Under the Holy Lake: A Memoir of Eastern Bhutan.


280 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography
ISBN 978-0-88864-492-3
DDC 954.98





Reviewed by Lori A. Dunn

Lori A. Dunn is a ESL teacher, instructional designer, and freelance
writer in New Westminster, B.C.


In the late 1980s, Ken Haigh spent two years in the remote Himalayan village of Khaling, teaching in the local school. In Under the Holy Lake, he shares his experiences, his knowledge of the country and its culture, and the personal insights he achieved. The first three chapters recount his quasi-accidental journey to his teaching appointment in Bhutan, capturing the scene, the people, and a taste of the school life. In Chapter 4, “An Accidental Area,” Haigh succinctly explains the history and current political situation in this heretofore overlooked “country of mountains.” This historical rendering could easily have become dry, but the author maintains an engaging educational style throughout.


But Under the Holy Lake is not only the socio-political description of a teacher, it is also the very humorous account of a young man experiencing a culture vastly different than his own. In Chapter 5, Haigh recounts his comical search for the ruins of the legendary King Dewa, complete with a growing entourage and an impromptu picnic. Chapter 8 becomes a bit more serious, as he describes the very real culture shock he underwent during his two-year sojourn in Bhutan.


Throughout this engaging memoir, Haigh’s personality is a calm foil against which the people and places he experiences are clearly depicted. While some of his students in the beginning may have thought he was “dangerous” because of his beard, he finds his place among them for a time, and leaves the reader with a lasting impression of a fascinating country, its people, and its place in the world.


Haigh, Ken., “Under the Holy Lake: A Memoir of Eastern Bhutan.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 19, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/27532.