Spotlight on the District Series – Zhemgang Dzongkhag

For today’s blog, we bring you Zhemgang Dzongkhag!  Zhemgang is one day’s drive from the capital city of Thimphu. Zhemgang also features the famous Royal Manas National Park, the oldest national park in Bhutan and is a “conservation showpiece of the Kingdom”! 

zhemgang

“It is amazing the change in terrain a few hours can make. We have seen alpine, forests, and subtropical all within a short trip. One thing everywhere we have been has in common are the mountains.” – Delaine Keenum

With most of the region’s warm and humid climatic conditions, Zhemgang has incredible biodiversity with lush forests which are home to 22 endangered species including the Golden LangurGangetic Dolphins and the Asian One-horned Rhinceros!

The inhabitants of Zhemgang are famous for their rich culture, particularly their folk songs and dances. They are also famed for their skill at crafting various goods out of bamboo such as Bangchungs (matted bamboo bowls), Palangs (alcohol containers), Balaks (hats), mats and boxes. They are also adept potters and their earthenware products were highly prized throughout the country in the past.

Though Buddhism has been growing in popularity in the dzongkhag,  every region of the district still continues its animist traditions and Bon priests known as Bonpo are considered respected religious leaders. There are also a number of famous Buddhist temples in the region such as Buli Lhakhang and Tharpa Choeling Lhakhang.

Our BCF teachers, Loretta Sartin McClure in 2011 and Delaine Keenum in 2012, taught at Zhemgang LSS which is located in Wamdakpa. At present this school has 625 students with 20 teachers. It is a pilot school for a program offering integration of special needs children into mainstream education. Grades range from pre-primary to grade 8. To get a teacher’s perspective on the Zhemgang Dzongkhag, check out Delaine’s blog to learn more!

To read more more on the Zhemgang Dzongkhag, check out the Tourism Council of Bhutan!

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2 Days Left – Apply to Teach in Bhutan Today!

“At 6:30pm this Friday afternoon after an epic week of teaching and three and a half hours of drama rehearsals with three separate classes of Bhutanese teenagers, I’m walking home through the village accompanied by some of my year seven students – who INSIST on carrying my bags for me even though I protest – when suddenly they all start singing, belting out all the songs I’ve taught them in our English classes with the kind of selfless abandon that I remember only from my days as a ten year old with my ear plastered to Top 40 hits breaking domestic decibel limits with my atonal singing.

Stretton, Matt - Smiling Kids (Class VII)
They sing for no other reason than because it’s fun, they’re happy and it feels good and the moment is so spontaneous, so unselfconscious and so full of joy that despite its Hallmark flavour I can’t help but just love it and love them: they’re such a motley, grammatically wayward bunch but they’re so cheeky and lively, so thoughtful and genuinely respectful that every day is a pleasure to teach and I’m consistently grateful to have teenage students who appreciate my efforts, are keen to help in any way possible and even take the time to ask me how I am if I’m unwell. Thanks Bhutan! All the bucket showers, stomach pains and chewed up sneakers are totally worth it.” ~ Matt Stretton, Yangchen Gatshel LSS (Reasons for Teaching #471)

Applications for the 2014 Bhutanese teaching season will be ending in two days on July 31st, 2013!

Apply online now at TeachinBhutan.org.

Outdoor Adventure

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Staff Profile: Kristen Scott

Kristen Scott, currently the Managing Director, North America, of The Bhutan Canada Foundation, joined the BCF Team in May 2010 as Program Manager. During her three years as part of the BCF Family, we’ve seen tremendous growth and mutual partnerships between Bhutan and Canada.

Under Kristen’s leadership, the Teach in Bhutan program grew from its first class of six teachers in 2010 to 20 teachers, currently in the field this year. Kristen travelled to Bhutan in April of 2011 for a cross-country tour, visiting our BCF teachers in each of their communities and in their schools. You can read about her adventures here at: Destination Druk Yul.

Kristen with BCF class

Based on this experience, Kristen wrote a story featured in Education Canada, about the experiences of teachers in the field and the education system in Bhutan, “Teaching in the Land of Happiness: The Canada-Bhutan Connection”.

A joint venture between The Bhutan Canada Foundation and Cushing Academy, Kristen had a hand in organizing the first “Educating for Sustainable Happiness” symposium, which took place in August 2012 and included numerous academics, organisations, educators, and subject matter experts. The symposium served as a meeting place to discuss current and future initiatives in progressive education, with a focus on the Bhutanese school system and Gross National Happiness as its incorporated into the curriculum.

Kristen in a KiraSince 2011, Kristen has also been involved with BCF’s school development program. The program gives BCF teachers  the opportunity to lead projects that meet the unique needs of their school communities. Past projects have included a library renovation and waste management initiatives.

Kristen actively worked in partnership and as a proud supporter of the Bhutan Dental Mission, an organisation that travels to Eastern Bhutan to provide vital dental services in rural communities.

Since 2010 BCF has also seen four Bhutanese high school students study abroad in Canada as part of our Student Scholar Program, in conjunction with Blyth Academy.

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An invaluable part of the BCF Family and major contributor to Bhutan, Kristen is now heading to pursue a Masters in Public Administration at the American University, and will be moving to Washington, D.C. She will continue her work with The Bhutan Canada Foundation but we will certainly miss her presence in Toronto.

All the best to you Kristen!

Apply to Teach in Bhutan – 1 Week Left!

Applications for the 2014 Bhutanese teaching season will be ending on July 31st, 2013! Apply online at TeachinBhutan.org.

Make a World of Difference

As a full-time paid international teacher, you have the chance for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn, explore, and expand your professional career in the Land of Happiness. It’s as simple as filling out our online application. We are currently recruiting qualified teachers to fulfill minimum one-year contracts offered by the Ministry of Education in Bhutan. We’re looking for primary educators, and junior/secondary English, math, science, and special education specialists. Contracts begin January 2014!

Brick teaching

BCF Teacher, Brick Teaching at Gaselo HSS

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Two-week orientation in the capital city, Thimphu
  • Support from both Toronto office and field office
  • Mid-year retreat
  • Paid position, with an English curriculum
  • Fascinating and unique culture that is extremely welcoming to foreigners
  • Accommodation, visas, work permit are secured by BCF staff
  • Fundraising assistance and optional fundraising program to cover associated costs
  • Strong alumni network and prep-assistance with other teachers
  • Daily tariff is waived for all teachers
  • National curriculum, created in conjunction with Canadian consultants
  • Entire curriculum is online for access prior to arrival
  • Concept of Gross National Happiness is infused into the curriculum

LEARN MORE AND APPLY ONLINE NOW!

Questions? Contact us at teach@bhutancanada.org!

BCF Teacher, Andrea Giesbrecht, Featured in the Globe & Mail

Life in Bhutan has its difficulties, but I am richer for them

In Monday’s Globe & Mail, BCF teacher Andrea Giesbrecht was profiled in the Globe Careers “My Career Abroad” series.  Andrea is currently in her fourth year as a teacher in Bhutan through The Bhutan Canada Foundation.

The full profile can be viewed here: http://bit.ly/BCFGlobe or you can read the text below.

Inspired by Andrea’s story? Only one week left to apply to Teach in Bhutan. Find out more at teachinbhutan.org

Life in Bhutan has its difficulties, but I am richer for them

What’s your name and job title?

My name is Andrea Giesbrecht and I’m a teacher at Tashidingkha Middle Secondary School in the Punakha Valley, Bhutan.

Why have you moved to Bhutan? What spurred you to make this change?

At the end of 2009, I was teaching in Brunei while completing my Master of Education degree. I knew it was time to make a change and began looking for another international experience. I was also hoping to work with a Canadian organization and when I found the Bhutan Canada Foundation (BCF) online, I knew it would be a good fit.

At the same time, however, my financial situation was such that I nearly talked myself out of applying for a position which pays less than $400 per month. I sent off the application form, all the while saying to myself, “Andrea, don’t be ridiculous. You can’t go to Bhutan!” My bank account was dry after paying for my degree and I felt that I needed to be in a place with better financial remuneration.

I halfheartedly applied for some other positions, trying to convince myself that Bhutan was a bad idea at this stage of my life, but the seed that had been planted had taken strong root and I arrived in Bhutan in February of 2010 as part of the first group of Canadian teachers to work with the BCF.

I was placed at Tashidingkha Middle Secondary School in a rural area about three hours from the capital. I was thrilled to be here but I told myself it would only be for a year. It’s funny how things work out sometimes.

What exactly do you do?

First and foremost, I am a secondary school English teacher. Since 2011, I have also been working as an English resource teacher, supporting Bhutanese English teachers from eight different schools in the areas of language and curriculum.

Is there anything you would want to share with someone who might follow in your footsteps?

Living and teaching in Bhutan offers an outsider the rare opportunity to be part of a unique culture and way of life. I know that I was hired to teach but I feel that I have been given more than I can possibly offer. I can’t deny that there are difficulties and frustrations along the way but I am richer for it.

Why is Bhutan the place for you to be right now?

Living in a Bhutanese farming village has become my reality but before I came here I could not have imagined it.

Life here is not always easy. There are very few of the modern amenities to which we have become accustomed in the developed world and, while I find a definite charm in simple living, sometimes I wish I could throw my clothes into a washing machine while I pop over to the supermarket for fresh bread.

I find myself at a loss for words when people at home in Canada ask, “What is it like to live in Bhutan?” Everything is different, so how do I even begin to answer that question? Despite the challenges, I have found a true “home” here and in many ways I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

I have a quiet rapport with my neighbours, most of whom are subsistence farmers and very few of whom speak a word of English. By living with these people and observing their daily interactions, I have learned many things which extend well beyond how to hand-wash my clothes and prepare local food. I am learning patience and acceptance of circumstances beyond my control. I am learning how to adapt to what life has in store and that it’s okay for things not to work out the way you intended them to. And I have learned that there is always time for a cup of tea with a friend, unlike at home where we have to compare schedules and perhaps there is a free hour to meet for tea next Tuesday.

In March of 2012, I had an accident and sustained some serious injuries. I was evacuated to Bangkok for surgery and, once I was strong enough, transported home to Canada for further recovery. There were moments of severe physical pain and emotional trauma but perhaps the most difficult moment was as my plane was leaving Bhutan. I knew I was badly hurt and that I needed to go but I had no idea when or if I would be coming back. I didn’t have the opportunity to say farewell to many of the people who are important to me. As we took off, and I could see the village houses scattered on the hillsides shrink and disappear, I sobbed uncontrollably.

After 10 months of recovery and therapy, I was able to return to my life in Bhutan. No one would have blamed me if I didn’t go back and some people were shocked that I wanted to go back at all. The fact that I never once considered not returning speaks volumes about what this place and these people have come to mean to me.

What things have people noticed most about you? And what has been your reception?

The Bhutanese people are used to seeing foreigners at the tourist sights, usually attached at the hip to a guide, but it is unusual for rural dwellers to interact with foreigners. At first, my neighbours were very curious about me and I know they watched me – where I went, what I ate, who I talked to, what I bought at the market and so on. Now they seem to accept me as part of their community and I no longer feel like I’m in a fishbowl.

My teaching colleagues find that I move very fast and do things with greater intensity than they are accustomed to. They get things done in their own time and find it amusing that I want to plan and start projects as soon as we are given a task. They tell me I am very “frank” – something which is sometimes appreciated and sometimes not. I take more initiative than many of my local colleagues, which is usually appreciated by the school administration, but I need to be careful not to step on toes. There are cultural subtleties which I am sometimes unaware of.

Original article: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/career-advice/life-in-bhutan-has-its-difficulties-but-i-am-richer-for-them/article13347704/

Photo Essay: Mid Year Retreat, Class of 2013

For your viewing pleasure, here are some pictures of this year’s BCF Summer Retreat which took place in River Lodge Bumthang earlier this month. BCF teachers visited cultural and historical sites, as they shared their experiences on teaching in Bhutan.

BCF Teachers in Bumathang
BCF Teachers in Bumthang
Delaine & students, Zhemang
Delaine and Bhutanese Students
Sarah's English Class
Sarah’s English Class

For more information of the retreat, visit our blog on the BCF Teachers Summer Retreat!