"Education and knowledge by themselves do not bring inner peace to individuals, families, or the society in which they live. But education combined with warmheartedness, a sense of concern for the well-being of others, has much more positive results. If you have a great deal of knowledge, but you're governed by negative emotions, then you tend to use your knowledge in negative ways. Therefore, while you are learning, don't forget the importance of warmheartedness"
-His Holiness the Dalai Lama-
The above quote was made known to me by my friend, and although I certainly can’t take credit for the words themselves, I have invoked them wholeheartedly. My presence here is about much more than simply imparting my knowledge of English to my students. Much more. I could be the best English in the world (which I am so far from being!) but that wouldn’t be enough to do this work. I am being challenged and stretched farther and in different ways than I ever could have imagined- some days I can literally feel it. Although my teaching experiences and training have prepared me well content-wise, I feel so utterly lacking in other ways that some days all I can do is fall back on a sense of humor, warmheartedness, and blind faith that I was chosen to do this for a reason…
|At the 5th King's Birthday celebration, Autsho MSS|
|The field looked like a royal court.|
As I mentioned in my previous blog, it was the 5th (I’d like to correct the mistake I made by saying 4th in my last posting, sorry!) King’s birthday on Feb. 21st. As Autsho MSS is a brand new school, it has the best campus around; so five other schools in this district came here to celebrate. It was a grand affair. As the hosts, our school put a lot of effort and pride into this day. The students collected green pine needles and spread them on the sports field to make a green “carpet.” The field was set with flags and tents. It looked very regal.
|Reception of our honored guests|
|Breaking it down Bhutan style!|
|View of the altar and proceedings from the inside the tent|
|New dining hall being built at Bachu Primary School- about 3,000 ft. up the mountain from Autsho|
|Mongar town square- donkey included|
|In front of the temple at Mongar|
It was really great to get out to see some more of Bhutan. Since classes have started it is hard to get beyond the reaches of campus; and it’s easy to feel a little cabin fever-ish. Autsho itself could easily fit into one city block. The 400 students who board here all live right around me and sometimes I feel like I’m living in a fish bowl because they try to look in my windows. Having only one day off a week does make it hard to do anything but just teach and prepare to teach. I can’t say that I’m used to working a six-day workweek or happy about it. But who am I kidding? I’m not used to working at all, so anything would be a harsh reality check, I suppose.
|My first guests- three sisters. They brought me potatoes and dried chillies|
|Staff and principal quarters at Bachu Primary School|
At the same time, these students aren’t used to thinking critically or independently. They are accustomed to rote methods of instruction/learning and are totally confused by my teaching style, having an open classroom, and true dialogue. They really don’t know what to do if they can’t find the “right” answer in the book and copy it directly. Getting them to think and write for themselves is a work in progress, to say the least. I'm also really struggling to teach to those of my students who don't understand English. Even the ones who do are used to hearing the Bhutanese accent; we’re all confused and having difficulty understanding each other. Most of my students in San Diego were ESL learners, but they could understand the spoken language well. Some of my students here simply do not comprehend the words I speak. I have ascertained that the curriculum is far beyond the capability levels of these students (and at the same time, it’s right on point for others).
|Academic block at Zhamkhar Primary|
|Spinning some prayers...|
|This is Autsho. All of it...|
I've had some pretty surreal moments when I just realize exactly where I am, what I'm doing, and I just can't believe it. It just amazes me. And then, sometimes feel lonely and like my ego won’t let go of my former self and life. Like all my familiar ideas and thought patters have become so very much a part of my personality, even though many are not positive, that without them I feel hampered, or desperate to sustain some kind of continuity of myself...I still want to go Betty's every Sunday so much! I miss being with my family and friends, in comfortable surroundings, and my bad TV so much, sometimes it hurts. I feel like so much has changed in my life, and yet, I still feel oddly like the same old Reidi, just in the Himalayas..
|My trekking guides, Tenzin, Kencho, and Guym|
In the short amount of time that I’ve been here, I’ve learned about myself and what I’m made of- both good and bad. Coming to Bhutan has forced me to grapple with the hard-hitting question of “Why teach here?” I’ve realized I may not have been entirely clear about this before I left. I knew I wanted to improve, but improve what? Myself? Yes, that is why I initially came. But now that I’m here, I realize my time here needs to be entirely focused on what I can give to Bhutan, not what I can get out of it. I will spend this year living with the soul purpose of giving everything I possibly can and have to this school and my students- being truly and just of service. I’ve always known I would choose a profession that would allow me to interact with other people (kids) in a meaningful and significant way. In this way, I consider teaching a true vocation- a calling. I make NO claims to be an expert at what I do, but I have clearly identified my intentions and recognize a certain capacity within myself to get there. Bhutan will help me. It already has. Hopefully someday I’ll actually be good at the teaching part, and more than simply well-intentioned and warmhearted, but for now, that’s what’s getting me by!
Da-ri gi nim de-lu Tashi Delek yea! (Have a nice day today!)
|Bird's eye view. My house is right in the middle of this|