|Looking up campus toward the Gym and the Mess and mountains behind.|
|wild Primula blooming in the forest near campus|
The set-up of the Wheaton in Bhutan program is that I am enrolled in three courses at the Royal Thimphu College (RTC) and participate in an internship/practicum in addition. Two of the courses are taught by our Professor Owens, the director of the program this semester who is our teacher and group leader; these are the classes I take with the ten other Wheaton students in this program. These courses are called Contemporary Bhutanese Society (CBS), and Bhutanese Language and Culture (BLC). The third course is one which I take with my Bhutanese peers under Professor Sharma. This one is called Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). For my internship, I have successfully been accepted to work at the National Biodiversity Centre in Serbithang, which is about a half-hour walk from campus. I started working there today, in fact, so I will have more details to share on that soon.
|A vegetable stand in the marketplace|
My EIA class meets every day Monday through Friday for an hour at varying times of day. It's usually lecture style with PowerPoint slides and a pretty typical classroom set up. There are about 20 students in my class. They are all in their sixth and final semester of RTC in either the Environmental Studies/English track or the Environmental Studies/Economics track. The way that "majors'' are set up at RTC is that students select a certain program to follow such as the two I just listed or others such as English/Dzongkha, Business, Political Science and so on, and then they take a pre-determined course load each semester for the three years that they are pursuing their degrees here. For RTC students, classes typically run from 9-5, with an hour off for lunch. Sometimes it isn't a full 9-5 schedule, but it certainly isn't the type of American-style college schedule in which students select their very personalized course loads and classes meet two or three times a week at various times of day.
While the CBS and BLC classes are the familiar student-teacher dynamic of seminar-style courses back home, the classroom setting is very different in EIA. The main topic of the class is the evaluation process that development projects go through in order to protect the environment before, during, and after construction. We are covering a fair amount of material, but frankly, even though the lectures are interesting, they are fairly repetitious, and don't really engage the students. RTC is challenging the traditional learning-by-rote style of education in Bhutan, in which students are just supposed to absorb and memorize what their teacher tells them, but the students almost never ask questions, and at least so far, aren't really required to process the information--just to take it in. One class, when we were instructed to get in small groups and discuss part of the chapter in the textbook, I asked my groupmates what they thought of a certain passage. I said something like: why do you think the author is saying it's so important to have public participation in the review process of these projects? My groupmate answered me by pointing to a line in the textbook and said "well...because they say this" and then read me back the passage.
|Classrooms and various campus buildings|
|A happy discovery while exploring the forest road|
I know I shouldn't feel such a strong impulse to go be an introvert on a rock under a log, and I'm working on it, and I’m trying to make real friends beyond the Wheatie group. It's tough, and I haven't thought so much about what other people think of me since braces and really frizzy hair were the most prominent things on my mind. BUT! Let me talk about things outside class, because they are much more interesting.
OH Man do Bhutanese kids like to party. Whaaat? Well, actually, this shouldn't have been such a surprise, but given the pretty strong rules on campus, I was pretty shocked, though glad for all the wicked fun times we have had so far. There are very strict laws about tobacco in Bhutan (more so than cannabis--though I'm not sure what the laws are about that--it grows on the roadside) but cigarettes are really popular. Hash is more popular than grass as far as weed goes. Drinking age is 18, though I was told that as long as you don't look like a little kid, you can pretty easily buy alcohol. The two local beers are Red Panda and Druk 11000, and the Druk is much better, and less expensive. The beer comes in liter bottles (similar to a forty back home) and a Druk is usually 55 ngu at the Eight-Eleven supermarket, though about 150 ngu at bars. There are all your regular kinds of liquor for sale too, but the special drink of Bhutan, which is often mandatory at some rituals, like funerals, is ara. It can be brewed from all kinds of grains: rice, buckwheat, you name it, but it is a clear, very strong alcohol served either cold or hot, apparently sometimes with bits of egg in it. It tastes similar to vodka, though maybe a touch sweeter.
|Tonight's dinner: maggie noodles, dahl, |
kewadatse (like emadatse but with taters) and fried rice
In addition to the three square meals in the mess there is also tea-time in the afternoon where either butter tea or a really sweet milky black tea is served with crackers (biscuits). There's also the canteen, which has other options during the day like momos which are cheesy, cabbage-y dumplings (sooo yummy) or chow mein, or sandwiches. There are a bunch of feral dogs that live on campus, most of whom are very friendly and have assorted names. They hang out near the mess most of the time and beg for food, and though we aren't really supposed to, I oblige when the meat has too many bones for me to eat most of it.
|My Hostel, Chhukhar Res Hall, at RTC|
|My room, and me! Kunzang let me borrow her kira on this day.|
I am worried that so much of this sounds like complaints. I hope it doesn't seem that way, and please know that most of these things make me laugh, and that I am surrounded by so much beauty and new and exciting things that any unpleasantries are really not a big deal. Nonetheless, I miss you and always love hearing from you. I am thrilled to answer your emails, so please write with your own stories or with any questions you would like me to try and answer. Much love to you from me!
|Here's the wind horse I mentioned in a previous post. |
May he or she carry many good thoughts your way!
P.S. I neglected to mention it on the day, but March 20th was Happiness Day in Bhutan, and the streets in Thimphu were full of people milling about, checking out the street food stands, and celebrating the day off. I hope it was a happy day for you too!
|Crowds gathering for Happiness Day in Thimphu on March 20, 2013|