31 August 2013

30 August 2013

On My Daughter's First Day in School

My Dear Daughter Ninzi,

Today, on 29th Aug 2103, I am the happiest father because I could finally send you to a daycare center. Your were always excited about going to school, I don't know what you mean by school but you were always angry with us for not sending you to one. Your frustration of being indoor the whole day, waiting for me to come and take you out, is apparent in your temperament and I forgive you for being very difficult most of the time.

The First Walk to School with Kezang
You won't understand the admission policy in school; I know you are ready for school but school is not ready for you and it won't accept you for another two and half years. Times have changed and perhaps policy may follow because I remember even when I was walking through the junior high school gate I wasn't as smart as you are now yet by the virtue of being born early I could occupy a seat in the school.

Meeting her old Friend there and holding on to her tight
You are born in new times and your generation is born with magic to impress even the smartest from our age. I don't know if any school can ever engage your batch of human species because from what I know of school and from what I know about you I don't think school can impress you enough. But I am hopeful that by the time you are schoolready even school would be ready for you.

Today is a very important day in your life, it was your debut journey to school, though a daycare center and it was your first day spent away from home. It was yesterday we decided to take your to school but your mummy realized today is a good day. She wants you to begin on a good day so that you have a wonderful journey throughout your life.

Your mummy, I, and aunty Tshering Zam anxiously took you to the daycare center. I was very emotional, I was ready to grab you and drive you straight back home if you showed a slightest sign but my brave girl, you were fully excited when you entered the gate and saw the play field and little friends. I was three years older than you when I first went to school and I cried like crazy but you were different. You ran from one spot to another playing and wouldn't even look at us. We stayed there for a long time waiting for signs from you but even when we said bye your weren't listening. It broke my heart but I knew you were being brave to impress us. When we walked out of the gate I look at you one more time only to see you were already engrossed in play.

Exploring her New School
We didn't expect the center to teach you anything and we even let your teachers know that, all we wanted was to let you mingle with kids of your age and learn to make friends, and most importantly realize that your are not the boss all the time because at home you started feeling that way. We even asked them to watch your hand because you have very strong and fast fist which we feared may land on some kids but your teachers were confident you won't do it because they have seen many like you sobering in the crowd.

When we left her there
Your mummy and I missed you so bad throughout these six hours and we kept looking at each other, with encouraging laughters, wondering how you could stay without us for so long. We kept looking at the clock. It's unbelievable that you survived the whole day away from us but when we finally returned to you we could see how much you held back, you were stammering with emotion but you wouldn't show any apparent feeling other than a dance move.
Day 2 -with friends

Sweet heart, not all school are as entertaining as the one you went to today but I hope you will always love schools like you did this first one on the first day, because school is the only golden path to a glorious life. This is the beginning of a long journey and I am happy you love the first step.

With all my heart

*Thanks to Kids R Kids Daycare and Tshering Zam for giving my daughter the first good impression.

Update 3rd Sept 2013: Monday was her Third Day in school and strangely she started refusing to stay, and Kezang had to stay back with her and sneak away while she was playing. And Day 4 (Today), She cried again and she had to be left there crying so badly. Kezang is almost changing her mind but again she consoles herself.

27 August 2013

Anderson Silva Influenced 2013 Election

Our 2013 Election gave birth to many schools of thought. The political pundits blamed India, China, Times of India to something as volatile as gas. But nobody blamed Anderson Silva for losing the championship six days before our general election. We are Bhutanese and we believe in signs and that fight was a clear sign that a champion will be knocked out.

There goes the Champion 
When whole country was anxious about the 13th July I was looking forward to Anderson's fight on July 7. I have never seen this man lose a fight ever since I became UFC fan. I had a thoroughly mixed feeling for the champion, I loved the guy so much but for once I wanted to see him being beaten, and again deep inside I had the strong feeling that he is invincible. If you have watched that fateful fight you will know how the invincible clowned with his opponent and paid the price that cannot be forgotten in seven lives.

The political champion in Bhutan, DPT was believed to be invincible too. It was the party with strong leadership pack and strongest of supporters at grassroot and among business class. But during the campaign period they chose Anderson Silva tactics of making fun of the opponent. They wasted huge energy in insulting PDP's helicopter and power tiller...

But in my most generous calculation I could only forecast 17 seats for PDP which was supposed to be 850% better than their 2008 result. Just as the election makes ordinary people political pundits it also makes many people astrologers too. I heard people having dreamt about having chicken curry and others riding horse downstream. I said I saw Anderson Silva not taking the fight seriously and getting knocked out in the second round, I saw a sure winner losing. And what happened on 7th and 13th July both shocked me.

Signs are shown in different shapes and sizes and for a UFC fan the sign was seen in a UFC Fight and the analysis is to be taken seriously as a joke.

24 August 2013

Swimming Pool in Bhutan

A Swimming pool in Bhutan is almost equivalent to Eiffel Tower in Paris or Taj Mahal in India not for any special reason but for having just one in the country for many many years. That lone swimming pool is located in Thimphu and it has become a landmark, the whole area around it is proudly named Swimming Pool. Many people died without seeing this pool but seriously it’s no better than a pool seen in an average hotel abroad.

Much later some hotels built their own swimming pools and interesting any average Bhutanese can name the hotels with swimming pools in chronological order like an intelligent child can name the oceans on the earth. Yes, if you want to be famous in Bhutan built a swimming pool. It’s so rare than even today people consider going to swimming pool like going to Disney Land, including myself.

Swimming is known to be the best form of exercise to our body. It engages our entire body parts including buttock where usually no exercise can impact. Swimming gives muscles to our heart and lungs. And when you are injured or pregnant swimming is the safest exercise. But where to swim? Our rivers are killers where parents and teachers would never send and thus swimming is very uncommon among Bhutanese.

I am learning the basics of swimming at this age because I didn’t have the opportunity before. I heard about the swimming pool in Thimphu long ago like a legend but I didn’t have the confidence or money to go there.
Now that we have a swimming pool in a Hotel near Bajothang, which is commercially open to public. I am investing in my swimming skills- better late than never. I have learnt enough to safe myself in case an emergency happens but I am yet to master the skill to rescue others.
Bajothangu Swimming Pool- Picture by Hotel Pema Karpo

With the confidence gathered from swimming pool here in Bajothang I dare a visit to the Swimming Pool in Thimphu with my little sister, niece and nephew. I was not allowed to go in because I wasn't going to swim. They told me my little ones will be taken care of. So I had to go in but they wanted me to wear swimsuit and not my regular boxer. So I had to hire a swimsuit for an addition cost on top of the heavy fee. Worse even, the suit was wet, someone just removed and passed it to me.

I could see so many children stopped outside because they either didn’t have full amount to pay or weren’t carrying swimsuit. And inside there were about hundred. The big hall felt like an army firing range with noise echoing endlessly. I badly missed Hotel Pema Karpo Swimming Pool in Bajothang then.

Few Reasons why I loved Bajothang Pool more than Thimphu’s:
Thimphu Swimming Pool
Hotel Pema Karpo Swimming Pool
Indoor,suffocating and noisy
Outdoor with views of Paddies and sky
Restrictions: Only swimmers, family should wait outside.
Only in Swimsuit.
Family can visit and only swimmers have to pay
Nu.200/hr for Adults
Nu.75/hr for Children
Nu.150 for 3 hr for adults (Nu.50/hr)
Nu.100 for Children for 3 hrs. (Nu.30/hr)
No privacy in the restroom and change room.
Private Restroom and Change room.
Water Heated to comfortable temperature
Water Naturally heated to comfortable temperature.

Why Bhutan didn't have many swimming pool? Well I think we must forgive the past and swim into the future. Swimming like any other thing must begin in school and schools in warm places should have a pool each, where every child gets to jump for free and without restrictions that insult their financial ability. It can not only beautify the campus but also make children fall in love with the school. It will not only keep children fit but also keep them from running to the river during hot seasons. This list of advantage goes on and on.

I and many teachers in Bajothang dream of a swimming pool in our school, our principal shares our dream and our Dzongda is the inspiration behind our dream, therefore it won't be long before we have one in our school. Wish us luck.

18 August 2013

Gawa- The Story of the Fatherless

Bhutanese movies are usually lavish in length and miser in depth with occasional bollywood cliché. One prominent movie director once told me that anything other than that would not sale in Bhutanese cinema. Perhaps he is right because despite the odds he survived as the most successful director in Bhutan.

"Gawa- The Other Side of the Moon" chose to be different because it has a serious story to tell beyond commercial milage. It was inspired by a true story and it has a mission to inspire true stories.

I won't share the whole story here because I expect you to watch it for yourself because it has a story to tell to each one of us. It throws light on the dark side of the nightly rural courtship culture that men engage in for pleasure. And often it's the urban visitors who destroy the lives of innocent women in villages with their empty promises.

The movie portrays a girl, born out of gang rape and abandoned by her broken mother, in search of her identity and hers is the story lived by many children in our country. These children not only grow without their 'father' but also have to face the humiliation of being born that way. The most heartbreaking point in these children's lives is when they are denied civil registration just because they don't have fathers.

The movies has the potential to change the new generation of men, educate the young women, give hope and dignity to the victims and scorn the men who were responsible. At best it should remove the social stigma against victims and bring about the realization that if there is anybody who should be blamed and who should be scorned it's the men and not the betrayed women or the faultless children born out of it.

I wish this movie goes to my village Yangthang in Haa because there we have many fatherless children who need support to live with dignity, women who must understand their legal rights and know that it wasn't their fault, young women who must be educated, young men who must be changed and some disgraceful men who must be scorned and brought to justices because so far they are proud like a mating bull.

My father passed away when I was a baby and I used to think the same happened with my best friend's father. I used to ask about his father and he would ignore my question and turn away. One day he disclosed his father to me and perhaps he must have regretted later because I laughed so hard. I laughed because I couldn't believe someone else's father could be his father. The man he called his father was the richest man in my village but he was in rag just like me. Much later I learned that he was registered as his brother in-law's son in the census. My friend died three years ago from excessive drinking and in his short lifetime his father refused to accept him, though he looked like a photocopy of the man. I heard the rich man paid the cremation expenses of his denounced son, as if he waited for this very day to extend a helping hand.

The fate of my dead friend is shared by over 25 other children from 15 mothers in my village as far as I can remember and everybody in the village knows who their fathers are including the children themselves. People are open about this and women aren't scorned like in other societies but there is no culture of these fathers helping in raising the children. Some father wouldn't even spare a photocopy of their ID card for the registration of their children yet women take it silently.
In a small village of 50 households we are all somehow related to each other, and by disclosing this story I may become enemy of many but I am ready to face it for the sake of justice for the victims

'Gawa-The Other Side of the Moon' ends in poetic justice where the three men are brought to justice in the most satisfying way and much like the movie does its executive producer RENEW shares about having identified 770 children who received help in registration and in going to school. I hope children in my village are among the 770 who found the means to live better by the grace of Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuk, the president of RENEW.
Movie Poster
The movie is certified to be screened in all schools across the country for educational purpose and viewers can make voluntary contribution. The proceeds from the screening will go into educating these children.

17 August 2013

Education ICT Master Plan 2013-2018

The first Education ICT Master Plan is in the making and I am proud to a part of the team. We began right after the election and will be working on it till November. Last year MoIC and IDA International Singapore did the first eGovernment Master Plan and the next phase is going down to work on the details for a 5-year ICT plan for specific sectors, of which education is one of these.

Our team underwent eight days training together provided by IDA International experts, some of whom were the same people who work on the first Singapore ICT Master Plan in 1990s. Their presence was an inspiration knowing their successful history in transforming Singapore.

The education team started with 15 of us, including MOE officers, DEOs, principals and teachers like myself. Additional resource persons were added to our group along the way when we realized we needed more people with specialized knowledge in some key areas. We began working independently with two Singaporean consultants, and an Advisor and in
over two weeks we came up with the first draft. It was presented to a round table meeting chaired by Madam Secretary and attended by directors of different departments and other stakeholders, including private sectors. It was again presented to Education Minister in a separate meeting. We learnt much from the wisdom of these senior stakeholders of the education sector during these meetings.

Training Period- With Ms. Kar Joo Tan. I am the one sleeping right in front.
The ICT Master Plan aims to rationalize and streamline various ICT projects and activities under the Ministry of Education for implementation over the next five years. It will provide us with a broad holistic vision of how best to harness the power of ICT for teaching and learning.

The work has just begun. Much of the input during the first two weeks were based on our assumptions. Therefore the next month will be invested in validating the facts and for data collection. Upon accumulation of all the require data resources we will sit down to define specific projects and programs, estimate budgets, and specify timeline. Broadly, we are looking at three main areas (1) how to strengthen the integration of ICT into curriculum, pedagogy and assessment, (2) how to enhance the ICT capacity of teachers, students and support staff, and (3) what type of nationwide education and learning ICT infrastructure will be necessary to support these plans.

I am glad to be part of this important project that will help lay the foundation for a quality and relevant education in the country. If you have any idea that may be useful for The Education ICT Master Plan, we will be happy to go through it. But remember this is a personal blog and views expressed here are my personal and not reflective of my team or the Education Ministry.

13 August 2013

Three Medical Discoveries

Some of the greatest scientific discoveries were accidental, coincidence or unexpected therefore trust me on the following three personal discoveries I have made over the years. But don't ask me about the scientific logics behind my theories because I was never in good terms with science subjects since high school.

1. Kezang used to have a strange skin disease. The moment she exposes her skin in sun it begins to itch and she would scratch until her arms and neck swell and turn red. She would then have fever and sleeplessly painful night. This disease kept her indoor most of the time and when we had to go out she had to wear full sleeve shirts.
We showed it to the best of dermatologist in the country, and one of them even gave her a ointment he personally ordered from abroad. But it didn't help. Finally it was concluded that she was allergic to sun, and only remedy was to avoid it. Can you imagine a life like that?
One day she had some tummy problem and a friend recommended SAFI. It's herbal syrup meant to purify blood. God knows how this would help tummy problem, however she tried it obediently for a week. I don't know if it oked her tummy but the next time she went out in sun she was surprised that her skin didn't itch. We tried staying in the sun for a longer time and still she was fine. We brainstormed for hours to find what helped her and it was finally the herbal syrup. We tested it again to confirm and now it's almost two years and she is fine. But she always keeps a bottle of safi handy.

2. It's rather a funny discovery, and I hope the company doesn't sue me. Dabur Red tooth paste is also herbal and gives out very good aroma of familiar herbs. The red color and the roughness in the paste really make us feel that it can whiten our teeth, often it appears to do its job well. It became popular when I was in college and I believed in it strongly.
Dabur Red
One day my sinus got infected and it became really bad. It was always bad in the morning. My nose was always on the run and it didn't need reasons to block the air passage. Soon smelly discharge started coming out and I thought my head was rotting inside. I took tonnes of medications. It took me over five years to finally get rid of the disease with a set of medicine from Taiwan.
In last few years with my good nose I had discovered that when I brush with Dabur red toothpaste my nose suddenly becomes itchy, it runs and sneezes and I could feel the sensation I had when I first fell ill. I tried it again and confirmed that this toothpaste has something in it that is not good for nose.
Later I talked with many people who had bad nose and many of them were Dabur Red fans, I suggested them to change the toothpaste and I received good feedback. But if you have strong nose please keep using the toothpaste because I don't want to be sued by the company.

3. Silagee is a local mineral extracted from some sort of soil/rock found in Dawakha in Paro Dzongkhag. People drink solution of Silagee for various disease but what amazed me was how it cured ulcer in my brother in-law's mouth and throat. By now you must be wondering how many sick people I have in my family but that's the reason why you should believe me, because only the sick knows what helps best. lol.
My brother in-law's mouth ulcer is really ugly, it begins in his throat and covers his tongue and even the lips. When he falls sick he can't even talk well let alone eating. Hospitals helped him recover but it kept relapsing until one of my aunties gave me a bottle of silagee. He tried it and believe me it worked magic. He was fine until last time when he ran out of stock. He called me up to find where he could get this medicine from.
I called my aunty and found out that a lady called Aum Gyem sells it from her home somewhere behind Changlam Square in Thimphu and I was given her phone number (it's 17636459, in case you need). I went there and called her and she made the delivery. The small bottle shown in the picture costs Nu.700, but it's worth the cost I tell you.

***Disclaimer: The above three discoveries are not to be treated as absolute facts because firstly it was based on an ordinary man's knowledge, who failed in science in school, and secondly human bodies are different in many ways and what worked on us may not necessarily work on you. But because the products are herbal there is no harm in trying if you have similar diseases.

11 August 2013

The Day I Met the Prime Minister

It's exactly ten days since I met the Prime Minister of Bhutan in his office. In these ten days I have tried structuring the story in hundred different ways just to make to as humble as possible but I couldn't beat the humility with which his excellency invited me to meet him in his office. I at one point didn't want to write about it at all but I don't want to deprive my daughter from reading about how lucky her father got one day in 2013. Therefore the following story is written just for the record.
The Leader who walks among us 
I had received tweets from the then Opposition Leader and I would reply with ease and also would post comments on his blog like we were friends but after he became the Prime Minister I suddenly became hesitant about being at ease. I didn't have the opportunity to meet any of the former Prime Ministers, not even in the public gatherings, and therefore the idea of facing one or even communicating with them is relatively new to me. Besides I am just an ordinary teacher who is not used to much privileges.

On August 1st, when His Excellency sent me a tweet asking me to meet him before I leave Thimphu, I panicked and I didn't know how to reasonably make a reply. I had always wanted to meet him because he was the inspiring force behind my blogging passion. He introduced my blog to the larger Bhutanese readership on his blog in 2009, after then I took blogging seriously. But the excitement of meeting the great blogger is heavily outweighed by the fear of having to face the prime minister of the country.

Everything seemed like a dream and only sound that I heard was that of my heart beating fast as I drove to the office of the Prime Minister. I only realized I was carrying a funnily small khadar when I was readying it before I entered the office. A guard at the door offered a bigger one but I declined because I wanted to offer what I came with.

I was soon seated next to the Prime minister, the place I wouldn't brave to be in even in my wildest dream. But life had this huge surprise blessed on me. I had the honour of talking about about my workshop in Thimphu, my school, my blog, various other ordinary things. His excellency surprised me by asking about bBay on Facebook and other little things I did in school. I was deeply humbled that he noticed and cared about little things we ordinary people do in our lives. The initial fear has completely melted away, it was the same old Tshering Tobgay I have known on Blog, Twitter and Facebook. The prime ministership has made him more charming than powerful. I could feel strong energy in his office but the moment I saw him my muscles relaxed.

My workshop team was gathered at a small restaurant in the town and among them were two Singaporean consultants who had expressed deep wishes to meet our prime minister. I conveyed that to his excellency and I was completely taken aback when I was asked to call them and see where they were. I was then asked to wait with them at the restaurant and expect his excellency. My team couldn't believe it actually happened that evening. We got the opportunity to sit and talk with the prime minister for over two hours in a very ordinary restaurant without any bodyguard or protocol.
Singaporean Friends

My blogger friends who were scheduled to meet me the same evening were upset when I couldn't join them for the football match but I surprised them by calling them to the same place. The prime minister recognized most of our blogs and left with an unforgettable advice:
"You are thought leaders, Whatever you write, our youth will believe. For that reason, think and reflect and go slow."
Bloggers: Some of us from that Night, some already left

05 August 2013

Picture of a Bhutanese Woman

In 1986, my cousin's wife recollects, she was asked by a western photographer to remove her tego and pose for him with her jewellery shown, during Paro Tshechu. Many years later someone came with a magazine cover with her picture on it. I don't know if it's the name of a Magazine-Arcarama 86. She was sixteen then. She has preserved the picture and can be seen on her wall even today.
24 years later another photographer, this time a Bhutanese professional photographer, got a shot of her during the same festival in Paro. I know it's by Yeshey Dorji because I saw the picture on his blog. I even printed a copy and given it to her. Recently when I visited my cousin, his wife was showing me a book in which her picture has been published.
So, I was wondering if there is something special in her looks that captivates the keen eyes of photographers and perhaps to them she is a picture of a native Bhutanese woman.

She still regrets her inability to go to school because of her grandmother but her passion has taught her to be a weaver, tailor, business woman, and a wonderful mother. 

01 August 2013

Emergence of New Culture in Thimphu

There are a few things I bet even most Thimphu residents might not have known that happen in their city in the depth of the night. It was a big surprise to me and thought it would be a pleasure to share it with you.
Thimphu has the best nightlife culture which has a long history down to the times before television and internet, and even today the culture has only become bigger and stronger. Interestingly it's not as fearsome as it look from outside Thimphu. People are in their own peaceful world unless you call them out for a fight. Gone are the days of gangs and fights, so it seemed to me in last three weekends of expedition here. However this is not the real subject of surprise.
The surprise element is in the following:

  1. Every Night club has their own regular visitors crowding the place and on special occassions there are hundreds more joining. Bhutanese Economics problems is a joke among them because everybody has so much money to drink. Drinks are very expensive but nobody minds paying. The bigger concern is not money because it keeps rotating, it's the number of young citizens lavishing their productive age on drinking. Sometimes, lost in the drinking crowd, I get a crazy feeling that the whole Thimphu is drinking.
  2. 24X7 Business might sound like another joke to the early sleeping country, and I saw pitying the 24X7 shop on Changlam a few months ago. Well in these three weeks I realized that the lone shop does bigger business than any other shop in the town. At odd hours, when people are tired, hungry and thirsty that shop is their oasis in the night desert. Such business has growing potential in Thimphu.
  3. And last but the best is What happens when all the parties are over, that after 2 AM in the morning; Dozens of cars gather in the parking below YHS. People just come there to cool off before going home(?) There is no one organizing or controlling it, it's amazingly instinctive. There are drunk people and young people full of energy but they keep it truly peaceful. It's a place for courtship(?) because I see young people moving around looking for potential friends (you know...) Then from nowhere comes a man with food for sale, perhaps breakfast for the hardworking people at 3AM. He has packed fried rice and tea, and business is good for that opportunist. 
Everything is amazingly new to me and I was like a lost tourist trying to make sense out of things more than enjoy them, but eventually I digested it as a need of time...