The incredible power of interaction and discussion with people from a different place–both geographically, and in way of living

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Wow, it’s hard to put into words the emotions I’m feeling right now after this past week. Each day here feels like I’m just constantly being reborn, my conceptions and pre-dispositions being constantly torn down and rebuilt seems to just be the norm from day to day here.

Over this past week I’ve had the privilege to explore the towns of both Thimphu and Paro, see a Bhutan vs. Guam FIFA World Cup Qualifier Match, see a number of sacred sites and temples, meet a countless number of incredibly kind and fun locals, and witnessed the daily life of farmers and all other kinds of individuals, and as a matter of fact, as I write this, I’m eating some peanuts and peaches from the local market here in Paro near the SFS Center.

To say that I’ve learned and changed over the course of this past week has been an understatement by every definition of the word. Besides the amount I’ve learned even in the classroom, which is immense in itself, It wouldn’t be dishonest to say that my experiences simply walking around this country, experiencing life from what it feels like an unlimited number of new perspectives is by far the best learning experience of my time in Bhutan, by far.

 

One of our field lectures–plant ID’s of some of the diverse plant-life near our centre!

While the number of experiences have been many, and the highlights of these experiences to be just as numerous, two come to mind as being the most impactful. The first is the experience I had in interviewing a local farmer, and ex village representative named Kenshi for one of our Field Experience Exercises. The experience was intended to serve as a practice run of sorts for the Directed Research Project portion of the program, which would, depending on which project chosen, entail a number of both qualitative and quantitative research methods.

While Kenshi served to answer our chosen questions with relative ease, it was his words of advice on living life to the fullest, his opinion of the growth in Bhutan (Paro especially), and his sense of responsibility, pride in his work, and resilience in the face of the worsening climate and a constantly changing lifestyle where if requirements weren’t met, then there would be consequences, and in what I’m sure would count as the “majority of the nation”, these consequences would be as long-lasting as they would be dire.

Kenshi said so many things that served to inspire me, but rather than just spout off the log of that discussion, I’m going to simply state the few things that really stuck out to me: He mentioned how absolutely incredible he found the fact that the valley (Paro Valley) had modernized in just the last ten years of his life, and yet, despite all the development he’s seen, he said that the one sky—the Bhutan sky he’s lived under his whole life is something he couldn’t be more grateful for. He loved his home, his country, and the people around him, and to hear him say so in such an unscripted, unrehearsed, truly passionate and compassionate way….it changed me.

The last thing he said that truly had an impact on me was his reasoning for becoming a village representative for his community—trust, respect, and hard work, these were the tenants upon which he based his life. Despite not having a formal education after staying home to continue to help his family on their farm, he was elected to be the representative for the village community, and was placed in charge of settling land disputes, land use designations for the government, and serving as a voice for the people he represented—all of which he did, and did with great pride.

What a theory, working to truly represent the needs of the people responsible for getting you to a position of power and influence, and doing so in a place you’ve called home your whole life—a place where your needs are met, and where you’re so genuinely happy for your life that you live without want, without want of an escape, and without want of more, and more, and more.

Meeting the farmers of the rice paddies from which we get such a staple of our meals here–enlightening.

This place, and the people in it are just so….genuine. I’m already changed so much, and there’s still more to come. I plan on posting another blog to specifically talk about the academic lessons I’ve learned, but for now, while I’m thinking and feeling this, I want to be sure to type out these thoughts, after seeing how hard people work, and how genuinely content people are with so much less I truly just feel……..grateful.

The view from the top of our hike to Buddha Point in Thimphu.