I got up this morning promising myself that I would wear western clothing today. I can remember waking up in Australia promising myself that I would go to sleep as soon as I got home from school. It is not that I am not exhausted here, I am, but sometimes the heat and lack of electricity meaning lack of overhead fans combine to make me think that I will simply melt into a puddle in front of my class. “Madam is too active.” Students in their dedication to learn ask to have the fans switched off so that they can hear! The staffroom windows have not been opened in living memory and in the interest of saving electricity, when it is on, the fans almost never are.
Those who think that we are on some kind of extended vacation here constantly surprise us. Just to set the record straight I would like to outline a typical day.
This morning when my eyes first opened at about 4.30am I was relieved that it was pouring rain and therefore much cooler. I allowed myself to go back to sleep and awoke shocked some time just before 6am and battled the erratic water supply to have shower that alternated between scaldingly hot and ice cold as the water pressure varied. I was still able to fully appreciate that most BCFers don’t get a shower at home, and that Tashi Namgay’s dad was already in the paddies outside ploughing.
The internet connection is almost always most reliable early in the morning so as I had been yet again lulled into the misconception that today would not be sweltering, I yet again donned traditional dress and checked out emails and Facebook, sending birthday greetings to a day scholar here in Rangjung and commenting on friends and family’s postings too.
Ian had breakfast on the table in no time having been up a good half hour before me as is usually the case. And we fell into the routine of getting him into gho, getting our packed lunches ready, bringing in yesterday’s washing still drying on the balcony and organizing ourselves for the day ahead, whilst taking turns on the computer. We do have 2 laptops but one is usually enough in the mornings. Soon enough, it was time to shutdown and walk to school with the charming and talkative class 3 son of our downstairs neighbours.
On arrival at school, I signed in, and set to completing the remaining 5 exercise books of marking on my desk, before the morning assembly started. That involves prayers, followed by 2 morning speeches one in Dzongkha and one in English before the TOD takes the stand and announces essential messages and observations from breakfast and morning SUPW (Socially Useful and Productive Work) as well as general advice and then the national anthem is sung and off we all scurry to class, hoping to arrive before the whistle is blown for 2 minutes of Mindful Concentration. If you happen to be outside when that whistle blows then you must freeze where you are and meditate. It is a great way to start the day as students really do focus and settle so that period 1 begins on a positive and studious note, but it is best to be in the classroom for it, in my opinion.
Back to back lessons launch the morning forward to ‘interval’ when I am inundated with more notebooks, dutifully delivered by the class captain who keeps all of us on our toes. I begin immediately on the task of checking them and that “free’ period evaporates and again I am melting in the classroom as I squeeze between rows of desks to answer the calls of ‘Madam, Madam,’ during frantic group work.
Exams are now less than a week away and not a second is to be lost! Music announces the arrival of lunch break but not a student will leave the room until I have and then the stampede to the dinning hall for boarders, and to the shade of the nature area with packed lunches for day scholars, is on. Like them I head to my desk and consume my packed lunch in silence and savouring the empty workroom and breathing space.
A quick exchange of SMS messages with Ian lets me know how his day is progressing and then it is back to those exercise books in earnest as they must be returned before evening study. As I wade through the pile, teachers who have returned home for lunch drift back in and photography club members return cameras, come to charge batteries and contribute collected funds to our ever growing account. Once again music announces the imminent commencement of classes and the second round of Mindful Concentration to get the afternoon session off to a productive start. Off I scurry to be in the room for the quietude.
After sweating through 3 more classes, one of them a free, which disappears in a frenzy of exercise books, last lesson Friday is over and there is a queue at the staffroom door hoping to retrieve those same books, to review in evening study. I stick it out marking for another 45 minutes and then the office-in-charge closes all the curtains, switches off the lights and fans, which have somehow managed to be on, just to let the 3 of us teachers still at our desk know that he is going to lock the office now so we need to vacate the premises.
I pack up and walk across the campus to a chorus of ”Going home Madam?” from boarders who would like to be doing just that.
As soon as I get home, I peel off the sweat soaked traditional clothes and bucket wash them hoping that the wind, which has now picked up will dry them on the line before the inevitable showers begin. The moment I get my computer turned on the power goes off but I persist with writing up review questions for my class X home group, who are daily looking more overwhelmed by the prospect of the exams. Somehow they have convinced me to take an extra class on Saturday afternoon between 2 and 4pm, this week!
About 20 minutes later one of my home class boys, Tshering Gyeltshen arrives with the huge pocket of his gho full of plums that his parents have delivered to him today. When I try to tell him that he needs to share them with other classmates, he assures me that he has a sack full and these are for me. Tshering of the winning smile, has charmed me yet again. He by the way is looking more alert and engaged than he has all week. Parental visits do make a big difference.
Back to the review questions for me and before I know it is almost 8pm and Ian has yet again prepared dinner and a rare treat of pasta no less!!! I am sure I would not eat if I had to cook in addition to keeping on top of the demands of school and students who genuinely want to learn!!
Thank God tomorrow is Saturday… except that I will have an additional afternoon session with XC after the usual morning’s teaching! Maybe tomorrow I really will wear western (read much cooler) clothing.
It is 10.30pm now and I am writing this I really must be mad