There is nothing more humbling and enriching than meeting kind, generous, warm people who offer you their greatest hospitality, appreciation, and gratitude most especially when they have so little for themselves. We began our journey to the interiors of Bhutan under the guidance of Jigme Wangchuk, (Field Officer) and Palden Ongmo (Programme Officer).
Jigme has been with Tarayana Foundation for over 4 years. His primary job is to visit 10 remote villages, monitor the progress of projects within these villages, and report his findings to the Tarayana team. The modus operandi is to visit each of these villages, speak to the villagers about their needs and create solutions in consultation with the villagers.
Jigme is involved in monitoring housing projects, capacity building, and much more. He acts as the bridge between the villages and Tarayana Foundation. He treks between 7-8 hours every day, going from village to village, and returns home to Thimpu once every few weeks for a day. He has a wife and a 3-year-old daughter who live in Thimpu.
Ask Jigme why he chose this job and he responds there is nothing more fulfilling than serving his people. Energized and inspired with our companions we begin our very first trek to the village of Rukha (somewhere in central Bhutan).
The journey begins by walking across a very long bridge. As we step on the bridge we realize the wind is so strong the bridge is shaking, the river beneath the bridge is swollen gushing with a purpose to its destination. We cross the bridge without being blown away, I have to say at this time it was certainly a possibility that we could have been blown away!
Our guides help us load our backpacks into a power-tiller, a modified 4 wheel drive that navigates the mountainous terrain. The power-tiller takes off and we begin trekking through chili fields. Quickly the realization sinks in that the terrain was becoming steep. I felt like I was climbing a gigantic and extremely steep staircase rising from the foothills of the Himalayas.
The weather changed quickly from very hot to cold and then very cold quickly then back to warm as we negotiated the hills and the valleys. Almost 81 % of Bhutan’s territory is under forest cover, the hillsides are thickly forested with pine, conifers, oak, the most gorgeous of all rhododendron trees. The day continued and so did our walk, we were grateful for the sun because the weather changes at a moments notice and we could have easily had rain which brings out blood-sucking leeches.
After about 4 hours of arduous trekking, we reach the halfway point, it is the home of Namgyel the young man driving the power-tiller. His beautiful grandmother welcomes us with great love and beautiful butter tea followed by a sumptuous hot meal. Revived and rejuvenated from the rest and meal we begin the next part of the journey. The plan is to trek for another hour and a half, then move all of the luggage from the power-tiller onto a mule and continue for the rest of the trek. The mountain was too steep for the power-tiller to continue beyond this point. 1.5 hours later we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a few women and 2 men from the village of Rukha, they had brought us beautiful butter tea and refreshments. Their appreciation for us and gratitude was heart-touching, they had trekked about 3 hours to reach us with refreshments.
The next 3 hours of the journey were intense leaving all of us breathless, we trekked in pitch darkness with only our little flashlight to help us along a very narrow uphill path. It was so dark it felt like we had our eyes closed. The villagers didn’t seem to need the assistance of the flashlights. At 8.15 pm we finally reached the village of Rukha. All of the villagers had not only gathered to welcome us but they had pitched a tent made of tarpaulin and prepared a grand feast. All of the ladies and men dressed in their finest were lined-up to greet us.
As per Bhutanese tradition, the women welcomed us with a heap of rice, eggs, and an incense stick in basket containers – as gifts. As we took our seats inside the tent our guide explained we would have to receive little sips of sacred marchang (local wine) followed by suja (butter tea) and rice. The villagers had prepared a grand welcome for us with songs and dances, that night we retired in the home of one of the villagers. The next morning at breakfast we taught the song of love peace harmony in Dzongkha to Jigme, Paldan, and our hosts. We learned the words along with them.
Soon we gathered with all of the villagers under the tarpaulin for the day’s activity.
Master Marilyn offered words of gratitude, appreciation, wisdom, and love, she then introduced Master Francisco as our leading teacher. Master Francisco began teaching the significance and benefit of love peace harmony, we chanted it line by line with the villagers over and over again. Suddenly Master Francisco asked who would like to receive a blessing and people got really excited. A lady with years of knee pain stepped forward, Master Francisco was at his very best. He placed translated love peace harmony cards on the lady’s knees and began teaching her the Four Power Techniques.
All of a sudden everyone was chanting love peace harmony and pointing towards the lady’s knees offering her all of their love and more. At that moment something shifted as the entire community gathered around this lady to offer her a blessing. At the end of the blessing, the lady was walking, bending, and squatting more easily. She mentioned to Paldan she thought she would die of this knee pain as it had been truly severe.
All of a sudden people started stepping forward for blessings and before we knew it there was a lineup! Master Francisco offered a few healing and then passed it on to Master Orlena who offered a few more blessings and then it was my turn.
By the time we finished offering the blessings all of the villagers were chanting sewa (love), sewa (love), sewa (love) very loudly. In these moments all of us created a beautiful strong circle of love and experience the power of the song of love peace harmony. The next teaching was Tao Calligraphy led by Master Orlena. This took the excitement to an absolutely different level. People were hand tracing, dan tracing and enthusiastically writing with brushes on a water mat. They were writing with pens on their hands, on pieces of paper, and practicing everywhere.
There is nothing more fulfilling than being of service to someone and these villagers were incredibly special.
Next stop Lamga Village with 15 households!
With love, peace and harmony