Blog of the Week – Rooftop Madness

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.

Photo Credit: Reese Ishmael - View from Home.
Photo Credit: Reese Ishmael – View from Home.

“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

Follow along with Reese at his blog Chillies and Dragons!

Class of 2015 Profile: Rebecca Story

Today we we are pleased to introduce you to returning BCF teacher Rebecca Story. Rebecca spent two years teaching at Phongmey Primary School in Eastern Bhutan in 2012 and 2013. Upon her return to Bhutan she will be teaching English at Gyetsa LSS in Bumthang!

Becky story]

Becky Story joins us again from Colorado. Originally she went to Cumberland College where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Public Health. After running an elementary school garden program she discovered she wanted to be a teacher. Becky returned to school and is now certified in Elementary Education. In 2012 and 2013 she gained her first 2 years of teaching experience at Phongmey Primary School in East Bhutan. She is very excited to have the opportunity to teach in Bhutan again, this time at Gyetsa LSS in Bumthang.

Thrilled to have you returning Rebecca!

Exploring Bhutan’s Culture!

Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, has plenty of sites to visit and delicious food to eat all over the country.

The Culture Trip is a great website highlighting some of Bhutan’s many venues to experience local food and art as well as a reading list of authentic Bhutanese literature! These are only a few of the great places our teachers visit to  learn about the fascinating culture of Bhutan!

Pema Tshering Artworks at the Water Dragon Gallery

Check out some of their picks for top restaurants, art galleries and novels here!


Creating A Positive Impact: Bcf Teacher’s School Development Projects!

We are excited to share with you some of the amazing school development projects our teachers have been working on within their schools! For 2014, the School Development Program is funded by the EuroCan Foundation, which focuses on conservation issues, particularly as they relate to renewable energies, climate change and sustainability.

Water Tap Kevin
Photo Credit: Kevin Kilkuskie

Kevin Kilkuskie’s waste management project at the Bidung Lower Secondary School, “Clean Today, Cleaner Tomorrow”, hopes to implement awareness raising and education campaigns surrounding waste management practices. Waste bins, and information on recyclying will be used to teach students and the community about the importance of keeping the environment clean and how recycling and reusing materials can be sustainable and beneficial for future generations!

Travis Dewan has focused his efforts on developing an Environmental Conservation project with the goal of protecting the environment by using sustainable waste management practices among the students and community. Travis’ project hopes to engage students in waste management by integrating visual art and creativity! At the Rangjung Lower Secondary School, art will be incorporated by creating garbage bins with bright colours, environmental proverbs, slogans and visual images. Travis hopes art will attract students to use these bins to safely dispose of waste, and create a sense of responsibility and interest in environmental conservation!

Colourful Bin
Creatively Designed Bins!

Warren Tanner a teacher at the Gonthung Middle Secondary School has developed a Greenhouse project that aims to cultivate fruits and vegetables and serve as an interactive classroom where students can learn and grow, while also contributing to the well-being of the school and surrounding community!

Sara Diamond is working on a WASH project that aims to minimize the occurrence of water-borne diseases from unsanitary drinking water by implementing a water filtration system. Currently, at the Tshangkha Lower Secondary School, students do not have access to a sustainable clean water source, relying on boiled water supplied from the school kitchen. The water filtration system will provide students, staff, and the greater community with a clean supply of water, leaving students happy and healthy while reducing illness!

Diamond, Sarah - Students
Photo Credit: Sarah Diamond

Sharon Gan Chi Ching’s project is a Botanical Garden at the Pemagatshel Middle Secondary School. This garden will be an area where students can learn about different plant life and species, complimenting what they learn in the classroom. In addition to the garden, washing stations and water taps will be constructed in order to provide students with alternative sanitation areas to keep clean before and after meals, teaching the importance of personal hygiene!

Ashley Lenzen is committed to developing a deer rehabilitation park for the injured wildlife nearby the Nangkor Higher Secondary School by creating a Nature Park . Multiple deer have already been rescued and the current enclosure is insufficient to properly rehabilitate the injured animals. The park would provide a safe place for the deer to recover, while also encouraging students to take initiative in caring for the environment!

Students in the Classroom at Tshangkha Lower Secondary School.
Photo Credit: Sarah Diamond

All of these eager teachers are getting ready to launch their projects! Stay tuned for more updates as the school year progresses! For Previous School Development Projects, visit Stories from the Field.

Destination Druk Yul 2: Flying to Bhutan

The BCF Toronto office has arrived to Bhutan!

Paro Airport.

Getting to Bhutan is not an easy task – especially coming from North America. Our teachers often have a transit time of between 25 and 50 hours (and 3 or 4 flights) but once they arrive to Paro, they already know it’s worth it.

A view of Thimphu’s main drag.

From North America, there are three main ports to choose from to meet up with Drukair. These are Delhi, Bangkok, and Kathmandu. All three are markedly different from Bhutan and offer a huge contrast in terms of population, urbanisation, and pollution. Whatever port you choose, it is an exciting transit as it introduces a multitude of unique and spectacular cultures.

Kathmandu, Nepal.

The flight path from Kathmandu to Paro offers breathtaking views of the mighty Himalayas, including passing Mount Everest at nearly eye-level. It’s truly a wonderful way to begin a trip to Bhutan!

The view of Mount Everest from Drukair’s flight Kathmandu to Paro.

Now here in Thimphu, our Destination Druk Yul adventure truly begins! Make sure to keep up as we document our daily doings and begin the trek across country to visit BCF teachers in their communities.

Class of 2014 Profile: Bret Parrish

Today, we are happy to introduce another adventurous teacher joining our class of 2014! Bret Parrish will be replacing Brick Root at Gaselo HSS in Wangdue and will be teaching English.

Parrish, Bret - Photo 1

Bret Parrish hails from a small town in Texas.  Growing up he loved books and basketball above all else, and some things never change.  College, at least the first go-around, was truly transformational for Bret, as he majored in Creative Writing and Religious Studies at East Carolina University in North Carolina, and discovered the passions, values, and sense of identity that would steer his course.  Bret has studied abroad in Mexico and India, stayed for brief stints in ashrams and communes, and worked odd jobs aplenty to experience the beauty of Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.  He enjoys altering his state of consciousness with meditation, hatha and laughter yoga, hiking, and dancing.  Bret attended Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, where he received a Masters of Divinity degree grounded in Buddhist practice and philosophy.  Seemingly unable to stop going to school, he picked up his teaching certification in New Mexico last year while teaching high school English on a Native American reservation.  Fresh off of experiences that bridge East and West, tradition and modernity, individualism and communalism, Bret feels the pulse of Bhutan in his blood.  He is psyched to check the topmost line off his bucket list.   

Welcome Bret!

Bhutan’s Artistic Expressions!

After Kelly Dorji took up art and got more involved into the art scene, he realized that Bhutan lacked spaces to promote local Bhutanese contemporary art, and so he established the Terton Gallery in 2011.

Terton Gallery, Thimphu, Bhutan (Photo Credit: Art Radar)

Art Radar spoke with Kelly Dorji to find out more about contemporary art in Bhutan (Buddhas, dragons and horses, oh my! Contemporary art in Bhutan – Terton Gallery interview). The gallery aims to provide a platform for local contemporary artists to earn enough money so that art can be recognized as a greater profession in Bhutan.

While local art works usually include themes of the Lord Buddha, the dragon and nature and textile reproductions, the gallery hopes to carefully introduce more bold forms of expression in the future.

Kelly Dorji says that he would like to see the growth of Bhutanese art and artists by branching out into the world, and spoke to the importance of Bhutanese art within the general Asian art scene,

“Buddhist art is growing in popularity the world over, yet just a handful of Himalayan artists seem to be making an impact in presenting contemporary art from the region. Bhutan exudes a certain uniqueness in interpretation of art, like it does in many facets of its culture. I believe promoting new ideas in modern contemporary art from Bhutan would greatly complement the general Asian art scene.”

Azha Kama Wangdi, 'Temple Scape (I, II, III)' Triptych, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20". Image courtesy Terton Gallery.
Azha Kama Wangdi, ‘Temple Scape (I, II, III)’ Triptych, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20″. Image courtesy Terton Gallery. (Photo Credit: Art Radar)

Creating and enjoying art is a wonderful way for people to connect and to express themselves, and several of our BCF teachers, like Andrea Chisholm and Matt Stretton, have engaged in art with their students!

Andrea encouraged her students to get artistic through arts and crafts as a way of personal expression and a richer learning experience. Check it out at Photo of the Week – Arts and Crafts.

And Matt recently took his class VII students to the Volunteer Artists Studio, Thimphu (VAST) to meet Asha Kama, a well known Bhutanese artist, who graciously gave them a tour and a handful of exhibition programs to take home for inspiration.

Asha Karma - Buddha grid, Satyr Tragopan, Dragon for the Buddha at Taj Tashi
Asha Karma – Buddha grid, Satyr Tragopan, Dragon for the Buddha at Taj Tashi

“Asha Karma’s work is a beautiful and unique blend of traditional Bhutanese painting and more contemporary influences.” – Matt Stretton Mountain Echoes Literary Festival.

Hopefully local Bhutanese artists will continue to make further contributions to the already growing popularity of Bhutanese art around the world.

Read the full interview at  Buddhas, dragons and horses, Oh my! Contemporary art in Bhutan – Terton Gallery Interview.