Thursday, May 17, 2012

May 13
I’ve been so busy, it’s past time to update this blog.  Wow, His Majesty’s visit, Arlo’s visit, Tara’s Bday, Variety Show, Thimphu.  I think I need a Holiday from the holidays…
school preparations for HM's visit
In the middle of preparations for our 3 night School Variety Show, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the Fifth King of Bhutan rolls into the Chokhor Valley on his mountain bike.  He’s staying up the road at his country home, which truly is not much more than a cottage perfectly located on a walled acreage of pine trees at a bend in the river.  The property is between several monasteries which are key to the history of Bhutan.  And as always, the spiritual significance carries legends, culture, and politics, all inseparable. 
Our class version of "This Land is Your Land"
Class 7’s grade-wide History test yesterday included questions about monks who led armies to defend their education systems, but also asked about the significance of Membarthso, the Burning Lake legend.  In Canada these would be carefully categorized and separated into political history, art history, and local geography.  Not here, where the hospital is as likely to treat a child for being possessed by demons as it is to remove stitches from a bike accident. 
practising traditional dances

National sport, Dha: 140 m archery
So while the hall decorations are stepped up for HM’s visit, classes are out cleaning windows and weeding and scraping and brushing.  The word is, this is strictly an informal drop-in, if it even happens.  So at least we’re ready for the parents coming to the Show, and we go on with regular classes for a couple of days.  Then, one morning, the students are separately assembled, as His Majesty traditionally speaks with them in private, without other adults.  He meets the staff later. 

Kuru, team darts...with wicked accuracy and points
And what an inspiring man!  HM has an ambitious vision for the future.  He speaks of youth issues with concern and understanding, and balances his great compassion with a conviction that every Bhutanese has a responsibility for co-creating this future.  At school he wants discipline as a focus, and seems committed to re-empowering teachers as moral leaders.  Following our group royal photo, I was on a cloud for the rest of the day, having been reminded of my involvement in the making of a nation, and feeling honoured for my work in the classroom.

From King to Prince.  Well, sometimes he is….Arlo’s visa came through as he waited in Thailand, trying to go on with contingent travel plans in case it wasn’t going to happen.  A friend of ours arranged the Druk Air e-ticket, which is a challenge with intermittent power, no fax working at school, and no bank to access funds closer than an 11-hour bus ride.  Tara went to Thimphu to meet Arlo, and a couple days later they showed up in Bumthang.  I couldn’t believe it, my son in the flesh.  We hugged and squished and poked and prodded one another to see if it was real! 
Carol from England took this: what an amazing capture of Thimphu Dzong at night!

The next day I fulfilled on a fantasy I’d been brewing for a couple months: My son and I walking side by side down our country road, wearing national dress.  Same height, same hair, same facial features.  Greeted on our way by school children in their uniforms, bowing as we passed them.  “Kuzoo Sangpo” to the farmers carrying their tools to the field, and shop-keepers leaning out their half-walled storefronts.  What a parade, what a trip.

local hero within 15 minutes at school
While Arlo was here we did school together, hiked together (to a monastery hidden in a bamboo grove beyond an alpine fantasyland), played snooker in a bar together, did the Chamkhar town night club scene...
surrounded by Yeshey's students on our monastery trek

houpee, local woodpecker
our kitchen, often fed by landlord's garden

Class 6 pen pals sending cards to Saltspring

these pics from First King's palace, arrow's toss from school, 10 min. walk from home

doma, betel nut and leaf with lime paste, alternative to smoking, which is rarely seen

Tara's soon-to-be famous Bumthang pizza, now taking orders: 17393125!

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