A Room of One's Own
One of the most challenging pieces about being in the hostel, is that it is preventative to playing one of my favorite adult roles of host. Here, there are restrictions such as an 8:30PM curfew and no mixed gendered visitors. Much of my happiness (in my American life) is derived from bringing individuals together that might not otherwise ever meet. It is a kind of “Community Curation” and I approach it like I might art curation. I combine personalities by theme and facilitate a fun and beautiful environment for them to learn about one another and deepen their own appreciation for shared differences or connectivity. Here in Bhutan I find myself craving the ability and opportunity to bring people together and open up their pandora’s boxes of curiosity and culture. But also the hostel (and of course the preferred gender separation) make such things impossible.
In a desperate feeling for a place to call “living room,” Steve, Gordie and I have been camping out in a “Down Taktse” farm house. It’s a little eatery of sorts where you can get koka (ramen), chili chop and chow mien; staples in a students diet. It is mostly a quiet place where I can gaze into the screen of my laptop to read and write and make friends with such moths that might fly by.
One gentle evening there, as I am getting to know Nima (who calls me sister rather than madame like most other Bhutanese), Tashi (her 2 year old daughter) and the weeks old baby (who is waiting for a naming from the Lama), sister brings me her phone and inquires about me taking a photo for her. When I accept, the three of them huddle around the wood fire stove in the corner.
There have been many happy sights at this stove. Just a few nights before Sister was bathing her baby right here in a shallow tub. Sister held the baby low to the water and supported his head while rinsing one handful at a time. The father, who I call uncle, was also there. He was bringing in soap for the bath and a towel for the drying. I have seen Tashi, stove side helping her mother to fold freshly washed diapers. The swaths of cloth are as long as she is tall and she is delicately agile to make sure the edges don’t hit the ground as she folds one edge to the other and then doubles it over.
Tonight I am taking in life slowly. The picture box window is perfectly Bhutanese with the traditional series of lintels: of dots, navy with arsenic white, then pillars with a white knot like symbol over red, squarely circumference in yellow. Third layer is in-set with lotus flowers, alternating green-top/red bottom, with red-top/green bottom. Fourth row, is another of dots, red with arsenic white again. Then a blue backdrop, flashy with swirly pink lines which make a staccato phrase three times over. The rest is interrupted with a curtain of cars. Synthetic. Shiny. Fast cars, for sure. Tangerine, aqua green, perfect blue and orange’d red. Such urban cars… yet driving in farm lands of windmills.
All the while, there is a pervasive and deeply base thunder and rain reverberating in the valley. Such decibels levels as could make your chest cavity vibrate. A dragon doth scream.