This morning around dawn, on Veteran’s Day, which also happens to be the birth anniversary of the fourth King of Bhutan, I turned an authentic Bhutanese prayer wheel in an unlikely place: on the campus of the University of Texas El Paso.
The entire school is built in the distinctive style of the Kingdom’s architecture. If that wasn’t strange enough, the connection dates back to 1914, long before anyone from Texas could have imagined stepping foot in Bhutan (since the tiny country wasn’t officially open to outsiders until the 1970s.)
I’ve written about this surreal connection in my book, Radio Shangri-la, and before on this blog, so I won’t detail the interesting history here, but my fascination with this bizarre and wonderful bit of pre-globalization globalization never ends. This week, I’m on the campus of UTEP to speak to a number of classes and to deliver a talk at the museum tomorrow night at 5pm.
Here are some photos (and if you’d like to see some videos, please click here.) The first one below is of an authentic Bhutanese temple that was constructed on the National Mall in DC for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 2008, and was recently “re-incarnated” here on the campus in El Paso. Surrounded by dozens of examples of the Tex-Mex interpretation of Bhutan’s architecture.
And if you share my fascination with all of this and would like to know more, there’s also this short story available on Amazon.