Friday, January 27, 2012

"This Highway Is Not A Runway"

The above was written on an actual sign posted on the side of the road on our drive from Paro to Thimphu- meaning, I am assuming, do not fall off. As expected, driving is a dubious enterprise here; the roads twist and turn, carved into the side of sheer cliffs. This concept- stay on the road, try not to fall off- is an apt metaphor for my time here so far.

Statue in Bangkok Airport
The main leg of my journey
The last thing my dad said to me before I left: “You gotta get loose, daughter; start rolling with the punches, and be open to it all.” Truer words have never been spoken…or harder to heed. For as laid back and open-minded/hearted as I fancy myself to be, it’s painfully obvious I am still clinging to many of my Western concepts of being in control of my surroundings and the outcome of situations. Silly, silly girl…
Ashley, Sabrina, Tim, and I tired and needing showers!

The trip was just that- a trip. 35 hours of planes, airports, goodbyes, hellos. For the first time I experienced jet lag and the feeling of being surrounded by completely new, well, everything and half the world away from all I’ve ever known and loved. This in conjunction with the insomnia I was having the preceding week just put me over the edge. Breakdown. Had I not been so utterly exhausted, I am sure I would have started in on the long walk home. Sleep finally overtook me and, like a baby in desperate need of a nap, I awoke the next morning more emotionally stable and clear-minded. 
This is where I spent my first night in Bhutan

Awesome, in the true sense of the word!

I took this near Buddha Point, Thimphu
You can't help but to be struck by the energy of this place, no matter what state you are in. Flying in, seeing the Himalayas from above, I experienced, for the first time ever, what it is like to actually, literally have your breath taken away. Realizing that this is the culmination of my life so far hit me hard and I had to choke back tears of sheer awe and gratitude. We flew with His Royal Highness the prince (the king's younger brother) and for the first time in my life, as well, I was truly star-struck. The exquisite beauty here is utterly indescribable, almost painful, reaches into the deepest part of my soul with and reverberates in my every extremity. I look around and feel like I'm opening my eyes for the first time. 
It’s not all rainbows and prayer flags, though. The amount of littered garbage is surprising and sad, considering environmental preservation is one of the four tenants of Gross National Happiness. It's honestly pretty filthy, and the sidewalks are turned red by all the betel nut spit. It is hard to see so many mangy, feral dogs; they're everywhere. However, I think you can judge a person or country by the way it treats its animals and these dogs tolerated and ignored, rather than abused, so they are not aggressive and blend into daily life here. 
This doesn't even come close to capturing how many dogs there are

Thimphu, the only capital city in the world with no stop lights

such a great cre
To say that the other BCF teachers are cool would be an understatement. As expected, they are the most wholesome, generous, intellectual, and interesting folks I've had the privilege of meeting. It makes me pretty proud to be able to hob-knob with them as a contemporary. It is apparent to myself and others that I'm a strong, country girl; it seems to be a general consensus that if anyone can hack it out in the most remote part of Bhutan it will be me. It makes me proud of who I am and where I come from.

We met with the Minister of Education, Lyonpo Thakur S Powdyel. He was the most inspirational, moving and wise orator I have ever heard speak. (I realize I am writing in many absolutes- “the most this, or that,” but I truly do mean it…) He talked about how education can and should yield itself toward the development of the whole individual, the importance of enrichment and enlightenment of our students as sentient beings.

Minister of Education, Lyonpo Thakur S Powdyel

As educators, we are custodians to the world, and impart to our students not only facts and working skills, but a deeper knowledge and appreciation of humanity, and heightened level of consciousness. He spoke of this in terms of “moral greenery”- priming the mind and spirit of our students for growth and vitality. “The second we teach a child a new word for expression, a new note to play, a new thought to ponder, the world is instantly a different place”…what a concept…

His words resonated to the deepest part of my being and spoke to my inspiration and intuition of what teaching really is. Or should be. Idealistic? Yes. Possible? Also, a big resounding yes! This new educational paradigm is just emerging and is brand new in its development through pedagolocial practices. The concept, however, is universal. The energy generated by this dialogue coursed strongly through myself, added to that of others, and became tangible. 
Sabrina and I taking it all in
From this place of elation I once again came crashing down- became very distraught over my living/communication situation once I get out in the field.  Since I will be living on campus, rent free, I will be given the additional title of “Deputy Warden” (or something like that). This will add to what I know is going to be the most, hardest work I have ever done, and will further impede on what little free time and personal privacy I might have. I will be looked to as an expert and under constant observation: intimidating and overwhelming. Also, my school will not have internet connectivity, so I will have to use a data stick, which can be random and infrequent; so no downloading, skyping, or blogging. (Insert screeching brakes and crash noise here!) This second low point, though, has become an evaluative tool and has made me take a good hard look at my intentions and motivations for coming. If knowing these details going into this would have changed my mind then I shouldn’t be here. Time to get loose. Just try to stay on this beautiful, unpredictable road. I will.
Dzong all lit up at night

I thank those of you who have made it through to this point and actually read all of this. I will try to be more brief and concise in my following blogs, but as this is as much of a way to chronicle this year for me as it is for all of you, I didn’t want to leave anything out of this first one. I apologize in advance if my communication level takes a severe nose-dive in the near future if I can only blog when I visit friends in more urban places, if that’s even possible with my duties. I miss my family, given and chosen, more than I would have thought possible, but feel so blessed that I have that much love…

Until next time! Shoo  lay  log  jay  ge! (see you later)
-Reidi Ruth


  1. Reidi, my love. I'm enfatuated with this blog! The land is beautiful and it seems you have experienced so much in such few amount of days! May you continue to awaken each morning wearing that gorgeous smile of yours and know how lucky you are! Xoxoxo

  2. Great post Reidi! We're so excited to follow you on your Bhutan journey!

  3. You are so eloquent in your writings, Reidi. This whole concept of not falling off the road, or mountain, (which sounds like it's kind of the same thing) reminds me of what Ray says in Dharma Bums about not falling off the mountain. Even once you get to the top you will keep climbing. I have never been more proud of anyone in my life. I thought a lot today about when you first heard you were going and how filled with pride I was then. Hearing of your process with it all so far just elates me ten fold. Keep on keeping on Dove =)