Bhutan, Meditation, Bread, Learning, Friends, Family, Music, Books, MT

Sunday, February 28, 2010


In my mailbox there are 489 emails from Don. And that only goes back to September 2008. I know when I met Don. That was in late 2006, at a workshop on a new mathematics text book for Bhutan. Don's wife, Marian, was the main person behind the book. Don came as unaccompanied luggage. At the time, Don was a mathematics professor. Over the course of the workshop, we had a few conversations. Later, Don and another mathematician came over to Thimphu. They generously shouted me out to a meal at a posh hotel. Don still has notes he took on his napkin. We talked more. Meditation came up. Other things came up. Not the food. We exchanged email addresses. The emails started soon after. Daily.
When we agreed to send each other an email every day, we thought we would soon run out of things to say. These mails are not small twitters. We are not twits. It was fascinating for me to get a real insight into the thoughts of a working mathematician. Teaching mathematics is not the same as doing it. Don teaches it too.
So, we can talk about mathematics and maths teaching. We found there was much more that we had in common. Spectacles. Reading. Cycling. Walking. Computers. Spirituality. Learning. Music (Don plays the flute). It was as if Don was another version of me. A higher level though.
Just to test himself, Don uses a different keyboard layout on the computer. He changes that every few weeks to keep up the challenge. He has been working on speed reading. Now he is learning the piano, still with the normal piano keyboard. I have read about the Nobel physicist Richard Feynman; Don has worked with him. At least in the same building. While I try to teach my classes how to write equations, Don is inventing new ways to solve them.
If not much happens during our days, we have to resort to writing about rather humdrum matters. Today's post from Don had a very long paragraph about buying a new pair of waterproof boots. The thing is that his writing about such a mundane event can be so riveting. Not that the rivets came in to the story. If one really pays attention to the small details, there will be something interesting. For example ...
"Friday I decided I needed waterproof boots but the boots that were not watertight were too wet to use. They get very cold when they are wet and also they feel smaller. It is very unpleasant to put them on. Think of putting
on a wet bathing suit. Something like that. I found some boots of Marian's in the closet. They are watertight to well past the ankle. They looked unused. They are a bit big on me. I thumped as I walked and I thumped to the mall and bought waterproof boots."

Did I say that Don was Canadian?
I have a truly marvelous proof that Don is the most interesting person I have ever met. The margin is too narrow to contain it.

1 comment:

  1. The blog depicts mixed life of Mark as "chillip" or Westerner in a wonderland country Bhutan, perhaps the last Shangrila on earth, though this so called Shangrila label is debatable to many of us today. I would love to see more writings by Mark and hopefully he can also include me and my good buddy Daniel Norman Collins, from Canada working in private School in Punakha since March 2010 in Bhutan.
    I met Mark through in a strange coincidence, through so called “chicken man" Russell Fookes, his NZ VSA counterpart who was in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests for a year working with the Royal Government of Bhutan. I was his national counterpart recently in April 2010 traveling to see poultry breeder farms in the country, (all state owned farms and private chicken rearing farmers in the country). Since then, we became very good friends and met his wife Ugen in one of the farewell dinners to Russell before he left for NZ.
    Tashi Delek to your great blog and PLEASE do more writings about people, panoramic beauty of Bhutan and perhaps about our eating out - Pizzas, espresso et al in downtown Thimphu city.
    Nar Rai, working with the Department of Livestock, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests as Deputy Chief Livestock Officer, Thimphu, Bhutan.