Monday, October 31, 2011

Dzongkha labney gi denlu, charno baynung. Di gotchee mo?

Title Translation: Please help me learn Dzongkha, friend. What is this called?
To learn Dzongkha, use the above phrase to get strangers to teach you many nouns. Put these on a poster in your living room. Then, memorize your colours and numbers by writing them on index cards and going on multi-hour walks identifying everything you see. But mind your sentence structure! It is verb last as in "Bhutanese Yoda was." except that, like in French, subjects preceed their adjectives in Dzongkha, so actually "Yoda Bhutanese wasn't."

Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Diwali!

With Halloween only a few days away, I was thinking, "Boo hoo! I'm missing another Canadian holiday. I won't see any trick-or-treaters this year."

It turns out Bhutan has a rather analogous tradition! On the eve of Yama Dwitiya, the last day of the Hindu Diwali festival, children go door-to-door carrying a plate of uncooked rice and flower petals. When you open the door, they burst into a song rousing and rowdy enough to put a Nova Scotia drinking song to shame.

You then place five or ten ngultrum on the plate and they thank you by joyously showering your head with a handful of the rice/petal mixture. Later, after many wishes of "Happy Diwali!" they go to the next house.

Yama Dwitiya is a celebration of the special relationship between sisters and brothers so I am concluding this entry with a special message for the two best guys I know, the rice and the flower petals of my life, my two big bros:

Hello and hello! It is one in the morning now and pouring rain but the sound rain normally makes is lost in the drum beats and loud singing of the adult Diwali revellers across the street. I wish you were here so we could walk over together, get soaked on the way, then join in the dancing. At the same time, I'm also proud of you both for being where you are and working so hard in your respective challenging programs. You are both amazing. Also, please note that on Diwali brothers give their sisters presents.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Missing 7-C on a Sick Day

I've had a rough bout of dysentery and vomiting the past couple of days so, instead of being at school now, I'm home with the curtains drawn. I'm trying to hide from the vicious sun that is so hateful to those taking ciprofloxacin. I'm guzzling down water containing dissolved Oral Rehydration Salts-- the package says "orange flavoured!" but I assure you there is no fruity yum to it whatsoever. My body is aching and I miss my students. In particular, let me tell you about one class that's been on my feverish mind: 7-C.

At the beginning of the school year when I asked a question in 7-C English a tumbleweed rolled across the room. They were so quiet that I thought we'd never be able to have fun together. Sometime around our debating unit, though, they came alive! There's really no limit to what we can do now.

They recently performed plays based on the short stories in the reader. This is The Dauntless Girl by Kevin Crossley-Holland. Mary, played by the boy with a toego (the jacket component of female national dress) over his gho (male national dress) is so brave that she serves meals to a ghost, played by the boy with his gho over his head.

The group that performed The Cherry Tree by Ruskin Bond went prop crazy! They hauled trees of five different sizes into the classroom to show the growth described in the story. My favourite part was the grandfather and grandson sharing birthday cake:

Dzongkha songs about the Royal Wedding are a dime a dozen but as our contribution to the celebrations, 7-C wrote and performed the only English song I've heard about it:

Jetsun Pema,
Our king loves you,
Jetsun Pema,
So we love you, too.
We sing to the wind,
That is travelling West,
To carry these words,
We are blessed. (Soprano repeat: We are blessed!)

Verse 1:
Your face is our good king's safe haven,
Framed by hair black as a raven,
Pinned with a flower that matches your eyes,
And deeper beauty that never dies.

Verse 2:
As our queen, we know that you,
Will do all that a queen can do,
To bring prosperity and peace,
And development to the farthest East.

Verse 3:
Bhutanese sisters and brothers,
Ask of you, our new mother,
Walk hand in hand with our father king,
And love the children who gladly sing...

And just this past Saturday, it was 7-C's chance to report the news in morning assembly. They prepared throughly, did an awesome job, and had fun doing it. I am incredibly proud of them!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Pleasure of Escher

I can now say I've done the Tessellation Sensation Poster Project with grade five students on both sides of the planet! Bhutanese students enjoy it just as much as Nova Scotian ones:

Attention: Entomologists

What is this beautiful bug with whom I spent a pleasant hour?

Making Sense of the Senses

When the teaching assignments were auctioned off at the beginning of the school year, I was too passive to get what I most desired: a science class. Although, I hung out with the Science Club as much as I could, I still missed teaching my favourite subject. Recently our beloved Japanese physical education teacher Miss Momo returned to her homeland. I slyly suggested that our Bhutanese phys. ed. teacher would be better able to keep the athletics program going strong if I took over his Class VIII Science class. And just like that, I have everything I've ever wanted!

Currently, my Class VIII's and I are studying the anatomy and function of the sense organs. I constructed these lovely layers of the human eye (external, sclerotic, choroid, and retina) to make it easier:

They all fit together into a groovy complete eye with openable flaps to see the lacriminal ducts:

When we studied the ears I had the students make the models. The only rule was that that they make them "as cool or cooler than my eye":

All the groups presented their models and I dare say they learned a lot:

Do they love my teaching? Just ask this placard of a heart with my name in it made entirely of marigold petals!

Blessed Rainy Day

In Bhutan, the official end of the monsoon is celebrated as Blessed Rainy Day. The only responsibility people have on that day is to take a bath to clease the year's sins. The rest of the time is spent picnicing, playing sports, or, if you're this guy, taking the whole family out on the motorcycle:

Whatever one's choice of activity this year, the weather was perfect! There was a little bit of rain but just enough to be auspicious:

My Blessed Rainy Day was made special by the return of many of the BCF visitors who had come over the summer holiday:

They brought with them other falingpa (Sharchop for "foreigners"; the Dzongkha is "chilip") including a powerfully precociously three-year-old:

We went on a hike to the Old Dzong where we watched the monks playing Khuru, Bhutan's favourite multi-hour lawn dart game with elaborate victory dances:

And we saw this awesome spider:

The Sad Tale of Pakora the Cat

This is Pakora the food:

It is made of chopped green onions lathered with a gooey batter and then fried:

This is Pakora the Cat:

I had a LOT of mice eating all of clothes and food so I dreamt of getting a killer kitty to eat them. Then one afternoon, lo and behold, a jili jarim (Dzongkha: handsome cat) just walked through my open door! So I trapped her.

For a day she was a fierce hunter and an adorable roommate. I loved her.

Then she meowed to go out and I decided that she might be someone else's cat so I had to let her go. :(

Friday, October 21, 2011


His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk and Jetsun Pema are married!
The grand celebrations in Punakha and Thimphu were of course televised on BBS and reported around the world...

... but in my opinion the real excitement was happening here in Tashiyangtse. Just take a look at my three straight days of Royal Wedding celebrations!

Morning of the 13th - Prayers, butterlamps and offerings of khader (ceremonial cloths) at the school:

Followed by the the official unveiling of our magazine of students' wedding art and poetry that I spent hours and hours and hours and hours editing:

Evening of the 13th: Town dance organized by the Tashiyangtse Women's Association of which I am a member:

We tried to make the lighting and decor as funky as possible:

I even got a jazzy dress for the occasion:

Morning of the 14th: Hike with the Scouts from my friend Jigme's tiny Community Primary School in the forest:

Complete with a potluck of a dozen tiny little curry bowls:

Evening of the 14th: Chubardung Star! A flatbed truck was transformed into a sparkling singing competition stage.

My class captain has an incredible voice:

There was also a skit about littering that was hilarious even if you don't speak Dzongkha:

Evening of the 15th: The Annual School Variety Show

With everything from traditional Nepali dances... Lady Gaga:

With adorable small children...

...and extremely talented bigger students. This was my favourite dance of the night. They twirled and flipped their backpacks to a Bhutanese pop song about student life:

I am so lucky to have been in Bhutan for the Royal Wedding.

Long Live the Queen!