(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.