Saturday, May 5, 2012

A break from the routine - Let the celebrations begin…

Last Saturday we got up early with the idea of climbing up to Bidung before it got too hot, as a part of our long overdue return to the hiking campaign. If we are going to make it to Sakteng we have to find the time to do it more often but time is just the problem. Unexpected school events and responsibilities usually mean there is not even one free day a week…

Any way I digress, Ian made bean burritos for our lunch while I rushed to get the laundry out and we were on our way at 8.15am. Even with an early start it was a very hot hike and we sweated and struggled up the mountain, pacing ourselves and taking breaks at strategic and anticipated points. We now know the track well enough to aim for “Joyce’s Chorten” as the first stop and the “Travellers Shelter” as the next, but from there the final leg is steep and several more pauses are required. I kept trying to push myself but eventually I have to stop, so my pounding heart can recover.

We arrived red-faced and exhausted but pleased with ourselves as this is only the third time we have got up there. We have done the lower reaches several times and J-D does it on a regular basis and hardly seems to raise a sweat but he is 20 years younger and 200 times fitter than us. I always think I am getting more and more unfit in this country but as it turns out we did it in exactly the same time as the first time we went up with Julian and Shauna about a year ago now, and as Ian said we were in better shape today when we got there too. 

The track is steep and at times dangerous with all the dry pine needles lying about on it at the moment. That is of course not to mention the steep drop offs and narrow, overgrown and often-disappearing nature of the trail. Despite all the rain we have had it is still as dry as can be on that track. We had couple of slips but never actually fell and felt quite pleased with ourselves for making it all the way.

We weren't sure if J-D would be there or not when we reached the top, but we had made enough lunch for all of us. Sure enough he turned out to be working with his kids on the basketball court when we arrived. He is untiring in his commitment to both the school and the kids and we marvel at the energy and effort he puts in.

His school is celebrating their 50th anniversary this year and it is also the 100th anniversary of education in Bhutan – Sherig (education in Dzongkha) Century- so they had a huge celebration organised. It was supposed to happen, the following day on Teachers Day but the VIP guests couldn't make it so they rescheduled it for yesterday, Friday May 4th. Even though every student in our school who had graduated from Bidung wanted to attend yesterday, the school administration selected only 20 to represent them and it was classes as usual for the rest.

When we got there, last Sunday, Jean Daniel was painting the flagpole with some young boys and the campus was a hive of other preparatory activities. They had already finished the soccer goals and the basketball posts and backboard, which looked great. I was instantly reminded of our instruction to attend to the markings on the basketball court at our school, during a recent official school visit and inspection!

We all went to J-D’s place, a mere minute away but off campus. An hour or so easily evaporated and even though it was only just after 11am we had our packed lunch together while catching up with the latest goings on in our schools and the district. He showed us around the campus and it was obvious the amount of work that has gone into getting everything shipshape for the upcoming festivities.

We took off early to get home as the torrential rains and strong winds start up about mid afternoon these days. This year we are going to get a real monsoon, it seems. Within 30 minutes of leaving, we could hear the thunder getting louder and louder and chasing us down the mountain, but we just kept slowly climbing down. It always amazes me that it takes the same time to get down as up, even though it is not a heart pounding, gasping for breath, red faced, sweating experience. I guess the slow sure-footedness required is the explanation.

Still we stopped only once for our thermos of coffee, at Joyce's Chorten and by then the grey clouds were gathering, the thunderous sounds growing more and more ominous, punctuated as they were by the then distant flashes of lightening. The race for home was on.

Joyce's Chorten

At the back gate to my school we sensed the approaching storm was upon us, as light rain began to fall, but we had picked up the pace from the chorten and were virtually jogging by that time, hoping to get home to save the washing from the imminent downpour. Our only bed sheet was on the line. Actually we made it home and saved the washing but the rain began in earnest not 10 minutes later, so we felt very lucky and doubly pleased with ourselves. 

The bridge a racing 15 mintutes from our front door

The following day May 2nd was Teachers’ Day so we were at school but it was far from a regular school day. The students organised the whole event and there was the usual dances and singing and speeches and IT presentations but the really spectacular aspect for me was the opening dance, which was exactly like one in the only Tshechu I have seen and it was performed outdoors instead of the MPH. Two of my home class boys were in it and so obviously enjoying themselves and the attention they were receiving, that it started the day in the best way possible for me.

Our new grandstand is almost complete too and we initiated it for this event. A red carpet lead the teachers from the administration zone across the playing field to our exalted positions in the stand.  Though we did retire to the MPH, once the initial welcome and spectacular dances were performed, that was a good call, as the hall is much more comfortable for the students than the concrete bleachers of the playing field. 

decorated in style for the big day

Since I wrote at length about the celebrations for Teachers’ Day last year I will simply let a picture paint a thousand words now. 

Each teacher was greeted and had a rosette pinned to them by a senior counsellor

 Piped into place 

Ushered across the red carpet 

 With due pomp and ceremony 

the entire school assembled to receive the teachers

let the fun begin

before we head indoors let's just capture ourselves in all our glory 

even the teacher's children could sense the excitement

"let them eat cake" 

a heartfelt song of celebration 

expat teacher giving a speech about his 30 years of teaching in Bhutan

The real show stoppers were four boys, with the moves copied from all the dance videos but we just don't have the Internet connection speed to post the videos I shot. However they never tire of watching them. 
Once again 2 of my XC boys were among them!


  1. will you two be there 30 years as well ?
    People like you are my heroes !
    Louie XIV & Antionette

    1. I don't think we will be here that long but we have been discussing going to the states in Dec/ Jan Are you going to be home!!