Blog of the Week – Day of Happiness

As a throwback to last week’s 1st annual International Day of Happiness, we’re happy to share BCF teacher Heather’s experience of March 20th, declared a National Holiday in Bhutan. Heather’s day of happy turned out to be a day of sports, shopping, cooking; and of course like any busy and passionate teacher, lots of reading and marking.
“The female teachers were playing basketball against the girl captains for fun.  I went out to watch and actually played.  Me.  Basketball.  Probably my least favourite game.  I had a riot racing up and down the court.  I actually scored a basket – almost a 3 pointer actually.  The ball just floated into the basket.  If there are assists in basketball I had a few of those.  Imagine me, Heather Robertson,  dribbling up the court and passing to Kelzang who pops it into the hoop.  Yup.  Me.  More than once.”
Students from Heather’s 9-B class. Photo Credit: Heather.
What other sport did Heather indulge in on such a happy day? Check it out at United Nations International Happiness Day

Bhutan begins to prepare to head to the polls

Photo Credit: M&C

The Kingdom of Bhutan will go to polls for the second time in its history next month for elections which will consolidate its transformation to democracy, according to a royal decree. Five years ago, the remote Himalayan state of Bhutan turned from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy, making it one of the youngest democracies in the world.

 

King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck took the first steps towards democratization by setting up a 130-member National Assembly in 1953. His son and successor Jigme Singye Wangchuck further handed over powers in 1998 when he took steps to rule Bhutan in conjunction with the National Assembly as well as the Council of Cabinet Ministers. 

 
He followed that up by setting in motion the drafting of a constitution in 2001. King Jigme Singye Wangchuck abdicated voluntarily in 2006 in favor of his son, Jigme Khesar Namgyel and Bhutan held its first vote in 2008 after its royal family opted to peacefully transition the country into a constitutional monarchy, which saw a turnout of nearly 80%.
Photo Credit: M&C
This year, the final session of Parliament concluded on March 6th and the present term of this government is expected to conclude in late-April. At that point, the Prime Minister and all Ministers will resign and the Chief Justice of Bhutan will become the Head of the Interim Government for approximately three months as the new government is elected and installed.
 
“It is important that all voters take their right and duty seriously, exercise their franchise and choose the most competent and deserving candidate as their representative”, said the royal decree.
As Bhutan continues to take steps toward consolidating its democracy, its people will vote first for the National Council (the upper house of parliament) and then the National Assembly (the lower house). Political parties have flourished since the last polls with a total of five parties set to contest the elections in the lower house, two of which are led by women.
Photo Credit: M&C
Elections in Bhutan are conducted at national (Parliamentary) and local levels. Suffrage is universal for citizens 18 and over.
 
Bhutan follows a unique home-grown development model focused on boosting Gross National Happiness instead of economic growth, putting respect for the environment and well-being of citizens at the heart of its policy-making.
To learn more:

Photo of the Week – February Photo Op

This week’s photo of the week comes from Andrea Chisholm’s recent blog post February Photo-A-Day in which Andrea and her family took and uploaded a photo for each day of February representing their unique experiences and capturing great memories while teaching in Bhutan! Check out her blog, From Down Under to the Top of the World, and choose your favourite from the many photo days of February.

At the Nomad Festival : Bhutanese guessing the weight of a baby yak 

Welcome sign for Andrea in the Library

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 – Tiger in a Trance

Today’s blog of the week comes from Tim Grossman, a current teacher in the field who has been placed at Tshenkherla Middle Secondary School in Trashiyangtse. In his blog, Tim reflects on his teaching experience thus far in Bhutan, mentioning the different challenges associated with educational philosophy in Bhutan and their community based culture.

 I am focused on life in the classroom, assessing my new students who have transferred in from schools as far as Thimphu or as near as Kinney. I notice a contrast in demeanour between my students from last year and the newcomers. I expect students to speak in class but often the newcomers are reticent and shy about speaking; this is a challenge that all BCF teachers face. There are genuine cultural gaps and some of these differences manifest themselves in education philosophy. 
‘Tiger in a Trance’ – Photo Credit: Tim Grossman
 
Overall teaching Bhutanese learners is a delight and their sincerity makes up for any strategic challenges. I am starting to teach the younger siblings of students which is interesting, and most of the kids are eager to please. I have found a new calm in class and am resolute to be firm but kind.
 
As my heroine Julia Butterfly says, “Life is a never ending process of learning to let go”. In Bhutan there is ample opportunity to embrace Buddha’s teachings. My reasons for coming here were more selfish than altruistic but my true mission unfolds the more I interact with the community and students. I have my hang ups relating to Bhutanese, but overall they are a community based culture which westerners stand to inherit valuable lessons from. – From Holy Days and Lonely Nights
To read more of his blog and to follow his continuing experiences, check out Tiger in a Trance: Discovering Bhutan.

Happy International Day of Happiness!

It’s a great day to be happy!Bhutan helped to usher in the pursuit of happiness and the importance of using a holistic measure to success both at the United Nations and with several key policy makers around the world. This idea continues to build great ground and today, on March 20th, we are happy to celebrate the 1st annual International Day of Happiness, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, following the conference on Happiness and Wellbeing.

Ambassador Lhatu Wangchuk,
Permanent Representative of the
Kingdom of Bhutan to the United Nations
We need a new economic paradigm that recognizes the parity between the three pillars of sustainable development. Social, economic, and environmental well-being are indivisible. Together they define gross global happiness,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighting the concept and the importance of including peoples’ happiness into policy at all levels.
GNH encourages the world to believe that happiness can, and should, be accessible to all.
The stated aim of the UN International Day of Happiness is:
So how can you get involved?
 
A – Affirm the pledge. A simple act of adding your name to the thousands of others who have declared that they will “try to create more happiness in the world” around them.
C – Cheer ‘Happy Heroes’. Spreading the word on social network sites and paying tribute to those who go out of their way to make other people happy. Twitter users are encouraged to use the hashtag #HappyHeroes in their tweets.
T – Take part on the day. In addition to making others happy, there are numerous events going on around the world to celebrate the day! Do something, big or small, to take part on 20 March and bring happiness to others.
Learn more by visiting Day of Happiness!

Update on our 2013 Teachers in the Field

After 7 weeks of our BCF teachers being in the field, it is due time for an update! We have been closely following their blogs and reading in on their experiences in the field, adaptation, and positive challenges that they have had to overcome over this almost 2 month period. Executive Director, Nancy Strickland, had the chance to visit several BCF teachers in eastern Bhutan, and had these pictures to share with us from her travels. To see where our teachers have been posted, check out our Interactive BCF Map of Bhutan!

Pema Gatshel Middle Secondary School
Tashitse High School in Wamrong & Morning Assembly at Pema Gatshel Middle Secondary School


Following up with our teachers, Andrea Chisholm had this to say about her teaching experience thus far: “With a new way of looking at things I see that Bhutan is far ahead of neighbouring countries with its implementation of a modern education system for all, and though much can be improved, Bhutan has much to be proud of! And so my first hour of supervision slipped by quickly!”. -from Seeing the Positives

Andrea explains that teaching abroad is about seeing the positives to overcome day to day challenges, in which it is important to note that Bhutan has come so far with its education system since its original inception. To read more of our teacher blogs for new updates and unique experiences, check out the links in our sidebar!

Photo of the Week – Volleyball Fun

This week’s photo of the week comes from Heather Robertson, one of our teachers in the field! The photo, along with many more on her blog, show students at Chukha HSS playing a recreational game of volleyball as implemented in their curriculum. Class-wide volleyball is a great way to step outside of the classroom and stress the importance of their health and well-being. Click here to check out more fun pictures on Heather’s blog, Heather Robertson in Bhutan.

Shaking hands before the game starts. Photo credit: Heather Robertson

We’d love to see your photos of Bhutan! 
Send your best snaps and photo credit information to info@bhutancanada.org

‘Let Nature be your teacher’

The concept of Gross National Happiness is what makes so many people fall in love with Bhutan and the idea of implementing GNH into a school curriculum is what encourages teachers from around the world to look at ways they can help be part of the movement. Bhutan continues to Educate for GNH and develop green schools, as seen through our teachers’ recent trip to Jigme Losel PS.

“Green schools is not just about the environment, it is a philosophy, so we’re trying to instil a sense of green minds, which are flexible and open to different types of learning. It’s a values-led approach to education that stems from the belief that education should be more than academic attainment, it should be about expanding children’s minds and teaching what it is to be human – and at the forefront of this is the conservation of the natural environment.” – Honourable Thakur S. Powdyel, Minister for Education for the Royal Government of Bhutan

Green School – Jigme Losel PS, Thimphu.
Photo courtesy of Jean-Baptiste Lopez & Unicef (via the Guardian).
During orientation, our BCF teachers had the chance to visit Jigme Losel School – considered a model of the green schools mindset – to tour the grounds and learn more about how GNH and environmental sustainability are being implemented into the national curriculum. BCF teacher, Andrea put up some wonderful pictures on her blog of their visit which you can view at Nge gi la lobey in.
Read more about Green Schools here and here.

Paro Airport – The Challenging yet Rewarding Flight to Bhutan

Flying into Paro (Photo Credit: Raewyn)
Experienced by all of our BCF teachers, Paro International Airport, the only international airport in Bhutan, high in the Himalayan Mountains is one of the world’s most difficult airports for take-offs and landings.
At 7,300 feet above sea level , with a runway 6,500 feet long surrounded by deep valleys and peaks, only a handful of qualified pilots (8 to be exact!) are allowed to land there, flying with Bhutan’s national air carrier, Drukair.
With the 18,000-foot mountains surrounding Paro, and not to mention its unusually short runway, landing in Paro is often a scary but worthwhile proposition! But despite the perilous conditions, the views over the clear blue Paro River and the lush green foliage of the Himalayas are breathtaking and worth the little turbulence.
Ashley Huffmon, one of our teachers in the field, had this to say on her experience descending into Paro: Landing into Paro, with the Himalayas in plain view gave me the most amazing feelings. I had tears rolling down my face and I couldn’t stop them, it was a feeling of “I can’t believe after 18 hours of flight” and I am blessed to be here and see this magnificent sight.
  
Photo Credit: Reuters

Click here to read more of Ashley’s blog Huffmon in the Himalayasor to study up on articles about the Paro Airport from the Business Insider, Daily Mail, or Aero Magazine.

Blog of the Week – How did I end up in Bhutan?

“I often contemplate on how I ended up in Bhutan, which never fails to bring a smile to my heart…
 
…one evening about three years ago, I was curled up in bed flipping through the channels when I came across a documentary about a Buddhist monk looking for his master teacher who reincarnated somewhere in the Himalayan mountains.  There was something about the Buddhist monk trailing along isolated footpaths  searching in and out of remote villages that made my heart flutter.  Instantly, I fell in love with the scenery of the Himalayas and I became mesmerized by Buddhism….
 
…As weeks turned into months, slowly I forget about Bhutan and I got swept away with the routines of life…
 

…A few years later, I had successfully completed my Master’s Degree and was teaching summer school.  Unfortunately, the tidiness of life had swept away Bhutan from my memory!  

Then one day, I found myself sitting at my desk during lunch feeling like I was not living my destiny although I had no idea what my destiny could be.  Just then, suddenly I felt an urge to type in the computer “teach abroad.”  Following my urge, I came across a website that advertised to teach in Spain, Europe, etc. With each glance at the names of the different countries, I felt nothing and said  “na, na, na.”…
 

…Finally, I saw the word, Bhutan, among a dozen of other countries and I felt a wave of energy run through me.  My head tilted to the side as I thought, Hmm that sounds familiar, I think that I have heard of that country before. 

Immediately, I clicked on it and it took me to the Bhutan Canada Foundation (BCF) homepage, which just so happened to be hiring teachers to teach in Bhutan.  As I saw the pictures of Bhutan, a floodgate of the love I once felt when I first saw it several years before came pouring back.  Once again, I felt that burning desire of flame grow even brighter than before as I whispered to myself, “I know that place!”…
Read the rest of Sabrina’s inspirational journey to Bhutan at How did I end up in Bhutan?
To Sabrina and all of our amazing, passionate, and dedicated teachers who have joined us over these past four years, we thank you! It’s been an incredible journey and we are excited as the future unfolds to even greater horizons for Bhutan and its students!
Recruitment for new teachers for the 2014 school year will begin May 1st!