This is the fourth and final part of an account of a study trip by a group of twelve students and a professor from Hiram College to the Kingdom of Bhutan in the spring of 2002. For a full description of the group and goals of the trip, see the beginning of the first writeup, 23 Days in Bhutan. Part two is: Old Growth Forests, 13th Century Temples, and Rites of Spring. Part three is: The Trek to Jomalhari.
This is a combination of class lectures and observations in the field (in plain text) and additional writings (in monospace).
So much has changed since the beginning of the trip, and since I started writing. Maybe something can be learned from this experience.
Trying to leave Bhutan. Flight has not yet taken off due to local weather conditions – visual flight rules – they cannot take off until they can see the mountains on the valley sides. But at least we are not on the plane.
Wohoo! Not on the plane, but at least we have teacoffee. Yes. One word. And biscuits, too.
8:15. Flight still has not left. No further announcements. Oh, well.
Suddenly, pulled aside by security! They take me into a security checkroom, question me about the looseness of my gho, and 4 or 5 of them carefully retie it. It does look much better now. What entertainment.
Oh, and the flight was supposed to leave at 7. But hey. I really thought I washed the cuffs on this. But alas, they seem rather dirty. They looked so clean, hanging in Paro. Oh, we are still in Paro. Duh.
In some areas, the deciduous trees grow in the valley bottoms only, and the coniferous trees higher.
Wide, flat river, after leaving the country, with lots of white sediment, flowing from mountains. And gridded plots of land, most farmed. A truly massive river.
Very large farm plots. And many small ones – the large ones are by the river.
The crew on this flight are not wearing ghos and kiras – I sort of recall that they were on the way here.
This plane is an Avro RJ70, formerly of AirBaltic. (Not formerly, just working here for the summer.)
The ground here looks dryer. Or, rather, the ground looks more brown.
These rivers, and their flood plains, are so damn huge. At this altitude, they take up the entire width of the window.
And still it looks drier, Would be interesting to be here during monsoon season.
Quite a few trees planted here, some palms, as we approach landing.
The Druk Air pilot was much smoother. Then again, he is trained for and used to the route and conditions.
The huge river deltas and flatlands. The delta.
And then the Indian Ocean.
Last night… went out to a night club… too much rum and kool-aid beforehand.
And a bunch of drunk Americans trying to get to the airport this morning. Yes, still drunk. Oops. 3.5 hours of sleep is just not enough.
Looking over Thailand. Or maybe Myanmar. Green forests, but with more brown. And some deforestation. Density of forests just does not look that high – I can see the trees, but I can also see the brown soil beneath them.
Now the soil looks much more brown. Heavily used for something.
A big lake, appearently manmade, beneath us. Or maybe the ocean shore. No, I now see a dam – definitely manmade.
Interesting the way, in some places, there is this abrupt line between the area that is farmed and the area that is forest.
Farming is done more on the flat areas – hills and mountains are left with trees.
Curious division between brown and green fields – one major road, dividing the two.
Blah. I want out! The belt on this gho is so tight! But it does hang so much better.
Some small areas seem to be irrigated.
Again, the importance of the monsoon.
A few canals or very controlled rivers, about as wide as a four lane highway seen below.
In Bangkok. Took out 1000 Baht. Bought iced coffee. Am presently in a van that is moving faster than I have for quite a while, on land. Scared and in awe. Love and hate this.
Lots of engine parts for sale, by the side of the road.
American vehicles are so boring – we need to do more fun things with our cars.
Bhutanese license plates are all done by the owner of the vehicle – thus there is variation in the style.
So much more color, more light, in everything here.
Gap between rich and poor is… different.
So much of the infrastructure here is external – so many of the power and telephone lines are spliced off of others, big transformers, sitting atop poles, hundreds of lines coming out of them.
The canals, essentially open sewers, but with boats speeding around on them, people living next to them.
The streets, so congested with motor traffic, so many people in their modified cars, with fancy wheels and other accessories, and all these scooters – a love for the motor with force that Detroit could only dream of.
And the density. Oh the density. Everything is so close. Every little corner used up, used for something. So much the opposite of Bhutan. And I love it.
So much happening here. So many lights. Once any buy anything. Anywhere. Even hydraulic presses.
And so much seems to be built around the movement. Speed. Too much and not enough.
And so much green, amidst the pollution. All these little rooftop gardens. Goldfish ponds on the sidewalk.
So many alloy rims.
And so damn many cars! Almost all of them are Japanese, and most of the rest other Asian marques. Though a surprising number of older heavy duty Benzes.
In the Hard Rock Café. Sigh. Punk rawk! Decent prices, even. Wow. My burger plus half of another plus a whole bunch of other peoples stuff. Yum!
And a tuk tuk back to the hotel. What an experience. So fast. No spoon. About ten minutes, a third of the time that the taxi took, but there was a lot less traffic, and he was driving like a maniac.
I could stay here. A good excuse… but part of it is that I am just so afraid of the plane flight from Tokyo to Chicago.
Cannot write, cannot sleep. Too much energy. And that annoying constant hum that is part of western civilization.
My expectations of what Bhutan would be were totally different from what it actually was. I was expecting more rough, Tibetan mountains, the sort of lands that we saw at higher altitudes.
Bhutan was so green, so lush, so breathtaking. The forests, so massive. Everything was so beautiful.
The people live in far better harmony with nature than I had expected.
I was looking for a paradise, and I found one, though not of the exact sort that I had expected. And now I have to write.
Fuck. Looks like I left my wallet in Bangkok. Long damn flight.
But still feeling ok. And close to the flight being over. Yay!
And this book is going to work out.
Blah. Only so much that one can do.
Ahhh. The American flatland. So close to home.
The encouragement that I received from E2 is nice – will have to write this up when I get home.
Cleveburgh in just 50 minutes – gotta love these short flights.
I hope Jason has fun in Bangkok. He should. (Oh, and I hope he sends my wallet back.) The next day, cleaning out the backpack that I had emptied twice, the wallet appears. Black nylon has a bad habit of blending in and disappearing in black nylon. I did have this problem in the same pack with a black rain hat earlier in the trip. I swear this pack eats things. Oops.
Finally arrived in Cleveland yesterday - the plane flight home was not nearly so bad as the one going there. Less anticipation and worry, for sure, but something else was different, too - I returned a different person from when I left.
Right now, I am at home, so full of energy. I still have to finish cleaning out my dorm room, and all the fun and games that are involved with that, but I do not care about that right now - now I just want to write, and to do something meaningful. I want to start transcribing my journal from the trip, but my professor has it right now, and I will not get it back until Monday. I could do something else right now, like look for summer employment, but writing just seems more important. I need to write. I must tell everything.
I thought I would miss internet access - I knew it would be difficult to find any sort of internet cafe, anywhere. There were a few, scattered here and there. But it was not the internet that I missed, but the people. The food, the shelter, everything else is fine - it is the people that bring me home.
I want to write more - I want to show how everything affects everything else. And I want to show images - I need to see what slides I may have been able to get of the scenery - I want to do a little book, and I would like to put at least a splash of color into it. I want to do everything.
Still back in Cleveland. Finished the last of my hard obligations for the school year - moving out of the dormitory. Started paint the woodwork at home. But I want to do more - I want my journal back now, so that I can type up everything in it, and add to it, while it is still all fresh in my memory. So much energy. I can do it all.
A day at the library. Researching how other explorers documented their travels in Bhutan. My notes are as follows:
The Gates of Thibet. A Birds Eye View of Independent Sikkhim, British Bootan, and the Doars as a Doorga Poojah Trip
J. A. H. Louis
Published at the Catholic Orphanage Press, 1894
An interesting, at least usually, account - one that shows, very heavily, the marks of imperialism - most of the images are pf British buildings, bridges, and meetings between explorers and Bhutanese leaders. This copy has several additional photographic prints not in the published edition of the book (in addition to those in the published edition).
Ill. facing title page (photograph)
printed (all other tipped in photographs
have captions done by hand Not quite - the captions for the others are typed by hand.)
"The Tourists as Red Lamas"
(Two men wearing ankle length gho type things, obviously Western European, holding prayer wheels.)
Facing page 1. "Lamas-Gala Dress" (printed)
(much jewelry, vertically oriented hair)
(outside of a building in the background)
Facing page 7. "Teesta Suspension Bridge" (printed)
(wide shot, landscapish, with hills in background, wide river, printed on redish colored stock)
There were more notes, but they do not matter so much, and I do not feel like copying them.
Thinking still about everything that has come to pass thus far. Back on campus, in Hiram, Ohio, and I still feel a bit out of it.
The first couple days after I came back, I was full of energy, excited, ready to do all sorts of wonderful things with the text, drawings, and photographs I created in Bhutan. And I still am. I thought that I could create a wonderful book, something insightful, layering the images that I made with the photographs and engravings of earlier explorers. There would be woodcuts or linocuts, and perhaps some color photocopies. The book would be printed in small edition – 25 to 50 copies, maybe more, all by hand.
I still want to do this, but I am less sure. I am less convinced that I have the perfect idea. More importantly, I am less sure that this will actually work – I cannot see a reasonable way to layer the text and the images and print it all out without spending a small fortune, and still have it look good. Perhaps talking to Don Glaister will help.
I am still somewhat sure of the text – Don Harvey managed to put together the text well enough in his Iceland book. With some help from an editor of some sort, I could turn what I have into something at least readable. But it needs to be better than readable – it needs to be good – it needs to be of comparable quality to the text.
As much as I like being back at home, I do miss Bhutan. I miss the air, the thinness – there is something good about that quality. And I like the way that it is so dark at night – even in the places that are electrified, one sees so little light coming from the houses – it is still possible to see so many stars – far more than one can see in the city. I miss the relatively small impact of man upon the environment – the harmony with which people live with nature. I miss the closeness of the city to the areas that are relatively undeveloped. I miss being outside so much. I miss rice. I miss the connection between the people – the friendliness. I miss the forests, and the diversity of species. But I am still glad to be home.
I missed the library, being close to people, to my family. I missed the density,
in some ways, of everything. I missed technology, having my own car, and being able to drink the water out of the faucet and just be ok. I missed all those things that are just familiar. I missed having a decent news source – I missed The New York Times and NPR. I missed constant electricity, especially electric light at night. And I missed cold beer. Real coffee too.