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)