Monday, November 12, 2012

Picnic Picnic Picnic ……. Presentation - PART II

Well I am finally able to write again. For the past week it has seemed as if we have been living life in fast forward, so much as been crammed into every day. We were only at school on alternating days last week as there were so many other activities, engagements and commitments. I will try to pick up where I left off.

After a full day of teaching followed by whole school reading program on Monday, we had a 30-minute break before the “Farewell cum Award Nite ” began. Classes X and XII were the honoured guests and the whole school had been instructed that school uniform was not required and hairstyles would not be scrutinised for once!

There seemed to be an endless stream of certificates and prizes to give out. These certificates are very highly sought after here and are necessary for applications of all kinds including job interviews so I was thrilled that so many of our students had been successful.

Some were always going to be on the honour list as student counselors, student coordinators in charge of extra curricular activities and clubs, class captains and subject toppers, but others were winners of whole school events, and district level events that had been held through out the year.

Victory in both sporting and literary competitions was acknowledged and it was great to see that it was not the same few being honoured but students from many different classes and with diverse skills and abilities were all being rewarded.

The highlight of the occasion was the final the announcement of the 5 top awards: Best Artiste, Best Contributor, Best Sportsman, Best Sportswoman and Best Student for 2012.

There was even a special award from the boys of one particular boys’ hostel for the student who had served them as room-in-charge or was that room captain. I was pleased to see it was one of my XC boys being awarded a student-initiated prize for his diligence. The presentation of awards was interspersed with cultural performances and speeches by both teachers and students.

It was after 9pm by the time the IX and XI classes were dismissed for dinner in the dining room.

While the MPH was converted to a special dining zone for the extravagant goodbye dinner to be served to the Xs and XIIs, many of them took the opportunity to be photographed with close friends, favourite teachers, teacher coordinators of the clubs with which they have assisted all year or the principal.

Before we knew it meals were being collected and the party atmosphere that had been building all night subsided into prayers and the muffled hum of hungry people enjoying a rare treat.

My class had declared that they wanted to have a picnic early and we knew that it had to be onsite and without a sound system but we did try for special dispensation, to no avail.

I must confess that I had my doubts about their ability to pull it off. Right from the first class meeting held immediately after the whole school picnic the odds seemed to be against them.

Letters had to be written formally seeking permission from the principal, special items unavailable in Rangjung needed to be ordered from Trashigang, teams had to be organized for the many tasks that would be involved and above all else the menu had to be decided. 

At first no-one seemed to have any inclination to volunteer for anything and I was convinced that the chosen time a mere 2 days away, just wasn’t enough time especially when I knew they were both already packed with activities.

However without any warning the classroom transformed into hubs of activity and groups were writing shopping lists and others discussing table arrangements and possible solutions to the lack of a sound system, as music was a must, while those with good connections were roped in to get vegetables, rice, eggs etc from their own homes or villages at discount rates and those with relatives in the right places were called upon to prevail upon them to place orders on our behalf.

By Sunday when I joined the picnic, I last wrote about I was summoned to speak to self-appointed and very capable leader of operations Tshering, to use my influence to get permission from the warden for a couple of boys to walk back to their village to carry back the 25kg of rice that would be required.

 That went so swimmingly that by Monday it had had become my job to convince the principal that 3 or 4 of them should be allowed to go to Trashigang to get more supplies. I went to bat for them a couple of times before that one and much to my utter amazement was also approved and one of the teachers even drove them there and back. Their own connections told them he was going and achieved that!

A Grand Picnic it truly was. The public holiday was a frenzy of activity from before prayers at 7am. When I arrived at 9am it was pretty obvious who had done their time in catering circles for these kind of events before. Several of the boys astounded me with their efficiency and expertise in gutting fish, deep frying, cooking in enormous pots on open fires, vegetable chopping and generally preparing food. I had to ask them when and where they had acquired those skills: construction sites, family rituals and festivals in villages, came the surprised replies. I even learned a new trick or 2 myself. (Oil your hands before you cut up chilli even if you are using a sickle to do it!)

Those who could did and those who couldn’t, stayed out of the way. What had seemed an impossible feat of organization just 2 days before looked like a well-oiled machine by mid-morning. Obviously only a non- Bhutanese would think advance warning was necessary and invitations were handed out on the day just hours before.

The food was incredible and there was masses of it. The students were in a state of anticipation and excitement, and I was enthralled watching them work together. I remembered how fresh-faced, young and inept they had seemed less than 2 years ago and I was totally impressed with how competent, mature and dependable they looked right then.

When it came time to eat without any prompting they all donned traditional clothes. The food was consumed with gusto and the leftovers evaporated into thin air when after hours of laughing, dancing and horsing around together, evening study loomed large on the horizon.

XC did themselves proud once again. Our imminent departure had motivated the whole occasion and I know I will miss them terribly when we leave.

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