In the middle of our 4 person dorm room, which is about 100 square feet, there is a table. On it, a calendar based shrine, featuring an image of the 5th king and his lovely wife (who just gave birth to the crown prince just over one week ago). Next to it is a golden buddha statue, of the Chinese fashion, with broad belly and happy dancing stature. Between the statue and the buddha is a repurposed toilet paper roll, holding a thrash of incense sticks, like a vase might splay the stems of tulips that have not yet melted toward the sun. The incense is the color of a bottle nosed flower I have seen many times in Colorado, but do not know the name of. It’s a kind of deep dusty purple, with a hue of deep red. On the other side of the calendar, there is a red plastic cokeacola cup. This holds all of our personal eating and cooking tools including thick plastic spoons, with rounded edges, like those in the U.S. that have been dipped in a yoghurt-like plastic for feeding toddlers mushy foods. Then - a coke bottle, liter sized, filled with hot water, but cooled through the night and now used for drinking. Next to that, there is a small bottle of Amul Cool - which looks like a mango lassi in a bottle.
Adorning the calendar shrine is a dainty box of matches, with which I am obsessed. It's true! I have intrusive thoughts about seeking out such boxes each time I enter a general store anywhere in Bhutan. The matches here are stunted in length, and the tips a royal blue igniting powder. The boxes are fat and wide and covered in an a decoupage sort of fashion with decorative tissue paper. The designs featured are sometimes elephants, tractors or flowers with seemingly olden graphics of the 1940s or so. Something about them has a colonial feel and, although Bhutan was never colonized by the British, and although I am not so keen on the results of the colonized reality, I do love this simple treasure.
These boxes also trigger a memory for me of the film The English Patient - where travelers bonded by sand storms, caves, hand shapes, and maps. Where lines on paper defied boundaries of culture, law and promise. Where fireside feels more like home than the house you grew up in; and where a thimble can be the seat for love. It's movies like this one that make me yearn to discover contested territories. The romanticism of being afoot in lands anew and rituals unknown is how I best manifest the adaptation and appreciation for Difference. It is also the best and healthiest way I know how to manipulate constant personal growth. For each time I am in a place where things feel odd, or strange or too bold to be true, this is where I can encounter my own embedded values, reign them in for questioning, and breakdown the curiosity of their origin, legitimacy, necessity and beyond. I can hold such auto-pilot behaviors with a kind of skepticism and thus redesign them as needed to suit my Self more fittedly.