It’s hard for me to believe, but the classes I’m taking here in Bhutan are already nearing their end. There’s still about one more week of condensed classes before we move on to directed research, but in that week we’re packing in a lot of learning. Today I had a pair of field lectures that tie into some of the research projects we’ll be doing here. The first was on biodiversity monitoring the government does to keep track of the animals that inhabit nearby areas. Looking at trail camera footage from within 15 miles of campus, we saw everything from wild boar to leopards and even majestic Bengal tigers. The second was on tree-core research and the methods used to test tree age, health and plot prosperity. This one was particularly interesting because I actually got to bore into some of the blue pines that populate the hillsides near campus.
Despite the stressful schedule that is a byproduct of taking a condensed six-week semester, there are some opportunities to sit back and relax ... or not. This past weekend we had two days off. One was a scheduled day off on Sunday and the free Monday came as a surprise due to a Tsechu, a Bhutanese festival, which was declared only two days before. On Sunday, I was able to explore the nearby ridges that surround campus with some of my classmates. A two-and-a-half-hour hike took us up to the crest of a ridge where the clouds flew by just several feet above us. At the Tsechu on Monday, we had the rare opportunity to witness a festival that won’t occur again for another 12 years. The small village of Chamkar below our campus poured into a nearby temple with thousands from neighboring areas. While I may not consider being crowded in with thousands of other people as a relaxing time, it was a powerful moment to see just how much of an impact Buddhism and culture has on the Bhutanese people.
In addition to my last several lectures this week, I’ll also be heading out on a multi-day trek to the far north of Bhutan. We’ll be learning in the field while we hike, and I’m looking forward to another glimpse of the Greater Himalayas.