Monday, September 28, 2015

Poetry & Prose

Evening Walk Down the Sep Road

charcoal clouds envelop
dull rainbow a Cheshire gleam
reflects Tim moving laterally
under landslide gash
in silver twilight
awakening nocturne of
hidden critters
that rattle and hiss
serenading a
wisp of milky way
far off headlights in Lumla
flicker and die

Can't find the rythm of
this poem, a choppy dream
fragments of nothingness
make up this looking glass valley, looping river,
and sprawling blue mountains
ALL ablaze in a flash
of lightning

There's been a dramatic shift in the weather the last three days from the monsoon foam to clear and crisp autumn. On Sunday I took a glorious hike climbing thousands of feet out of Yangtse town through idyllic villages dotted with chortens and interspersed with terraced rice and millet. I discovered a rustic Lhakhang atop a forested ridge a heavenly retreat overlooking the Bumdeling catchment. Clouds still draped like bunting obscuring the high peaks that ring the narrow valley. Only birdsong and the wind accompanied me there rippling the prayer flags that flapped in fluid waves.

Last night the aroma of cool autumn and a rare sight the moon radiating silver light outlining Shampula, Bromla, and the eastern Indian side of the valley. The gibbous moon pronouncing 
the glory of fall with only the tail of the monsoon dragon lingering on the high fur clad ridges that surround the valley at 13,000 feet. The whir of Cicada's tambourine shaking all day on our sparkling campus with the grinding stones and tall cypress grove. Once in awhile a teacher sees a successful result which occurred only moments ago in my home class where their skits for the Dauntless Girl went off smoothly with the kids making props memorizing lines and conducting effective blocking to create a wonderful scene. Yes! They really achieved something from their own hard work and my support and improvement conducting such activities. Sometimes it can feel hopeless teaching out here since  English is undervalues and little used in actuality. Today I remember that some are learning and practicing speaking and the other domains of ESL English even if the milieu is not always favorable.

Sitting next to me is the tragic Dawa Dema dog who Karlos and Sonam has abandoned and now is associated with me even though I loath being a guardian for her and foresaw this circumstance the day I baught her for them. She's a nice pup but I don't want to be a dog owner and what will become of her when I'm gone.

I'm still reeling from a magnificent Tsechu but still don't have the time to recollect all that went down at this festival. The second day was one of the greatest days for me in the Kingdom and my feet never touched the ground. Being naughty bumping pelvises with the Atsara a gesture endowed with freedom of expression livening up the festivities by harassing the audience especially schoolgirls and Phelincpa.This masked clown and his cronies go around shaking a big red phallic made of wood in people's visage. The girls are understandably abashed but on this day with barely any representatives from the school I felt unfettered socializing with students, checking out the hoopla at the shops and casino and mainly focused on the masked dances. On this day it was the animal masked dancers wearing extraordinary masked depicting, tiger, ox, owl, deer, pig, horse, and so on. The dancers, all men, were bare foot with gold skirts, silken tops overlay with embroidered sashes. Every design and detail has significance and the movements are unparallelled leaping, twirling, in a coordinated dervish to the cacophonous bleating of puja horns (ten feet long) and clashing cymbals. The tantric groove pushing the dancers onward towards the portal. Most students only casually watch preferring to fraternize up at the canteens and shops that dot the crest of the hill. And the dances are watched most closely by the young and old who have a higher stake in the last dance. That dance is the judging of the soul in the Bardo a blueprint for what occurs after death in this incarnation at the cosmic relay station where we are judged by our earthy deed. On one side of the kneeling departed is the god of death who looks like the boogieman who hides in closets or under beds with coarse black spiked hair a wicked black masked face bearing fangs and adorned with maracas that clunk and rattle when he moves  and shakes these rattles are tied all over his body including his breast and he is adorned in skulls and other forms of decayed matter. On the other side of the departed a white masked more divine peaceful deity some sort of guardian to heaven.  Eventually five dakinis, angelic girls, played by class ten girls wearing burger king crowns only far nicer, encircle the departed soul singing a haunting dirge that I hop to hear in my own hour of reckoning. They lay upon the sinner who spins a handheld prayer wheel accruing merit until the last four gold scarves then lead him away to a high rebirth. thus vanquishing the boogieman. So much is going on that words are pitiful to describe the scene and meanwhile fog and mist recede forming leads to Tsang Tsang Ma and other pinnacles that punctuate the empty valley. As the final dancers prances bound, and peeled off through the curtained doorway I was joined by two Sangay's who also seemed dakinis on this fine day. We chatted in Korean phrases while they burned incense sticks getting to know their teacher a little more in an informal setting. I love to watch the dancer's peel off since it reminds me of death. You dance and play and suffer too before being ushered through the portal into the next round.

The last day was not the same vibe for me but splendid too as I hosted Lynn and we had a packed lunch made by my adopted sons who woke me up at 5 AM. But when lunchtime came both the boys and  the food vanished and I felt irritated and embarrassed but finally we tracked down the food and had our picnic. My students were excited to see Lynn AND a few of them helped her by carrying her bag and escorting her down to Tsenkharla since I remained to finish out the Black Hat Cham which is my favorite. The rain came back sprinkling the dancers with their silken regalia and fantastic soaring black hats adorned with peacock feathers and painted with rainbow prisms with impaled skulls fixed on them. Front row at the Cham one can feel the wind generated from the skirts embroidered wit celestial depictions beyond description and many of the dancers eyes wide like flying saucers seemed in a trance. The Tsechu ended with circle songs from the community. I descended my beloved trail at dusk flanked by the voices of villagers soaring from the Lhakhang passing Rinchen Wangmo and her family on the trail.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Hands Update!

I can't keep up with the happenings here. Just last weekend I sat in the jungle taking a hot stone bath accompanied by three friends from three different countries near a raging bonfire. Lynn my nearest neighbor from Kiney, Mr. Piet from the Netherlands, and Sonam from you know where. The wooden tub full of medicinal and muddy spring water was heated by plopping scorching stones into the bath. We were all smooshed in fetal positions in the small tub which made for an intimate setting with Mr. Piet and Lynn swigging from a jug of Dutch jungle juice. Sparks ascended into the pitch blackness and a smattering of stars peeped through the canopy. If that wasn't enough a tributary wooshed on by as we wiled the hours away in a fine soak!

This week was our local Shakshing Tsechu (remember Bubba and Mom) Details to follow later needless to say I love my community and mountain and relished the Cham dances in a singular experience being the lone phelincpa partying amongst the natives where revelry and spirituality seamlessly interweave. Lynn joined me yesterday in the closing ceremonies along with students and locals in a phantasmagorical orgy. Lynn is twenty one years older than me yet many questioned if we were a couple so either I'm looking mature these days or all phelinpa's look alike to them. Ha! I can't attempt any descriptions until time permits so we'll leave it here but my soul is satisfied living in a land of abundant challenges and magic.

Back in action today after the holiday in which a scheduled Prince visit was aborted so the kids remained at boarding school yet were allowed to hike up to Tsechu. I'm frantically teaching skits for the Dauntless Girl a daunting affair considering their ability. It's raining even though Blessed Rainy Day has come and gone and if the monsoon has retreated you wouldn't know it around here. It's still lush and green as we move into October...

Friday, September 18, 2015

Soup of the Day...

Sun floods the looking glass valley but puffy clouds tower from the ridges that ring in the symmetrical valley. There's a hill on the Tawang side which is a mirror image of Tsenkharla. Another gentle arcing green slope on the far side of Shampula and so it goes in this perfect landscape. In class we're debating and doing skits in an effort to empower the students to speak more. It's been a successful year in the fact that I know my students better than ever before, not only names, but abilities and interests. The novelty wares off but my love for Bhutan grows deeper like the fall colors that begin to dominate the landscape. The maize stalks now towering higher than farmhouses turn golden and the rice paddies chartreuse. The greens grow deeper as creepers climb the great cypresses and wild honeysuckles perfume the summer air. The Dharma teaches that everything is always in flux and it seems that I'm a different dude than when I came to my mountain. I'm still clingy and grasping at straws but the seed of Dharma has been planted inside me even though sometimes I feel that the Dharma is lame or more aptly who wants to practice that give me a cheeseburger yo! But like it or not life intervenes and everyone must bear their crosses.

Yesterday I was T.OD which meant a 16 hour day on campus. I noticed the Guru and many others have a sidekick who they mentor since these kids raise themselves. It's best to still the mind and sit and watch all the bizarre attractions come and go and the funny patterns of life envelop us. I'm fortunate to live in this situation in the most beautiful spot in the universe, that is my boon in this incarnation. Mainly this land and the kids are my teachers and I'll never comprehend the magic that unfolds daily. The fact that a hard rock kid from the USA has the opportunely to teach simple farm kids from the borderlands of Eastern Bhutan is surreal and fantastic. But we suffer for our soup and that is life.

Monday, September 14, 2015

One a Day: Fading Pleasures...

The monsoon is retreating after a long wet summer with bird, bat,and bee smothered in the foamy tendrils of the aquatic Leviathan . So many things have taken place and I'm ripe for the unsolicited changes that have come upon me since we last met. Summer Break was intense spending days in the company of other foreign teachers on an epic adventure that I won't elaborate on here. I'm typing on an unfamiliar keypad on a computer lab portal so I'm sure things are a bit rusty. The sun made an appearance scorching Piet and I as we descended the barren slope between Jangphu near the Indian border down to Kinney in the lowlands. We had set out from Sep traversing in and out of secret forested cirques near the clifff face of Omba Ney. In a lush pocket we heard the dolphin like clicks and whistles of little black monkeys with tufts of white fur and red markings on their faces. They played in the canopy bounding through the broad leaf treetops above tree ferns and other shimmering green species indicative of sub tropical east Bhutan. Past three water driven prayer wheels whose bells tolls for our ears alone or perhaps music to the ears of lowing cows munching on sweet grass. The spring emerges from the rocky mountain driving the paddles in a revolution that causes the bell to ding with each turn. The water is pure crystal and cold when splashed on a weary sunburnt face. DING! Further eastward the forest turns to stout oaks with many large boulders covered in luxuriant mosses and strange lichens too. The limbs of these trees branch out in strange gnarled formations due to villagers cutting branches overtime which are replaced by peculiar offshoots. These trees have been logged for centuries never killing the root but causing a manicured fores of ancient oak. (A whiff of feces drifts through the lab window) This is the easternmost forest running through the border into Arrunachal Pradesh but we stopped at the Bhutanese checkpoint for some crackers and chocolate. I pointed out a soaring regal bird with serrated wings that Piet said was a black eagle. This summer I was almost carried off by swarm of bees on more than one occasion and up at Brong La was almost crushed by a falling branch during the crux of the monsoon in July. Strange images from the last months drift into my head with too much to tell.
Maybe I should share about teaching and my ongoing struggles amidst my improvements. It was a foggy afternoon that I lost my patience screaming at the kids in 8B and even writing the Guru up for copying homework. Now Guru Wangmo is the epitome of simplicity, in fact they don't even make them like her anymore and this archetype is a dying breed in the Kingdom. How Guru incurred my wrath was a myriad of circumstances that at times seems beyond a teachers control. It all began when I was delivering a lesson and students were sniggering and not listening which caused me to blow my top. The problem is any underlying issue in my own life might just bubble to the surface in a classroom setting. All has settled down but the harder I work this year (And it has been a breakout year for me) the more frustration mounts from the countless interactions and policing that an educator must do each day. It sucks me dry although I still love the students! 

The day I returned from summer break my computer wouldn't fire up and the loss of this forum especially has been hard on me. I'm not sure what readership remains but TIAT is my best friend allowing me to spew my feelings as they come. Now I'm emotionally constipated compounded by the mist and mold of the pervasive monsoon. Although my love for this place and people deepens as the journey continues there is also a feeling of fading pleasure which is a necessity. My days have been spent slogging through muddy trails especially on my mountain proper and I've slept the last two months in my own bed in my cement box.  Shit! the bell rang so I guess I didn't get far in updating you and sorry for the rusty muddled words but the tiger staggers on.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Off the Grid

Attention readers.

My computer crashed hence my absence from your life. I'm on a school desktop now and will try somehow to stay in touch. Lots has been going on including the same old tribulations and epic adventures. All in all i'm hanging in there and yesterday trekked out to the end of the line with Mr. Piet. Someday I hope to update you with all thats happened. Yesterday I saw little black monkey's near Omba Ney so life is good!