A sense of place is a feeling that makes one feel at home and thereby at peace whenever he or she is in a particular area or think of one. It is the first impression or a deep sense of recognition that is deeply rooted in our memories. It is a feeling of happiness, and a sense of safety, an expression of endearment toward a particular place (Cross 2001).
Before I travelled to Perth for my studies, I used to work in Thimphu, though I was born and raised in a small village called Wamling in central Bhutan. Although Thimphu offers modern facilities and infrastructure, it is only back in the village that I feel entirely at home. It's here I get a sense of peace and experience a sense of belongingness; it's where I can genuinely be myself.
Streams surround the village from three sides, and 75 houses are built on the periphery while rows of paddy fields fill the inner area. The village is known for its red rice. People live close to the forest, and during summer, they go to the woods to collect mushrooms, wild ferns, and other edible plants.
Socially, people of Wamling are connected. A fellow villager's grief of losing someone dear to him becomes a cause of high anxiety for others in the village and would mourn for days. Likewise, everyone comes to celebrate another fellow villager's son, who did well in some singing contests. Such is the feeling of home that everyone is there behind you.
Culturally, once a year, people partake in a five-day festival known as Chothpa. It is an offering of our first harvest to the local deities in gratitude for protecting our land from disasters and blessing us with the excellent yield for the year. During the festival, a group of abled men performs mask dances while women dance and sing to entertain fellow villagers. The whole village comes alive during such times. Such tradition was passed down from our ancestors, and we keep the tradition alive so that we are in a position to hand it down to our future generations. I can remember being super excited as a child to partake in the festivities.
Environmentally, the village has an unwritten code of conduct that guides the people while dealing with the environment. Our lakes and rivers are considered sacred and polluting or making noises near them are considered sacrilegious believed to invite misfortunes and sickness. Mountains are looked up as the citadels of deities and are unclimbed unless necessary. Killing animals is socially restricted, and our diet consists mostly of freshly picked vegetables from the kitchen garden and plenty of grains that we grow on our farms.
Economically, Wamling may not boast of large manufacturing plants that produce food on a massive scale. But the villagers grow enough for the households, and there is hardly any need to buy food or vegetables from the market. Self-sufficiency is something our government stresses on, but in Wamling, people practice it every day.
Albrecht, G.A. 2010. ‘Solastalgia and the Creation of New Ways of Living’, in Pretty, J. and
Pilgrim S., (eds), Nature and Culture: Rebuilding Lost Connections, London, Earthscan, pp. 217-234.
Cross, Jennifer. 2001. ‘What is Sense of Place?’ Paper presented at the 12th Headwaters
Conference, Western State College, November 2-4, 2001.