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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Witches in Bhutan and a Magical Picnic

(Sorry, I didn't bring my camera to the picnic, so I have no pictures for this blog.)

Throughout the warm summer in Chumey M.S.S, it’s not uncommon for teachers to receive an invitation to a class picnic, which is only for the class that is hosting the picnic and all the staff members.  However, due to a busy schedule, I hadn’t attended a single picnic all summer.  So when one of the tenth grade classes handed me an invitation for their class picnic, I could hear this nagging voice in the back of my head urging me not to miss this one.  Something within me knew that these were no ordinary class picnics and I had to find out what these picnics were all about before summer ended.

So the day of the picnic, the summer monsoon casted dark gray clouds across the valley while pouring down endless buckets of rain.  I thought for sure the picnic would be cancelled.  However, when my friends came to get me, I was surprised it was still on and I dreaded going out into the wet, muddy weather.  I whined, “Do we have to go? How long will we be there for?  How are we going to have a picnic in the pouring rain?”  However, the little voice, which I tried to ignore, still kept insisting that I must go.  Thus, moments later we were piled in a car heading to the picnic.   

Once we started to drive out of our little village, I was puzzled at where we were going because I had faulty assumed that it was near the school.  However, we drove further and further away, leaving behind the rain and flat valley.  Finally, I started to feel excited, especially when my friend pulled over on the side of a large mountain and announced, “Now we must hike up the mountain to the picnic area.  Hurry, the students are waiting for us.”  

When we reached the top of the mountain, I was in complete shock and gasped at the most supernatural scenery that only nature has the power to create.  I wasn’t expecting to see a plateau covered in a bushy carpet of tiny yellow flowers and a spectacular view of surrounding mountaintops encaging us like a ring of fire.  The beautiful greenery and openness of the plateau made me feel free, alive and peaceful.  It was the most flawless image I had ever seen.

However, the most extraordinary part of the scenery was the part of the sky that was directly above the plateau; there was a perfect blue circle cut out of an ocean of thick, rolling gray clouds.  In fact, the hole looked similar to pictures of a black hole, except the color of this hole was blue.  I thought that this was too coincidental, how the sky was only clear above the plateau.  I concluded that the heavens must have purposely opened up the sky to shine down the sunrays for the picnic.  I was certain this had to be a divine place! 

As I kept revering about how amazing this piece of land felt, my friend hesitantly told me about its notorious history.  She explained that witches used to come out to this open land to dance around a fire and to perform magic.  After she told me about the witches, I kept glancing into the dark forest to see if there were any lurking witches, but all I could see was an eerie number of crows that was fiercely watching us and making shrilling kraa-kraa cries in our direction.  Then I wondered if the crows were witches in disguse.  So to make myself feel safer, I convinced myself that maybe the past witches were just mistaken for people having a fun picnic. 

Furthermore, I tried to forget about the past witches by sitting with the teachers along the perimeter of a large mat laughing and chatting.  Everyone bonded over tea and biscuits while the students played soccer and enjoyed their friends company.  After refreshments, the students ushered the teachers to get in line for a buffet of curries and rice that were prepared in gigantic pots over a fire.  The students had enthusiastically carried everything up the mountain themselves: cooking oil, vegetables, meat, etc. 

Finally, everyone indulged in more tea to keep warm because the gray clouds slowly collapsed onto our “blue hole.”  Lastly, as darkness swept over the sky, we all danced and sang around an enormous bomb fire that was about the size of a teepee.  The fire made me grin thinking about the past witches who might have danced around similar fires and I wondered if they were any onlookers mistaking us for witches. 

Then, after some time of learning traditional Bhutanese dances, it started to sprinkle and it was getting closer to bedtime.  As a result, the students gathered the supplies and we hiked down the mountain in the dark while singing popular Bhutanese songs in unison.  Moreover, the dark mountainside appeared as though there were tons of little lightening bugs hovering around due to all our glowing mobiles (we had no flashlights).  Despite the faint light, a few times I thought that I was going to slip off the muddy, narrow, steep path to my death because the trail was dark and slippery.  In fact, everyone held onto each other for dear life climbing down and ever so often, you would hear a scream break the singing as someone tripped over a rock or slipped.  Fortunately, the scream would be followed by laughter indicating that the person wasn’t hurt and the singing would resume.

Finally, when we reached the bottom of the mountain in one piece, I felt brave enough to ride in the back of a tata truck with all the students to complete my full experience of a Bhutanese class picnic.  Indeed, my friend and I stood on the back hanging on to the rail as though we were on a rollercoaster, screaming, yet laughing when the truck would fly around a mountain.  I was also in disbelief that the students sat on the thin edge of the truck bed and some sat on the very top of the truck without ever falling off.  Nevertheless, it was fun!

Additionally, on the drive home, the students continued to sing their hearts out with such a force that I could imagine a rainbow of positive energy trailing behind the truck.   The serenading pierced my heart with love and for some reason it made me feel drawn to the stars.  So while I was still gripping the back of the tata truck, my friend and I hung our heads back to gaze at the cosmos.  At that very moment, I got shills running down my spine while recognizing that this was one of the most memorable days I have had in Bhutan.  Without a doubt, I was experiencing a different culture; something unique; undeniably beautiful; beyond special.  Thus, I felt gratitude to that little nagging voice for urging me not to miss the picnic and once again I fell a little deeper in love with Bhutan. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I’m a New Mom of a Bhutanese Teenager!

Life is full of surprises!  One event always leads to another event - one filled with more life lessons, more love, more laughter, more changes…

Thus, the event of my friend, Sonam’s, move brought me the gift of sharining my home with a Bhutanese teenager named Dawa Zangmo.  Not only would this event transform my bare house into what I call a “real Bhutanese home” filled with life, but also it would transform me into a more motherly person.

So who is Dawa and how in the world did this happen?

Well, Dawa is Sonam’s niece who has lived with Sonam for the last four years.  So when it was time for Sonam to move to Canada, I offered Dawa my spare bedroom in my home.  This way she could still attend high school nearby as a day scholar student instead of becoming a boarder student, which she didn’t want to be a boarder for many different reasons.  For instance, some students claim that boarder life in Bhutan can be difficult because they wash their clothes in the river, they follow a strict schedule, they don’t get hot water, etc.  Therefore, she gladly accepted my offer to live with me and I was happy to share my home.

The Moving Day:  Down the mountain and across the bridge
So the first day that Dawa moved in with me there were little tingles of excitement in the air as she brought her clothes and mattress down the mountain and across the bridge.  However, once she brought her belongings to my bare house, we didn’t know what to do next as we stared at her bundles of clothes and her mattress on the floor.   While I blankly looked around the empty, dull room, I started to feel nervous that she might not like her new room, which was growing mushrooms out of the floorboards.  So we immediately went to work to try to transform it into her very own space.

Dawa's New Room
First, we cleared out the mushrooms and using a rock as a hammer we re-nailed the dark blue fabric over the windows to make it look like tidy curtains.  Next, I borrowed a table and bed from my school and although it wasn’t the prettiest, we were so excited when it arrived.  We draped a sheet over the table and set her books on it as well as made her bed.  I gave her my best pillow and some hangers to hang her clothes on the wall and she neatly stacked her remaining clothes on one of the windowsills.  We even taped three pictures of some random drawings on the wall to add some warmth to the room.  Her room was complete!  Simple and organized!  I prayed that it would feel like home for her. 
My Bhutanese Kitchen

After trying to make her room feel cozy, we rearranged my kitchen to incorporate some new pots and bulk of food that was given to us by her father and Sonam.  Afterwards we stood back marveling at the transformation because it looked like a real “Bhutanese kitchen:” There was a large bin full of rice, tins with zaw (fried rice), the biggest container of oil, an extra gas cylinder, sacks of potatoes, a huge rice cooker, etc.  For the first time, my kitchen looked as though someone was actually using it.  Finally, I started to think that maybe she would like her new home after all.

The Sitting Room
Next, we turned to the living room and for twenty minutes, we circled around the bhukari rearranging the only two items in the room (a small rug big enough for two people to sit on and a wooden bench) in every possible position to see which setup looked the best.  Then we cut out some scenery pictures from my calendar and taped them on the cement walls.  Lastly, after I made space for her toiletries in the bathroom, I laughed seeing a toothbrush next to my toothbrush and a cleanser for teenagers on the sink.  All in all, Dawa’s move into my house transformed it into a more alive and cozy place.

However, I had no idea that not only would my house be transformed, but I too would undergo a transformation into a loving caretaker.  For instance, everyday when Dawa gets home from school, I open the door for her and greet her with a warm smile.  After she settles in I ask her, “How was your day at school? Did anything interesting happen?”  Sometimes she eagerly tells me a story about her classmates or teachers and when she talks about her day, her face lights up with excitement.  Our afterschool conversations feel strangely familiar; throughout my childhood and teenage years, the first thing that I would do when I came home from school was tell my mom about my day.  Therefore, when Dawa walks through the door telling me all about her day at school, I feel like I’m an adopted mom, especially since Dawa’s mother past away when she was a baby. 

Curries and Rice
Furthermore, the motherly feelings I feel towards her persists into the evening while we prepare dinner together, side by side, peeling and cutting vegetables.  Once dinner is ready, we sit face-to-face sitting on the small rug in the living room with a pot of rice and curry between us.  Over dinner I once again feel like I have somehow turned into my mother as I ask her questions, such as how do you think you did on the test?  What are you learning in English?  Overall, dinner is our bonding time. 

After dinner, she usually ventures into my room to glance at what I’m doing on my computer or to ask me for help with her English homework, which I am so eager to help her in the same way my mom used to help me.  On the other hand, sometimes it feels like we are old friends when we sit on my bed listening to music and chattering away (we don’t have T.V).  We also laugh a lot about the simplest things like how she is probably the only Bhutanese teenager living with an American foreigner in Bhutan, thus, she has no choice but to speak English all evening.  Basically, our evenings are filled with conversations and laughter.

Moreover, our days always end with one of us shouting goodnight to the next room before we drift off to sleep and I thank God for my new roomie.  However, in the morning, the mother within me comes out again as she leaves to school and I sleepily inquire, “Did you eat enough breakfast? Are you taking lunch? Ok have a good day at school…see ya later.” and she responds, “Yes, yes, ok, bye!”  And this is our everyday routine from sun up to sun down!  This is my new role as a caretaker!

Dawa in her school uniform
For a while I wondered how this nurturing role unfolded within me and then I realized that even though she is not a child, she is also not quiet an adult yet; thus, by offering her a room in my house, I have taken on the responsibility of making sure that she is well taken care of while she is staying with me.  This realization hit home one day while I was teaching and I was informed that I needed to go get Dawa at her high school because she became sick.  Upon hearing this news, my heart sank into my stomach and my body became shaky as I rushed to her school.  Even though it was only a minor sickness, I felt my eyes becoming watery at the sight of her looking ill.  However, I remained calm and I immediately took her to the doctors as well as stayed home with her all morning until I was certain that she was fine.  Then later my eyes bulged out of my head when I had to sign my name under the parent signature of her sick leave application from school and she explained that I had to call her teacher to inform him she would be absent.  Indeed, that day I realized I was officially a caretaker of this teenager, but it somehow comes naturally to me.

I love Dawa!
Overall, sometimes I chuckle thinking that if someone would have told me prior to my arrival in Bhutan that I would be taking care of a Bhutanese teenager, I would have probably said, “Ugh that’s impossible, no way, not me…” However, this is one of the best things that has ever happened to me because I enjoy Dawa’s company and I am learning a lot about myself as well as life in general, such as there is something about opening your home to someone, sharing everything you have and caring for another that ignites pure joy. 

Although I know that I will never be Dawa’s real mom and I will never take the place of Sonam or any of her aunties that helped raise her, I do like caring for her and I love her dearly.  Thus, due to these unique events that I’m experiencing in Bhutan, I know that when I leave Bhutan, I will fly out of the Himalayan Mountains as a different person than when I arrived; I am constantly transforming and I feel blessed! 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

An Insightful Story About Friendship

When I was drawn to teach in Bhutan, a part of me was terrified of being all alone in a foreign country without my friends or family.  Despite my worries, I followed my heart, which kept assisting that Bhutan was the place that I needed to be.  Now six months later, I am in Bhutan grinning about how I once feared being lonely.  Finally, I can see a fraction of the bigger picture of my calling to Bhutan; I can see how the universe was aligning me up with someone who would not only become a dear friend/sister, but also my greatest teacher.  So when it was time for her to move far away, I reflected on how our lives crossed paths as well as the life-lessons that I learned.

A white day in Chumey
Several days after I nervously landed in Bhutan and checked into a hotel in Thimphu, the capital, Sonam was making the twelve-hour drive from Chumey to Thimphu.  She was heading to Thimphu to gather some forms for her visa to Canada from the very office that hired me.  Coincidentally, shortly after I exited the office, Sonam entered to collect the forms while saying that she was a teacher from Chumey Middle Secondary School.  The school name rang a bell in my boss’s head and she told her that there would be a foreign teacher placed at that school.  So they scrambled through the list to discover who was the lucky teacher.  After Sonam stared at my name and picture wondering what I was like, she gave my boss her phone number to pass on to me in case I had any questions about the school.

However, when my boss gave me Sonam’s number, I hesitated to call her because my brain was overloaded from orientation.  Instead, I put the phone number in my purse, occasionally glancing at the name, Sonam Choden, whenever I dug in my purse for something.  I had no idea that the name on the paper would be someone who would touch my heart to the core.  So not recognizing that there was a greater force at work, I didn’t call her and we traveled hours apart in separate vehicles on the only main road from Thimphu to Chumey. 

At last, it was time for all the teachers to report back to school.  I was at my new school for five minutes when Sonam marched up to me saying, “Hi, I’m Sonam Choden!  Why didn’t you call me?  Don’t you have a million questions?”  I should have known by her frankness that we were going to be good friends.  However, minutes later I knew that we would get along well when she saved me a seat next to her in our first staff meeting and she translated for me as well as laughed at my jokes.  I instantly had a friend!

Morning Assembly
It turned out that the universe knew exactly what it was doing trying to cross our paths because from that day forward, Sonam and I were inseparable friends.  Every single morning during assembly, we stood next to each other and since I didn’t understand Dzongkha, I would turn to her and say, “What do I need to know for the day?”  And she would brief me, “Do this…Do that...” Then everyday for lunch we climbed up the 107 steps to her house to fill our selves with tea, rice and curry.  During the winter, we ate huddled around a heater and during the summer, we ate outside on her porch, but winter or summer, we were always side-by-side.  Indeed, we were like Siamese twins!  Even our desks were joined together in the staff room where we helped each other lesson plan during our free time.

Additionally, even though I had my own house, most nights I stayed the night at Sonam’s, sleeping on a mattress on the floor next to the bed where Sonam, little Jimmy and Dawa (Sonam’s niece) slept.  Not only did we all sleep in the same room like most Bhutanese families, but also we often ate dinner together sitting in a circle on the floor laughing and talking.  And if I didn’t make it for dinner or sleepovers, little Jimmy would ask Sonam why I didn’t come home.  They were my little Bhutanese family!  I was far from lonely…I was blessed.

Furthermore, on most weekends, Sonam and I enjoyed long drives to the neighboring village to have lunch with her family.  I truly felt like I had been adopted as her little nieces and nephews would run to hug me while calling me aunty and even their dogs would jump in excitement to see me.  Then after our visits, we upheld our favorite ritual of venturing into the town to do some shopping.  Life was good!

Sonam was teaching me
how to make momos
Overall, Sonam was my best friend who I could laugh with until we toppled over with tears running down our cheeks.  However, Sonam was not only a friend, but often like a family member:  sometimes a mom and sometimes a sister.  Whenever she had the slightest inkling that I might be getting sick, she would rush me to the doctors like a worried mother and make me rest or eat tons of rice.  On the other hand, at times she seemed like a wiser sister to me by the way she advised me about marriage and taught me about Buddhism.  I often looked up to her! 

Above all, Sonam was my greatest “life teacher!”  Before I met Sonam, I considered myself to be a generous person, but after I observed Sonam’s acts of generosity, I realized that I still had a lot to learn.  She lived the principle way better than I knew how.  For instance, I was amazed at how she opened her house to anyone who needed a stay and she had a gift at making anyone feel welcomed.  I also thought that it was amazing at how she provided for Dawa and little Jimmy without ever expecting a pat on the back.  Additionally, I was touched by how eager she was to share everything that she owned with me including her washer machine and kiras.  In fact, I never once heard her complain about giving to others.  She did it from the bottom of her heart and she would unwittingly teach me the true nature of giving: 

She taught me that giving to others is a part of life and the more you give, the more good merits you gain, which merits unlike material possessions are all that you can take with you upon death.  Thus, the more merits you accumulate, then the better your future will be in this life and the next because what you give, you also receive.  However, she emphasized that accumulating merits was just a bonus that came along with giving and it shouldn’t be the sole cause for acts of generosity; giving should come purely from the heart, not expecting anything in return.  She lived what I had only read about and tried to emulate here and there.  She was my real life exemplary of generosity.  She was my teacher!

As my teacher, she inspired me to look for ways that I could be more of a giver everywhere I went.  Every time I found a way to give or serve, I found my life feeling more meaningful and blessed.  Unknowingly to her, I became her blossoming student!

Our last picture together in Bhutan
But with every good story, there seems to be a twist, for nothing is permanent in life and there would be a day that I would have to let go of my new life teacher/friend.  Ironically, six months from that first day our lives started to cross paths in Thimphu, they were also set in motion to depart.  Sonam’s forms that she had gathered in that Thimphu office had finally been approved for her move to Canada; it was time to say farewell.  When all her friends and I gathered at her car to watch her drive away, I couldn’t hold back the enormous monster cry that poured out of my little body as we hugged goodbye.  I think that all who watched our parting cried not only because they would miss Sonam, but because it was the saddest sight to see two close friends say so long, not knowing if their paths would intertwine again. 

So after my sobs echoed off the mountains and across Chumey Valley, I realized from my experience that somehow I am always magically aligned with those who have the most valuable life-lessons to teach me.  Thus, I like to think that it was no accident how our lives overlapped for a blink in time because there was so much to learn, such as the lessons in generosity, and I am a better person for knowing her.  As a result, I am no longer overcome with sadness, but I am grateful to whatever it be, the Universe, Buddha, Allah, Christ, etc. that guides people to places; to whatever brings friendships together; to whatever aligns those who have something to teach others; to whatever brings the life-lessons one needs to learn at a particular moment… 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Little Jimmy's Last Day In Bumthang

“Everything flows and nothing abides, everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.”

~ Heraclitus (c.540 – c.475 BC)

After Sonam got her visa approved to move to Canada to be with her beloved husband, we waited to receive her leave date from school, which was granted by the ministry of education in Bhutan.  I secretly hoped that it would take months so that I could continue to see little Jimmy everyday and hang out with Sonam like usual.  However, as much as I wished to continue with the pleasant way things had been going, I could feel that CHANGE was around the corner and it was time to let go of the people I had come to call my little Bhutanese family. 

It’s funny looking back at how I felt the waves of change passing over me and how I tried to ignore every single one of them until they eventually swept me away.  The waves started to intensify the day Sonam packed little Jimmy a bag to go visit his grandma (Sonam’s mom) and his biological mom (Sonam’s sister) over our two-week school break while Sonam went to her in-laws for pujas (ceremonies) and I toured eastern Bhutan.  As she put a few of his clothes into his bag, I had a pressing feeling that I needed to put everything aside to give little Jimmy my undivided attention.  I felt a sickness in my heart and I told myself that maybe it was due to the fact that I would be missing Jimmy over the break since I had seen him everyday for the last six months or maybe it was due to knowing that he would probably be moving with his grandma whenever Sonam got her leave date.  I wouldn’t dare allow myself to consider that the ill feeling might be caused by the subtle whispers that this was the last time little Jimmy and I would be together in the place we called home because Sonam’s leave date was days away.
Right before Jimmy headed off to grandma's
He is being a rascal with his toy gun 

In some ways, I am glad that I ignored my intuition because I might have been too emotional to enjoy Jimmy’s last day in Bumthang.  It was a memorable day!  We ran in and out of the house playing tag and I felt like a kid again, especially when Sonam would yell at us to stop running in the house.  Ha!  He also would egg me on to chase him by pretending to shoot me with his plastic toy gun and I would easily catch him tickling him to hand it over.  There was a lot of laughter!  After an hour of feeling like a kid, I turned back into an adult and I needed to sit down on the porch for a rest while he performed numerous tricks for me with his new “shoes on wheels.”  Indeed, I was no longer a kid again as I repeatedly screamed, “You’re going to break a bone! Stopppppppp!  Those shoes are dangerous.  Oh my God!  Ahhhhh!”

Finally, after he sweetly picked me a few wild strawberries, Sonam and I walked him down the road to wait for his ride to grandma’s house, which was five hours away.  While we waited I helped him study the 200+ flashcards of sight words that Sonam and I spent hours putting together for him.  I told him that if he knew all of them when we all returned from break, then we would get ice cream.  His face lit up and he said that he would be choosing a chocolate flavor; he knew that he would be getting ice cream regardless if he knew the flashcards or not.  Then out of excitement for the promise of ice cream, he climbed a tree on the side of the road to proudly pick me a peach telling Sonam that I had probably never seen a peach before since I was from America, which made me laugh.  We continued to entertain ourselves by looking at insects and just being silly together until it was time for him to go. 

Right before we departed, I was determined to get a hug from this rough and tough boy who always acts like he hates hugs; I tricked him to help me put on my backpack so I could swoop him up for a hug goodbye.  From behind me his little hands struggled to put the straps of my backpack around my shoulders and I quickly swished around giving him a gigantic bear hug while kissing the top of his head.  I yelled, “Hey everybody, look Jimmy is giving me a hug! Awe, I love you!” and he grunted, “Errrr no hug errrr”, but I wouldn’t let him go until I felt that it was the biggest hug that I had ever given him and he wiggled his way out.  We all laughed!  As he got in the car and I strolled back to my house, I walked backwards waving and yelling to him, “Don’t forget to study your flashcards, so we can get ice-cream when we come back from break” and despite the mysterious heartache that lingered within me, I somehow convinced myself that this would really happen.

A few days later, while I was in the neighboring village getting ready to venture east, Sonam met me in a crowded restaurant for lunch and the feelings of change were still lingering around me.  Sitting face to face with our pizzas, there was a different type of energy floating between us: one of nervousness, excitement and sadness.  Then she casually informed me that she got her leave date.  She said that when we returned from break, she would stay in our village for a week to pack and to hand over her responsibilities at school. 

In order to prevent the tears that started to lodge deep within my throat, I didn’t ask any questions and I told her that I would help her pack.  Additionally, I managed to swallow all the tears by telling myself that a week was plenty of time to say goodbye to Sonam and Jimmy.  Thus, we enjoyed our lunch together and I headed off to explore eastern Bhutan. 

For a few days while I traveled, the dreaded feelings of change left layers of restlessness and sadness around my heart thinking about what I would get Jimmy for a going away present.  One day, I tried to dispel the weary feelings by taking a moment of solitary to relax; I crept through the kitchen at the hotel that I was staying at and got permission to sit out in the staffs back balcony to enjoy the spectacular view.  I should have been thrilled because I had the most perfect, relaxing setting that could have been featured in any luminous travel magazine:  a cozy chair, a beautiful marble balcony, heavenly views of dreamy mountains, steamy tea and a savvy book.  

However, every time I tried to relax, my body would be consumed by a disturbing feeling that wouldn’t let me rest.  In fact, the feeling started to grow to the point that I could no longer concentrate on reading.  All I could think about was that I needed to call Sonam and confirm if Jimmy would be moving with his grandma and when his last date at school would be so I could plan to say goodbye.  However, I didn’t want to call her because I had this strange knowing that she would tell me something I didn’t want to hear.  Nevertheless, I could no longer ignore the strong urges to speed dial her and I picked up my phone to do so.

On the other end of the phone there was a difference in her usual peppy voice; it had a softness and quietness to it.  After we had small chat sharing stories about what we did over the last couple of days, I finally worked up the courage to ask, “Did you tell Jimmy you’re moving?  Will he be moving with grandma?    

She calmly answered, “Well, grandma told him that I would be going to Canada, which he knew that this day would be coming sooner or later.  So it wasn’t a shock for him.   I also talked to him on the phone and explained that I would try to get a visa for him to come to Canada too and he seemed to understand.  Grandma says that he is doing fine and he didn’t even cry.”

For a bliss second I wondered why I was feeling so restless because this was great news and I cheered, “Oh that’s so good to hear! I feel so much better knowing that he’s ok with everything.  I was so worried about how he would take the news.”

Then as quick as the joy came, it instantly vanished and I got my answer for the strong urges to call her as she said, “He’s going to stay with grandma to start school in grandma’s village immediately after the break instead of coming back home with us to start the packing…”

Feeling completely caught off guard I gasped, “What?  He’s not going to come back to say goodbye to everyone?  What about all his stuff?”

Sonam explained that she would pack it all and take it to him as well as spend a week with him before she moved to Canada.  As I realized that I wouldn’t see Jimmy’s cute little face at school when I returned and that the day we saw him off to grandma’s was the last day we would all be together, tears started to stream down my face.  Despite my heavy sadness, my voice remained steady and I agreed that it was best for him to start his new school right after break and we ended the conversation. 

I quickly left the balcony and rushed to my room so I, a sniffling tourist, wouldn’t scare the hotel workers.  In my hotel room, my friend tried to make me feel better by reminding me that it wasn’t like Jimmy had past away and I could go see Jimmy before I left Bhutan.  However, all I could think about was the last time we had spent together.  I sniffled, “You don’t understand!  We were supposed to get ice cream when we came back from break.  I didn’t know that he wasn’t going to come back to school when he left for his grandma’s.  It was suppose to be a visit not a move.  I didn’t get a proper goodbye because I wanted to give him a special present so he would always remember me.  I thought that I would have a least one more enjoyable week when I returned to say farewell sniff sniff...” My friend just grinned at my little, mousy sniffles as though he wondered how I could have made such strong bonds so quickly with others, especially an eight-year old. 

It took me a few minutes, but I eventually found comfort in my friend’s words.  He was right:  Jimmy was vibrantly alive and I would make sure that I went to see him with ice cream and all before I left Bhutan.

After break, I helped Sonam pack and it was strange not having Jimmy making a ruckus in the house.  It was even stranger packing up his little black shoes and big pink bear.  I didn’t seem real and I kept expecting to see his darling little dimples flash around a corner or hear someone scream “Jimmmyyyyyy.”  But instead it was quieter around the house and there was no one to wake me up at six in the morning.  Once all his toys were packed, reality set in and I actually felt like I could breathe again because the waves of change had come to pass; there was no more denying that life was changing, which I accepted.

Although my everyday life is no longer the same without little Jimmy, I have wonderful memories as well an overflow of love and joy in my heart from my experience knowing the little eight-year-old who made me feel welcome in Bhutan.  Once again, I relearned that nothing in life stays the same, which makes life full of surprises.  Thus, I am embracing the waves of change because they are my indicators that it’s time to move on, to grow, to welcome others and to learn more life lessonsJ.  

UPDATE:  Jimmy is doing great at his new school and he is embracing his new change in life.  He is in the same class as his little uncle and they love playing with each other all day long.  His new teacher says that he is so happy to have Jimmy in his class because Jimmy doesn’t hesitate to raise his hands to answer questions (he’s super smart) and he is well liked by all the students.  Go Jimmy!