“Beyond the Sky and the Earth”


Nine days until I leave the U.S.

I just finished Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan, a memoir by Jamie Zeppa. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in really learning what Bhutan is like. The book is romantic without romanticizing, and gorgeously written.

Zeppa decided to leave her life in Canada, including her boyfriend and a possible PhD degree, to teach English in Bhutan for two years. The amount that she learned in the tiny Himalayan country, and the ways that her experience truly altered the course of her life, are staggering.

Her descriptions of the landscape capture the mystery of the place but are not overdone, and her focus on small moments are what sets this travel story apart from others.

Through her descriptions of the altitude (“I begin to feel pale and stretched and thin”), trekking (“I cannot walk another step but I do and I do and I do. I hate walking, I tell myself, and I don’t care if we can see the entire world from up there, it’s not worth it.”), getting ready to meet the king (“Teachers are shouting contradictory orders at the students who are rushing to and fro, colliding into each other in a farcical attempt to obey each new command. All students line up on the playing field! All students return to your hostels! All students assemble in the dining hall!”), and the color green (“lime, olive, pea, apple, grass, pine, moss, malachite, emerald”), Zeppa immerses the reader in Bhutan, and it is magic.

Before I read Zeppa’s memoir, I was equal amounts overwhelmed, excited, and just plain nervous about living in Bhutan for four months. Now I can say that I am simply excited (and maybe just a little overwhelmed by the amount of packing I have to do).

Sherubtse College in Kanglung, where Jamie Zeppa taught English

Sherubtse College in Kanglung, where Jamie Zeppa taught English.

Zeppa’s experience changed the course of her life, and when her two years of teaching came to an end, she didn’t want to go home. Will that happen to me? I guess we’ll see… (just kidding, Danny and family)

“The air becomes suddenly cooler, and I look up: ahead, without a prologue of knolls or hills, the mountains rise straight up. I feel a familiar surge of happiness. I am back home.”


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