Friday, April 27, 2012

Telling Girls the Truth- Our Principal Speaks

Bajothang finally received a man who could nurse its injuries and help her not only walk but run marathon race. Mr. Shangkar Lal joined us as our new principal last February from Gyalposhing and he has already shown us how he could lead us to a great change. For the first time I going to work under a man who would allow me to be creative, who himself is an artist hungry for creativity.
There are already so many reforms this man has brought to talk about in just three months but for now I would like to pick on the speech he gave to our girls some mornings ago.
He is a powerful speaker and uses his own choice of words, and here I will use my own words to express the same thing he conveyed that morning:
"I come from Gyalposhing, a small town that grew because of the Kurichhu Project and I have seen firsthand the impact of huge population fed by project on to our young school girls. And here am I again, in a place where two big projects are exploding the local population, where you all could fall victims of change. You could be sweettalked by any man with hundred promises but you must remember that you are the greater promise. You should know that you are capable of being more than just a mere woman dependent a man. Look at your vice principal here, tomorrow if madam Deki's husband treats her bad, tortures her and kicks her, she could kick him back and choose her on road in life. Because she has created her own life where she has hundred choices. You have the same right to create your life where you have hundred choices, you must resist any influence from men at this age. I am not saying relationship with men is bad, I am saying the time is bad. There is charm in doing right thing in the right time. If you fail yourself today, you are failing yourself for the life time: the when your husbands kick you, you may have to hold their feet and beg for mercy because you have nowhere to go. Don't let that happen. Give yourselves time to grow, give yourselves time to make good judgement, remain a student when you are one."
 This speech was well timed and well framed to protect our young girls from thousands of men pouring in because of the Puntatshangchu Project. We keep hearing rumors of our girls getting influenced into relationships and I hope this goes on to help them know that they themselves are the greater promises of their lives, the happiness that no man can give them.

 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Phuba Thinley in Sunday Market

It's hard to determine why movie actors and singers are not regarded as stars in Bhutanese society; nobody really becomes excited(or pretends not to be) about seeing one, nobody walks up to them to ask for an autograph or photograph, nobody stops to watch them pass by expect the little children- those honest souls. Rest of us look at them from the corner of our eyes and watch them only when they have passed. Then we make a u-turn and follow them with excitement and without admitting it. We pretend not have seen them, why?
We Bhutanese, I believe, are so full of ego, enough to export across the world. Their movies make us laugh and cry, their songs make us tap our feet and nod our head but we find it so hard to submit it, we find it hard to wave at them when they pass by, we find it hard to shake their hand and tell them how we feel about their latest movie or the song.
I am guilty of hiding my excitement as well but it's more of my worries than my pride, I am worried if the stars are ready and open enough because they are used to being unacknowledged and I could take them by surprise. But to the stars I know- Chencho Dorji, Toeb Kinley Tshering, Tandin Bidha, Pema Yangki and Sonam Choki- I have honestly admitted how their works thoroughly entertained me and my family. I am yet to meet Namgay Gigs to tell him that my daughter was fond of his songs right from the birth, I wish to shake hands with Ugyen Panday and tell them how he transformed the Bhutanese Music Industry, I wish to hug Jangchub Choden and tell her how she touches the bottom of soul.
Phuba, his dimple, me and my little one!
And of all the wishes I met Phuba Thinley in Sunday Market yesterday. I always wanted to tell him how he contributed to my good health and happiness but when I went face to face with him I couldn't say anything, he wouldn't give me any chance, so I went on laughing. He was selling genuine Bhutanese movie CDs and his lozay booklet. Though there was an old man selling same movies (but pirated copies) just a few meters away from him at price 10 times lesser I bought two movies and his booklet from him, and that's my contribution to fighting against open piracy and that's also my love for the big-jaw Phuba Thinley, at the cost of my own pocket. Me and my wife chanced to tell him how his movies are entertaining our daughter and how she is imitating him. He happily posed for photograph with us, where he asked the cameraman (my sister inlaw) to make sure that his dimple appears boldly in the picture- and it did!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Trade Fair in Bajothang- Irresponsibly Bhutanese

The Trade Fair in Bajothang ended yesterday, which began on 13 April. There were over forty Indian stalls with skilled salespersons, who won't get tired of demonstrating how their product works like 'magic'. But by the last second day these Indians were swearing they will never come in Wangdue again because the business wasn't good. They even started giving heavy discounts, yet the turnout was poor. On the other hand, Bhutanese were all waiting for the last day to come, they heard the story from Thimphu trade fair that Indians give heavy discount on the last day. 
Traffic Jam in my Parking
The final day saw the biggest crowd gathering in Bajothang, which surprised even the Indians. They were desperate for last few days and they knew their chance has come to hit hard. There was a sudden price hike and Bhutanese paid more for their foolishness. By the evening yesterday Bhutanese were more desperate to get the 'last piece' than to bargain, and I am sure it was bumper sale.
By today evening these Indians will leave the country and I don't think they will walk out with Ngultrum. If our country was suffering from rupee crisis then from today we will suffer little more. As if the economy draining in border towns weren't enough, Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) created a big leak in Bajothang to drain our Bhutanese money. It was a strange insult to rupee injury by an organization who should have been more responsible than the rest of us in such times.
Before the trade fair the business in Bajothang town was good enough to sustain itself but now things have changed. The trade fair diverted costumer from every corner to the Bajothang school football ground and therefore leaving the town empty. Business was already shaky in the town and now it will sure break because most of the people have already spent more they have earned in the fair. It was a great betrayal by BCCI who was supposed to work "toward 'Bhutanese' private sector development" landed up developing Indian private businessman. 
And Before the trade fair people were content with what they had at home and all they had to spend on were grocery items but now people have defied the words of our Prime Minister who had said, “We have to remember the lessons we have learned and work towards it; hopefully we will now change our habits of spending unnecessarily.” In fact the trade fair fairly changed our habits of spending; people bought new gas stove when they already have one, they bought big sofa for their small rooms, they bought more carpets than they have rooms, they bought chopping machines when they don't have enough to chop with their knife, they bought plenty of unbreakable buckets as if they are going to fight with buckets, they have bought blankets for next winter, they bought shaver when nobody shaves at home, they were feasting on chicken drumstick at a price which could buy a whole chicken,... would all these happen if BCCI didn't bring these Indians here? What positive changes did it bring to people who have already emptied their bank accounts on things they may not need at all? How would BCCI justify trade fair to our Prime Minister who was urging people to "change the habits of spending unnecessarily"?
Just a few days back The Bhutanese reported that "BCCI study shows that government spending is main cause of rupee crisis" which was contradicting the findings by the government task force. PaSsu Diary on the other hands finds the BCCI and their numerous trade fairs responsible for the leakage of excessive Bhutanese money into Indian pockets and that too unnecessarily.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Teachers Outrage in Bhutan

Early this month a teacher in India was killed by a group of students for not letting them copy in their exam. He was only doing his duty. Perhaps we ignored it because it happened far away and ignored the warning attached to it. I was scared these directionless children we have may land up doing something similarly serious. But children will grow up some days and realize all the wrongs they have done.  Shockingly a foreign parent walks into a Bhutanese classroom, drags the teacher out and bashes him to the extend of removing a tooth and damaging his eye, when will he grow up and realize his mistake?
Teachers across the country are outraged and seeking justice, this was the biggest blow to the otherwise peaceful teaching community of Bhutan. It questions our security- teaching was once the safest job but now it's like working in a nuclear station with the most radioactive materials, even in protective gears we can't escape the radiation. We were already showered with blames for reasons uncountable and here our society is taught how to deal with teachers by a learned man.
We are not machines; we are teachers- we teach with emotions, we become sad, we grow excited, we become happy, we get irritated, we become angry, we become joker, we become hero, we change ourselves now and then because we care for our students no less than their parents do. Now a father walks into our classroom and questions our emotions. We can stop our emotions and start being machine anytime but that's not what our country wants of us, that's not what our king wants of us, and that's not what our students want of us. And dear parents please step aside and let us do our work, we are on a national mission.
But unlike the mission of the UNICEF fellow, he was sent here on the United Nations' goodwill mission, he was here to help us but what did he do? He insulted the culture of the innocent nation, he manhandled a teacher in the nation where teachers are respected highly, he has corrupted one of Bhutan's highest value. As is the trend, now we are expecting more such disgrace and he will be remembered as the forerunner.
Even on the personal grounds he was a doctor who is supposed to treat people, care for them and comfort them but he disgraced that profession too. If his son thinks his father was a hero after that then it's another disgrace, and I am only happy and relieved that they are not Bhutanese.
Debate and Outrage continues on Facebook Forum and Kuensel Forum and we wish to know what happens to the man and what steps will be taken to ensure that we the teacher are safe after this. He was lucky to have lost his senses in Bhutan; our values forbid aggression and violence, the same value that he has kicked. If it had happened in any other country than Bhutan he would have known the price of his action. He would have to run for his life and his diplomatic immunity would be only a crap on paper. How waste of a person to travel half world across with the highest qualifications and not to have woken up to learn the simplest Bhutanese values.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Speech to Remember

The actual movie is over an hour long, recorded and produced by Druk Superstar. I have extracted this portion because it gave me the chance to laugh the laugh of my life, which I wanted to share with everybody. I hope this will be taken in good humor by the honorable minister himself and by the producer of this movie.
It's Lenpo Nandalal's Speech imitated by Ulap Lakey, therefore making it a Speech to Remember: 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Don't Let Their Death Go in Vain

Last Sunday afternoon's forest fire cost heavily on two families and the police force and I join the nation in offering my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families. But I urge them not to let their death go in vain. The questions that arise with that unfortunate incident should not be cremated with their bodies. For once we should understand the meaning of such death, we should confess that it could have been avoided. Let's stop agreeing that death happens because of destiny.

Fire Chopper in Action
It's time we question our ability and capacity to firefight. Hundreds of people are mobilized without relevant equipment to chase the razing fire uphill, which is not only foolish but dangerous. It's our luck that we didn't lose  many lives so far, but we must be the only nation who so much prides in its forest cover and haven't done our best to protect it. We can't fight forest fire with branches and twigs in the hands of exhausted men. We can't drive our fire engines uphill through the forest- they breakdown even on roads.
We don't need scientists to think about a solution, a few think-tanks on Twitter were already discussing about Fire Choppers, which is already being used across the world to battle forest fire. If we really mean forest is our biggest assert then we should invest in protecting it with best resources in the world. The cost of trees we lost so far could have purchased enough fire choppers- it would be wiser to safe the trees than to plant saplings.
The bad, The Ugly
It's also time we question the efficiency of the fire engines and other vehicles our firefighter use, such as the DCM truck that has already run over 200,000 Km. For that matter even the public buses. How many accident must we see, before we realize that some types of vehicles are not safe at all. Theoretically, service vehicles can't run over seven years (see Bhutan Observer) but who care about it?
Heros
The ugly TATA and Eicher buses are still polluting the air and beauty of the nation. Coaster buses have proven their worth- both in safety and comfort- and we should be insisting on importing them, and the same applies to Fire Engines. The big ugly ones are as old as me and takes hours in preparation before heading for action, and during the operation it fails suddenly. This brings the moral of the firefighters down, because despite all the bravery and effort they land up being insulted by the onlookers. However, the smaller fire engines work magic with instant-operation capability, and with all logic we should be getting more of those. But so far, as things go, we are still clinging on to those old one that we know will arrive only after the show is over.
The hero who comes after the show is over
In some countries, incidents like this lead to a lot of relative investigations and then reforms, here we cremate the bodies with a lot of respect and that's it. What shall we change first?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Don't Mess With Me

This cute little dog and I had a bad morning in April last year. I stepped on him and he bit me on my ankle and I had to rush to hospital. I was scared his bite might cause me infection but the poor fella was cool, he knew nothing would happen to him. He didn't visit hospital also. Now, look at him- the price of biting me: lol
Before biting me
and After

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Boating in the Punatshangchhu

This afternoon I heard the unusual sound from the river again and like the last two times I only sighted the thick white line left behind. From my experience I knew that it would return, so I ran with my camera and waited for it. I was joined by a few colleagues from different direction who saw it go down too.
It was a speed boat and there were four people in it. It's very rare to see boats in the rivers in Bhutan for whatever reason it may be, and when we do see we run and watch like we have never seen it before. I have always wondered why a deep wide river like Punatshangchhu is not used as motor ways, perhaps it was never necessary.
Speeding Upstream on April 9

I heard from my old uncle who used to be among the foremost soldiers trained in Tencholing that there were boats in Punatshangchhu once upon a time. Then, he recalled, the Wangdue bridge collapsed and there wasn't a way left for commuters. Just then a man (I forgot the name now) ran down to south and brought some boats, which he used to transport people and good across the river like taxi. He's said to have made fortunes before the bridge was reconstructed.
Bajo Town in the backdrop
Now the communication is not a problem, there are at least two bridges over the punatshangchhu and if boats are to be put into this water then it can be for entertainment like that of Ooty, an amusement park where Bhutanese families could spend their weekends and vacation, which otherwise is a very expensive affair having to travel abroad- therefore limiting to only the lucky few. We only focus on tourist when we think about amusement as if Bhutanese don't deserve fun. If we create for our own people, tourist will find it more entertaining- sharing space with the natives. For now the boating, rafting, and kayaking we see sometimes are just for tourist and Bhutanese are spectators.
If I weren't a teacher I would invest in such crazy ideas, no matter what it takes.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

What You Can't Teach Your Family

Wife:
I have been driving for the last four years and covered over 30,000KM, in which I had my wife sitting next to me most of the time. She had been by my side from the first day I began driving, she sweated and shivered along with me. I remember her saying, "When I start learning driving I think I won't take so long, I have feared my share with you already." But it's been four years now and she still can't drive.
I often heard that it's not possible for a husband to teach his wife how to drive, which I didn't believe because I am the most patient husband I know. I tried all I could to find time, place, words and mood to coach her but after the theory applies universally- I failed. She asked me to drive her home before she knew which one among the three pad was brake. After that neither her nor I mentioned anything about driving. Every Sunday morning I would wish if I had tried little harder- so I could sleep little longer. Thank god Ganjung Driving School has come to Bajothang. My wife shall be the first graduate from the school, I promise.
Children:
I am a maths teacher and have been teaching the subject for the last five years. And in the last five years my son failed in maths consistently. My son is a very intelligent child with very high IQ, but there seems to be something missing in his ability to do maths. I was trained and even experienced in dealing with average students but when it came to coaching my son there seems to be something wrong in my training or my experience. I have helplessly watched him fail every year. He's sent to hostel now, perhaps he might finally do maths peacefully and surprise me with his result. It's proven now that a father can never teach his children, especially if he is a teacher.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Kingdom of Yangdon

A Filipino romance-drama television series Princess and I was shot in our country Bhutan and will screen from 16th of this month on ABS-CBN. The series starred some of the most sort-after Filipino celebrities decorated in best of Bhutanese costumes. I have learned their costumes were selected by Pila Wangyel (Congratulations man).I am yet to know what the story is all about, but from the little I could grasp from the YouTube trailer- the princess of Bhutan (strangely Bhutan is called the Kingdom of Yangdon), who grew up in some place away returns home and finds the love of her life. It seems, she also discovers who she really was during her journey home.
This series shall remain on the top of my wanna-watch list, and I hope it finds its way to Bhutan soon, like the princess and give us a break from ordinary Bhutanese movies. 
 
Update October 2012: I am receiving thousands of Filipino visitors on my blog looking for information about the actual Kingdom of Yangdon. 

The place that is portrayed as Yangdon in the Movie is actually The Kingdom of Bhutan. The architectural design, natural environment and the costumes shown in the movie are as it is in our country. We are located to the north of India and south of Tibet.(Read more>>)
The king in Princess and I is very handsome but not as handsome as our beloved king, and we have the most beautiful queen in the world. She was crown as the queen of Bhutan on October 13 2011 at the age of 21. 
Our Beloved King and Queen
For those of you wish to visit Bhutan, I am sorry to inform that it's bit too expensive. Our country charge US$ 250 per person per day, but that cost covers up your hotel, car, guide, tours, food and recreation. Read Why Bhutan is worth US$250>>
If you are interested in visiting Bhutan or the Kingdom of Yangdon as you know it, you could discuss your intention with Bhutan Crown Adventures. They will arrange your tour to Yangdon.


Norbu Wrote About My Childhood

Norbu- My Victim!
Norbu Tshering is one of my junior high schoolmate, who forgave me and wrote about the change in me. I wasn't surprised when I read his blog post "Passu-The Metamorphosis", I was only thankful he showed mercy by just writing a little bit from my childhood. He is one among the many schoolmates who didn't enjoy their school life because of me, and I had been too brutal to understand that. 
He wrote "Believe me he was more than the average Denise the Menace; an outrageous wild energy ever ready to do anything, especially beat you up. He was neither a gang leader nor the school boss but within our own age group he was someone you didn't want to mess with unless you had the protection of a bigger boy.
I was a wild village boy trying to survive among the decent urban children and in my quest for attention I landed up being a terror. My village folks have a big hand in creating the then me; I was made to fight every boy in the playground and they would cheer me. They declared me the champion fighter of Yangthang, whom even the boys from neighboring villages feared. Brutality of my primary school added more horns on my head and by the time I joined junior high school where I met Norbu, I was literally out of my own control. I would fight three fights a day minimum and get beaten up by big boys and teachers when I wasn't lucky. I went on fighting- fighting another battle within me to free myself from who I was. I felt guilty and sorry after each fight I won, I felt scared after every fight I lost, and every night I would say to myself, "From now on I will not fight anyone." 
It took hundreds of nights over the years to break free from my childhood instincts and find the man I am today. It takes a willing heart to change the design of the god. I was born wild but I didn't like that, so I sort to change and I have.
My apologies to Norbu and so many schoolmates in whose lives I came like storm, but for me you all came like pieces of puzzle I was trying to solve. Norbu and I are friends now. 

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Demolishing the Palace of the Tshomem

Tshomem (mermaid) is believed to be the keeper of water bodies. My school is on the bank of the Punatshangchhu, the river that has the legend of having a tshomem. Astrologers have repeatedly mentioned that the construction of the school has displeased the keeper of the river, but for the last fifteen years of existence school has done nothing to come into harmony with the spiritual power. The consistence disaster these few years forced the school to take the threat seriously.
We lost a boy to the river in 2009, the spot where astrologers said the mermaid lived. The same place was flooded the same year, washing away our fishery tank. An old woman committed suicide near the fishery tank. Over four cars accidents occurred on the adjoining road, of which one fell right into the river killing a young man. School faced fire disasters, theft cases, and even bomb pranks.  All this has reminded us to listen to the silence for once.
School, with the help from Dzongkhag Dratshang, picked the spot to construct a Tshomem Phodrang (palace of the mermaid), it's the traditional and spiritual negotiation of peace with the unseen owner of the place. Only the name is 'Palace', otherwise it's just a stone and mud structure, where no metal,cement and chalk can be used.
Site Map of School
However, in the twist of the story- in our quest to please the mermaid we have displeased a rich businessman in Bajothang. We have reached halfway through the construction of the palace, when the man came and claimed the stones we used. The well shaped stones were lying in the extended school campus for years and we knew the owner. But after we finished fencing the whole campus we had wrongly assumed our ownership over the stones. The construction committee had the intention of asking him, knowing that the old man would agree if we told him our story. But the angry rich man came twice and asked, "Do you think these shaped-stones emerged naturally? I have invested Nu.25 in shaping each stone. Nu.25 those days was powerful. I myself stole the stone from Nobding in the darkness of the night and you think you can use it at your will?"
School apologized, begged and asked him to be our patron for the construction of the palace but he remained angry. Then we asked him to put his price on the stone. We are already halfway and if he would give us at a reasonable price we thought we would buy. Teachers could contribute about Nu.10,000 to pay him up. But his price shocked us to demolish the palace right away. He wanted Nu.50 per stone, which means we should be paying him Nu.50,000 for half structure alone.
This school educated four of his children and his grandchildren will come here soon but he didn't want to spare some stones. This is the sort of public help our school is getting. If we had a legal support I have a feeling that the stone might belong to us after all these years, or may be he might have to pay us for keeping the stone in our area for so long.

Disclaimer: The views reflected in here are NOT School's, it's just my personal observation and interpretation of what is happening.

Update 7th April 2012

School helplessly demolished the structure built with those stones and rebuilt it with mud bricks. The construction committee engaged senior students and any helping hand they could get to erect the phodrang within three days, so we could consecrate it today during the school annual rimdro. Now the palace of the tshomem is built and consecrated as if nothing has happened. And we hope this brings peace to the invisible power and to the entire community of Bajothang.
The Palace of the Tshomem- built in three days

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