Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Sort of Homecoming

Dia Dhuit agus fáilte roimh go léir!

My name is Jamie Walsh. I am an Irish graduate student at Harvard University studying public policy. This summer, I will be working as a short-term consultant for the National Planning Commission (GNHC) of the Royal Government of Bhutan. 

The GNHC is the central coordinating body of the government that engages in the country's mid to long-term planning. It also controls budget allocations and approves priorities for all ministries and agencies in the government. I will be focusing on building the capacity and deliberative processes of local governance institutions with an emphasis on the political empowerment of women in rural communities.

Me in Bhutanese dress, 1990

A long road home

Twenty three years have passed since I last set foot in Bhutan, the remote Himalayan Kingdom nestled between China and India. Since then, the magical beauty of the Land of the Thunder Dragon has run as a constant thread of imagination through my childhood. 

Me and my Mom in Bhutan, Summer 1989

Early memories of sitting with my mother, looking through carefully crafted photo albums of my parents' time in Bhutan, seemed to bring me not only to a faraway land, but somewhere situated in a distant time. The buildings, the clothes, the mountains, the dances, the places of worship, the music, the everyday practices all stood in stark contrast to my experiences growing up in Ireland. 

My parents with the Jesuit Priest Father Mackey who married them during their time in Bhutan

Before I was born, my parents spent a number of years working in educational development in Bhutan. The years they spent there were undoubtedly formative. They were married there. They had the opportunity to take on important projects there. They made long lasting friendships there. When I think of Bhutan, I think of my family. Its very idea has come to be synonymous with my parents' values. Through them, it has made me who I am today. And yet, apart from a six week stint as a baby, I have never been there.

This summer, thanks to the lovely people at the Women and Public Policy Program and the generosity of the funders of the Cultural Bridge Fellowship, after the long journey of growing up, I will be making a homecoming of sorts. 

I look forward to sharing my stories with you!

Jamie Sonam Walsh

The Walsh abode, 1987