Thursday, May 31, 2012

Showcasing school

There is always a huge event looming on the horizon

With exams looming large on the horizon things have been somewhat frantic of late. In addition to attending the many extra curricular activities, we have both been spending a great deal of time in the evenings writing the 2 exams for each level we teach. The number one concern is actually finishing the curriculum before the time runs out and that is a challenge in a society where classes can be abandoned and adhoc meetings called for some very obscure reasons. To say nothing of the constant stream of additional duties that simply take over one’s life at a moment’s notice.

regardless of the activity fun can be had

Just as my school was beginning to gear up for the cluster sports meeting which we were pretty sure we would be asked to host and were imagining a May deadline, the District Athletics’ Meet was announced. We had completed all the inter-house competitions for every known sport and were selecting the most likely competitors for the school teams when all that activity was put on hold and the athletics took over.

 Down to the last millimetre 

With only a week’s notice, the logistics involved in successfully completing the diverse variety of tasks that needed preparation, was a real challenge. This event did however give us the welcome pleasure of having a perfect reason to invite the most influential guest in the Dzongkhag (district) the Dasho Dzongda ( goverernor) to formally and officially open the new grandstand that has been erected and painted in the spectacular traditional style on my school campus. Pomp and ceremony is something that is taken very seriously here and this occasion was no exception.

 our principal performing a sacred rite involving "ara" -local alcohol

With 8 schools involved and all of the competitors and their supervising teachers as well as other officials spending at least one night sleeping on the floor in our classrooms, there were plenty of jobs to be attended to.

 There is always a class XII student for the job

Of course the new grand stand required bunting to be put up, as did the entire circumference of the playing field.

who needs safety  precautions anyway

 Pits had to be dug and sand hauled bag by bag from the nearby riverbanks. 

get a dozen or so girls to do it

The tracks had to be marked. First Aid teams had to prepare necessary supplies. Cleanup teams were employed scouring the campus. 

plenty of others were milling about and adding to the atmosphere

Catering had to be organised to feed a hundred odd extra mouths and the refreshment team had to ensure that snacks were available for sale,

cooking up a storm

and liquids provided to all with the correct etiquette and protocol. 

only the school captain gets to serve the VIPS

Pine needles had to be collected and scattered on any path that the Dasho would walk on. 

that green carpet of pine needles

Scoreboards, prizes and certificates and writers had to be found. 

those with the best handwriting win that task

And another million other tasks were also required and all this and more, fell into place with the usual level creative and resourceful engagement of the whole school cohort, coordinated by teaching and non-teaching staff in the scant time available after classes finished on Friday afternoon.

tying rose petals into the ceremonial scarf! 

As has become the norm I was allocated the responsibility of capturing the event for prosperity and I began by getting myself a team of proven, keen photographers, armed with cameras and newly purchased spare batteries, as assistants.

Just the sand pit to land in and the string to jump over but a very determined attitude!

On Saturday morning while eating breakfast at home I could hear the whistles blowing and cheering and instantly knew that the events had already begun a good hour and a half before the scheduled time. I hustled myself off to school as quickly as possible.

 winners always wear a smile

It was a sunny morning and many of the field events had been rescheduled to the earlier cooler part of the day, and on arrival I was astounded at how smoothly the whole event had got underway.

 Olympic torch! Right!!

We stopped for breakfast, (my second) at about 9am, as by then we knew our chief guest had been delayed. 

even when he did arrive he was seen to be a busy man

As usual the RHSS mess did itself proud and the students and staff, from elsewhere were impressed with the food.

breakfast alfresco!

 The fiercely competitive but friendly atmosphere changed to joviality, while completing students stood in the blazing sun in full school uniform awaiting the arrival of Dasho and the start of the official opening ceremonies. I did not hear a single complaint about the heat or inconvenience and all readily engaged in the role allocated them, much to my amazement.

                                        RHSS putting on a brave face

Soon I was able to see the real splendor of the ceremonial procedures and watch the students do themselves proud, while positively overheating myself in my traditional attire.

 Scouts also have a role here

Once lunchtime approached I managed to slip home and and leave the remainder of the recording of the events to my ever ready, willing and able assistants, 

everything on standby...

while we implemented  our prior plan to visit Ashley in Kanglung . 

                    looking great and totally engaged .. that's Ashely!

But that is another story.....

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Mock Drill

When I heard that we were going to have a mock disaster drill for all staff and students on Friday after the last period I was not exactly jumping for joy. BUT what I learned is .......

There is no limit to the things that Bhutanese students can take delight in.

This was no ordinary drill I would describe this as more of a staging of an earthquake.

Despite the extreme heat and bright sunshine there was no shirking of responsibilities.

The search and rescue team were both well equipped and resourceful.

The emergency treatment centre engaged in their role with exuberance.

The victims seemed to have been selected for their acting talents.
Even the school dogs co-operated and assembled as required. Though I am pretty sure no-one had a checklist with their names on it!

The high ranking dignitaries and others doing a computer course in our IT lab were even drawn outdoors to see what all the commotion was about.

And the verdict the next morning in assembly was ...... A job well done but next time we need to have staff as victims too as it won't only be the students who are injured if we do experience a disaster!

At the end of the day it was all good fun and really "make 'em laugh and you'll make 'em learn" is my motto!

It is a pity that none of the 15 or so short videos I shot can be uploaded with our connection as they really were having great fun and it was a good indication of the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the school system!

A US Geological Survey map of a recent earthquake centred well south east of us in Assam India. It is a very active part of the world geologically speaking.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Games for the game- extra curricular activities

After school on Monday this week we had the not so rare treat of watching the young boys from Rangjung LSS amuse themselves on their way home from school. Our balcony has a bird's eye view of this patch of paddies and they were certainly making the most of it.

I am delighted that they are not indoors and glued to a screen but are instead out in the open, devising new games to play and enjoying spending time playing old favourites, but I didn't really want to encourage them to continue the first of their more dangerous games so I photographed from the balcony undetected at first.

What use can you put a now dry paddy field to?? Well the elevated terraces certainly come in handy for....

running as fast as you can up the steep slope to launch yourself.......

Yep straight into a backward flip while hoping that you actually land on your feet again.

Mostly they do! And just about everyone who is anyone can do it or is at least ready to try.

That is at least until some-one (perhaps aiming at becoming a teacher or even policeman in the future) decides to tell them how dangerous their behaviour really is and write their names down in his little black book, so that he can report them to the authorities the following day. 

Now I am guessing that is what is taking place here as it is so often the senior students who indignantly report on the younger ones, but in his favour this young man stuck around and watched for a while and no-one seemed intimidated. They did indeed stop their first game only to resume it when he left however. 

That sock over the knee look, is a fashion statement of many of the older boys by the way!

Could be that these boys might be in for a punishment at school tomorrow after the assembly!! That age old tradition of I endured it, so now its my turn to make sure that they have to as well, is alive and well in Bhutan. But these youngsters were certainly not out of steam and did not look in the slightest bit phased by the name recorder. 

Once my camera and I became visible to them they were all too keen to be photographed and tell the stories of their acrobatic feats and victories in the 'cock fighting."

This equally exciting game instantly replaced the possibility of breaking one's neck with the likely imminent disaster of breaking limbs!!

Yep all you need to do is grapple onto one leg and then elbows out, start launching yourself at anyone else in the hope that they will fall over, and you will be the last man standing.

It is also possible to make it a team event and then when the other team is all down, your team are the winners. Cool Looking Boys - CLB were the outright winners on this day as they were proud to tell me when I emerged from hiding with my camera.

 Our students at the high school are engaged in organised games and sports which look decidedly tame and uninspiring by compassion, but I assume they have also played their fair share of creatively dangerous acrobatics in the paddies in their time.

Both boys and girls get a massive number of opportunities to participate in all kinds of games, cultural events and literary activities on a regular basis at Rangjung HSS and every other school in the nation from what I can gather.

A certain amount of acrobatic skill is required at this level too, but in this case it was a teacher taking the risks while the students stood by. What else can you do when there is no ladder and the new net just has to be in place before the basketball finals begin.

Finals usually begin with the staff showcasing their skills in an exhibition match against students first. Our very sporting principal is a keen participant in most sports and is firmly in control of the ball in this shot. In this case the student counsellors were soundly defeated.

Spelling wasn't exactly a priority but everyone was keen to watch.

As far as I can remember, there has not been a single afterschool session or weekend this term when there was no activity taking place. 

We have a regular schedule which includes reading, cultural, literary and sporting events and if the odd gap occurs then staff meetings and sensitising the girls to the dangers of teenage pregnancies can be slotted in. 

This week I have had the pleasure of supervising the table tennis competitions in our rather dilapidated hut near the boys hostel. The table will be moved to the MPH once we get to the finals but for now it is stand back against the bamboo, woven walls and try not to interfere with the play if you are a spectator or waiting your turn to compete.

This frenzy of sporting activity is set to escalate as we approach the cluster (3 local schools) meet which will soon be held at our school. From there we move on to the district level and if any of of our budding hopefuls make it, on to the national level.

Recently traditional sports have become a much more prominent part of the extra curricular activities and we have a club for all those archery and dart enthusiasts this year too. At any available opportunity they are likely to turn the playing field into a Khuru (Bhutanese darts) pitch??? Is that what you call it? 

No doubt last year's frenzy of archery is still to come and that will take place just above the now dry paddy where this saga began. In the meantime, it seems that the same talented few do everything and the others are spectactors and rarely involved in anything, despite the array of opportunities, but that is true of every school in every country, where I have ever worked. 

To return to where all this began, while those intent on breaking necks or limbs but thankfully did neither and simply continued until dusk and the poor light made it seem even more likely that someone would be hurt, the good boys.......

 and even some of the not so good boys and girls, who live directly below us were......

Yep doing their homework!