|My Fifth Graders|
A couple of weeks ago, a sad event turned into a unique day filled with beautiful moments that I will never forget. It all started one morning when I arrived at school and was unexpectedly swarmed by my fifth graders. All at once they informed me that one of their classmates father had passed away. I felt terrible for my student’s loss and I wasn’t sure what the proper Bhutanese costume was to send my condolence. However, my fifth graders knew exactly what to do and they rose up like an army of leaders while I followed.
|Walking along the paved road|
So on a Saturday morning we gathered in front of the school ready to embark on our two-hour walk along a paved road leading high up into the mountains to some temples. There were no such things as parent consent forms, a list of emergency numbers or chaperons. It was just my students and I with their backpacks filled with offerings for the temples, lunch and water. In addition, I wasn’t too sure how to get to the temple, so I was following them.
A ONE HORN CHARGING BULL
|He is larger than me|
When I saw the white, splotchy bull, I was astounded by his huge built as though he was on steroids. He was also missing one of his gigantic horns, which I interpreted as a warning that he was a troublemaker. Surprisingly, my students crept by the bull with ease, but when it was my turn to creep by, I hesitated out of fear. My students could sense that something was wrong with me and they all stopped to watch their frighten teacher frozen in her tracks.
Then my class captain yelled across the trail, “Miss, what’s wrong? Why are you just standing there?” Without even thinking, I blurted out, “I’m scared!” The whole class thought this was hysterical and they instantly caused the forest to echo with laughter. My class captain promised me that the bull wouldn’t do anything, but if the bull did, he would protect me. So I mustered up some courage. As I started to sneak pass the bull, my class captain marched up to the bull and pointed his finger in the bull’s face while saying, “Don’t you hurt my Miss or else…” My heart started to pound faster and I whispered to him, “Get away from the bull, you are going to make him angry,” but before my student could listen to me, the massive beast lowered his head to the ground, stomped his legs and started to charge towards us. Our quiet little tiptoeing turned into lightning speed sprinting accompanied by dying screams. Once we realized that he was no longer chasing us, we stopped to catch our breath and we were all shaking like a leaf. Nevertheless, we laughed at how fast my class captain ran away while forgetting to save me.
AN EXTINCT RIVER WITH HYPNOTIZING POWERS
PRAYING FOR A FATHER TO FIND HIS WAY TO HEAVEN
After the prayer, the grandma eagerly helped everyone light incense sticks. As I was thinking that there was something so warm about the grandma, my students also picked up on her loving energy. They came up to me whispering that they wanted to give some of the left over money to the grandma. When the students gave the grandma some money, again I felt my eyes becoming watery at how loving as well as giving they were.
AN APPLE TREE THAT WAS BETTER THAN A PINATA
|The pinata tree|
Next, as we ventured further up the mountain to another temple, my students spotted an apple tree and I didn’t have the heart to stop them from raiding somebody’s tree because I had never seen children so joyful to see apples. They looked like children hitting a piñata at a birthday party by the way they whacked the branches with huge sticks, causing the apples to rain down like candy bursting from a piñata. Then the students would cheer in excitement as they rushed to collect the fallen apples in the fabric of their kiras and ghos.
PRAYING OUR HEARTS OUT INTO MONEY
|Walking around all the stupas|
Finally, when we reached the second temple, the students whispered to me that they didn’t bring extra money for the second temple to make an offering, hinting that they needed me to sponsor them. So I gladly took out a single ngultrum bill to share with them and they all passed it around pressing it to their foreheads while saying a prayer for all sentient beings before we placed it at the altar. It was the sweetest moment watching them pray their hearts out into the money and I got little goosebumps due to their pure sweetness.
Once we left the temple, we walked around several large stupas five times before we headed to a grassy area to have a picnic. We have had many picnics together, so they know the routine: sit in a circle, keep your rice container in your lap, but pass your curries to the left, take a large scoop out of the passing curries onto your rice and enjoy. Picnics always turn into bonding family time and we grub like there is no tomorrow.
DON’T LET THE MONKS LOOK AT YOUR BEAUTIFUL FACE
|Some monks in the distance|
After lunch, as we started to leave the temple, we were walking towards many monks gathered under a tree for lunch. At the sight of the large number of monks, my students shocked me by saying, “Miss, you should cover your face with your umbrella because all the monks are going to stare at you when you walk by them because you are soooo beautiful so they will want to look at your face.” They continued to beg and beg me to shield my face from the monks peeping eyes before we passed them. One student even threatened that he was going to tell the monks their eyes would fall out if they looked at my face while another student swore that he would demand them not to stare at my face and to follow their monk beliefs or else.
To my surprise, all the worrisome talk of men looking at me caused all of them to become very protective over me and they started to cling to me as we walked closer to the monks. Again, they said with such pain, “Ohhh Miss they are going to look at your beautiful face. Nooo please noooo…” However, this made me laugh and I told them that it was ok if the monks looked at my face because my face wasn’t that great (wink wink). Then when we walked by the monks, sure enough they were all staring at me, but surely not because my face was beautiful. Instead, I thought that they were staring at me because it was unusual to see a foreigner with a flock of Bhutanese children closely surrounding her. So I decided to shock my students and I graciously shouted out to the monks with a big smile, “Kuzuzangpo La” (a kind greeting) and all the monks laughed. This calmed my students down and they grinned. Next, in a low voice I told my students, “See, it’s ok if the monks look at my face, really, it’s no big deal” and we all giggled some more. (Later, they further explained that some monks are naughty boys and they couldn’t bear hearing males talk about their Miss in naughty ways since they perceive me as beautiful – beauty is clearly in the eye of the beholder.)
SAYING MY CONDOLENCE
Finally, when we reached our village, I was surprised to find my student whose father had passed away was waiting for us along the road in front of his house to give us juices (he didn’t come with us because he had many guests). Unexpectedly, he insisted that I come up to his house for tea. At that very moment, a couple of my friends who were also related to him were passing by and seeing that I was a little nervous, they accompanied me to the house filled with grieving people. My friends translated my words of condolence to my student’s mother as I gave her my class contribution. It felt right to end the day by saying my condolence in person and my heart swelled knowing that this was a day that I would never forget: a day of adventure, love, giving, prayers, learning, laughter, and misty eyes…
If you were able to read this to the end, please don’t forget to say a prayer for my student’s father to find his way to heaven.
|A very hypnotizing place: My little buzzing insects|
|Their favorite spot|
|My student being silly|
|I love them|
|One graceful sunflower|
|My class captain|
|Pass your curries around the circle|