Thursday, November 3, 2011

Photo Essay: Picnic Season is upon us

Before we begin this saga, for those who are regular readers tonight we have eaten the first of the rice from the paddies directly in front of our door. It was generously given to us by one of the hard workers who we presented with a photo of himself at harvest time and there was no question of being able to pay.

But now for picnic season. The whole event reminded me of the Sunday School Picnics I had experienced as as kid and had long forgotten. The same sense of fun and innocence prevailed. 

Every teacher and staff member had an assigned role and mine as photographer was declared as "no work' early in the day. At that comment, I bit my tongue and didn't mention the 10 hours a week of photo selection, editing and purchasing as well as money collecting I have been doing for the past 7 months to keep Photography Club alive and fundraising. 
It was true that I didn't have to cook on an open fire on the riverbank.

The first of these events was on Sunday and that was a house picnic so I had less responsibility at that one and developed a better idea of what would be involved on the big day of the whole school picnic from that experience. The amount of food and preparation required was amazing but the cheerfulness and genuine joy with which all the work was accomplished was infectious.

Our school picnic the very next day, was really an extravagant affair, as the king himself had given the school a large sum of money when he visited and instructed us that it must be held on a weekday and off campus. He really does know how to please the students as there had already been talk of having it on campus this year before his generous gesture. Despite all the students being told that pants and shirts were acceptable attire only a handful were not in traditional dress. Certainly many more teachers than students took advantage of this option.

Lopen Tshering dressed for action and armed with his knife.

We all assembled at a point on the riverbank about 6 or so kms from school and all the students walked there totally unsupervised and on empty stomaches as they were fed breakfast on arrival. They were straggling all over the road as we privileged staff were driven in the school bus with the roof racks loaded with more wood for cooking lunch. Walking 10 to 20 kms is quite usual here and not one student even mentioned the walking involved as they were so pleased to be off campus. 

Breakfast was this Bhutanese staple which is a porridge called Tokpa. ( I am sure that is spelt wrong too)  For me it was the first time I had eaten it and now I am determined to learn how to make it as it was delicious. luckily there are plenty of volunteers dying to teach me too.

The students had power from a local farm house connected in no time flat and loud music from inspired sources continued throughout out the day. It was interrupted only for live performances and briefly while most students ate.

The amount of food purchased to be prepared by teachers and SSOs was incredible.

However it soon became apparent that the teachers and staff in charge were just that and the real work horses were the students. The same few faces kept coming up at all the work stations and they weren't wasting time in getting all the cooking underway. 

Will 700 plus eggs be enough???

I have never seen so much meat in Bhutan either. The usual diet of the boarders is vegetarian so they were pleased as punch about it too. 

Of course there was no shortage of chillies either.

The entertainment was non-stop and dancing, skits of poems studied and solo and group singing performances just kept coming all day and they just continued after lunch when the rain set in too. 

Traditional games of throwing rocks and  spears cut from young saplings as well as variations on better known games like volleyball gave everyone something to do while waiting for lunch to be ready.

By the time guests had been served and it was time for students to queue appetites were raging . Most people left the formidable line up of dishes with plates loaded like mountains and big smiles too. 

Guests from other schools and the local institute kept arriving and getting fed as the day wore on.  

I am now smart enough to know that that means we will have to turn up to their picnics too. Ian's school will hold theirs on Saturday and as he and most of his staff who are family members of our staff were present at ours, we will definitely be at theirs.

Oh did I mention that family of all staff were also included and seemed to enjoy it as much as anyone else!

The tents provided refuge from the rain but spirits were never dampened.

 At the point where we decided that it was time to go, as the ever increasing rain was in danger of blowing up the sound system which had been running hot from 9am to 4pm, the kids seemed genuinely disappointed to leave, but trudged back up the cliff face to the road and walked back to school singing and joking. The staff too in spite of their many responsibilities genuinely seemed to have had a great day and found time to relax and enjoy themselves
I just love that baby in the pocket of a gho, especially since this is the school gardener with his 2 granddaughters.
The next day was a public holiday and we took a quick spin into Trashigang with a local taxi (for guess what yep more photographs.....)  and saw the monks from the local monastery on the banks of the river in yet another location picnicing so it is definitely picnic season here. 

With exams so close now, the workload is increasing and our time is more precious than ever but Bhutan seems to have a knack of knowing when to let GNH take the lead and this was a very welcome break from the routine and well earned opportunity to relax and enjoy.

No comments:

Post a Comment