“My life here is rather simple, just as I imagined it would be. The community is close and kind, eager to help and compassionate in every sense of the word. People here don’t sweat the small stuff and speak their minds freely. Time works on a completely different scale, too—affectionately referred to by locals as BST (Bhutan Stretchable Time). I spend my free hours writing or taking hikes, eating with friends, or participating in social gatherings. I like to walk into town from time to time to pick up vegetables from the market or just meander and people watch. On the odd holiday I will catch a ride with someone to see neighboring provinces, fulfilling my need for adventure. It certainly took some time to adapt to things, but now that I am familiar with it all, I have really come to appreciate it.”
Reese Ishmael currently teaches English at Mongar Lower Secondary School, and this past week he and two other teachers were chosen to coordinate Reading Day, along with 5 other local schools. This event included a 5-hour reading program, student readings and performances, prizes and refreshments, all to celebrate the “Year of the Reader”. Here is what Reese had to say after being asked to coordinate the event:
“I’ve never been asked to do anything remotely on this scale. Thousands of students would be in attendance! The stakes were also high because reading holds special significance in Bhutan this year. The secretary to the minister of education emphasized that we as foreign teachers should work diligently to improve students’ readership. The minister of education echoed these statements when he visited my school. I myself had chosen the school’s theme for the year as “building life-long readers” in response to the national designation of 2015 as the “Year of the Reader”.”
Reese, along with his two counterparts, dedicated weeks to research, organise and schedule the day’s activities and programs, not to mention figuring out how to tailor each to the reading abilities of each age group. There were three main competitions that took place: the buddy reading for grades 1-6, a reader’s theatre for grades 7-10 and a read and retell exercise for grades 11-12. Prior to the event, students volunteered to help prepare for the day as well, by cleaning the town’s central park, as well as making and setting up literary decorations.
Reading Day took place on a clear Saturday. The day was a huge success, not only attracting several students and teachers, but also many people from nearby communities who came together to watch the performances. Here is how Reese described the competitions:
“Student speakers who had practiced for weeks finally gave their speeches. The mic was working—a miracle given its track record, and the students were audible. Next the district education officer delivered a speech on the importance of reading, followed by one by the governor. All was going according to plan, but my mind was still focused upon damage control. The poetry reenactment by our class 5 was a bit robotic, but there were no striking errors, falls, or slip-ups.”
Congratulations Reese on all of your success! Reading Day was clearly an incredible experience for students and teachers alike, and such a fantastic way to promote reading throughout the community.
You can find out more about Reading Day and more of Reese’s adventures on his blog Chillies and Dragons!
Congratulations to BCF teacher Holly Krasniuk who came third in the Dantak Open Mountain Bike Race in Bhutan. With her prize money she purchased a book for each child in her school from class PP to class 6, as well as extra resources for the school and supplies for the staff. Way to go Holly!
Megan Haskin is teaching English at Rangjung LSS in succession of BCF teacher Travis. Last year Travis started an Art Club and Megan has gladly stepped in to continue the clubs success!
I now have over 40 children in my club and although I thought it would be total chaos it is the total opposite. They listen to my every word and focus all of their attention when creating their art works. The first words that left my mouth on the first day was a reminder that in art there is no right or wrong, everyone is good at art and everyone is different. The more different your art is, the better. – Megan Haskin,Picasso in Bhutan
For more stories of her teaching adventures follow Megan’s blog thehaskinjournal!
Continuing with our introduction to new teacher blogs, we bring you BCF teacher Catherine’s blog Cat in Bhutan. Catherine is teaching English at Dechentsemo MSS in Punakha, and shares insights and photos from her time spent teaching and enjoying local holidays in Bhutan so far!
Although I’ve found my much-anticipated routine, small things continue to change. I wonder when, or if, I’ll ever feel totally settled. But then this is a process too, isn’t it? Patience, and finding peace in the process, will help me to continue to feel happy here. That, and the occasional glass of whisky with fellow teachers after school to take the edge off. – Catherine O’Brien: School
Reese Ishmael is teaching English at Mongar Lower Secondary School. See how Reese is acclimatizing to the frequent celebrations in Bhutan and the meaning of community in Mongar Dzongkhag.
“The clock ticks slowly here and no one ever seems to be in a hurry. People make impromptu plans as opposed to arranging in advance. Conversations last hours and afternoons turn into all-day events. My friend Yeshi insists this is the better way to live; enjoying the moment. I am sure I will warm to the process in time, but in the thick of my culture shock I find adjustments like these particularly difficult—perhaps more so here than any other country I’ve lived in because of its cultural richness.” -BCF teacher Reese Ishmael in his blog post Rooftop Madness
Megan Haskin is currently teaching English at Rangjung LSS in Trashigang. Find out what an average day looks like for Megan in Bhutan.
“I feel grateful for how quickly I have adjusted and really feel that I have my new friends to thank for it! The staff and my principal are just so kind and friendly – they made me feel right at home on the first day…Right now I love eating Kewa Datsi, drinking large amounts of naja (milk tea), being extra social, walking everywhere I need to go and of course, I love teaching these precious children!”
BCF teacher Sarah Barnett is settling in to teach English at Gongthung MSS in Trashigang. On her blog she writes about her adventure across the country to get to her placement and her first week upon arrival.
The next day we had more GNH training, which was really interesting to learn about. I have to say that I’m really fascinated by all of the beliefs and cultural systems that are going on here. I think that it’s really great to learn about it. I’m learning so much about everything here and I can’t wait for more. – Home Sweet Home
Follow along at Flutjean2005 to learn more about Sarah’s year teaching in Bhutan.
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.
Follow along at Joe’s Journal, and be sure to check out more of our new teacher blogs:
Our class of 2015 teachers have been enjoying orientation in Thimphu and getting to know each other, but today they go their separate ways and begin the journey to their individual school placements. Check out this video of their arrival in Bhutan from Dylan Haskin, who is the husband to BCF teacher Megan Haskin.