Teacher Blog of the Week: I’ve Been Adopted

For most of our teachers, heading to Bhutan can be a big change. Luckily, through the amazing support of their colleagues and neighbours and in the spirit of Bhutanese hospitality, our teachers are welcomed and looked after, learning the in’s and the out’s of Bhutanese life and making lasting friendships, helping them become comfortable and at home.
“My personal definition of a family is a group of people who care for the well being of each other. Thus, I have somehow made my very own Bhutanese family!”
Sabrina with her new family. Photo Credit: Sabrina in Bhutan.
As part of Teacher Blog of the Week, read more about Sabrina finding a warm welcome within her community of Bumthang in I’ve Been Adopted.

Stories from the Field: Lisa in Kanglung

Over and over, we hear from all our teachers that the people of Bhutan, their students, their colleagues and their neighbors, are what makes Bhutan one of the best places to be. The friends that they make and the connections they share is incredible. The students, in particular, are what gets many of our teachers through their busy busy days.

This Story from the Field, comes from Lisa when she was stationed in Kanglung. 
“Back in February, I moved my newspaper club from Orkeeswa to Kanglung Primary School. The club is a lot bigger – 22 students ranging from grade 4 to 6 – and there’s a lot more hand holding, but overall it’s been a success with the inaugural issue of the KPS Observer having come out in June. And so, with a new semester, comes a new issue (or two, which is my hope).

There are around a handful of students in the club who have real reporting talent, who take initiative, think of their own story ideas, come to club excited with stories to hand in. And there’s one student in particular, Kiran, who’d probably make a better reporter than some adults who write for Bhutanese newspapers. He’s a kid after my own heart.

This morning, the new PE teacher arrives. Her name is Rika and she’s from Japan. As I walked down to morning assembly, I thought, ‘Perfect. The newspaper club can do a story on the new PE teacher.’ I walked to my normal spot in front of 6A, my class. After morning prayer and meditation, the principal stepped forward to introduce Rika. At the start of his introduction, Kiran, who stands in the front of the 6A boys line, leans toward me and whispers, “Ma’am, we can interview her for the newspaper.” My heart soared.”


Read more about the student newspaper, The KPS Observer, here, here, and here.

Bhutan Photo of the Week: Cleaning Campaign Day

This week’s Photo of the Week comes from Sarah Carlin, who is teaching at Bjishong Middle Secondary School in Gasa.  In describing this photo Sarah said, ” It is of the Signye(Lion) House on cleaning campaign day. Last Saturday afternoon the whole school went to clean up different parts of the surrounding area (this was part of international water day and TB day which both were this past week.) Signye House (who I was assigned to monitor) helped clean up litter from nearby Damji village.”

Do you have a photo of Bhutan that you would like to share on our blog? Send your best snaps to info@bhutancanada.org. Don’t forget to include photo credit information.

Teacher Blog of the Week: Sick Day

This week, we thought we’d hi-light an unavoidable occurrence in Bhutan…occasionally getting sick. Ian writes about his loss of voice and the difficulties that brings in teaching a classroom of students! He also writes about the new choice of haircuts and the wonder of having the Internet (or “Intermittent”).

New Haircuts in Rangjung. Photo Credit: Vicky and Ian.

“My voice was almost completely gone yesterday…In class I pretended to search Dorji’s bag looking for my lost voice and was disappointed when it didn’t come to light, he was protesting his innocence throughout!”

Read the rest here at Sick Day.

Teacher Interview: A Discussion with Nick Morris

Nick Morris spent the last two years in Khaling, Eastern Bhutan, at Jigme Sherubling Higher Secondary School, a boarding school established by Father Mackey in 1978. Nick was happy to chat with us and reminisce about his experience living and teaching in Bhutan.
Tell us a little bit about what your life in Bhutan was like.
Life in Bhutan was unlike anything I ever could have imagined. The people, the environment, the lifestyle – all were unlike anything I have ever encountered before. I was more a part of my community in Khaling than I have ever been before. Whether it was at school with my colleagues or in the town, or even traveling across the country, the people of Bhutan have a way of making you feel special and close to their hearts. No matter where I went I was well taken care of and met new friends from all walks of life. Work was both exhausting and exciting, trying to adapt to a new education system and seeing the fruits of my labour at the end of the year. My free time was filled mostly with conversation with friends, long walks along the mountain roads, soccer games, hikes and nights out at the village restaurant. Day to day life was tough, with chores taking up more time than anyone wants them to. All in all, my life in Bhutan was simple and it allowed me a peace of mind that I have never felt before.
Having spent two years in Bhutan, what do you think will be your most enduring memory of your time in the field?
My most enduring memory of Bhutan will definitely be the people. My friends became like family. My students felt like friends. My community was my home, and the peoples’ faces, smiles and laughs will stay with me for years to come. It’s easy to describe the physical beauty of Bhutan, but next to impossible to describe it’s people; you have to meet a Bhutanese to really get it. I’m still in close contact with several of my friends in Bhutan, and can’t wait for an opportunity to see them again.
What was the most challenging aspect of living in Bhutan?
The most challenging aspect of living in Bhutan for me was learning to work within the Bhutanese educational system. The Ministry of Education is trying to improve teacher accountability, and that means paperwork and documentation of everything. Simply put, there is a lot to do, sometimes so much so that it isn’t actually possible to do it all. Learning to cope with that kind of stress and accept things that I might have felt were unnecessary was a challenge for me, especially as it encroached on teacher morale in the school at times. That being said, teachers in Bhutan are so hard-working and deal with the stress of their jobs so well. Teaching is not an easy job anywhere, but when you consider all of the challenges facing students in Bhutan (i.e. learning subjects in their third or fourth language; facing life-altering board exams), teaching is such a demanding job and my colleagues all try their best to ensure that students have every opportunity to succeed.
How does it feel to be back in Canada?
Being back in Canada is tough. I question my decision to come home on a regular basis. I miss my life in Bhutan and I miss my friends. Over the two years I was away, life in Canada kept moving for my friends and family. When I think about where I am now, in some ways it feels like Bhutan never happened, like it is still 2009 and things are just normal. But then I remember all that has happened in the last two years, how much I have changed and the people I left behind here two years ago have changed. I’m not entirely sure that I belong here anymore – my eyes have been opened to a world that I didn’t really know existed; but at the same time, I’m not quite sure I belong in Bhutan either. So I’m just taking it day by day at the moment, trying to find my footing and decide where it is that I belong now. I haven’t really taken a significant step in any direction yet. I still feel reluctant to do that. This is a bigger, scarier world than the one I was living in for so long, so right now I feel most comfortable sitting back and taking my time rediscovering it.

Bhutan Photo of the Week: Birds of Bhutan

Today’s Photo of the Week comes from Vicky and Ian who captured a beautiful shot of a juvenile White-rumped Vulture, a very rare bird and on the list of protected wild animals. Bhutan has a forest coverage of around 65% and houses over 650 species of birds.
Don’t forget to send us your photos of Bhutan so we can share them on the Blog! Send them to info@bhutancanada.org with your information.

Teacher Blog of the Week: Just Another Day in the Himalaya

Tara & Martin in National Dress
Photo Credit: Martin’s Version

This week’s Teacher Blog of the Week comes to us from Martin Thorn, who is teaching English in Grades 5 to 8 at Wangdicholing Lower Secondary School in Bumthang. The post “Just Another Day in the Himalaya” introduces readers to Martin and Tara’s day-to-day life in Bumthang.

“I’m really feeling part of my surroundings this morning as I walk to school. In national costume, I’m dressed like half the people I see walking or driving: many walking towards me are field workers and shop owners, the rest are students. Some make eye contact and we greet each other with “Kuzoo Sangpo” or “Kuzampo” (slurred version), though the students in groups mostly turn and bow to me in unison: “Good morning, Sir”, their beautiful quasi-English accents ringing in the crisp morning air.”

Read more here…

Stories from the Field: Tech Support

Today’s Story from the Field comes to us from Julian, a BCF teacher from the Class of 2011 who taught at Bartsham Primary School.
Prior to my arrival in Bhutan I was not able to contact my principal as he had no electronic contact and I presumed no computer. Upon my arrival at the Bartsham Primary school I noticed that my principal, Pema Norbu, had an old desktop computer in his office. It was hardly switched on and when it was it was mostly being used for transcribing Dzongkha text to be used in his Dzongkha language class, or for the local Trashigang Dzong officials that he visited monthly.
The IT situation changed quickly when he took an interest in learning more about computers and what they could accomplish. One day he showed up to work with a brand new lap-top and called me into the office to set it up and get him started on it. I set him up with a Gmail account, taught him how to send, receive, save messages and how to attach, send and save files. At that point I had  been frequently bringing my digital camera to school , so he assigned me as the school photographer and I began documenting major activities, celebrations, GNH gardening and school clean-up projects, and of the course the daily antics of the students and staff.
Having already a progressive vision of what the Bartsham Primary school should represent, the principal was invited to attend a “GNH and the School Environment” conference in Paro.  For this conference he would have to submit a 20 page report on what Bartsham Primary school had accomplished in terms of fulfilling the school’s commitment to GNH and the environment, while also presenting a synthesized power point presentation to the lecturers and attending guests. With my assistance we worked together to refine, edit, and develop a comprehensive 20 page report that included in-set photos, and a dynamic power point presentation with accompanying photos that highlighted the key components.
My principal returned from the conference with a big smile on his face, as he was awarded a certificate for his ongoing work and Bartsham Primary school won first place in the national  “GNH and the School Environment” contest. He also returned with a brand new HP scanner under his arm, which became the next IT project. In addition, Bartsham Primary school had an honorable mention in the local Kuensel newspaper as one of Bhutan’s top ten primary schools. He is now about to purchase a new digital camera to add to his IT repertoire, and Barthsam Primary school has a plan to produce computer generated report cards for the children at the end of the school year.

Winner of Jamie Zeppa’s Book Contest Announced

Congratulations Peyton!In conjunction with our Blog Contest, Peyton posted in the comments, became a fan of our Facebook page, followed us on Twitter and even tweeted about us on her own page. She has won a signed copy of Jamie Zeppa’s “Beyond the Sky and the Earth: a Journey into Bhutan“.

In response to our question, “If you could travel to Bhutan for only one day what would you like to see?“; Peyton, who has travelled to Bhutan in the past, stated “If I could go back to Bhutan, I would love to travel farther east into the more remote regions of the country. But honestly, you can’t pick just one thing. Being in Bhutan is amazing and seeing any part of it is awe-inspiring!” We couldn’t agree more!

Photo Credit: Huffington Post.