After the most incredible vacation we are now back in Bhutan and energised to begin the school year.
We flew into Paro in slightly overcast conditions, so the views were not as impressive as last year but still well worth having requested seats on the left hand side of the plane. Thanks to Karma for telling us to. The flight was full but for the front 4 seats in business class (yep boasting we were in business class for only the third time ever), which were empty until we were all seated and then it was obvious from the entourage, that royalty was joining us. That was certainly the case. We didn’t recognise who it was, but the announcements confirmed our prediction and the flight attendants were happy to inform us that we had Her Royal Highness the Queen Mother on board. It was equally engaging watching from the plane windows after we landed, to see how She was welcomed home with the red carpet treatment and line of dignitaries.
Before breezing through immigration, thanks to having our visas renewed before departing, we could already see Karma there waiting to collect us, smiling and waving, and he eased our passage through customs and drove us to the hotel. It was an excellent decision to spend that first night in Paro, even though I had planned to catch up with a student of mine and then discovered that due to having a new phone, I didn’t have his number and couldn’t contact him. We were able to revel in being “home” by admiring the views, smirking at how much we recognised and understood compared to a mere 12 months ago and wandering the streets with no agenda but a genuine delight in still being a valued and welcome part of this special place. Our hope that my student might miraculously appear or see us didn’t eventuate but that is life. The Dechen Hill Resort was glad to accommodate us again and by coincidence put us in exactly the same room as last year even though we were the only guests.
By 7.30am Tuesday morning we were in a hired taxi making our way to Thimphu, hoping that we would be able to get the pressing issues we needed to attend to there sorted before our appearance at the Q& A session for the newly arrived BCF teachers. We were brisking about the town and checking things off our list, moments after the businesses opened for trading, having already checked into at the Dragon Roots Hotel.
Before the appointed hour we appeared at the conference room and were welcomed in and seated. Thousands of memories of being on the other side of those tables last year immediately flooded back and I was glad that we had volunteered to answer questions and assist in any way possible. Scott happily joined us and we all tried to be honest, informative and reassuring but there was a point when I thought that we were scaring them with the reality of life in rural Bhutan.
Talking school was a great way to move forward as I remembered I so wanted to hear and know more about school this time last year and we were looking at a group of totally committed teachers here, so we started talking shop and things were immediately lively, positive and optimistic again!
Lunch came and went, more conversations and queries were addressed and before we knew it, we 3 were “misleading” people to the cooking session at Nancy’s house. We did find it eventually but we took an unorthodox route and I doubt that Martha ever will trust our senses of direction again. She was definitely correct. Once inside Madam Meena got cook tops and gas bottles set up and the prep was in full swing in no time. Conversations flowed and more and more concerns were addressed individually during the cooking and over the delicious meal that was produced. The informal chance to mingle allowed those more reticent to voice their worries the opportunity and several times that night and throughout the following day people thanked us for our help and assistance so I guess we achieved what we set out to do even if there are still anxieties out there. It was 9 hours after we set foot in the conference room that we returned to our room at the hotel and crashed.
We had Wednesday morning free to complete our shopping and do whatever we needed to in Thimphu before leading those who wanted help on a guided shopping tour around the big smoke. Our diverse compliment of things acquired that morning included a new tap for the bathroom, new tegos, and kiras for me, hula-hoops, sesame oil, maps of the world, nuts, cotton wool, a rolling pin and hair dye. We had an equally diverse range of items to direct new teachers in the vicinity of but the afternoon quickly disappeared and when Ian headed back to the second group’s cooking session at Nancy’s I retreated to the room to prepare for our departure today.
We decided on the way back west that we would hire a Prado and driver to drive us slowly back east so we could better see this beautiful country and have the privilege of stopping where and when we wanted to along the slow road home. Scott willingly accepted the offer to join us so an adventure awaited us.
This morning we hit the road just after 9.30am armed with takeaway coffee and slices of home made apple cake from Thimphu’s best café, Ambient Café and only after arriving here in Phobjikha did I realise that I must have left the letter we took pains to write so that it could be posted in the capital on the counter there!! I have complete faith that the owner will mail it for us as it does have a stamp on it.
The slow road home began in style today and ended with sightings of Black Necked Cranes in the valley most famous for them …… BUT that is for another blog.