Three Published Authors in Central Bhutan

When I first volunteered to teach in Bhutan, I did not expect to see my students become published writers. I thought I’d teach some classes and maybe do a few school-wide projects. I didn’t expect my students to be so ambition… and so talented.

Now, during my second year at Jakar High School in central Bhutan, I have three students who just sold their writing to publishers in America, and I couldn’t be prouder.

Our first writer is named Dorji Wangchuk. He’s a student in grade ten, and he wrote an original fable called “Tree God,” about a village on the brink of environmental disaster and a mysterious visitor who teaches everyone how to fix their own problems.

It’s a really good story, and you’ll be able to read it in October when the anthology I Write Short Stories by Kids for Kids Vol. 9 comes out. The book, funded by the Houston Literary Organization, collected stories and poems from students all over the world. Dorji is the first Bhutanese writer to be a part of this project.

“I was really surprised when I heard the news,” Dorji said. “Nothing like this has ever happened to me before.”

His award ceremony is scheduled for October 27 in Houston, Texas. I really hope he gets to go, but plane tickets might be too expensive. Still, even if he doesn’t attend, he’ll always have the honor of being a published writer at sixteen. I’m really proud of him.

My other two writers are both poets. Amandika Thapa from grade nine and Tila Rupa Chhetri from grade eleven will both be featured in the Sewing the Seeds of Peace anthology, also based in Texas. Amandika’s poem “A Conversation with Peace” and Tila’s poem “Looking for Peace” are both beautiful pieces of writing.

Their big award ceremony is scheduled for next month, to coincide with the International Day of Peace on September 23.

I love my job in Bhutan. The students here are so motivated and clever. As a foreign teacher, I truly feel that it’s my responsibility to help them reach their full potential. Because Bhutan is such a small country, it can be hard for the students here to know how to express themselves. They all want to be heard. I just gave them the megaphone.

 

This blog post was written by Evan Purcell, a BCF teacher in central Bhutan. Read the published story in the national newspaper in Bhutan, Kuensel, here.

You can also follow the writers’ work at https://iwrite.org/i-write-contest/ or https://www.inspiritry.com/pages/peace/art-of-peace-tyler

Summer Reading Program

“I sense this may be and will be a life-altering experience- but I’m not yet sure in what ways….”
Mary Ann Pruyser, one of BCF’s volunteer teachers this summer, has given us a look into her pre-departure thoughts. This month marks the take off of our Summer Reading Program. We’re sending 16 amazing teachers, including Mary Ann, to embark on a trip of a lifetime, acting as reading mentors to students in Bhutan. Understandably, these teachers have a lot on their minds. Here’s what she had to say:
“I feel confident, but know I will have to train myself out of the western way of thinking and make that inevitable adjustment to ‘traditional society’ lifestyle – letting go of a focus on materialism and the need to be comfortable at all times.

I’m very excited about the prospect of exploring this unique culture which I’ve been fascinated with for many years. I feel very privileged to be part of a Canadian excursion to Bhutan – a once in a life time experience. Looking forward to observing the culture from a western perspective and then upon return to Canada, observing my culture from an eastern more traditional perspective.

I’m curious about exploring ways that will assist young Bhutanese to improve their English skills in a short time. 

I’m expecting to gain friendships, connections for future volunteer teaching experiences, challenging myself through the harder times which will inevitably be part of such a trip, gaining a deep appreciation about how locals live their lives, viewing the breathtaking landscape.”

Looking for an experience to bring perspective and adventure into your life like Mary Ann? Check out our programs and upcoming trips at www.bhutancanada.org

 

Blog of the Week – Joe’s Journal

BCF teacher Fraser MacInnes, who is teaching English at Samey PS in Dagana, has started a blog while in Bhutan that is geared towards children and is told through the voice of Joe Crow.  Fraser’s blog is designed as a learning tool to inform children about a different culture and way of life.

Photo Credit: Fraser Macinnes - Fraser and Joe Crow!
Photo Credit: Fraser MacInnes – Fraser and Joe Crow
Photo Credit: Fraser MacInnes - Prayer Flags
Photo Credit: Fraser MacInnes – Prayer Flags

Follow along at Joe’s Journal, and be sure to check out more of our new teacher blogs:

Lynne Maher – An Extraordinary Excursion

Catherine O’Brien – Cat in Bhutan

Reese Ishmael – Chillies and Dragons

Blog of the Week – A New Beginning

Our Class of 2015 is in the midst of a two-week orientation and new BCF teacher Reese Ishmael writes about his first few days in Bhutan in his latest blog post A New Beginning.

Before I knew it, the flight attendant was announcing our descent. I looked out the window to find mountains everywhere. Above them were only a few small clouds speckling a vibrant field of cerulean. As we carved through the valleys houses and monasteries appeared on the sides of the mountains. I suddenly felt giddy. Looking over at Holly, I realized I wasn’t alone in my sentiment. The plane twisted and turned, expertly so, and before I knew it, we had touched down.

Photo Credit: Reese Ishmael

Photo Credits: Reese Ishmael
Photo Credits: Reese Ishmael

Keep up with Reese’s adventures in Bhutan on his blog Chillies and Dragons!

Update from an Alumnus – Andrea Chisholm

We are very excited to bring you an update from 2013 BCF teacher Andrea Chisholm. Accompanied by her husband and two sons, Andrea spent a year in Bhutan teaching English at Chumey MSS in the district of  Bumthang. Having been home in Australia for over eight months now, Andrea is still very much connected to the country of Bhutan, the students, and the community of people she met along the way.

“We’ve been home from Bhutan since January, and although I feel fully immersed in a rich and happy life here in Australia, I still think of Bhutan everyday. I’ve become a Bhutanophile whose heart was captured by that magical place like no other at the top of the mountains.”

Along with teaching a full schedule in Bhutan, Andrea took on the role as primary school librarian. Following her passion for teaching reading to her students, Andrea has been working on a special project for the last few months that has recently come to fruition. To learn more about this project straight from the source visit Andrea’s blog post Books for Bhutan. Since writing her post, Andrea’s set of twelve books has been completed and she is looking forward to moving this project forward including fundraising to see these books printed and distributed throughout the country!

Photo Credit: Andrea Chisholm - Books for Bhutan Cover

Photo Credit: Andrea Chisholm - Books for Bhutan
Photo Credit: Andrea Chisholm – Books for Bhutan

 Reading seemed to me to be the most important skill my students needed to acquire. Most started school with no knowledge of English and yet this foreign language is the medium for their primary and high school education. Becoming a fluent user of English is imperative to success at school and the only pathway to further education and opportunities in Bhutan and beyond…

I bought a bundle of levelled readers in Thimphu and used these to listen to my students read one on one every morning before school. Most started with level 1 and struggled with even the most simple sentences as they had so little vocabulary in English. The books were made for Australian kids so they were about trips to the park, rock pools or museum, Australian style birthday parties, school fetes and making cheese tomato and lettuce sandwiches!

So, my mind began whirring with the idea of producing a set of very similar levelled readers that were Bhutan-ised. They would need simple modifications to content to draw on Bhutanese children’s prior knowledge and life experience. I thought clear and colourful photographic images of familiar scenes would engage students and help them identify vocabulary. And Jake and Anja would need to make way for Dorji and Deki!

Read about Andrea’s year spent teaching in Bhutan at her blog From Down Under to the Top of the World.

Blog of the Week – Blowing in the Wind

In her blog post Blowing in the Wind, BCF teacher Vicky describes a fun venture she planned and successfully executed with her students at Samtengang MSS in Wangdue!

“For the past week my 3 class VIII sections have been studying an essay called “Prayer flags blowing in the wind” which I thought combined perfectly with the song lyrics of “Blowin’ in the wind” by Bob Dylan which just happened to be included as a poem in the same unit. From the moment I saw the titles I knew I would want to fly prayer flags with them once we had done the hard yards.” – Vicky Chartres

Photo Credit: Vicky Chartres - Students and Prayer Flags
Photo Credit: Vicky Chartres
Photo Credit: Vicky Chartres - Hanging Prayer Flags
Photo Credit: Vicky Chartres – Students hanging the prayer flags

“I knew it would be a hit with the students and was really looking forward to it. Their spirits were not in the slightest bit dampened by the drizzling rain and they were quick to point out that rain is in fact a lucky omen…No-one was at all concerned about how wet they got and we will all have the pleasure of watching our prayer flags send their prayers to the heavens for the rest of the year.” – Vicky Chartres

Follow along with Vicky and Ian on their blog In the Shadow of the Mountains!

Catching up With the Diver Family

Archery, local buses, and fiery food! BCF teacher Paul Diver and family share what it is like living in Bhutan on their blog Bhutan Clan.

Diver, Justine - Diver Family
Photo Credit: Justine Diver – The Diver family

“Another great thing about the buses is that they will stop anywhere along the road and so when a fellow teacher asked me to buy her some ‘real coffee’ in Thimphu, I simply asked the driver to stop at her house while I went in and delivered the package. Nobody on the bus complained or looked at me with daggers – everyone does it.” –  Paul Diver, The Joy of Bhutanese Buses

Diver, Paul - ChillisJPG
Photo Credit: Paul Diver – Bhutanese Chillis

“Of course, I cannot write a post about Bhutanese food without mentioning chilli. I don’t know when the chilli arrived in Bhutan but it is very much part of the culture. They are eaten as a vegetable rather than as a condiment and so most dishes are best described as ‘fiery’. I like a bit of chilli myself but I literally could not stomach the amount of chillies a typical Bhutanese eats. Our kids would always complain if I put the slightest hint of chilli in our food back in Australia. Now they are so used to it that they even sprinkle it on popcorn.” –  Paul Diver, I can make you a millionaire!

Follow along with the Diver family and check out their latest post Tsetchu Sir!

Homestay in Haa by Matt Stretton

In the March-April 2014 issue of Druk Air’s Tashi Delek Magazine, BCF teacher Matt Stretton writes about his time spent in Haa Valley and celebrating Lomba with a local family…

“My interest in Haa was first stirred by my colleague and Dzongkha lopen, Thinley Pelden, himself a proud Haap (as people from Haa are known). Thinley told me in detail about the special Haap New Year, called Lomba, which is celebrated on the 29th day of the 10th month of the Bhutanese calendar. After hearing his impassioned descriptions of how his childhood New Years were spent making karma-altering offerings of dough effigies and eating voluminous quantities of hand-crafted buckwheat dumplings, I knew I had to go and experience this unique celebration for myself.”

Check out Matt’s previous article in Tashi Delek – Wrestling with Cultural Diffusion and his blog Bos Grunniens: Adventures In The Land of The Yak.

House Hunters International – Let Me See Bhutan

BCF alumni teacher Andrea Chisholm and her family were recently featured in an episode of HGTV’s show House Hunters International: Off The Grid!

Photo Credit: Andrea Chisolm
Photo Credit: Andrea Chisholm
Photo Credit: Andrea Chisholm
Photo Credit: Andrea Chisholm

After reading about Bhutan, Andrea becomes sold on the idea of moving there. She just has to get her husband, Bob and their two small children on board. When she finds a teaching program that will give her a job and help find her family a home, they make the long journey together. But in Bhutan basic living is the norm and with her husband now taking the role as Mr. Mom, this family must choose a home that helps them to experience Bhutanese life off the grid, while still making it comfortable for their young sons.

If you didn’t catch it live stay tuned for the video which we’ll post on the blog, and in the meantime check out behind the scenes from Andrea’s blog in Action! Part #1 and Action! Part #2.