Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Eef you caunt do eet, just leave eet!"

Honoring Lord Buddha on Parinirvana

 One sweetly solemn thought
Comes to me o'er and o'er;
I am nearer home today
Than I ever have been before.

  -  Phoebe Cary

Things have been clipping right along these days. Rather than rambling on as I tend to do, I thought that this time I will try to let the pictures tell the story, and I can add explanations as necessary. Enjoy!

Happily spectating
Last month Autsho MSS hosted an inter-Dzongkhag sports meet. The games played were football (soccer), volleyball, badminton, basketball, and chess. Both boys and girls participated. Unlike in the U.S., where sports events are highly competitive and specialized, there is a fairly lax approach here and the same kids pretty much play every sport. The players from Autsho did quite well, and I was honored to be part of the awards ceremony and get to present medals to the girls’ volleyball team. The boys got first in volleyball, second in football, and the girls got first in football, second in volleyball, and there were also several students who placed individually in badminton and chess. Everyone came away feeling very proud and happy!

Boys' basketball team

Hanging out, watching the games

Girls' volleyball match

Girls' football team

Trophies to be awarded

Giving medals and a trophy

There was a track meet that was held elsewhere the previous week, which produced one of the most hilarious stories that has come out of this yet. Our bus driver told some girls who were struggling to run in the longest race, “If you can’t do it, just leave it!” (said with a thick Bhutanese accent, and in all sincerity). Hearing this wise advise from a trusted elder gave them the validation they were looking for and they promptly ran right off the track, to the side of the field, where they sat down to rest.  Few competitors finished races they “couldn’t do.” Thinking of this man telling these girls that, and then envisioning them running straight off the track, makes me laugh every time I think about it! This is the Bhutanese approach to sports and life. It’s now my motto for my time here, and this newfound attitude has saved me a few times from over-worrying or over-working lately. Not that I'm very prone to the latter! 

Doing a great job of playing the part!

The whole school had a “mock” earthquake drill and students and teachers all did their parts to act out a real-life scenario and assume their respective roles. I’m quite impressed with the amount of planning and organization that has gone into the disaster prevention/management program here. Well done everyone!

"This is just a drill..."

We had a big tragedy. A couple of weeks ago, in the middle of the night, a house here burned to the ground, and while everyone got out safely, several of our staff members who lived there lost all or most of their possessions. Scary and sad. The staff has all pooled together resources, supplies and gotten them back on their feet, though, and into new housing…life continues…

Kelzang and Thinley
 The day after the fire, the whole school went up the hill to receive Puja (a blessing from a Llama) since there have been a few deaths in the community lately. An elderly Sharshop lady came straight over to me, grabbed my hand, and it was clear she wanted to be friends. I have felt a bit distant and disconnected from some of the females here, so it was such a pleasure, honor, and joy to get such a welcome and kindness from her. Though we didn’t understand a word of each others’ languages, through gestures and translators, I came to find out she is the mother of one of my students (Kelzang) and aunt of another (Thinley). She feels strongly that we had met in a past life. She proclaimed me as her Bhutanese daughter and invited me to visit her in her village (and come with her son and nephew, of course). I took her right up on the offer. Since I got here, I’ve wanted to see the villages and homes of my students. I think it will make me a better teacher, and also that’s just fun and interesting, any way you look at it!
"You're telling me we have to walk all the way up there?"
June 4th was Parinirvana, they day Lord Buddha achieved Enlightenment, and it is a national holiday (so we didn’t have class). It was the perfect opportunity to go see my new “Bhutanese mother.” We planned it out, and my friend Sonam and I packed a lunch, gathered the boys, and we all set out early in the morning to go see my students’ village, Batsho. It’s a trek! After walking straight up mountian for a couple of hours, we were lucky enough to find a taxi that would take us up the rest of the way. If not, I don’t know how we would have made it. I was already drenched with sweat and exhausted when we stopped, and it was another hour’s drive yet up further.  

It was and will continue to be one of the most memorable days of my life. At the top of the mountain where Batsho village is, there is a place where the palace of a feudal king that ruled these mountains hundreds, maybe thousands, of years ago once stood. Though the palace stood above ground, the king was a suspicious man, and leery of attack, so he lived most of his life in rooms underground connected by small tunnels. Though the structure above ground has long since eroded, the basement rooms remain, and are the tunnels are still intact. The area is overgrown and tropical, and we went spelunking. There was a big slab of rock that used to be the king’s bed still there, and even the shelves built of rock still jutting out from the rest of the wall. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’m sure I never will.  Kelzang and Thinley’s family was gracious and hospitable, and gave us all tea and biscuits. We had a picnic on the Batsho Palace site, and I feel like I got to see the real Bhutan. On the way down, we stopped at a magical chorten, and Sonam got the biggest bag of spinach (sak) I’ve ever seen. Then, there was a moral kafuffle over hunting a deer.  It’s too long and complicated of a situation to explain in detail, but sufficient to say that Sonam ended up standing as a witness in pointing out the suspects that had been apprehended.  What a day, what an adventure! 

About to crawl through a tiny tunnel to the next "room"

Views from the way up

Looking down into a room

His Majesty's bed

Sonam crawling out

Sack of sak
It’s now the calm before the storm of Midterm Exams, and students and teachers a like are all ready to get it over with and get out of here for a couple of weeks. I’m going to be heading to Bumthang (the middle of Bhutan) to cavort and cut loose with my fellow far-flung BCF teachers, and then…who knows? I’m sure my next post will be about the Exams hell week, followed by whatever shenanigans ensue and adventures unfold over the break. It’s hard to believe this year is already half over.
Another "Sunday Funday"

That’s all for now. I didn’t do such a good job of keeping this brief. But you probably shouldn’t be reading this, if you’re in to the whole brevity thing. ;)


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