Sunday, September 16, 2012

What a strange week it has been.

I headed off to school on Monday feeling like death and almost regretted the decision to go after an unpleasant altercation with the Vice Principal. I fully understand that I can change very little but I still feel the need to speak out when I see situations that distort the sense of justice and fairness that I possess. My worldly and wise XC boys told me straight not to speak to him because this is Bhutan and nothing will change. Well that was a red rag to a bull and I quipped that there is no point in democracy if we don’t exercise our rights and there is no reason to have them if we say nothing. Nothing has or will change!

I managed to cut myself some free space and time and salvage the situation enough to complete the day’s classes and then escape having given notice that I would not be back the following day as I really needed to visit the Basic Heath Unit (BHU). My track record with medical institutions is not great and I have been doing my utmost to ensure I never graced their premises with my presence but go I did the next morning.

Escaping one lesson early from school enabled me to pack up the precious paper cranes my class has made over the past month. We did our best to accomplish the task in a month and several students have really taken this project to heart. They pitched in and had them all ready to be posted complete with a sign by Monday afternoon and so off to the post office I went as soon as I was out of school.

Cranes ready to post

Tuesday at the BHU was a comedy of errors with me having no idea of how the system works or what to do but somehow I managed to get registered and place my ‘chit’ on the doctor’s desk before he appeared for consultations. I sat on a low wooden bench with mostly young mothers and babies, the odd few monks, most of them also young and the elderly.  The toddlers were absolutely fascinated by me, and my reading a novel only further convinced them that I was some strange subspecies. They approached staring and darted away giggling as soon as I lifted my eyes from the page, only to repeat the process over and over until my name was called and I disappeared into the inner sanctum.

It turned out the 4 different medications I was prescribed and given completely free of charge finally did make some inroads into my illness, but I spent 2 full days at home recovering before I felt ready to return to school. This respite enabled me to start on the Class XI short stories and I punctuated my days with 5 stories checked before lunch, 5 more before a short nap and in this way whittled away at the mountain of marking.
Day scholars right after football out to watch the archery

I was running on less that 100% for the remainder of the week, but at least I was there and that alleviated the guilt of missing classes with my class X home class. I stayed after school and taught make up and remedial classes both Thursday and Friday and they were both appreciative and relieved to have me back. When rain caused the morning assembly to be cancelled, they and I fronted up in the classroom 20 minutes early to use the extra time for English. They even thanked me for it. We are all on the same team and I worry endlessly that my lack of understanding of the system will in some way handicap them in the national testing known as the Board Exams.

Top scoring archer

Inter- House Archery tournaments have also been going on after school for most of the week and the final was hotly contested on Friday. Rangjung won the national title last year so there is a lot at stake here and this year’s team will have to be selected soon.

Typical local house

Just when I was beginning to feel that I would never feel totally well again, we heard that Madam Martha from Dungste Middle Secondary School had been in hospital in Trashigang for 3 days!! Well that snapped me out of it. I have a partner and I am improving; She is alone and desperately ill without a diagnosis.

Downtown T/gang speaking to my sister because today is her birthday.

We immediately decided that we needed to go see her on Sunday. There are things that can only be done in Trashigang and we imagined that we would also be able to get a few errands run today but that was a mistake. The only barber was closed, the photo shop was locked up tight, the electricity was out and the vegetable market had a scant supply but we did find a few items unavailable here in Rangjung.  Cauliflowers and passion fruit are welcome additions to our diet and both came home with us today.

Martha in the ambulance

The main purpose for our trip was to see Martha and that we did accomplish. Just 20 minutes before she clambered aboard the ambulance to Mongar Referral Hospital. She was not looking her best and definitely needs an accurate diagnosis and immediate treatment. She was however being cared for and assisted by 2 wonderful women from her staff and one of them went with her today. Ian has taken it upon himself to pass the number of this woman on to BCF office and contact those BCFers within striking range of Mongar to tell them of Martha’s arrival. Thanks to Sheal for responding immediately and visiting today too. Moral support will certainly not go astray at this point. Part of me wanted to get in that ambulance and go too today just to help, but I figured I would be of no assistance and Ugyen with her language skills and native knowledge of the system and local awareness of what needs to be done is a much more useful ally than me.

the ripe rice

We returned from T/gang with our thoughts and conversation constantly returning to Martha. The huge changes that have occurred to the course of the river and the massive quantities of debris left in the wake of the recent flooding however did not go unnoticed. The river-scape has changed dramatically. There is also one field of rice absolutely perfectly ripe and standing boldly yellow amid a sea of green. We resolved to take a walk back along the road to investigate these scenes once we got home. I for one was clearly delighted that I felt well enough to want to walk 10km and it was a much more pleasant prospect than the remaining 50 odd short stories. Having spent 4 hours yesterday afternoon on that task I figured I was allowed a whole school free day!

Zen Art

The walk was great and the Zen Buddhist Art creations in the river, landslide evidence and crop investigations were merely the excuse we needed to get out and about again. As always we bumped into several of Ian’s students near their homes and just dying to have their photos taken. Some of these same kids ran this route in the annual school marathon in the rain on Saturday. The one who lives farthest from the school was the first place getter for junior boys for the second year in a row! That 6km each way daily is certainly adding to his fitness levels.


To end on a less happy note: It seems Ian is now getting my dreaded lurgie and the dementors are in town!!!

a family affair - making a local snack that resembles cornflakes


  1. Sending you and Ian only wonderful thoughts and blessings. As I was told, "It is a good thing all of this is happening to you as a lesser person would have crumbled." Not that the advice is helpful, but just know that I am here if you need anything. Okay, not really there, but there in spirit.

  2. Thanks Sue Hope all is going well in the US