Monday, December 12, 2011

Please pick up the names you just dropped… BAM

I sat on the field of the stadium during the royal wedding.  If you are hoping for lavish details of the kiss and other fluff, you know what to do.  Now for this blog’s version.

Events of the day:

  • Smiled at Rahul Gandhi and the Queen Mother
  • Had a stop and chat with His Majesty the Fifth King
  • Checked out the new queen’s shoes, which were deadly for the amount of walking she and the new family addition had done (wink wink)
  • And the winner was when the 4th King, walked in unnoticed behind a crowd of people.  Everyone did a, “Shit, how did we not see him coming?” and scrambled to their feet a few seconds too late.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t attracted to how he confidently proceeded as if he were cruising around the house in his underwear without a face in sight.  Yes, I tried hard to refrain from blurting out, “Need a fifth wife?”

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Conversations that made me homesick this week... say a lot about my upbringing.

Lauren:  Mom is a tool and bought Costco mashed potatoes for my vegetarian thanksgiving
Me:  Tool for sure, but that’s what you get for doing the re-rack.
Laur: And I’m 25 and living at home
Me: Have you sexiled the rents yet?
Laur: No soccer sock on the door.  Double dare?
Me: Just what our family needs… family double dares.

Mere:  Cousin Kaitlin is bringing her bf to thanksgiving dinner.
Me:  Names dad is going to call him within the first hour before shit hits the fan… go.
Mere: Dumbass
Me: Dickwad
Mere: Whistle dick
Me: Fauker
Mere: Numbnuts

Me: Mom… I am afraid that the next time you mention love, marriage, or our old baby crib in the attic, you will be forced to put one dollar into the jar for our Vegas fund.  Then when we go to take the money, please kindly remind us that you should hang on to it so you can use it to bail us out of jail.

Lauren: I told dad that 25 is my prime and I am ready to find love… he said “shut up”
Me: So, you’re going on the Bachelorette for the right reasons?
Laur:  Know anyone?
Me:  I think the guy dressed as a devil on Halloween just became a lawyer.  Is that dad in the background doing that dumbass one foot in the air dance and singing, “If you don’t got no money take your broke ass home?”

Mom:  I cleaned out your room, got rid of your childhood guitar and letterman’s jacket and then read your yearbook.
Me:  I am not planning on dying over here, but thanks for casually telling me I am not allowed to move home when I come back from Asia after a year and a half of making no money.

Lauren: “Our fire alarm went off at 1am.  I think my roommates are smoking pot”

Mere:  So, for my 21st we are having family personal pitcher night at Fidels with margs and then shooting pool at the Leucadian.

So… I pretty much can’t wait to sit around the dinner table and play “I hate you because…” 

Karma Hunters

My new chillip in crime gave me a shout out in her blog and now I feel obligated to return the favor.

When the two of us aren’t acting out a fantasy speed dating scene taking place in a monastery, or competitively trying to outdo Bhutanese by bowing lower than them or offering tea to them 4 times instead of the traditional three, this east coast Masshole and I are convincing people to refer to us as Biggie and Tupac.

The following interaction sums it up.

As Hilary’s house Grandmother circumambulated the house one Saturday, I casually pretended to get some fresh air on the balcony, which is too small for drinking tea and therefore only serves two purposes in Bhutan (one of which is drying a kira).

As Hil tampered with the washing machine below and Grandma rounded the corner out of sight, I whispered down to my chillip pal.

Tupac:  “Hey.  Charades.  What am I doing?”  (Pretending to scale the balcony and tiptoe)

Biggie:  “Hmmmmm… not day… hmmmm… NIGHT!” (Finger to chin looking puzzled)

Tupac:  “Yah, yah…”  (Pretending to cock a rifle)

Biggie:  “Hmmmm… I GOT IT!  NIGHTHUNTING!”

Hilary locks the balcony door every night and still has not been nighthunted.  G-ma is still circumambulating.

Lets just say that myself and two other whiskey drinking chillips dressed as night hunters on Halloween had a damn good time staging a fake shoot out on Bhutan’s only highway (2 lanes… no cars).  Ohhhh… the things that would get you arrested in the US.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Porn is Illegal in Bhutan

This weekend we had Blessed Rainy Day, which is a day when you bathe in the rain to cleanse yourself of sins.  It was a day of baths, prayers, picnics, and hilarity.  My friends and I went for a hike to a monastery in the rain.

I think since getting here my taste has changed in several ways.  As much as it is great to be independent, blah di blah… it’s not awful to have a guy who can help you do handy stuff around the house.  Bhutanese men take this to a whole new level.

As my friends and I stepped into a clearing during our hike, we could smell freshly cut wood.  We approached a handsome, smiling, young man carving a large piece of wood with a machete.  We asked him for directions and then as we were leaving, threw in, “and by the way, what are you making?”

“My family forgot to bring a ladle for our rice, so I am making one.”

I guess what I am trying to say is, if this small family-oriented society in the mountains had a Brawny commercial, there would be no sexy blonde man wiping down your countertop with a paper towel, then picking up a small puppy.  Paper towels are hard to come by and rabid puppies, not so cute.

However, there would be a smiling man in the middle of the forest carving a four-foot wooden ladle to feed his entire extended family a gigantic pot of rice.

Believe it or not...

I lie.

So, I have been trying to instill honesty into my students.  In fact, there is a giant sign in my class, which reads, “Honesty is the best policy”.  The first story I told them was the story of me lying to my mother as a child about stealing money from her purse to play store, and how I was rewarded for telling the truth with fake money to play with.

But this week I came to the conclusion that … sometimes I lie for the right reasons.  As I reexamine my childhood embedded with lessons of honesty, a few moments stand out that have really defined who I am as a person.  Both of these times, a person I trusted lied for the right reasons.

1)   My grandmother once threw a Baby Ruth into the pool and convinced us someone left a giant turd behind.  Nobody likes being submerged in any body of water near a soft nosed brown trout.  We were horrified.  One point Grandma.
2)    On the first day of 5th grade, my childhood dog was very ill.  After breakfast my mother told my sisters and I to go and say goodbye to Chelsea because she was going to take her to the vet that day to be put to sleep.  Ten years later, I found out Chelsea died as I was munching my Cheerios and the loving Kathy Adams took us out to pet a dead Golden Retriever so that we wouldn’t miss our first day of school.  Kath even pet the pooch herself so she could move it back and forth to simulate breathing.  Off to school we went.  Moms know best.

I now find myself in similar situations.

1)   I found a new hobby for my free time… phantom texting.  I enjoy sending texts from my unknown number and signing them with different names… beware.  You may have 37 people show up at your house in clown costumes because “you” invited them.
2)   School is no better.  The children go through fads of bringing toys that are not allowed to school.  Every now and then, due to school policy I confiscate toys.  Finally after one student asked if I give the toys to my children, I tried to convince the class I actually throw theme parties with the toys on Saturdays.  So far I have had a slingshot party, a balloon party and soon I’ll have a Pokémon party.
3)   When the statement “that is dangerous”, may not motivate an impulsive child to stop doing something, I sometimes find myself starting a sentence with, “I knew a guy who…”  Sometimes the guy I knew fell through a roof or got an eye poked out.  One common denominator is that there is usually blood and guts involved.

If there is anything I learned from mom and grandma, it’s that lying can make your life more hilarious and simpler.

Monday, September 26, 2011

California Dreamin’… PG-13

Let me give a disclaimer for this post.  I know that the thing to do when you are living in a secluded mountain area is to blog about your “vivid dreams” and relate them to the person you are becoming though your experiences.  That being said...  yah.

Last week I had a “vivid dream”.  An old male friend and I were running down the streets of Encinitas to a bar… the bar, is still unclear to me.  I say that the dream was “vivid” because we were clearly intoxicated in the dream and as we sobered up, the dream became more clear… so “realistic” is more like it.  The bar we went to was darker than The Cliffy, was in near proximity to The Leucadian, was cozy like The Office, and I am sure had a name shadier than The Back Door.  We guzzled DRAFT BEER with friends until we were buzzy and…

At this point I would like to hit the pause button so that baby kittens won’t die.

Later in the week I went to a meditation class in which the lama spoke of allowing thoughts and feelings to arise then fade away.  He spoke of coming back to the feelings later and instead of asking why they were happening, noticing what they felt like.

I have been pushing the dream out of my thoughts now for a week, and I think it is time to revisit it.  Tonight, instead of blaming my dream on the fact that I am craving a Draft Beer (among other things), I am going to meditate on the feeling of intoxication and wonder if I can stumble across any hints as to where the hell I was.

You know you are in Bhutan when… (5th & 6th Grade Teacher Edition)

You stop class to mediate a disagreement that occurred while your 6th grade students were playing “fight club” in the boys’ bathroom.

In the staff room, a teacher approaches you and explains that two of your students wrapped bird shit in a candy wrapper and convinced a third student it was chocolate.  You laugh a little.

You see one of your sixth graders drinking from the outside tap, despite the fact that students have been told a million times to drink the filtered water 20 paces away.  Instead of scolding him, you say:
“Well, looks like you’re gonna get worms.”
“Yes Mam.”

You walk to the back of the class to find one kid laughing as his neighbor rocks out with his **** out.  You decide that the humiliation of his sixth grade teacher seeing him masturbate is punishment in itself.

You have a group of students illustrate the adjectives “filling”, “more filling”, “most filling”, and the students draw 3 different sized glasses of beer.  You refrain from saying, “That’s why I drink whiskey.”

A student writes a “Rape Song” instead of “Rap Song” and later titles a story “Magical Hores” instead of “Magical Horses”.

Friday, August 19, 2011

How I know Karma is the real deal…

One of my gentlest 6th graders calmly approached me one day.  “Madam, Karma is beating me.”  My student turned around and I saw a small person hanging on to the 6th graders back like a little koala.

“You are lucky my sixth graders are so nice Karma.  You do realize this boy is twice your size, right?”  Karma said nothing, gave my 6th grader another mini smack and took off.  The sixth grader and I shrugged.

Karma is a pudgy little third grader who zips around the Early Learning Center slightly little hunched over, with one squinty eye, saying things like, “Mam, may I have a word with you?”  He is articulate, honest, and a wiggle worm when it comes to studies.  He frequently sprints into a classroom, comes to a screeching halt in the doorway, and looks around for someone to tell the latest third grade news to as if he were Cramer from Seinfeld.

One day over our 2-week summer break, I was in a car about 30 minutes outside of town.  I heard a small voice and noticed a little chubby kid covered in mud shuffling over to the car.  “Mam.  This is my house and this is my dog,” he proclaimed as he gave the scruffy mutt two firm pats on the head.

A week later, upon arriving back to school, the little guy ran up to me again, this time saying, “Madam... you were at my house.... you met my dog.... and your 6th graders... they are like family to me."

There is something about my sixth graders that the kid loves.  I once held a tutoring session with a group of sixth grade boys and I was pleasantly surprised when I looked over to find Karma sitting at a desk, his feet dangling from the oversized chair.  The bad teacher in me held back from asking him what study session he was ditching to come hang out, just to see what his intentions were.  After about ten minutes of listening in silence, he casually walked out and picked a playful fight with his best friend in the hallway.  My sixth graders excused themselves from my study session to go and break it up, and the day carried on as usual.

Karma, who is constantly sucking up nose danglers, once told me that the King is more handsome than him because "the King has less snot".

When I asked my sixth graders to ignore another student’s challenging behaviors and just set a good example, Karma, who was nearby replied, “You should probably start ignoring me as well.”

At meditation, I can’t help but hear the mission impossible song play in my head as I see Karma creep in the direction of a teacher and stop to do a fake meditation every five feet so as not to disturb the people around him.  He typically wants to wash the mud he was playing with during morning prayers off his round little fingers.

The phantom knucklehead slips into my room and quietly joins tables of sixth grade boys eating lunch.  On the schoolyard, he convinces the boys twice his size to hop onto his back for a quick spin around the schoolhouse.

I guess what I am getting at here is that, Karma’s honesty, self-awareness and confidence to not give a damn what others think is admirable.

When one of Karma’s classmates brought in a smourgesbourg of food for her birthday, I asked Karma if he thanked her.  In the middle of shoveling cake into his mouth he explained, “Actually, she is my total enemy, but I just said thank you anyways to be polite.”

While holding back my laughter, I said, “Oh, wow Madam Jessica, Karma shared something interesting with me.”

In the middle of the party, Karma pulled me aside, well aware that Madam Jessica has the loudest laugh at ELC, and said, “Madam, please wait to tell Madam Jessica when she is outside of the classroom.”

The kid is classic!

I don’t know if it is the fact that I have seen him noogie the tallest sixth grader on the playground… or the fact that when he does a karate kick, his running start, and the momentum of his kicking foot pick his pudgy body off the ground so that both feet are in the air.  Whatever it is, I like it.  And that my friends, is Karma.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

One Phallus, Under God, With Liberty and Justice For All.

On the Fourth of July, I went to the Devine Madman’s Monastery.  The Madman, or Lama Drukpa Kuenley, is a figure from the 15th century who is a bad ass to say the least.  He blessed women by having sex with them, and he is the reason Bhutanese paint penises on their homes.  Along with celebrating sex and fertility, legend has it, Drukpa Kuenley created Bhutan’s national animal, the takin.

When it comes to saints, in my book, this guy wins.  Being the smart ass he was, when some people asked him to perform a miracle, he decided to have some fun.  He looked at his lunch, which was a goat and a cow, combined the two animals, and created the takin… maybe the dumbest and ugliest animal to ever exist.  The Takin is in a taxonomy category of its own, and science tells us the Devine Madman is cool because of this.

My Fourth of July was spent at the Madman’s monastery of fertility.  While you were BBQ-ing and watching fireworks, I was being blessed over the head by an ancient wooden phallus and a bow and arrow.  No hamburgers or beer for me, but at least I got a wiener.

Friday, August 5, 2011

100 Bucks, Beers, Ringing Bells, and Dowries… Almost Vegas

My friend KP is awesome.  A few lines in a blog cannot do this kid justice, but to sum him up in a few short lines, I’ll just say the following.  You can spot him from a mile away in Bhutan.  He will be carrying a book and he will not respond when you call him because he will be wearing headphones.  He is one of two men in Thimphu with an afro.  Between my chillipness and his modern look, we get some great stares when we walk together after work in our traditional gho and kira.

Summer break means camping, so KP and I packed some backpacks, boiled a few eggs, and threw some crackers into a bag.  Off to Punakha.

We had things down pretty well… I watched the packs while KP made any purchases to avoid the chillip price for cabs and such.  We arrived at a campsite.  Two kids approached us to collect our fees for the night.  We knew the Bhutanese rate was 25 bucks (about 50 cents).  The kids saw me popping the tent and immediately said, “200”.  KP struck up a conversation with them in Dzongkha.  I chimed in a few Dzongkha phrases, and they said, “Okay, 100 bucks”.  Then KP said I was a teacher living in the country.  The younger of the two boys smiled and said “50 bucks”, at which point his older friend nudged him and gave him the evil eye, saying “No, 100”.

We tossed them a 100 dollar bill.  From that moment on, the two boys became known as “50 bucks” and “100 bucks”.  50 Bucks and 100 Bucks helped us carry our sleeping bags and told us they could lend us a pot to cook with for the night.

KP and I took a short walk and we came acrossed a tiny, one room monastery.  We walked passed new puppies to the front door, where a small boy let us in.  We paid our respects and spun the large prayer wheel out front.  After our stroll, we were happy to return to camp and join 50 buck and 100 Bucks around a campfire.

Later, some other men joined us all around the campfire.  The men were from India, and had been working near by as laborers.  KP spoke with them in Hindi.  They explained that the building they were constructing was for the upcoming royal wedding.  They told us they enjoyed our company because not many people hang out with them.  They spoke of their families, and one of the men said he was working to pay his daughters dowry.

A dowry is dependent on income.  These men made about 4-5 US dollars a day, and the going rate for a dowry in that income bracket was a bed, a cycle, and a small lump sum of money.  One man told us he was happy to have 3 boys because he is getting three beds and three cycles.  (Listen closely Mike Adams.)

The men asked KP if I was his wife.  Though I do not speak Hindi, I understood the question through the context and the look on KP’s face.  I told KP to tell them I could not afford a bed and a cycle and therefore we were friends.  They laughed.

The men expressed their surprise and concern upon discovering that I moved to a new country alone as a single woman.  We took turns throwing wood on the fire, we shared food, beer, and laughs, and then we retired to bed.

In the morning the Indian men invited us to breakfast.  We watched as one of the men guzzled down clay colored water straight from the same river they used as a toilet and bathing area.  KP asked if they boiled the water.  In Hindi, the man replied, “we did not know if it was okay to drink when we arrived, so we drank it for a week and it seems fine.”

After breakfast, KP and I took an amazing hike along a paddy field lined road.  We hiked up higher this time to another monastery in the hills.  Miles of paddy fields being ploughed by oxen and the sounds of dinging prayer wheels sucked me into craving a simpler life.  Our walk was a treat and when we reached the top, we meditated with our backs to the monastery and our fronts to the mountains across the valley.  The monastery was impeccable and as we sat on the large, clean walk way, the only sound we could hear was the occasional clicking of a large dung beetle carryon his business, and not looking twice at the giant praying mantis basking in the sun to his right.  Not bad… not bad.

As we were packing our belongings to leave that evening, 50 Bucks and 100 Bucks ran up to us.   “Why are you going?  Are you bored already?”  We explained how our tent would not be able to withstand a storm and the rain appeared to be coming.  The boys helped us carry our belongings to the roadside.  They sat with us for a half hour or so while we waited to hitch a ride to town.  100 Bucks recently finished the 6th grade and does not plan to go back to school.  He aspires to become a rafting guide, and he never plans to get married because if he dies on the river, he does not want to leave behind a family.  50 Bucks is in the 3rd grade, aspires to be a movie director and plans to have a nice wife some day.

We flagged down a car, thanked the young gentlemen, and we were off.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

New Beginnings, Hard Endings

The city of Thimphu is growing rapidly, and there are many new buildings under construction.  Bhutan has a standard building code to preserve the culture, and therefore the buildings all look similar.  The foundations of the buildings are laid with bamboo, the cement is poured, and the carpentry is completed in what feels like no time.  Much of the work is contacted out to workers from India who sometimes work into the night using large lamps.

Today I hopped into a cab to go to town and grade some tests in a peaceful coffee shop.  The weather was drab.  The cab diver who picked me up was very friendly and smiled as he asked me where I wanted to go.

“I am going to Clocktower la”

We got a few blocks from my home, and I happened to glance out the window at one of the new buildings being constructed.  Something was weird.  I thought I saw a man working, but something made me look more closely.

The muted, clay colors of the unfinished building faded into the overcast sky, until all I could see was a lifeless body at the end of a rope.  I held my next breath inside me, feeling far too many things to attempt to make sense of.  The morning was silent, and the swaying motion of the body rocking in the breeze, almost suggested a feeling of calmness.

I noticed a second man climbing the bamboo to reach the body.  I said nothing to the cab driver who was watching the road and still wore a smile.

I have heard nothing of the incident.  Perhaps the man climbing the bamboo is the only other person who knows the gentleman did not accidentally fall to his death.

Is Mousetrap a Buddhist Game? (The Follow-Up)

I asked many people I know about mousetraps.  One student told me that mice are why Bhutanese have cats.  I need to choose between cat allergies and mice.  The mice will stay.

Today was long.  The dead body and the dog attack put me on edge (I will explain later).  I went into my bathroom to get cleaned up and brush my teeth.  Then I saw him.  My guest returned.  Better yet, the mouse hadn’t left.  We stared at each other.  I shrugged a “what to do” sigh and decided I would chase him out of my bedroom after I was ready for bed.

When I was cozy in jammies, I turned the place upside down, digging through the suitcases under my bed with the intention of coaxing the little guy into his own private bedroom or kitchen for the night. 

I spent an hour shuffling though things to find him.  By 2:30am, I gave up and hopped into bed, tired and over it.  The second I pulled the covers under my chin, my friend scurried across the floor and under my bed where I had been looking all along.  I was too tired to move.

I let him stay. Now I am never lonely and I think the thought of sharing my room has grown on me. We now have pillow talk and play sleepover games.  I even let him invite his friends to crash at my place.  Maybe I am a good host, or maybe I am losing it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

It is impossible to feel lonely with all these house guests

I have been stomach bug free for 12 hours now.  This is happy news.  Tonight I sat on a step between my living room and kitchen.  (The floor of my apartment is concrete like the walls, so some of the rooms are built a step above the concrete with wooden floors for heat.)  I laid my papers out all over the floor, and graded.

From any given seat in my house, you can typically see 2-3 creepy crawlies.  They are usually the little bugs we call silver fish.  Tonight, there was a spider… a big guy.  I tried to pretend he didn’t exist until he totally pushed the limits and just got too damn close to me.

I typically never kill spiders.  This is not due to religious reasons or any other valid purpose.  I am just too scared to get near them.  This quick beast was an exception and I did not want him to be one of the 9 spiders I swallow in a year (because we all know this sixth grade fact is true).  Though the spider was probably no larger than a silver dollar, it seemed as though it could take down a baby giraffe.

The apartment wasn’t big enough for the two of us and he just had to die.  Seeing as though I misplaced my numchucks, I grabbed my handheld broom.

A swing and a miss.

I grabbed a cardboard box, which doubled for my trashcan, because the American in me knows the bigger the weapons, the more problems they solve.

“One, two, three draw.”  I went in for the mush, but my lack of commitment sent both the spider and I screaming and racing in opposite directions.  He won as he ran and hid underneath the stack of test papers I was grading.  That was it!  I needed to shank him.

I tapped the papers with the broom until I coaxed him into a vulnerable position.  When he was right where I wanted him, I smothered him with the box.  I then took to sweeping his tiny shriveled body outside, not wanting to run the risk of throwing him in the trash in case he was just playing opossum.

I went into my bathroom and jerry-rigged the broken switch of my water heater using a shiny heart sticker to keep it in place.  I was happy at the thought of a hot shower.

I went back into he other room to continue grading while the water heated up.  The dogs began to serenade me from outside when I saw something out of the corner of my eye.  I looked up and a mouse ran across the cold cement floor into my kitchen.  I pondered what I could use to trap him.  Nothing.  I shut the kitchen door, locked the outside latch, and shoved the broom/ weapon under the crack at the bottom of the door.  As long as we had our own rooms, he could stay the night.  In a Buddhist country that hardly sells fly swatters, I have no idea where the hell I will find a mousetrap.

My grading session was over.  I needed something familiar.  As we have all done at one time or another, I escaped my house guests by retreating to the porcelain throne.  As I sat and waited for my water heater to heat, I hoped my guests had enough manners to know that bathrooms are a place of privacy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

If I Steal A Bhutanese Kid To Bring Home To The US, It Will Be This Guy

Class was about to begin as students filed into their seats.  At a distance I saw a fifth grade student hiding and peering around a corner.  He was watching the stairs carefully.  As his math teacher walked up the stairs and into the fifth grade classroom the student bolted down the steps and made a run for it.
I have been told that the student has been “left to his own devices”, and he “gets to do whatever he wants”.    Teachers tell me he is “very, very naughty”.  I think some teachers still don’t realize I am actually a special ed teacher in the US and the kid would be my student.  I asked his mother if I could tutor him at his house.  The first day I showed up, he was maaaaaaaaaaaaaaad.  He made it perfectly clear with the silent treatment that he did not want to practice reading.  The second day he hid somewhere in the house for 20 minutes before coming out to work.
Today I walked into English class and assigned a writing journal.  The student did not open his journal to write.  I sat down next to him and said in a firm, loving tone.  “Your friends are writing!  You are smart.  Do not pretend you cannot do this because I know better!  You are smart and you will write like your friends!”
The student wrote three sentences in his journal.  When he was finished he looked up at me.  He knew I would be coming to his house to tutor him after school.  He smiled and said, “Madam, today is ours!”
“Yes.  Today is ours.  I am proud of you.”
At our tutoring session, I told the fifth grade student that I laughed a little as he just escaped the wrath of his math teacher.  I told him it would be our little secret as long as he never played hooky in my class.  He is proud to be learning how to read, add, and subtract!

Update: He has passed 2 out of the 2 midterms he has taken so far, and he is currently trying to convince me he needs a day off because he is doing so well now.  I just tell him, “TODAY IS OURS.”

You Know You Are in Bhutan When: Limited Edition

Against my will, I am forced to grade my little children primarily on test scores.  So, in the spirit of midterms week, I have taken to ranking everything on a scale of 1 to whatever I see fit.

The flies here are large.  On a scale of 1 to large enough to shoot with a bow and arrow, the flies rank…
BB gun.

The King loves a good game of Basketball.  On a scale of 1 to everyone else in the country loves it too, K5’s love for basketball ranks…
Please start loving phonetic literacy curriculum.

I have a stomach bug.  On a scale of 1 to crap attack, the stomach bug ranks…
Whatever you do, don’t fart.

I was on the toilet for hours with the stomach bug, when my facebook news feed posted a million pictures of my ex and his recently divorced roommate at all our old favorite hang outs.  On scale of 1 to bummer, the ex and his new gf ranked…
F*** You.

Some monks here are the naughty kids whose parents sent them into the monastic school system a long time ago.  On a scale of 1 to holy, these monks rank…
Even more entertaining to eye f***.

I was speaking in Dzongkha with a friend, and he laughed because I accidentally told him, “I have an extremely itchy ass”.  On a scale of 1 to socially inappropriate, not looking like an idiot ranked…
A high priority when I found myself intensely scratching my butt to defend my Dzongkha abilities.

Moments later, instead of offering him water, I screwed up one letter and accidentally offered him “female genitalia”.  On a scale of 1 to confusing, Dzongkha ranks…
If you know men, I bet you know what he answered.

I learned from my students how to correctly eat with my hands without tipping my head back and instead use my thumb to shove the rice into my mouth.  On a scale of 1 to honorary Bhutanese, when it comes to eating with my hands, I rank…

I have still not seen the thunder dragon.  On a scale of 1 to he doesn’t exist, the thunder dragon ranks…
I should drink more homemade ara.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Put GNH in Your Pipe And Smoke It... Is Gross National Happiness the Good Stuff?

Today I sprawled out naked in a warm, sunny patch of mother earth’s gift.  The bed of pigs' food got me high through osmosis.  Okay, this is a lie, but it sounds scrumptious.

On a serious note, the marijuana is EVERYWHERE!  On an even more serious note, it is also cross pollinated.  These two facts say it all.  To those of you who do not “do marijuana”, don't feel dorky.  I will have you know, I joined your club a few years back, after “doing” plenty of it in college.  Basically, what I am getting at, for those of you who don’t know, is that when the plant is cross pollinated, it is crappy bud.

Which brings me to GNH.  Are we all high on life here in Bhutan?  Sometimes I look at the large quantities of the non-harvestable pigs' food and smile.  Maybe it is not such a bad thing if we just create things that sound good or are aesthetically pleasing to look at.

Freedom of Speech

As a relatively crude writer and definitely no saint in the swearing department, I sometimes let my students write and say whatever the hell they want.  I am entertained, and Bhutan would benefit from a more liberal take on freedom of speech and press anyways.

My sixth grade students are just discovering the art of cursing and harassing others.

Last week, we played the game "Concentration" using parts of speech.  My students kept a snapping rhythm while giving examples of proper nouns, pronouns, adjectives, etc.  When we got to verbs, the game got about half way around the circle as the students took turns calling out verbs such as, ”kicking”, “eating”, etc.  Then a clever student of mine pulled out the big guns.

In Dzongkha, he said, “F***ing.”

I replied in Dzongkha, “I understand what you said.”  The students laughed as the trouble causer cringed.  Next I replied, “if it were not a verb, I would be mad!”

I am a bad teacher.

The day following, a sixth grade girl raised her hand and told me that the boy next to her kept saying dirty things in Dzongkha.  This is what I told the young lad.  “Hey, this is English class, so come on up in the front of the class and say it in English to all of us.  Then go into the bathroom and say it another hundred times aloud.  After you get it out of your system, you may realize it is a stupid thing to say.”  The kid said nothing.  As I continued encouraging him to come on up and say the dirty phrase in English, he sunk deeper into his chair.  Sometimes I like to play, “Who’s horrified now?”

Freedom of Speech.

I have another student who has been trying to test the waters lately to see how much I will take when it comes to writing.  The problem is, I cannot tell him to clean up his act because his writing is just too damn funny.  Last week he wrote from the perspective of a stray dog who was exhausted upon just being born.  The student claimed “anyone would be tired if they had just popped out of an ass”.

I called the student over during free time to chat about the journal entry.  I had no choice but to say, “Hey, you do know that babies don’t come out of asses right?”

“Yes mam.”

“Okay, just checking.  You can continue playing.”

Today we wrote about time machines and the same student said if he had a time machine he would do two things.  First he would travel back in time to moments before Michael Jackson died.  He wrote, “I would slap him in the face for using all the drugs.”  He next wrote that he would then travel to the future to see if he had a wife, and if he was so idiotic, he would break it up.

Freedom of press. 

Let’s just say I try really hard to not pick favorites.

The Godfather

Some time ago, I received an email from a friend/father figure most formally known as “The Godfather”.  Attached to the email were pictures of us atop mountains in Peru, talk of another trip, and a string of “Knucklehead” replies basically saying “Boo-what?  I’m in.”

My journey here is bittersweet.  I would not be here if it were not for Mr. Ramirez, and therefore, every awesome view I see here reminds me of him, making me wish I were surrounded by him and the rest of the crew.

Only a few things to do… remind the people I love how much they mean to me, and TIME FOR SOME FLIPPIN’ PRAYER FLAGS ENCINITAS!

So here is the deal with prayer flags.  They are hung to bring happiness to all who see them.  They are also hung so that when the wind blows, the prayers will reach all human beings.  They promote health and wellness.  Also, some people believe the more effort you put into reaching a place to hang them, the more effective they are.

I informed a friend of mine that I needed to hang some prayer flags in a place that was windy as hell and totally awesome.  He agreed it was what needed to be done, and he met me with blessed prayer flags.  We set out on a Sunday morning with no distinct plans other than to climb and find a spot where they would most effectively share the love.

We climbed and climbed, thinking that the journey might take only an hour.  We spotted many potential places to hang them.  Each spot, either didn’t have a nice view, didn’t receive enough wind, or would not be seen by enough people.  We reached the end of a long, paved road.  We carried on up the mountain on a dirt path.  The path wound up the steep Himalayan hillside.

My legs were good and tired when we popped out into a clearing with a chorten (religious structure which you circle to pray).  Below was a view of the tiny city of Thimphu, above was a view of several monasteries, and just behind the chorten were old ancient ruins.  Seeing that our crew loves awesome views and is full of ancient ruins junkies, I knew Mr. R would have picked this spot to chill out for a bit.  My friend shimmied up a tree while I attached the other end of the prayer flags to a small shelter.

I stepped back and looked at the colorful flags.  I am no prayer flag expert, but I think we put in enough effort for the prayers to make it to you guys.  After all, I have to admit, upon stepping back to check it out, the placement was pretty damn perfect.  The sight of the flags blowing in the wind above the entire valley of Thimphu brought me happiness.  I hope the happiness reaches you in Encinitas and dances along side you at the Belly-Up Fundraiser.

Thinking of you all!  With love, J-Lo.

Today I Introduced Stomachs to Bhutan (Please See Viewer Discression Advised Before Reading Further)

No really, I introduced stomachs here.  Every car of people who drove by me on my run today had clearly never seen one.  I am coming to terms with things I can control and things I cannot control here.  I alone, cannot change the fact that Bhutanese schools still use corporal punishment.  I cannot change the fact that reporting that one of my students is a victim of domestic violence, probably won’t make a large impact in her life.  On a blazing hot summer day, I CAN tie my long sleeve shirt around my neck, like all preppy, rule following humans do, and go for a run.  Keep in mind, I hiked down my long shorts and pulled up my long socks to offset the new stomach.

Anyways, dirty laundry time.  Alcoholism and teenage drug addiction are large and growing issues Bhutan is facing.  Similarly to banning smoking, the country has been taking measures to close bars earlier and implement dry Tuesdays.  It may come as a shock to you, but this is not working!

Domestic violence is another large issue along with infidelity.  A friend of mine works in the hospital psych ward and is currently defending a women in a court case who was raped by a man and whose husband is suing her for leaving him.

Apparently, what I am getting at, is that you do what you can, shut your mouth when it is time to shut your mouth, and then sometimes run with your stomach showing.

I've heard as the weather gets nicer, the King begins to ride his mountain bike on the road I was running.  I pictured K5 coming around the corner and stopping to chat.  I decided in the event that His Royal Majesty rounded the bend, I would not say, “How is your 20 year old wife to be?  Glad she is totally hot.”  Instead I would say 5 simple words and call it a day.  “Please do not ban stomachs la.”

I walked into my apartment, breathed fresh air that wasn’t cigarette smoke, drank a cold liquid that wasn’t alcohol, and did not beat my roommate.  Moments later I noticed my blog had been hacked and someone had written very true things.


Viewer Discression Advised

I want to preface some of my posts by saying that the country of Bhutan has welcomed me in awesome ways.

Today as I was on a run, I was kindly stopped by a smiling older woman in a traditional kira.  She said something to me that I didn’t understand.  I smiled back.  I asked her in Dzongkha where she was going.  She told me the same place I had come from.  We smiled knowing that that would be the extent of our verbal communication because my Dzongkha is still not up to par.  As I turned and we parted ways, we watched each other for a long time.  We nodded at each other several times to say, “Have a good day," "Enjoy your walk", and "I hope to see you again.”  Our quiet interaction was pleasant, as most of my interactions here are.

Being more mindful of my emotions has allowed me to notice my happiness often.  That being said, I am also learning to accept of the fact that some things are just damn frustrating because frustration is a natural feeling to have.  I am from a culture in which we question authority.  Change often comes far after we acknowledge a problem.  Luckily the school I work at, encourages students to see things they want to change, and DO something about them.  I often find myself merely posing the questions.

Please know that I am happy and grateful to be here.  Take my crude sense of humor and one liners with a grain of salt.  Know that much of what I say is to bring smiles to faces or make my parents fear they will not be able to visit in September because I will have gotten myself kicked out of the country by then.

That being said, thank you to those of you who have made my stay here a beautiful experience.  You may now read about my stomach.

Kedinche la

I wrote to a friend who read my blog.  I explained that the average person reading it might think I am a heartless, pessimistic, valueless individual if they do not know my sense of humor.  However, I am quite the opposite.  Here comes a sappy post.  If it will make you upset because you like the blunt, horrifying Jen, please kindly go F*** yourself.  (Only jokes.)

Last night I threw 3 of my students into a cab and saw them home so they would not have to walk in the dark and the rain.  Today I will go to my student’s basketball tournament and there will probably only be a few parents there.  The bottom line is, when comparing American and Bhutanese culture, Bhutanese culture is much more family driven in terms of caring for elders, supporting each other financially, and spending time with extended family, but in some ways, it is less child centered than American culture.  No judgments just differences.

This morning, as I drank the coffee my mother sent me and prayed for it to get my rice filled system moving, I got a phone call from a group of party animals.  My biological parents and some of my parents who have known me since my childhood were laughing and having a good time on the other line.

To be totally cliché, the conversation brought me back to my roots.  Between the emails and phone calls I get from non-biological parents, I feel grateful and energized.  I have gotta thank Mike and Kath for having cool friends.  You know who you are.

It is a nice feeling to know that when you bring your boyfriend to a family function, you have many fathers willing to put in the rigor of asking the bf if he has ever been to jail, asking him how he treats women, and judging him on how well he throws back a shot of nice tequila.  (As if Mike Adams weren’t enough.)

I have enough mothers who I could call any time of the day or night to ask for advice.  In fact, when the sixth grade girls ask me questions, I wish I could give them the number of one of my many mothers who would do a far better job reassuring them that teenage years are tough as hell, but they will survive.

I have enough siblings to awkwardly ask my father what the sleeping arrangements are when there is a male visitor staying at the Adams residence.

Later today, I cleaned my little kitchen, pulling a few flies out of the standing water in the bottom of the sink.  (I promise it wasn’t that dirty moms and dads!  The flies are just everywhere.  Wink Wink) As I struggled to light the little stove, I threw an F Bomb and wished one of my parents was there to glare at me or better yet wash my mouth out with the horrifying, florescent green dish soap next to me.  I threw my fried eggs and a carrot onto my plate and then laughed at the phallic position they landed in.  My maturity makes my parents proud, I thought to myself.  I felt sappy, nostalgic, and better than content.  Name Same Sim Gaye!

Kedinche la.  (Kedinche= Thank You, la= with respect)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Values: Being an unethical teacher in Bhutan for the greater benefit of giving some readers in California a good chuckle.

Excerpts From a 5 minute Monologue in Which I Said Nothing, Only Nodded:
“Madam if you eat meat, eggs and cheese, your farts will smell the worst.  If you eat other things, they will not smell as bad…. Also, the average person farts 14 times per day.  Did you know that?”

Joke told by a sixth grade student in a country that has a high rate of alcoholism and a ban on smoking:
“Mam, I walked into a room and I saw a man smoking a cigarette!  I was soooo shocked, I dropped my beer bottle!”

6th grade student’s cartoon with the Prime Minister and another man giving speeches behind podiums:
Man: “We should ban smoking.”
PM: “Yah, what he said.”

Interaction with a student who really did not want to be on the maintenance staff rotation:
Me: “Hey, I have noticed you have not been doing your job, and I am feeling pretty tired of asking you.  Lets make a deal.  If you do your job of sweeping the class today without me asking, you may be looking at an early retirement.”

Student: “Can I resign?”

Later that day:

Student: “Madam, I did my job.  May I retire?”

Me: (Bursting into surprise song and dance) “You’re the best… around!  No one’s ever gonna bring you down!  You’re the best.. around!" (Singing loudly and dancing towards him until he turned around and walked out.  It was a happy end of the work day to all!)

What to say when your student is crushing up chalk on his desk:
“Unless that’s the good stuff, throw it out.”

Written in a Venn Diagram comparing Madam Jennifer and a 5th grade VERY MUCH EMERGING “ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNER”:
            Things Madam Likes: to drink

Journal Entry by a Grade 5 Student:
“Over my break I went to Africa.  I saw black mans and black womans. I was scared at first.  I am not any more.“

Things to say to your remedial literacy class in order to motivate them to take the next step in reading phonetically:
            “C’mon!  Everyone loves four letter words!”

Similes/Metaphors Written by Grade 5 Students:
The woman’s face was so shocked that it looked like a doll.
The girl was larger than a beer.  (with a picture of a bear under it)
He screamed louder than a cat who had gotten a pin prick on the butt.

Maybe it is that I hate cats or that I think the idea of scared faces resembling blow up dolls in Bhutan is hilarious.  On that note, I must reassure you that the English Language Learner has never seen me booze it up, he just had a lost in translation moment.  Bottom line is that, I don’t think I am the only creep who thinks this is too good to not share as public knowledge.

Bhutan has awesome things like prayer flags, monasteries, and mountains.

And in other news, the entire country of Bhutan did not get a shipment of tampons.  Therefore, the country has no tampons!  This is my life.  Let me tell you, in a place where most people don't even use tampons, you feel like a sinful crackhead trying to get your fix when you ask 39 different shop owners if they have any hidden away.  The only time it is worse, is when you find yourself gesturing universal sign language signs meaning "tampon" in order to bridge the communication gap.

My friend somehow got me tampons from Burma.  They have monks blood on them from all the murders there, but I don't care.  Sorry, that was a bad joke.  Om Mani Pemi Hum.

At ease soldier! Juice will make the jewels shrivel!

In a sick way, I get deep underlying satisfaction in seeing people who fulfill stereotypes borderline perfectly.  A horrifying statement?  Maybe.  Honest?  Most definitely.  (If you are horrified, you would be better off clicking the “X” on the upper corner of this window before reading any further.)

Knowing my sick obsession with stereotypes, it will probably come as no shock to you that I loved every second of the Mr. Bhutan National Championship Body Building Competition.  I haven’t figured out if it was the fact that I may have been able to compete in the lightweight competition or the fact that I could finally assess, first hand, the relationship of steroids, ethnicity, and size through the tiny Speedos.  Regardless, I found it perfect.

Being in a new country, I am always trying to learn new things.  At Mr. Bhutan, I learned a new set of vocabulary that I will be able to apply to my future dating life.  First and foremost, every contestant is not referred to by their name, but instead they wear numbers and are called “Type 6”, “Type 9”, etc.  Next, at the beginning of the round, the announcer calls out “Mandatory Poses #1”, followed by “Relax”.  “Mandatory Pose #2”.  “Relax”.  Lastly, the contestants wear shiny bronze oil that may or may not cause lead poisoning.  I’m totally into it!

The choice of music was… hilarious!  Think Channel 933 with a Bollywoodtwist.  I guess the only other thing left to point out is that the winners of each round were the competitors who had the biggest smiles while they were flexing hard enough to possibly shit themselves.  Gotta love the priorities here.  Now that is GNH baby!

An Ode To a Great Female: How The Bitch Got Her Name

I have spoken a lot about the stray dog on our campus.  She is occasionally colored blue and she ever so kindly eats the vegetables out of the lunches of those who don’t want to receive a scolding when they return home.  (And to think, pure breds in the states consider themselves too good for fruits and vegetables.)  This dog is the same dog that had puppies over winter break and nursed them just long to have them stolen by a group of high school boys.

This post is an ode to the bitch herself.  She is a medium sized sandy brown mutt.  Sounds cute right?  The fur itself is every different color you can imagine, blended together to create the color of mud.  The hair is mangy at best, and it bunches in areas where children have dropped sticky substances and those substances have collected enough dust to create masses of gunk.  Dispersed between these masses, you can see patches of black, dry, flaky skin, where her hair is falling out.

Her head, which appears too small for her body, hangs below her shoulders as she slowly meanders around campus.  When she hears the school bell ring, a look of, “Oh shit, not this again,” smears itself across her face.  She turns to run from the miniature people coming to pet her, but bless her soul, she just doesn’t have the energy or the heart.

The second she regained her trot again after the puppy-napping incident, the poor bitch was in heat.  There she was, barking and nipping at hoards of dogs from around the neighborhood who had come to “woo” her.  (As an onlooker, non-consensual dog sex is slightly disturbing.)

Her eyes tell a tale in themselves, and her personality is that of a hero who eventually writes a "rags to riches" autobiography.

Now the bitch can be seen basking in the sun, completely unable to escape the dirty little fingers coming forth to mush her face into contorted positions and give her tattoos.  Why?  She is knocked up again!

It is no wonder the children call this beautiful soul “Cupcake”.

Our Pets' Heads Are Falling Off!

Upon leaving for Bhutan, I convinced myself I was in need of a solo mission, to embrace the single life of Jen, live a bit on the edge, and rely on no safety nets... Glass half full.

Then I was in bed surrounded by tissues with a raging fever.  You can’t exactly make a phone call to the sub coordinator over here.  You have a friend take your class for a day, and then try to sweat out the fever in class the next day.  If you are lucky, you may even get to be in charge of all the sixth grade boys, while the girls have the, “don’t flush your menstrual pads down the only school toilet” talk.

Days like these really highlight the fact that chillips cannot digest rice.  These are also the days you notice if the water pressure is ultra soft while you are squatting to shower.  I justify this blog post by saying that every now and then, the glass half full Jen needs a vacation too.

This weekend the sun was out and I went for a walk.  I remember thinking, it is an interesting feeling to know there is not a damn person in your phone, who has known you for ten years, and who loves you unconditionally enough to listen to your crazy banter, tolerate a mini bitching session, or even share a funny inside joke to cheer you up.  How’s that for no safety net?

As I reached the bottom of a nice hiking path up a hill, the sun hid behind a cloud.  I could see where the sun was still shining, so I turned to head back down the mountain instead, in pursuit of the warmth.  The Jen on the self-journey tried to convince myself this was symbolic of the need to create happiness in times of darkness.

These ideas were quickly squashed when I realized it was more entertaining to stare at the mirage of the beautiful blond man walking towards me, flinging the salt water out of his hair, while brushing sand off his washboard abs.  If you know this man, please tell him I am on a self-journey and he is invited.  Please don’t forget to mention that I am single.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

You Know You Are in Bhutan When: Part 4

Everyone on the playground has a henna tattoo except for the local stray dog, whose entire head is colored blue.  Is it time to invest in playground equipment yet?

Pregnancy and Bhutanese baby jokes loose their hilarity because the nearest Planned Parenthood is in a neighboring country.

You mention you heard two people died this week of rabies and the person you are speaking to says, “oh, wow,” hardly phased and with a straight face.

You see some teenagers pulling their drunk friend out of a drainage ditch.  Is it still considered a party foul when you are up to your waist in a ditch?

You go to a birthday party and you eat cake before dinner.

There is no word for “very”.  Instead you find yourself saying, “Name Same Sim Gaye,” which translates to, “I am happy beyond the sky and earth.”

All Things Universal

Lunch was glorious today!  I sat up against the tiny schoolhouse, sunbathing from the wrists down and the collarbones up.  In a strange way, the noise and chaos of students playing basketball and soccer all over the brick schoolyard, brought a sense of calm over me.

A sixth grade student and I quietly spoke.  We compared the Bhutanese Om tattoo drying on my arm, to his fake Nepali Om tattoo.  It turns out, temporary tattoos are universally common on elementary school playgrounds, but Om symbols differ from country to country.  Who would have thought?

Large drops of rain scattered across the pavement, yet the clouds cast no shadows.  I reminisced about what a student once told me; when it rains while the sun is out, it means a monk has passed away.

The calming smell of my henna tattoo, allowed my muscles to sink inches below the pavement.  The mellow sixth grade student and I sat quiet and content.

Someone beat the school bell with the wooden stick and the sound rang out across the yard.

“Shit!” the sixth grader blurted out.

“Ya lama,”(an expression of surprise) I exclaimed.