Thimphu Freak Out

I've been lying a little in this blog.  Life in Bhutan wasn't all prayer flags, green scenery and magical clouds.  There was another side too.
This is a genuine message I sent to a family member during my first days in Bhutan.  I read it now with a smile, with a sense of dramatic irony because I know that everything turned out OK.  But it's an honest artefact of how it felt to be a few days into a new life, completely removed from anything familiar or safe.  And -- dammit, I loved those headphones.

Well today has been a very very hard day for me.  It began with not being able to find a very nice (and expensive) set of headphones I bought myself, which made me much more upset than it needed to… I mean, they're gone, but… well, they're gone, and the suffering that came from that is the issue now.  It made me doubt myself and my ability to be responsible enough to look after myself.  Honestly it's a fear of the immensity of going to the east on tuesday, a frustrati…

Photos Part 2: Spirituality in Bhutan

It's hard to imagine Bhutan without Buddhism.  It's the last of what used to be a string of Buddhist nations in the Himalayas; Ladakh and Sikkim were incorporated into India, and -- we all know the tragic and unjust fate of Tibet.  Buddhist philosophy, tradition and ritual are essential to Bhutanese culture in almost every facet of life.  For this entry I've chosen a few images that I think might communicate the way spirituality permeated every moment of life in Bhutan, from the moment we woke to the moment we slept; not a proud or selfish spirituality, not a showy or false spirituality, but a simple and natural compassion and a constant acceptance that humans are simply part of the scenery, every bit as fragile as the tiniest life forms with which we share the earth.

1. Prayer flags above Wamrong: This is a spot where I used to sit and meditate from time to time.  It wasn't hard to find peace in Wamrong, but this place was exceptionally tranquil.  I myself am Buddhist,…

My favourite photographs from Bhutan

It's nice to read back through these old writings, now, as I prepare finally to chronicle the experience of those three years in Bhutan.  So much about life there made it difficult to write from Bhutan, but I think more than anything it was something I read from Hemingway in A Moveable Feast. He said that you can never write about where you are, only where you were, and I found that to be true.

Now that enough time has passed and I can reflect upon the many experiences that defined my three years in Bhutan, I will take up this blog again and finally tell the stories I was too busy living through to write about.

I'll begin with a few of my favourite photos from my time in Bhutan.  There are many more, so there may be a few posts like this, but this first set offers a glimpse into the life of a volunteer teacher in rural Bhutan.  I hope they're enjoyable, and please do comment if you have any observations or questions to share.

1. There was little holiday time for teachers i…


Since I was just entering my first adolescent beginning as a man, I’ve had this phenomenon with love: whenever I really liked a girl I would feel something like a kick in the gut when she walked in the room.Not painful, mind, but like a sudden, intense rush of butterflies.This was always the proof that I waited for: no kick in the gut, no love.
You may fear at this point that you’re a paragraph into a sappy blog post about love.Well, in a way, you are.But don’t worry; I’d sooner post musings about my bowel movements than start blogging about such emotions. So be patient, that strange opening will make sense soon enough.
I’m sitting now at my favorite home-away-from-home in eastern Bhutan.I have three hours left in this three-day drive from Thimphu back to my posting in Wamrong.To be clear, I say that as a celebration, not a complaint.The drive is long and difficult, but any English teacher worthy of the name knows that the road is always a metaphor for life, and this bumpy, rough, twist…

Running to Korichiloo

First entry in almost a year, and I confess it's just a slightly edited copy/paste from my journal.  Running is one of the most important aspects of my life here, physical and spiritual, so this seems like a good way to start.  Again.
These days I run with a high-vis rain jacket on.It features this cool modular system where the sleeves attach with magnets, which means I can run in shirtsleeves but also carry rain protection in case of sudden downpour.Which is of course likely during monsoon season.I heard two teachers talking today in the staffroom, one telling the other that he’d heard reports of the monsoon having reached the Maldives.Funny, I thought it was here already.But isn’t that cool, the rain moving like a living being with a clearly traceable route of progress, his arrival anticipated much the same way an important rimpoche’s would be…
Along with the jacket, the other notable pre-run detail is the important items I pack with me: I carry a bag of salt in case of leeches.Th…