Update from an Alumnus – Dave Green

Introducing our new segment – Update from an Alumnus! Since 2009, The Bhutan Canada Foundation (BCF) has been working in collaboration with the Ministry of Education in Bhutan to recruit highly qualified native-English speaking teachers to work in public schools across the country, where they help to address a teacher shortage of nearly 1,000. BCF teachers have an incredible impact in the classroom where they encourage English language literacy and comprehension and bring problem solving, critical thinking, and innovation to the forefront of educational practice.

BCF - All Classes (2010 to 2013)

BCF Class 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013!

Over the years, our BCF family has grown substantially from six teachers in 2010 to 20 now currently in the field. And that means our alumni network of teachers is expanding and BCFers are now teaching all around the world, sharing the experiences and knowledge they learned in Bhutan to new students and colleagues.

Our alumni have moved on to new and exciting adventures – from teaching positions in places as varied as China to northern Alberta, to travelling the world, becoming involved with international non-profit organisations, or going back to school to further their own education. We’re thrilled when we receive updates on what our teachers are now doing and we’re happy to be able to share some of their experiences post-Bhutan here!

GroupBCF Class of 2012.

BCF alumnus Dave Green, spent a year in Bhutan teaching physics to grade 9 and 10 students at Pakshikha Middle Secondary School in Chukha in 2012. He was an integral part of the community and while teaching a full schedule in Bhutan, Dave also busied himself with a successful music club! Upon leaving Bhutan, Dave spent five months travelling in Asia. Amongst other adventures, he partook in a week-long writers retreat to finish his novel (nearly done!) and reconnecting with his family. Currently Dave has landed a job teaching Physics at one of Scotland’s top private schools and he’s looking forward to inculcate some Bhutanese-style values with his students! Below, he was happy to share some reflections of his time spent in Bhutan.

Dave Green: School Picnic Time – The Holy Lake

Now that I’m finally moving on to something concrete and ‘jobby’, thoughts are more than ever turning towards my time in Bhutan to try to figure out what it all meant to me and how I feel about not being there anymore. I have to say that my memories are pretty much all good ones. There were frustrations, but that was inevitable, and they only served to bring me on as a person. Most of the time it feels a bit like a dream and I have to focus on it hard to bring it back and make it real.

Dave Green: The best place for a home to be

Without a doubt the best year of my life, with wonderful friendships, brilliant experiences and such warmth and generosity everywhere. I almost stayed, as you know, but it didn’t pan out. I hope that in the future my relationship with the country and the people I met there will renew and develop – I hope to return.

DaveGreenStudents

So, I’d like to thank you [BCF] for giving me the opportunity to be there. When I look back on it, the gift I was able to give my mother stands out. She had a fabulous time, took to the Bhutanese way of life like a duck to water and made me feel a bit silly for having any issues whatsoever with ‘culture shock’. I think she made more of an impact than I did – they all loved her! (Dave and his mum’s adventures can be found at October – a Bonkers Month… and Video Diary – Mum’s First Day in Bhutan)

Thanks for sharing Dave and we are excited to hear how your experience is at your new school. Good luck with everything and keep in touch!

To read more about Dave’s experience in Bhutan and beyond check out his blog   -> The Bhutanical Adventures of Dave Green.

Spotlight on the District Series – Wangdue Dzongkhag

This week we bring you Wangdue Phodrang for our Spotlight on the District Series. Because of it’s size and ranging altitudes, Wangdue has extremely varied climatic conditions ranging from Sub-Tropical forests in the south to cool and snowy regions in the north. This year we have two BCF teachers in Wangdue Phodrang, Brick Root located at Gaselo HSS and Valerie Robert located at Rukubji PS.

Student Life at Gaselo HSS - Brick Root
Student Life at Gaselo HSS – Brick Root

My school, Gaselo Higher Secondary School, is typical, it is in a rural area and draws many students from small villages which had no access to schooling. Many of the students in school here are first generation high school students. If either of their parents went to school it was very limited. For Bhutan to have gone from a country of very few schools to effectively enrolling 100% of the children in primary grades is an amazing step to have taken in a very short period of time.  Brick Root: Student Life in Bhutan

To read more about Brick’s experiences in Wangdue check out his blog Brick in Bhutan.

Front Gate of Gaselo HSS - Brick Root
Front Gate of Gaselo HSS – Brick Root

One of the most notable sites in this district is the Phobjikha Valley where the Black Necked Crane Festival is held. Phobjika is a wide and beautiful alpine wetland valley and is the roosting grounds of the Black-necked cranes that migrate each year in winter from its northern habitats in Tibet and Siberia.

While I watched them pecking the valley floor or rising and twisting in flight, I thought about how these birds fly across Everest from Tibet to come to THIS valley. What a journey they take, twice a year!….I thought of the intensity and difficulty I undertook for my own landing in Bhutan. I didn’t fly over Everest using only the strength of my wings, but I did leave my home and the familiar for an unknown and challenging, but ultimately beautiful experience.  – Iman Meflah: Road Trip

Photo Credit: Meghann Turner
Photo Credit: Meghann Turner – Phobjikha LSS

To get a better understanding of a teacher’s perspective living in this dzongkhag, visit our alumni teacher blogs -> Meghann Turner’s Land of the Thunder Dragon, Iman Meflah’s  Bhutan: a year in haiku,  and Carson Koller’s  Druk Mail.

To learn more about other districts check out our Spotlight on the District Series

Photo of the Week – Student Picnic

Photo Credit: Ashley Huffmon
Photo Credit: Ashley Huffmon

BCF Teacher Ashley Huffmon, currently in her second year teaching at Kanglung PS in Trashigang, recently had the chance to join her Class V students for a weekend picnic. A quote she took away from the experience from her students: “Mam’ Ashley, no other teacher would take us on a picnic, this is a great memory and we will make you the best lunch today…” Lunch consisted of  Kewa Datse, corn on the cob, cucumber and chili powder salad. Sounds delicious!

Huffmon, Ashley - Class V Picnic - Corn
Photo Credit: Ashley Huffmon

Have photos of Bhutan you’d like to share? Send your snaps with photo credit information to info@bhutancanada.org

Blog of the Week – Celebrating a Birthday Bhutanese Style

Last month our BCF teacher Matthew Stretton, at Yangchen Gatshel LSS in Thimphu, celebrated his Birthday Bhutanese style! Accompanied by his wife, students, colleagues, and friends, Matt’s birthday sounded like one to remember.

Stretton, Matt - Board

The actual morning of my birthday began with an amazing breakfast of Australian avocado on toast – my first avo in 6 months…..this was followed by the hilarity of having every other student I met on the way to school fold themselves in half and shouting: “Good Morning, Sir! Happy Birthday, Sir!” in a charmingly almost militaristic fashion. I’m not sure how they all knew it was my birthday, Bhutanese osmosis I suspect…

Stretton, Matt - Group

Proper festivities were scheduled to start at 3:30pm with all of the school staff (around 30 people) invited to our place for a typical Bhutanese afternoon tea-cum-booze up-cum-dinner party…..People crowded into our ample but relatively small lounge room and the strict Bhutanese order of serving tea, then ara, then other miscellaneous booze then food began. This was all done with much merriment and lewd innuendo (as per Bhutanese custom) and was only interrupted when everyone stopped to give me a present – something I protested against vehemently but had already been told by the teachers that buying a collective gift is ‘part of the culture out here’ and that their ‘minds would not be peace’ if they didn’t get me something. Turns out my gift was this snappy new gho which my buddy Sonam helped me put on with local adroitness.

Stretton, Matt - Gho

Read about how the rest of Matt’s Birthday celebration went here! -> Celebrating a Birthday Bhutanese Style.

Also, take a look at our alumni teacher Martin Thorn’s experience celebrating his own Birthday last year in Bhutan: Stories from the Field – A Birthday Celebration.

Matsutake Mushroom Festival

Held annually on the fourth weekend in August is the The Matsutake Festival. Prized by gourmets around the world, especially in Japan, the Matsutake mushroom is native to the forest of the Ura Valley in central Bhutan. These mushrooms grow in clusters at the base of pine trees at an altitude of more than 9,842 feet and are collected once a year during harvesting season.

Choidup Zangpo, ICS - Ministry of Agriculture and ForestsPhoto Credit: Choidup Zangpo, ICS – Ministry of Agriculture and Forests

“For the next three days, Ura valley became unusually alive with people as busy as bees….Besides feasting on the dishes, visitors and locals alike were also treated lavishly with entertainment programmes.” (Ugyen Tshering, ICS)

The festival not only gives visitors the chance to sample these delicious mushrooms but also to showcase sustainable harvesting practices of the local community. Visitors to this festival will be able to gain insight into Bhutanese customs, hike through the Himalayan landscape, and even relax in traditional open-air mineral baths.

Some of our BCF teachers will be in attendance this upcoming weekend so check back next week for more!

To learn more about upcoming events in Bhutan visit the Tourism Council of Bhutans Events Calendar.

Photo of the Week – BBC News, In pictures: Bhutan goes organic

As mentioned in previous posts (Organic Happenings in Bhutan), Bhutan has recently announced a new development to move farming techniques and agriculture production to a wholly organic system over the coming years.

BBC News - Bhutan goes organic, Nazes Afroz
Photo Credit: BBC News & Nazes Afroz.

BBC News shared the story and beautiful photographs from Nazes Afroz. Visit the whole slideshow at In pictures: Bhutan goes organic.

Have photos or stories to share from Bhutan? Send them to us with photo credit information to info@bhutancanada.org.

Blog of the Week – Musings on Bhutanese Culture

The best way for prospective BCF teachers or those generally interested in Bhutan is to hear from those who are currently living it! Becoming fully immersed into their schools and communities allows teachers to learn about the fascinating culture of Bhutan in each of their Dzongkhags. This continually evolving process can be frustrating at times but it’s a mutual sharing and passion of cultures and ideas that makes the experience so truly unforgettable. BCF Teacher Brick Root, at Gaselo HSS in Wangdue, shares some of his musings on his blog – check out the ones included below:

n.b. a chilip is a westerner, likely an American

Upon arriving in Bhutan many of us were eager to explore, to hike in the woods and mountains. All of us were at one time or another cautioned to be careful and to watch out for beer and snacks. As with most things which sound too good to be true we all came to the realization that we were being cautioned about bear and snakes. The pronunciation of bear to rhyme with beer is so entrenched that it was seen as the correct answer on a class XII English exam.

Root, Brick - Wearing the Gho

 

The school uniform is the traditional gho for men and kira for women. As a nod to the culture I wear a gho to school every day. It is a large piece of fabric which is worn a bit like a kilt. The pleats, length, etc, etc, are strictly dictated by cultural norms. It is not common to see chilips in a gho, especially if it is being worn correctly. I have learned to put mine on and then ask for help to make sure all is well before venturing out. As a result I am often asked ‘do you wear your gho yourself sir?’. They mean to be asking if I am able to put it on by myself but I am always tempted to look into my large front pocket and say yes I think I am the only one in here.

Read the rest of Brick’s blog at Amusing musings on Bhutanese culture from a chilip’s perspective.

Spotlight on the District Series – Thimphu Dzongkhag

This week for the Spotlight on the District Series, we are featuring Thimphu. Thimphu Dzongkhag is located in the Western part of the country and is divided into eight Gewogs and one town (Thimphu). The Kingdom’s capital is the most modern city in Bhutan and home to over 100,000 inhabitants including the Royal Family! This bustling city is the main centre of commerce, religion and government in the country.

thimphu

 Photo Credit: Tourism Council of Bhutan – Tashicho Dzong

Thimphu features a monsoon-influenced subtropical highland climate with mild summers and relatively cool winters. There is a wet season which runs from May through September and a dry season that covers the remainder of the year. The Gewogs in the northern part of the Dzongkhag have rugged and mountainous terrain with extreme cold climates and are only connected by mule track.

Some notable landmarks in the Thimphu Dzongkhag are the Tashichho DzongBuddha Dordenma Statue, and The National Library.

buddha

 Photo Credit: Tourism Council of Bhutan – Buddha Dordenna Statue

While we do not place our teachers in the capital city of Thimphu, orientation for our teachers is held here and currently BCF teacher Matthew Stretton is situated at Yangchen Gatshel LSS, Thimphu.

Check out some of our teacher blog entries about their experiences visiting Thimphu during orientation! Heather Robertson in BhutanBrick in Bhutan, and From Down Under to the Top of the World.

 

Friendliest Cities: Paro and Thimphu

EYESWIDEOPEN, GETTY IMAGES - Thimphu
Thimphu, Bhutan.

According to Condé Nast Traveler, the Bhutanese cities of Paro and Thimphu are two of the Top Ten Friendliest Cities in the World – we certainly agree! Thimphu ranks as #3 of the Friendliest Cities, offering visitors an “extraordinary experience” as “a fascinating combination of modern and ancient” and Paro follows at #6, brimming with “beautiful architecture” and “way out of the ordinary” experiences. According to one reader of Condé Nast, “This was one of my very favorite places in the world!” Tashi Delek!

EYESWIDEOPEN, GETTY IMAGES - Paro
Paro, Bhutan.

Both photos courtesy of Condé Nast and Eyes Wide Open/Getty Images.