Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan– Jamie Zeppa
When I set out on reading a book about Bhutan, I’m not sure if I was even familiar with the name of the country. I know for sure, I knew not one fact about it. And, like I said before, I’m most excited to read about places I’m so unfamiliar with. So this was an exciting book to start.
Enter Bhutan. A small landlocked country nestled between India and China, and also quite close to Bangladesh and Nepal. This country has been largely closed off to the rest of the world throughout history and has very deep Buddhist ties. (Which by the way, I’m super fascinated with because it makes so much sense.)
All of these characteristics lay the background for the Bhutan Jamie Zeppa decides to journey into as a foreigner teaching English. The book describes her time over three years teaching younger kids as well as at a college. Zeppa talks about the struggle of what it takes to live in a country so different and disconnected to her home of Canada. The characters are vibrant and real. The background is beautiful and story keeps you turning the pages.
But most of all, this book makes you question how much change you’d be able to adapt to. Of course moving to a new place, means adapting to a new language, different food, diverse cultural customs, and altered communication with home. All of this change can be challenging for someone. But it goes a step further for Zeppa in Bhutan. The first home she moves into has mud floors, and lacks electricity and heat. Even in the winter. At first, this is culture shock at its finest and Zeppa debates leaving. These things, along with the many other differences Bhutan has to offer got me thinking how I’d react to an environment so different than what I’m used to. Could I handle living in a place with no electricity and no heat? Could I go months without talking to my family? Would I be comfortable knowing that mudslides could destroy the roads and I could be stuck in a village without anyway to leave for weeks? I honestly don’t know.
But somehow through all of this, it still made me want to buy a ticket. And, that’s why Zeppa’s book is a perfect example of why I decided to set out on this literary journey. She writes about travel in a way that’s so realisitc. Traveling isn’t always supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to expose you to new things and challenge you to better yourself.
Something that was touched up on in the Zeppa’s book, was how tourism in Bhutan has been very limited. I decided to see if that was still true today, and it is. There are limited flights in and out of the country, and all visits must be done through a government licensed tour operator. In addition, there is a daily tariff per person of $250 USD. There are some additional daily charges depending on some other factors, but expect to pay at least an additional $30. For a standard 21 day trip, this means you’d be paying at least $5,880 USD in fees. That’s a huge additional expense for a trip.
All in all, I’d definitely recommend this book. Although I’d love to visit beautiful Bhutan, it’s not on the top of my list due to the large tourism tariff. But maybe one day.
If you’re interested in some of Bhutan’s food, check out the links page, or check out Anthony Bourdain’s episode on Bhutan!