an anomalous moonbeam
“Once you’re where you think you want to be, you’re not there anymore” Tony Gwynn Former Outfielder San Diego Padres
Changes have been made since I arrived at Tsenkharla one is that we‘re now a pilot Central School. One improvement has been the printing of exam question papers which used to be done on an antiquated oily printing press which would pollute the air with noxious fumes and stain clothes and fingers with a substance akin to bicycle grease. Now we print and photo copy on a somewhat less ancient copier. 2012 was the first year of central marking which continues to this day. The exam process in Bhutan takes a lot of effort and everything must be uniformed and formatted in a specific and tedious manner. I’m wrapping up my last lessons and shifting into exam mode and trying to not get as stressed as previous years. Outside the landscape has greened and there’s nothing quite like spring in Bhutan. We are not at the pinnacle of greenness since the maize has only begun to sprout with the potatoes and all manner of wonderful clover, aromatic bushes, and wild weeds that permeate the air with ambrosia. The mist clings to the mountains that sprawl in every direction as I can set out in three different directions for seemingly endless roving and am still mapping my heart home. Pink roses explode around campus and when you inhale them its transcendental. Pink ones smell sweetest but the crimson deepest reds smell more musty yummy. And if that’s not enough for you flower lovers add orange and cream hibiscus, robust magenta Dalias and so on and so on. I could fill volumes on the subject of nature here, and I’m in the middle of it all of this sector of the Himalayan range. The inner range a labyrinth of verdant and impossibly rugged and legendary mountains stretching for eternity in every direction, northwards to Tibet and Eastwards towards Tawang and endless Arrunachal (There are tigers in there somewhere) It a nifty part of the planet on the eastern spine of the great range. Today we even have a bit of sunshine penetrating through the mists and filtering down to 6,000 feet dancing in the pine treetops. I dreamt I saw the moon for the first time in ages an anomaly swooning in the foggy mists before slipping away swallowed whole by the cloudbank.
Tsenkharla consists of 36 teachers and 650 students, perched on ridge crest facing three valleys and boasting 360 views! I like the people I work with and the administration and especially the wonderful students. That’s what many of us love, living and working in a village, which might be the coolest thing in the whole wide world! So the teaching and learning continues. I just printed my first of four exams and am calculating my grade book which I have managed efficiently this year for once! I spent the morning picking up trash with students in anticipation of the Dzongkhag Athletic meet on Saturday. Meanwhile a cockroach is the sink and rat under the stove for good measure but with bugs come warmer weather and now it is quite pleasant with nary need for even a sweatshirt. Out on my constitutional a little kitty moaning in aguish approached me near the ruin, he was obviously astray and skin and bones and all I could do was stroke his brow with one finger. I knew that not taking him home might be his death sentence but I walked sadly away. Nature can be cruel and kind and in the end everything takes its place in the realm of decay and regeneration and we can all take heart in that. I repeat spring is a lovely time in this part of the Kingdom, the very mountains turning a shimmering green. Distant villages incised into distant slopes in every direction as far as the eye can make out, and in between the tiny settlements forests, waterfalls, and cliffs. On the escarpment over the Kulong Chu solitary houses are nicked into the vertical cliffs, somehow dug out on ledges floating in terrifying space over a 10,000 foot abyss. These lone settlements subside on cabbage or potato and whatever can be grown vertically. The little monopoly houses made in the Bhutanese fashion with black and white wood pattern like gingerbread houses or something out of grimes. Just in my locality no less than three native languages exist although Sharshop is predominant and take it around it’s a hard and satisfying existence.
A word about the “lake” near Darchin which in my estimation is a pond or even more so a small pool (a pool or a pond, anything’s nice) around the stagnant water is a barbed wire fence meant to keep people and animals out of what supposedly houses a deity. According to Wangmo our prayer captain a mermaid dwells in what she calls the “big sea” near Darchin. Most have never seen a lake or ventured as far as Mongar and many haven’t even been past Gom Kora. Anyway if there’s a mermaid in that murky leaf covered pool she must be feeling trapped and I should set about rescuing her and eloping to Deli for an MC ASAP! One should know I’m not disparaging the mermaids domain since the small pool is water and therefore must be revered and the pond is shaded by magnificent gnarled oaks standing over a hundred feet and draped in luxurious mosses and creamy trumpet flowers blow in the twisted canopy. And most wonderful is the damp must that fills one soul with indescribable bliss with so many oak leaves carpeting the muddy bottom. I came to the staff room trying to post this because the internet has improved but alas the connection was busted so we will continue this post until I can publish. These words in effect are like starlight reaching the reader long after being put forth by your muzzy author.
They are funny creatures like karma climbing in the cupboard like a monkey searching for his books or Sangay Chozam and Singye Wangmo arguing vigorously but good naturedly in a mix of Sharchop and broken English and everyone going about in the fairytale like National Dress giving the whole scene dignity and purpose. They probably find me equally amusing at least I hope they do. Teams are arriving from opposing mountainsides on campus for the meet including a group of class 8 girls from Tragom a small settlement near the Indian border on Yellang side. With the binoculars gifted by mom I can make out their tiny schoolhouse across the bend of the Gongri Chu and up the slope of the mountain at a higher elevation than my position probably around 7,500 feet a whopping 5,000 feet above the valley floor. You’d have to see it to believe it and all my explanations are frivolous as if anyone could adequately describe GOD. Clouds usually drape the mountains as they do today so if you like clouds and darkness Bhutan is a good place for you. MONPA means people in the dark and is somewhat derogatory term probably stemming from Tibetan lingo. Let’s face it folks, the east has always when barbaric event eh Tibetans stamped this, “The Land of Terror” Lhomon land of Southern Darkness. The impenetrable and verdant mountains vexed the Tibetans who were slaughtered at Trashigang Dzong toiling in the ravine taking arrows and getting stung by wasps and nettle. And today the Tibetans are gone but the bees and nettle remain and one of our rivers still runs unimpeded by a dam. That’s the Gongri and Dangme Chu because very soon they will break ground on Kulong Chu a multimillion rupee joint endeavor between Bhutan and India. I think I’ve made this rant before so I’ll spare you details for the moment. Haven’t seen a rainbow this spring which is uncommon but I remember the elephant I never saw in Manas and you just can’t order up miracles from the maker, rather one must greedily take what comes to them and give a whole lot more. My exhortation for the reader is to look on the world with fresh eyes and see the beauty around you.
On Sunday I took a walk down the western canal finally reaching Buyoung and our water source. Just before the waterfall I heard a troop of languor’s whistling and squealing like dolphins in the thick canopy of deciduous. Then one leapt sailing through the air its long gray tail swooping behind in slow motion. These appeared to be the same kind of species as I witnessed in Langtang right here an hour walk from my door. The primates only inhabit the western slopes above Chakademi towards Yangtse and not the eastern slopes of Tsenkharla which are dryer. Beyond the monkeys the waterfall cascades over a cliff face topped with pines and maroon flowers, the jet gushes over the mossy rock into a riparian nook with clover and water plants clinging to stones around the pools. One can stand near the catchment of the falls and the mist will spray finely on your face in a simply divine way that makes you forget anything sinful or unwholesome in this world. This spring is the source of Tsenkharla’s drinking and irrigation so in each drop I could see Guru Wangmo and her friends smiling.
It’s old school with no water flowing from the tap so I went seeking alms and was granted porridge at Sonam Choden and Karma’s house. She made it hot in the Tibetan style with natural pepper and hand rolled noodles, a heartwarming supper and afterwards I played with Pema Namgay who recognizes me by now and he was even wearing the jumpsuit my mom gave. I had many insightful things to share but as often the case they drift away before I can record them for you but the main thing is old school. There are spiders on the wall that look poisonous, rats on the table, and empty water buckets, since I’ve remained faithfully in station nothing to eat and now my gas cylinder is finished so I can’t cook. It’s like camping full time here a world without fruit or ovens among other things and for that we can rejoice. The weather report is misty with clouds smothering the peaks and monsoon rapidly approaching.