Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rimdro: Smoke, Mist, and Steam

Saturday was our school's annual Rimdro, a  puja in which prayers and gifts are offered to a goddess to ritually purify the school, its staff, and its students for another year.

It is a study in transcience. These are decorative cakes handcrafted by the monks. The circular parts are 100% coloured butter.

And here is the same cake at the end of the day, going up in flames:

Here is the gorgeous diorama that was the centrepiece of the multipurpose hall [MPH]:

And here is what became of it when the ceremony finished:

I think you have to be pretty detached from the material world to not mind the destruction, to realize that all the works of human hands, however beautiful, are fleeting. All is vapour. I subtitled the entry "Smoke, Mist, and Steam" because big billows of all three swirled around us throughout the day as a reminder of that truth. Here you see smoke from a big outdoor incense fire:

While here is one of the small indoor incense lamps that made William feel ill and go home early:

Here is the mist. Teachers were to arrive at the school at 6:30 in the morning, which is mistrise in Trashiyangtse. I went home at 8:30 at night. Some teachers stayed celebrating until midnight! Rimdro is a full, full day:

As for the steam, that came from the million cups of tea and all the cooking. Because we were there all day, three full meals were prepared. Can you imagine any public event in Canada including breakfast, lunch, and supper?

 Here is the kitchen where the necessary water is heated in three huge boilers:

For me, it was the candles more than anything else that made the day beautiful. Bhutanese candles are not wax. Large multi-use ones are made of butter while small ones can be prepared quickly by rolling cotton wicks, placing them in small bowls, and pouring oil around them:


Now, when I say that students in Bhutan work harder than Canadian students, I don't mean they labour a little longer on their assignments. I mean they break some serious sweat! No matter what time you walked around my school campus in the long day of Rimdro you would have seen a group of girls doing dishes at the outdoor taps:

Turning your head, you would have surveyed a few boys chopping wood while others minded the cooking and a group of girls shelled green beans:

Rounding a corner, you would have found a team peeling potatoes and some boy with a stronger stomach than I hacking up fresh beef:

Nowhere, though,  would you see eyes rolling in drudgery. The children were not compelled to work. They volunteered, they took turns, they worked with their friends, they laughed, they took breaks. When they weren't working, they threw around a football or jammed together:

As well, each of them took time out for religious devotion. They went to the MPH, watched the monks chant, prostrated themselves before the lama and then before the diorama, and then laid an offering on the alter:

The work, the play, and the worship were all come-and-go-on-you-own-scheduale. It was so relaxed and so relaxing. Total freedom! The only thing that everyone did all at once was participate in the monk's final prayer. We were each given a lapful of grain and, in time with the lama, threw small handfuls of it toward the door of the MPH. It represented taking our sins and negative thoughts and bad habits and casting them out of our life.  

The mess on the floor afterwards was obscene, just ridiculous . The picture doesn't do it justice at all. But it's the cleaning up after, the sweeping away, that finally removes all the negativity from the school and sets it right for another year. I think that's beautiful.

It was a great day. And yesterday the school family shared all of the packages of cookies that had been laid on the alter. That was a great day, too!


  1. Your adventures sure reveal to us- "a whole new world." You are taking us "wonder by wonder!"
    Mom M

  2. thank you so much for sharing your adventures this new world sure has a lot to offer everyone.
    love Mom B

  3. Another amazing Blog thanks for sharing you wonderful adventures. Dad M