When I arrived in Bhutan, I was met by Kuenga; no last name, just Kuenga. No doubt he was just as nervous meeting me as I was to meet him. I didn’t know what to expect from the tiny isolated kingdom, also known as the Last Shangri-La. Prior to arriving I had read the Bhutanese are quiet by nature and shy. I’m a bit reserved myself.
His broad smile, however, told me we would become fast friends, which is a good thing because we were due to be inseparable for three weeks. I was not with a group tour – only Kuenga, Puba (our driver) and myself.
Simply by being in Bhutan, I knew an experience of a lifetime awaited. What I didn’t expect was the reality that Kuenga and I would form an indescribable bond that would lead to a friendship that goes strong today. In fact, he calls me brother and tells me karma from our former lives has brought us together in this life. The idea of karma and connecting again in a new life is a life-changing idea for me. I accept it without question except I’m unsure I understand the notion.
The story really begins directly after leaving the airport. Kuenga asked if I would mind if we stopped by his home. He needed to leave something for his family. Of course, I agreed. I’m always curious to know people’s home life in foreign countries. When we arrived he invited me inside where I met his mother, wife, his brother (who is a Monk), and three children. I’ve never felt so welcome anywhere in my life. Here I am a stranger in their tiny home and they welcomed me as if I was a king. They were overly concerned about my comfort and offered tea and snacks.
After a bit, Kuenga mentioned we should leave to go to the Paro Festival on the grounds of the Dzong. I was happy to follow along tho’ the family wanted me to stay longer. I was the first foreigner in their home and definitely the first American to visit them. I’m unsure if I was simply a novelty or they genuinely enjoyed my company. My memory thinks the latter. We did eventually leave for the festival, though their welcome stayed in my mind.
Shortly after we arrived at the festival, I put my GoPro in Kuenga’s hands. I showed him how to operate it and gave him free reign with regard to what he captured. What could go wrong besides the one time the GoPro flew out the window of the moving car? Nothing. In fact, kudos to GoPro for making their cameras durable! I did not receive the camera back from Kuenga until the day I left the country, so I had no idea whatsoever what was captured.
When I returned home and began looking at the video clips, I saw a lot of Kuenga’s forehead as he leaned over at the beginning of each clip to be sure the camera had started recording. A video mash-up of Kuenga’s forehead could be quite fun. I also saw video footage of Bhutan I would never have captured myself. The video footage was clearly Bhutan through Bhutanese eyes which is touching and beautiful.
At the end of all of the video, Kuenga captured was the best clip of all. A video of his family at home. His brother, mother and children in their home showing us a genuine fascination with the camera. They had never seen a video camera before; nor had they ever been videotaped. I especially love when his mother picks up my book, Celebrating El Paso, and dances tho’ the entire scene makes me a wee bit emotional when I view it.
It wasn’t until a year or so later I learned that Kuenga had never held a video camera in his hands let alone used one. The moment I put the GoPro in Kuenga’s hands was also the first time he had ever held any type of camera. The notion of this astounded me. This is a great example of how westerners take the simplest “things” for granted.
The video includes an intimate look at a Bhutanese family in Paro Bhutan as they experience a video camera for the very first time.