Bhutan is a tiny country in Asia, nestled in a little crease between two giant nations, India and China. It has been called “The Kingdom in the Clouds”, because it is hidden high in the Himalayan Mountains, the world’s tallest. It is a country of mostly simple farmers, with dark green forests, pure crisp air, rushing white rivers, and bright emerald valleys.
Bhutan’s favorite sport is archery: shooting arrows from a bow at a distant target. The young men of Bhutan root for their own archery champions. They love to shoot target practice every chance they get.
Tenzin was one of these young archers. He was ten and lived outside a large town called Paro. In truth, he wasn’t a very good archer. But Tenzin loved archery more than anything, and he yearned to become better.
One day in late summer, Tenzin took a walk into Paro village to try to join the Paro Junior Archery Club. He turned down a narrow dusty street and came upon a small plain shop with a white paper sign taped to the front window that read “Paro Junior Archery Club.” When Tenzin entered, there were roughly ten young men lounging inside, playing cards and reading magazines. They all looked older than Tenzin.
A tall, slim young man noticed Tenzin and walked over to greet him. “Hello, my friend,” he said, “how may I help you?”
Tenzin felt a bit bashful but managed to say, “My name is Tenzin. I live on the other side of town near the river. I would really like to join the club. I want to learn to be a better archer.”
The tall boy smiled. “I think that would be fine, Tenzin,” he said. “My name is Jigme.Why don’t we take a walk to see you shoot?”
Fifteen minutes later, Tenzin, Jigme, and four other boys reached an open field. There, the boys planted a small wooden plank into the ground as a target. Then they walked 300 feet away from it. Jigme now said, “Tenzin, when you are ready, you may take your shot.”
Tenzin grasped his bow and fitted it with a well-worn arrow. His hands shook with nerves. He pulled back the bowstring and then released. The arrow fell off the bowstring and landed harmlessly at his feet.
Jigme, a kind young man, tried to lift Tenzin’s spirits. “Don’t worry, Tenzin, you’re bound to improve. You’re still a member of the club, and you can stop by anytime.” Tenzin managed a weak smile, thanked Jigme and the boys, and started to walk home. He looked down at the ground all the way, feeling very low.
The next day after school, Tenzin walked to the edge of a field near his home and shot arrows at a wooden plank for two hours. After three weeks of this archery practice every single day, his arms were feeling stronger, and his arrows were hitting the target more often–a lot more often!
In October came the annual Festival in Thimphu, Bhutan’s largest and capital city. It was brilliant. People were everywhere, dressed in their best colorful clothes, entertained by dancers, magicians, acrobats, and clowns. A part of the festival was a contest between the two best archery clubs in Bhutan: Paro and its rival, Thimphu.
The contest began at 12 noon first the Juniors and then the Men. The first junior archer from the Thimphu team took his shot, a direct hit, and the contest was underway.
As it happened, Tenzin got a chance to shoot the very last arrow because the contest was all even on the score. This worried Jigme! All the boys on Tenzin’s team liked him very much. It was just that most of them didn’t think Tenzin was a very good shot.
Tenzin came up to the shooting line with his modest bow. If he hit the target his team would win.
He fit an arrow on his bow and carefully drew it back. The big crowd was absolutely silent as it watched Tenzin release the arrow. The only sound heard was the whizzing of the arrow as it sliced through the air. Then came another sound THWACK! as Tenzin’s arrow struck its target, exactly in the middle.
The crowd sat silent for an instant. Then the people in the crowd who were from Paro began to scream and cheer. Tenzin’s Paro Junior Team had won!
Tenzin thought that this was the greatest day of his life. He felt grateful that his hard work was so well rewarded, and couldn’t wait for the next tournament.