Education is not filling a bucket; it is lighting a fire. - William Butler Yeats
I have been to the great sights, to Taktsang and Punakha, but last night was the most incredible experience I have had in Bhutan so far. The entire staffs of four schools shared a National Education Day bonfire hosted by the Dasho, the head of Trashiyangtse District. Dasho requested that instead of any feeling of hierarchy there be only the camaraderie engendered by our shared respect for teaching. Although most of his welcoming adress was in Dzongka I understood enough to know that his request was genuine and that he has a deep love and appreciation for teachers.
As it turned out, my Bhutanese dancing experience in the morning was only an introduction. Everyone danced in a circle around the fire, the local teachers, the foreign teachers, the Principals, the District Education Officer, the Dasho, everyone pinky finger in pinky finger. Most of the dances were as simple as left foot: tap, tap, kick; right foot: tap, tap, kick; repeat, but with a big crowd doing it in sync and swaying, it looked great. Everyone had a huge smile on their face as they danced and sang. At one point a gust of ash and smoke blew in my face and my eyes filled with water. I am certain it is the most I have ever cried while laughing that loudly and beaming that brightly.
Between the dances, we drank coffee mugs of warm ara with egg as soloists dedicated songs to National Education Day. Most were, of course, in Dzongka or Sharchopka but Indian teachers from the Higher Secondary School performed in Hindi and Chhattisgarhi. They asked me to sing in English. I chose "Out on the Mira" because it described the evening perfectly, "Out on the Mira / The people are kind / They'll treat you to homebrew (ara) and help you unwind [...] They dance round the flames / Singing songs with their friends..." I think that just goes to show that the best things in life are culturally universal, though only enjoyed in small places "fit for princes and kings."
There was a wonderful dinner with red rice, chipotle, curries, datses and all the rest, then a few more dances before the evening wrapped up. We then went to visit a young teaching couple; the wife teaches Dzongka at my school. She has promised to teach me. The next time I am dancing around a fire I plan to sing along.