Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Now It Really Begins...

Departure is immanent. It's my last night in Thimphu. My friend's are either in their new houses or still bumping along dusty roads. I've done all my shopping. I've got my tea set. I've got a metal chest to lock things up in. I've got rice, lentils, pickles, chutneys, oats, ziploc bags, buckets, a hand-held immersion heater, sunblock, mozzie repellent, a world map, a little wooden Buddha and all kinds of other things. It's odd buying items-for-year. I wonder how much I'll take back with me? At least one gho – what a fine figure of a gentleman I'll cut as I stroll down Stoke's Croft all dapper in my Jedi gown. And the teapot and the little wooden Buddha.

I hear it's snowing in Old Blighty. That means snow-days and the euphoria of bonus days off work will be bringing smiles and sledges to one and all. Tomorrow I'll be in my new home in Pakshikha. It seems like a long time since I made this decision, and even longer since I decided that one day, somehow, I'd come to Bhutan. How does it tally with expectation thus far? Hard to say. Like any capital city, regardless of its size, Thimphu is not representative of its country. Dublin is not Ireland, London is not England. Thimphu isn't Bhutan, perhaps to a greater extent than either of the other two. Tomorrow I'll be in the Chukha province, in the Gewog Bongo, close to Gedu, in a village called Pakshikha. What do I know about this place?

If you look at a trekking map of Bhutan, the first thing you'll notice is that there aren''t any organised treks anywhere near here. This means two things. Firstly, there'll be no tourists like you'd get in Bumthang or Gasa - tourism doesn''t exist in any kind of disorganised way here, so no organised treks means no tourists. The celebratory impact of my peculiar complexion and flamey beard will no doubt be heightened. Secondly, there won't be any imposing white-topped toothy Himalayan peaks. I guess life isn't all just mountains, and I'll certainly get to see them before I go, but when I glimpsed them piercing the sky from the look-out at Dochu La, I felt drawn in their direction, dragged by compulsion to the railing until I was slightly leaning to get just a few inches closer.

What else? I'm up on a hill. I can see for 30km on a clear day. It's foggy sometimes. In the monsoon my clothes might succumb to the damp and develop black spots. I've got my own bathroom. I don't have my own classroom... over here it's the teachers that move around. No more will my classroom be my castle. And I've got a big responsibility; I'm the only physics teacher so the examination classes will all be under my wing. And probably the chemistry ones too. No familiar faces for miles or days around. There is however a technical college 12 Km away in Gedo with some Americans and a Canadian. I'll have to make contact. Familiarise myself with their faces!   

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