Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Zhabdrung Kuchoe

Zhabrung Kuchoe was on April 23rd. Here are descriptions of the day from two of my students:

"I am from Khadam and I went to Khadam temple. We took butter lamps and gave it to the caretaker. We did prostration and went round the temple. Zhabdrung Kuchoe is the day our great leader of Bhutan expired. We have to celebrate this day because he brought peace to Bhutan. How? Because when he was not in Bhutan, there were many kings in one village. So, he made peace with the kings." ~Karma Lhazin

"In Zhabdrung Kuchoe I enjoyed a lot. First me and my family went to Yakgang Lakhang to pray to the god. It was the best day I ever had. Some says that when we do the good things in Zhabdrung Kuchoe, good luck will come to our family. When we went to the lakhang we found many different kinds of statue and we also did the prostration and we came back to Mongar at 4:30 p.m. I think that now good luck will come to our family." ~Kinley Wangmo

My neighbours invited me to join them to recognize the occasion by visiting a couple of temples. First we went to buy prayer flags, snacks and incense to offer. At the temple at Mongar Dzong, we did our prostrations and offered the snacks, incense and money. The monks served us tea while the lama did a sort of divining done with dice. One makes a wish, or puts an "intention" out there, the lama rolls the dice, and depending on the numbers that come up, he tells you what the chances are of that happening. You get three opportunities to roll the dice if you are not happy with the first two. I made my wish and rolled the dice. The first time I got 12, which was just okay, so I rolled again. The second time I got 9, which is the most auspicious number for that temple. I was happy with that. Also 9 x 12 = 108, which is also a very auspicious number. Things are looking good for my future!

Outside the temple, we turned the 144 prayer wheels, while thinking good thoughts. The first photo is my good friend and neighbour, Chundu. She is a wonderful friend, and has made me feel so at home here.

The second photo is me also turning the prayer wheels. For this occasion, Chundu lent me the rachu which I have over my shoulder. Since then she had one woven for me, a very special silk one. They are required for entering religious and government buildings.

Next is a group shot in front of the dzong, with a cop telling us we can't sit there.

A bunch of kids in front of Khadam Lakhang, which is the temple we visited next.

Inside that temple is a group of women turning huge prayer wheels.

On the hill outside the temple we hung prayer flags in the wind.

There is a photo of the only windpowered prayer wheel I have seen. I've seen a few waterpowered ones in creeks.

The next day at school there was a burlap bag of snacks which had been blessed and then brought down from the temple. Most of the snacks are not to my taste, but there were a few toffees buried in there. I said something about it being like Santa Claus' sack, but no one had ever heard of Santa Claus. I thought he went to all the good little girls and boys, and I could never figure out how he did all that. Now it is clear: he isn't going everywhere.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bhutan Canada Foundation Picnic

Rats. They've made some changes to this blogger website, and they are causing me big problems. Now my photos show up as a bunch of crazy text until I publish, and then they seem to become photos. It makes writing something to go with the pictures even more challenging than before. Also I don't get a choice of font or colour any more.
Enough complaining.
Nancy and a few Canadians paid Mongar a visit at the end of April. There was Sam Blyth (founder of the Bhutan Canada Foundation), his friend David Graham, Mark LaPrairie from the World Bank, and Meghan and Hilary, a couple of young friends of Nancy's. The main purpose of the visit was for Sam to offer his thanks and his support to the six Canadian teachers scattered across the country. Keira came down from Lhuentse for the occasion. We had an enjoyable dinner out, complete with real wine and patio lanterns supplied by Mark.
The next day we all went for a picnic at Autsho, which is a lovely spot on the way to Lhuentse. You'll see a photo of Keira and I wrapped in a blanket, which we were pretending to steal from Meghan. She had received it the day before from the King, who they happened to meet on the road. Nancy, Sam and Mark know the king, so they stopped to chat. It was Meghan's birthday, and the king gave her his blanket and four birthday kisses!
We left the picnic in three vehicles. I was with Sam, David, and our driver, Tashi. We were behind four logging trucks on the worst section of road. The first truck got seriously stuck in the mud, and it looked like it would take quite awhile to dig out, so Sam, David and I decided to walk ahead for awhile. Tashi planned to pick us up when the road cleared. We walked and walked and walked. There is a photo of David at one end of a suspension bridge which Sam and I crossed to get a view up and down the river. David is afraid of heights so he didn't join us.
Eventually David flagged down a taxi and since he couldn't get through to Lhuentse anyhow, he turned around and drove us back to Mongar. Traffic was moving again a couple of hours later. This road is notoriously bad, especially during monsoon season. Keira has been warned that she might be trapped in Lhuentse for the July holiday.
Nancy, Sam, Mark and David came to my school for morning assembly the next day, and visited my class. Mark is hilarious, and a natural teacher. The kids wrote in their journals about how much they enjoyed the visit.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Here is a journal entry from one of my students, a boy:

"I have problem of my mother and father. Once there was woman called Tandinmother. One night my father went to shop and buy many things. When he came back my father saw nice girl called Tandin mother. Then they are loveing together. I asked what happened to you? You are too late. Then my father said I saw one nice girl. Her name is Tandinmother."

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Teachers' Day

May 2nd is Teachers’ Day, and here in Bhutan it is a big deal. Something like Christmas for teachers in Canada. This year it fell on Sunday, which meant we had to be at school at 8:00 this morning, just like any other morning. It was raining this morning, so the whole school met in the MPH (Multi-Purpose Hall). As we made our way there, students were handing out gifts to their teachers. I received 14 pens, a mug, a china bowl with a dragon on it, two mini laughing Buddhas, a rose with a chocolate, and a few lovely notes and cards, with messages like this:

“Dear M’am,
Thank you for coming to our school. We stds (let’s assume she means students, not STD’s), are lucky to have foreign teacher like you who are so nice. You are my extra light coming in my life, glowing it. It will be hard to forget you and I don’t want to forget also.”
~Tshering Lhamo

“Respected Madam Ann,
I wish madam happy teachers’ day and thank you to come to our school to give us your vast knowledge and I wish your year in our school is the best memory in your life.”
~Lots of love from Kuenga Lhamu

“Dear Madam Ann,
Wish you a very, very happy Teachers’ Day. Since you came from Canada and you are been for 2 to 3 months, but so close to our heart. I like you teaching politely and I love you too.”

~Your student, Pema Yangchen

“To my favourite teacher who is Madam Ann. Here I wish you a Happy Teachers’ Day. Enjoy the day ahead la. (La is added as an honorific) You are loved a lot.
~Yours faithfully, Sonam Lhamo

“I would be very greatful if madam would take me to your country.”

~Dawa Pelzom

In the MPH, the grade 8 students were in charge of the program. A few students did eloquent speeches about the importance of having good teachers. The teachers were invited on stage and presented with a khadar, which is a white silk scarf given as a sign of respect. Then there were a few dances and songs by groups of students and individuals. While we enjoyed the entertainment, students served us tea and cake and pop and sweets. The teachers had provided samosas and juice for the kids.

Next it was the teachers’ turn to entertain. I joined with some of the other women teachers to do a traditional Bhutanese dance. Everyone was very pleased that joined in.

Afterwards, the men did a dance. Towards the end of the entertainment, I was asked if I would go on stage and sing a solo. At first I said no, because I had no idea what I would sing, but they were insisting, so up I got. I took two cute cute little PP (preprimary) girls up with me to share the limelight. I asked the audience to all stand. They’d been sitting for a couple of hours, so all 880 of them happily stood up, and I led them through the Hokey Pokey. It was a big hit.

Then the staff had an exhibition badminton tournament. After my turn (played in my kira, tego and onju, and sandals with heels), my Class 6 students asked me to go up to the classroom, along with their other subject teachers for a surprise. The kids had decorated the classroom beautifully. While the girls served more tea and cake and pop and sweets, some of the boys got up individually to sing traditional Bhutanese songs. One of the boys dedicated this song to me. Here is the beginning:

Sleeping Child
Sung by Tenzin Namgay
The Milky Way, up in the heavens,
It’s twinkling just for you,
And Mister Moon he came by
To say goodnight to you.
I’ll sing for you, I’ll sing for mother,
And praying for the world
And for the people everywhere,
Gonna show them all we care.

There were a few more thank-you speeches, and then goodbyes. It was all very sweet. I just wish it hadn’t been on our only day off!