Pack up, head out on the road for a weekend. A wonderfully American thought. Join up with a few other BCF teachers, head toward Gasa, see what happens. Seems like a perfectly good plan. Bhutanese would disagree, they do not take travel lightly. Many whom I work with have not been to Gasa, which has only been opened up with a road in the last few years, before that it was a trekking destination. On the other hand there are a lot of Iowans who have never left the vicinity either. I go downtown Gaselo, a wide spot in the road which is the driveway to the lower school and just below one of the larger shops. I have not been able to arrange a ride so I settle in for a wait, hoping for a passing car to have room, a taxi perhaps, or one of the school drivers who said he was going down later in the evening. One line in my journal and my phone rings and it is VP (vice principal Sangay Kandu) saying he’s on his way and will pick me up. WOW! On the way we, that is those in the back seat, squeeze in 3 students headed down the hill as well. So I am in Bajotung with time for a bit of shopping for black knee socks (Gho attire) and an enjoyable beer. Taxi to Punakha and we begin to rendezvous. I join two other teachers for tea at a neighbors then it is off to Kurutung for dinner at the best little Indian restaurant in the valley. By the end of dinner six of us have gathered and we go back to the teachers quarters and have wall to wall sleeping bags for the night.
Morning is breakfast out of the tiny kitchen with limited supplies and five of us are off to Punakha to bargain for a taxi. We strike a deal and squeeze in. Several hours later, which include one construction delay, we find ourselves in Bgishong where there is a new school and another BCF teacher with floorspace. A wonderful afternoon stroll and dinner by candlelight, electric out for a week or so, is followed by gathering ‘round the bukhari (wood stove).
Next day we have all gathered out version of where the hotsprings are and decide we will try to hike there. Two hours later some of us are running out of steam and we take a rest beside a tiny roadside shop. He happens to be a taxi man but his wife is away and he’s watching the kids. But within the hour of our considering the options he is able to take us and give us directions to walk down to the springs. Although washed out in a flood a few years ago the tubs are rebuilt and a small tent community shelters many Bhutanese families who prefer to come for a week or so. A new temple is also there as many monks are among the bathers. I enjoy a nice soak next to an elderly man who chants gently and sets the perfect tone for the afternoon.
On the way home our original taxi driver had run low on oil but had arranged for another ride when we reached the trailhead. Amazing. Another wonderful dinner is enjoyed in the warm candlelight. One of our group gets an early morning phone call from our Punakha taxi man, he had driven up the night before and slept in his van! All the group’s worries about getting back with enough time to reach our various destinations evaporate as our taxi man winds his way downward and invites us for tea at his house which we pass on the way down. We had met his wife and son along the road on the way up and they are wonderful hosts and their son enchanting.
I have time to shop in Bajotung and Pema helps me get all the way home before dark. No electric or water when I return but all is restored before long. Seredipity? Karma? Good vibes? The whole flow of the weekend was perhaps a reaffirmation of why traveling in a place like Bhutan is worth the effort. We all agreed with the national slogan, “Happiness is a Place”, and it was everywhere we were this weekend.