Astounding. This is the word that seems to consistently make it to the front of my mind. Astounding. Bhutan is one of those places that you try to describe to your friends, but the language you choose just doesn’t seem to do it justice. This country’s scenery is like a landscape painting by Bob Ross where the colors break the spectrum and the details are infinite. Dramatic and bold, Bhutan boasts a myriad of unique geological formations, extraordinary flora and fauna, and tremendous valleys as far as the eye can see. The forest cover is so immense that one might think we are on Endor. I find that I am constantly debating with myself where my favorite viewpoint has been or what my new favorite bird is (right now it’s the Rufus-necked Hornbill).
There is no doubt that spring is upon us in the Himalayas. The colorful hues are becoming so prominent that the abundance of trees on the mountain side makes the slopes look like the waves of a rich green ocean. In fact, so many trees and plants are bursting out everywhere that I didn’t know there was this much green in the whole galaxy. The numerous plant species are budding and the infamous diversity of the flora is becoming more evident every day. Nature walks, plant quizzes, and bio-blitzes have made us all more aware and appreciative of the significant vegetation and wildlife that resides in this true biodiversity hotspot.
We have just finished up finals here in Paro, and now the real fun begins! It is research time. All of the students have split into three groups with three unique study areas. First, our mountain ecology teacher Jesse Lewis is leading the Rivers to Ridgelines group. This team is researching various aspects of ecosystem composition and environmental health, such as fluvial geomorphology dynamics and human disturbances on avian communities. Dr. Purna Chhetri heads the next group, Pathways of Fire Succession, in which students are primarily observing different impacts of the recent Paro forest fire on different aspects of the environment. Some of the students’ research topics entail looking at the effects of fire on soil properties in addition to evaluating economic value lost to fire damage. The final (coolest) squad, which I myself am a part of, is guided by the amazing Dr. Nawang Norbu and the incredible Dr. Kuenga Wangmo. Our group’s research theme is Governance, Sustainable Development, and Spirituality. Areas of study within this theme include Buddhism in a changing society, spirituality and GNH, and perceptions of hydropower development from different social groups. Though time is running short we still have a long road ahead of us. With the deepest commitment, a serious mind, and enough patience, our research will be well worth the effort.
With only less than a month left in this adventure, we soon must mentally prepare for the inevitable departing from the astounding Kingdom of Bhutan. Our time here has soared by and I have no doubt that the next few weeks will do the same. I constantly think of how grateful I am to be here and while I miss my parents dearly, I know this country will be hard to say goodbye to. Being here so long and learning about its tourism has shown me that this is one of the most unique and difficult places to visit in the world. There is always the possibility that I may not get to return, but never tell me the odds! Bhutan has been good to us, and it will continue to be good to us until we hop on that plane out of here. Until then, however, the adventure goes on. Tashi Delek!