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20 January 2021

A Bhutanese Local Guide on Google Maps

I must have confused many of you when I talked about Google Maps as a thrilling online activity. I made it sound like a game. It's a game when you are into it. I have made 4653 contributions as a Local Guide to this day (20th Jan 2021), accumulating a staggering 16 million views on them. If you are new to this subject, let's work on finding some clarity. 

A Local Guide in Bhutan

Well, we all use Google Maps to look up places. Google didn't come around to add those places on their map. Local people like you and me added them. Anyone with a Google account can sign in on Maps and add, edit or review places. Once you begin doing that, you are a Local Guide. I got into it by accident and it started getting exciting when I discovered I was earning points. And Badges. I reached Level 8. Google really knows how to use people to happily work for them for free. But the benefit is mutual and that's why I don't mind doing it. 

Action 

Earning Points

Adding New Place

15

Reviewing a Place

5 per review

Review with more than 200 characters

10 bonus points

Adding a Photo

5 per photo

Adding a video

7 per video

Editing a Place

5 per edit

Adding a Road

15 per road

Star Rating

1

Answering a question

1

Fact-Checking Others’ Contributions

1

I try, without success, to influence young people to play around with Maps instead of PUBG. Three years from now the hundreds of hours and infinite data put into paying the games will leave you with nothing to show. Even the chicken dinner is fake. But the same effort on Maps would have earned you thousands of points and massive credibility as a local guide, with a chance to win surprise gifts from Google and to go to local guides conference in San Fransisco. I have won 100 GB space on Google Drive some years ago. 


Places I reviewed (Most Viewed)

To be an effective local guide, you must go to places, take pictures, observe things and write about the place. You would have travelled to so many places, taken thousands of pictures, written so many reviews and created a lot of memories, which can't be done by playing some mobile game. It's an exercise that will help you be in the moment and be aware of things around you. Once you are into it, you will find it exciting to explore new places. While it seems like you are thanklessly working for Google, you will realize that you are only contributing toward improving the accuracy of the map of our local places. We are helping ourselves and not Google. 

Top 4 most viewed photos I posted

If we could add all our places accurately on the map, then we are ready to embrace map-based services such as taxi app, home delivery services, etc. Even the postal service will improve. We can get to any address using our phone. We need not tell the colour of the building or the name of the building owner. 

As you earn more points and climb to higher levels your credibility as a local guide becomes stronger. The places you add get approved faster. This gives you the power to help add small businesses on the maps. It could be an alternate career, going around adding places and reviewing them. Businesses may pay us to add them and write reviews. Sometimes, we get to name a place.


One Place I named "Yak Monument" in Haa

And finally, if you just want to have fun on Maps and do none of the above, let me tell you how you could virtually visit all the places you have ever wanted to go. If you want to be more adventurous, go to Doklam or visit Nubtshonapata or hundreds of lakes on the northern frontiers. You could measure the dimensions of the lakes and declare which one is the largest. I found out that there is one lake that is bigger than Nubtshonapata in Haa, but it's not as popular because it's closer to the Tibetan border. 

08 January 2021

10 Movies Bhutanese Teachers Must Watch

In 2003, I walked two long days to reach Sombaykha Pry School to become an apprentice teacher, where I spent a year. Reflecting on the experience I could relate so much to Lunana: Yak in the Classroom. Mine would be, Sombaykha: Leech in the Gumboot. 

In 2015, after over a decade of teaching, I resigned to establish and run Bhutan Toilet Org. But a teacher can never fully resign. I have remained in touch with everything related to school and education. 

As an immediate response to His Majesty's National Day Address calling for reform in education, V-TOB has initiated EduTalk: Together Forward, a platform to generate data to inform the reform. The 7 episodes of panel discussion produced at least 21 hours of meaningful conversation. During those long discussions, I have noted some speakers sharing that a good movie can have a huge positive influence on shaping an empathetic teacher. 
Passu Diary Top 10 Movies for Teachers

With that in mind, I started listing movies that had a bearing on me when I was searching for myself as a young teacher. I have left traces of those movies that have influenced me on my blog since 2012, which are listed below along with the new ones I found more recently. 

Following are the 10 Movies I wholeheartedly recommend for my fellow Bhutanese teachers. They are arranged in chronological order, from 1967- 2019 as it's difficult for me to put them in any order of preference. 

I have a habit of reading about the movie I just watched, especially if it's based on a true story. I insist you do so with the movies on my list as most of them are based on real-life stories. 


1. To Sir, with Love (1967)


Adapted from the novel of the same name by E.R. Braithwaite, To Sir, With Love was the highest-grossing movie in 1967. Sidney Poitier played Mark Thackeray, an out-of-work engineer, who takes up a teaching job at a high school in London's East End, where discipline has completely broken down and the delinquents rule. 

Unaffected by the rowdy students, Mark implements his own brand of discipline in class earning the respect and admiration of his students. Even after half a century, the movie is still relevant and influencing people across the world.

2. Dead Poets Society (1989)



Starring Robin Williams as John Keating, a progressive English teacher who tries to encourage his students to break free from the norm, go against the status quo and live life unapologetically. 
His unorthodox teaching methods shock his colleagues but inspire his students to think beyond the careers ahead of them.


3. Dangerous Minds (1995)


The story is based on the true tale of a dauntless California educator named LouAnne Johnson. The screenplay was based on her 1992 book, "My Posse Don't Do Homework."

Marine LouAnne Johnson leaves military life behind and becomes a teacher, but struggles to earn her pupils' respect in the tough inner-city school where she is assigned to a class that's much like the one in "To Sir, with Love".

In an early scene, she shows off a flashy karate move but declines an invitation to battle a class thug. "I'm not allowed to touch the students," she explains. But of course, she goes on to touch her two dozen pupils in profound ways.

4. Finding Forrester (2000)


Little similar to "Good Will Hunting" (1997), Finding Forrester is about a friendship between Jamal Wallace (played by Rob Brown), an African-American student with natural talent in writing and William Forrester (played by Sean Connery), a reclusive writer who is hidden in his apartment for a long time, after writing an award-winning novel. The two seemed destined to meet; Jalam finds someone to share his writing brilliance with and William finds the reason to come out of his isolation.


This movie will work magic on literature teachers.

5. The Ron Clark Story (2006 )


The Ron Clark Story, starring Matthew Perry is based on the true story of a gifted young teacher leaves his home in North Carolina to seek adventure and a job in the bright lights and tough schools of New York City.


The movie which I blogged about way back in 2012 shows us how far one can go with passion. Ron Clark takes up the worst class in New York City and walks them to the top, quite similar to several movies in this list but the way it's told will make you cry. 


6. Taare Zameen Par (2007)



One of Aamir Khan's masterpieces, Taare Zameen Par is about a brilliant boy called Ishaan who is seen as stupid by his parents because of his poor academic performance. He sent away to a boarding school where he meets Ram played by Aamir Khan, an art teacher who recognizes the boy brilliance hidden under dyslexia. The movie opens our eyes after wetting them thoroughly. 

7. Freedom Writers (2007)

The Free Writers is an American Drama adapted from the best selling book The Freedom Writers Diaries (1999) by the teacher in the story herself, Erin Gruwell. This is another movie I have blogged about in 2012.

She takes up the job of teaching English on Long Island at 23. She is put into a class, which is almost a war zone where children nearly of her age and a lot bigger than her size are divided by racial hatred. These children walk with guns in the pockets and bitterness in their hearts, looking for any chance to start a fight. They come from a community that is divided into gangs and has a bloody history.

Our problems are nothing compared to what Ms Gruwell faces, she teaches in a classroom filled with resentments, where every careless word every minute starts up a fight. Her initial efforts to unite the divided class ends up making herself another enemy for them. The turning point in the story is a cartoon of a thick-lipped black boy passed around in the classroom that catches the attention of Ms Gruwell. Deeply saddened by the racism in the classroom she relates that cartoon with the cartoons of big-nosed Jews drawn by the biggest gang ever, the Nazi. She tells them about how that gang hated other races and divided countries and how that ended up in holocaust, taking away the lives of 6 million Jews.

This movie, which is based on the true story will show us how reading and journaling will transform us.

8. 3 idiots (2009)


If you haven’t watched 3 idiots yet you are the idiot of the century. Surprisingly nobody minds being called idiot after that movie. Everybody wants to be the 4th idiot. I am sure there won’t be anyone who didn’t watch it over three times.

Rancho comes to college to learn engineering for the love of doing it and not to get the certificate. He gives 'Millimeter' money to buy a school uniform and join any school the kid likes. If he is caught ‘uniform change, school change’. Going to school is not about passing the exam, getting the certificate and going to the next level and finally landing up in a job. It is about learning. Rancho himself gets kicked off from class often but he gets into another class. This is something I want my students to seriously reflect on.

My favourite scene in the movie is when Rancho was asked, “What is Machine?” Despite his excellent answer, he gets kicked out. This happens in most of our schools. But what doesn’t happen here is what Rancho does when he returns for his book. The message goes out to students who are fond of mugging up books and most of all to teachers who fail to understand the depth of students’ mind.

I cried when Farahan’s father finally asks him to return the laptop and to get himself a professional camera. Life is not about what people would say, as is in our society too, it’s about what makes you happy. Farahan says, “If I become a photographer I may earn lesser, but for the rest of my life, every day I wake up I will happy”.


9. Hichki (2018)


Hichki is said to be an adaption from Front of the Class (2008) but because of our closeness to Bollywood, I included it. 

Rani Mukerji Plays Naina Mathur, a young lady who has Tourette syndrome. She lands a teaching job in an elite school but she is given class IX-F. I think we can all relate to this because, in most of our schools, the best students are put in Sections A and B. Her IX-F is filled with poor children from the slums. 

Quite like The Dead Poet Society, Ron Clark Story, or Freedom Writers, you will see through your teary eyes how she takes IX-F to the top against all odds. 


10. Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom (2019)



Now, let's come home. Lunana: Yak in the Classroom is inspired by and adapted from School Among Glaciers 
(2003), a documentary by Dorji Wangchuk. Directed by Pawo Choyning Dorji, it is a recipient of numerous international awards and has been considered for nomination at the 93rd Oscars. 

It's about a young teacher, Ugyen, who dreams to go to Australia to become a singer.  but gets posted to Lunana School, to complete his service requirement before he leaves the service. 

After trekking for 8 days he makes it to Lunana where he finds himself in a classroom with no blackboard. He decides to quit and run back home right away. He asks the Gup to arrange horses for him. During the few waiting days, he discovers his purpose in the warmth of the poor village's hospitality and the smiles of the young children in his class. 

The Australian dream has taken away so many of our teachers and even Ugyen leaves finally but his short stay in Lunana transforms him as much as he does to the school and the children there. Watching Ugyen become a spiritual son of Lunana, it's so heartbreaking to watch him leave. You could see how badly he misses the warmth of Lunana when he performs Ya Labi Lhadha in a cold Australian pub where he landed his dream job of singing. 

P.S. I wish to put all of them in a pen drive and send to the two colleges of education to be shown to and discussed critically with the student-teachers. 

02 January 2021

Revenge on an Anonymous Attacker on Facebook

“Tobgay, did you see what’s written about you on Bhutanese Forum?” Tobgay's phone kept ringing every now and then. He put it off. 

Khandruma, an anonymous Facebook account has posted seven paragraphs long fictitious story about Tobgay out of nowhere. He would have just laughed about it if it hadn't involved his wife and daughter.

 

Pic Source: Forbes

His sister had driven from Phuntsholing and brother from Paro. His mother-in-law had arrived quickly to check on her daughter who had been shattered. Close relatives were walking in one after another as if someone had died in the house. The energy in the room was intense, heavily loaded with rage. Everyone seemed to want to find out who Khandruma was. They were ready for blood.  

 

The vicious post that was shared in a group called Bhutanese Forum was being read by thousands and shared by a few hundreds of jobless people who had nothing to do with it. If it was an important message that required to be shared, people won’t be so keen. Did they know they were helping the attacker destroy the family?

 

Of course, in their minds, Tobgay deserved to be punished and by sharing the post and putting up nasty comments, they were only doing their moral duty of punishing the wrong. One article, not even written well, was enough to let people think ill of him and write awful comments against him and his family. Only a few people have expressed sympathy for him. There was hardly any friend who defended him. 

 

In the post, Tobgay was accused of misusing his duty car for his family. He was alleged of being promoted unfairly because he was related to the secretary. He was accused of sexually harassing three female colleagues. So far he took it with a smile, but what caused him to lose it all was the attack on his wife and daughter that followed. His wife was accused of sleeping around with her colleagues and ex-boyfriends. "May the little one not turn out to be like her mother." 

 

He wanted revenge. But whom to take the revenge on? The enemy had no identity, there was no way he could find who wrote it. He could not think of anyone who would do that to him. In fact, at the moment he was angry with everyone; his colleagues, his friends, and even the random people who liked the post or people who have shared it. Everyone seemed guilty in his eyes. His wife made a long list of people who had liked, commented or shared the post. She had made up her mind that should she ever meet them in person she was going to spite on their faces. 

 

For someone to call her a hoe and accused her of bearing a child from another man, she thought that someone must be the worst enemy anyone could have. She could hardly think of anyone, living or dead, who could hate her so much. With nowhere to outpour her rage, she locked herself in her bathroom and looked for any medication that could put her to sleep and help her forget everything.  

 

The Police registered the case but there was nothing much they could do. All they could legally do was to create a list of suspects and question them, but Tobgay didn't want to do that. He didn't want innocent people to be questioned by the police. It was frustrating that the police of a country did not have the power to ask Facebook to reveal an anonymous user or remove a post. The group admins were all anonymous people and police have no grip on them as well. Any hope of legal action, justice or revenge was dead when Tobgay realized that Police could only do so much unless he could name the suspect with substantive evidence. 

 

The officer in charge of the police said in confidence, "Tobgay, we don't have the technical knowhow to find out the suspect but there are companies overseas specialized in this field. I can share one address to help you. They are expensive but they deliver."

 

"I just want to find the damn person, for that, I will take a loan or leave my job and use up the provident fund and gratuity. I can only sleep peacefully after I hear that person justify his action."

 

"When you get the name, just call me. So sorry for now." Said the officer, handing him an email address.

______

 

In a few days, the company wrote back. They were definite about their ability to trace the person. They have asked for the profile link of the anonymous user and the hate post along with an advance payment to enable them to initiate the process. The agreement had to be signed wherein the client agree to non-disclosure of the company should the matter go to the court. The client had to make the full payment to receive the report within a week with significant evidence of who wrote the post. 

 

Tobgay didn't think twice before wiring $ 5000 advance payment and anxiously waited for the report. No one in the family objected to his decision. They agreed to chip in to help him pay the company. They wanted revenge as much. They wanted the person to pay for every ounce of pain the family suffered. They wanted the person to swallow every word. They wanted the person to be tied to a pole in public and confess. But why did the person want to harm Tobgay so much? Tobgay couldn't wait to discover the person. 

 

The couple hadn't gone to office since the day the post surfaced. They didn't want to face people. They could not trust anyone now. They have seen how people they knew were engaging with the post, sharing it as if to rub salt on their injuries. They somehow felt like everyone was gossiping about them. They logged out of their Facebook accounts to find a moment of peace. 

 

By the third day, the newer controversies had taken over Bhutanese social media scene, and the hate post against Tobgay and family has faded in the background. It was just within two days that the post accumulated over 2200 likes, 340 comments and 210 shares. His wife recorded every bit of these data manually into a notebook. Some of these people who had liked the post and wrote the comments might not have meant it seriously but on this side, the family had taken it badly. Every single thumbs up on the post felt like a jab. 

 

Tobgay received the much-awaited mail from the overseas company on the sixth day. He was shivering as he opened the mail, unable to control his excitement and rage. He had been waiting to outpour his anger on someone and the name of that someone was about to be revealed. As the mailed opened he saw a 20 MB PDF attachment file. The email read, “Thank you for entrusting us to help you. We are pleased to submit the full report containing 243 pages. Please download the file and keep it safe. This email will be self-destructed within 24 hours from the time you open it. All the best.”

 

Tobgay had only asked for the name of a person whose face he wanted to smash but he was presented with 243 pages. What could all these pages contain? He opened the attachment and saw that he was given the entire digital biography of the attacker. He sat on the dining table alone and started reading the thrilling report. 


The table of contents was enough to tell him how savage the report was in capturing the entire digital footprint of the attacker. Before he could establish the identity of the attacker who had been hiding behind a pseudonym, Khandruma, he was presented with all the other four fake accounts the attacker has created from his laptop. The dates, times, locations and names, everything was recorded precisely. 

 

It was a shock for him to discover that the sworn hater was the chief finance officer, Jamtsho, in his own office, with whom Tobgay has no problems at all, not even a little disliking. Could it be a mistake? It seemed unlikely until he saw the few deleted messages he had sent to his friends that established the intention. He had applied for the post of a director, where even Tobgay had applied. In those messages, he has bitterly expressed how Tobgay could easily land the job unless something unfortunate happened to him. 

 

Tobgay had no idea that his colleague who hardly spoke anything was a candidate for the same job he applied to, and he could hardly establish any reasonable connection between the job and the attack. It took him a while to understand that the intent was to reduce his chances in the interview by establishing him as a dishonest person. Tobgay could hardly imagine how a desperate person could plot to destroy a person's reputation and his family for the sake of a job interview. 

 

He picked his phone and dialled Jamtsho's number. But he stopped right away. He was on the third page and there was so much to read before he could call. He checked on his wife, who went to bed after taking a highly sedative medication the doctor prescribed for her after she reported to have been sleepless for three-night straight. Now she was sleeping like a baby. Their daughter was fast asleep by her mother.

 

He spent the next three hours reading the report and making notes from it. By the end of his reading, Tobgay found the amount of stalking Jamtsho has done on him and his family creepy; the search history on Jamtsho's laptop and in his phone revealed a scary state of his mind. He was obsessed with the job. 

 

Flipping through his notes several times, Tobgay gave up on his idea to confront Jamtsho and do all those things that he and his family had wanted to do if they found the person. Tobgay carefully made a list of people and made a folder each in their names. In each folder, he put the screenshots of the messages and posts he took from the report. There was a total of 8 folders. 


The first one was named as Pelmo, Jamtsho's wife. The folder contains all the messages he had exchanged with at least five women. These private and intimate messages of his affairs were cleverly deleted on Facebook messenger but the report has captured it under the chapter "Important messages Recovered". Tobgay looked at the dozens of pages of really personal and secret stuff in surprise, knowing how they were once deleted. All these messages would be sent to his wife, Pelmo.

 

The next folder was named 'Secretary' in which screenshots of emails and messages he had exchanged with suppliers are put. The mails and messages gave chilling details of how he was indulged in favouring certain business and what he took from them. He didn't even spare the fuel pump managers with whom he made deals to steal from the fuel books. The folder explained how he had built a three-star hotel in his wife's name in Paro.

 

The rest of the folders were named after individual persons against whom he had written defaming posts on Facebook from several different accounts. There are many posts that were nasty but these six persons were respected people in the society and he had tried to defame them in the worst possible language using all sort of fake and vulgar details like he did with his wife and daughter. Some of the posts were made several years ago and perhaps the victims may have forgotten the pain, but some are as recent as few months old and Tobgay could imagine the pain inside of those persons and their family members. He was going to write to them anonymously and handover the folders to help them to have their revenge. After reading these posts, Tobgay was convinced that there was something wrong with Jamtsho to have done the same with so many people.

 

Tobgay is no more interested in confronting Jamtsho. He was going to watch the 8 folders do their job. And if at the end of it, if he still can't forgive enough then he will make the entire 243 pages of Jamtsho's digital biography public on the Bhutanese Forum, the same platform where he has caused pain to so many people. 


The report also contains details on the identity of the forum's admins and the nasty posts they have written. In fact, Tobgay knew that the day he made the report public, so many anonymous heroes on the Bhutanese forum, including some of the admins, would go into hiding.


-This short story is inspired by true events from different times and places.