I recently went on a trip to Bhutan on the invitation of the Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay. I met him when he spoke at TED and he expressed interest in Green School. I went with two friends, George and Craig. Craig has written a guest post below about our experience in the kingdom.
Words by Craig Tindale, a Green Entrepreneur, Hacker and Inventor based in Vaucluse, Sydney with 35 years experience in executive leadership roles in the technology industry across Asia. Background in green health projects across Asia including dengue (Philippines) and tick (Sydney) eradication. Father of 4 students starting at Green School in April 2017.
“Flying in from Calcutta I first started catching glimpses of the Himalayas about 40 minutes away from landing in Pero. As we drew closer the mountains began to rise up to meet the plane and then almost without noticing it the mountains were higher than us. I filmed the arrival but the video doesn’t catch how close those mountains were to the plane and how high they were above us. I started to see homes impossibly far above the valley floors , with small tracks along the ridges. I saw the occasional temple and wondered to myself how they built this high without roads to bring in equipment. Later on in the trip these dwellings would appear like stars high in the sky.
We got off the plane and all three of us had a similar immediate reaction. We learnt later it was a common reaction for everyone arriving in Bhutan. It was a feeling of stillness; the air was crisp and for anyone from the west or the rest of Asia it was unnaturally quiet. It gave us this feeling that we’d left our old world behind and we had arrived somewhere special.
We entered the Land of the Thunder Dragon and everywhere there was a sense of an ancient, magical other-world — “the last Shangri-La” or magical as a good friend described it. Equability and environmental sustainability are the foundations of Bhutan’s economic development and Buddhism is the foundation of a philosophy that embraces the protection of nature. We met with the Prime Minister, his Ministers, and the Dean of the National University.
Eventually we received a call from the King saying that he wished to meet with us on our last night. We dressed in their national costume, the Goh, which is always matched with long dark socks and shiny shoes.
Everywhere we went John’s work at Green School was well known, he was venerated as a great leader and treated with love and respect (as we all were). We heard impossible and remarkable stories from quietly spoken and thoughtful Bhutanese leaders. By law every member of government must have an undergraduate degree. The King had just returned from a trek to see his most far flung subjects; 20 days they walked through the mountains, sometimes traversing passes that were over 20,000 ft high.
with His Highness Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan
The former Education Minister trekked out to see the people and even designed a mobile education system that would follow the nomads as they moved collecting mushrooms. These special mushroom look like petrified caterpillars and we found out they actually were- during the caterpillar’s growth it consumes the mushroom and dies in the process, leaving the stalk of the mushroom and the whole caterpillar intact. A kilogram of of this fungi (known as Cordyceps) is worth $20,000 but they can only be obtained from the highest lands in Bhutan .
There are so many stories and I could write a lot more. Bhutan taught me that the green world we dream of is possible and it already exists- 7,000 ft above the sea between India and China.
After 7 days none of us wanted to leave this mystical place. I will be forever grateful to John for inviting me along.”
— Craig Tinsdale
More photos from the trip:
We went to the National Craft School. These kids are doing these repousse things that are so good. The kids were freaking out looking at this John Hardy bracelet.
We went up to look at the Bhutanese mountains- check out these roads.
Traditionally the Bhutanese clothes were held together with two pins.
The Bhutanese art is riotous. (More on the phallus imagery on Wikipedia)
A testimonial to mud building. 300 years old and still standing.
Trash walk goes to Bhutan.
A thousand Buddhas.
The world’s largest sitting Buddha.
Everywhere there’s a million stupas. People bring them and put them in caves.