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.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Om mani padme hum. Wrong turn.

In class, my students sing, “Om mani padme hum” everyday.  The prayer means many things!  The students believe they should sing it everyday to cleanse them of sin.  It is also sung as a person is passing away, so that when the person goes to hell (in Buddhism they believe everyone does), that person will receive minimal punishment before reincarnation.

Today, some of the teachers in Bhutan ran a race to encourage youth exercise. It was suppose to be a 5K.  The weather, as usual, was pretty wacky.  It was hot as hell with a side of showers whenever a large cloud passed over.  Today was a day for shorts.  My roommate and I walked up the mountain to the starting line.  Every time I got a strange look, I said an “Om mani padme hum” for my sinful knees.

At the base of the mountain, I heard, “Madam Jennifer,” and I saw six small children running towards me.

After a few “Om mani padme hum”s, I asked my students, “What are you gentlemen doing today?”

“We are having a picnic,” said one of the boys, as another child held up the only picnic food in sight: the Bhutanese version of a bag of Cheetos.

I slowed down my pace.

“Would you like some mam?”

“Meshu.”  (no thank you)

We asked the boys to join us.  The boys scurried up a shortcut in the mountain while my roommate and I took the road to meet them at the top.  Race time.

At the start of the race, the directions were given, because the course was obviously not marked.  We followed one of my students who led the entire pack.  The American blood in my roommate and I could taste the first, second and third place prizes at the end.  Idiots!

We ran through the mountaintops.  My ears popped with the altitude.  We passed large roosters on the lawn of a gorgeous monastery.  “Om mani padme hum.”  We continued to run.  We chatted about how the clouds cast the most beautiful dark shadows on the mountains.  We ran.  We pondered what the prize would be.  We ran.  We asked ourselves if we won money, whether we would use it to buy lined paper or curriculum.  We ran.  We saw a rainbow.  We ran.  The sun got hotter and the hill got steeper.  We ran.

We realized we had taken a wrong turn.  We were at the bottom of the mountain we climbed once already, and the finish line was at the top.  We walked.

I contemplated teaching a lesson on directions to the boy who got us lost.  I walked some more.  When my body cursed me and threatened to die right then and there, I “Om mani padme hum”-ed it up. 

Several hours later, we reached the top, as people were getting in their cars to leave.  When the head gentlemen asked me if I enjoyed myself, I replied with:

 “Yes!  You should do it again soon!  But next time, can you give the directions in English too, instead of only Dzongkha?”

I walked into my apartment and drank water next to the window.  The sky opened up and it dumped.  Just in time.   I watched.  As I watched the rain, I thought long and hard.  In the event that I die, please do not waste your breath singing "Om mani padme hum".  One, you may pass out by the time I am spared in hell.  Two, I also wouldn't mind coming back as a pig, seeing as though they use the medicinal, native, green plants here as "pig food".  Thanks.

Don't pick your nose after making ezay!

My friends and I sat around the table of a little restaurant.  Half way through my slice of pizza I realized that above the cheese and veggies, I had added a layer of ezay that was thicker than the amount of tomatoe sauce under the cheese.  I chuckled to myself as I added some more.  I remembered a post I wrote a while back about the sadness I felt when I saw ezay instead of ranch in the pizza box.  I guess things change.

Now that I know how to make homemade ezay, I can count down the years it will take me to get a stomach ulcer.  Stomach ulcers are common here, but hey, who doesn’t like something that hurts so good and goes on anything?!! Ooooooooeeeeeeee. Shimbe!

Easy Ezay Recipe

Wash and chop dried red chiles. (some chilli powder will do if you get tired of chopping)
Add water and a bit of oil
Add onion or garlic if you would like
Blend in a food processor
Slather on everything!

Oh yah, and wash your hands!!!  I learned that the hard way.