29 August 2012

Mothers Suffering Silently

Today my mother in-law is undergoing a surgery to remove her uterus, and our joy is beyond our anxiety because we are finally removing a part of her body that has bothered her for years and couldn't share with anyone. The womb that has brought my wife and her two siblings to this world has threatened to take her own live had we not known it before it became too late.
Her uterus had prolapsed and had been hanging out through her vagina for years but because of the nature of the disease she has hidden from everyone, even from her daughter. It was during the melom chembo in Haa that her son's sister inlaw sighted it when they toileting outside. She inform my brother inlaw, who in turn took her to the doctor.
This is a common risk among elderly women who give birth at home without the assistant of medical staff, meaning many of our village mothers could be suffering silently. The woman on the next bed is awaiting the same surgery, and shockingly she has hidden the disease for 25 years.
These two ladies are lucky that theirs didn't turn into cancer, which has high probability. But not many will be lucky like them, there for I urge all daughters and educated women to check on your mothers and other elderly women in your family for any secret disease such as this if they are hiding. Your one action in time could save their lives and free them from their worse discomfort. I visited my sister last evening and asked her to check our mother though I have asked her myself without hesitation. She says she doesn't have it but I still want my sister to verify. Please verify your mothers.

To all the friends on Twitter who sent in your wishes, thank you very much, your prayers are very important for us at this hour.

Update 8th Spet 2012: 
There are various causes to this sort of disease and not just unassisted birthing. One woman who underwent the same surgery the next day had left copper T inside for 12 years. It nearly took her life. But all stories in JDWNRH this time had happy ending but not many will be so lucky if they are late in seeking medical help. Therefore please take this issue seriously and do whatever is possible within your capacity to help free women around you from such disease.
My mother in-law is doing great at home now, she is recovering very fast. Thanks for all the support and prayers during our hard times. We will "Never forget the people who help you in your difficult times"

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Location:JDWNRH Thimphu

28 August 2012

Casual Leave

There is nothing casual about casual leave when your are a teacher. We are allowed ten days of leave from school in a year and because of our obligations out of school and to our family ten days are often fully utilized. But not without ten days of guilt.
Wherever a teacher goes, no matter how good our reason, the echo from the teacher-less class rings in out head throughout the time we are on leave. I have at least five classes a day, and in three days I would have missed over fifteen classes.
If I could accomplish what I have come for I would be satisfied and perhaps it also justifies my absences in school, but when I am made to wait for hours at end I really wish I could rather attend my classes and come when they are ready. And when nothing is achieved beyond long appointments and senseless excuses I feel the guilt so vivid.
Yesterday was a long failed day in Thimphu, let's see if I could do something today.

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24 August 2012

Curiosity Post in Bajo WiFi Park

Curiosity Post
This Sign Post stands tall at the entrance of the WiFi Park and I call it curiosity post. If you look at it perhaps you will only be curious about how it was made because you already know about the things that are written on the planks. But in my school where every year over 700 students will walk pass this and not many will know what these are. They will be curious and the next time they are on a computer they explore, that is what this post is supposed to do.
A school is a world in itself; rich and poor, good and bad, intelligent and dull, happy and sad, beautiful and ugly, and many other extremes. And there is another gap that divides students into two, which is called the Digital Divide, and I am hoping to break that barrier subtly. NIIT's Project in schools across the country is training every student from class VII to XII in use of computer technology and they are introduced in use of internet as well. But how much do they know about using internet as a source of knowledge? and as a tool for collaboration and learning? This post has no magic in it but it can trigger the magic students have in themselves.
I have already had several teachers and guests from abroad who passed by the post and asked me, "What is KhanAcademy?" That's where the learning begins. I love explaining about each one of them,

The Curiosity Post is a piece of art created by the eight students I have in class XI computer Studies. Each one of them carved and painted a board each and we had a tough time deciding whom to be placed at the top. I am happy Blogger won the place on the top.The bird nest on the top is borrowed from another class that has done another project of placing bird nest on trees.

Update 25th Aug: 39 Students from Raffles Institution Singapore visited our school yesterday morning along with four teachers. They spent the whole morning mixing with out students in their classes. Some of our students were stunned by the brilliance of these young Singaporean kids.
 One of the teachers, Mr. Louis, who worked in Bhutan for a year and have returned thrice, told me that his student were amazed by the WiFi Park. He says they have wireless internet connection across their campus but having a specific place outside to relax and enjoy is something new to them.

23 August 2012

Creative Works of My Students in School WiFi Park

 I have been dreaming of building a park in my school that will translate the idea of free and open learning environment into a real space. I read somewhere that modern classrooms should be www, which is a pun and interestingly means Wherever, Whenever, Whatever besides its actual meaning.
I planned a park where there will be beautiful benches to rest under the shade of green tress and wherever you sit you could catch strong WiFi connection. The idea was expensive and school had no money. But dreams require passion more than money, and passion I had enough. It didn't take long before I knew I could do it without money. With the plan in my hand I went looking for sponsors and surprisingly I received commitment from many people who would donate cement, wood, nails, electrical equipment, and wireless router.
WiFi Park Board (Hemlal and I carved and painted)

Then I was stranded at the idea of having to make huge number of benches. I would need a carpenter to work for me over a long period of time and he would want me to pay him handsomely. Even if I had money I will run short of bench designs. That is when I turned to whirlpool of creative idea, yes my students. I announced a "Park Bench Making" competition among sixteen senior classes and promised then attractive prizes. Then I went looking for "attractive prizes" while students worked on their benches. The result amazed everybody. Following are some of the benches my students created;
Bench 14, 2nd Prize Winner

Bench 10, Consolation Prize

Bench 5, Consolation Prize

Bench 9, Winner

With major portion of the work happening on its own, I was left with loads of energy to focus on the technical infrastructure, which was completed right away. Then I had to build a pavilion that will not only provide shade but also power supply to charge laptops. A colleague and his class of students volunteered to takeover the work.
The Pavilion
Seven out of 16 benches were awarded prizes based on the judgement of five external judges and acknowledgements were sent to our sponsors. Now the park is ready and opened for operation. You could sit in the shade and enjoy internet.

22 August 2012

Suggestions to Drukair

Because I only flew your Airlines twice I don't know if you would take my words seriously, but on the second thought I felt you would appreciate my concerns because I am a Bhutanese who flew only twice and already has something to share.
I have been at the airport over seven times waiting for my sister and for the seven times I wished we had some shelter indoor to take refuge, especially during the cold winter days. Is it not possible to create an indoor space for the people (not the passengers) to wait and eat during the long waiting hours and also during the long delayed departures? It can be a good business as well.
Then during such waiting times, we look at the LCD screens outside for information but the information displayed there are technically short to understand. My sister comes from Bangkok but the screen shows flights from Dhaka and Nepal. Even with the huge screen hanging we have to resort to asking people nearby to know that the flight from Bangkok is the one coming from Dhaka. In big airports they have too many flights info to display therefore they keep it brief but in Paro the big screen as only two or three lines to show and I suggest if you could consider giving clearer information about the flights. Like KB-217- From BKK, Via Dhaka etc.
I don't mind not having tissue paper to over the toilet pot, as long as there is tissue to wipe because I have used dirtier toilets but there are many people travelling some of whom might be very particular. I saw that the chambers in the tiny in-flight lavatory where soap and toilet pot wrapper are kept were empty when I was flying from Paro. Surprisingly they were filled up when I returned. I assumed that you all assume your Bhutanese passengers flying from Paro don't require too much luxury.
There is a need to pay attention to the conditions of the seats. The colors have changed and some are shining with dirt. Armrest from the front seat falls directly on to the knee of the passenger on the back seat, and I am sure this is not supposed to happen. This aircraft I travelled in was too new to see such fate. It is not everyday that our country can buy aircraft therefore stitch in time might save nine.
And finally I had big concern with the departure time from Bangkok. Bangkok is the gateway to Bhutan for people from whole world and their very first travelling experience to Bhutan should not be a sleepless night of waiting and rushing to the airport at dark hours of the morning. Even for Bhutanese travelers returning home, after having enjoyed the whole trip in city the ordeal of early hour flight is like that flashlight in Men In Black that erases all the memories. Please make that flight an enjoyable experience instead of having everybody sleeping on board due to the sleepless night.
So many comments from a man who has traveled only twice might irritate you but let me humbly submit that twice was enough for a man who observes with concern.
Update 23rd Aug: Is it only me who thought Drukair and Civil Aviation are the same thing? Thanks to friends on Twitter for letting me know that they are two separate bodies. Now I know that when I talk about airport services I should be addressing it to civil aviation. And I very happy that Druk Air responded positively on twitter.

21 August 2012

Strange Case of Failed Parenting

Our school was informed about one of our girls being involved in illicit relationship after school, and after repeated information school followed up and caught the girl red-handed. She was called to office the next day along with her parents but she has brought along her sister, stating her father has gone to a meeting. The sister said that the father was sick. We knew the father was neither sick nor in meeting but knowing that it's a matter to be discussed with female member first we entrusted the sister to understand the risk of innocent girl being involved in such cases and requested her to inform her parents to take care of the girl after school.
The case was dealt sensitively and the girl was given to understand the full gravity of the situation but as if to insult all our effort she asked the school to let her withdraw from the school for a year. She said she would continue next year. We dealt with her plea even more carefully, stating she should discuss with her parents and bring the parents along to school.
That evening we received a call from the girl's mother and the call wasn't just unreasonable but shocking at best. Now you decide what type of home the girl lives in;
"How can you throw out my child from the school? Do you think I don't know any rule? I have watched on TV about school rules and I know my child is allowed to commit mistake for three times before she could be expelled from the school." (Well, that debate on BBS has confused her more than it educated her. Hope she is alone in this confusion)

School explained that her girl was not expelled whatsoever and we wanted her to change her decision of dropping the school for a year. We explained about the case and also the presence of the sister during the process. But the mother went on,
"Why can't my girls make boyfriends? There are many girls like that why are you only pointing at my girl. Your own madams have said that girls are allowed to make boyfriends and that they have to use condom..." (This very discouraging. Over ten lady teachers took weeks to plan the awareness program and invested one whole Saturday in talking to the girls and here someone just misuses the intention of the words.
After that school saw no point in discussing the matter with this mother. All our efforts in caring for the girl looked like a failed mission looking at the kind of mother that runs the home. We asked the mother to come to the office to settle the matter- though there was nothing to settle at all. 
I in particular want this woman to swallow every word of hers, but the mother never showed herself in school. The girl's father came with loads of apology. He informed us that his wife was drunk while accusing the school. At least he understood that we were trying to help his daughter, attitude that has become rare among parents.

18 August 2012

My Invention: Made in Bhutan

A teacher has to wear different shoes on different occasions. We become doctors, engineers, mashions, police, judge, accountant, and so on and we do just fine, and being scientist wasn’t very difficult either. It was during science exhibition last summer that I was working closely with my friend who was initiating the show. I got to see how skillful our students were in creating replications, but it was a rare thing to see anyone creating anything that is original. Everything seemed like inheritance from the past batches- volcano, hydraulic machines, steam boats, lighting bulb from potato, ... My friend asked me if I could show them what a science exhibition means in simple terms, and I said I will illustrate with a simple invention.

The inspiration came from necessity. Every household needs a sangphoo each, and sangphoo needs burning charcoal to function, which is not available any more. Worse even when we have to offer a suu in the middle of the night when someone falls ill, the idea of starting the fire in sangphoo is a big hassel. This gave me the inspiration of creating an EzSangphoo that could be started at a click of a button.
The EZSangphoo, Made in Bhutan
Built: EzSangphoo is built on normal earthen sangpho with basic circuits and everyday objects. The challenging part is controlling current flow to the filament, because the size of coil used in it is so small that it will blow off on 240 volts. Moreover using 240 volts in a sangphoo, which is expected to be used mostly by old people, could spell electrocution risks. Therefore we need to have a special device that could adapt the current flow to less than 12 volts.
I completed three prototypes and presented during the Science Exhibition but because I was not participating in the competition I kept it at the gate and made the chief guest click the button, what happens next is seen in the picture!
The simple idea can be replicated by anyone for personal use, but if someone wants to mass produce this then please notify me, so that I could take you to the court lol.

15 August 2012

Dear Sithey, thank you for the great book

It's a pleasant surprise to receive a gift from somebody whom I never met and it's matter of great honor when the gift is a book and the sender is the writer himself. Drukyul Decides- In the minds of Bhutan's first voters is a complete record of what happened in 2008 in Bhutan. Flipping through the pages I can see how we prepared our own government for the first time, how fates of some men were changed forever, and in doing that how we changed our fates.
While the rest of us were busy, anxious, and excited about the whole new process of people making their own government two men took it on to themselves the responsibility of writing the history for the future. Gyambo Sithey, the author who sent me this book and Dr. Tandin Dorji didn't not miss anything from 2008. The book is already becoming interesting, and like wine it will only grow better with age. Years from now this book will be a priceless piece of record and the two men will be thanked more than ever.

Dear Gyambo Sithey, thank you for the priceless gift, and thank you for writing that book- cant imagine how long and how much it took to put this many information and pictures together.

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11 August 2012

iPad Apps for Bloggers

An iPad was all I had in my dream for years and to achieve it I had considered selling one of my kidneys (not to be taken seriously, just a figure of speech). Thank god my sister in-law knew it before I really went crazy over the idea. She asked her brother working at Apple to gift me an iPad 2 during my birthday last year. I was sleepless for nights before I received the package and nights after I got my hand on it. After a week I thanked god I spared my kidney; there was nothing much I could do with it.
With free Apps I was limited to using trial apps, childish games, and frustration was building on. It gave birth to a new dream of owning a credit card so that I could buy Apps from Apps Store. I didn't mind my daughter using it roughly anymore.
It was only after I knew about Cydia, thanks to my friend and Apple Jack Tshering Tenzin, that I fell back in love with my iPad. I suddenly started worshiping my device after it was Jailbroken. Thanks to hackers, we get access to paid apps without paying. It became my teaching tool, Classroom organizer, text book, rough book, my music guru, Karoke, DJ set, my Playstation, and of all the best things it became my blogging tool.
I double rejoiced the discovery of the blogging apps because for months I was looking for them, and on many occasions I wrote to Blogger and Google to come up with Blogger Apps- as if they would listen. They only had Blogger App which was meant for iPhones. Though compatible with iPad the resolution was not welcoming.

BloggerFREE: The Blogger app helps you publish posts to your Google Blogger blog. You can use the app with more than one Blogger account, and add location information and images to your posts. Pictures can come from the app itself, or straight from your iPad photo gallery, and you can use the post list to view or edit previous posts or drafts.

After the Jailbreak I got the following two apps for free and what more is happiness for a man who loves blogging on the go.

Blogsy – $4.99
Blogsy is designed to make blogging on the iPad easy. It supports multiple blog platforms, including WordPress, Blogger, Posterous, TypePad, Joomla and Drupal, and also supports content from YouTube, Flickr and Picasa. The app enables you to create and edit posts, add media content, publish to your network, and create rich-text emails. It’s drag-and-drop methods make adding images and hyperlinks to posts much simpler than it is even on a desktop. There’s very little you can’t do using this app, the only restriction is that you can only use it with existing blog accounts.

BlogPress – $4.99
Similar to Blogsy, BlogPress supports multiple blogging platforms, and gives you a range of features to use. The app supports text, image, video and audio content from the likes of YouTube, Flickr and Picasa, and you can format posts using the app’s comprehensive layout editor. Integrated with Facebook and Twitter, BlogPress also helps you manage your social sharing, enabling you to tweet or post to followers and fans when you have published new content.
Lucky for WordPress and Tumblr users, they always had the best best apps for free:

Tumblr – FREEThe Tumblr app comes with a range of features. As well as being able to write and publish posts, add images, and other basic functions, you can schedule posts for a certain time, create customized tweets to alert followers to new material, and manage more than one Tumblr blog at a time. The content editor allows you to publish text, audio, video, quotes, images and links, so the content you’re posting doesn’t have to be restricted by the fact you’re using an iPad. You can also view and reply to Tumblr messages, and see which of your iPad contacts also uses the blogging platform.

WordPress – FREEThe WordPress app works with iPhone and iPad and enables you to manage your WordPress blog. As well as create, format and publishing posts and pages, you can also add images and videos to your work, moderate comments and view blog stats. With a content editor that has many of the basic features the desktop version of WordPress carries, you can create professional-looking blog content on the go.


Courtesy: Picture along with the whole Apps Information are retrieved from ZeroPaid.com with thanks.



08 August 2012

The Great Wall of China in Wangdue

It's still hard to digest the fact that we have lost Wangdue Dzong during our time; the time when we have roads, mobile phones, fire engines and the time when we pride in having modern education and computer technology. Harder still is the fact that the Dzong withstood nearly 400 years in the hands of people who didn't wear shoes.
Photo by Yeshey Dorji
Many fingers were pointed at this and that but everybody looked helpless in their own rightful corners. One fine day it dawn on me that perhaps we were really helpless. It wasn't in our humanly hand anymore. Now we have walked too long in shoes and too far from our shoe-less ancestors to fully understand where we went wrong.

A Dzong is not just one huge structure a spark of fire could burn down. It's the living history, it's divine artwork, it's the storeroom of Bhutanese faith, and it's home to gods and deities. How could something like fire destroy something as great as Dzong? But when it does happen, when a spark of fire brings a dzong down, there are reasons beyond fire and accident. It's a sign!
The sign could be interpreted in many ways depending on the depth of ones mind; Some might see it as a sign of something or so many things that already happened, while some will look at it as a sign of something that is going to happen. All interpretations are based on believes and therefore won't have solid evidences.
A segment of The Great Wall of China
From where I am, with my ordinary eyes and ordinary depth of mind and without any solid evidences, the ruins of Wangdue Dzong looks to me like a small segment of The Great Wall of China. The more I tried to ignore the more it resembled that wall. What has China got to do with our Dzong the ruin of our Dzong? The only connection I saw was that our prime minister was in Rio, Brazil shaking hands with the Chinese prime minster when the Dzong was destroyed. Was that handshake so significant? Could the fire be a sign related to our friendship with China? Could it be reminding us of the Tibetan History? or Perhaps more importantly warning about our own future?

03 August 2012

Florence Nightingale in Punakha Hospital: Golden Gift from Burma

That wasn't my first encounter with rude nurses, I have seen enough of them before. But after coming to Bajothang everything changed. I shared intimate relationship with people in our hospital. They have their children studying in my school and some of them studied here themselves, that made all the difference and I was soon pampered. It made me think that all the rude nurses have either changed or have disappeared.
But last four days gave me the chance to wake up from my fairy tale and see the unchanged reality and untamed nurses. My mother in-law had her womb prolapsed  and was due to undergo a surgery to remove it. But an ulcer somewhere on her cervix needs to be healed first. She needs dressing and packing on daily basis and I could think of no place better than Bajo.
I was waiting outside the hospital and my wife was taking forever. When she finally came out she was almost crying. She said the surgeon would pay any attention, though she presented all the document from Thimphu. The Dressing room nurses send her to ward, and ward nurses send her back. She had to walk the length of hospital several times with her sick mother. She could finally get it done at the ward, though they kept mentioning that it wasn't their job. We thought things are settled but the same ordeal continued the next day and the next. I then understood how ordinary patients are struggling everyday. I noticed that there were many new faces and sadly wondered why do we have to know each other to receive good treatment when their only job is the nurse the sick. On the fourth day the nurse who knew how to do packing wouldn't look at us. She was free but angry with us. She directed two first-timers to deal with it and despite their best effort they landed up bleeding my mother in-law.
That's what took us to Punakha Hospital. The gynecologist there wasn't a Bhutanese either but the moment we saw her it felt like we were breathing fresh air after a long time. She is a Burmese and speaks soft English. It was afternoon when we met her but she was full of energy and smile, something very new to us. That morning she had conducted two Cesareans and if there is anyone who has to be tired and frustrated it's her but she was ready for more. That makes Punakha Hospital the safest place for giving birth.
She took in my mother in-law and educated my wife on all aspects of the problem, which was when my wife got to understand the disease for the first time. The Burmese then instructed my wife to come with plastic bangle - the one we used to on our wrist in high school- so that she could device a way to hold up the womb in its place, by which not only infection could be prevented but also quicken the natural healing of the ulcer. Seeing my wife confused, the lady came out of her chamber and check every visitors' hand, laughing and apologizing, to find a sample and she succeeded. She took my mother in-law in and used the ring.
Florence Nightingale
In Bhutan we are never used to so much attention and care, unless we are related or connected or special. And the Burmese changed my mindset all together; we don't have to be special to be cared for. She knows we come there to seek her help and she helps with whole her heart. I always thought Florence Nightingale was fairy tale character but she made me believe that it's possible to have such people. She herself is a living Florence Nightingale, a golden gift from Burma.
She is the second woman I know from Burma, first one being Aung San Suu Kyi, whom I honour so much for doing their job so well. Thank you so much for coming to Bhutan.
Aung San Suu Kyi, only lady I knew from Burma until I met Ms. Swe Swe

Update 8th August 2012: The kind lady from Burma is Ms. Swe Swe. Her contract with Bhutan will end this year. I only wish if our health ministry could request her to stay for some more year. She is an extraordinarily dedicated expert who has attained greatness beyond rudeness and frustration at work. Please Stay.