Teacher Orientation: Dzongkha Basics

The BCF Class of 2012 has now been in Bhutan for almost a week! As orientation progresses, one important topic to be covered is learning Dzongkha.

For those of you who are scratching your heads, Dzongkha is the national language of Bhutan. And, even though the language of instruction schools in Bhutan is English, it never hurts for our teachers to have a few Dzonghka words and phrases up their sleeves.

Interestingly, Dzonghka is only one of many languages in Bhutan. For centuries, the different valleys of Bhutan were isolated from each other by torrential rivers and deep gorges. As a result, most of these valleys developed their own dialects. At present, there are about 13 different dialects spoken in Bhutan.

There are, however, three major languages in Bhutan: Dzongkha, Sharchopkha and Nepali. Dzongkha is mainly spoken in the west, Sharchopkha in the east, and Nepali in the south.

In its spoken form, Dzonghka exhibits some similarity to Tibetan, while the alphabet is exactly the same (but uses a different style of scripts).

Translation: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Below are a few key phrases that our new teachers will want to memorize before heading out to the field:

Greeting: Kuzoo Zangpo La (can be used all day)

Reply: Kuzoo Zangpo La (La is a word for respect, similar to Sir in English)

How are you?: Gadaybay Zhu Ga?

I am fine: Legshom (pronounced Layshom)

Thank You: Kaadinchey La

What is your name?: Choey gi Ming ga chi mo?

My name is _____: Ngayi Ming _____ een

Where is the toilet?: Chhabsang ga ti mo?

How much is the cost of this item?: Di gi gong ga dem chi mo?

Please reduce the cost a bit: Gong Aa tsi phab nang.

OK I will buy it: Toob, Nga gi nyo ge.

See ya later: Shoo lay log jay ge.

Sit sit: Zhu Zhu

Stand up: Yar long

Teacher Orientation: National Dress

BCF Teacher Andrea in her kira

Getting outfitted for national dress is an exciting part of teacher orientation in Bhutan. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, national dress is an important part of Bhutanese identity and something that BCF teachers fully embrace once they get to Bhutan.

For women, the traditional national dress is made up of colourful blouses over which are folded a large piece of rectangular cloth called a kira, creating an ankle length dress. A short silk jacket, or toego, may be worn over the kira. Because traditional kira are quite difficult to tie, many women opt to wear the half-kira as their day-to-day dress, with the full-length kira reserved for special occasions. Luckily for our BCF teachers, there is even such thing as a “cheater” kira, which fastens with snaps and hooks instead of having to be tied!

Men wear a gho, which is best described as a full length robe, fastened with a belt. One of our new teachers, Dave, describes the challenges and benefits of the gho in a recent blog post entitled “The Moment You’ve All Been Waiting For…The Gho!” Dave remarks that he is particularly fond of the gho’s large pocket, which he says makes him “basically a marsupial.”

Here’s a great picture Dave recently posted on his blog of himself in his new gho!

BCF teacher Dave showing off his new gho!

For more info on national dress, check out this post. For some fun, watch this great video.

BCF Teachers Arrive in Bhutan!

After months of preparation, the BCF Class of 2012 has finally arrived in Bhutan! Today is the first day of a 10 day orientation in the capital city of Thimphu, after which begins a multi-day road trip across the country to drop the teachers off at their new schools.

Orientation is an important time for new teachers – it’s a time to acclimitize to a new country, a new elevation and a new culture, a time to get to know the Thimphu office staff, a time to bond with fellow teachers, many of whom will be sources of support throughout the year, and a time to stock up on all of the supplies needed for a year in the field.

Although we can’t experience orientation alongside our new teachers, we thought it might be fun to share some of the topics they will be discussing and experiences they will be having over the two weeks. We’ll begin by introducing you to the city where they are all staying, the capital of Thimphu.

Dubbed “The Happiness Capital of the World,” Thimphu is both the capital city and the largest city in Bhutan, with a population of roughly 80,000 people.  It is situated in the western central part of the country, approximately one hour drive from Paro airport.

View Larger Map

Thimphu also serves as the political capital of Bhutan, with the National Assembly of the newly formed parliamentary democracy of Bhutan residing in the city, as well as Dechencholing Palace, the official residence of His Majesty, the King.

Local agriculture, livestock and tourism serve as large contributors to the country’s GNP, making the Thimphu region an economic hub in Bhutan.

Although Thimphu is a major stop for most tourists to Bhutan, until recently, they did not have a tourist map. Fortunately for them, a young Canadian (and friend of BCF!) named Andrea, offered up her skills to create one. The map highlights main points of interest in Thimphu and can be used by both visitors and locals alike.

Tourist Map of Thimphu

You can read more about the process of creating the map HERE

For the next ten days, the new BCF class of teachers will call Thimphu home as they take language classes, review the Bhutanese curriculum standards, and meet with various ministries and government officials. Even when they have departed for their respective placements, Thimphu will continue to serve as an important point of contact, and source for luxuries like peanut butter, chocolate and rolled oats!

Class of 2012 Profile: Noorin Shivji

Today we’re ecstatic to announce our last addition to BCF, Canadian teacher Noorin Shivji, who will be living in Punakha and teaching at Khuruthang MSS.

Born in Canada, raised in Kenya, and having taught in China, Pakistan and Northern Canada, Noorin has been able to explore various cultures and experience the uniquely human aspect that education has to offer. She believes that education takes place in each breath that an individual takes.
In her more recent adventures, Noorin has been involved in teaching and working in several Anishnaawbe communities, which has afforded her the opportunity to learn Indigenous skills and participate in activities beyond her imagination; ice fishing, rabbit snaring, and weathering -53 degree weather.

She is looking forward to teaching in Bhutan, which has a curriculum etched in preservation and progress, and cannot wait to share and learn in the nature and nurture of life’s synchronicities that global society has to offer!
In Bhutan, Noorin will be teaching at Khuruthang Middle Secondary School and living in Punakha. She looks forward to shopping at the Punakha market, biking on the valley’s trails and exploring other parts of the country.

Welcome Noorin!

Class of 2012 Profile: Ashley Huffmon

Ashley Huffmon with father, Donald.

Today we’re excited to introduce our latest BCF teacher from Freeburg, Illinois who is heading out to Kanglung PS in T/gang. 

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”- Gandhi. When Ashley began to think about this expression, she reflected on how she wanted to live her life. She recently took a trip to Quito, Ecuador that changed her life. She  worked at a local non-profit school deep in the heart of Quito (San Marino School) with children who live a level of poverty she had never witnessed. This experience enabled her to realize that making lifelong connections with these diverse individuals can change their lives as well as hers. 

Ashley graduated from Mckendree University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education in the spring of 2011. After visiting Ecuador, she knew that the only way to start the next phase of her life is to help others, while continuing to improve through personal growth. Working with students and children for the past eight years as a tutor, mentor, and recreational aid has shaped her views that she wants to help future generations.

While teaching abroad, Ashley plans to further her knowledge in educational studies and become immersed in a whole new culture. While teaching, she plans to volunteer her help, knowledge, and pure determination to be of assistance to children and adults who are in need. She believes by immersing herself in this culture for a year will not only help others to further understand the culture and community, but will also help her career to open her mind and heart to others around the world. Ashley believes that any person in a leadership position should have an open mind and love what they do.


Welcome Ashley!

Class of 2012 Profile: Dave Green

Introducing Dave Green, a teacher joining us from the UK, specialising in physics and chemistry.
Dave grew up in Southport in the North of England where he lived a life of mischief and imaginary adventures until he went to Nottingham University. There he studied Chemistry & Molecular Physics, learnt to play guitar and found out that the world was bigger than he had previously thought. 
After a stint of working in London he departed for the East and, following a chance encounter with a grumpy guitar-genius, he set off on an adventure that would turn into Music of Maninjau, his first novel, published in 2007. More scribbles followed, as well of lots of songwriting, gigs, some web-design and eventually the beginning of his teaching career and the first practical steps towards getting him to Bhutan.
Dave has taught Science at Chepstow School for three fantastic years, specialising in Physics at 16-18yrs. It was difficult to leave a great job, but being in Bhutan is an ambition he has held for more than 15 years. Dave recently said:
“I can’t wait to finally get the chance to live in Bhutan and am looking forward to getting stuck in to my teaching job in Pakshikha MSS. I’m fascinated by the Bhutanese culture, am really excited about the friends and colleagues I’m going to meet, and am curious to see what it will be like being immersed in a culture that is at once very different to the one I’m used to, and at the same time so appealing to me in so many ways. It’s going to be an interesting time!”
Welcome Dave!

Class of 2012 Profile: Iman Mefleh

A warm welcome to new BCF teacher, Iman Mefleh, who will be heading to Rukubji PS in Wangdue.


A product of the Minnesota winter wonderland, Iman was born in a snowstorm in the great city of Minneapolis, Minnesota. She grew up in a Lebanese-Scandinavian-American household filled with siblings and languages. She taught English as a second language to middle school students in Minneapolis before deciding to explore beyond the city she had known since birth.


Learning, connecting, and moving transports Iman through life, whether in biking, yoga practice, skiing, or the arts. An adventurer, a “yes”-sayer, Iman has enjoyed exploring the world and nature, travelling and camping in North America and abroad. She has the utmost excitement and curiosity for the opportunity to live in Bhutan as a teacher. 


To keep up to date on her Bhutanese adventure, visit http://imaninbhutan.blogspot.com.

Welcome Iman!

Class of 2012 Profile: Sabrina Soares

We’re happy to announce another new BCF teacher who will be heading out to Chumey MSS in Bumthang.
Sabrina was born and raised in northern California. She attended San Diego State University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Liberal Studies as well as her Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential. She also received her Master of Arts in Teacher Education at SDSU.

She has been working with students of all ages in multicultural settings for over ten years. Some of the various positions include a tutor, science instructor, P.E. teacher, and literacy support teacher. She chose to be an educator because she believes that education is the key to transforming the Earth and all its life forms for the good of humanity. 
Her hobbies include reading, writing, hiking, gardening, and dancing. Her favorite books are A New Earth, Anatomy of the Spirit, and Secrets of the Millionaire Mind. After watching a documentary on Bhutan, she fell in love with the country and looks forward to having a cultural exchange.
Welcome Sabrina!