We arrived at the Tarayana Centre a bit early, so after a compulsory photo shoot, we walked down to the Volunteer Artists Studio, Thimphu, VAST where the lovely Asha Karma (cofounder and well known artist) very graciously showed our students around and gave us a handful of exhibition programs to take home for inspiration. He talked to us about the bottle cap collecting competition VAST initiated in many Bhutanese schools to generate recycled resources for large scale art projects and also to teach students about environmental responsibility. The competition also included collecting plastic PET bottles for a man building a lhakang (temple) in his village. "Oh, he's building the lakhang out of recycled plastic?" I asked, a bit surprised. Asha Karma looked shocked, "No, no, he gets money for recycling the plastic which he uses to build the lhakhang." "Oh, silly me, of course."
|So hard to get the kids to smile for a photo!|
|But we managed...|
|Lula, Asha Karma and students at the VAST gallery|
|Dragon for the Buddha at Taj Tashi|
|Jerry Pinto showing the students through his graphic novel|
|Tandin Tshewang soaking up the writing secrets|
|Me, doing the same, apparently|
After the session we joined the crowds for some fancy biscuits and tea, looking a little bit conspicuous as the only school group amongst many of Thimphu's well-heeled elite but made it fun by managing to do some celebrity spotting as Bhutan's newly elected Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay was also in attendance much to the delight of the students. We then sat down and shared a reading of When Crows Are White.
|We only lost three students into the river - my lowest attrition rate on a field trip yet|
|Deoki and the fish|
With teenage stomachs rumbling it was time for some tucker. A few of my first choice restaurants were closed but lucky this trusty momo restaurant near Chang Lam Plaza was still open. The kids needed a little bit of encouragement before they would relax around accepting food from us - they are so respectful of their teachers that some were worried that it would appear disrespectful to receive from us in this way - but soon everyone was happily hooking in to some momos or veg thukpa. Yummmmmm! Then it was time to pile into a couple of share taxis for the ride back to Chamgang.
A bit of a naff heartwarming teacher moment at the end of it all
A week later, I was reading over the recounts that I had asked the students to write about the field trip. One of the Class VII boys, Sangay Lhendrup, had decided to write his response as a poem about Jerry Pinto. As I read it, I began to realise just how attentively Sangay had been listening to and absorbing everything that Jerry had been saying. I also realised how lovingly he had been able to stitched together all of Jerry's positive qualities despite Jerry's constant self-deprication and openness in discussing his own faults during his talks. I then had one of those cliched but wonderful spine-tingling teaching experiences where I realised how lucky I am to be teaching such a beautiful, thoughtful and loving group of students and how going to the extra effort of taking them on this trip had obviously had a worthwhile impact on at least one, very deserving student and possibly one equally deserving writer.
Later, when I forwarded the email to Jerry, he wrote back to say that reading it had caused him to sniffle a little and presumably not because he was suffering from a late summer cold. Happy vibes all round.