The next morning, James and I went to meet with JP and First Consul Officer Matthew Asada. I forgot to bring my passport. Don’t forget your passport when going to US buildings abroad! (We left Jeremy and Zoë sleeping in a darkened room, which, combined with my ongoing sluggishness, didn’t help my organizational abilities.) When I asked about expectations from their end, they both emphasized the importance of self-reliance. “There aren’t many places left where you can go as a Fulbrighter or a Peace Corps volunteer and really vanish off the grid,” said Matthew. “Bhutan is off the grid.” JP stressed the importance of adaptability but also urged us to make sure we could meet our basic needs. “Let us know early rather than late of any difficulties so that we can help,” he said. When I asked for specifics, he mentioned housing: “You have to have a housing arrangement that works for you,” he said, “bearing in mind that they will probably have gone to some effort and will be offering you the best they can.” Medical needs were another issue to stay on top of. JP mentioned that there were another two Fulbrighters associated with the new law school (one is German by birth, a first-generation American, with some complicated backstory) as well as Bill Long, the regional Fulbright research scholar. JP and Matthew asked for responsiveness—quick replies to emails—but otherwise seemed mostly concerned that we should have a good experience. I think public diplomacy works on the basis of mutual happiness and local concern for each other’s well-being.
In the afternoon, I left the others resting (and James repacking to try to meet DrukAir’s carry on weight limitations) and walked through the rain to meet with Neeraj Goswami, who organizes the regional travel grant (“most people want to go to Sri Lanka,” he said, anticipating my own desire) and the regional Fulbright conference (in February or May of each year—last year in Kolkata, this year probably back in Delhi). “I have learned so much about my own country from Fulbrighters,” he said. “They are interested in so many things I never knew about my own land.”
At dinner, we were flagged down by the hotel’s food and beverage manager and whisked up to a restaurant on the hotel’s third floor. “Not expensive!” he promised us. “The best pasta anywhere!” We were almost the only people in the restaurant, and (despite my suspicions of gnocchi), the food was indeed delicious. At the manager’s request, the waiter played an instrumental cover of a song that was hauntingly familiar—we eventually placed it as my mom’s theme song, “Can you feel the love tonight?” It felt like a blessing from her on our expedition.