The spring season is the beginning of life and renewal, they say, and it is no different for the SFS Bhutan program too as we have welcomed this semester with a new cohort of students. This spring, the diversity of the student body is substantial, including 15 students from 15 different universities.
In a way, there is a parallel between the arrival of new students and the springtime. The semester began when nature was at a standstill in terms of its growth and so too were the students unfamiliar with their environment and with the other members of their cohort. Students from all across the US converged on our Center in Paro where they began to nurture friendships and collaborate to best understand the culture, environment, and all the aspects of living and learning in Bhutan. As individual personalities unfolded, the group has grown together just as the plants have reactivated their physiological activities resulting in a bloom of brightly-colored flowers. New leaves have burst from their buds, beautifying the landscape and rightly bringing joy to every being. Rainfall is rare throughout most of the spring, however, when it comes, wilted plants bounce back to life, snow will continue to crown the mountaintops, and the air will become fragrant with the smell of precipitation. This is known as petrichor. As the poet JR Rhine describes:
“The smell of a spring rain
settling on the earth
is the smell of life anew”
Spring is a time when Bhutanese farmers will prepare the land for sowing waves of seed. Spring is also when the many tourists from across the world will visit Bhutan for the various holidays and festivals such as Losar (Bhutanese New Year), the Punakha Tshechu, Paro Tshechu, and the Rhododendron festival. A host of local pujas (cleansing ceremonies) are also performed at this time of the year. Enabling the students to participate and be a part of these many captivating experiences certainly allows for all to make the most of their time in Bhutan.
The student group joins Drs. Kuenga and Purna in front of Bhutan’s national tree, the Himalayan cypress (Cupressus torolusa at the Pangrizampa Astrology School. All photos courtesy of Greg Francois
Students listen to Drs. Purna and Kuenga deliver a portion of a field lecture beneath a rock painting of Guru Rinpoche
Students walk a popular pilgrimage route along a wall of the Phobjikha Valley, from Gangtey Goempa to Khewang Lhakhang
Farmers in Phobjikha Valley prepare their fields for seed to be planted
Dr. Tempa, Bhutan’s premier tiger biologist, teaches SFS students about the number of functions that a camera trap is capable of. Days prior to our time with him, Dr. Tempa managed to radio collar a tiger with his team for the first time in Bhutan’s history