On the 9th day of August 2016, we started our journey – the historic journey in search of our pioneering batch of students for the first law school of Bhutan. We were very excited that we are going to meet our prospective students, and yet nervous because we were doing it for the first time. Our presentation wasn’t very smooth at the beginning, as we went along our presentation kept improving.
I made my first presentation to the class eleven students of the Kelki Higher Secondary School. My intention was to present in Dzongkha but I ended up making almost whole of my presentation in English. My confidence betrayed me. I didn’t like it really. I then started to doubt my choice of becoming one of the founding faculty of the first law school. I started to worry.
My first presentation at Kelki Higher Secondary School
Ryan and Kay joined us for the tour
There are total of 58 higher secondary schools in Bhutan. Our plan was to visit each and every one of them to personally introduce ourselves, interact with the students and clear their doubts. We started from Thimphu, and then travelled to other Dzongkhags. The first Dzongkhags we visited away from Thimphu were Punakha and Wangdue. Two American friends, Ryan and Kay who visited Bhutan for vacation joined us on our tour to these two Dzongkhags. On our way, we talked about roads – that is obvious! We talked about change in vegetation as we drove, and many more. Professor Michael Peil and I dropped them at Resort at Messina, and we continued our journey to Kuruthang. We started to look for hotels – entered one hotel, the quality wasn’t very good but their price was exorbitant, Nu.1000 for a night. Come on man, you got to be little reasonable I only get Nu.1000 a day for my travel, what do I eat if I am to pay all I get for the room? I didn’t like the room or the price. So I decided to look for another hotel, however, deep inside me, I knew that my DSA wouldn’t buy me a decent room for the night. We found a room, clean and very decent but the price was little more than Nu.1000, even if I didn’t like the price the room was OK.
Next day, we visited two schools in Punakha. Punakha Central School in the morning and Ugyen Academy in the afternoon. We talk to twelve and eleven grade students of all streams – Arts, Commerce, and Science. However, in Ugyen Academy we only talked to Arts students.
The next day, we travelled to Dashiding Higher Secondary School. As we began climbing up from the highway the road was very bumpy, and it got narrower but better as we climbed further up. As I drove up along the narrow road, seeing huge PHPA buses coming from opposite side weren’t pleasant. However, once we reached the school, it was good treat. Neatly maintained campus and it is located in a very beautiful place. It was my turn to present. It went well, I started to like it – I mean talking to students and listening to their interesting questions.
One student asked, “Can a student with tattoo apply to the law school?”
In the afternoon, we travelled to Wangdue Phodrang. I was supposed to drop Ryan and Kay at Eco Lodge. I have never been to that hotel; no one of us knew the location or the way that led to Eco Lodge. We drove passed Bajo town, and then old Wangdue Phodrang town. We could not see any signboard; we called the hotel and asked for direction. I continued to drive as instructed, all the way down, no Eco Lodge yet. We called them again; they asked us to drive up crossing the river. However, road got narrower and very bumpy. Ryan and Kay decided the distance is very far, they wanted hotel closer to town – in the walk able distance.
So, we drove back to Bajo town. Time to look for hotel again. We saw a hotel, went inside. No one at the front desk! Waited for a while. No one came. We found number in their signboard. Dialled the number – one lady answered, she didn’t know if rooms were available. She told us to call back in five minutes. Meanwhile, we walked through the town looking, we found one – a new hotel, and we could smell fresh paints. We could have become first guests to stay in that hotel but harsh smell of paints weren’t what we wanted. We dialled the previous number again, and we went back to the earlier hotel. We met a lady, she showed us the rooms. We decided to stay there, inquired about the price and we said we are staying the night in the hotel. However, the lady said all rooms are booked. Bloody hell! Why did she show us the rooms if not available? Wasted our energy – Bajo was very hot. After walking through all the streets we found one.
In the evening we decided to drive Ryan and Kay to Punatsangchu Hydro Power projects. We drove along – the road was good and air was fresh. The other mission for taking the ride was to look for the road that would take us to Gaselo Central School. On our way back from Punatsangchu site, we drove up a road, which we believed would take us to Gaselo. It was beautiful winding road, as we drove higher we got the feeling of a plane taking off. No cars, no people, we kept driving up and up. We enjoyed, every bit of our time climbing up but no sign of Gaselo yet. We kept driving, it was getting dark then – finally we met some people, we asked if we are on right road. They answered us in affirmative – it was great relief. We drove few KMs from there and discovered beautiful place – Gaselo!!! Riding back down was even better – it was like plane descending for landing. It was fun and fulfilling evening car ride.
Next day, we yet again took the ride to Gaselo. Ryan and Kay also decided to join us. Visited the beautiful school, talked to students, and in the afternoon we visited Bajo Higher Secondary School where students asked us never ending questions beating the record set by Rinchen Higher Secondary School in Thimphu. We travelled back to Thimphu satisfied. Ryan and Kay spent most of their time touring schools with us. They must be first tourists to spend most of their time visiting schools instead of festivals, cultural sites, and historical monuments.
We had little time to join office or to stay with our family. It was time to go to Paro and visit schools there. First school we visited was Kuenga Higher Secondary School. It was very difficult school to locate; we could not reach on time. It was very long bumpy and dusty drive; at the end of our drive we were happy to find school at last. On our way back from Kuenga School, we saw Stephan (our colleague) and Kristy playing with kids by the riverbank. We talked to them for few minutes, and then drove down to town while we still have few hours time for our next school visit. Professor Michael Peil and I took some meals and were resting in a Café. Stephan and Kristy followed us to same Café, what a small place!
Time felt very long, feeling restless! Tried to get some sleep – not happening. It was then time for our afternoon school. Shari Higher Secondary School, presentation done. On our way back through the narrow road, there was huge truck trying to climb up. Unfortunately, its engine stopped in the middle of road, and that was our first roadblock of the school tour.
Drukgyel, Tenzin, Utpal and Yoezerling – we are done with schools in Paro. Ryan and Kay has already left Bhutan. We were then preparing to receive Kai Shultz, Freelance Journalist for New York Times to do a story on the Bhutan’s first law school.
Kai Shultz joined us for the tour
It was time to go to Haa. Kai joined us on our journey to Haa. It would be my first visit to Haa. We took the Chelela route – took few minutes break to see scenery at Chelela, the weather wasn’t very favourable, it was quite cloudy. We drove down to Haa valley, and passed Haa valley to Damthang looking for hotel. The very heavy rain greeted us to Haa Valley. At Damthang they had no electricity, so we drove back to Haa valley and decided to stay at only hotel in Haa town. After quick lunch we visited Gongzim Ugyen Dorji Higher Secondary School. Kai wanted to interview some students. Mr. Jamyang – a teacher of the school and also a law club coordinator was very helpful. He took us to school and allowed Kai to interview some of his law club members.
Students had very interesting understanding of the law. They defined natural law in relation to mother and child relationship in breast-feeding, and in relation to planets revolving in defined orbit. They defined law as means to happiness, peaceful coexistence, and many more. It was very interesting listening to the students.
Throughout our journey or travel, Kai was with his pen and notepad, didn’t spare any time. Had lots of questions for us – while we were driving, while we were eating, and while we were drinking. We were very excited that we would be in New York Times – one of the largest and most famous News Papers in the world.
In Haa, we visited Jampel Higher Secondary School, and then Gongzim Ugyen Dorji Higher Secondary School one of the oldest modern schools in Bhutan. And later in the week, we visited two remaining schools in Thimphu – School of Language and Cultural Studies and Wangbama Central School.
Haa valley was very beautiful, and my first visit to Haa was worth it.
Eastern tour began
On 22nd day of September 2016, I started my journey towards east. No time to celebrate blessed rainy day. I must go! Road block in Chukha, but we found bypass for light vehicle – lucky I wasn’t riding a truck. Reached Phuntsholing in the evening to find out that there is Assam strike and border will remain closed for at least 24 hours. I was supposed to travel through India (Assam) towards Samdrup Jongkhar. I slept the night thinking that I will have to stay another night at Phuntsholing. Luckily, in the morning a miracle happened – they decided to lift the bandh and the border road was opened for traffic. Spent my blessed rainy day traveling through India, and we were stopped by many young Indian groups for several times, forcefully collecting donations for upcoming festivals (pujas).
Adam James Dean joined us for the tour
On 24 September 2016 my colleague Professor Michael Peil and Adam, a Freelance Photographer – New York Times joined me for our eastern tour. We travelled to Deothang and checked in at Dungsam Trashiling Resort – newly built hotel. We were first guests – Hurray! Great place- may be only place that is much cooler in whole of Samdrup Jongkhar. However, quite costly for a transit hotel, could make good hotel for vacations and more importantly if you are looking for cool place to stay while in the east.
Dungsam Trashiling Resort
Dungsam Trashiling Resort
In the evening we drove to my wife’s village – Rikhey. Time for a warm bangchang! More than bangchang it was good treat to visit the place once again, it was long overdue. It was good to see in-laws and relatives. I also wanted to show the village and let Professor Michael and Adam experience village life.
Next day, we are to travel all the way to Lhuentse. We were looking forward for our first visit to school in the east. We started early – through good roads and also bad roads. We stopped for lunch at Trashigang, and there I got a call from Principal of Lhuentse Higher Secondary School. He informed us that our visit need to be postponed as school was taken over as polling station for Local Government Election. It wasn’t good news. I immediately, called principals of higher secondary schools in Mongar. Gyelposhing Central School and Mongar Higher Secondary School consented to reschedule to suit our request so that we can still visit Lhuentse and meet students there. Thank you so much – principals of the two schools, you made things easier for us in the short notice.
So we didn’t go to Lhuentse, instead we ended up at Limethang. Sean and the team from Mountain Hazelnut welcomed us – they had dinner arranged for us. We slept night at their guesthouse – Thank you Mountain Hazelnut for the hospitality.
Tomorrow was big day, our first visit to schools in eastern region of Bhutan. We started with Gyelposhing Higher Secondary School in the morning, and rushed up to Mongar Higher Secondary School in the afternoon. I was delighted to see Lopen Kinga Rinchen (Principal), he was Assistant Principal at Zhemgang Higher Secondary School when I was studying there in the year 2000. We used to very fondly call him “AP”. It was good reunion opportunity for us – happy moment to meet him after almost 15 years. He had very good group of students.
In the evening Mountain Hazelnut gave us guided tour of their nurseries. It was amazing to see how they work. Thank you, we now know something more about hazelnut – little more than what we heard through news telecast in the television.
Next day, Adam left us in the east – he travelled to west. On the same day, we travelled to Lhuentse. I was very excited because it was my first visit to Lhuentse, yet another beautiful place. As we drove up – we could see Dzong standing above the cloud – very magnificent view. Dasho Lhindup Zangpo, Lhuentse Drangpon and Aum welcomed us. We were fed very well, enjoyed their hospitality very much. They had lunch prepared for us. Dasho entertained us by playing Dramnyen and Chiwang – another instrument he is learning to play. Dinner, breakfast, and many more, excellent host ever, and he also accompanied us to school and listened to our presentation till the end. Lhuentse was great experience. Students were great – 26 questions, they hit new record, campus was green, what should I say – It is one school located in the middle of thick forest. As you enter the gate, all you can see is thick and tall trees.
On our way back to Mongar, we visited Takila to get blessed from Guru Rinpoche. It was yet another magnificent place. Travelled back to Mongar fully blessed.
Next day we visited Sherab Reldri Higher Secondary School in the morning, as we approached the school, we heard Vice Principal talking to students about our visit in the morning assembly. Fearing roadblocks – widening works, we started early; we had Yadi Central School scheduled for the afternoon. We didn’t find roadblocks – we reached earlier then expected. We had to wait very long – we went to a restaurant ordered for a mango juice, after sometime for water! Still long way to go, and no electricity. When it was time for presentation we got the electricity – but it betrayed me while I was through my third slide of the presentation. No electricity, no microphone, it was my first time presenting without microphone and also PowerPoint presentation. After sometime, I could feel the pain, my voice started to drop. Professor Michael had to takeover the presentation. However, it was delightful to meet my long lost high school friend Nidup Wangdi at Yadi.
We continued our journey – we were traveling to Trashiyangtse. Our car has become home to us. We had spent most of our times in the car. On our way down, we found unexpected roadblock, we just missed it by 30 minutes and they aren’t opening until 5PM in the evening. He had very long distance to travel. It was very dark by the time we reached Trashiyangtse. It was another Dzongkhag, I was visiting for the first time. It was dark, I couldn’t see much. My friend Thinley was waiting for us, he had hotel booked and dinner ordered for us. The evening and the night were made easier for us.
It was time for us to visit Bayling Higher Secondary School, the next day. My friend Thinley accompanied us to the school. We were greeted by Lopen Yonten Jamtsho (Principal) -I was happy to see him at Yangtse almost after 13 years. He was my English teacher when I was studying in Zhemgang Higher Secondary School. For the second time, the electricity betrayed me; it went off half way through my presentation. By that time, I was getting used to it – my voice was getting better. On our way back from the School, my friend showed us Dhapa factory – we were happy to see how Dhapas are made, and more excitingly we were happy to receive a Dhapa each as a gift from my friend.
While we were getting ready to leave Yangtse for Trashigang, my friend, Phuntsho Wangdi came to meet me with two lovely phorbs. We met few days ago in Thimphu after we parted from Zhemgang in 2003. It was really nice to meet him again in few days time.
After our lunch, we travelled to Trashigang. My friend Dorji Rinchen took us to a hotel. No more school visits for the day. We have been long worried about the lodging at Khaling, fortunately we met a man – Election Officer of Trashigang Dzongkhag. He gave us contact detail of a person, and we got the lodging arranged for Khaling.
In the evening we were invited for dinner at my friend’s place. We talked about why he named his daughter Celine, about American history and many more.
Next day, we visited Ranjung Central School in the afternoon – another beautiful school, they had very colourful MPH, and many quotes on or about law in the campus.
On the following day, we visited Jampeling Higher Secondary School at Kanglung. It was Sunday. My friend Gyeltshen Wangdi invited us for the lunch after our presentation. We got to eat soft and very fresh cucumber right away from his garden – and of course very lovely early lunch.
At Khaling, we had difficult time locating our lodge. After several calls, we did succeed in locating the place – it was very decent place. Next day we visited Jigme Sherubing Higher Secondary School in the morning, and then Trashitse Higher Secondary School in the afternoon.
After Trashitse, we travelled to Pema Gatshel. KM reading was 3KM to Pema Gatshel. We drove and drove – we drove passed the signboard which read, “Pema Gatshel Lower Secondary School”, we passed through Dungsam Lodge, took their number just in case, and we passed through junction to Nangkor. We travelled more than 3KM, no sign of Pema Gatshel! We met a group of youngsters and asked them for the direction. We were right, we have travelled way further down leaving Pema Gatshel town behind. The gate next to Pema Gatshel Lower Secondary School was the gate to Pema Gatshel town; we thought it was the gate to school. We entered the Pema Gatshel town, in few seconds we have driven through whole of Pema Gatshel town even before we could find the car park. We looked for hotel – the lodging for the night. We couldn’t find any lodge in the town – we then asked people in the town if we can find hotel with lodge anywhere nearby – they directed us to Gakicholing Hotel and Yongba Hotel. We didn’t like Gakicholing Hotel very much; we went looking for Yongba Hotel. We passed through Dungsam Lodge once again – no Yongba Hotel anywhere! Finally we decided to go to Dungsam Lodge – we went there! They only had one room available, we needed two. So we still had some hope – I thought we will look for Yongba Hotel. I asked the lady there, where we can find this mysterious Yongba Hotel? She replied this is Yongba Hotel – Dungsam Lodge was Yongba Hotel. We had to go back to Gakicholing Hotel, it was very awkward moment! Rooms were very small and little smelly but people treated us very well. However, the night was very difficult, some small feathered tiny insects didn’t allow us to sleep – tried running fan on full speed but it was too noisy, tried wearing long pant and jacket, tried covering whole of my head with the towel, and tried applying Odomos – ointment. The first night was difficult.
Next day, I visited Yongla Gonpa. I heard many things about its significance to the Nation. It is being rebuilt. They were conducting their yearly Drubchen that day. It was a right moment for my visit – got doubly blessed. When I reached back to the hotel, I called official at Nangkor to reconfirm our visit to the school. Unfortunately, we were told that they are hosting regional sports competition and all students were sent home. Our two nights at Pema Gatshel gone down the drain, but we still don’t wanted to miss on students. I immediately called Principal at Orong Central School, and he consented to pre-pone our visit. Similarly, we requested Principal of Dungsam Academy to make required changes, so that we can visit Nangkor later.
While sorting out this last minute changes, Adam has already left Bhutan.
Next day, on our way to Deothang, we visited Orong Central School. We reached Orong much earlier than expected. It was a very hot place – another long time to wait. They have very huge MPH, sitting arrangement made was very unique, all tables have table-clothes and have water container each. For the first time, I felt comfortable when we were offered water, because students had their own water. They had interesting way of applauding at the end of our presentation, no clapping – just saying “Lekso” altogether at the same time.
Zedd’s Arrival to Bhutan
On 6th October 2016, we are to visit Karmaling Higher Secondary School at Samdrupcholing formerly known as Bangtar. We were told that there are roadblocks; therefore, we started little early. We also knew that Zedd is supposed to arrive in Bhutan on the same day. Professor Michael called Judy Stark, and he was told that she saw Zedd’s Facebook update boarding Bhutan Airlines. We called our colleagues at Thimphu to see if they went to pick up Zedd from Paro International Airport. Interestingly and yet more worryingly, we were told that he is supposed to arrive at 530PM in the afternoon. By then we already reached Karmaling – no sign of roadblocks anywhere. We worried about Zedd! Information were passed to and fro in the Whatsapp, everyone one of us was trying to think how we could reach to Zedd, because by the time we knew about his departure from Bangkok, he must have already landed at Paro. Finally, we were able to locate him – and we heard for the first time about RC. When Michael shared information on Whatsapp saying, RC found Zedd, we wondered who this RC was. RC as we came to know from Michael is a cab driver – may be well known amongst Chilip community. By then our waiting time was over – it was time for our presentation.
Karmaling Higher Secondary School is very new school – it is situated in a beautiful location, buildings were coloured blue, very unique from other schools. Campus was very clean. More interestingly, all the teachers attended our presentation, they asked many questions, and students were very attentive, they had many questions for us as well. Principal said, ‘if it is important for students, I must say it must be equally important to teachers as well.’ We were very impressed with the school – the heat didn’t stop them – in most of our afternoon presentations we would at least see some students falling asleep in other schools, however, students in Karmaling were very awake. Incredible school campus! Incredible teachers! Incredible students!
Next day we visited, Dungsam Academy – a private school in Samdrup Jongkhar Dzongkhag. We were relaxed – we travelled very relaxed because distance from where we stayed was not very far. However, the road to Dungsam Academy from the highway was unexpectedly bumpy – so it took us longer time to reach the destination. That was the second time we failed to reach on time after Kuenga Higher Secondary School in Paro – we were late. Road wasn’t very pleasant, we came to then know why their bus was always parked at the junction. When we reach the place, it was good experience. Students were attentive and they asked some very good questions.
Next day was supposed to be very interesting. We are to travel to Pema Gatshel early morning, talk to students at Nangkor Central School and travel back to Samdrup Jongkhar on the same day. That is what we did! We have been taking “Brunch” – no breakfast! As we were travelling early, we planned that we will have our brunch once we reach Pema Gatshel. We arrived there at around 1130am. Went to the same hotel were we stayed two nights before – they were happy to see us again, but unfortunately they were busy. They said they wouldn’t be able to serve us brunch as they are catering lunch for a big group. We went to Pema Gatshel town, visited restaurant after restaurant, but no restaurant was serving rice or real meal. Finally, we had to settled for Bathup – it wasn’t very good, beef was little smelly, may be because the weather there is quite hot.
After our not very pleasant brunch, it was time to go to Nangkor. It was my turn to present. Usually, Professor Michael Peil and I take turns to present, sometimes, we also split the presentation. Even after traveling quite early, energy was still good, and excitement was still there. Went to the hall, no students there! One student we met on our way to the hall helped us inform his other friends to come to the hall. We were done with projector set up, and students were still entering. I am sure, more than 50% of male students didn’t attend the presentation. I almost lost interest in presenting to the group – but there were some students who were very attentive and showed much needed interest, that kept me going. In the evening we travelled back to Samdrup Jongkhar – it was very long and tiring day. While we were traveling to south, we got the news that Kai’s article on our first law school is going to be published in Sunday issue. Sunday – as per our American colleagues, it is great news for us, as it would mean more readers – more outreach. We were excited, and at the same time anxious too, we weren’t sure how story is going to come out. My colleague, Professor Michael Peil who is also Vice Dean of the Law School was very worried, that New York Times might quote only Chilip colleagues in the story. He wanted to quote Bhutanese colleagues when it concerns Bhutanese legal system and other practices. I could read his anxiety in his face. However, we said to ourselves that we did everything we could; there is nothing more we can do.
It was Saturday morning. Very early in the morning, the story was published in the New York Times’ website. So online story came out earlier than expected. Opened the link quickly and read through with great excitement. At the end of the article, I thought they should have quoted Chief Justice, Former Chief Justice, and Dean at least – because they did interview them. I thought their time warranted some mentions somewhere in the story. However, I was still happy that we made to New York Times, that itself was very great achievement for us – that was our objective that we reach as many readers as possible. My colleague, Professor Michael Peil wasn’t ready to read the article yet, he wanted to hear feedbacks from our Dean and other colleagues at the office. At the end, every one of us thought, the article came out quite well. New York Times story on the First Law School.
By then it was time to leave for Nganglam. However, border was closed by the time we reached the gate. We were very worried that there is border strike again. However, we came to know that it wasn’t day-long strike but the gate is closed for an unfortunate reason. A Bhutanese truck killed young Indian man, while Indian vehicles are crossing border to and fro, Bhutanese vehicles were temporarily stopped from entering India for safety reason. Many Bhutanese gathered at the gate, those wanting to travel to other parts of Bhutan through India, and those wanting to go for shopping at border town. We came to know, that Indian man could have survived, through the video shown to us, and story we heard from our Indian friends across the border. Unfortunately, the man was hit by truck while reversing fracturing his hand. The truck driver stopped immediately to see the condition, however, many people gathered within a short span of time, and a guy slapped him. Then driver fearing the mob entered the truck and drove very fast, unfortunately running over the man who was still lying on the ground. It was unfortunate for both the victim and his bereaved family, and the driver who was arrested by Indian Police. May his soul rest in peace!
The gate opened after sometime, no Bhutanese was willing to drive through the border. They still feared that mob might attack them. Everyone waited to see if anyone is willing to travel first. After sometimes, the crowd gathered at the scene was gone, Indian military personnel came in to ensure safe passage for all commuters, traffic was back to normal again. We couldn’t thank military personnel, Border Police, border government and our Indian friends enough, we got to travel safely like nothing happened. However, it pained all of us for this mishap resulted in lost of a life of our Indian friend.
Nganglam it was! I had very fond memory of Nganglam. Nganglam was first place I visited away from our village or locality. I, with my other friends visited Nganglam in late 1990s to appear for Grade Six common examination. Then, boys hostel was quite far from the main campus, we had to climb down quite a long steps, cross a bridge and then again climb up another long steps to reach the hostel. It remained same, it is still true even now. However, the town has grown a lot now, good hotels, shops, and other facilities.
I studied my grade six at Panbang Primary School. Like us, grade six students from Decheling Primary School came to Nganglam to appear for their common examination. They broke an electricity bulb in the ceiling. They were playing jump-game to see if they could reach the bulb, unfortunately they ended up breaking it. The warden came to know about it, and our friends from Decheling very flagrantly put the blame on us – we got scolded by warden for hours for wrong we didn’t commit. Despite this memory, I was very happy to be back at Nganglam. However, the space remains same with no possibility of expansion – it appeared to us that school administration is trying all their means to accommodate ever-increasing students.
Earlier, there wasn’t any road connecting Nganglam (now under Pema Gatshel Dzongkhag) and Panbang (a place closer to Manas). Now there is very smooth highway connecting these two places without having to trouble through Indian borders. If I remember correctly, distance of around 55KMs which takes lesser than two hours time by a car. We drove all the way to Panthang lower kheng gewog via Panbang. It was good to visit Panbang after very long time; I haven’t visited the place after I completed my grade six from there.
From Panthang, I took a time to go and visit my father at my hometown. Last January when I visited the place, I had to walk only half and hour from the road point, this time due to roadblocks; it took more than two hours to reach home. Walked along the road that was covered with thick grasses, and many leeches. Fortunately, my brother arranged for a porter, otherwise, it would have taken hours to reach home. The main purpose of short visit to my home was to install television for my father, which my wife bought long time back for him. He stays alone at home, he is 76 years old now, and I suppose he is getting lonely at times. Therefore, he wanted television to entertain himself, and most importantly, he wanted neighbours to come to his place, he likes when people are around.
On the way up, I was finding difficult to catch up my porter, situation was very desperate, already walked quite a distance, and I can’t go back nor wanted to proceed further. Determined to meet my father, kept walking, and midway stopped at a place called Mewangang at one of my relatives and begged for bangchang, while also taking some rest. Had a good rest, and energy boost – warm bangchang with local crabs and prawns. My father knew I will have to pass through that route – so he called their number to find out if I passed through their place. It was getting darker and little late too. They wanted me to have dinner at their place; I had to refuse their offer because I wanted to have dinner with my father that evening. By the time I reached home, it was 830pm. First thing my father offered me was tea. I said to him, may be bangchang would be better. He replied, “if that is the case, well I will serve you exactly that, I thought you may not take bangchang so prepared tea.” So another bangchang it was. Then had dinner, and time to install television – and satellite disc. Had no idea how it is done, all I had were some pictures that I took from border town in India of already installed disc. It took so long to get it done; I decided to do it early tomorrow. Unfortunately, I could not install it next day as there was power cut off.
While waiting to see if power is going to come back, group of villagers came to see me. It is tradition that when someone visit village people would come with some bangchang, boiled eggs, or other edibles to welcome the guest. Power never came back. It was time for me to leave. Had my breakfast, and started to walk down, down indeed this time. However, I wasn’t very happy because I could not complete the installation, but still happy I could meet him and have a dinner together with him after very a long time.
I thought walking down would be easy. It was easy for sometime, no sun and no rain. I thought monsoon was long gone, this unexpected late monsoon made it very difficult. Very unfortunately, I wasn’t carrying umbrella because I never thought it was going to rain. It rained, non-stop and very heavily. I reached Panthang completely drenched. The day wasn’t over yet, we planned for another adventure – river rafting. We travelled to Panbang, went to River Guides of Panbang. It was still raining, they weren’t very interested to go for rafting in the rain. Somehow, we were able to convince them, though they were still quite reluctant. The moment we started our rafting rain miraculously stopped. It was my first time rafting. I could feel fear inside me. As we went along, I started to enjoy. It was very good time out from travels and school visits. Once we are done with rafting, it decided to rain again. We went back to Panthang, we were staying in a Eco Lodge there. We enjoyed better hospitality than most of the hotels and resorts we stayed in.
However, rain wasn’t stopping. I started to get worried. Roadblocks! It rained whole night. I hoped it might stop by the morning but it didn’t. It was time for us to travel yet again. We started our journey to Zhemgang at 9am. Road was very good as we started, wide and no blocks. We were almost reaching a junction to Dudmang Tshachu – one of the renowned hot springs in Bhutan. We saw our first roadblock – very fresh block. We could have just passed it if we started little early. No cars, it was just one car, the one we were driving. No vehicle following us and no vehicle coming from opposite direction. Waited and waited, may be after an hour of wait, one Bolero came. Driver and people traveling in Bolero were from my village and my distant relatives. They had urgency to reach hospital at Yebilaptsa, and we had urgency to reach Zhemgang by the evening. We had no idea, what we could possibly do. We waited and waited watching boulders fall helplessly. No mobile network, we couldn’t reach to anyone. After sometime, two lads from Bolero came out and tried to do whatever they can to clear the block with their bare hands. I joined them! The slide didn’t stop completely; there was occasional falling of boulders and debris/grabbles. After lots of discussion, Bolero decided to give a try – try to pass through very narrowly cleared road. We divided ourselves to see if boulders are falling or not in different locations and inform driver accordingly, some of us were getting ready to push the car should it get stuck in the mud. No boulder falling, and it didn’t get stuck, smooth passage. We followed same strategy for our car as well. We fought through our first block.
In few minutes we reached another block. This time it looked huge. Many trucks carrying cements from Nganglam to different parts of Bhutan were lined up, parked all over the road. There was one machine trying to clear the block. Block got cleared! It was time to continue traveling again. Very bumpy and muddy road, those trucks made it worse. We had to stop occasionally to remove boulders from the road. After few KMs drive, there was another block – quite minor block. Trucks took too much of a risk to passed through it, the bent looked very frightening – almost toppling trucks passed through. However, as more and more trucks passed through, it made easier for small cars to pass through. We passed through another block again.
We were almost approaching Goling, a place few KMs away from Tingtibi. There was another major roadblock. There was nothing we can do. We waited. No one knew if anyone was coming to clear the block. Mobile network problem again, all we could do was hope that some one would come and clear the block for us. No sign of anyone coming yet, it might get dark any time soon. I decided to walk across the block. I walked never-ending road searching for mobile network. After almost an hour of walk, I got the network. I called my friend, my colleague Phuntsho Wangmo at Thimphu to find out if she can reach to Department of Roads at Tingtibi and inform them about the block. If it is not happening then to look for some one who can arrange a Taxi for us. Meanwhile, a man came along the road, he heard me talk about the roadblock and said that the machine is on its way to clear the block. I feared, we might have to stay night on the road. It was very good news for us. I went happy to the site. The machine was already there. We found that it was the same machine that cleared first major block, and drove in the opposite direction clearing roadblocks. It was getting darker, clearing work was taking long, but finally job well done, and the block was cleared. However, it was very muddy, every vehicle trying to pass through it got stuck in the middle, and after lots of struggles all could pass through. Thank God, one truck narrowly passed through a huge falling boulder.
It was still raining, we reached at Zhemgang by 730PM. Supposed to be three hours drive took us one whole long day. Fortunately, at the destination, my friend Tandin Dorji, Legal Officer of the Dzongkhag had everything arranged for us. Dzongkhag guesthouse to stay a night, and the dinner, I was almost starving. We had no lunch. My friend saved our day, though he was out of Zhemgang himself, he did all these arrangements through phone calls. After the diner, while we went to clear the bill, we were told that it was already cleared by my friend. I couldn’t thank him more!
Next morning, we went to Zhemgang Central School, my alma mater. I was very happy to be there once again. However, do not forget that it was still raining. Good group of students, and we got many good questions from them. Once, we were done, we wanted to keep moving. We don’t wanted to spare any time, because we were very worried about roadblocks. We rushed and forgot our only umbrella in the hall. I called the Principal to inform that we forgot our umbrella, and we are coming back to get it. He text me saying he couldn’t fine the umbrella, we were already there by then. Entered the hall to see for ourselves, the umbrella went missing. It wasn’t there. May be a student decided to take over the ownership. We decided to move on without the umbrella.
It was raining heavily when we started, and as we drove along, the rain subsided, and then we even started to hallucinate sunshine as sky started to clear up. We passed through a group of golden langurs, monkeys, fallen boulders, and cleared roadblocks. The ride to Gelephu was much smoother than expected. As we got closer to Gelephu we could feel the heat, it was getting much warmer.
At Gelephu, Dasho Drangpon of Gelephug Dungkhag Court arranged for a guesthouse. His name is Karma Dorji; he has been like a brother to me. He has been there coincidentally or fortunately, when I needed some kind of guidance or help. When I travelled to Canberra – Australia for my masters program, he was there at airport to receive me even when I missed my first flight and got delayed by over 2 hours. He had a resident hired, utensils arranged, he took me to University, everything was made easier, what more would I ask for? This time, again he had everything arranged for us; he sponsored us a dinner, and more importantly, I got to take my Irish Coffee.
In Gelephu, we got our long overdue laundry done; we visited four schools including Sarpang Central School at Sarpang, Losel Gyatsho Academy, Gelephu Higher Secondary Schools, and Kuendrup Higher Secondary School. Great group of students in all schools, big thank you to school administration of Sarpang and Losel Gyatsho for rescheduling and agreeing to allow us to visit even if the day was declared holiday. Most importantly, I also got my haircut, clean shave, and hair dye – I started to feel much younger again.
Our last stop was Dagana. He left out Damphu Central School. We could not agree on visit schedule, they had trial exam and we had to complete our visits before 19th October 2016. We had to leave out Drujeygang because they cancelled on us – the visit which was scheduled for 18th October. Their cancellation helped us reach home earlier, that was very good for us. However, we missed on students – wasn’t very happy about that. We do not know, if we can travel to these two schools again because time and human resources to reach them are very limited.
It was my first visit to Dagana. With this visit I have visited total of 19 Dzongkhags out of 20. Could have been 20, if Gasa has higher secondary school(s). In Dagana, we stayed at the only hotel available in the town. My friend, Pema Choeda, Legal Officer of the Dzongkhag administration had the rooms booked for us ahead of our visit. Big thanks to him. Though it got tiring riding never ending winding road, the place was surprisingly pleasant. It wasn’t very hot! Not very cold! The weather there was very accommodating. The only complication that we had to face was, the truck that was stopped right in the middle of road, and its engine refused to start. Our driver decided to squeeze through very small space, I wasn’t comfortable nor my friend Professor Michael was, so we stepped out of the car.
Next day, in the afternoon at 330PM, we visited our last school for the trip – Daga Higher Secondary School. It was good group of students; they were quite attentive even after their very long day. However, most of them were suffering from cough and cold, at times their cough was getting quite nosier. It was our last presentation, and it was my 26th day away from home and family, so my energy was completely drained out.
Very next day, on the 18th Day of October 2016 we left for home. On our way from Dagana, we could see many school children of Lhaling Primary School going to the school. When they including some villagers saw us, they would just bow and say Kuzuzangpola with smiles. I think they really enjoyed greeting us. As we moved along, we passed through power projects, the blocks that stranded commuters for days – it was cleared by the time we travelled through those areas. Nothing stopped JSW Law team. So home we reached after a while! Home sweet home!
At the end of the trip; I thought it was very fulfilling. I got to take my Dzongkhag visits count to 19, I got to visit my wife’s place, I got to visit my father at the village; I got to meet my friends, got to reunite with my teachers, meet new people, and more importantly, it was very proud moments for me to introduce Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law to our prospective students. The trip was very adventurous and also dangerous at times, but for JSW Law and our students, we wanted to make impossible possible.
Finally, I liked talking to students very much – I was wrong to think that I chose wrong profession. I now think that, it is what I exactly wanted to do!!!