It is believed that Bhutan is a sacred land, and as I sit in silence for an hour with nothing but the sound of the rustling prayer flags behind me and the dogs barking in the valley below, it is impossible to think otherwise.
It’s been just over a month since myself and ten other students boarded our Drukair flight and soared over the Himalayas to land in the small Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan. The first day we arrived to our quarantine hotel, I remember standing in front of the window and being in complete awe of the mountains in front of me. Every day since, I’ve made it a point to appreciate the mountains that surround me and desperately try to soak up every second that I am here, in an attempt to not take any of it for granted.
A Yak spotting. (Photo by Samantha Schwamberger).
Paro has been on lockdown due to Covid-19 since our arrival, so our travel has been limited. Although the lockdown hasn’t been ideal for any of us, I can’t express enough my appreciation for all that I am learning in our classes and the opportunity to slow down from our usual busy college schedules. Learning to make momos and khapse for Losar (the Tibetan New Year), coming up with names for the dogs around the Center, and trying our hand at Bhutanese dances while the staff laugh at our two left feet are just a couple of the many moments I am grateful for while the lockdown keeps us confined to the Center property. I spend time reading, playing volleyball, doing yoga, and sitting in silence while I take in the incredible views that surround me. I don’t think I will ever tire of morning coffee as the sun rises before an hour long breakfast where all eleven of us share conversations over our fried rice and buttered toast.
Students in discussion with Bhutan faculty Dr. Purna. (Photo by Samantha Schwamberger).
As Paro slowly begins to open up, walks along the road and to the general stores have become the highlight of my day. The school kids run to greet us and giggle when we try our hand at speaking Dzongkha, the national language of Bhutan. Sometimes our walks lead us up the mountain behind the Center, to a cluster of prayer flags standing tall and blowing in the wind. I watch as the sun pierces through the clouds and strikes the sides of the mountains, illuminating the green of the trees that grow brighter each day and develop new hues from the budding flowers beginning to appear. The last week has brought us excitement as signs of life are more evident with the spring season and the gradual lift of the lockdown. It is believed that Bhutan is a sacred land, and as I sit in silence for an hour with nothing but the sound of the rustling prayer flags behind me and the dogs barking in the valley below, it is impossible to think otherwise. Everything about these mountains evokes a newfound appreciation for life and its blessings. As I look across the valley and let the red dirt fall through my hands, I can’t help but reflect on how grateful I am for the opportunity to experience life in Paro this past month.
Prayer flags near the SFS Center. (Photo by Samantha Schwamberger).
Curious to learn a bit more about the SFS Bhutan Center? Click here to read about why we’re based there, our environmental research focus, how we connect and support the local community, and even take a tour of the Center.