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Sunday, March 7, 2010

School Opens

Friday 5th March, 2010. Pelkhil High School had rimdros (pujas) performed by Ven Tang Rinpoche. (A title given to a highly respected Buddhist lama, meaning "precious one".) An offering of prayers to help get the school off to a good start. These ceremonies are integrated into Bhutanese life. Seeing people with doctorates in science from Oxford involved in this kind of thing made me think about my beliefs. Rather than a paradigm shift, it was a conciliation of two different views.
The photo above shows the staff lined up, ready to welcome Rinpoche. Those in Buddhist costume are wearing ceremonial scarves. We are all clutching on to long silk scarves, called khata. These were to offer to Rinpoche. There is a certain way to do this. For a new-comer, a daunting process. First the khata is folded up like a concertina. One end is held firmly between the fingers of the right hand. To present the scarf, you thrust this hand over your extended left arm, then elegantly unfurl the long whiteness as you straighten the right arm. All going well, that is. I had other visions. The scarf flying off into the mud, or even worse, the right hand veering into Rinpoche's face.
"Buddhist master killed by clumsy Kiwi"
After giving the khata to Rinpoche, he promptly returns it to you as a blessing, wrapping it around your neck.

The prayers were conducted before a makeshift altar in one of the classrooms. Again, there is a lot of etiquette involved. I know some of this, but rely on going near the end and following what others do. The Bhutanese people are always quite accepting of my strange interpretations or whisper advice loudly when I am about to offend. While sitting down, I nearly turned my back to Rinpoche. At least I did not attempt to eat the uncooked rice which was meant to be tossed into the air as an offering to the local spirits.
Let me introduce some new faces. Zeb and Jon are the "whiteys". They have just arrived in Bhutan from America and will be teaching at the school for a year (possibly more ... possibly less). I was very impressed when they ordered emma datshi (chillies and cheese) for lunch. Even more impressed when they ate it without any sign of water in their eyes. It was a bit much when they ordered seconds. Jon already speaks more Dzongkha then me, and Zeb looks like he has mastered Dzogchen, the highest form of meditation.
They both have their own blogs, which I am sure you will enjoy. My view of Bhutan seems rather stale and boring in comparison with these fresh young eyes.
Zeb's is here: Flaming Thunderbolt of Wisdom.
And this is Jon's: Happy Ending Offer.
Promise to come back here, though.


  1. Dear Mark - happy belated birthday! Please forgive me for my transgressions and self involvement that led me to neglect my diary with important dates..

    I thought to log on and see what you have been up to and was way-laid with a familiar image of bewildered chillips standing on the side of a rough road approaching a freshly completed (?) construction site - with khata's nervously clutched in their hands awaiting some official or other.

    Happy memories. Tashi Delek, Carl.

  2. Dear Carl
    Apology accepted. I better find my Birthday Diary before I miss your birthday, as I did the last 10 years. When can I expect the present to arrive?
    I avoid the khata by offering to be the official photographer.
    What happens in Pakistan, Carl?