Blog of the Week – Change

As our teachers begin to settle in to their new communities, homes, and school life, they each undergo a series of changes. Everything feels completely new while you have to learn how to do even simple things, such as purifying water, doing laundry by hand, and adjusting to slow (or temporarily non-existent) Internet.Everyone is different and how long it takes to adjust hugely varies. Luckily, BCF teachers form close connections from the very beginning and rely on one another for support, help, and encouragement. The friendliness and generosity of the local Bhutanese community and school colleagues and students also helps to make the transition a fun, albeit challenging, experience.

“Change can be hard! In our new home in Chumey we are learning new ways to do just about everything such as cooking, bathing, heating our home, shopping, communicating, purifying water etc. At times it can feel a bit overwhelming, but fortunately we are not alone in this experience and it has helped to have friends amongst our BCF crew to talk with and realise these ‘growing pains’ are normal.”

Celebrating Losar (Bhutanese New Year) with Principal and family
– lunch in the sun. Photo Credit: Andrea Chisholm

Read the rest of their entry and see some adorable and beautiful pictures at Change.

Stories from the Field – Newspaper Expression with Ashley Huffmon

Today’s story from the field comes from Ashley Huffmon, a BCF teacher in Bhutan who is currently in her second year at Kanglung Primary School in Trashigang. Ashley’s story gives us insight about her time as the English Literary in charge of the Kanglung Primary Observer newspaper. For more stories from Ashley, visit her blog Huffmon in the Himalayas!

 
Photo Credit: Ashley Huffmon
“The Kanglung Primary School newspaper was established in 2011, by a former BCF volunteer teacher, Miss Lisa Phu. It was a huge success in my school and immediately recognized by other schools and Bhutan’s national newspaper. So when I was asked if I wanted to continue the school magazine as the English Literary in charge, I instantly accepted the offer. 

 
I began with a literary club of 22 students in which the students chosen had very little or no knowledge of what a reporter does or the purpose of a newspaper. It began with confusion from both sides; how was I supposed to lead 22 English Language Learner students in making a newspaper when we both were bewildered? I began my research by looking at previous newspapers, asking advice from other teachers, and reading over 25 tutorials on how to start an elementary school newspaper. 

 
I began with telling the students that this was their newspaper. I wanted them to realize this was not just for teachers to read, but also for the student body. I wanted to them to know they were contributing articles and ideas to the newspaper. Next, it was job placement. I specifically choose some students for certain jobs through already knowing their talents and capabilities in writing and photography. In a few short periods of explanations and tutorials, we had begun our first newspaper. 

 
Our first newspaper was ready for publication after 2 months of diligent work by both the students and teachers. I also involved some of the Sherubtse students from the local college to help situate a new design and layout for the newspaper. The students from the media society at Sherubtse College were eager to help my students understand the importance of a newspaper and how media affects their lives. In addition to just producing the newspaper, I incorporated a field trip to the local Kuensel Newspaper where I believe my students achieved a better understanding of just how much work goes into producing a newspaper. 

 
We are currently working on our 3rd and 4th editions that will wrap up the year of the Kanglung Primary Observer. In my opinion it has been a huge success. The students know much more about the newspaper and we have both enjoyed our time learning and understanding the importance of media. I believe that it has not only helped to improve their English, but has also opened their eyes to the capabilities they have as children. Our newspaper was sent all over the Trashigang Dzongkhag and many teachers from other schools have complimented us on our efforts in producing a school newspaper. It has been one of the most gratifying experiences that I have had here in Bhutan. All the hard work and late nights have definitely paid off. Now the students have something to keep and look back on years from now, in knowing they made a contribution to their school newspaper.”

Organic Happenings in Bhutan!

To compliment recent twitter updates from Bhutan Canada and the overwhelming amount of online media sources, we are sharing with you a blog post about Bhutan’s recent development to become the world’s first country to turn its agriculture 100 percent organic! Not only is this a practical decision in regards to the paradigm of sustainability, but it’s a philosophical one as well. In banning the sale of pesticides and herbicides through utilizing traditional methods of fertilization and farming techniques, Bhutan is following qualities of Gross National Happiness (GNH) through environmental wellness and living in harmony with nature. This development supports and promotes the production of organic foods, increased environmental protection, sustainability practices, and creating a better future for its inhabitants.

Organic farming fields in the Paro Valley of Bhutan. Source: Epochtimes 
The government is expecting that food production will dramatically increase due to this change, causing an increase in higher quality foods to be exported to neighbouring countries. Although the majority of the country is already organic through the vast amount of traditional farming, going completely organic will set an example for other countries to demonstrate how ecological farming can be a viable alternative to industrial agriculture in regards to increasing food production.
In the words of Pema Gyamtsho, Bhutan’s Agriculture Minister, “Bhutan’s future depends largely on how it responds to interlinked development challenges like climate change, and food and energy security,” in which this response directly correlates with continuing to increase the overall well-being of the country. Bhutan is already considered a “poster child” for sustainable development, with many schools in Bhutan participating in the Green Schools for Green Bhutan program; in which children are encouraged to participate in green initiatives including communal vegetable and flower gardens, recycle and reuse activities, and receiving education in agriculture and environmental conservation at school.
With this exciting news, we encourage you to read more on the subject or to perform your own search on organic happenings in Bhutan! With the plentiful amount of news on modern environmental issues, Bhutan is one step ahead through their valued environmental and sustainable initiatives.

Photo of the Week – Photographer Cameron Brown visits Bhutan

After four weeks of travelling in Bhutan, Cameron Brown has taken some remarkable photos of his surroundings in the Kingdom of Bhutan. Describing Bhutan as a “peaceful country”, Cameron has managed to capture the essence of Bhutan in his pictures, in which many more appear on his blog. To check out more pictures and read through his posts and descriptions, please visit Butter Tea at Sunrise.

Bhutanese Landscape and School children posing. 
Children at bonfire.
Children dancing at bonfire. 
Sporting traditional Bhutanese clothing!
Bhutanese girls posing for the camera. 
We’d love to see your photos of Bhutan! 

Send your best snaps and photo credit information to info@bhutancanada.org

Blog of the Week – The Bhutanical Adventures of David Green

Today’s blog of the week comes from David Green, who taught at Pakshikha MSS and is currently travelling to neighbouring countries around Bhutan! His blog features insightful reflections on his “year in the land of the Thunder Dragon”, and includes interesting posts on his travels and experiences.


word-cloud based on key words in David’s blogs. 

“In a new school, much needs to be done. In a developing country with resourcing and skill-set challenges, your talents (and I mean you now!), whatever they are, can make a real difference instead of being stifled. To anyone feeling this way at home, under-appreciated, under-used, stifled or bored, I would say to you – go somewhere that actually needs you. Forget about money for a while and choose to give and get back stuff of actual value instead. A developing country still values education, right across the strata of society, including the kids – you will get gratitude for having chosen the noble profession of teaching, a gratitude that is thin on the ground elsewhere.” – from What a Year! Challenge and Reward in Pakshikha.

To read more and catch up with what David has been up to, I encourage you to read The Bhutanical Adventures

Reminder: March Break in Beautiful Bhutan

March Break in Beautiful Bhutan

An Opportunity of a Lifetime for Teenagers, Earn Community Involvement Hours

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Bhutan:

  1. Meet locals. Be more than just a tourist. Spend time with local students, teachers and staff in Bhutanese schools. Experience a Bhutanese child’s daily journey to school as you hike a mountain to visit the Tshochasa Primary School, where you will be a reading buddy for a young student.

  2. Learn about Gross National Happiness. The Bhutanese measure progress through a combination of environmental conservation, psychological well-being, preservation of local culture, good governance and sustainable socio-economic development

  3. Visit Taktsang Goemba. Hike to the beautiful Tiger’s Nest Monastery, built on the side of a 3,000m high vertical cliff in the Paro Valley. Legend has it that the Buddhist Guru Rimpoche flew to the spot on the back of Guru Yeshe Tsogyal, who he turned into a flying tigress for the journey.

  4. Be fitted for national dress. Visit a shop in the capital city, Thimphu, where you will be fitted for a kira (girls) or gho (boys). If you would like, you can purchase the national dress to wear during your visit, and take home as a souvenir.

  5. Experience the last Shangri-la. Bhutan is often referred to as the last “Shangri-la,” the mythical Himalayan utopia, because of its incredible natural beauty. The Constitution dictates that at least 40% of the country be protected as national parks, and 60% be under forest cover.

Blyth Bhutan VolunteersOur Bhutanese adventure begins in Paro, the site of the country’s only international airport, where we will be met by our Bhutanese guide extraordinaire – Karma, from the Bhutan Canada Foundation (BCF). From Paro, we will journey to the capital city of Thimphu, where we will be fitted for national dress and introduced to the country by staff from BCF. We will then venture into the Punakha Valley, where we will visit one of the country’s oldest dzongs (fortified monasteries that house the administrative and religious offices of the district), and volunteer with primary and high school students. In the Phobjikha Valley, we will work on environmental projects in nearby national parks, and experience some truly spectacular scenery. Finally, we will return to Paro, climbing to the magnificent Tiger’s Nest monastery on our final day.

Program fee: $5,995 includes escorted return airfare from Toronto; accommodation; breakfast, lunch and dinner daily; all tours and entrance fees (including on our stopovers in Doha and Kathmandu); supervision; community service activities; donation to Bhutan Canada Foundation. Departure taxes and registration fee are additional.

 

This program is open to all high school students, aged 14-19.

For more information, contact: 
Ashley Hill

Director of Community Service, Blyth Education

416-960-3552

BCF Teacher Placements

View BCF Map of Bhutan in a larger map
 
Our new class of teachers have now travelled across the country and arrived at their new school placements. It’s amazing to see how many schools and communities BCF teachers have now lived in and the impact, both for themselves and their students.
 
Click on the markers on our interactive map to learn more about each individual school and to see which teacher is or was placed there!

Blog of the Week – The Journey East

“I’m looking over a flat broad valley, the river dividing plots of farming land where cows graze peacefully. Simple farmhouses made from grey stone and decorated in ornate Bhutanese fashion are spaced out along the riverside. High hills covered with blue pine circle us in all directions. It’s chilly, but not too cold and so quiet.”

Prayer flags at the Dochu-La. Photo Credit: Andrea Chisholm.

“We travelled for only about 3 hours, the highlight being reaching the Dochu-la Pass at approximately 3100m. As we arrived at the top, our eyes literally widened and we murmured to each other about how awesome the views were. There’s something about the sight of a ridge of Himalayan mountains that is so enchanting.”

Read the rest of Andrea’s entry, as her and her family along with other BCF teachers head to their new homes, at The Journey East.

Another year, blog, blog, blog away!

Most of the 2013 BCF teachers stopping to see the Guru Rinpoche shrine enroute to Chagri Monastery. 
Photo Credit: Andrea Chisholm.

Our new teachers have completed orientation and are on their way cross-country, heading to each of their individual schools. We’re excited to be able to share a number of new teacher blogs, which offer insight into their adventures of living and teaching in Bhutan! Feel free to keep along!

Here’s the new list (you can also find them posted on the right-side column of our blog):

Brick in Bhutan – Brick Root
From Down Under to the Top of the World – Andrea Chisholm (and her family)
Heather in Bhutan – Heather Robertson
Migoi & I – Jonathan Ingram
Arwen in Gasa – Arwen Seccombe

And we’re happy to continue following the excellent blogs from Timothy Grossman (Tiger in a Trance), Ashley Huffmon (Huffmon in the Himalayas), and Delaine Keenum (Year of the Dragon).

Happy Reading!

Orientation: Cooking Bhutanese Style!

Food is important in every culture and is a great way to share experiences and engage in local traditions. Bhutanese cuisine is known for it’s abundance of chillies as a full vegetable – not a seasoning, making most food very very hot. Our BCF teachers had the chance during orientation to learn some Bhutanese recipes and begin to prepare for spice breakfast, lunch, and dinner!Heather Robertson:
“Last night half the group went to the BCF office where we were initiated into the secrets of Bhutanese cooking. No sugar, no sweets. Lots of chillies. We ate dhal, red rice, a curry of vegetables including green beans, peas, cauliflower, a potato, chilli and cheese based dish (kewa datse) and sag or mustard greens.  Every dish had chillies in it (except the rice). There was also a salad that consisted of chillies  tomatoes and datse (cheese). Ema datse is the national dish – chillies and dried cottage like cheese.  

It was a fantastic meal – really delicious.  Even though the food has been good and some of the restaurants excellent, home made food is so much better!  Especially with expert cooks:)  The kewa datse was so creamy and the spices in the curries were perfect – just enough to have a bit of curry taste, but really the dominant flavour was the vegetables.”

MMM…delicious Bhutanese cuisine. Photo Credit: Heather Robertson.

Brick Root:
“Cooking was definitely a highlight. Neema led a team of three who took our freshly chopped ingredients and created a number of tasty dishes in what seemed to be a very short period of time. I am sure this was arranged to bolster our confidence in our ability to feed ourselves freshly made, nutritious, and very tasty food as we spread ourselves throughout the country. The days of 3 meals/day at the hotel with hot & cold running water are likely coming to an abrupt end for me rather shortly.”

Want to try your hand at creating a Bhutanese dish? Here’s a delicious recipe of mushrooms and cheese.
Shamu Datshi
Ingredients:
  • Button Mushrooms – 200 grams, washed thinly sliced
  • Unsalted butter – 1 tablespoon
  • Water – 1/4 cup
  • Cheese – 2/3 cup, grated (Amul Processed cheese, or Cantal, or Monterey Jack)
  • Spring onions – 3-4 sliced thinly
  • Pinch of Salt
Method:
  1. In a pan, place the sliced mushrooms, water, butter, and salt (if using) over high heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook 5 minutes till the mushrooms are cooked.
  3. Stir in the grated cheese, and green onion, cover, and cook 2 minutes or until cheese melts.
  4. Pour into a serving dish and serve with red rice.