Traditional Day of Offering

The Traditional Day of Offering is a holiday usually falling in January or February, on the 1st day of the 12th month of the Tibetan calendar. In 2014, this date lands on January 31st.

Traditional Day of Offering Hike (Class 2014)
A Sharshopka New Year’s hike with some of the 2014 BCF crew to Talakha Goempa. Apparently ‘ta’ means horse in Dzongkha and the name Ta-lakha is kind of horse-related, so it was an auspicious way to start the (male, wood) Year of the Horse. (Photo courtesy of Matt Stretton).

The Traditional Day of Offering is a time of thanks and offerings for the Bhutanese people, typically directed towards Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the famous unifier of kingdom and culture in Bhutan during the early seventeenth centuryBhutan celebrates the Chunyipai Losar, commonly known as Tshangla/Sharchokpa Losar, because it’s more popularly celebrated in Eastern Bhutan.

It also focuses on charity, particularly feeding others, and recreation. The day is celebrated with feasting and traditional sports, including archery, digor, and khuru.

Happy Chunyipai Losar from BCF!

 

Orientation: Shopping for Kira/Gho

One of the most distinctive features of the Bhutanese is their traditional dress, unique garments that have evolved over thousands of years. Each year during orientation our teachers get the opportunity to shop for and order their gho or kira.  Many teachers have found that wearing national dress is the easiest option, as it helps them to fit in and feel part of the community. It is also a comfortable and practical piece of clothing to wear every day!

Photo Credit: Carmelita Realeza
Photo Credit: Carmelita Realeza

Women wear the Kira, a long, ankle-length dress accompanied by a light outer jacket known as a toego with an inner layer known as a wonju. Men wear the Gho, a knee-length robe somewhat resembling a kimono that is tied at the waist by a traditional belt known as kera. The gho is folded a certain way to allow a pocket to form in the front, where a surprisingly large amount of items can be stored.

Check out our previous classes shop for their Bhutanese dress in 2011, 2012, and 2013!

Blog of the Week – Kuzu, Kuzu: A Cast of Characters

“It’s from one another that we now draw our courage, because in all actuality we’ve become a family. And it’s our coming together as a family in such intense and exotic circumstances that is the true gift of the experience thus far.” – Warren Tanner (Kuzu, Kuzu: A Cast of Characters)

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With new teachers comes new blogs! Check out BCF teacher Warren Tanner’s blog Transmissions from Bhutan and his reflection on his travel to Bhutan while meeting other BCF teachers along the way.

Here’s a list of our new teacher’s blogs:

Transmissions from Bhutan – Warren Tanner

Zuber Goes to Zhemgang – Kezia Zuber

Travelled Earth – Ashley & Mike Lenzen

Two Small Feet – Carmelita Realeza

As well as our returning and renewing teachers:

Bos Grunniens: Adventures In The Land of The Yak – Matt Stretton

In the Shadows of the Mountain – Vicky and Ian

Arwen in Gasa – Arwen Seccombe

Migoi and I – Jonathan Ingram

Tiger in a Trance – Tim Grossman

Orientation: BCF 2014 Teachers!

Last week our new BCF teachers and their families arrived in Thimphu for orientation. We are excited to have three alumni returning and 15 brand new teachers who will join our six renewing teachers, bringing us to a total of  24 BCF teachers who will be scattered across Bhutan. Orientation seems to be going well as indicated by the smiles!

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2014 Teachers outside of the Folk Heritage Restaurant in Thimphu

Orientation: Traditional Bhutanese Cooking

One of the activities the teachers will be enjoying during orientation is cooking lessons! The national dish in Bhutan is called ema datshi, a very hot dish made with the beloved chilli pepper. Bhutanese don’t heavily season their food, instead they add chilli peppers to many of their dishes. Other ingredients used in Bhutan dishes include yak butter and cheese, various meat and poultry, and red rice. Another popular dish is kewa datsi. Check out BCF alumni teacher Andrea’s recipe for this delicious dish!

Photo Credit: Andrea Chisolm
Photo Credit: Andrea Chisolm, prepping kewa datsi

Some BCF Teachers miss home and certain foods while in Bhutan. Here are some suggestions to fuse North American food with local ingredients (courtesy of BCF teachers Vicky Chartres, Carson Koller, and Meghann Turner):

Looking for something hearty? Soup is right up your alley!:

– look for any local veggies like carrots, potatoes, pumpkin as a base

– add onions, oil or butter, salt, herbs to taste, even amul cheese if it suits

– use hand blender (purchased in Thimphu) to make a creamy soup

Use your rice cooker to make bread & pancakes!:

– maida (local flour used for chipati), milk powder, eggs

– baking powder, sugar

– use milk powder to make milk, follow your recipe, grease rice cooker pan, press rice cooker 2-3 times to cook bread thoroughly

Miss Pizza? Try some delicious Bhutanese-style pizza pops:

– maida, oil, amul cheese, any local veggies, olives (can be found in Thimphu)

– make a dough with maida and water, cut up onions, olives, any veggies, layers of cheese, seal dough around edges and fry

Sounds delicious! Enjoy!

Class of 2014 Arrives in Bhutan!

Our Class of 2014 has safely arrived in Bhutan! They have travelled a short distance from Paro to Thimphu where they have begun a two-week orientation to introduce them to the country and culture, one another, and to prepare them for their classrooms and curriculum. Other activities that they will get to enjoy are a hike up to Tigers Nest, shopping for the national dress, and Dzongkha lessons!

Photo Credit: Vicky and Ian - Arriving in Paro!
Photo Credit: Vicky and Ian – Arriving in Paro!

For the next few weeks stay tuned as we share stories and experiences from our new and returning teachers!

Photo of the Week: Chelela Pass

As our new BCF Class of 2014 flies into Paro to begin their new year in Bhutan, we thought we’d showcase a beautiful trek that past BCF teachers have made – maybe our new teachers will get the chance to visit as well!

Chele-la Pass lies between the Haa Valley and Paro Valley and is the highest pass crossed by a Bhutanese highway through dense spruce and larch forests. It’s at this pass that you can see the spectacular views of the mountains Jhomolhari and Jichu Drakye and be surrounded by prayer flags.

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Photo Credit: Heather Robertson (Haa Valley – Chelela Pass)

Stretton, Matt - Jhomolhari Mountain Pass

Photo Credit: Matt Stretton (Cheli La Pass – Best Views of Jhomolhari)

Root, Brick - Chele La Prayer FlagsPhoto Credit: Brick Root (Prayer Flags around Chele La – Farewell Tour)

Class of 2014 Profile: Jessica Carreon

Last but certainly not least, we are excited to introduce to you to our final new BCF teacher Jessica Carreon! Jessica will be teaching English at Dechentsemo Middle Secondary School in Punakha.

Carreon, Jessica - Photo

Jessica is a bi-cultural teacher from Mexico City. She has lived many years in the United States, along with her immediate family. Jessica graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in Latin American History. She wanted to see the world that she had for so long read about therefore a career in ESL teaching became the most evident path. Jessica has taught in Mexico for over 3 years and her desire to see and experience the most remote areas of the world has continued to grow. She hopes to learn a lot during her year in Bhutan!

Welcome Jessica and the entire Class of 2014!

Class of 2014 Profile: Travis Dewan

The BCF class of 2014 is welcoming more Australians than ever before! Five Australian teachers will be joining our six Canadians, 10 Americans, as well as one British, one Singaporean, and one Mexican teacher to make the upcoming Bhutanese school year the most diverse and exciting!

Australian educator, Travis Dewan will be heading to Rangjung LSS in Trashigang.

Dewan, Travis - Bio. Photo

Travis was born and raised in sunny Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. After graduating with a double degree of Creative Industries (Visual Art) and Secondary Education, Travis continued to pursue both of these passions locally and internationally.

Travis has taught ESL in Japan and worked in both rural and urban schools throughout Queensland. In 2012, Travis taught at an Indigenous boarding school, where he worked with Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Papua New Guinea students. He has participated in a volunteer work program in rural Fiji, where he led a group of Australian students to help build better living standards for a village community. He has worked as a youth program officer at a community club, where he worked specifically with boys in challenged-based learning programs and most recently, has been working as a visual art specialist teacher in primary schools.

While teaching, Travis is also engaged in visual art practice and arts management. He is the founder of artist-run initiative ‘Vegas Spray’ and is the artistic director of Brisbane Emerging Art Festival, BNE ART, The Sister-City Artist Residency Program and Papergirl Brisbane. He has been part of many art exhibitions in Australia and has also participated in artist residencies in Slovenia and China. Travis is passionate about Brisbane’s creative culture and works towards shaping new ways in which the arts are accessed, viewed and shared.

Travis was brought up in a rich multi-cultural family consisting of Anglo-Indian and Fijian-Indian heritage. Because of this, he has continued to be interested in travelling the world and exploring its diverse culture and people.

Welcome Travis!

Class of 2014 Profile: Vicky Chartres & Ian Swift

This year, we’ve seen the return of BCF alumni Scott Harris as well as six teachers renewing their contracts in the field and we’re happy to include two more alumni that are heading back to Bhutan – Australian couple, Vicky and Ian! In 2011 and 2012, they taught in Rangjung but are switching it up this year and will be heading to Samtengang in Wangdue.

Vicky Chartres

Vicky-Chartres-001

Vicky was born, raised and educated in Adelaide the capital city of South Australia. After qualifying with a Bachelor of Education Degree majoring in Drama from Adelaide College of the Arts and Education she began a teaching career that has spanned more than 30 years, in rural South Australia. It has taken her to China, Japan, Thailand and Tanzania and included teaching Drama, English, Chinese and ESL. Some of the many highlights were managing the intensive secondary English course for international students in an international school in Adelaide, leading student trips to both Japan and China and teaching herself Chinese while living in the northern Chinese city of Taiyuan. She is an avid swimmer and cyclist and enjoys cooking, reading, traveling, photography and fine wines. Vicky spent two years (2011 & 2012) at Rangjung Higher Secondary School in eastern Bhutan with her husband, Ian Swift who was teaching at Rangjung Lower Secondary School. It was only after she had left that she realised just how much she missed the students, the landscape, the philosophy and the other worldliness of Bhutan so she is back for a second experience.

Ian Swift

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Ian comes from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia and has taught English in China, Japan, Thailand, Bhutan and most recently Tanzania. He enjoys the challenge of surviving as a minority foreigner and learning about new cultures and countries.

He enjoys cycling, walking, cooking, photography and playing ping pong. He has had a number of jobs ranging from selling life insurance to working with people from refugee backgrounds and coordinating volunteers for a major refugee NGO, to a healthy stretch of customer service in the retail sector. As a mature aged student Ian completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies. Ian spent two years (2011 & 2012) at Rangjung Higher Lower Secondary School in eastern Bhutan with his wife, Vicky Chartres who was teaching at Rangjung Higher Secondary School. During his time at RLSS Ian taught English to grades 4, 5, 7 & 8. This year he hopes to continue to learn and grow as well as contributing to education in Bhutan.

They also maintain a wonderful and informative blog at http://intheshadowofthemountains.blogspot.ca.

Welcome back Vicky and Ian!