“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.