Wednesday, July 30, 2014

People Who Should Not Drink

I told you Bajothang has over hundred places to drink. In these hundred places how many people must be drinking every night. I go out with Kezang and our close friends often and saw different people drinking different drinks differently in different places. Because I drink very little and manage to remain very composed I land up watching dramas of drunk people.

It's shocking to discover that Bhutanese are gifted drinkers, almost everybody can drink anything. Everybody talks in English. One day English will become official drunk language. I hate the kindness in the bar, everybody wants to get you drunk. If you drag that person and ask him to buy a dinner he might run away. That sort of kindness.

Anyway, today is Tuesday and I hope some of you didn't drink so let me present to you some of my findings and analysis after witnessing the endless drunk drama for the last many years. I have shortlist 12 groups of people who should not drink and justified why. Please check if you should fall in one or more groups listed below and reconsider you drinking habit. Of course if you are already drunk you won't care which group you are in.

Be kind to yourself and Don't Drink...
  1. If you are under 18, that's the only legal restriction against drinking, at least respect that. 
  2. If you are sick and doctor has advised you against drinking. Don't waste national healthcare resources if you are purposely ruining your health.
  3. If you are a tanker. Because you will regret the bill next morning, that is if you have paid. Again that liver inside you is not as greedy as you.
  4. If you lose consciousness, because anything could happen to you. You don't want to wake up naked in a stranger's home.
  5. If you sleep in the drain, because you will feel very cold in the morning. If it rains then you may drown, and become the first man in Bhutan to drown in a foot deep drain. Try setting better records.
  6. If you become aggressive and pick up fights with everybody who looks at you, because you don't want to be beaten like a snake and still wake up in prison. That's little ok compared to all the strength you showed on kicking stray dogs, and asking them to fight you back. And worse even, when you start punching window panes and car windows- you don't want to wake up to thousands of Ngultrum damage bill.
  7. If you become emotional, because you will cry and make people listen to your endless bollywood story and in between you will land up leaking all your dirty secrets and next day you will see that you have ruined some relationships. 
  8. If you become Bill Gates after two shots. It's called Asha Passa in Dzongkha. You become the center of attention for being everybody's sponsor and you know what will happen after reaching home. You only feel like Bill Gates but you know you are not Bill Gates. 
  9. If you are going through a problem in life, because you already have a problem why do you need more? (Contributed by Kelzang Dawa)
  10. If you suffer from hangover the next morning because that makes you the dumb ass who pays to get sick.
  11. If you are driving, because if you die your family will not get insurance. They will only get your bloody body in pieces. At least die with honour and leave behind something. 
  12. If you are a parent, because no kid will give a damn about what a drunkard parent says. 
  13. If you are married, because divorce is already rampant, you don't have to contribute.
  14. If you can't pay the bill. Do I have to say anything about this? At least earn something in life before you settle on drinking. You don't want to look like one of those beggars who gets sworn by everyone. Remember your parents' money is not yours, so don't waste their money on your drinking.
I hope it didn't offend anybody, in case it did offend you please stop drinking. Coming back to myself, I am over 18, I am not sick, I am not a tanker, I don't lose consciousness, I don't sleep in drain, I am not aggressive or emotional, of course I get romantic with my wife, and I pay my bill, therefore I sometimes feel I can drink but then I realized that I am married and I have children and I owe them respect. I drink responsibly but that ain't no good excuse. I drive after drinking and that makes me one very socially irresponsible man. Therefore, I am reconsidering. You?

Good Night 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Diamond Ring from a Facebook Friend?

This is a story about how some Bhutanese were defrauded on Facebook. Similar fraud made news once during the email days, where people were declared winner of million dollar lottery and asked to pay few thousand dollars to claim their prizes. Some seemed to have silently dreamt of million dollars and blindly jumped into the traps. That news should have be enough to caution us against any similar promises we receive over the internet. But some sort to learn the lesson the hard way.

Facebook is now a world of its own. People make career out of being on Facebook and some are professional frauds. That's their full time job. They write to thousands of people across the world with perhaps thousands of accounts. The old trick comes in new bottle. I have received hundreds of messages from beautiful girls, of course they are using fake identities, claiming to like my profile and seek my friendship. But interesting they ask us to write to them in their email addresses and not Facebook, which is when you have to know they is something fishy. When you don't reply them for over a day, you will notice that the account is deactivated and message gone.

Few months ago, a lady friend who was having a difficult life as single mother joyfully shared about her new found friend from the US. She told my wife that the man was sending her an iPad and iPhone. They have also planned to meet in Bhutan later this year. We were so happy for her. Her man was a captain on some ship and has sent her his picture too. He was a bit older but she was happy about that. They were even calling each other on the phone.

One day she called my wife to ask if we could help her get her parcel form Bangkok because seemingly her parcel was stranded in Bangkok for some reason. She has the postal number for the parcel. We told her that it's just matter of time. Then one day she was looking for money and she disclosed to my wife that she had to send $1000 to claim her parcel. Her man was on the ship and he was helpless. That's when I knew it was a fraud. I told her through my wife, to tell him she can wait until he reaches a seaport to clear the parcel from Bangkok. He told her that if she waits the parcel could be lost. Then we played smart and told him that we will send our relative in Bangkok to collect the parcel. Next moment his Facebook account was deactivated and his number was switched off. We could rescue her. Though we shattered her dream.

Not even a month passed when when my wife heard another woman excitedly talking about some parcel arriving and stranded somewhere. She was someone we knew closely and my wife told her our friend's story, only to discover that she went through almost the same script. She later confided to my wife that she already sent Nu.40,000 and because there was a diamond ring in the parcel she was asked to send Nu.100,000 more. She was almost ready with the cash when my wife rescued her.

Another friend my wife rescued was an old friend in Paro who was receiving generous help from a man overseas in getting the US visa. We were in Paro to drop our son when she invited us over to her place. She had lots of business plans before but we found out that she has dropped all the idea because she was readying to fly to America. We told her not to send any money before receiving the visa if he really means his help, and if he is a fraud he will cut all contacts with you. That happened.

These are the stories of three ladies that I knew of, and I can guess that there could be lots of male victims looking at the number of messages I am receiving from frauds posing as girls. Just that man won't admit it easily.

There could be hundreds of such stories hidden under heavy debts and humiliation, if only they could come out and tell their stories the next hundred could be saved. Bhutan is increasingly chasing American dream and many people silently and blindly go to any extend. We must warn people around us, especially those that are not very familiar about social media. I have highlighted the key words that frauds have used with those three ladies, let innocent people around you take note of them. Let them know that there is nobody so kind out there who would send them anything just by being a Facebook friend- Not diamond ring at least. It's common sense.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Being the Change, Beyond Complaining

I spent my summer vacation well. I attending workshop by the day and met friends in the evenings. I made some new friends and caught up with old friends. I interviewed a several people and several people interviewed me. I met with some people with whom I have always wanted to meet. I am soon blogging about them.
Animated Introduction. Picture: BCMD
I know you don't like reading about workshops, neither do I but this workshop was different. This workshop was not about some far-fetched theories and endless handout that would go to dustbin on the way back home. It was neither one of those namesake workshops to finish certain budget. It was about awakening, about realizing our power to change things, small things around us. We spent five days inspiring ourselves and the next five days going out into the real world to make real changes.

The workshop was called Community Mapping, technically it was about locating issues and asserts in the community and getting it literally on the map. We were carrying Android phones loaded with unicef GIS mapping app. The app helps in pinning the pictures we take onto the map using Global Positioning System. But that's just the tool, the soul was how we go beyond clicking pictures and identifying problems, yes it was how we device solutions to the problems.
The unicef Map. Click on the picture to view the real map.
Problem in our country is that most of us don't know a problem is a problem, and the few who could see the problem think it's not their problem. During the workshop we were shown inspiring documentaries from around the world about problems and people- about individuals and community who led changes, who became part of solution, who went beyond just complaining about the problems.

The participants were students from high schools and colleges and I was among the few teachers. The best part of working with young people is that they don't have preconceived doubts and therefore they aren't shy about trying. Soon they make us believe that it's all so possible, and believing is success half achieved.

After five days of inspiration in the BCMD Media Lab we identified issues in Thimphu community to address as our real project. The problems we shortlisted were;

  1. Management of waste party goers leave behind at Buddha Point
  2. Getting City Bus to Changedaphug (Kala Bazar)
  3. Campaigning against taking packaged food as Tshog (Offering) to Lhakhangs
  4. Appointing a community caretaker at a labour camp 
  5. City Bus vegetable vendors on stalls.
(Read about the projects in detail by clicking on the picture of the Map)

Any average citizen would say these are none of our business, but the workshop taught us to more than that, we started believing that every little issues within our community, within our country or the  world is our business. If we can bring a positive change we must do it. So for the next five days we were on the field researching, interviewing, seeking support, connecting people...
My Team with Thimphu Thrompon

On the last day we presented our project outcomes at the Tarayana hall filled with distinguished people who were themselves change makers, policy makers or people who had stake in the development of the city and its community. They all seemed very impressed and the stakeholder promised to render their support.
One striking quote from the presentations, a students said, " We came all the way from the east to put dustbins at Buddha Point". 

Bottom line is, if a streetlight is kept on during the day, some people will not notice at all, some will see and feel nothing, some will know it's waste of energy, some will click a picture and post it on Facebook or Twitter, in this workshop we were inspired to take the next step- to call the authority and inform them directly about it. This is one small change anyone can bring in a community.

During our field trip we saw a big log blocking the drain along the City Bus Parking. The log could clog the drain and during the monsoon it could flood the whole parking. Normally I would have just taken a picture of that log and posted on the Facebook, but this time I gathered my team and tried to take the log out. But it was too big for team of three men. Hundreds of people around the parking area just watched us with that's-not-our-business look. An Indian guy came by and told us that he will call his friends and do it. I was so touched until he asked 'How much is the budget?' So we went to the city office and asked for some labour to help us. There was no labour that day but they asked the location. Next day we went there to find the log was removed. 
Before
After
The workshop was conducted by Bhutan Center for Media and Democracy. I encourage Media Clubs in schools to get in touch with them and book your place for next segment of Community Mapping workshop. It can surely change you into change maker. Special Thanks to Tshering Eudon and Tsho Tsho for being such a great facilitator. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ninzi Meets Tandin Bidha

Tandin Bidha, one of the most happening Bhutanese actor was in Bajothang last weekend and by mistake I leaked the news to my four year old Bhutanese movie lover. I thought she won't have a clue about who is who in the so many movies she had watched but my god she could describe many scenes from many Tandin Bidha movies. So I sent a request message to the actor's husband, who is my dear friend, and fixed a ladies date.
I was going to take my daughter to meet the actor in the evening because right after school she needs a nap without which she gets very difficult but the excited little girl won't sleep without getting her demand done. With so much of hard work I put her to sleep and she muttered her sleeping wish with her eyes already closed: "I ....want to meet Tandin Bidha"  I gently ok-ed her to sleep.
It was the shortest nap my daughter ever took, and without wasting anytime I followed her instruction. My friend owns a shop in the town, where we had spent hundreds of hours discussing ways to change the world until one day the beauty came by and changed his world and his location too. There in that shop my friend and Tandin Bidha were waiting. It took a while for my little on to open up, and soon she was on Tandin Bidha's lap answering so many questions.
The Ladies
Later I came to know that my friend had summoned his wife the moment I messaged him and by the time I reached there She had already waited a few hours, leaving their own newborn at home. I felt so sorry but greatly thankful for doing this for her little fan. She has been talking about it ever since and every time we pass by their shop she would crane her neck to check inside. She will always cherish that moment, thank you Tandin and Tshering.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What's Mongar Court's Message to Schools in Bhutan?

Mongar Court has sent Ministers to jail and therefore a principal is no big deal. The judgement on the Gyalposhing land scam case sent a strong message. I don't know if it was a fair judgement but even if it was not at least everybody took a good message home. But with the principal's case there are several messages coming out. Even if the judgement was the fairest possible, the impact on the society could be unprecedented. The expected message to be taken is that corporal punishment is intolerable in schools, but there are hundreds of principals out there who are affected by the news. They must be hurt, they must be questioning and must be realizing that this could happen to them for just doing their duty.

By duty I am not saying that lashing students is their duty, their duty is to run the school well. Running the school means dealing with hundreds of young children, some of whom doesn't have sense of direction. The easiest thing to do would be to let it be. Let students do what they like, don't play parents, don't play police, don't play counselor, don't play judge and jury, don't just give a damn. Just go to the class and teach the curriculum. If there is an accident call the ambulance, if there is a fight call the police, if someone does drugs send them to jail, if there is a relationship among students call their parents and let them get married. But then school is more than that, every school has the moral duty to give every child a meaningful life.

They deserve to learn through mistakes, they deserve to stand corrected. No school will go lashing every troublesome child, but sometimes some children really need serious dealing because otherwise they are going to shatter their own dreams. Dealing with such students is no principal's favorite event. Every morning several students have to be summoned to the principal's office with different cases ranging from quarreling, stealing, fighting, smoking, drinking, doping, gang fighting... some students have their files filled with 'last warnings'
Some students ask for suspension because they want to skip school and have fun, and some even don't mind being terminated. A good principal's job is to make sure that these children don't leave school. The tempting world outside the school seems to care a lot but when these children are on their own they will realize that nobody cares about them, sometimes no even their own parents. We in the school know so much about the real world out of school and there we don't want our children to go unprepared.

I'm against corporal punishment and I'm more against mental punishment. We have dealt with children who would ask for any punishment except calling their parents. They say they will be thrown out of the house and removed from the census. When students are caught in gang fight and drug cases they beg the school to punish them any way the school likes but not to send them to the police. But we consider ourselves very wise and try the western style, we are expected to deal with them in a civilized behavior- yes we are expected to send them to jail! But we don't, we punish them, we watch them, we see them become better with few lashes. If they were sent to jail they would have never seen this life they are now living.
Principal in Jail
Mongar principal could have easily called the parents of the junior students and ask them to file a report with the police and arrest the senior for bullying and harassment. This could have saved so much of school's time and could have easily spared himself from all the problem. But the school took the responsibility to deal with the case, advice the boy and asked him to apologize. The boy took it lightly and went on to bully the junior further. The principal wired the boy and perhaps the boy may learn to fear the school rules now but the parents took the principal to the court and they won the case. Clap, clap, clap, their boy has leaned a good lesson in life, that his parents will watch his back at all times and he could go on misbehaving.

Thousands of young students across the country have heard the news that even a principal could be jailed for beating students. They must be feeling excited about it. These experimental young minds are made little fearless. And thousands of teachers must be reconsidering their roles as teachers, as caring teachers. Not to mention the hundreds of principals. If hundreds of students begin to revolt against school and take the principals and teachers to court hence I won't be surprised, I would thank Mongar court. Whatever is legally right need not necessarily be morally right.

By this I am not saying beating up students in any way is right, not all teachers and principals are as caring and good, some have cases of sexual molestation and some could be naturally violent against students for no good reason, some might thrash young children like their enemies; in such cases justice should prevail.

But we cannot go all american overnight to sue every little whip in the school just because there is a law against it. Some parents have natural court-going tendency and teachers are easy prey. We need protection too, we need legal wing in the ministry to protect us. Our job is getting more sensitive by the day and the more seriously we engage in our duties, the more vulnerable we become. We love our students, we care for them. Even in a family with two children parents resort to beating sometimes, we are family of hundreds of children.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

ECB still considers me as one of their own...

I was the Social Media Monitor during the last election and I can still feel the redness in my sleepless eyes but ok I am happy that I could contribute so much. I thought I was done after I was called to do a final presentation last spring, but looks like ECB still considers me as one of their own. I am very happy to be useful yet again. So, here I am with a survey that could help in understanding the relationship and factors that affect voter's choice and participation of women in election. Similar survey is underway physically in every Dzongkhag and here I am reaching out to people on social media.
Please spare me 5 mins of your time in filling out the following survey. If you have already done that via the Facebook link you need not do it. Thank you in advance. (Use the scroll bar on the righthand side of the form to access the whole form, Submit button is at the end of the form.)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

My Ninzi's First Progress Report

My daughter will always cherish Kids R’ Kids Day Care center as her first school as much as Kezang and I acknowledge, where she was enrolled since last year. She spent the first year in play group, just playing the whole time. It was there that she learned to make friends. She knew every friend by their names. She held high regards for her teachers, following their every word religiously.
Ninzi in Action
Beginning this year she began real schooling, beginning with Alphabets. We literally know everything that’s going on in her classroom because she would relive whole her day at home in the evening, word by word. We have never expected her to be so excited about her studies that she will keep us sleepless with her questions day in day out. She would complain about her being behind most of her senior friends and strive to catch up with them. Even in her sleep she will be practicing spellings of certain new words she learned in school.
While I always remained amazed at the pace of her learning and amount of things she was picking up I thought everything was random until we received her file on the last day of the first term.
Progress Report
It was a huge file containing every little thing she has done in the school with a progress report attached in the front. Flipping through the pages I could visualize how my little daughter spent her time in the school, day after day, lines and dots, word by word and I was so touched by the way the school has put everything together. This gave me a greater reason to cherish my daughter first school.
What my girl was learning, the words she was practicing, the objects she was drawing, the endless questions she asked weren't just random things, they were part of a a highly organized and progressive learning. The progress report states that my little one can:
  1. Recognize 26 Alphabets  and their sounds
  2. Write simple words and speak them
  3. Speak out number 1-10 (Of course she can dial my number already)
  4. Match number with quantities
  5. Recognize national symbols 
  6. Recognize body parts
  7. Recognize vegetables and Fruits 
Her Drawings
And beyond what is reflected in there she can recognize shapes and colors flawlessly. She can reproduce simple drawings. She can speak out Days of the week... and this makes her greater than her father has ever been at her age. In fact, I had been trying to make sense of all these when I was in grade II. My girl is yet to go to formal primary school and I am already a thoroughly proud father. Thanks you Kids R' Kids and the teachers there.
Body Parts
Vegetables



Saturday, July 05, 2014

Dreams Come True at M-Studio

M-Studio is a place where musical talent finds its home. I have witnessed the studio give purpose to lives of many young people, to whom music mean everything. I could hardly imagine what would have happened to so many dreams if M-Studio hadn't come along. Thank you Choeying Jatsho, for dreaming a dream that would drive so many dreams.
One day, few years ago I wrote to M-Studio asking them to do the nation a favour of recording country’s first audio book. I got a reply expressing their interest but they were in the midst of musical revolution and had so many things going on. Then it was some months ago I wrote to them about Sonam Chuki and our plan to record Kuenzang Choden’s masterpiece “Dawa-The Story of a Stray Dog in Bhutan”.
Sonam Chuki at M-Studio
Sonam Chuki is just another eleven year old who has but read a lot. There are many like her and many better than her in reading, but what makes her special is how she kept pushing me ever since the first time we talked about it. She must be the only class VII kid who has read “Dawa-The Story of a Stray Dog in Bhutan” countless times in preparation for recording. She made me believe that we could do it. And what made it more possible is the powerful energy we received from her parents. Her parents are with her every day at the studio and they didn't hesitate once in letting her do this. And thanks to them for all the books they have always gift their daughter.
We are so indebted to the living legend, the author of the book, Kuenzang Choden for not just permitting us to record her book but also offering to help us if we ever need her assistance. I am hoping to arrange Sonam Chuki to meet the author and launch the audio book.
I could never imagine how tedious it is to record hundred over pages with a little girl, but Choeying Jatsho has all it takes to make it easy. The first trial recording of chapter 1 took 25 minutes, and I was already feeling very sorry because there were 13 chapters, but to my amazement Choeying did the first chapter three times. He gave the little girl all the time to make her comfortable with the whole process. Two days on and he has done seven chapters. There are over a hundred of sentences repeated and I have seen him note down the time periods of every mistakes, which means he has to work endlessly on it after we are done with the recording.
Sitting there in his studio and watching this young man do his work so passionately inspired me beyond words. My respect and admiration for M-Studio has grown greater than ever. I still can’t believe Choeying is doing this for Chuki and me unconditionally. I am so guilty of making a young entrepreneur do so much amount of work for free. I can never thank the man enough.
One day when his work reaches to thousands of students across the country, some of whom will be visually impaired, then we shall know the true essence of Choeying’s service. 
Stars Born in M-Studio

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