Sorry about the gap in communication. My laptop was badly damaged in a lightning storm on May 19th, and now I am on a desktop lent to me by a very kind colleague named Karma. (Definitely Good Karma)
I am just going to do a short entry this evening to check if I can manage on a different computer. Also, the power went off a few minutes ago, for no apparent reason, and I lost what I had started.
I’ve learned a lot of lessons lately, none as serious as the lightning storm lesson though. First I left something cooking while skyping, and returned to the kitchen to find the room full of smoke and my dinner charred to a crisp. And it was the first time I had invested in a can of curried chicken! A couple of days later I forgot my big brother's advice to “never mix, never worry”. My neighbours had a good-bye party for a friend who was moving to Thimpu. The party started with beer next door. Then we went to a restaurant for tequila shots and dinner. At that point, life was still good. Then we returned next door and chugged arra, the local brew. That was a big mistake. I was so sick, all night and all the next day. I wasted my only day off in bed. I am still blaming that incident for killing enough brain cells for me to overlook the importance of unplugging my computer in that lightning storm.
I always wear flat sandals to and from school and change into prettier ones at school, leaving the scruffy ones under my desk. I returned to my room after a meeting, and noticed a lot of stray dogs gathered around my open door, looking quite happy. Then I noticed my sandals nearby. One of the straps had been chewed right off, and nowhere to be found. I still wore the sandals home that afternoon, but I had to tie them on using the strap of a surgical mask.
I mentioned the story to some of my students and they said it happens all the time at their homes. The family leaves their shoes outside the door, and in the morning someone’s shoes are gone, or half-gone. I asked if their parents get upset, but they said no, they just laugh.
The flies in my room were really bothering me, so my mum and dad sent me some fly papers (at a cost of $34 in postage, which did include a bar of dark chocolate. I’m savouring that, one square each day, just like my dad always has). I have the flypaper suspended above my desk, with dozens of flies stuck to it. Staff and students who come to my room have various reactions: horror, awe, amusement, shock. Good Karma tells me that if I kill flies I will probably come back in another life as a fly. Later she said that since I am doing it to prevent the spread of sickness, perhaps I’ll be okay. She also pushes me quickly out of the way if I am about to step on an ant.
We had our bi-annual worm pill last month. Each of the students are given one, and I had been told that it is not a bad idea to take one as well. I mentioned to Karma that I was surprised that we were allowed to kill worms, but she assured me that the medicine does not kill the worms. Apparently it just creates an inhospitable atmosphere which causes the worms to leave your body. I guess I didn’t have any worms, because I didn’t see any with their bags packed, heading out.
There is a lot of superstition here. Much of it is interwoven with religion and much of it involves demons. There are many, many dos and don’ts to follow if you want to avoid bad things happening.
I was wondering why my cheerful whistling seemed to elicit frowns. Well, apparently whistling indoors invites ghosts to visit. Who knew?
Walking home from school with Good Karma one afternoon, we crossed over a creek in a ravine. I mentioned to her that I would like to take a group of students there to clean up the rubbish. She said that wouldn’t be a good idea because the ravine is haunted. If any of the students became sick after that, I would be blamed for taking them to the haunted ravine. So much for that idea!
I’ve been hearing quite a bit lately about the “headhunters”. I first heard these stories from Keira in Lhuentse, but now the stories are circulating here as well. Apparently there are men out there who kidnap people, especially women and children, and then chop their heads off to bury in the foundation of new structures. Word has it that the heads they are after now are for the next hydroelectric dam. No one actually knows anyone who has disappeared, but there is definitely fear. One of the women teachers at school told me that when her husband was away last week she nailed all of her shutters closed and then pushed a couch up against the door so that the headhunters couldn’t get her. A girl in my class wrote in her journal that she didn’t go to the temple to pray last week. “I just prostrated at home because I am afraid of man who cut down our head and sell.”
It’s funny that in a place where I have never felt safer, there are these stories. Possibly they serve a purpose in keeping women and children close to home, especially at night.
I’ll see if I can post this now.