29 December 2012

Do You Remember Those Stories?

Dear Parents,
Do you remember those stories your parents told you about talking animals and trees? Those good verse evil stories? Those happily ever after stories, before you sleep? Do you in any way believe that those nights of story telling had influence your relationship with your parents and also had shaped your outlook on life?
Do you want your relationship with your children to be like your relationship with your parents? Well, things have become complicated now but there is always a turning point for everything, and I believe if we can win over our children before the world of digital entertainment invade them, perhaps we can establish that same loving relationship.
Tell them those fairy tales before they sleep and let them live their innocent years innocently. Let them love their parents more than Cartoon Network, let them count on you for stories. But if you don't remember those stories your parents told you, let me introduce you to a loving daughter who grew up listening to her mother's stories and now telling those stories to her children every night- Chador Wangmo. She is a teacher and she strongly believes in telling stories and therefore written four Books for children.
The books are on sale in stores in Thimphu and you can also order by leaving a comment on this blog. If these four books run well she will be inspired to write many more such books for our children.
This new year I recommend you to buy these four little books and tell stories to your children. The illustrations are done by a fellow blogger and loving father Kinzang Tshering (Qinza).

Chador's Series
Note: Chador Wangmo is one of our favorites on Nopkin and also WAB. If you are on those two Bhutanese Writing sites you will be curious to know who she was, and I bet you will blindly buy those book if I disclose her pen name. Perhaps next time!

27 December 2012

Losing True Wisdom

I have witnessed many elderly civil servants retiring from their jobs because they have reached the retirement age inscribed in Civil Service Rule of Bhutan, and I was with the notion that it's a right thing to create space for the younger generation who would bring about newer and efficient ways of working.
18 Dec 2012, His Last Day in Bajo
But last month when Mr. PKB announced his retirement I was deeply saddened and shocked. By rule his has become old enough to retire but in school he was enjoying the best years of his career. His age is neither visible on him physically nor in his professional performances.
He traveled from India in 1978, even before my parents got married, and became a primary teacher in our country. Ever since he traveled back rarely and on two occasions he returned with his head shaved- when his lost his father and mother. Now he has no more reasons to go to India because in last 34 years in Bhutan he has made Bhutan his home.
 In 1997 he was transferred to Bajothang School where he taught High School for the first time. But a man of his wisdom could not only overcome new changes but also conquer them; he became one of the best known high school Maths teachers in the country.
He was among the dozen teachers who began Bajothang school in 1997 and have been serving in this school for last fifteen years during which he transformed the lives of thousands of Bhutanese people either academically or humanely.
When I heard about his resignation I ran to him and suggested him about writing to ministry for extension of his contract, but he shook my hands and asked me, "How long can it be extended?"
He had already applied to a private school that was more than honoured to welcome him, because he was known for his dedication and work ethics. He was happy to go where he was wanted and I was happy for him. But for Bajothang School and for the Education Ministry it's a big loss, and our policies need a serious revisit.
I am not qualified enough to talk about the general civil service but when it comes to teaching family I have observed that older the teacher gets better he becomes in terms of knowledge and wisdom, and for teachers like Mr. PKB students die to learn from him. But because we have mixed teaching with general civil service we are losing teachers when they have acquired so much to give. Looking at how renowned universities across the world take pride in their old professors, our system is making fools of itself by not investing in our reputed teachers.
Compulsory retirement age is set perhaps to create more employment intakes capacity for younger generation but in teaching system we are in permanent shortage of manpower and I am surprised we are letting go the most ripened teachers from our family.
Bajothang will miss this great maths teacher but we are happy he will continue to teach in Bhutan for many good years of his life.

26 December 2012

Its's Seriously Winter in Thimphu

Having lived all my life away from Thimphu and having been just a visitor on rare occasions, the most I know about life in Thimphu was on Facebook and Twitter. Keeping aside the occasional crime news, Thimphu seemed like a nice place to come, with popular musicians playing in popular pubs, intellectuals gathering over coffee, artists putting exhibitions, young entrepreneurs polishing their dreams, etc. 
Thimphu wakes up!

I have come here on a paid vacation of twenty days and I thought I would live the Thimphu life to the fullest this winter, but here I realized that all the glamour on Facebook are frozen. It was best left on Facebook. By the time I lock my classroom in the evening it's already dark, and there is hardly anything left outdoor. 
And without my family waiting at home I feel no rush to go home any sooner, so I drive around to see Thimphu at night with heater on, and soon I convince myself that there is nothing there to see at all. Then I retire to my sister's place and wrap myself up in blankets until dinner and watch UFC after dinner till I doze off. And the next morning is another painful experience...

Changlimithang Stadium at Night

Tashichodzong at Sunrise

I miss Wangdue already, because it's not the place that makes life interesting, I realized, it's the way we live that makes the place interesting, and the way we live in Wangdue is the best way to lead a life...

21 December 2012

Letter to my Class XI IT Students

Dear Kinley Dorji, Thinley Jamtsho, Pema Dorji, Tenzin Jamtsho, Nim Dorji, Tashi Dorji, Purni Maya, and Karma Dema, (See in picture)
I hope all eight of you received the message I passed around on 18 December. It was about your winter IT assignment. I wanted to meet you personally to discuss this topic for your winter assignment but by the time I knew some of you were long gone after taking your results.
The topic is not quite from your syllabus but by now you must have realized it too that your Computer Studies syllabus is highly traditional, and unsuitable for our age and time. Therefore, I want you to create a personal blog each and keep record of your winter activities in it. Your blog is the first thing I wish to see when you rejoin the school next year in XII.

Where is Pema Dorji? 2011 XI IT Students!
I don't know if you have read this news report: "Computer students unable to find jobs in Bhutan" in The Bhutanese newspaper last week(?) but I wasn't surprised at all. I only hope you are not discouraged.

to be continued still...

15 December 2012

Look who's BNB Model?

I took that picture of my daughter and posted on Facebook, but I seriously have no idea how it made it to BNB Piggy Bank Ad.
It's cute to see her next to Piggy Bank posing like trained model with generous smile, O' there is a coin photoshoped in her hand.  But I would suggest BNB to seek approval from parents next time they do anything like this, because it's my daughter and my picture and I deserved to be asked. But this time I must admit I have nothing but good feelings about it.

BNB Official Ad (Seen on Facebook Page and Website)

12 December 2012

What Lomba Means to the People of Western Bhutan

Smelling 2012 Hoentey
Lomba is the single most important annual celebration in the two western Dzongkhags of Haa and Paro and this year interestingly it fell on 12/12/12, the date many people are looking at with great emotions. I grew in village and I have been part of Lomba celebration throughout my childhood. Every year on this day I become child again, and without feasting on Hoentey I can't get my hands on anything, that's why I am blogging so late today. I drove to Punakha and had my 2012 lomba hoentey from my aunti's hand.
Haaps, as I know, are very dumb working people who would spend best portion of their lives working and they don't celebrate many occasion rest of the Bhutanese do, but Lomba is an exception and perhaps the sum total of all celebrations. Our forefather must have found it wiser to celebrate many occasions in one so that we could save time for work for the rest of the days in the year.

  1. Lomba is our New Year: We sing Lolay Lolay rhyme, thank god for the good year we had and make wishes for the new year. We greet each other Lolay, meaning good new year. We perform a small ceremony at home to drive of the evil and bring in the health, happiness and prosperity for new year. Tonight my young brother is performing this ceremony at home. I miss it so bad.
  2. Lomba is our Thruelbub (Blessed Rainy Day): We clean every corner of our house, wash every piece of cloth, and every member of the family take their turn for menchu (hot stone bath). The importance of this annual cleansing is considered as much as rest of Bhutan considers Thrulbub. It's no more a new thing to do that, it's part of daily chore for most families nowadays, but there were time when Lomba cleansing used to be our annual event. River would turn dark with our dirt. Everybody seemed to have removed a thick layer of skin from their faces. O' those days!
  3. Lomba is our Common Birthday: Every Haap considers themselves one year older after lomba. It's was only after the new Citizenship ID card was issued that people realized the importance of their own birthdays, before then lomba was our common birthday. A baby born days before lomba would be consider two years old after lomba because we count nine months in womb as a year as well. Our folks seem to enjoy the idea of growing old fast so much. Happy birthday to all my folks.
  4. Lomba is our Food Festival: The signature food of Haa, and also the central piece of Lomba is our Hoentey. It's our pride and the it's perhaps the only dish from our region known across the country. Lomba is the day we consider so auspicious to prepare out best food and feast on it. Some families make thousands of hoentey to be presented as gift to friends and families across the country. 
  5. Lomba is our Annual Family Gathering: On lomba parents expect all their children to leave aside everything and join the rest of the member of the annual gathering. Well this part makes me emotional and damn guilty. I always want to leave aside everything and run home on this day but this is my third damn year that I haven't been able to make it. This is the only time I hate my job, because my job has kept me away. I know how my mother is feeling about it, I only wish she sees me through and understand how much I wish to be home tonight.
Lolay, lolay, to all my readers, friends and family, near and far. If you are nearby please join me in two days to taste my mother's hoentey, she is sending me hoentey day after tomorrow. Lolay, Lolay!

11 December 2012

Unfairer than Exam

Exams are already unfair enough in measuring the worth of a child and this big wide world couldn't yet find a wiser way. Now imagine teachers committing mistakes in either correcting answers or in calculating marks. This is not an assumption, it happens often because one teacher has to deal with at least hundred papers within a given time frame. We have realized we are capable of so many errors during the so many mid term exams, when we return the answer scripts to the children. They come to us and show how we have wronged their right answers, or didn't correct one whole page or forgot to count 10 marks, etc.
But it's not late, we do rectify our mistakes and do the required changes in their marks before we finally submit their marks to their class teacher for making result. But what about during the annual exams? Won't we make mistakes anymore? Mistakes happens unintentionally but is it fair to let students pay for our mistakes?
Our school has adopted a 'paper giving' day after annual exam two years ago. We call back our students on 10th December to return their answer scripts so that they can crosscheck if we have overlooked anything at all. And yesterday we followed our annual culture. Some students didn't turn up, perhaps they don't yet know that their teacher could make mistakes.
I am very happy to admit that the 'paper giving' culture made a huge difference this year which made me write this post. There are many forgivable errors in counting, obvious as always but in one subject 25 questions of 2 marks each were marked for just 1 mark each and in another subject due to a mistake in model answer whole class's paper needed re-correction. I am proudly admitting mistakes in my school because we have left room for correction, and we have made corrections.
What would have happened to so many students if we had followed the traditional culture? What must be happening to so many students across the country where there is no paper giving day? Does your school have it? Please look into it if you don't have because we can make mistakes, and students should not pay for our mistakes.

09 December 2012

Dawa's Coffee

You know I don't leave any chance to express my appreciation to anybody at anytime, and last night we spotted BBS anchor Dawa outside our regular café. He was busy on his phone while we discovered that both the families in the café were his fans. Café owner asked me to invite him in for a cup of coffee and she had already ordered her kitchen.
It was very late and Dawa was still on phone and I was waiting for him to finish. The moment he finished, which was after a long time, I ran to him and asked him in for a cup of coffee with his fans. He politely decline the coffee but joined me into the café. We were all standing and introducing and telling him that we were his fans. He looked as nervous as we were. His phone started ringing but he silenced it to spare a little more time with us. It rang again and he silenced it again. I knew he had to go, he was only trying not to be rude by walking out so I thanked him and showed him out.
After he was gone we were talking about him outside when group of men appeared from next building which houses the Karaoke. Dawa was among them. And all of a sudden another Dawa appeared from behind- same height, same face. It was his twin brother Nima (for your kind information and necessary reaction next time). Now we were embarrassed fearing if it was the real Dawa we invited in. Kezang was paranoid because she didn't know Dawa had a twin and thought it was an illusion. Thank god they were wearing different coats unlike many twins, and I confirmed we had caught the right Dawa. He came to us and said 'good night' before he left.
Then the café chef brought a cup of coffee which was actually for Dawa, and I drank it. 

06 December 2012

Ruddy Shelduck- the Ill treated Guest in Bhutan

Today I went to photograph the migratory ducks on the sands of the Punatshangchu river with my family. I have seen them year after year and admired them since I know a little about them. It was at this time of the year my class teacher in junior school would ask me to join him down to the Paa Chhu in Paro to photograph these ducks. Mr. Karma Wangchuk, a born naturalist and self taught artist, is an encyclopedia of birds, plants, butterflies, and animals and has great love for nature. He now teaches in Paro College of Education. He told me about this bird that flies from Tibet to spend their winter with us like the famous black necked crane. The duck is known as Ruddy Shelduck and it's found along the banks of the Punatshangchu at this time of the year.
The Sands of Punatshangchhu
However, ruddy shelduck is not as fortunate as black necked cranes because they are not yet endangered. They are among the least concerned category of birds since there are plenty of them across the world. Perhaps the way we are treating this birds might explain why so many birds are already extinct or endangered.
Ruddy Shelduck in Punatshangchu
They are our winter guest as much as Black necked cranes are but they are left to their own fate. There are posters talking about conservation of herons and cranes but this bird is pushed aside.

They are preyed by wild dogs and there are also rumors of construction workers finding it easier to hunt duck then to buy chicken. With increasing number of workers in Wangdue the fate is this visiting bird is further doomed.
Group of Ruddy Shelduck basking in the sun
If we had records, we might discover that the sands along with Punatshangchu river were their homes long before we knew the sand could be used for construction but now our aggressive and indiscriminate excavation of sand has made them homeless. We are not even waiting for the water to dry up to excavate sand, hundreds of truckloads are carried away everyday. Soon the water will dry up in the place where the ducks are sitting now and then the trucks will come there, where would the birds go? They have come to spend their whole winter here.

The Ducks Flying over Trucks and Dozers 
Riverbed filled with machines 
Every guest coming to Bhutan goes back happy but we are forgetting to be Bhutanese with this poor guest.

05 December 2012

Riyang Books: Bhutan's Own Penguin

In high school and college I would pick a book in library and even when I loved the title and author I would still look for the little penguin on the cover to agree with my choice. That penguin to me was the hallmark of best literature, I don't know why I felt that way, but it always proved right.
The Little Penguin
I read many stories of struggle and watched movies of great people who went through lot of rejections before they became who they are but when I actually met some publishers no inspiration saved me from throwing away my manuscript and forgetting my dream of becoming a writer in Bhutan. I was then in college and fully in love with my short stories but overnight I knew I could never become one in Bhutan.
I discovered that the big names of publishers I saw and heard were not actually the kind of publishers I romanticized, they are not lovers of literature and books, they don't have editors, they don't even read your stories (could they even read?), they are just publishers in strictly technical terms. They are mere contractors who make money out of printing bills, cash memos, calendars, and any government documents they get. The only books they are interested in publishing are guide-books and solved-question-papers because these sell well among students.
Now, we have a Penguin of our own, Riyang Books is just launched and I am already calling it Penguin without a doubt. It's the answer to my long forgotten question: Why don't a literature lover become a publisher? Riyang Books is founded by one of Bhutan's foremost writers, known across the world for her novel Circle of Karma, Ashi Kunzang Choden and her family. With the birth of this publisher I can already see the possibility of becoming a writer if you have the gift of writing, and I also feel secured that no rubbish will be published.
This's this Sign!
I welcome Riyang Books with hopes and dreams, that someday I see shelves of Bhutanese authors with that blue Riyang Books logo, and that I can just pick any book from Riyang with the assurance that it will be a wonderful book.

Follow Riyang Books on Twitter @riyangbooks
Visit them @ www.riyangbooks.com/

04 December 2012

City with Disability

It hurts to hear that there are over 25,000 Bhutanese living with disabilities, it hurts because though supposedly a compassionate society Bhutan is also superstitious and has lot of stigma. Many spend their lives in hiding either by choice or by force from the family. Those choosing to come out in open and live normal lives are confronted with countless challenges of which one is the structural unfriendliness, which is easily avoidable.
Friendly office
There are hardly any toilets, any building, stairs, street or buses friendly enough for a disabled person to comfortably use in Bhutan. Even the streets in Capital city has no provision for even a wheelchair and therefore it's as good as Thimphu banning disabled people from coming out on street. Disability happens without a choice, but when it comes to building structures we have choices. 
Friendly Transport
We speak thousand good words and print thousand touching pictures of disabled people to awaken the society and remove stigma, and the result could be as theoretical as the process is. One wheelchair friendly street could speak more than those thousand words, one bus with seat for disabled persons could show more than thousand pictures, because words and pictures won't quite practically help people with disability move on street and travel in buses.

Friendly Shopping places

Friendly streets
For now our able-society with able-planners and able-engineers could only come up with cities with disability; city that are absolutely unfriendly to our disabled fellow. 
I join the world to celebrate the International Day of People with Disability with all my heart!