You know nothing, Jon Snow. I did my best to not create any preconceptions of Tsebar in my mind. I tried not to read any books or blogs. I did my best to avoid listening to the ‘someone said this’ stories. (For example: Someone said that in rural Bhutan, you will be the tallest person anyone has seen. Someone also said that have of the people in Bhutan are a quarter Yeti). I did my best to tell myself that I was ready for this. So it should be no surprise that this village constantly surprises me.
“Do they have this in your village?” The other teachers who can speak BhutEnglish ask me this. (English is a second, third or fourth language in Bhutan). I come from a village. Kind of. I come from a hamlet of about 100 people that is 22 kilometres from the nearest town. I grew up with no other house within a kilometre of my own. The same relative remoteness in Bhutan would be three days walk from a road, up and down mountains crossing three rivers. That is why I for the first time in my life I feel remote. Distance is so relative. In Canada 1 hour is 100 km. In New Zealand 1 hour is 5.5 km with 50lbs on your back. In Bhutan 30km driving is one hour.
Fort Chipewyan, (for 8-9 months of the year) is not accessible by roads. Tsebar is far more removed. Maybe that is a far better word: Removed. I feel removed. For all intents and purposes, I have no internet access. I have a data stick that can one in 20 times load an html version of Gmail. You do not really realize how much you use it these days until it is gone. I have gone weeks without internet before, but I was in places where I could foresee the next time I would and I did not have people far away that I want to tell that I am still alive. My only contact out of the village is a Nokia Brick Classic. This is what I signed up for. To be without.
Without running water, an indoor toilet/area to wash, a sink, a shower or internet. It is kind of like camping, except I have electricity, no wilderness surrounding me, a fridge, and lots of work to do. Out my three glassless windows my view is three other buildings of similar traditional Bhutanese design. The windows have sliding wood panels on them, which mostly close and I have kept mostly closed to keep some heat in my room. The lack of furniture and counter space makes it difficult to keep my things off the floor. If anyone has ever seen my room, it is always a mess; that may have to change. My bathroom is a classic squat toilet outside and down the stairs from my house. This provides another first world problem of having to dress before going to the washroom that needs to be unlocked with a key every time I use it. As inconvenient as it seems, it is one of the nicest places here in Tsebar, although it seems much more a house than a home. Compared to other BCFers, I feel like I have no right to complain, as I have not had any furry night visitors enter my home.
People have also really taken an interest in me. In the most hospitable way, several teachers have invited me to their homes for lunch and dinner. One teacher said it is a great honour to have me in their homes. I really am not that special, I was just born in the Great White North. The first things people have always asked me (anywhere) is: “How tall are you?” “Do you play basketball?” “What is Curling?” “That doesn’t sound like a sport. Canadians play hockey. What about Volleyball?” The answer to that is yes. Luckily, the village of Tsebar has a strong love of volleyball. In fact, when it was mentioned that I wanted to play after hours of meetings amongst the staff, my principle declared a mandatory volleyball match at 4:00 sharp. Who knew that Principles could do that? People here are not very tall and are of uniform height. I have about a foot on everyone, so I am automatically good at volleyball here. Holy dust.
These are my first impressions of Tsebar. I find it very strange. Every Sunday night since forever, I go to bed feeling like I haven’t done enough in the week prior. It is a physically felt feeling in my stomach. It makes me frown. It kind of feels like helplessness, disappointment, regret and apprehension rolled up into one. This Sunday feeling has been present every night and morning that I have been in Tsebar. I do not know why, because I am well supported by local and other BCF teachers, my parents, friends and family. Maybe it is the food or water. Maybe it is loneliness. Maybe it is the feeling of being trapped. Maybe it’s the Mefloquin (malaria pills). Maybe it’s Maybelline. Being away from the comforts of home does make one feel uncomfortable. Hopefully as I grow more accustomed to my settings it goes away and I feel more confortable and less removed.

Saturday February 15, 2014


6 thoughts on “Tsebar

  1. Terry

    As your surroundings become less “new” and just feel usual I bet the feelings of ‘removed’ subside. Heavens, i feel like that when I go to Bearberry!
    Your new people will begin to feel like family. When u get emails the distance will feel closer. Remember the worst circumstances make the best stories! So a wise 22 year old wrote….
    Lovin your blog! Cheers!

  2. Kath


    Maybe it is Maybelline–just a superficial feeling that will subside 🙂 You are going through a transition that not everyone is lucky enough to experience. Letting go of comforts that you don’t really need will make the small things count that much more. Embrace your tummy feeling! Embrace the silence! Make art. And keep writing! This is just the hardest part, to detox your Western riches.

    • Thanks for your support sis. I really appreciate it. The more that I live in my situation, the more I realize I have what I need. Comparing my situation to Canada, the other villagers and other BCF teachers is pointless. I will search for joy, not green grass. I am no cow.

  3. jwalton2014

    Tsebar is a new place. Missing home is an old feeling. You are on our minds. Sundre, perhaps not unlike Tsebar has folks with questionable ancestry – sasquatch and a bit of coyote, too. And they don’t speak English so good. Even though our cultures have obvious differences, you will note lots of other cross-cultural similarities. When I was a lad we had no internet, indoor plumbing or Nokia Brick Classic. (Yeah, now that I think about it, we were always miserable) We did have a party-line, though, to lift our spirits. Going to Tsebar is kind of like having a time machine! Perhaps a furry pet would give you some company. Ratty? I hope you are feeling more at home with each passing day. Put up a Home Sweet Home poster. The people you meet and get to know are one of the great things about your adventure. Enjoy the interaction with your kids. Humour! Laughter! Fun! And don’t forget Hapiness! In a hundred years… Mac, you may be 12 inches taller than most. Make sure you don’t stoop – stand tall. It is good to look at the past day and week in retrospect. Also, take time to anticipate the fresh challenges and adventures that each new day promises. You are just beginning a new year; a new phase. One that you will look back on for the rest of your life. Keep at the head of the creek! Love You! J. Walton

    • Thank you so much Dad! This means a lot to me. I can feel your support. Unfortunately, lack of English is a barrier to humour, but luckily everyone likes slapstick comedy!
      Also,Thanks again for the Hockey Updates. 2 Gold in hockey and Curling. We won a Double Double!

  4. Hello Mac,
    It’s Sunday afternoon on a cold winter’s day. -36 this morning here in Carstairs with a bit of hoarfrost adding certain poetry to the landscape. I’m enjoying reading your blog and with much interest as you enter the “culture shock” phase of this adventure. Feelings of unease and loneliness are not comfortable for any of us. I quickly learned that how I accepted and dealt with emotions due to an absence from familiar things and people dictated the quality of my existence at any given moment. I found that focusing on the now and seeking available comforts at hand as effectively as possible became the thing to do. In 1982 when I had first moved to Medicine Hat I thought “how bleak, how plain” until it was suggested that I sit still and open my eyes. It was only then that the wonderment of the prairie grasslands began to reveal itself to me, occupy my mind and make me feel at home. So much of life is just like that. The journey’s the thing; happy trails!
    Happy New Year!!!
    I look forward to your next post.

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