing summaries, themes, morals, and conflict/resolution adequately. I’m pleased that I know about 95/115 of my current students by name which is an exponential improvement from previous years. All my lesson plans are completed through the next month and whatever trials I face in the classrooms I know that I’ve improved in my craft and still have endless opportunity to continue to grow which optimists would say is the name of the game.  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A tigers dream...

“It wasn’t his business to know. His business was to simply keep making the effort” Brothers K, David James Duncan

Thursday high noon

I walked into the classroom of 8B and already sensed the students primal as they were like a pack of monkeys on steroids. They might be thinking after their other classes some led by domineering educators who twist their ears, oh here comes good old Mr. Tim let’s kick up our heels and enjoy. This is the class I love the most but also scold the most the girls act cute and chatterbox it while the boys make funny noises whistles or belches snickering during meditation. Break…Tendy Zangmo has black tape on her cheeks looking like the lion in the Wizard although she’s dauntless and making iguana faces with her serpentine tongue. Thinley Gyelston puffed up like a penguin and karma Wangchuk is passed out on his desk. Nima Wangmo is wandering aimlessly barefoot which provokes a hand covered giggle from the Guru. Lets us begin class shall we an overwrought tiger implores.

Thursday Circus Night 10:04 P.M

Tonight a wicked electrical storm a matrix bridging the worlds together a loop of lightning nexus in orange white and gold forked heat prongs of electricity zapping a perforated sky, lick! I scrolled on about it but none to apropos for this PG 13 forum mind you. With references to pee pees and hoo ha’s with folds like oozing rose buds pink and fragrant and Dakini tits and that’s the parental guidance version kiddos but even this tame tiger has a wild spark left in his loins even if he did spend another night entertaining the boys who made delicious curry with unwashed hands. Oh the many turns on this windy adventure a course following the Gongri Chu the big sweep yonder but still moving onwards towards agnostic outcomes. Am I making sense or is it too cryptic like the late night mumbo jumbo babblings of a former consort (Sector 9) with lips stained by red wine now puckering for another. SMOOCH! Now the storm passed south and blotted out an immaculate view down the gaping maw valley to the farthest reaches of my imagination a flat ridge in Tawang the hinterlands still protected unofficially by the Dragon annexed in his domain (not India) Ride that turquoise horse brother man! Thunder is the consort of lightning or vice versa! Spin the prayer wheels lots of handheld ones over there or so rumor has it…I might’ve lit out for that forbidden territory in a dream once oh no I’m merely content to gaze and wonder what kind of apples they sell in Lumla but I heard from a doppelganger they’re from Kashmir, meanwhile staff members donated 500 NU to Nepal and I asked if the money would go into appropriate hands and got a severe look from the VP. Whatever became of Langtang and the villages and people there did the earth open up and swallow them whole GOD those poor folks some of the nicest on earth. Nima G says his admire girl is Yeshi Tshogyel and I must admit the boy has taste although I secretly admire Mandarava who might’ve looked like Nir Mala who was humming “We Are the World” since everyone has heard of MJ but no one MK. (I’d like to buy the world a Coke but am short on bread) Or maybe Tashi Choden the nymph Dakini who actually transformed her nudeness into a tawny tiger pie and bared his flaming thunderbolt up the cliffs to the Nest like I was once lifted by rickety gears to the closet (Get over it Man!) The Himalayas the playpen of the Guru Lotus born king second Buddha and Milapara always touched his left ear while singing and hey now don’t Bobby do that too? We are all reincarnated mice caught in the spokes running this rusty wheel called LIFE! Squeak…

TGIF (Thank Guru it’s Friday!)

A silvery day with baby blue skies punctuating the Dakini clouds that drip from the tapestry of heaven. If one looked down on this region you would see it inverted with dollops of green spotted with sun through a foaming roller of puffy clouds tinged with tinsel. Tiny settlements with vast ranges concealing them and mostly open space a village here or there incised onto vertical cliffs where people toiled in much the same way for centuries now with cell phones in their dusty pockets. Can you believe there’s less than 150 doctors in this country and the only aircraft overhead is a Tawang helicopter once a month or so patrolling the borderlands? A charmed kingdom indeed mostly an emerald encrusted between the polluted plains and the thrones of the gods basically uninhabitable by man where snow leopards pick off blue sheep for breakfast. I got a glimpse of the Matterhorn Peaks gateway to that other realm visible on occasion, from my position nestled in the midway of the valley at 6,000 feet (2,000 Meters)

 After class I headed up to Zangtopelri on the stone road that was funded by Lama Tashi about seven years ago which means that Tsenkharla used to be the end of the line and Prince Tsangma’s ruin was completely forested. When I came on the scene in 2012 the private stone road was there, although upgraded shortly after to dirt then afterwards the never used Shakshing road starting a mile up trail and the green monster Tashi cell tower followed by a humming box and antenna from BBS television. I still reside in paradise but there are scars now and the truest wilderness doesn’t begin until above Daka nearing Darchin and the bear filled unspoiled old growth forests of Bromla and beyond. Regardless of the irritating cell tower which was condoned and authorized no doubt by Zangtopelri peeps the temple is still a bastion of peacefulness. On this day I worshipped inside where the drone of the lotus speaker piping prayer smothered my cherished thick air but it’s a nice dirge as I prostrated touching my forehead to the cool marble patch. On the altar intricate Torma’s made of butter like substance and painted psychedelic hues with weirdly pleasing geometric designs. Alongside conch shell, chalices, peacock feathers and smoldering incense and the requisite seven silver bowls of water offerings to Guru who apparently also except biscuits and even cheese-balls. The main chamber practically breathes with a dozen humongous statues and life sized plaster tigers subduing manikins. Everything in between is carved engraved or painted and the intricacies make the Furthur Bus seem pedestrian. Upstairs in the attic Buddha’s serene face glows and his eyes penetrate. Outside I hung around Rinchen Wangmo who was busy by an outdoor hearth making local cheese provided by Ammadumma the cow. She boiled the milk producing a skim which curdled which she collected in a strainer. Simultaneously she was making gruel for the cow’s supper while her growing boy Pema was busy vying for attention. Watching Rinchen feed the cows was interesting as she tenderly used her strong hands to ladle the broth into the calves mouth while Ammadumma greedily stuck her whole face in the mixture submerged to her eyelids slurping and rattling the tin pot in a most comical fashion. Geese! Her manners made me look like a dainty eater. I was lost in Rinchen’s simple world admiring how hard she works the livelong day to provide for her extended family and 12 people living there along with maintaining the most righteous temple in the region, never complaining. Rinchen never went to school but we maintain a dialogue anyhow and can even maintain comfortable silences. Her husband and lama Tashi too are always off on surreptitious Buddhist business in the far west but on this night were home. When I departed in a drizzly dusk I had a ball of fresh cheese in my pocket courtesy of Rinchen Wangmo via Ammadumma and a song in my heart. That’s good since my soul is grouchy these days and the very next day I had a crisis of faith.

The Impossible Peak

“Gonna march you up and down local county line”  

Saturday sometimes seems tedious with school and programs making it basically another full workday, believe me the six day work weeks add up. I’ve been snarky too much with the kids a side effect of my workaholic period. I’m not overly harsh but the gentle scolding accumulates and in third period the kids were all jacked up in anticipation of the upcoming cultural program which they’d been rehearsing for all week, the night before I enjoyed watching them rehearse their little hearts out with traditional Bedra bleating from one wooden classroom while Rigsar emanated from another. Inside the shiny happy countenances sweeping rhythmically in the barebones rooms as I find rehearsals more interesting than the shows since the kids are in high spirits the boy’s and girl’s coy flirtations out of site of administration. They are rarely that carefree. Back to the crisis I snapped mildly at Karma Yangdon twice for gabbing with Singye Wangmo but Karma took it hard since she’s basically a perfect student who I’ve never reprimanded. Later on while monitoring partner reading outside I asked if she was okay and she commenced bawling and kept on crying through final bell and long after that. I felt so wretched that I did my best to console her as her best friend stood by but to no avail and the whole incident deeply scarred me (although thankfully come Monday she seems to trust me again although we have a bit of history now) That just about did it though I was overwrought from my duties and packed a bag and hired a taxi to Yangtse. Sometimes one must get away, my closest “Western” neighbors are an hour off in varying directions that being Lynn down at Kiney a village one can descry below or Piet and Ash in Trashiyangtse an hour and change away. Of the three Piet is who I am closest too since we share a love of roaming and exploring the Dzongkhag. He’s been in and out of the locality for twenty years currently stationed at Bumdeling headquarters occupying a room in the palatial spread. He’s a butterfly expert by trade but currently is trying to develop tourism in our remote neck of the woods. Anyway I tried to opt out of the Sunday hike but thankfully he came knocking at my hotel room’s door at 6:30 and I felt obliged to join in the fun. But Piet’s idea of fun is also torturous and he brought his companion Sonam along too. I can only describe the hike as epic perhaps one of the Top 5 day hikes of my life in the category as scaling half dome and getting lost with Uncle Ronny. Our destination was Tongbra a massif of shark finned peaks soaring above Bayling marking the boundary of TY and Tawang or Bhutan from behemoth India but nothing up there denotes any political affiliation whatsoever and scarcely resembles anything earthly at all rather some enhanced Avatar version of our lonely planet. By day’s end we had ascended over 6,000 feet only to retrace our steps for a whopping total of 12,000 feet roundtrip. The hike began innocently enough leaving the paved streets of town we wound our way up through terraced farmland sprouting potatoes and dormant rice among other staples. For several miles we rose until we entered deciduous forests eventually reaching a modest Lhakhang with a sizable Chorten and nifty red handspun prayer wheels lining the outer walls of the temple. Next a series of steep rolling pastures interspersed with oak forests and fading red rhodedron blossoms on stout bushes. Far below Yangtse reposed in a salad bowl a town indeed in the middle of nowhere. Some of these pastures are centuries old and some abandoned reclaimed by scrub. And the only trail leading up past a series of cow sheds was a sparse pathway through the thicket no more than a wood cutters way through the forests (think Hansel and Gretel) we heard barking deer like mechanical hounds and speculated on the leopards that inhabited these forests and ate them. Tigers have been spotted in Bumdeling but not for a decade although one was seen near Kolma more recently. How did these tigers end up prowling the highlands? They came from the sultry jungles of Assam and West Bengal but human expansion pushed some up into the lower hills of Bhutan in places like Manas. Solitary males pushed out of these spots went higher and some females followed. Eventually they spread throughout Bhutan gaining altitude and have been spied at 13,000 feet sharing habitat with snow leopards which are in Bumdeling. Also in North Yangtse along the Tibetan border are the glacial lakes of Pema Ling close to restricted Singye Dzong where Guru and consort Yeshi meditated. It’s a four day slog up that way but it’s not like the trail is marked so it seems Gosainkund will remain my lake of choice in the Himalaya. The wildernesses are endless and from one pasture we saw an expansive massif of snowy jagged ridges an arc forming the physical boundary between Bhutan and India a place without any human settlements. And the impossible peak protruding from a maelstrom of mist was also a marker between the two provinces of TY/Tawang although who knows where the elusive border egg lies. The few pieces of trash must’ve come from soldiers on border patrol or cowboys gathering wood and soon we reached the threshold of one of the loftiest most enchanted realms I’ve ever been privy too.       

Things got ridiculously steep and at times I was crawling over fallen logs and thick duff on my hands and knees and soon we encountered new species of magenta honeycombed rhododendron the size of footballs hovering in the canopy. At one point it was raining orchids that spontaneously combusted from clumps of mist dripping off barks and trunks and then we hit the holy firs. Where I spend my time is virtually subtropical with banana trees and oaks mingling with pines. Tsenkharla rests at 6,000 feet awash in mixed vegetation, below is grassland and on the highest ridges barely visible to the naked eye lost fur worlds. On this trail we were now pushing 12,000 feet and the ferns have given way to oddball mosses and lime green lichens that made the whole undulating peak seem like a haunted house, BOO! The slope became near vertical ducking under or centipede crawling over fallen logs that fed the lush high altitude haven. Rain began to fall in a misty curtain plopping on the broad rhody leaves but my eyes were fixed obsessively on the firs. These specimens only hail on the highest ridges and are more commonly abound in Bumthang but we know cruised at an altitude comparable to Thrunsing La the East/West divide at nearly 13,000 feet. We’d begun the hike around 5,500 and now were looking down on the frozen limbs and dark stiff clustered scented needles of the gyrating furs that seem to spring from the pages of a Dr. Seuss book. Silly wonderfully noble trees with regal postures set against a smoky blue backdrop of distant smoldering ridges. Somewhere below the rumple of pealing thunder and as we summated (a false summit above a mighty outcropping of rocks) our silly cirque part of a massive massif where Piet pointed out a Juniper but my eyes were for furs only and it was love at first sight. In fact this was my loftiest pursuit and highest altitude ever gained in Bhutan nestled dearly on the Bhutanese side of the ridge (Fur clad Tawang folks!) to beat the band.

There was a bronze man with dakini’s
They all wore assorted bikinis
They frolic and dance
And swam in his pants
Until he lit out from Lumbini

Good Night Salutation

“Good night Tendi, Good Night Guru, Goodnight Pema, and Goodnight Lumla…

Bucket and Radish just left and I’m contemplating a good night’s sleep as crickets croon outside. It’s still cool though as I wear a sweatshirt. Back to school matters I’m sick of being snarky so my esteemed Aunt Mare now 70 along with Nima & Dawa who climbed to Shakshing last autumn. Anyway Aunt Mare told me to monitor my inner tone. Since they love acronyms in these parts we’ll say IT. I want to be positive but classroom management is a huge part of the game. We want to plan a lesson come in and deliver it to a receptive appreciative audience but it’s not like that at all. Today in class 8 we’re rehearsing for skits and had a ball but it’s hard for them to make a simple skit and I have to help a lot with script and blocking. They will most likely be train wrecks but I want to challenge them to take the onus for their own learning when they are so used to rote methodologies. Anyway I do as much group work as possible which raises challenges I’m too tired to address at this moment munching on a cracker (biscuit) My health is on a timid upswing from last week so let’s focus on the positive shall we. I feel happy but bland inside and I pondered that blandness coming up with some conclusions. 1. I have been out of a loving relationship for eight years which is longer than I was in one. 2. Even my heartbreak is a dull ache and dry wistfulness now after the pang of remorse and rejection dispelled from Morgan’s bombshell although not surprising announcement 3. I have little contact with the world I came from 4. I don’t want contact from the world I came from 5. Teaching and classroom management is tedious and electroshocks the noggin. 6. Limited food, water, and privacy! So lighten up Hass no wonder you strain under current conditions and remember you willingly make this sacrifice since ALL is a tradeoff here, what are you willing to sacrifice in order to gain passage in the Dragon’s lair? 37 Years old and living the dream, a bleeping tigers dream…Never has this forums title rang so true…GRRRRRR!

Just Another Wacky Wednesday

A lot of changes are underway at Tsenkharla Central School for instance our school day has been extended by nearly an hour now ending at 4 PM. Also TOD duty has been doubled and again I will be supervising class 10 night study for 1.5 hours every week. Today the students got an earful from VP sir regarding discipline and when I went to my homeroom I observed or rather students informed me that a glass window had been busted. They implored me to turn the matter over to VP sir since it happened from some older boys goofing off during morning study. I didn’t want to turn them in but felt it was my duty so I did. The culprit came forth at nearly the same time and I admired his courage in doing so. During my fifth period we had a little theater presenting “The Magic Brocade” and to my surprise the skits were pretty darn well although if you had seen them not knowing the students language abilities you might have rolled your eyes. Nima Wangmo stole the show with her interpretation of the old woman as she tied her kira in a funny way and mussed her hair even streaking it with chalk and was hunchbacked with a walking stick. She made for a grotesque Abi who looked like she stumbled off the Tibetan Plateau and we were rolling in the aisles and darn if I nearly cried. Was this the same girl who stuck her tongue out in embarrassment every time I spoke to her for over a year? She hasn’t been sticking her tongue out recently though since kids defrost at different rates just like frozen foods. Becky once told me she saw frozen fish sticks in Trongsa FYI. Overall I was at least inspired by their efforts and some of them even memorized their scene although the blocking as usual was messy in most skits. The play was five small acts culminating to form the whole story which they hopefully glean at this point. Bell for sixth period rang so lunch is over and the tiger must roll!

Another grey day with moderate temperatures and recently our esteemed Principal returned after mourning his deceased wife which also means his son is back in my class, the poor little guy. Kids are resilient and he’s already catching up with friends and running through the schoolyard but I’m sure he’s shattered inside. The government is now sponsoring notebooks and blankets for the students and the student body and new facilities will swell in the next five years as I’m still dreading the construction and groundbreaking in the peaceful fields below my doorstep. For now extra duties only and a quieter house since Nima G will be occupied on weeknights although I’m sure Pema will be at hand along with a rotating cast of characters. There are a lot of rules and regulations for me too with red tape just to take the lads roaming. One thing is I’m in arrant control of my classes and almost know all students by name and must admit I’ve come a long way since my inception at TMSS or more accurately Tsenkharla Central School as we are now known. The more I learn the more challenges I face as a teacher and de facto leader in this community. For one thing the trash problem is not improving at all and on campus several irreplaceable garbage tins have vanished. It’s challenging here with materials you can’t even procure a trash can or burlap sacks let alone a piece of fruit and today was stoked to purchase marker pens and chart paper from Kesang’s shop our own version of Lee Chong although perhaps not as Benevolent. Heck I’m no Doc either though isn’t it? I’m gearing up for exams and pushing through the syllabus but am adhering to my yearly plan and am right where I need to be. Still I strive to improve upon hitting the four domains speaking, listening, reading, writing wishing to improve my 115 student’s aptitudes in English which remains a helluva daunting task.


I was flattered when Tshering Penjor read his journal entry about loving Mr. Tim even though he used the past tense “was” throughout making it sound like a eulogy. Tshering is a strapping 17 year old lad who is very intelligent and active in all areas of life. His words couldn’t have been timelier since until that moment I had been exasperated with classes. It’s nice to know through my frustrations that I make a difference to someone! I’ve been worn out with diarrhea and feeling bland all over again enjoying a lonely walk to a favorite Chorten with dandelions, daffodils, and those transparent thistles to make a wish on sheltered by multitudinous pines. A warbling orchestra of wild birds Cuckoo’s (who lay their eggs in others nest and let those mothers raise their young) and Oriental Magpies whooping it up neat the mossy Chorten that always attracts me when I’m lonesome with a grand astern view; Silver, baby blue and deeper greens and prayer flags like great sails flapping in the spring breeze. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Spring Fling Pics..

Students of 7A

Happy Teachers Day

Social Service Trash Picking

The Heavenly Kingdom

“There was simply no way to squeeze a thing so vast and heavenly into a container as small and earthly as myself” The Brothers K, David James Duncan

Existential Pearl Diver

Shadows and sun strips are layered across the scope of mountains creating a checkerboard of light. King me! On the way to Shakshing I was accompanied by three talkative little girls who were full of rapture shouting, “sir, sir, sir” and rapidly asking questions such as the name of my parents, then repeating Tom and Marti over and over again. The groups’ leader kept running ahead yelling “I’m the winner” you are second and Karma is third! Along the way near a Chorten some other day scholars had made their own high jump out of twigs and a branch crossbar and were clearing it both boys and girls spinning and gyrating together wildly laughing. Even my class seven kids don’t play with such abandon as the younger ones and an adult acting in such away would be considered crazy or on something. The best time to be alive is when were small and truly carefree and unburdened and we cannot recapture that rapture ever again.

Meanwhile up near Shakshing ribbons of silver clouds laced Tshongtshongma the spire poking out of the breakers at 14,000 feet the pinnacle rising straight up from the Gongri Chu like an alien antenna rising almost 13,000 feet from the lowlands near the river bend into Doksom. The earth is singing with new life and the chorus of crows and cuckoos sound out the Himalayan gloaming. Back down at Tsenkharla no water flows which is too bad since I have to clean out the rat shack for my neighbors baby shower since they need my space for overflow guests. God how did I make it for two years with no water? What a shame since I’m starving and want to make my customary K WA. Lanky Kesang dropped by under the guise of getting help but didn’t really have a question and I’m guessing he just wanted some attention (I know the feeling) Sunset over the capacious valley made up of mostly air since the mountains basically touch the riverbed itself and tiny lights dot the black hills on both sides of the sparsely populated border. Are they making emadatsi on the other side or are the Dakpa using Indian spices too? As for your bachelor king I’m trundling on gearing up for a busy weekend and busy month ahead. Tomorrow is pagan May Day so get out your peace poles folks and shake it. Teachers day is Saturday and on Sunday Lynn is coming for a hike, weather permitting. When did the tiger become so entwined in a community? I’m a solitary cat by nature but my duties demand active participation in the whole. The only other time in my life I was ever social was my first year at junior college or with girlfriends on a limited basis. I like to be alone with my topsy turvy thoughts and it’s hard for me to engage in human activities but that’s what the world demands and that’s where the substance of life is. But on a pleasant spring afternoon the radial of mountains flowing out from my heart is unction for my soul.

The Tinsel Tiger

Knowing that no matter how much kingdom they chewed and swallowed the heart of it, the heavenliness of it just couldn’t be digested”

Two nights ago I made delicious mushroom curry with meaty jungle shrooms but last night Nima made curry with tin mushrooms that had been put in the fridge by the boys. I woke up feeling ill with an awful metallic taste in my mouth like I had spent the night giving cunnilingus to a fembot. Apparently cans don’t belong in the fridge and can poison the food especially shoddy Indian tins. So I’ve poisoned myself nicely and the inside of my mouth taste like aluminum. I haven’t felt well this week mainly a bit exasperated from work and extracurricular activities.
So like the legendary blues singer Lead Belly (Goodnight Irene) Nima and Pema forced me into a gho despite my objections that were overruled and I headed up to the MPH for teachers day. My first years Teachers Day was one of my best days in Bhutan and although today didn’t rank up there it was still a nice reminder of the life I have built here. The highlight was a small class party put on by my home class with edible cake and balloons. It was also nice to see some favorites from past and present shaking it on the stage during the four hour program. I’m sure I’ve described prior TD festivities and you can go search under May posts 2012 for a more enlivened description but that metal has given me the trots so you must excuse me.  

It’s Sunday now and I just got back from Shakshing with Lynn but still my mystery illness lingers as I’m completely dehydrated haven drunk ten bottles of water (the tap is dry) and peed a hundred times and still feel dry as the Sahara inside. Did I breath in rat poison from the decaying rat, was it something from the stool I manhandled? This malady concerns me because I have no idea what it is. I have a mild headache and fever and urge to urinate all the time, perhaps its acute caffeine withdrawal or a myriad of things rolled into one. After last year’s sicknesses I have no tolerance for being miserable here anymore and I pray that I rally and things get better not worse. Saw a lone eagle soaring along the ridge on the hike along with the last of fading rhododendrons.

Tsenkharla Central School

“They were just too big and thick and dull. And realizing this, they also couldn’t help but realize that they didn’t yet belong in this beautiful place and would so have to leave it”

So the worst of my health ebb seems to be over although I feel unwell with a bad taste lingering in my mouth and slight body and stomach pain. Why not since the boys made a nice supper but didn’t wash their hands. Pema calls Nima Mulley which means radish and I must admit his countenance although handsome does resemble that vegetable. I felt better after slugging a Coke, my first in three days. Water has ceased to flow from the tap bringing us back to the same situation as year one and two. Still my energy holds and TIAT sails on under its own strange inertia, a ship of fools on a terrible sea. From my perch on the mast I descry all manner of peculiar things Dakini clouds spouting mermaids and smoky Fata Morgana’s that were never there before in the eastern matrix, until it appears all this life is an optical illusion, a mountain mirage but at the center of the rainbow feathers is nothing.

Tsenkharla is now officially a Central School and we had a four hour meeting explaining the new demands placed upon the teacher. It’s an exciting time to be a teacher in Bhutan as the system is modernizing and the demands exponentially rising. I would bet there are a lot more paperwork and checks in balances than existed during WUSC’s tenure thirty years ago. And nowhere is this more evident that at a Central School. The idea is that the 24 Central Schools will absorb more students from the surrounding primary schools and that these students will be fully supported by the government eliminating the modest fees paid by families for uniforms and notebooks. That is why very few day scholars remain unless their houses are in Tsenkharla proper thus making for quieter and less amusing walks in the forest afterschool. Nature call, diarrhea so if you’ll pardon me…Welcome back it’s 7:30 A.M and I rarely update you in the morning, the boys are shouting and prancing about outside my window their pubescent flowers in full testosterone bloom yet not smelling nearly as sweet as the plump pink roses that adorn the bushes on campus. I inhale them deeply everyday an olfactory bliss that no author can adequately describe putting me in mind of daughter Pema. The boarder’s day begins at 5 AM, a pale silver light spread across the valley and songbirds groggily ringing in a brand new day. GIVE THANKS! They do Social Work grass cutting neglecting the trash (more to come on that) and the sashay up to the MP for prayer, dirges and incantations bursting into prayerful songs to Sangay the conduit blessing all sentient beings-bird, bat, bug and bee as well as predatory bears of Bromla and the Tigers prowling Mongar forests not so far away. Then breakfast, more social work before we all report for Morning Assembly at 8:30. If you equate boarder life to military academy than I’m painting the picture, isn’t it? In assembly the students in National raiment line up in rows with hands folded behind their back and make speeches sing out more prayer concluding with the haunting National Anthem (look for it to go straight to the top of the charts) Usually in between mind training and anthem there’s a healthy dose of scolding (even from Mr. Tim one more than one occasion about trash picking) The school day consists of 8 periods from 9 AM concluding at 3:40 with one hour lunch and 15 minute recess interspersed. I usually teach an average of 6 periods a day but often substitute classes and now sacrifice 4 freebies to attend library with students where I desperately hunt for appropriate books in the chaotic maelstrom of slanted and piled books most of which are ridiculously too hard for any student PP-10 to comprehend. The ones that are suitable for my 7-8 cherubs are deemed off limits by Library Madam since there for elementary classes (sparrow darts under my door pecks some rice off the floor and makes his escape under the crack) did I tell you the original Rat is back too, Yella! Becky made a special trip to the capital on her holiday for a local Tsechu just to purchase readers for her kids. If anyone wants to donate easy readers with pictures I will make a separate plea not tucked into the ranting of a mad tiger later on. To finish the day, games follows 8th period then evening study, prayer, dinner, more study and lights out at 9. No wonder they sleep in class and fritter away their study periods to gossip. There’s often culture practice and sporting events jammed into this packed schedule too. I better hit the head again and get dressed in my one pair of small black slacks and dress shirt and off I go to repeat the day I just outlined for a thousandth time. I’m not negative since in that routine our many magical and toilsome moments that make for some interesting events.

My VP just got back from an audience with HM along with the 24 other Principals launching the Central School. Unfortunately are esteemed Principal lost his wife recently and is mourning her in customary puja’s in Thimphu. I joked with VP sir asking if he remembered me to HM saying how sincere I am and he retorted, “Really sincere?” It cut me deeply since I have busted my buttocks this year and am as they say completely transparent with all lesson plans and grades available for inspection and anyone in the world can step in my class on any given day. I suppose I’m a late bloomer and have definitely improved all aspects of pedagogy and attitude especially this year but I’ve never been derelict in duty and for a Volunteer Teacher (making 300 bucks a month) far from home I’ve given my all to this community. What other teacher receives students for tutorials and moral support afterhours in their home? I didn’t say any of this but his comment hurt my feelings nonetheless. I like VP sir though so NO MATTER I think they see me differently and hold it against me that I used to Sunday in Trashigang where in my culture a teachers one day off would be their own business. I rarely leave station anymore unless hiking with Piet as it is imperative we see Westerners from time to time. I’m proud of the teacher I’ve become despite my shortcomings all I can do is try the best I know how. I also think they think I’m lenient (not this year) and Surgit calls me the student’s teacher like the Peoples King. I firmly believe that when learning a second language FEAR is not a valuable tool in the classroom although this year more order has been maintained and I’ve scared myself a few times (SCARING THE CHILDREN) I know I’m not feared nor would I want to be but I know I’m respected by my own students and that means the world to me.

Purging The Thunder Dragon       

“The boy in the pool looked up and smiled, He was like me, he was exactly like me yet he wasn’t me at all there were none of my confusion none of my nervousness nothing the least bit sad or dull or hesitant. His features were mine exactly with a single, all encompassing difference they had the indescribable quality-the kingdom itself”

Wednesday, approximately 3:35 P.M. Gyelston Wangmo, Karma Yangdon, and Broomsha crowded close as we moved up the path through the cypress grove towards Zangtopelri. They hung on my every word and observation about the trash condition of their beloved Druk Yul. Gyeltson a pretty and plump girl who loves to draw pictures of Whinny the Pooh and has cropped hair says she’ afraid to take the shortcut home to Yartse since a drunkard beat his wife to death last near there last week, not all is peaceful in The Land of the Thunder Dragon. They cluster like a quasar burning in a dark corner of a distant galaxy there adoration lights my own dark corners and we all shine together. Behind us the rest of the fifteen out of fifty members of my club who showed up, mostly girls trek up the path too. We carry four sacks three cheap plastic and one burlap one. Thunder claps over Shali to the West as I look in Broomsha (Tashi Wangmo’s) innocuous black eyes. I see myself tiny and flickering in their lambent pools, I AM…We reach our destination an illegal dump site smack in the middle of a fresh pine grove and we begin to pick up the soggy debris, soiled clothes, beer bottles, plastic pop bottles, old rubber sandals, plastic wrappers from junk food, and every other imaginable kind of trash. There are hundreds of pieces maybe thousands all in a patch of slope less than a soccer field but in ten minutes it looks significantly better. But were out of space since I can only commandeered the four measly sacks so we turn and hightail it down the hill in a heavy shower big droplets wetting the girls pinned up hair, they look like Dakini’s in their colorful Taegu’s Broomsha in sparkling blue and Phuntsho Wangmo in scarlet chases Princess the floppy white dog from the temple who drags and whips her loose chain behind her. Phuntsho flits down the mountainside skipping now after the clumsy affable hound. Some boys have joined late including Karma Wangchuk I ask him to carry the overflowing bags and he takes them from the girls and we head past the ruin back to campus. By the time we dump the loot without properly sorting the rain falls earnestly. I thank the few honest souls who accompanied me as we wash our hands gaily at the tap which trickles from the rusty spout.   

The previous Saturday evening I was in the midst of my confounded detoxification which continues at this moment. About thirty gents crammed in my house sitting on dusty rugs borrowed from the school. Some slurp tea but most drink Druk beer or Ara tinted yellow including Gyelpo who says he will quite tomorrow. Karlos has stopped for over a month and looks stolid but must be craving a sip. They’ve taken the wooden phallic that I confiscated from Kinley Wangchuk during night study last year when he was haranguing the girls with it. The White Whale, they ask if mine looks like this one and I say it’s bigger (guy talk) the fellas put it up to their gho skirts and shake it in turn. When Tashi comes in to refill libations they hide the cock and everyone is quietly giggling looking bashful. When she leaves Prabu stands up and strokes his fake Wang to the delight of the natives. There is much laughter and good cheer which I appreciate even in my dilapidated state.

Bucket and Radish     

Nima and Pema are daily visitors as it seems our karma is linked to the last. They are nice boys who surely adore me and also work the advantage of getting out of the hostel for a spell enjoying free food and a home away from home. They aren’t extremely salubrious and stink sometimes and no one here uses toilet paper so the fact they touch everything I own is frightening. Nima is called radish by Pema who he calls bucket in Sharchop their preferred tongue. When jovial Pema does speak English he inserts a habitual “No Sir.” After every third word, for example, “Sir is good today, no sir.” “Nir Mala Tapa looks beautiful today, no sir” or “Sir went roaming yesterday, no sir.” Its half question but not really and I gently pointed it out to no avail. Since the new rules forbid me to entertain students during hostel study hours they get around this by bringing books and we had a study hall. I didn’t even offer dinner but of course by the end Nima had done some dishes (without my asking) and Pema hopped up to join him so they could razz each other and gossip in Sharchop, then they asked for tea and biscuits so I obliged the hungry duo. Nima is 17 and Pema 15 but they are both orphaned by their fathers and Kidu Kids sponsored by the monarch. They are relatively innocent but Nima has an Eddie Haskell quality about him (I can’t believe I’m old enough to make that reference thanks to Nick at Nite) They are virgins I assume but have tried alcohol but not regularly as far as I can tell. One of my class eight boys did just punch in a glass window when bombed at school and was reprimanded by administration that is surprisingly lenient on drinking and drugs framing three strikes and you’re out policy. A foiled smuggling operation led to the murder of a taxi driver in Paro and suicide is rising in the capital. There’s confusion in the hive and I can’t help but wonder if it’s Western influences stirring things up. That’s why it’s heartbreaking to see the trash situation all products and packaging imported from India and it’s like giving a monkey fire and then walking away, naturally the curious primate will burn down the house.


Lately all my efforts have turned me into a curmudgeon. I didn’t feel angry but when Poopghem saw me she asked if I was sad since my face was apparently contorted into a wince. This stunned me a bit since I don’t want my legacy to be a solemn countenance. Somehow I must strike a balance between hard work and my god given enthusiasm. My energetic nature is one of my natural attributes and gift to the world so am I squandering it? Again teaching cuts deep against my grain since I’m no task master but the deep responsibility and demands can turn a fellow tough. I have a positive rapport with students but I don’t always like the direction teaching blows my sail as I’m moody as Ahab. I love the kids and must remember why I do this profession. I can’t be hard on myself either since I’m finding my way best I can and the work we do can be stressful. Take it all around I love my life here but my attitude needs fine tuning and I want to spread love and joy in my wake.