Every place I have traveled to has had its unique cultural treasure chest to share with those who are lucky enough to visit. Bhutan’s is filled with intricately decorated architecture and smiling faces…
All photos courtesy of Matteo Moretti
My skin is almost as dry as the terraced plots of land that will soon grow rice and chilies, once the days are longer and the season begins. Exhaustion feels inevitable, a wave of it hitting my body and brain promptly at four in the afternoon once classes have ceased for the day. Our transition into life at the SFS Bhutan center has not been the easiest, with high elevation, spicy food in every meal, and daily schedules of class and socialization. Within the first few days here, we traveled to the capital, Thimphu, and visited beautiful monasteries while having some of our first field lectures. I am not going to lie: it has been an intense couple of weeks. Being overwhelmed is a feeling I have come to know quite intimately. And yet I feel deeply comfortable in this town, even in this country. The mountains that rise above the Paro valley are riddled with dark green trees, trees that cover roughly 60% of the entire country. Snow lines the top of the highest peaks around us, sending a spiral of cool air through the center, forcing us to cover our skin from head to toe with up to three layers of clothing. The mornings are my favorite for they bring the gift of silence and slowness in our densely organized schedules. I gaze out as the sun begins to touch the soft green body of land below it and breathe in the potential of the day, the air as crisp as the frost-bitten apples that grow here.
Perspective is everything. Just in the way that we are broadening our horizons and diversifying our perspectives in class, the weekends give space for us to climb through thorny bushes and shimmering rocks to the top of the nearest hill, which is at about 9,000 feet. Here we can look upon the valley where we reside, the buildings smaller than ants but the natural surroundings bigger than life. This summit rewards us with the opportunity to walk silently through the courtyard of an incredible Dzong, or fortress for administrative and religious practices, where puppies and chickens play in the sunshine. On our way down, still traversing high on the ridge, we plop down at a small table overlooking the spectacular view and pool our snacks, the feeling of success after a six-hour hike encircling our group as we picnic. We understand our good fortune to be able to step into our backyard and be in the Himalayan mountains.
Though only two weeks have passed and we have only just begun to understand one another, a feeling of mutual excitement and contentment is prevalent in the SFS community. The sun goes down around six every day but soon the hours of daylight will increase along with our level of comfort in the beautiful kingdom of Bhutan, land of the Thunder Dragon.