Saturday, August 14, 2010

I Won't Talk Too Much About the Fungus

DFC Student Reps

Zilukha School Students Listening to DFC

Future Leaders of Bhutan

ELC and Jeffery Sachs

The rejuvenating Jen N Joe
Zilukha School
At four P.M. on Saturday afternoon, I still haven’t left the house. I haven’t brushed my teeth or  changed out of my P.J.’s. This is the first weekend in a month that I have enjoyed a free weekend with nothing to do. It’s been heavenly. I have two new roommates, Jen and Joe who wake me up with breakfast ready on the balcony and put coffee into my hand as I stumble groggily out of my room. I have spent the whole day looking through photo and travel blogs and eating delicious food sent by Jen’s mom from the US. Thanks Karen!

The Design for Change Group, Bhutan, has hit the ground running since returning from summer vacation. The students and we teachers have presented the global contest we are participating in to around seven hundred people including the Minister of Education, the Unicef Country Rep, and most of Thimphu’s principals in less than thirty days. The idea of waste reduction in all schools in Bhutan is spreading. Equally exciting has been watching our group of six students go from eager yet fidgeting and fumbling, to little professionals who get their message of change across clearly, succinctly and eloquently to any group willing to listen. If you are an educator, a parent, or anyone with access to children, I heartily recommend entering the Design for Change contest. Watch your kids change the world in one week. (

Last Thursday we got the notice that world famous economist Jeffery Sachs was going to give a talk in Thimphu that afternoon. We recruited students to write questions to ask him, screened them for proper etiquette, and loaded them onto the bus after reading them his wikipedia-ed resumé. They slept patiently through his entire talk and then gorged themselves on the refreshments afterwards as they chased each other in the courtyard like possessed banshees. From an adult perspective, his talk was brilliant. With the Prime-minister, most of the cabinet and other influential decision makers in the audience, he advised Bhutan to step-up their agricultural sector, demand every rupee they are entitled to from India for hydro-electric energy and prepare urban areas with sustainable transportation and infrastructure for increased migration in the next ten years. He based all of his economic advice on the four pillars of Gross National Happiness and basic tenets of Buddhism. Immediately following his speech, he and his family were escorted into the “Executive Lounge’ and I’m sure the according legislature will follow. Afterwards a western man and his lady friend approached me to find out what I was doing here in Bhutan. The man invited me to come back on Friday for his talk on Space Tourism. He was one of the first space tourists in the world. Later on, another guide approached to ask if I was American and would like to have dinner with Congressman Brian Baird. In Bhutan you meet people you would never dream of back at home.

I know you are all dying to know: As for my fungus, it’s really a fungus. I can’t remember what it’s like to not itch. My armpits are indigo color from the medicine and anyone who looks directly at them runs the risk of exposure to ultra violet rays. The days here are hot leaving me longing not only for the refreshing ocean, but any deposit of water large enough to submerge myself in. I miss water. I find myself gazing longingly into storm drains and open sewers. Rivers and lakes are sacred here in Bhutan. Residents can ramble off long histories of horrific stories about those who have ventured into the holy waters and suffered terrifying fates for offending the deities who reside there. I’m not going to risk it.  “How about a swimming pool?” you ask. One of my students relayed the information that H1N1 is festering in the town’s swimming pool. She herself was there to go for a swim one scorching day and was turned away by the life guard. “The pool is giving H1N1,” she said. “I looked inside Ma’am, and I could see liiiiittle white worms swimming around, those are the H1N1” She scientifically testified. We are studying folk tales in class V. Most morals conclude with, “The little boy fell into a hole. And that is why you don’t tell a lie.” or “The girl was never seen again. That is why we don’t steal meat.” One folk tale began with, “Once upon a time there was a land without soap and tissues and the children had no dreams.” After a careful description of a neighboring more hygienic land, the tale concluded with, “And that is why you wash your hands so you don’t get H1N1.” I will have to settle with doggy paddling around in my bathtub.