Thursday, August 8, 2013

Obseving Wonderland through the Bottom End of the Looking Glass, Walking The Dog, "Is it delicious Sir?"

Well, my stern demeanour yesterday brought peachy results today as the kids were attentive except 9C who were listless. Last night I had a tete with a western Bhutan colleague who shared reservations about aspects of teaching here. This particular teacher was in the familiar phase of being too hard on themselves for not getting through to the kids. This teacher works extra hours tutoring and I assured them that they were up against a system of rote learning and kids from poor back rounds. The truth is WE ARE improving students English ability here but results seem shaky at times. As for Mr. Tim I heralded a successful day in the classroom especially class seven. The topic was descriptive writing so I had them describe basic objects like an apple or pencil without naming the object. They had to define the objects by texture, shape, color, and etcetera. This led to them searching for things outside to describe without naming and in their own twist they all did it in riddle form! We had a ball and they actually groaned AHHHH! When the final bell rang for dismissal. The downer was class 9C who are very remedial. In class seven hands fly in the air whereas class 9C are paralysed at the prospect of speaking out loud. I have already spoken of this phenomenon of students from last year speaking less, suddenly appearing self conscious and aloof. I’m finding it a difficult age to influence but nevertheless I am happy to be working with many students from last year. Back to the triumph of the afternoon class seven what a marvellous site observing your students utterly enthralled in what they are doing, little elfish Sither Wangmo barefoot and cross legged in the grass wrapped in her kira was intently studying a yellow and white flower. Pema absorbed in describing the bark of the cypress and so on. They even listened attentively eager to solve the riddles, “It’s a... a... bee!” The whole point of the exercise was to observe nature closely and with a keen eye and then write about it. There cleverness shone through and I merely sat back as an observer looking up the bottom end of a looking glass. Afterschool I took puppy Dawa Dema for a walk down the channel and wrestled with her in the overgrown grass by a whitewashed Mani wall. She’s hilarious as she just torpedoes her entire yellow body at me, jaws agape for a strike. She doesn’t even bother with a running start just lifts off right where she falls like a fluffy heat-seeking missile. For a small dog she plays rough her sharp teeth sinking deeper into my arm each thrust. Finally I pinned her down as she recognizes a rough touch since Bhutanese treat each other and pets like the three stooges. BONK! Perfect evening strolling in a t-shirt even soaking a few straggling rays that eluded the billowy clouds. The monsoon steam pastes the ridges and summery smells waft around the air, I wonder what Dawa Dema smells sniffing the air manically. The boon continues with Thursday Night Emadatsi and the cooks hook me up with second share (Praise Shiva!) During prayer five minutes before young Sonam with his signature sunken eyes hacks cedar bows with his mini machete and feeds the perfumed fire, an offering to that enigmatic Buddhist god. He informs me that he flunked English this term but I encourage him to come by for help and keep trying. In reality his chances of passing the class ten exams next year are astronomical but I want him to feel in the race and at least arrive in class ten with his cronies. As I slump in the kitchen trying to be inconspicuous a racket emerges outside as a snake is swimming in the gutter where the girls are lining up for rice.  As I continue to eat boys pop their head in the window asking “Is it delicious, Sir?” I reply with polished chestnuts like “MMHHHMMM!” “Sure is” “Yep” And so forth.
I finished Tom Sawyer and I’m sailing on to rereading Huck Finn. I enjoyed TS for the simplicity and couldn’t help marvelling at the similarities between a Southern village in the 19th Century and Tsenkharla today especially regarding the kiddie culture. Mark Twain is masterful in creating character and only Tolstoy is his equal in the few books I’ve tackled. Both the characters of Levin and Tom seem so real to me in their thought processes and I admire fiction writers since I have no aptitude in that arena. Before leaving for Bhutan I tracked down a former English Professor of mine who happened to be playing in a band at the historic WOW hall in Eugene. At intermission I reintroduced myself after years of absence and asked his advice on writing. “He told me to write what only I can” Well sorry to say y’all are suffering for that advice.         

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