Reasons to Teach in Bhutan!

Looking for another reason to Teach in Bhutan? We are loving this article by Intrepid Travel about reasons why Bhutan might be the most liveable country in the world! If you are interested in experiencing Bhutan, apply to Teach in Bhutan by March 31st!

Colourful festival in Bhutan

What is your favourite part of living in Bhutan? Let us know below!

Blog of the Week – Baby in Bhutan!

Sending out a warm Congratulations to BCF teacher’s Matt and Lucy as they welcome a baby girl and embark on yet another adventure to Teach in Bhutan!

Matt and daughter Lily explore Thimphu!

“I was reminded of one of the reasons why we chose to come back to Bhutan … students smiled broadly when they saw me and looking up from their exam papers whispered heartily, “Wel-come back, sir! How is your baby? How is Madam Lucy? We are very much missing you sir and we are happy to meet you!”  – Matt Stretton

If you would like to learn more about BCF’s Teach in Bhutan Program, visit us at www.teachinbhutan.org.

Deadline to Apply is July 31st, 2014!

School Development Project Update – Gonthung Greenhouse

The Teach in Bhutan program offers teachers more than just the opportunity to teach eager students in the Land of Happiness. It is also an opportunity to generate an even larger positive impact in the greater community!

Bhutanese village of Gongthung
Photo Credit: Warren Tanner

Warren Tanner has been teaching in the Bhutanese village of Gongthung for the past five months, busy with teaching a full schedule, making new friends, and learning a great deal about subsistence farming and the challenges faced by local farmers. Currently, 80% of the population relies on subsistence farming to support their families. However, the three-month growing season is not enough to meet the needs of those living in this school community.

In response to this reality, Warren has developed a plan to grant Gongthung Middle Secondary School and the greater community a Greenhouse! This project, in conjunction with The Bhutan Canada Foundation as part of our School Development Program, is generously supported (in-part) through The EuroCan Foundation.

Learn more about this exciting project at Gongthung’s Greenhouse – and stay tuned for updates!

Do you wish to make an impact in Bhutan? Apply today to Teach in Bhutan!

Blog of the Week – an auspicious year to tear down houses

Interested in a typical day in the life of a BCF teacher? Learn from Sarah’s wonderful account of her day to day, including waking up before 7, sharing kitchen scraps with cows, enjoying life with friends and colleagues, and longing for real coffee.

Diamond, Sarah - College House

There’s something ever so satisfying about putting effort into everyday basic activities that I take for absolute granted back home. I love that I make my shower and literally wash my laundry. I love that I know which garden everything in my kitchen comes from. I go to sleep on Sundays feeling satisfied. Thinking back to my life I know all too well and that I left back home, and how I’ve adapted to this completely foreign simplistic new life in ways I never thought imaginable, bring a smile to my face.

Some days I do long for my fancy espressos and hot showers, but this is how I have chosen to live. I strongly believe that anyone can live anywhere. And that’s pretty cool to be able to slide right into another life just like that last piece of a puzzle. And so here I sit on my mat outside my house, gazing out into the himalayas, watching my bucket laundry dry, as I slip into this alternate, beautifully seductive world.

Read Sarah’s full account at “Next year is an auspicious year to tear down houses.”

Photo of the Week – New Home in Zhemgang

Our teachers are now settling into their unique placements across the country and making their apartments become their new homes. It takes quite a while to get everything ready (such as Internet, hot water, furnishings) but things are coming together for Kezia in Zhemgang!

Zuber, Kezia - Flat in Zhemgang

Kezia’s flat in Zhemgang. Lower half of the yellow building with blue door and window frames. Photo Credit: Kezia Zuber.

Zuber, Kezia - Sitting Room in Zhemgang

Inside Kezia’s flat – her front sitting room. Photo Credit: Kezia Zuber.

Zuber, Kezia - Kitchen in ZhemgangKezia’s kitchen. Photo Credit: Kezia Zuber.

To see some of our previous teachers’ accommodations, check out our post here!

Teacher Blog of the Week: BCFers last sightings in Bhutan-tears of sorrow

Reading Vicky and Ian’s last blog post as they headed on to a new adventure, after two passionate years living in Bhutan, made all of us sad but excited for all that has been accomplished and how strong we continue to grow together.

As much as the scenery and the amazing students, one of the great privileges of working in Bhutan has been meeting so many likeminded people. They are a diverse group of individuals who share a passion for teaching and a commitment to life long learning. We spent a lot of the limited social time we had together discussing our students, our lessons, our methodologies and the Bhutanese system as well sharing our educational insights and our varied and wide ranging experiences in the classroom in an assortment of countries. We are all passionate about what we do and I would like to honour them in this final blog. It is our fervent hope that we remain in contact with such truly inspirational and dedicated people.
Read their whole post and see all the pictures at BCFers last sightings in Bhutan-tears of sorrow
Photo Credit: Vicky and Ian.

To Vicky and Ian, and to every teacher that has given so much to Bhutan – we thank you and wish you the best in all your future endeavours!

Stories from the Field – Visiting the blind school

We’ve recently had the pleasure to chat with a number of BCF teachers currently in the field and they’ve told us some amazing stories and incredible moments that they’ve experienced while in Bhutan. Tim, who’ll be staying for a second year at his school, Tshenkharla MSS, in Trashiyangtse, recently posted a fascinating story on his blog. We’ve also posted it below:

Photo Credit: Tim Grossman.

When BCF asked me to share an anecdote about my time in Bhutan I drew a blank. How could I sum up of an experience like this one? 

At first I wanted to share about my students but it was impossible to abstract one or two moments in the daily magic of teaching here. 

After a time my mind drifted back to a perfect spring day. My friend Becky and I had been on a tour of the east and decided to ride out to Khaling. I had it in my mind to visit the school for the blind there. 

I was born with a rare eye condition called Congenital Nastagmus which severely affects my vision. I yearned to meet with kids less fortunate then myself. We marveled at the undulating landscape and lush mountain passes on the way to our destination. Upon arrival I felt nervous ambushing these “disabled” children. But mostly I was excited to be fulfilling my ambition of visiting the school. 

I happened upon the students as they were eating lunch in the dining hall. At one table were students with low vision like me and at another table were kids who were completely blind. Some of the low vision kids were albino which is associated with Congenital Nastagmus and other chronic eye conditions. 

Immediately I struck up a conversation with Dorji a blind boy in a purple plaid gho who also happened to be a famous Bhutanese singer. Dorji adeptly led me around the nooks and crannies of campus swiftly using his cane for navigation. At one point he collided with another boy giving us all a good laugh. 

I spent several hours talking to the boys in their neatly arranged hostel. I also met the girls in the courtyard where one blind girl demonstrated Bhutanese brail by poking holes through carbon paper with an ear syringe device. I went on to visit the classrooms where I met a mentally challenged boy who had no eyes who groped my thumb with his little fingers. 

What struck me about these students was how they supported and assisted each other and enjoyed themselves like any kids would. Unfortunately we had to depart before the blind ball game scheduled for that afternoon. I left feeling inspired to be the best teacher I can be.

Thanks Tim for the inspirational story!

Stories from the Field – A Birthday Celebration

Like our recent post about Dave Green’s awesome music club at Pakshikha MSS, we’re thrilled to share a story from BCF Teacher Martin and his lovely wife Tara at Wangdicholing LSS in Bumthang, as he experienced his birthday celebrations in true Bhutanese style!

I knew already that birthdays were not a big thing here in Bhutan.  Except for very young children, nobody really celebrates their Special Day as we do in Canada.  In fact, several adults I’ve met don’t even know what day might be theirs, as their parents couldn’t write and kept no birth records.  But this month, I witnessed a cultural fusion of East and West to celebrate my own birthday. On my walk to school today, several students stop in the dusty road to bow to me.  I’m used to the daily, “Good morning, Sir”, but today I’m greeted with: “Happy Birthday, Sir,” “Best remains of the day,” and “Long life, Sir.”  This must be through our neighbour’s daughter, who knew Tara and I were planning a dinner.  She told a friend, who told her brother, and in true small town style, my birthday was becoming an event.  So these greetings continue all day at school, and I feel so honoured, especially knowing they’ve put it on just for me.  As I move through the school grounds, students I teach come to admire my new birthday gho, pinching me as they explain that it’s what you do for good luck with new clothes.

When I walk into my own class at 9:00, I hear a hush and a shuffle of desks as I step through the weathered doorway.  My Class Captain pushes me back out, apologetically:  “Sorry Sir, would you come back in again?”  This time when I cross the threshold, he reaches above me with a bamboo stick and bursts a yellow balloon pinned to the lintel, showering me with flower petals.  The class erupts with a vaguely familiar melody, standing to chant “Happy Birthday to you!”.  I have to say, this is about the only time they’ve used the pronoun “you” with me; they’re trained to talk to their teachers in the third person….”Does sir…?”, “Would Sir…?”, “When could Sir…?”, etc..  I turn back to the rough chalkboard and notice it’s been covered with colourful birthday wishes in both English and Dzongkha.  And they’ve taped balloons in various corners of the room, which really brightens up the chipped plaster and fading paint.  It’s a party!

I can’t bring myself to start a lesson now, and this is no time for one of our pre-lesson meditations, so I ask them to be seated and hand out peanut butter cookies I was saving for later.  Here at school, the only indication of birthdays is when primary children come into the staffroom offering candies.  They move from teacher to teacher holding out a small bucket of Indian toffee, standing without a word in their school uniform, perfect replicas of the adults in their national dress.  So the tradition here is all about giving rather than receiving.  I’d prepared myself for this part by baking the night before.

After the cookies, the class asks me to sing, so I share a Québecois birthday song.  Then two of my oldest grade 7 boys–“repeaters”, at 16 and 17 years old—come to the front of the room and sing two love songs in Dzongkha.  One song is sad, but they’re both so beautiful, and obviously shared with pride.  In Bhutan all singing, both traditional and pop, tends to have lots of controlled vocal decorations wrapped around simple melodies, and these boys have mastered the technique.  The class is quiet, but cheers the singers on with expectant faces and grins.  I am in awe of this spontaneous celebration and feel so honoured.  I tell them this, but how could they really understand what it means to me?  Most have never been farther than the next Dzongkhag, let alone another continent.

 

It’s another of those moments we privileged BCF teachers have, when we consider pinching ourselves to be sure we’re awake and really experiencing this.  Sometimes my own culture at home by comparison seems so vague and diluted, lacking that strength of unity that is simply “how we do things” for children in Bhutan.

Photo Credits: Martin and Tara

Bhutan’s tears of joy over chillies

Chillies are a staple in the cuisine of Bhutan. It takes time for our BCF teachers to be able to adapt to the spiciness and the common practice of having chillies in nearly every meal – but once they get used to it, they tend to eat it up!

Photo Credit: Reuters

“In the picturesque Himalayan country known for championing Gross National Happiness (GNH) as a measure of development, chillies are a way of life…

…’We don’t use chillies as a spice; we eat them like vegetables. We don’t make any curry without chillies in them. A meal here is not complete without enough chillies in it.’ – [Sonam Wangyal, in Thimphu].”

Read the whole article from Al Jazeera English’s Gayatri Parameswaran at Bhutan’s tears of joy over chillies.

Photo of the Week – Teacher Accommodation

Accommodation varies widely in Bhutan and our teachers learn quite quickly that it is much different than what they might be used to back home. However, with the help of friends they meet, and the support of one another, they make their new homes warm, welcoming, and comfortable!

Sarah’s home
Sabrina’s Sitting Room
Dave’s Living Room
Martin and Tara’s Kitchen