Thursday, July 7, 2011

New Beginnings, Hard Endings

The city of Thimphu is growing rapidly, and there are many new buildings under construction.  Bhutan has a standard building code to preserve the culture, and therefore the buildings all look similar.  The foundations of the buildings are laid with bamboo, the cement is poured, and the carpentry is completed in what feels like no time.  Much of the work is contacted out to workers from India who sometimes work into the night using large lamps.

Today I hopped into a cab to go to town and grade some tests in a peaceful coffee shop.  The weather was drab.  The cab diver who picked me up was very friendly and smiled as he asked me where I wanted to go.

“I am going to Clocktower la”

We got a few blocks from my home, and I happened to glance out the window at one of the new buildings being constructed.  Something was weird.  I thought I saw a man working, but something made me look more closely.

The muted, clay colors of the unfinished building faded into the overcast sky, until all I could see was a lifeless body at the end of a rope.  I held my next breath inside me, feeling far too many things to attempt to make sense of.  The morning was silent, and the swaying motion of the body rocking in the breeze, almost suggested a feeling of calmness.

I noticed a second man climbing the bamboo to reach the body.  I said nothing to the cab driver who was watching the road and still wore a smile.

I have heard nothing of the incident.  Perhaps the man climbing the bamboo is the only other person who knows the gentleman did not accidentally fall to his death.

Is Mousetrap a Buddhist Game? (The Follow-Up)

I asked many people I know about mousetraps.  One student told me that mice are why Bhutanese have cats.  I need to choose between cat allergies and mice.  The mice will stay.

Today was long.  The dead body and the dog attack put me on edge (I will explain later).  I went into my bathroom to get cleaned up and brush my teeth.  Then I saw him.  My guest returned.  Better yet, the mouse hadn’t left.  We stared at each other.  I shrugged a “what to do” sigh and decided I would chase him out of my bedroom after I was ready for bed.

When I was cozy in jammies, I turned the place upside down, digging through the suitcases under my bed with the intention of coaxing the little guy into his own private bedroom or kitchen for the night. 

I spent an hour shuffling though things to find him.  By 2:30am, I gave up and hopped into bed, tired and over it.  The second I pulled the covers under my chin, my friend scurried across the floor and under my bed where I had been looking all along.  I was too tired to move.

I let him stay. Now I am never lonely and I think the thought of sharing my room has grown on me. We now have pillow talk and play sleepover games.  I even let him invite his friends to crash at my place.  Maybe I am a good host, or maybe I am losing it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

It is impossible to feel lonely with all these house guests

I have been stomach bug free for 12 hours now.  This is happy news.  Tonight I sat on a step between my living room and kitchen.  (The floor of my apartment is concrete like the walls, so some of the rooms are built a step above the concrete with wooden floors for heat.)  I laid my papers out all over the floor, and graded.

From any given seat in my house, you can typically see 2-3 creepy crawlies.  They are usually the little bugs we call silver fish.  Tonight, there was a spider… a big guy.  I tried to pretend he didn’t exist until he totally pushed the limits and just got too damn close to me.

I typically never kill spiders.  This is not due to religious reasons or any other valid purpose.  I am just too scared to get near them.  This quick beast was an exception and I did not want him to be one of the 9 spiders I swallow in a year (because we all know this sixth grade fact is true).  Though the spider was probably no larger than a silver dollar, it seemed as though it could take down a baby giraffe.

The apartment wasn’t big enough for the two of us and he just had to die.  Seeing as though I misplaced my numchucks, I grabbed my handheld broom.

A swing and a miss.

I grabbed a cardboard box, which doubled for my trashcan, because the American in me knows the bigger the weapons, the more problems they solve.

“One, two, three draw.”  I went in for the mush, but my lack of commitment sent both the spider and I screaming and racing in opposite directions.  He won as he ran and hid underneath the stack of test papers I was grading.  That was it!  I needed to shank him.

I tapped the papers with the broom until I coaxed him into a vulnerable position.  When he was right where I wanted him, I smothered him with the box.  I then took to sweeping his tiny shriveled body outside, not wanting to run the risk of throwing him in the trash in case he was just playing opossum.

I went into my bathroom and jerry-rigged the broken switch of my water heater using a shiny heart sticker to keep it in place.  I was happy at the thought of a hot shower.

I went back into he other room to continue grading while the water heated up.  The dogs began to serenade me from outside when I saw something out of the corner of my eye.  I looked up and a mouse ran across the cold cement floor into my kitchen.  I pondered what I could use to trap him.  Nothing.  I shut the kitchen door, locked the outside latch, and shoved the broom/ weapon under the crack at the bottom of the door.  As long as we had our own rooms, he could stay the night.  In a Buddhist country that hardly sells fly swatters, I have no idea where the hell I will find a mousetrap.

My grading session was over.  I needed something familiar.  As we have all done at one time or another, I escaped my house guests by retreating to the porcelain throne.  As I sat and waited for my water heater to heat, I hoped my guests had enough manners to know that bathrooms are a place of privacy.