|Chumey Middle Secondary School|
The first surprise began when I met my coworkers a few days before school started and I asked them, “What should I expect on the first day of school in Bhutan?” They all had similar answers, such as the principal will announce it in the morning assembly. Then I would try again, “What do you suggest I prepare for the first day of school?” They would smile and say, “You don’t need to prepare a lesson, just prepare what you’re going to wear.” Although I liked this answer, I felt very perplexed! However, I was determined to not revert back to my perfecting, worrisome habits. Instead, I adopted their stress free, go with the flow attitude. I told myself that it would be a lovely surprise and that I had enough teaching experience to get me through any long day of school. Of course, I also got a little spiritual and asked for a greater force to help guide me through my day.
|My BEST First Day of School Face with Rosy Pink Lipstick|
I walked up to an open courtyard filled with excited children dressed in ghos and kiras. Like any first day of school in the world, you could feel the excitement and nervousness in the air as the students hugged their friends that they hadn’t seen for awhile. I felt like I was one of the new kids and I classically searched for my new best friend, Madam Sonam Choden, to stand next to during the assembly. I was so overjoyed to be there that I had to refrain myself from giving her a big hug. She ushered me to the front of the courtyard with all the other teachers, looking out on the children (grade k-10).
|The teachers face the students|
As I stood there gaping at these beautiful, round faces, I could feel about a thousand eyeballs staring back at me. Maybe it was because I was the only one is Western clothes or with rosy pink lipstick that caused me to stick out like a sore thumb. When the principal introduced me as their American guest teacher, I found myself waving to the students like I was on a pageant float. I blame it on the rosy pink lipstick. So silly!
|Students Face This Glass Display, Flag Pole is Behind It.|
Then two older boys with the most serious faces walked in the middle of the courtyard and gazed intensely at the God of Wisdom. The courtyard fell silent and I was just about to ask Sonam what in the world were they doing when one started to clap a steady flow of beats. All the students quickly cupped their hands into a prayer position in front of their chest. Next, the whole school started singing a prayer in unison while the boy continued to clap out the beat, which was one of the most heavenly melodies that I have ever heard. I wasn’t expecting this and I hurriedly put my hands into a prayer position too, trying to copy them. After a few minutes, the boy’s claps increased and the singing turned into chanting. It sounded like an army of monks and it gave me goose bumps of excitement.
|I Face the Backdrop of Green Trees|
Although I didn’t understand the words because it was in Dzongkha, it was angelic music to my ears. I felt so grateful to be having this experience that I repeatedly whispered thank you over and over again, hoping to be heard by whatever force got me here. The students beautiful voices with the backdrop of green trees covering gigantic mountains nearly brought me to tears. I was soaking it all in and I thought, who hired me? How did I get here? Is this real? It felt so magical like I was dreaming or falling madly in love; the kind that last forever. After they finished singing, I turned to Sonam and asked her, “Why didn’t you tell me that I was going to experience the most beautiful thing ever? Does the school do this every morning?” She nodded yes and beamed at my marveling expression and watery eyes.
After the assembly, Sonam escorted me to meet my fifth graders. I wondered how good their English was, what exactly would I do with them since I had no school supplies and what did my classroom look like. This was the second part of my surprise that would make some folks pass out… To be continued in the next blog entry.
|Students in their uniforms. Hands in prayer position!|
|Above view of morning ceremony|
|School Captain and Prayer Captain leading the morning prayer|
|The God of Wisdom|