These past three weeks have been a roller coaster. Adjusting to life here has been somewhat challenging. Coming out of my extremely privileged Western lifestyle into a privileged Eastern lifestyle is strange. I have come into to obvious realizations. I have discovered why things are called modern conveniences (because without them things are time and effort consuming but completely unnecessary). I have learned how important and how scarce accessible running water is. I have stumbled on to the fact that access to basic Internet makes the world itty-bitty and it really makes it seem like I could be anywhere in the world (www as the world wide web actually makes sense). I have learned the benefit of reflection in dealing with challenges (Check yo’ self before you wreck yo’ self). I have learned why I am so tall and I thank my mom for feeding me so much delicious, diverse and nutritious food (except for the years of bread and butter). I have learned how to play sports in front of a crowd. I have learned to have a shower with a bucket. I have learned what respect for authority looks like culturally. I have learned to sit through staff meetings that literally take all day. (I am not sure if they are worse than Canadian staff meetings, because I cannot understand teachers during the meetings. In Canada, I know that the other teachers are complaining). I have learned a better squatting technique. I have learned a lot.
Although the first week was harder than the following ones, it would have been much more difficult if not for newfound friends. I am so grateful for the teachers, students and other members of the community taking care of me. One of the benefits of being a bachelor, is that everyone assumes that I am incapable of cooking myself three meals a day and thus invites you for lunch and dinner with regularity. Some teachers have told me that they haven’t invited me because they were afraid that I wouldn’t like their food or that they did not have anything fancy to prepare. They are now aware that can be a human garbage can. Also, regardless of the day of the week, hosts will often serve you alcohol with your meal. This includes ara (a moonshine of sorts, usually served hot with egg and butter mixed into it) at 9:30 in the morning on a Sunday. It feels good to begin to know some people in the community fairly well. Not only have these invitations kept me well-fed and alive, they have also made me much more familiar with social cues, some basic Scharshop and what a Bhutanese home is like. Tsebar is probably the most giving place I have ever been. Literally everyone would give their shirt of their backs to make you more comfortable. I would specifically like to thank Sonam Chophel, Yeshi Pema, Choda Phuntsho and Sonam Tobgay for immediately showing me the ropes and inviting me into their homes and Mike and Ashley Lenzen for being those annoying and proud Roughrider fans down the road.
I did come here to learn, but I was brought here to teach.. The majority of the second week I was planning for the year. I am teaching three sections of Math 7, one of Math 8 and one of Geography 7. I am teaching my bread and butter. One thing that is my top priority is to make my lessons interesting for my students. The resources are reminiscent of Canada 60 years ago. I have a chalkboard and textbooks. Published in 1990 the Geography text and reprinted in 2005 has managed to replace the Soviet Union section with the Former Soviet Union (Maybe they are just Stalin the change because of Putin in Ukraine. I will have to be careful on how I hand out my Marx) Sorry. I also have responsibilities as a Class Teacher of 7A (administration), a morning speech evaluator, a House Master, Literary Coordinator and Literary Club Coordinator. I also plan on helping the school with sports every chance I get The math curriculum is based of the curriculum that I learned from as a student. The geography curriculum is 55% Bhutan Geography, which means learning by inquiry is going to be necessary, because I cannot say I know very much about the Bhutan. . Long story short I am going to be incapable of cooking three meals a day for myself. Just kidding.
I have taught for a total of 3.5 days. So far I think it has gone as well as it could have. I have had smooth, and effective lessons, but there are some challenges. Unlike the other teachers, I cannot give direction or translate words into Scharshop for the students. The English proficiency of my students ranges from some who understand absolutely none to some who can understand English but are too afraid to speak it to those who are confident and continually practicing English outside of class. A focus on vocabulary has to be in every lesson. I am teaching English with Math and Geography on the side. The students have been so unbelievably well behaved, I still do not believe it. Other than continual cheat/peaking (due to lack of English literacy), I have had no problems in class. I still find it so weird to walk into a class and see my students all stand up and in unison say, “Good Morning Sir!” It is even weirder when it happens everywhere I walk in the community. Student engagement is not hard to create. I have the students repeat a ‘word of the day’ in unison. DIVISIBLE! DIVISIBLE! It is fun. This is my first-ever teaching job and so far (so short) I love it.
After school has been just as busy. Three times last week we played volleyball after school. This isn’t your normal recreation volleyball. Although it is ‘just for fun’ the Gym teacher has been coaching/playing with the senior team (14-16 year olds) against the staff. Students who are not playing, hall out all of the benches from the hall and watch us. About 250 students. I have never played volleyball with crowd noise. I am actually playing better than I expected to. It is fun playing volleyball with people who are very good at passing and it is especially fun being the person who gets to play power. I feel bad when I have a good spike because all too often the ball goes over a cliff. #mountainproblems Everyone loves to play sports, but there is a severe lack of equipment (for example we only have one very old and worn volleyball) and places to play. There used to be a football pitch, but they built a hall, so now there is nowhere flat enough to play. #mountainproblems I am also concerned that girls are not getting a fair chance to play. I will do my best to promote them playing, but literally every girl is terrified of me.
It is with great joy that I am starting to feel much more comfortable here in Tsebar. If anyone has any questions, I would be happy to answer them.
PS. Mom and Dad. Please tell Gordon that I miss him and that he is so spoiled.