Class 6A invited me to join them for a picnic last Sunday, organized by their class teacher. I was delighted. Our destination was Wengkhar, which is an agricultural research centre I’d been hoping to visit for some time, and this seemed like a great opportunity.
Luckily it was one of the few dry days we’ve had. We started off at 8:00 a.m. in a mix of sun and cloud, which kept the temperature quite comfortable for the hike. I walked with the kids, but the other teachers all drove. (Young wimps) It was about 8 km there, mostly uphill. Our route involved a shortcut into a subtropical ravine, across a stream, and up the other side. Down there it sounded like the jungle, with all kinds of very loud bird and insect sounds.
I was looking forward to reaching our destination and having a snack and a drink, and mostly, a rest! Just before we got there, we encountered students already retracing their steps, and reporting that it wasn’t a good place for a picnic. They were heading back a couple of kilometres to a better spot. I needed a break, and I wanted to see Wengkhar, so I kept going on my own.
At Wengkhar, there were lots of greenhouses, and terraced gardens built on the side of the hill, and a very pretty view, but unfortunately, since it was Sunday, there was no one to give me a tour. I did meet up with the class teacher though, and we got a ride with a lama back to the new picnic spot in Yakpogang.
It was definitely a better spot, with wood to gather for the fires, water in the stream for cooking, and room to play. As usual, everyone pitched in to get things ready for lunch.
Each of the 42 kids brought a bag of rice, which amounted to a lot of rice!
It was quite an elaborate lunch with rice, ema datse(chillies and cheese), dahl, potato curry, boiled eggs, papadams, ezay (more chillies) and to my surprise, disgustingly huge chunks of butter!! It was all very tasty ( I didn’t have any butter), but I ended up with my first case of Bhutanese diarrhea, what they call “shooting diarrhea”. I’ll spare you the details, but I will tell you that the walk home was quite uncomfortable, and I just made it to the toilet!
It was truly an amazing day. Before picnic, our class teacher collected Nu. 50 from each student. Then my class teacher and class captain, that would be me, went for shopping on Saturday.
The total money collected was about Nu. 2000 and we bought vegetables, eggs, snakes(sic), juice and some spices to add in curry. Me and Karma Lhazin, the other class captain invited teachers and of course, Madam…
…We also made tea and it was sufficient for all of the students. Then at the time of 3:00 p.m. we ate our lunch, and it was really tasty. Then my friends and I played gymnastics and had lots of fun. I hope madam had also enjoyed a lot.” ~Thinley Lhendup
“It was a very hard journey because we walked to Wengkhar and to Tongsang and again back to Yakpogang. We invited some other teachers but they came in vehicle later. We made oven and cooked food using firewood. I cried while cutting onions and ma’am clicked our photo while I was crying.
While I was walking home I was lifted by vice principal.” ~Chimi Yuden
“…When we reached at Yakpogang we swam in the stream. We made many delicious foods. We ate and ate and we were very tired and lazy. I went to pick up litter with Madam Ann and then we played the badminton.” ~Cheki Dorji
writing diaries (note the cell phone)
“…After finished ating the lunch we wash pots and our plates. I saw old man sitting near river. Then I told my class teacher I want to gave the food to old man. Then I put rice on the plate with different curry. Old man was about to go. Then I sent one of my friends to wait him. Then he sit on the grass and I gave him food. This man was very please to me. He said me that thankyou a lots. This man was telling to me that study hard. I will pray god for you. I was very happy that he was telling nicely to me. ~Tshering Choki
By the way, badminton was played in the middle of the trans-Bhutan highway. Whenever a vehicle was sighted coming around the bend, someone would shout, “Car!” or the Dzongkha equivalent, and everyone would get out of the way. Just like road hockey.