Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Flies on My Face

 "Knees up! Eyes straight!"
 Corn growing in the center of town.
 Jen and Polenta!

I will be thanking you for your visit for a long time.

For the past three days I have been woken up by a fly that keeps landing on my nose and other parts of my face. One morning, it was the fly and my cell phone that rang three times before 7 a.m. This morning, I was dreaming that the relentless fly was a faceless student. Determined to irritate me to the point of exasperation, but not motivated enough to complete their project work. Every night, the howling of the dogs sounds like violent warfare. Not lonely cries to a full moon, but fury charged gunfire-like barks that rouse me even after I have attained unconsciousness. “Just wait till you go home,” my yoga teacher says. “Then you will know what real noise sounds like.” She’s of course right. My home being several yards from a train track and a taco shop. Teenagers howl at each other until dawn rather than dogs.  However, there are no flies. Instead there are yapping seagulls who roost outside my window as soon as the sun has popped up. I imagine they discuss the tide, the winds that blew in from Mexico during the night. The delicious mackerel devoured last weekend.  So why am I so annoyed?

On Friday night Jen, Joe and I finished a couple bottles of wine and danced in the living room. Hotel California came on shuffle and the longing of the song that I had never sympathized with before was now resonating quite strongly. “We analyzed this poem in fourth grade,” Jen said. “I heard it’s about rehab,” I responded. Then it struck me, it’s not about rehab. “It’s about self-exile.” Jen stopped dancing to listen to the words, “We are all just prisoners here/ of our own device.” “It IS!” she exclaimed. We decided to come here. It all sounded so romantic from California. Images of prayer flags, verdant mountains, picturesque little cottages haphazardly perched on ridges. Then you get here and it is all that and more. Being referred to as “Aunty” is so quaint. I’ve never been anyone’s aunty and now I am anyone’s. Running in to acquaintances at the veg. market makes you feel like you have put roots down.  Even barking orders to unruly students has some kind of satisfaction; you know them well enough to tell them what to do.

So when does the grass start looking greener in the place you left behind? It may be the little things that start to compound, the dead rats on the side of the road, the diesel fumes of dinosaur-like trucks, day after day of rain and thick grey clouds. The way the taxi drivers drive like this ride is their first time behind the wheel. Or is it coming from the other side? Is the irritation I am experiencing a result of all I feel I am missing at home? Caitlin’s facebook photos of a home-made ice cream, Carris’s shots of stonesteps sunsets, Dylan describing in careful detail the delicious meal he just enjoyed. I miss the ocean, the meditative trance it induces. I miss pastries from Darshan that taste like the original Viennese masterpieces. I miss painting because I am inspired and exultant. I miss bike rides down Neptune, tortillas and avocados.

I feel like I need to write a “All that being said, I love Bhutan and stand one hundred percent behind my decision to self exile myself to the Himalayas” paragraph.  Well, maybe I can speak so freely about my homesickness because ultimately, I do stand behind my decision one-hundred percent. Bob Dylan wrote in his memoirs about the first time he left for New York City, “When I left home, I was not in search of love or money.” Journeys initiated for the quest of love or money are filled with discontent and dissatisfaction until you strike it rich or meet your soulmate. When I left for Bhutan I was not looking for love, and certainly money was not going to make the experience worth it. Journeys like the one I embarked on over eight months ago didn’t have an objective. Anything that I was to come across would eventually become part of the reason I had chosen to leave. So even in a state of homesickness, regret and dissatisfaction are not part of the experience. By coming here I have gained more than I could have anywhere else. The gifts have not been monetary, the rewards not always instantly obvious. Instead I have had to rely on the kindness of people who used to be strangers: my principal, my roommates, my friends, the pharmacist. I have had to resign myself to the fact that I can’t do everything I want to do here in a single year. I have had to admit that adventures can be tiresome and sometimes all you need is a good night’s sleep. In the midst of this adventure it is still hard to recognize the rewards that come from prolonged challenging experiences. The inevitable nostalgia that always follows a trip like this will take a firm grip in a couple of months and while eating my tortilla chips and guacamole, enjoying the sunset over the Pacific with friends and family I will probably crave a cheese momo. I will remember evening walks to the BBS tower and wish that I was headed to teach at ELC the following day to bark orders at children about picking up their toes and keeping their eyes straight while marching.


  1. I like your question: "So when does the grass start looking greener in the place you left behind?" Funny how that happens. We seem to leave a piece of ourselves in all the different places we live....and these pieces forever beckon us back with promises of all the wonderful things that happened there! Can't wait to have you back though Kellie. Love you!

  2. I agree with Elizabeth. The pieces I've left around keep inviting to their home. You will most certainly feel that way about Bhutan and cry and laugh about how great it was at the most unfortunate times. It's a strange feeling to be homesick for a place that ultimately isn't your home.

  3. Hi!!
    Your teaching life in bhutan is so great !!
    I've been Bhutan twice in 2011.I really want to teach in this lovely country too!!

    I'm a teacher in Hong Kong and I can teach English as well as Mandarine. I really want to make a contribution to this wonderful place.

    Would you tell me how to apply for the teaching post , even as a volunteer?

    Thanks for yuour great help , hope can get your reply soon!!