“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.