Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kids' Letters about the Picnic

Dear Madam,
Today I am going to talk about what we did on Sunday. On Sunday I woke up at 6:00 a.m. because I am so excited to go with Mam Ann and then I went very fastly to toilet and brushed my teeth and washed my face and I went to the altar room to offer water to God and I prayed to God and after that when I am going to my kitchen someone is knocking the door. When I open the door Lungten came and we went to Mam’s house and we talked with Mam’s friend on the computer and it is very nice because we can see that man. We went to school and met with our friends and after some time Mam came and we started going to Yakgang and we reached there and ate food and came back.

~Kinley Rabgay

Dear Madam Ann,
During last Sunday I enjoyed very much my madam going to picnic at Yakgang. For picnic I came to school to call madam to go to Yakgang on cloudy day. I went to school and it was very silence like no one is there. I could see green raincoat like which Madam Ann has. Then I went closer and closer and I could see then a brown hair and I knew that it was Madam Ann. We thought that no one else is there and went back but our classmates came shouting and rushing out of the class and I and Madam was happy. Then we all waited for others to come but no more came. We went, and in the way we met Kinley Wangmo and Thinley Lhendup coming and they joined us.

I, Thinley, Tenzin and Kelzang went to my home very fast and took my bicycle. The other students were coming from back but we went riding on bicycle first. When we reached there we took all of them to a big cypress tree. We made the fire to cook the food. Tshering Choki cooked the food. While making I was playing bicycle and badminton.

After that the food was ready and I gave my plate to Madam and I ate on leaf. But the curry was not cooked well and I quarreled with headcooker.

After finishing I packed all my things back on my cycle and went back at home.

~Tenzin Namgay

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Wet Picnic in Yakgang

My class 6A students and I had planned another hike and picnic for today. Many of the kids wanted to hike to Yakpogang, 14 km round trip mostly on the main road. I said I'd prefer a shorter and more peaceful route, away from vehicles, and managed to convince most of them to choose Yakgang, a distance of only 6 km. The kids wanted a "wet picnic" which is the term they use for a picnic involving cooking food. They planned it all and designated who would bring what. I asked what I should contribute, but they insisted I should just take a bowl, cup and spoon. We agreed to meet at the school at 9:00 this morning (Sunday), as long as it wasn't raining.

It was raining when I woke up, and still raining at 8:30. I had already switched my thinking to a relaxing day at home. I was still in my pj's, enjoying my tea and skyping, when I heard kids' voices outside. The rain had just stopped, they were keen, and had come to get me. I told them to head off to the school in case others were there, and I would follow as soon as I was dressed.

The rain started again, but 18 kids showed up, full of enthusiasm. I didn't want to disappoint them, so off we went. Most of them were wearing ghos and kiras, because they had also planned to drop in at a temple in Yakgang to make an offering. Not the best hiking attire, especially when wet.

We had fun, despite the rain. The kids identified a few different fruit trees along the way, with fruits I have never seen before. One was a tree of small golden berries, the name of which translates as "God's stool"(turds). They weren't ripe enough to eat, but even an unripe one was quite tasty.

I didn't think the kids would be able to get a fire going in the rain, but they did. Without any help from me, they prepared an enormous pot of rice, a vegetable curry, and ezay(chili side dish). The rain stopped while lunch was cooking, and they had lots of fun playing. Some took turns riding recklessly down the hill on a bike with no seat. Others played badminton (rackets appeared from somewhere), performed gymnastic moves, sang, and played clapping games. Bags of junk food were consumed as appetizers.

In the rush, I had forgotten my dishes, but Tenzin Namgay let me use his. He ate his lunch off a large leaf. The lunch was delicious. In that atmosphere, I enjoyed the typical food much more than usual. We finished with some thick slices of fresh cucumber to quench our thirst.

We've already chosen our destination for our September hike. We are planning to go to Wengkhar, which is an agricultural area with a research station.

The four kids who came to pick me up.

A family was busy getting the maize off the cobs.

Our picnic spot was under this giant cypress tree.

Men playing the game of kuru (darts)

This area is always a mudslide. It is a very dangerous section of road.

Grandparents' Stories

Dear Madam Ann,
In summer holiday I went to my village. I met my grandmother. I was very happy to see the new face. I hugged with her again and again. She would go and get the sweet potatoes from the field for the dinner. She boiled it and we ate. Then went to bed, instead to going to sleep with the father, I went to grandma’s bed to hear the story of Dangpo…Dingpo…or long long ago.
She told a story of the rich boy and the poor boy. Here it goes:
“Dangpo…Dingpo…There lived two boys. One was rich and one poor boy. The rich boy have many cattles and big stone building, but the poor boy his father was dead. He had little cattle and bamboo house. The two boys went to bring the firewood. They went one black way and one white way. The rich boy was very bad to his friend. The rich boy took the white path and poor boy went from black way. The poor boy went from mountain to mountain. He reached in old house where there was grandmother and grandfather. They both don’t have eye. This grandma and grandpa were very rich. They have many cow, sheep and gold and silver.
The grandma said, “Would you live here?” but he said, “I can’t live here for many days but I can live here for two days.” They said, “You should not take the cattle in the demon house. The demon will also make you blind like us.”
He looked after the cattles and he made an idea to kill the demon one day and get back the grandparents’ eye. He made a big pit and covered the pit with some grass. He kept the one cow near the pit. When the demon came to chase the cow he went inside the pit and he was dead.
He went to the demon house and got the grandmother and grandfather’s eyes back. The boy put the eye in the grandmother and grandfather’s eyehole. They said that they could see better.
The grandfather was happy and gave all the cattle, gold and silver. When the boy went back home the rich boy came with only bangchang where to put his food, but the poor boy came with many cattle, gold and silver. The poor boy had become more rich than the rich boy.”

While my grandma had finished the story, my sister had already sleep and we were laughing.
I love my grandma but I never love my grandpa because he always drink alcohol and just sleep only.
I could see my grandma once a year because the village is very far. It took four days to reach there. Two days in car and two days with the foot.
I will never forget my grandma’s face.

My Grandfather
When my grandfather was three years old, his mother died and he stayed with his sister. He used to look after his sister’s cows ‘til twelve years and he could not go to school because there is no one to put him in the school as his mother had already died.
So when he was fifteen he used to take letter from one place to another because all of the people have to take the letter from one place to another every day when their turn came. They have carried the load of their dzongpan their selves. Dzongpan let work like slaves. When they are working they have to cross lot of mountains and they let the people to look after their horses and cows. When they went to the dzongpan’s place if they are a little late they used to beat them. They used to carry the load of dzongpan from Mongar to Bumthang. They used to walk in barefoot.
They have to go to India to get the salt and they have to carry potatoes to exchange with salt. They took seven days to reach there.
And when he was twenty-four he built his own house and got married with my grandmother.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Back Again

I arrived back in Bhutan August 6th, and back to my home in Mongar four days later. I had a great holiday in Canada with family and friends, which was exactly what I needed. Not to mention the steaks, good wine, coffee, and other delights. I feel energized and enthused once again. Upon my return here, I received a very warm welcome from neighbours, staff and students. It feels good to be back.

I have some blog catching up to do. I want to start by telling you about my trip back to Canada. By the way, to get permission to extend my holiday beyond the usual two week summer break, I had to apply for EOL (Extraordinary Leave!) It was quite a process, with letters and approvals at various levels. It finally came through at the last minute. Well actually, after the last minute, because I didn't get it until I was back in Canada.

I had been dreading the two day bus ride back to Thimpu, thinking of those winding roads, possible landslides, and upset stomachs. As it turned out, the bus ride could not have been better. At first it seemed that I was not even going to get a bus ticket when I needed one. Then I managed to book one a day early, squeezed into the back seat of the bus. I knew that would not be pleasant, but I was desperate. Then, thankfully, I got "upgraded" to the front seat, beside the driver. It was awesome! The windows are huge, so I had a wonderful view of the landscape unfolding before me. Great spot from which to take photos. Also no problem with motion sickness in that location.

When we had made the trip east at the end of February, it was towards the end of winter, and there wasn't much green to be seen. On this trip west at the end of June, following a couple of months of warm and often wet weather, the landscape was beautifully lush. We went through different types of vegetation, from subtropical to Alpine forest. There were many high, narrow waterfalls cascading onto or near the road. There were no landslides, but a couple of dicey, muddy sections. Apparently in July, sections of road were closed for almost a week due to landslides. I'm glad I missed that!

A young man sitting behind me looked after me during the bus ride. Whenever the bus stopped, he would let me know if it was for fooding or toileting. He also translated for the driver, who didn't speak English. He and I were invited to eat with the driver every time we stopped for fooding. I offered to pay, but the driver wouldn't let me.

For toileting, the bus would just stop at the side of the road, and everyone would get off. The men would walk in one direction, the women the other. We would just crouch at the edge of the road because there was nowhere to go. Just a cliff going up on one side, and down on the other.

About an hour after one of these stops, we stopped again for fooding, and afterwards I was waiting beside the bus chatting to my buddy and some of his friends, all on holiday from Sherubtse College. I felt a little tickle on the bottom of my foot, and as I rubbed my instep on my other knee, one of the young men quickly wrapped his arm around my shoulders, with the words, "It will be alright madam." Another young man grabbed my foot, and ripped off a huge leech! It probably wasn't huge to start with, but it was after gorging on my blood for an hour! If I had seen it on me, I would have freaked out, so I am very thankful that they noticed it before I did. It bled a lot, but it didn't hurt.

Although the trip from Mongar to Thimphu is only 500 km, it takes almost 20 hours due to the road constantly winding down one mountain and up the next. That is an average of 25 kmph! Consequently, the bus stops for the night in Jakar, Bumthang, about halfway. Some people go and spend the night with friends and relatives, while others go to guesthouses. My friend Dema, Chimi’s mum, picked me up and took me to her place. She lives in a small monastery, where her husband was the Rimpoche until his death about 12 years ago. My room was beside the main room with beautiful statues of Buddha and Guru Rimpoche. I sat in there soaking up the peaceful vibes for an hour or more. The monastery is written up in my Lonely Planet Guide as Deothang Lakhang. Dema was amazed to see her home in my book.

After the second day on the bus, we arrived in Thimphu. I had arranged to meet Lynda and Andrea there. They are two of the Canadian teachers who live closest to Thimphu, and I hadn’t seen them since February. We had lots of fun in the “big city”. We even went to a spa and had an assortment of treatments at incredibly cheap prices.

I also spent an enjoyable night in Paro with Nancy and Roy, two other Canadian teachers who were teaching at the Teachers’ College. From there it was a short drive to the airport the next morning. Three flights, and then home.

This last shot is in Delhi, where I spent the day. It was 45 degrees celsius. That is why my face matches my blouse.