31 May 2013

Jigme Couldn't Find Taxi From Thimphu

My son Jigme was rushing home from Paro this afternoon. He wanted to spend this election holiday with us at home. But he is stranded in Thimphu tonight because he couldn't find a taxi coming to Wangdue. The taxi he got into asked him Nu.450, almost 100% more than normal rate, and when he questioned the driver, he was told that all taxi charge same rate today. His repeated protest made the taxi driver change his mind and direction. The taxi politely threw out my boy and went to Paro.
I made the following request on Facebook (see picture) and only respond I got was to note the number of the taxi and file a formal complaint against it in RSTA office. 
It was not about my son alone, it was about the illegal fare hike going on and I thought RSTA will go there and catch them red handed, but it turned out that we have to follow procedures, which indirectly meant there is no heart in dealing with the problem. Like a friend on Facebook commented,
 "That is the problem we have la; even, if we file a formal complaint with veh. registration No., they will ask for evidence and will go on..."
This was a problem since my school days and I am shocked even during my children's time the same problem bothers our country. I am sure many desperate travellers during this election must have been harassed by these taxi drivers, which will make the very voting experience bitter. Now I know why Monggar election officer chose to hire private cars rather than taxis. 

28 May 2013

My Lost Turtle, The Free Turtle

When something wrong is going to happen you feel the energy from the first hour but because we are just human we can comprehend it only after it has happened. This morning I was up by 6:30 AM, something very strange for someone who sleeps at 3AM, and then by 7:30 AM I sneaked out of home with our pet turtle. I was like a little boy, wanting to let my turtle play in the Blue Pond which my class created in the school.
The Pond
The little creature lost its friend last year and had been alone in the aquarium so far. If he could talk he would have asked us to set him free rather than being alone among colorful stones in glass confinement. I took him out once and promised to take him once the pond is done. Yesterday I changed the water and cleaned the pond to welcome him there. kezang hates my rashness, therefore I ran out when she was still in bed.
The turtle in the Pond was an instant hit, there were students who never saw one in real before and there were teachers who knew everything about it but yet to see one outside TV. Excited kids wanted to touch it, feel its hardness, see it react, throw pebbles at it when I wasn't looking. I said nothing, I wanted them to experience it. There was crowd after crowd around the pond when I left for class.
During the First Outing
I finished my class with VIII C and rush back to the Pond to find no one around, and my dear turtle gone. The boy who was supposed to look after it has gone to his class too. I searched for my turtle everywhere around the pond and soon called off the search hoping the boy would have kept it somewhere safe.
The boy came to me asking where the turtle is, and perhaps he saw the color change on my face. Soon it was toilet break and dozens of students came to see the turtle but the poor thing was lost. Everybody helped in the search operation. There was no clue about what happened to the turtle, given it's speed it couldn't have ran so far from our reach, its hard shell would have protected it from birds and dogs, what else could have happened?
I couldn't go for lunch, because I was answerable to Kezang who has invested so much of herself to the little animal- from feeding to cleaning. It was her companion when I am in school. I snatched it away from her.
But looking at it from the other side, turtles, or for that matter any animal, are not meant to be kept in glass confinement, there are born free and deserve to be free. We humans exercise our supremacy over all species; eating what can be eaten, taming what can be tamed, and imprisoning beautiful creature for life by giving them a sweet name called 'Pet'. My lost turtle is finally liberated, hope it didn't land up with someone else to be confined in glass box again, hope it didn't land up in a dog's mouth to be crushed to death, I only pray that it finds its way to the river to be washed down to where it belongs, where he will find his kind, to play to mate and to reproduce his genes. Bye little one, farewell.

Lesson: I shouldn't be rash, must fence the Pond before I bring in the fishes and other aquatic lives I could get.

26 May 2013

Translation of a Teacher's Dream by Students

I am a dreamer and have thousand things going on in my head. If I hadn't become a teacher I would have died of frustration. School is the place where I can express myself freely. I translate my personal dreams into spaces in school and spend sleepless nights of satisfaction. My students enjoy my wild ideas and become part of them, often adding their share of craziness. We work endlessly during our holidays and learn to celebrate work as art of life. I harness their talent and make them polish their skills. Students are treasure house of talents.
My school is right next to the river but strangely the campus is very dry and dusty. I had a refreshing feeling at a water body in sight would chill our mind and then planned a pond in the park. It took a long time to bring the mental picture on the ground but my VIII C students had the required skill to give shape to it.
I consulted two engineers but for a project of our scale students are the best engineers. My friends generously donated cement and love, and kezang prepared her best fried rice for my class during the long concreting hours.
More than the pond itself, the time I spent with my students gave me deep insight into their lives, about their families, and their life during vacations and at home. It's very inspiring to discover that many of them have worked as temporary labourers and paid for their schooling expenses. While the kids from well to do families take so much interest in learning from the experts friends. It strengthened our bond as class and as team. Tomorrow morning they will be so proud to see the whole school admiring our pond.
Following is a glimpse of our journey in creating the pond, in picture over a period of one month.
The First touch.

Groundbreaking (helping hands from Basketball team)

Laying foundation 

Concreting during a holiday

The shape is formed, first layers concreting done and watered for strengthening.

Trying out Colored-cement for the first time- Polishing was done with help from 5 experts from senior classes.

First Guest to my Pond is my Family- Sunday Morning 

Isn't it refreshing? 
Now the pond is waiting for fish, turtle, frog, lotus, or anything that will survive there to give students visual of some aquatic life. The least we have planned is to shift 8 fishes from school fishery farm (8 fishes because it's class VIII's work) and put 29 beautiful stones, each with roll numbers of my 29 students for, what they call, Long Remembrance.
When I have luxury of time I would like to share about amazing projects my teacher colleagues have done in Bajothang too because I think I am being very selfish my sharing only about those thing me and my class did on my blog.

Disclaimer: No teaching time was wasted in building this pond because we did it during weekends and holidays. And no contributions, in any form, were asked from students except their free time and skill.

25 May 2013

Mob in Bajothang- iWitness

I heard of mob attack in Jaigoan, and saw in Indian movies but this afternoon it happened in my school. The school was over and I was with my colleagues shaking hands with movie director Tshering Wangyel who has come to screen his production "Sorry Wai" here. Suddenly we heard our noisy neighbours shouting louder than they usually did. We have over 20 Bengali  labourers working for a construction site in our school. They were chasing something with various weapons in their hand.
We said "Sorry Wai" to Tshering Wangyel and ran to the site to find that they were after the Bhutanese site supervisor who is responsible for looking after the work on behalf of the funder. Stones were flying in his direction, narrowly missing him. We stopped the mob, who were carrying bamboo, iron rod, stone, spade and going 'maro maro' after him. While I appreciate their unity I hated their action and intention.
Instinctively I picked up a bamboo too and pointed at those who were trying to cross beyond where we were standing, I only realized there was bamboo in my hand when my principal called on me to throw it.
"He hit our friend, we have to 'maro' him" They shouted.
"Are you police? Who are you to render justice this way? This cannot be done here. Call you proprietor and solve it with police." My principal sent them back.

Then their theakhadar said something to them which instigated the mob again. They wanted to drag him back and do justice. They began "maro maro' again and came running. We intercepted them and suggested, "How would you like to have it the other way, where we call 50 Bhutanese and thrash your heads with your weapons." By then there were people watching from all directions. The mob retreated silently.
Our principal called the theakhadar and warned him to total silence.

After a while the escapee returned with chief security officer of his company and police. The labours were called and the case was dug. From their conversation I could see that the supervisor had tried to stop a work which was not approved by the company, while the head labourer shouted at his workers to continue. The s supervisor became furious and dug out their finished work when a labourer punched him. He picked up a bamboo and knocked that man down and ran away.

Police after hearing stories from both sides said both of them must go to the office, and even asked the theakhadar to go. That's when I said "what about the mob that came with all sort of weapon?" and my colleagues supported me. Then the whole 'maro maro' gang was loaded behind police pickup and taken to police station. I hope their are not kept in the cell overnight though they deserved it.

21 May 2013

Private Tuition in Bhutan- Where Teachers Can't Teach

This is one very interesting story about a licensed private tuition company writing complaint letter to Dzongkhag about some of my colleagues stealing their business. I say it's interesting because a businessman thinks that it's his business to tuition our children and not ours. It's even more interesting because there is a policy which states that teachers cannot take private tuition classes after school hours, and that's the legal point the businessman is catching at. Technically he is on the right side. 
Before I express my surprises let me clarify that none of my teacher colleagues take any tuition classes this year as far as I know and I have no time, space and intention to do it myself, therefore it's with clean conscience that I choose to be surprised.
The biggest surprise is that our own ministry thought teachers should not do private tutoring for money, and the justification was that some teachers would do half hearted job in the classroom so to gather good number of heads for side business. This mistrust is heartbreaking. Should there be any teacher who would resort to such cheap means, can anything stop them?
Another Surprise, licenses have been issued to businessmen to operate tuition classes, now justify the logic, if any, behind trusting some people, who may or may not be trained, to teach our students better than they were taught in the classroom.
If any student has problem with any subject no teacher will ever say no to
them during free hours and holidays, so where do we need tuition at all? And if some parents have enough money to blow off and wants to send their children to tuition anyway, who would be a better person- child's own teachers or some licensed businessmen?
Coming back to our ministry's decision, which may be guided by many wisdom I didn't know of, but I must say I was impressed by health ministry move at providing off hour clinic opportunity for doctors to earn some extra cash. I also envy the way engineers spent their off hours making drawing for private individuals to earn handsome cash. But we teachers are lavishly showered with rules after rules, instead of some smart ways to improve our livelihood. Name one teacher who has a car without loan, or name one teacher who has children in private school without two loans?
I would most respectfully accept the rule that says teachers are not allowed to drive taxi after school, or teachers are not allowed to do business in school involving students but excuse me on the rule that says teachers can't teach. What else can teachers do then?

16 May 2013

Little Boy-The Victim of Fails

Kezang went to hospital this morning and was calling me and telling in deep anxious voice that my friend's child was hospitalized. I had heard the news of a young boy being attacked by pack of stray dogs in Khotokha about a week ago. The boy had gone beyond the fence to play when the pack of dogs attacked him. He was rescued by a monk who was passing by. And that boy happens to be my friend Damchoe's three year old son, who is now nursed back to health at Bajothang Hospital. It took 84 stitches on his head, back and arms to close his wounds. The boy is doing well now.
The repaired scalp 
The Dog Issue:
However, it's time we pay serious attention to stray dogs. Some half hearted dog rehabilitation attempts have separated dogs from human population and now many dog-compounds are shut down. Homeless and hungry the abandoned dogs are now roaming forest and villages attacking cattles. And this year alone we have reports of two incidences where humans were attacked- one was in Haa last months and the other my friend's boy. What measures can be taken to reduce the risk of dogs attacking humans? Who should be taking care of this issue? How long should we wait until we start taking action?

Drug Shortage Issue:
Another problem that surfaced today was the shortage of Anti Rabies Vaccine (ARV), which is a must take vaccine for dog bitten victims. Even a smallest wound from dog bite requires this injection and in this case the little boy was bitten by around seven dogs and literally peeled off from head to back. Unfortunately ARV ran out of stock. Tencholing didn't have it, Thimphu only has enough for their patients and was waiting for the new stock to arrive in two weeks. My friends was asked to find it on his own. Medical Shops are handicapped by new policy. 
It was boy's luck that Punakha Hospital had some doses left. He was taken to Punakha for the first dose but there is no guarantee if there will be any left when he goes for the second dose, which is on 17th May. I took the issue to Twitter and I was inspired by the support and concern shown by fellow Bhutanese. Some even offered to send from Delhi and another from Gelephug. Thank you to all the people who answered to my tweets this morning.
In such time we must awake to the reality that something in the system is not going good. Such emergency medications should be readily available in every corner of the country. I am hopeful this concern will be considered seriously by whoever is responsible. And if it's very difficult to pave through tedious Bhutanese procedures then why not allow private pharmacies to sell them?

15 May 2013

#SherigCollection in my School

I am very happy that Sherig Collection brought Boaz Shmueli and Galit Shmueli to my school, which was a sudden decision of Boaz after he saw my tweets about the Book Fair and teacher crowd in our football ground. We pitched a tent outside the book fair stall with two computers and ended up stealing the show from the main event. We invited every passing teacher to our tent and no teacher left without being thoroughly amazed.
See how we stole the show!
Sherig Collection is a selfless initiative by Rigsum where Boaz and Galit work. It's a collection of offline learning resources for children, and if you are a teacher, student or a concerned parent you must get it. It's now available in nine Dzongkhags, with teachers who attended the Book Fair in Bajothang. Details of the sources can be obtained from Sherig Collection Facebook Group. If you are in or close to Wangdue I am your server. 
Busy in Bajothang
The Sherig Collection is basically a 24GB answer to all Bhutanese issues such as internet connectivity, internet speed, budget limitations and computer efficiency. It's too good to be true and you must own it to believe it. Come with external hard drive! 

When two of them were not so busy I chanced to  show them around. They were full of appreciation for the so many creative works done by our students.
At WiFiPark gate with Gasa Principal

Near Curiosity Post 

Thanks to my 8 C students who helped in pitching the tent and to Chidanand and other eLearning Club members who sticked around helping the team during the weekend. And Thank you Rigsum and team for Sherig Collection. I hope, and will work toward reaching, the collection to as many schools as possible. 

12 May 2013

Breaking Traffic Rule

I am otherwise a law abiding citizen but in Bajothang town I break one traffic rule every day, more under compulsion than intention. I always take the shortcut instead of going around the roundabout because there is a huge pothole waiting behind the roundabout. I break that rule regardless of who is watching because I am waiting for that one chance to tell them to fix the road before applying rules. I want to remind them that this town deserves more than a farm road. I also want to let them know difference between road and drain.
That one chance finally came one rainy afternoon. Three traffic policemen were standing at the junction, as if waiting for me. I shivered a bit and broke the rule anyway. My eyes were on them and theirs on me. I was signaled to stop,
"Documents, please."
"What for?" I asked, as if I didn't know.
"You came from the 'No Entry' side."
"I didn't see 'No entry' sign anywhere."
"You should be coming around the roundabout." He fingered the direction, which of course I know.
"But I always come this way!" I declared honestly. That moment I saw him lose his cool, and called his colleagues. He passed my license to them and remarked, "He says he always come this way." Which means, 'he needs to be fixed up'.
He asked me to park my car somewhere. I did. I came out and went to them and politely said,
"The whole town is in mess, and there is hardly any visible road in the town, I thought traffic rules are not applicable as of now. Moreover that pothole is too deep for my car." I pointed at it. I could see the disgust on their face, and the guy with my license disappeared already.
"I promise to follow the rules when the whole road is blacktopped and all traffic signs are ready. But for now I am sorry but can't risk damaging my car."
red is my car and blue is the pothole
I know these are not the types of justifications that work with police, but neither am I going to give them the type they are ready to listen to. I don't know if traffic police are responsible for reporting bad road to city authority but for some reason I feel when they monitor us they must monitor road as well.
"So, what is the penalty/" I asked impatiently, because the way I presented to them didn't leave any chance for excusing me.
"You will have to pay a fine."
"When?" I asked, seriously I never came in conflict with law before therefore I don't know the procedure. But I was prepared to narrate whole essay on Bajothang town road to their officer before paying the fine.
"Wait, your license is taken to the incharge."
Then I remembered the 6 PM Party President Debate on TV, which was almost beginning. I didn't wait anymore, after all I have to pay the fine.

At home, I received a call from a friend asking me to come back. He saw me with the police while passing by and had come back to help me out. He said he has done the groundwork of requesting, and all I have to do was say some words of apology. But I said I was busy watching the debate and that I will follow the due process since I have some message to convey as well. He hung up angrily. In five minutes he called back to tell me that he has my license. I didn't know if I was to be happy or angry but I thanked him.
I may have to break the rule again until the road is fixed.

05 May 2013

National Book unFair in Bajothang Again

I was the happiest when Bajothang School was chosen the venue of National Book Fair last year. I was full of expectations. It was my first close encounter with the event and I was watching it from all corners from the day the first truck dropped the load of books.
When the event unfolded I was the most disappointed. I even wrote an article expressing my disappointment: "Book Fair Should be More Than Business" after observing that the fair was all about selling millions worth of book to school libraries. If it was only about selling books, why do we need a fair at all, every Dzongkhag has their towns where book stores are suffering from lack of business. Book Fair must be the reason why book stores are closing down, and why new book stores are not coming up. Wangdue has no book store at all. If you suggest someone to open one, they will tell how selling books is so hard but the reality is every year schools are given huge budget to buys books- which sadly goes to some twenty book sellers participating in book fair.
Book Fair should be an event to celebrate the love for book, to celebrate wisdom of book and to promote reading culture among children. It should be organized by people who love books and literature, people who have read widely and could inspire buyers.
Book Fair should be the meeting place for book lovers, where people who have read most come to share about their secrets and their recommendations to students attending the fair. Where students with outstanding reading habits could be awarded prizes. (But currently only librarians and teachers attend the fair)
Book Fair should honour Bhutanese Writers and their works. It should create platform for native writers to read their books to children and promote their own dreams and inspire children into writing. Writers attending the fair will positively boost the sale of their books and boost their passion. Book Fair in Bhutan should be responsible for promoting book in Bhutan at least.
Book Fair can be the best event to launch books by Bhutanese writers, did it happen?
Some near by schools could be asked to prepare some performances based on popular stories, recite poems, narrate stories, or present book reviews by students.
If none of these is going to happen then stop Book Fair all together because it's only killing the business of hundreds of Book Stores that are not taking part in the fair for the sake of some twenty smart businessmen.

Truck loads of books have arrived in my school football ground and stalls are erected for the event, let's see how different this National Book Fair is going to be!

03 May 2013

Teachers Day in Bhutan- The Day to Reflect

It might sound quite theoretical when I say Teachers Day is the day of reflection but I have realized that only on this day I get the right emotion to stop and ask myself if I am a good teacher. And I have worked on trying to carry the resolutions I made on Teachers Day to the rest of the days. Every year I am find myself smiling with lesser guilt, that I don't have to pretend to be a nice teacher on the day when students present me with gift, rather happily be the friendly teacher that my students have always enjoyed being with.
People are right about not having the high performers from schools and colleges in teaching profession, being an average intelligent student and below average performer I used to be worried but now when I look far back and remember the teachers that made impressions in my life I realize that teaching is not all about big brains, because I only remember the kind ones, the funny ones, the caring ones, the impartial ones, the truthful ones and the principled ones.
When we were young we would proudly talk about the teacher who wear different dresses on different days, teacher who could kick the football highest, teacher who could slap us to unconsciousness , teacher who could remember the whole dictionary, teacher who could remember every line in the textbook, teacher who could break 50 willow sticks on your butt... but these are not the teacher who make lasting impression on our lives.
Parents and Teachers on the Stage
I have suffered so much in the hands of brutal teachers and I suffered more because of where I came from and how I looked, but because that couldn't break me down it only made me the sensitive teacher I am today. I know when it hurts most and where it hurt worst, I know how it feels like to be treated this way and that way... I see hundreds of myself seeking love among the lucky many, I know how to make them feel nice about themselves because I also met some great teachers in life who made me feel good about myself.
So these are the types of reflective emotion I go through on such auspicious days and I don't leave this emotion here, it's another new beginning to cast away guilt and earn personal satisfaction on professional journey.  
2013 Teachers Day Cake in Bajothang
Today, Bajothang celebrated Teachers Day along with School Sports Day, making to fun for both teachers and Students. They had a cake and it seemed like a birthday party for all the teachers. The stage was set right in the middle of football ground, we have to walk there to receive gifts from students- I ran away before my name was called and I landed up missing the cake as well.

01 May 2013

Drunk Chorten on the Sober Road

I was looking for ST Auto Spa, the latest car servicing facility in Thimphu, to give my car a nice treat for the 90,000 km service it provided to my family. I could see the orange building with big signboard but couldn't find the road that leads to the facility. After a short drive I was startled to find a chorten standing on the road, I nearly honked at it. It looked like a drunk chorten on a straight road.
My Tweet! (@Passu_Diary)
For sometime I forgot everything, just came out of the car and stood there wondering what exactly must have happened with the chorten to be there right on the road. I joked about it on twitter but it's anybody's guess that it wasn't the chorten that encroached on to the road. It was standing there for ages not realizing that one day it would be standing on our aggressive road to change.