31 October 2012

My GNH Model

This is how an ICT (Information and Communication Technology) teacher looks at GNH model (see the picture). Imagine socio economic development without banks, or banks without the new technologies. Imagine environment conservation without hitech devices. Imagine preservation of ancient texts and their promotion without computers. Imagine government that doesn't employ computer technology.
There is too much to imagine, and we know we can't imagine any of these without technology. But so far we haven't spelled out the role of ICT in achieving GNH, and when something is not specified then it's hard to work on it. ICT needs to be given due importance right now and here.
ICT is the supporter to all Four Pillars of GNH and Light to all Nine Domains. 

30 October 2012

© Copyright Not The Right to Copy

I was very happy to discover that a presentation I prepared two years ago has gone a long way and found itself a tiny place among the many wonderful content materials in the four day long Educating for GNH workshop. 'Dealing with Digital Natives' was my award winning presentation from NIIT Chigphen Rigphel master teacher training in Paro College of Education.
The whole presentation was used in its original format, from title to pictures to the words used, and only thing missing was my name I have put on the last slide. The content development for the course must have gone through series of professional screening before it was made into this Educating for GNH Bible, and I was awestruck how a simple credit for intellectual property was overlooked.
Nevertheless I forgave the blunder right away on seeing how well it's serving its purpose of educating teachers on the need to update themselves to match up with their digital genius students. I enjoyed the expressions on the faces of my fellow participants as they saw the slides unfold. It was still doing the magic it did during its debut in Paro college where I packed the house.
Like a happy child I shared my joy of discovery with the chief lady during the lunch. She was wise enough to apologize for failing to credit, reason being that lots of stakeholders were involved in it and it had been difficult to track things. I happily admitted that I was proud to see it doing good job.
Then came the twist in the story, the facilitators, all senior teachers and principals, who were sitting around the chief lady looked at me in confusion. One was honest and said, "Now who could be the real owner of this presentation? When we were in Chhukha Dzongkha there was on teacher who claimed it was his. Then Thimphu, another claimed ownership." Another facilitator confirmed the incidences. I found myself blushing because now my claim could be perceived as another fool seeking attention.
I still remember that day. We were given to answer a set of questions pertaining to our current mode of teaching and what changes are required to cater to our young children. Other groups had obediently answered each question and presented. I chose to differ. I digested all the questions and built a free flowing presentation employing lots of satirical pictures.
I received houseful of laughter on each slide, the certificate of 'Best presentation' and lots of handshakes. Before I could get back to my seat I was handed with handful of pen drives. Some jokingly suggested me to sell it but I was more than happy to share it to all 40 participants in that room. They unanimously agreed that it could be used as the introduction to the whole Chigphen Rigphel Teacher training course.
It's obvious that everyone would have deleted my name from the last slide once they were using in their courses, which is how it reached to my class today without it, but who were those friends who not only let their cow graze on my land but wanted to change my sa-thram to their name?

Religion in School

This topic came up when we were connecting our school activities to GNH domains. Many were confidently listing prayers, Rimdro and religious discourses in schools as activities they have in place that caters to Cultural Diversity. Where is diversity in an institution where one religion is generously practised without any regards to other believes?
I raised a question about how compulsory attendance in prayers and other buddhist discourses in schools might be disregarding children from different faith. And how this is unconstitutional. To which the facilitator, who used to be my teacher in Drukgyel, gave a very satisfying answer. He cited an example from a school in Thailand where the school hall has alters for different faiths, which he said could be an ideal concept. But he said if we are looking for a workable solution then respecting their faith and allowing them to stay away from normal religious activities could be realistic. However, he said, the best solution is to educate the children to such depth that they attain the openness to embrace the diversity, and be able to accept and tolerate. That sounded the most difficult and most convincing. Only this has the long term value which we are seeking. 

28 October 2012

Sunday Syndrome

This morning our class of 35 teachers were strangely silent in the morning hours. When the chief lady, Ms. Phuntsho passed by our room, she wasn't happy with us. She interrupted our session to let us know that we were not in a prayer to be so solemn. She went on for some time trying to ignite our spirit, and concluded by stating she found 'teachers in Wangdue are not as interactive as those in other Dzongkhags she worked with.'
I had to jump in and inform her that, "actually we had very interactive sessions yesterday with some topic taking us to hot debates. It's just that you happened to come by when we are in 'Sunday Syndrome' mode." I didn't know if there was something called 'Sunday Syndrome' but she knew what I was catching at so she laughed, gave me a sweet sour looks and explained with apology.
Picture from Mirror News
Our body and mind are both so accustomed to taking rest once in every seven days ever since we knew Sunday, and when sunday is taken out of our week our minds go into standby mode. I always thought Sunday was just a state of mind but today I realized it's an unavoidable day in a week. It takes hours before our mind finally give up on Sunday Syndrome and agree to function normally. Sunday was supposed to be the only day I don't disappear after breakfast and my daughter enjoys it, and Kezang keeps so many things waiting in line for us to do together on Sunday but today I disappeared after breakfast and couldn't be helpful to Kezang- both are disappointed. Ironically it happened for a GNH workshop. It even took our Saturday. But I must admit it was worth, perhaps the only weekend in the year where so much is learnt.

P:S: Just found out that there is a phrase 'Sunday Syndrome' already in use, though meaning little differently than the context I have put in.

Understanding 'Educating for GNH'

Over 102 teachers in Wangdue attended the workshop on 'Educating for GNH' in my school since yesterday. I wasn't among the seven who were supposed to attend from our school but by some last minute twists three of our representatives couldn't make it giving me an easy entry. I handed over my charges as the second in command of Examination committee to a colleague and joined the workshop.
I lost my much awaited weekends by agreeing to attend the four day course over the weekend but after hours into the course I realized I have made a right decision. I wasn't ignorant about the concept of educating for GNH, I was rather bombarded with too many information from third party sources that I failed to appreciate it, perhaps that's what happened with many people. And perhaps that's why many were cynical about it. For me this workshop was all about filtering information, putting them in order and making sense out of them, and I succeeded right away. The concept is very simple and workable.
With the project we are identifying the possible values we are imparting through any subject and naming those values, because when we have a name then we have at least something less abstract to stress on. However, core of it is letting students find purpose in whatever they are learning so that they find purpose in their lives. Our roles are spelled out as the most important factor in their lives, we are to create the bestest conditions, and to make sure our schools have the right environment that is sensitive to both their physical and psychological needs and that we teachers are both the "message and the medium".

One of the three facilitators in my room is my physics teachers from Drukgyel, Mr Kinley Gyeltshen. He is such a wonderful person to listen to, he can edutain the adults as much as he did his magic on us as young students back in 1999.

27 October 2012

The Gap Between the School and Home

No child is so bad in school. There is hardly any record of gang fights on campus, one among hundreds would dare be bold enough to smoke behind the toilet, and same bold ones would come to school on drugs and at times on alcohol. But they pay the price of daring. Rest are in their best form when they are within the school fence.
No child is so bad at home. Some might not listen to every thing their parents' demand but they won't find trouble in the bedroom. They may not study hours on stretch but nothing can go so wrong at home, even if they are watching movies or sleeping.
In the Gap. Photo Source: Flickr
It's between the school and home that every wrong thing happens. The gap that has no time limit and no supervision. From 8 AM to 3:30 PM schools will responsible. If a child is absent we call their parents. If a child wants to visit hospital we give them time frame and ask for prescriptions. But at what time do parents expect their children to reach home? Where do they go after changing? Were they really involved in school games, when they come late? Are they really going for discussing home work? Is there any birthday party at all? Which Lhakhang are they going to and with whom?
But sadly not many homes have anybody who would play that important part. Father is in archery ground and mother with her friends, father is playing cards late into night and mother's gone looking for him,... Worse, many children live with their young siblings who themselves are yet to grow up. Home like this are deeper gaps.
No child wants to go wrong, it just happens. They need help before everything goes wrong. They need help in getting them out of the gap. They have dreams, and dreams can't be achieved in those gaps. Schools are doing their role. What are homes doing?

Note: It's just a quick thought. Detailed piece will be written soon.

25 October 2012

A Movie for Teachers- From Monu Tamang

I love movies but I really don't believe in investing hours on just any movie. There are perhaps a million movies and half of them can be disappointing, that's why recommendations are very helpful. Thank you Monu GhishYing Tamang for recommending a movie that touched my soul. The last time I felt the same about a movie was in my college days and the movie was Finding Forrester (This is for writers). That was also watched upon recommendation by a good friend.

The Ron Clark Story is based on the true story of a teacher. The movie shows us how far we can go with our passion. Ron Clark takes up the worst class in New York City and walks them to the top. I laughed and cried, and I want every teacher to watch it. I have shared the movie with many of my friends in Bajothang and I will make sure it reaches far and wide. 
Still from the Movie
How did I get the movie is another interesting story. When I read Monu's recommendation on his blog I was dying to watch it and I left a comment in which I also wrote "...If I can't find it you will have to bring your copy along when you come home and pass it to me." In his next blog post, he wrote he was coming home. In the footnote, he has left a message for me,

"PS: I will start my journey on 14 October, if I get the train ticket. PaSsu sir, wait for me at Wangdue Zampa, I will drop my pen-drive (The Ron Clark Story) there from the bus while travelling to Tsirang (my Home) lol."


Last week my office assistant hand me a registered letter with something inside. On the back of the envelope, it was written 'From Monu Tamang'. He had reached Thimphu and perhaps thought waiting on Wangude Zampa may not be a good idea. I opened the packet to find a pen drive with the movie inside it. 

Dear Monu, the movie has become double special for me just because you sent it with high regards. I will watch it time to time and every time I do, I will remember you. I will share the movie with as many teachers as possible and all the good changes will be credited to you. Thank you so much.

24 October 2012

What is Gangnam Style?

'Gangnam style' was the word I was hearing between every line and as always I didn't want to remain ignorant about a topic that was trending so much over the social media, so I looked up for it to find out that there's a heavy guy who dances exactly like me and has become so popular. 

Many days after my Gangnam discovery Kezang asked me, 'What is Gangnam Style?' I did my dance steps to her to show it and as usual she laughed at them. Ok, I took her on YouTube and showed her the real Gangnam style and she laughed harder. Later she told me that we two dance the same. That's it.
All these years people laughed at me when I danced, because I didn't call it Gangnam Style. Now people are trying so hard to dance like me because it's Gangnam Style.

21 October 2012

Dr. Gado, Make Your Own Choice

Dr. Gado
Dr. Gado has confirmed his intentions to run for 2013 election from my constituency, which gives me a strong reason to cast my vote next year. He is very popular back home as someone who has achieved great height in career and someone who remained close to his roots. His seat in the parliament is almost confirmed by the grace of his own goodness displayed in the last many decades.
However, I am startled by his indecision in choosing the party. Opposition Leader Tshering Tobgay has called it the new height in the art of politics, But I call it the height of indecision. How can he let the people chose party for him? Is he going to agree with the ideology of any party people choose from him? Does that mean he has no vision of his own political career? or does he already know which party people will drag him in? 
In all regard, experience, maturity, education and wisdom he himself is the best man to make the choice and I will trust his choice more then the choice made by hundreds of uneducated folks. I am one of his people and I want him to chose his own party and tell us how he will serve us from there.
I can sense the art of politics applied here but how satisfying will it be for him at the end? or how regretful will it be if it turned out the otherwise? Please Dasho, make your own choice and let us make our own choice when the time comes for us to make our choice, now is your time not ours. 

19 October 2012

The Raven Spreads its Wings in Wangdue

The Raven is the magazine born in difficult times, and I have followed its journey from its licensing time, when the egg was still not hatched. The team behind the magazine, who are very active social activists, and the numerous discussion about it on social media made the waiting very hard. The Raven broke its egg and spread its wings on 13th October 2012; choosing the special day made the occasion of first royal wedding anniversary part of the magazine's history.
Finally I caught a Raven
In next few days I received the PDF copy of the book but that didn't quench the long thirst of having waited.  and it was yesterday evening I finally got my hands on the Raven. The magazine is now in Bajothang at TashiKee Mid Point store. 

Last night I spent the time watching Kezang read it and soon gave up to sleep. This morning I added an extra hour to my day and feasted on the magazine. The name has always impressed me and now the design has won my heart. The Raven's wingspan has covered the hottest issues and its claws have dug the depths. The maturity seen on the cover design is maintained throughout the 74 pages taking its worth beyond Nu.100. The most wow factor was the independence it celebrates with its own in-depth research and interview with people about issues that matter most these days.   
I have seen magazines come and go, and news of another magazine shouldn't impress me but with The Raven all hopes are renewed and I only hope it will fly down generations across. Best Wishes.

P.S: If you are out of the reach of hard copy of The Raven, Send you email address to editor@ravenmag.com or marketing@ravenmag.com I think they are generously distributing the PDF of the inaugural issue for free. And don't forget to follow @bhutanraven on Twitter.
<< Since I am getting lots of request for PDF copy of The Raven, and also since I have the permission to distribute the inaugural copy I have created a download link on the left for all of you to freely download the mag. Please acknowledge the free distribution to the two addresses given above.

17 October 2012

A Night to Remember

The Legend has it and movies show it that werewolves transform into wolves on full moon nights and turn bloody wild, but they are thought to be mythical species. But practically we have some men who turn into animals every weekend, if not wolves, and go hunting for trouble. Weekends are for people to rest and relax but many drink and go wild and fight and tire themselves so much.
On weekends (from forbiddenplanet.co.uk)
My family usually hangout late at a cafe run by my colleague, but last weekend I was occupied and couldn't make to her place. Strangely that night most of our regular friends were absent as well, and her husband was ill and left for home early. She and her niece were closing the cafe after 10 when a car pulled over and a guy started teasing her. She is not somebody who would make a fuss out of silly things. She ignored several times but he wouldn't stop. She reached at her door, which is just across the street, when the man started badmouthing her. She is good at debating, she fought back equally well.
Such men expect women to either shy away giggling or give positives signs when they eve tease them but when a woman fires back they have very think membrane around they drunken ego. The man came out of his car and ran for her. His friend was waiting in the car behind the wheel. A group of Indian laborers had gathered, along with some neighbors. The guy grabbed her by her neck and dragged her a few steps when she twisted around and gave a slap across his face. The man fell in the drain and got himself soaked in mud. She send another shot on his face with her handbag when the muddy man came for her again. He fell the second time and she jumped on him throwing punches all over his head until the man ran away like a beaten dog. The car that was waiting for him sped away after him.
Her husband knew only after the show was over, when their niece was crying aloud outside witnessing the fight but the woman has fought for herself. She called the police and started hunting for the man and his friend. Next evening when we went to her cafe she wasn't there, she was gone to police. She has taken leave from office and went looking for the man. She got him and has handed him over to the police. Her niece told us the story.
When she returned she scolded us for not being there the other night. I told her that she has fought well and done what we couldn't have. But I was curious as to why she had to go to police if she had done so much to justify the matter, to which she said, "I have fought for my defense, but not many women can do it. That contractor (O the man was a contractor) seems to think that he can abuse any woman. I took him to police to let him know that he can't..."
I jokingly remarked, "with multiple knockouts in one night the man will never again dare look at another woman." But the truth is every weekend so many men turn into animals. But that was a night to remember.

How Much Would it Cost Us?

I have learned that "If Amazon.com shuts down for 60 minutes, it loses more than US$3 million" from a ThimphuTech.com's tweet. Boaz Shmueli, the passionate brain behind ThimphuTech.com works and lives in Thimphu. He has the world of internet on his finger tips, and has been very kind in helping every Bhutanese with tech related issues. He also runs a Q&A column in Kuensel's weekend K2 magazine to extend his helpful hand further. So far he has been our 'May Day'; he enlightened us on issues faced by our isp and other organizations, he warned us of hackers and malicious activities on our sites, he showed us better and secured way to occupy space on the virtual world... he always remained tactful and did us the services that we should actually expect from our ISP Druknet. He also covered areas in cellular communication when BMobile failed to explain or inform.
That Tweet!
So when he tweet about Amazon.com right after Bhutan experienced an unexplained and uninformed internet outage he means to let Druknet understand that every time they are out of service they are losing business. But question is would they even know about the tweet since Druknet is not even on twitter?
If Amazon.com loses $3 million in 60 minutes of shutdown, how much could we (Bhutan) possibly be losing when;

  1. When Internet is down across the country four many 60 minutes?
  2. When Mobile network fails?
  3. When the electricity goes out for days and weeks?
  4. When the roads remain blocked for days? and 
  5. When the whole Nation is put to standby mode for a day on the Pedestrian Day?
Or do we even care? Another tweet from @tsheringtenxin suggests that unlike Amazon.com ours are "govt owned enterprise after all. It's not going to hurt them in the bone to lose business for weeks and months."

13 October 2012

No More Valentines Day, Only 13th October

On this day, 13th of October last year, we saw the most beautiful wedding of all time. Our king had finally found our queen. The most beautiful queen. It was a series of history in the making that day and I felt blessed to have lived in the moment that saw the father king crowning the queen of Bhutan. That moment I didn't care if Kezang was watching me I just let my happiest teardrops flow.
Image Source: The Globe and Mail

Your majesties the king and the Queen, I wish you all the love and happiness in the world, and I will pray each day for your good health. May your loving union bring endless smiles to the lives of every Bhutanese, who will never fail in loving you. May you bless this beautiful kingdom with a beautiful Crown Prince very soon.

I don't know which day to celebrate as our wedding anniversary because Kezang and I really don't remember when we declared ourselves as man and woman like many Bhutanese couples, but since last year this great event on this auspicious day gave me all the inspiration to celebrate our union today. Further, there will be no more Valentines day in our lives, only 13th October. It's the national wedding day.

11 October 2012

Congress Grass and Bad Nose

Sinusitis is a very common disease among Bhutanese and most common among people living in Wangdue. This is based on no formal research but every other person around me has the infection, including myself. The local medical pharmacy tells me that thousands have come to him with the problem because he is known for his ability to treat this disease with his own combination of medicine. People trust him more than they trust hospitals.
Depending on the severity of the infection people go to extremes to free themselves from the suffocation disease, and like a myth this disease has strange treatments; Smelling the stinking waters in Gasa Hotspring, smoking cigarette filled with fragments of samba deer's horn, inhaling smoking from burning human body at the cremation ground, and of course the regular medical treatments at hospitals and indigenous hospitals.
People have come up with various causes of the disease in the region, (of course we can't expect our hospitals to do this out of their box), some say it's because of our water source that carries dirt from several villages from Samtengang to Boelangda, while others say it's the strong wind that carries all sorts of dust in the air we breath in daily. However, the water and wind story prevails across the country and attributing Wangdue's mass infection to it comes with little logic, that's when I heard and discovered the story of a toxic grass.
Santa Maria Feverfew or Whitetop Weed is originally from American tropics. It became widespread in Asia through contaminated wheat that the Congress Party of India imported from the US, which is why now the plant is known as Congress grass. It doesn't take much intelligence to find out how the grass made it to Wangdue. The grass is invasive and can spread at epidemic proportions triggering pollen allergy in human and even livestock. Due to toxic parthenin it contains it causes dermatitis and respiratory malfunction in humans, which explains why so many of us are struggling with out nose every day. 
The Political Grass- Imported from India

08 October 2012

Rajnikant Effect in my Classroom

I don't have a say over South Indian invasion over Bollywood, nor does anybody have in Indian cinema. Not only all our channels are flooded with south Indian movies but all latest Bollywood hits are remake from south Indian masterpieces. Never imagined Salman Khan, Ajay Devgan and Akshey Kumar would act in copied movies and earn so much fame over night. Even creative Aamir Khan had his share, perhaps the first among them.
Rajnikant's Robot went on to drop Hollywood jaws and when he said, "Shah Rukh's Ra One's total collection wouldn't match up to his Robot's parking fee collection" He said it all. Nobody seemed to mind. They believe, even God doesn't mind Rajnikant.
The South Indian God
But I have a small problem with him ever since  I started teaching Probability chapter to my class VII students. Logically the probability of getting either the head or tail while tossing a coin is 50-50 and I have to use this logic for a few lessons. But my small kids wouldn't believe me, they say when Rajnikant tosses the coin it stands on its edge. Now what? Do we rewrite the whole chapter including Rajnikant-side to a coin?
Head, Tail and The Rajnikant side

06 October 2012

Rinchengang Aree- From Where I live

The famous Rinchengang Aree(Paddies in Rinchengang)in Wangdue covers two beautiful hills facing Wangdue Dzong. If the whole paddies grew rice it could feed Wangdue for a year but ever since I came here I never saw those paddies cultivated. The famous name of the landmark lives only in the famous jokes of Phuba Thinley, where wrinkled foreheads are compared to those paddies in Rinchengang.
Lets look at Rinchengang Differently...

People blame lack of water supply for their inability to cultivate, while I see lack of commitment and abundance of greed toward easy money through sale of land to construction industries. Those paddies are registered as wetland and therefore cannot be transacted which is why they are left uncultivated for years, knowing that someday it will remain wetland no more.
My Kitchen Garden (10X4 m yet enough)
I live a few kilometers across the river and I have used a small piece of land around my house as kitchen garden. In these two years I have discovered that the soil in Wangdue is nothing less than gold. There is nothing that doesn't grow in Wangdue. I grow sixteen varieties of vegetables and I have not visited Sunday Market for months. I even share my produce with my friends. When the whole nation was worrying and about vegetable import ban, and crying over inflation in vegetable price I was in my kitchen garden wondering what the hell.
My Girl and her friend with Corn Harvest
I wake up early in the morning and work in my garden, and I keep working when the students walk through the gate, just to show to them that I grow my own vegetable and that they could do all the same. I often wished if children from Rinchengang saw me working so that they get inspired to look back at their endless paddies and see what they have left behind.

Radish, Broccoli, Chili, beans, you name it...
P.S. I wish if Lyenpo Pema Gyamtsho could look at the paddies once from across the river and ask if lack of water is justifiable when there is huge river flowing below Rinchengang.

04 October 2012

What's Your Excuse?

I am amazed at the level of intelligence and knowledge among fellow Bhutanese displayed on social media platforms and I am confident if some of these passionate people join politics they can lead us to greater future but...
You are not alone, many concerned citizens share the same thought that they are great political materials, only unwilling to take part.You are watching the new political parties struggling to fish in party members and you are wondering how they will find as many as 47 members each, ignoring that fact that you could be one of them.
You have concerns over many issues and you were unhappy with the way things have gone so far. Deep inside you know that you could make difference but

  • You think it's too early for you to join politics. You will wait for the right time in life.
  • You don't want to risk your job for a mere probability. You will join after you have made enough money to survive if you have to lose.
  • You think you are too clean to be a politician. Politics is for different species of people.
  • You want to be in the ruling party but you know that it's impossible to predict. 
  • You are already feeling the embarrassment if you lose.
  • You think you can make the difference from your chair and spend the rest of your life pointing fingers.
Well, it reminds me of Anil Kapoor's blockbuster Nayak, where he becomes Chief Minister for a Day and wins people's faith. But when he was approached to run for election he refuses with his own share of excuses. We need someone like Paresh Rawal to bash us with his powerful dialogue to realize that if you want change you have to invest in it and make sacrifices.
You want change, You don't want to get Dirty!
I am guilty too, I have been approached by a party last summer and I declined. I am not scared of losing this job, actually I have better offers than this, but it's about life's calling. I find satisfaction living among children, and my excuse is that I will try my share of changing here in school where life begins. I know it's not the best excuse but I meant it.

What is your excuse?