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Well hello again!

It seems like a lifetime has passed since I left Thimphu and the relative ease of internet access at the Dragon Roots Hotel.  It seems like several lifetimes have passed since I left the worlds of London and the US that, honestly, seem so distant that they feel like dream worlds, impossible lands of simplicity and plenty, where I didn't need to go knock on my neighbour's door every morning for help getting dressed, or keep the pot constantly on the boil for water either to purify or with which to bathe.  But all of these challenges have been a pleasure, a good form of weight lifting for the soul.

The internet saga was not.  Not a pleasure, not gratifying, not beneficial.  But last night, at about 6:30, as I sat there huddled in my chair, insulating myself against another day's false hope, the roadblock on the information superhighway was finally suspended and, hallelujah, I was back in touch with the world.

I think often here about small pleasures, how much happiness comes from the simplest things.  One day I practically had a bathing party because the water came back on after being off all afternoon - and me covered with dust and sweat after a run.  Another night I must have deafened my parents with my screams of pleasure each time I took a bite of spinach, just at a time when I felt my body needed better nutrition than the standard diet of rice and potatoes was offering.  (But in this case, I stand by my reaction, which seems sane and balanced when I consider that the spinach was thoroughly organic, grown by my neighbours, given for free, and taken from the ground only minutes before I ate it.)  Another recent day I remember witnessing waves of excitement rippling through the market as news spread that the truck passing through had a shipment of carrots, carrots from India!  Along with everyone else, I dropped what I was doing and ran to the shop to get a kilo before they were gone.

And honestly these little things always make me happier than just about anything could in London.  Something about the ease of finding things taking the gloss off of them, I think.

And that's me today as well, still giddy at the thought of having internet, real, actual internet.  I savour the feeling of the word in my mouth as if it's a fine wine.  Which is also impossible to find here, by the way.

So I'll catch up on the whole blog enterprise in due time, but for today, finally, I can share a post I prepared a few weeks ago.  The photo I'll try to attach at the end was taken just moments after I completed the entry, and it pretty accurately illustrates the effect I finished by describing, with it impossible to say what was rising and what was falling.  (Never mind the photo, can't publish with it attached.)

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17 February 2013

“And then a damp gust bringing rain…”

Today I sit at my desk listening to the rain.  It has been raining since yesterday afternoon; it started when we were riding the bus back from a hospital 5K down the valley in Riserboo, having gone there to visit an officer of the Ministry of Education who had gone off the road while driving the night before.  If he hadn’t been thrown from his car, he would surely have died; the car rolled all the way down to the river.  I don’t know how far that would have been, but when I manage to see the river from the road, it looks like a tiny trickle in a ravine so steep I can hardly see the bottom.  In the end, though, he was extraordinarily lucky to escape with mostly superficial injuries.  I hear the word “auspicious” a lot in Bhutan, and I understand why.  Nobody wants to have a horrific accident, but if one is to have one, it’s auspicious indeed to be thrown from a car destined for the bottom of a ravine; it’s auspicious to have one’s cell phone within reach to call for help; it’s auspicious to be located somewhere where emergency services can get to you easily.

And above all it’s auspicious for all of this to happen in Bhutan, where entire school staffs hop in a bus and come to visit you in the hospital, to offer comfort and support rather than to leave people alone.  A friend explained that in Bhutan, communities rally around people in both the best and the worst times.  And this day was a perfect example: we were having momos to celebrate a faculty child’s first birthday – not just a select group of the teacher’s closest friends, but the entire faculty.  Word then came of the poor man’s accident, so we went straight from the celebration to the school’s bus, from triumph to tragedy, together as a community.

For those who have lived here their entire lives, such a day must have seemed natural and familiar.  To me, who has only been here a few weeks, it felt natural but unfamiliar.  And my soul drank it up like dusty ground accepting the first drops of rain.

As we wound our way back up the valley to Tashitse, I remarked with delight that there were tiny droplets on the window, the first precipitation I’d seen since arriving in Bhutan, apart from a few stray flakes of snow in my first days in Thimphu.  And it had been so dusty here in Wamrong since I arrived, almost chokingly dusty, bad enough that getting caught behind a car on the dirt road where I run made me stop and wait until the car had gone on and the air was once again clear enough to breathe.  So those first few drops on the windshield were a beautiful, beautiful sight.

Within a few hours the little droplets had matured into a proper rainstorm.  I retreated under my duvet, the space heater in my room only working at 33% capacity and thus doing little more than throwing a hypnotizing orange light across me.  Even now, with the heater on the floor literally two feet away, I barely feel enough heat to know that the thing is on.  It certainly isn’t heating space.

So it’s rained ever since, a day and a half now.  The tin roof above me catches and magnifies every drop so it sounds like a real rager of a storm.  I haven’t ventured out to see if it’s as bad as it sounds; I am satisfied simply to look at the puddles, see that rain is still falling, and stay in here where at least it’s dry if not warm.  But satisfied is the word.  I have plenty of layers to put on: at the moment I’m wearing my Sporthills under a pair of hiking pants.  Above I’m wearing a t-shirt under a running fleece under a heavy Patagonia fleece under a down jacket.  And a hat.  So I’m not cold.  But I do note that it’s awkward to type with such cold fingers.  Beyond that I note that I don’t really care.  There is great beauty in this day, in the natural simplicity of a life that grinds to a halt due to heavy rain. 

And it’s not just me.  I get texts from all over Bhutan: snow day in Bumthang, all day rains in Yadi, Pemagatsel, Trashiyangtse. Trongsa, Chukha.  Arwen writes from the Ambient CafĂ© in Thimphu where she’s taking shelter with a hot chocolate, looking at the snow-covered roofs of the capital city.  Here at Tashitse, I listened in the morning to a group of girls giggling as they hid from the rain under the eaves of my roof.  I chose to remain still and silent in bed rather than opening the curtains and scaring them out into the weather.  It wasn’t exactly a sacrifice on my part.

And it’s not just people.  When I did finally venture out from under the covers at around ten, I saw DogDog, my adopted stray.  (I’m not proud of the name, but how do I name a dog who belongs to nobody but himself?  What gives me the right?  Isn’t naming a means of possessing an animal far too independent to be possessed?) Curled up on the front porch, his nose buried under his wolf-like tail, he barely even lifted his eyes to acknowledge me when I opened the door; he seemed content to curl up where it was dry and sleep through the weather.

When I looked down the hill to the girls’ dorm, I saw crows hopping along the exterior corridors, preferring to remain on the ground where it was dry rather than taking to their natural element and facing the wet weather.  It was entertaining as anything I’ve seen in recent memory to see this big, awkward bird galumphing along, sneaking up the edge of the corridor, checking to see if it was still raining, then retreating again to bump awkwardly along the cement floor.

So, yes, I am finally typing again as the world, the entire world of Wamrong, hides from the rain.  Even the mountains that I can usually see through my windows are hiding, buried beneath either sinking clouds or rising mist.  Today it’s hard to know what’s falling and what’s rising.  Rain falling, spirits rising. 


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