Monday, November 25, 2013

Far Away From Bhutan

It's been almost two years now since life in a rural Bhutanese village was my reality.

That's how long it's been since I blogged about the Land of the Thunder Dragon. My last month in Bhutan was absolutely life-changing, it blew me out of this world. I haven't been able to write since.

Carson and I found out we were pregnant (I guess 5 visits to fertility temple Chimmi Lakhang will do that to you). I won't share details because I'm saving them for my book, but suffice it to say it is not easy to determine pregnancy in a remote village in Bhutan.

When we left Bhutan, I couldn't cry. Carson was heart-broken, but I shut down. I was sick, and the mountain roads made everything worse. The doma, the chilies in my food, the tight kiras, everything went against what my pregnant body needed. My brain went onto autopilot: I couldn't handle the pain of leaving and the intensity of a surprise pregnancy, so I refused to feel anything. I didn't cry when I left. Even though I knew my heart would tear in half if I never saw my amazing, sweet students ever again in this life, I just buried the feeling to be dealt with at a later time.

Arriving in Singapore was a culture shock. A huge city, clean streets, everything modern. For two days Carson and I didn't even venture farther than the 7-11 below the hotel to eat. Compared to a village shop in Bhutan, it had everything! Fresh fruit, yogurt, sandwiches, we were in some kind of heaven. Eventually, we discovered Singapore's culturally varied food stalls complete with chicken feet, pig liver or fish ball soup. 

With each day, a terrifying feeling was slowly creeping into my bones, the fear that I had left the most special place on earth, and that I would never again be as happy as I was in Bhutan.


It took three months for the hard shell around my heart to crack, (I think it was the weight of Singapore that did it), and when it finally did, I cried and I sobbed. Everyday for months. I missed my students, my village, my house, the freedom, the mountains, the PEOPLE of Bhutan. In my dreams, I was back in my village.

We did not like Singapore. Carson and I had a very hard time adjusting. You could barely walk across the street, as they were made for cars and transit, not people. We were so fresh and soft with the love of Bhutan in us, we found Singapore very hard and sterile. It seemed no matter what we shared, nobody cared, or even knew about the most amazing people and country we had the privilege of living in for a year.

Now, I am afraid that I am losing touch of my experience in Bhutan, and of my memories. Thank God I wrote so much, but is that enough? The ways that Bhutan changed me- made me a better listener, a better friend to people, made me appreciate EVERYTHING I had or was given, made me value friends and companionship above anything else, I'm afraid I'm losing this. Being back in a demanding, fast-paced society brings back my anxiety over achievment, poor listening skills (the need to talk over people, even cut people off), and selfishness (look out for yourself, no one else is going to type-of-thing).

Now Bhutan, the country, the people, they dig themselves ever further into the fondest reaches of my heart. It feels farther away everyday, but my desire to go back becomes more desperate everyday. Carson and I talk about the time of Isla Sonam's life when it would be safest for us all to go, when we could make a life there again for a year or more, when we can see the faces of our dear friends and students, and once again sit down all together for tea.