Friday, April 9, 2010

Blog #13: Home Sweet Home

After yet another long drive and few minor immigration problems at the Dzongkhag checkpoint we arrived in Trashigang for lunch at about two o’clock in the afternoon.

Trashigang is the closest major city to Khaling, so Nancy told me several times to familiarize myself with it, as I would likely be visiting it frequently. The truth is there wasn’t much to familiarize myself with. The city essentially consisted of one block of hotels and stores, and not much else. We ate lunch, did a quick wander, which lasted for maybe ten minutes, and then were back on the bus for my final approach.

The drive from Trashigang to Khaling was actually quite nice, and fairly relaxing. It was only two hours away, and after one hour of what felt like a constant ascent we came across the town of Kanglung, which is home to Sherubtse College, one of Bhutan’s major colleges. We drove directly through the campus, which was actually quite impressive. The facilities looked quite modern and the natural environment of the campus was gorgeous. I was later told that the altitude in Kanglung really isn’t that impressive, but I can tell you that from the edge of the mountain’s road it looked as if the valley was miles below us. I have learned that it is impossible to gauge altitude in this country, but I have also learned that altitude is rarely the important figure. The more important details are the mountain’s gradient and it’s elevation from the valley below. This mountain was impressive.

After another forty-five minutes of driving I started to get nervous. It don’t think it was that I was scared, I think that after three weeks of being in Bhutan but not in my town, the anticipation and curiosity was becoming to much to bear. I just wanted to see what this place was going to look like and put my mind at ease once and for all.

There really isn’t much to see in Khaling. I will save my description of the town for another posting, but I will say that if you happened to blink at the right time while driving east you could very easily miss the entire town altogether.

My principal, Kinzang Dendup, was waiting to greet me when the bus pulled through the school’s gate. For a principal he is quite young and I immediately got the impression that he is a fairly relaxed individual. He took me through a small, walled community towards my future home. Most of the housing in the community consisted of big, concrete buildings, which were divided into several apartments. But as we wound our way around the buildings, under clothes’ lines and through walkways and gardens, it became evident that I would not be living in one of these concrete giants. Rather, we walked right up to a small, cottage-like building on stilts. It was a little lower down in the community than all of the other homes, and immediately it provided me with a sense of privacy and coziness. I was happy to see that I would have my own building in which I could separate myself from the rest of the community if need be.

The inside of the building reinforced the feelings of coziness. There are four main rooms in my house, as well as a small bathroom and a small kitchen. The four main rooms are all the same size and I wouldn’t necessarily describe them as big, but they are certainly comfortable. I felt relieved to finally see my home for the next year, and I think that when all is said and done, it is perfectly adequate.

We unpacked my stuff, I said goodbye to everyone, and then I turned to ask my principal something, and when I turned back the bus was gone. I didn’t even get the chance to see it pull away. The departure was much more abrupt than I had expected it to be, but I felt perfectly comfortable with that and was just happy to be in a place that I could finally call home.

The principal invited me over to his house for dinner that first night and I was more than happy to accept his invitation. I had no food, and even less of an idea how I was ever going to prepare meals for myself. After a few hours of unpacking and playing around with the organization of my new home, I marched up to the principal’s house and sat down for dinner with him and his family. Actually, only he and I ate, but his wife and children joined us here and there. I felt very comfortable with Kinzang right away, and got the sense that he is very happy to have me here. I could already tell that it was going to make all the difference in the world to have a principal that I feel comfortable with.

After dinner and some extended conversation I thanked him and his wife and wandered back down to my house in the dark. Stepping into my house was a very strange. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was supposed to do with myself, so I simply threw to the side of the room whichever possessions had yet to find a home and plopped myself down on my new bed. I was exhausted and school started the following day, so I lay my head down on my pillow, closed my eyes, and was out cold in only a few minutes.

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