Saturday, 15 June 2013

A Sunday Outing To Talakha Goempa

After a few incidences of bad behaviour on the part of the local hostel boys (read: pot smoking, stealing and organised 'gang' fights!), I decided that a bit of diversionary therapy might be in order for a group of 11-17 year old boys who spend 24/7 within the confines of the school grounds (except when they nick out to illegally by tobacco or watch WWE wrestling). (See last post).  Lu decided that the planned Sunday-afternoon outing - a hike to Talakha Goempa - a beautiful monastery perched high on the crest of a ridge above Chamgang - sounded so appealing that she was going to come along to dole out the diversions as well.

 The boys looked fantastic in their ghos of various patterns and colours and were buyant and gracious hosts as we walked down through the village and up towards the forest road that leads to the monastery.


They insisted on carrying my backpack, offering their umbrellas for shade from the summer sun and telling any interesting information about who lived where and what unsettled land in the village was about to be divided up to be given to landless farmers as gifts from His Majesty, the Fifth King. After stopping for a few customary photo shoots and for me to gaze like a dork at the luminescent outlines of the gathering cumulonimbus clouds coming over the mountains, we entered the forest and started to climb.  

Much excitement followed when the boys found this snake sunning itself by the side of the road. "Sir, sir! Have to kill it, sir!" they shouted, rocks poised to throw. "It will kill our animals, sir! Has seen us, sir, will know us and find us and kill us!" Really?! After calmly explaining to them that there was NO WAY they would be killing a snake on one of my excursions, we sat and watched the beautiful thing for several minutes as it slowly wound its way back into its hole.  

It was a beautiful day and the boys took us on some beautiful singly trail short cuts up through the chir pines, oaks and cypress. 

We reached the goempa where some of the most spectacular trees sit atop the ridge line. I wish my botany was better as there are so many beautiful species here - including this one, replete with local Class VI monkey.

Lula, looking like a film star
The monastery itself was as beautiful as ever.  One of the monks came and gave cups of soft drink to the boys and then lead us into the main altar room. After doing prostrations and giving some small offerings to the Shakyamuni statues, I told the boys that I would like to meditate for a few minutes if that was alright with the monk and that if they wanted they could wait for me downstairs. The monk nodded his assent, and I sat down, expecting everyone to leave the chillip to do his thing in an empty altar room. Instead, all the boys immediately sat down next to and around me, crossing their legs and bowing their heads as they too began to meditate.

Talakha Goempa

Lula told me later what an unexpected and beautiful thing this was for her to witness, standing as she was at the back of the room and expecting the boys to leave just as I had. Of course, being teenage boys, after about five minutes the giggling and farts started again and we all opened our eyes and slowly made our way back downstairs. The boys asked the monk to roll dice for them to indicate whether they would have good or bad luck in their exams (they basically keep rolling until the luck comes good).

View of Thimphu Valley from the Goempa

Checking out the View

Lookin' well 'ard
We then all battled the mud on the road on the way down, except for a few cheeky boys who jumped in the monastery jeep for a free ride down with the monks.

Nima and Tandin Tshering Stopping for Photo Shot

To our surprise, the boys found our friend the snake, still sunning herself outside her hole. On the subject of corporal punishment,  I have to admit that I did give one of the boys a playful cuff over the head when he decided that he would go against my strict instructions and toss a rock at the snake to see if he could get her to move. At least one of the benefits of working in a system where corporal punishment is tolerated is that I can be more physically playful with boys, a far change from the 'hand off' only policies in other countries.

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