Homeward Bound

It is safe to say that I have eaten rice every day for the last 120 days, and I am ready to come home.

I miss Bhutan a lot, even though I’m still in South Asia (for the next 14 hours, including sleep time). I don’t know for sure whether that was the beginning and the end of my relationship with this country (although it’s obviously not really the end, as I’ll always have the memories), but I sure hope not. I have plans for the future which I hope to flesh out in the next few years, and I don’t want to give anything away, but there might be more about (and posting from!) Bhutan on this blog at some point. We shall see.

I felt at home in Bhutan, and I now feel at home in India (partly because of my wonderful and hospitable friends), and I hope I’m going to feel at home when I’m home. With four cats to see (including one new rescue kitten!), how can it not feel like home? I can’t tell yet how much culture shock I am going to experience.

I’m going to save the platitudes for another time, or hopefully never. Partly because I’m tired and facing a 20+ hour journey tomorrow, and partly because I hope I can move past cliches and actually find the words to talk about this semester in an honest, reflective way.

Namaste and Tashi Delek, friends.

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Mahabaleshwar

My apologies for the recent lack of posts – hopefully these photos make up for it! I’ve been relaxing, mainly without electronic devices (partly because I don’t have any chargers at the moment).

I am with friends in Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra, which is an old colonial hill station in the Western Ghats, which some of the oldest mountains in the world. It’s much cooler here than in Bombay (thank goodness) and there are gorgeous views if it’s not hazy (it used to be clear all the time, but unfortunately there is now smog over most of India, as there is over most of Asia – except for Bhutan!).

There are several spots in particular where you get good views of the mountains and valleys, including several “points” – Kate’s Point, Mumbai Point, Elephant’s Head Point, Sunrise Point…

I took the following photos yesterday morning at Kate’s Point. Enjoy! And believe it or not, I didn’t use any filters. It really is that beautiful!

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Bombay

Hi friends and family!

As you know, I’ve been in Bombay for the last few days spending time with some lovely family friends. They run the magazine Sanctuary Asia, and are basically an incredible, tiger-saving, nature-loving extended family with three adorable grandsons who I get to hang out with.

Over the last few days I’ve gone to the Sanctuary Wildlife Awards (held annually), compared my journeys around the city to what I remember from being here seven years ago, eaten DELICIOUS food (I promise to post pictures soon), watched a Bollywood film, and… met the great great grandson of Charles Darwin and drank red wine, listened to him play classical Indian rajas and Christmas carols on the violin, and talked about radical politics. (WHAT?!?! – that was probably the best evening yet.)

Bombay is a beautiful city. I eat bananas here and don’t feel so guilty because they haven’t been transported halfway around the world, and this evening I am going on a bus tour with some eight-year-old boys. But Bombay also has some of the largest slums in the world, and is so polluted and crowded that The Guardian says that “Mumbai is on the verge of imploding.” Kya? What I see is a city in desperate need of creative, revolutionary urban planning. My friend Bittu has thought of so many ideas to make Bombay greener, more open, and more equitable.

After all, according to The Guardian Bombay used to be India’s urban showpiece. There’s still some green space left, and Chowpatty Beach and the views of the Arabian Sea are breathtaking, when you can see it through the smog. The mix of British colonial and modern Indian architecture is interesting and often beautiful.

But my friends are not always optimistic about the future of their city, or of India. A toxic mix of industrial power, corruption, bureaucracy, and exploding population is hard to deal with all at once.


I’ll post more in the coming days! For now I’ll leave you with a crazy thought (maybe only crazy for me) – I’ll be back in the States in 12 days.

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A view of Bombay. Yes, there really is that much smog.

Everest

I have officially left Bhutan and have been in India for about two days. My apologies for the lack of posts – the last week in Bhutan was mostly in transit, and surprisingly there was less reliable wifi in Thimphu than there had been at UWICE.

I think the only thing that could have distracted me from the pain of leaving Bhutan is… seeing Mount Everest up close on the plane ride from Paro to New Delhi!

Everest is in both pictures below, but more identifiably in the second one.

Enjoy, I promise more posts will come soon!

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Goodbye Dzong Cat, Harrison, blue pines, and Chamkhar

This is our last day in Bumthang.

The realizations come in waves – sometimes I already miss Bhutan so much, and other times I’m in denial. I think it hasn’t completely hit yet, that I won’t see these particular mountains, maybe ever again. I was just talking to my friend Alyssa about that feeling, and she said she feels it too, and that’s because this place is home to us.

Sitting here at the dzong is home, dzong cat helping us all pack is home too. So is walking to town down the mountain road, and riding into town at night, when the lights of Chamkhar suddenly seem bright and spread over a vast distance – what is Delhi going to feel like? Mumbai? NEW YORK?

Harrison, the cutest dog, is home, and so are potato momos and naja and frost in the morning on the grass that is now totally yellow and the gigantic pine trees outside my window and the heat in the middle of the day from being at 10,000 feet.

I’ll (almost definitely) post in Thimphu and/or Paro, but for now enjoy a few photos from the last few weeks!

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Bumthang → Punakha → Gasa

Yesterday we drove for 12 hours on the bumpy roads of central Bhutan to get from Bumthang to Punakha, which is farther west than our field station and closer to Thimphu. We’ll be here for about two weeks, during which time we will finish classes and take our final exams. We’re in Punakha for a change of scenery, to enjoy being in a different ecosystem (4,000 feet instead of 10,000), and to escape the Bumthang cold for a little while.

But… before we really settle into Punakha, we are going camping for two days (starting tomorrow) in Gasa, which is just north of Punakha. We’re hoping to see lots of snow-capped peaks and yaks while we’re there. Where we’re staying (and almost the entire district) is located inside Jigme Dorji National Park, which we had a lecture on today. Jigme Dorji is the only place on earth where tiger and snow leopard ranges overlap, and the two big cats peacefully coexist. How incredible…

I won’t be able to post for several days, but when I’m back, look forward to pictures of steamy Punakha and frigid Gasa!