« The Geezer Files


by Terry Veldhouse

At Washington Crossing we have a community garden project with about 60 plots that are used by people from WC and neighbors who rent a space. In 2013 there were some plots left over so I wanted to find a few people to use them up. We have a bus stop out front that is peopled with various nationalities, so I visited there one day to see if anyone wanted to do some gardening. The only thing anyone could tell me was LSS. This I interpreted as Lutheran Social Services.

The end result of discussions with the LSS was that they had some people who would like to garden living across the street from WC. That is how I got to know Bandan.

Bandan is 54, but looks to be about 42. Hes about 510 and 150 pounds, black straight hair, and very dark (at least in the gardening season) skin. This year, 2014, Bandan has enough English to tell me that he is from Bhutan, so being a computer literate Geezer, I went to find out something about Bandans homeland.

Bhutan is one of those little countries that border the north edge of India and the south edge of China. It has less than a million people who live in a country that is mostly Himalayan mountains or the valleys between them. It is a democracy since 2006 and before that had a King who was in cahoots with the British, who were in cahoots with the Indians (real Indians). Bhutan is the only country in the world that measures Gross National Happiness instead of Gross National Product. These happy people did not allow TV or Internet until 1999.

Most Bhutanis are Buddhists, but some are Hindu, which, apparently, is not good. In the late 90s, the King and friends decided that there were getting to be too many Hindu people. They were poor and appeared to have children at an alarming rate. It looked like a threat to Happiness. The solution to this problem was to violently harass the Hindu, seize their land and possessions, and force them to flee to refugee camps in Nepal (the Top of the World). Bandan and his family (wife, three kids, grown, one grandkid) lived in one of these camps for over a decade until the Lutherans found them and brought them to America in 2013. They became neighbors to WC.

As Bandan lives here longer, he will learn more English, so he can tell me more. What I know now is that he likes to garden, and probably doesnt watch TV, although I am guessing that he knows what it is. He was a farmer before the bad times, and he has been living on a pile of rocks in Nepal for a long time. Every evening he comes over and works his little plot and usually he helps others too. Elwood, who is nearly blind, says that one evening he was cleaning weeds from his onions and all of a sudden there was a pair of black hands in there helping. And Bandan isnt even a Lutheran, yet.

He is a Nepali Bhutaneze American.

Washington Crossing is Sioux Falls' premier independent senior living community.