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