Wednesday, June 10, 2015


It’s Happening Now

I’m sitting in my home class with my computer a rarity but I brought it for exam printing. It’s weird typing away in front of kids whose families don’t own computers or aren’t literate only speaking Sharchop. They are supposed to be studying but they’re chattering away in Sharchop and when they interrupt me it’s with a phrase in broken English. They wear national dress and this year in the transition of becoming a central school the kids are freer in wearing different Taegu’s and Ghos interspersed with the ubiquitous school colors, a pert black with red cuffed Taegu for the girls with plaid purple pleated Kira. The lads are bedecked in purple checkered pleated Ghos that look equally smart in contrast with the girls. The girl immediately in front of me is Pema a reticent girl with immaculate white teeth and a radiant smile. Her chin is blotted with acne scars which add character to her face. She keeps straggly strands of hair falling over her face where she can adroitly chew on the strands. She is sucking on an unripe plum and gossiping with her friends in Sharchop of course. I was three minutes late from lunch and dismayed to find my VP glowering in the threshold at my students who were apparently making a disturbance. How embarrassing and annoying for me but what to do, so I engaged them in some review activities encouraging complete sentences. Dawa the boy who was punished for harassing a classmate just popped in and out of the cupboard for a text book. His sister’s name is Sangay Wangmo, a former pupil, who was steamed over the incident accusing the girl of teasing her brother about his reading. It’s a hectic time leading up to exams and students are feeling the strain. My adopted son Nima Gyelston (officially adopted as mandated by the Dzongkhag) was held back in assembly for keeping a hairstyle. Our VP was shearing off the boys spiky tresses while Principal looked on approvingly and Nima audaciously crept away from the group in a conspicuous fashion but somehow made his escape even with me scolding him right there on the ground. I didn’t turn him in but gave him a strong talking to later about disrespecting authority. By that time he had had a buddy cut his hair which he admired in the smudgy mirror. I’ve wrapped up my review sessions and am awaiting my final printing and then onto dreaded Central Marking. Pema the girl with the scar says that Sangay is telling lies and that Chakedemi girls ALWAYS tell lies. “Telling Lies” is the funniest and most used expression from a Sharchop child.  The other Pema in front of me says she’s never even been to Trashigang she is the one from Chakademi who accused other Pema of acting like a boy in which other Pema responded, “Telling Lies” Outside my window I can see Shampula through pine needles, the sky is charcoal grey and the mountains are a pale green. It’s not a stellar day but the birds seem fine with it chirping right along.

Sangay a feisty girl stands up and nearly knocks off Phuntsho’s head shaking her fists Tendi Zangmo style. I have worked them hard so I let them socialize and blow off steam for the last few minutes of the day. Tashi Dema exclaims that Phuntsho Wangchuk and Sangay Chozam are always fighting and that its, “Dangerous to woman and man” Sometimes a foreign teacher must sit back and watch like an anthropologist observing one of the last great tribes of the earth. Bhutanese subclass Sharchop, Kurtep and monkey…Right now a pell-mell as the OA brought in some vital paperwork and the kids are ripping it out of the captain’s hand. How to describe the Sharchop language? Well, it goes well with gho and kira, and it sounds like birds warbling in the treetops. On the way down the channel to Buyoung falls I heard the strangest flying saucer bird calls zipping on orbiting frequencies through the lurid forest. The energetic calls were from another world so eerie and dark something hidden from the scrutiny of man. At one turn in the channel an old Abi asked me for something and a middle aged farmer shoved three unripe peaches in my hand. Further along the channel the trees got bigger, the forest thicker, the weeds taller, with coral colors bursting through the greenery an undulating wall of talking vegetation. Whir of cicadas mixing with symphony of birds and swarming dragonflies. Best are the smells of warm mud and cow pies steaming in the sunshine burning my neck.  The bell rings and the school days complete. My hiking boots are destroyed again and I desperately will seek out the cobbler one last time. Meanwhile I have two other pair that don’t fit right leaving me in a Cinderella scenario. I can’t give up the ghost on my current boots that I couldn’t even begin to describe but have been on my tootsies since ABC all the way to Zangtopelri. God knows what I’ll strap on today for my afternoon walk into the silver haze.  

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