Chapter 7: Corporal Punishment-Snake in the grass-Tuesday Blues
“Made me appreciate the Tuesday blues, perfect color of a perfect bruise, made me thank my lucky stars for brand new scratches and well healed scars”
Corporal punishment is an ugly fact of life in Bhutan. In this context corporal punishment means beating students for disciplinary action. Western teachers cringe and even cry at witnessing these harsh punishments and despite being illegal it happens every day at every school in the Kingdom. During assembly one administrator pulled several boys ears yanking their heads around by the lobe then this administrator proceeded to bonk the girls on the head which sounded like banging a coconut from my position fifty yards away. Then during second period another female teacher pulled one of my top students out of my class and lashed her with a thin stick. The girl’s offense was writing her sister’s homework for her. It reminded me when that so and so American got Cained in Singapore for graffiti. Except no news coverage for young Sangay Wangmo getting licked in East Bhutan since it’s a part of everyday reality for a student. Brave Sangay came back to class but wasn’t crying which seems a typical response to a beating. They just take it and move on but I’m uncertain to what benefit lashings would provide the student. It’s ironic this happens in a GNH country with little violent crime. In Kuensal one reads about domestic homicide for example a drunken husband butchering his wife but these are rare occurrences. But daily physical punishment can be seen in village life and on school campuses. The kids themselves express themselves by clunking one another on the head with a fist or punching a friend in the arm. Heck Becky fisted me on the head last weekend and Ashleigh is a regular pinch bug after a few cocktails. As a foreigner (Phelincpa which means outsider) I don’t want to rush judgement or condemn Bhutanese scholastic discipline but it’s off-putting to witness on a Monday morning especially considering the harshness of a boarding student’s existence. The rest of assembly was spent listening to snuffling phlegm sounds emanating from the matrix of the student body. HMMMM lack of water no soap and passing stool, do the math people. Through it all I remain fortunate being privy to this otherworldly place, to wit. Last night a yellow moon rose dead red over Tawang peeking through an ominous cloudbank. A few stars winked from atop Shampula while over Bartsham ropes of lightning lassoed the local deity in Rangjoon. Take it all around I wouldn’t trade my placement for all the nymphs in Thailand. On my way to the library afterschool students were gathered around a two foot long snake in the brush. The serpent struck narrowly missing my heel. (Where’s Arwen when you need her?) It was the biggest snake I’ve seen in Bhutan and according to the kiddos it was venomous too. Well it’s Tuesday and I got the blues so what to do and who is John Galt anyway? I feel alienated from myself which is dangerous here so I try to reconcile with my soul before it’s too late. Regardless I’ll pull through with the help of the community.
In class seven we constructed posters to help promote a litter free campus (This was Morgan’s idea) and the posters are great but the problem remains and it never ceases to stick in my craw. I fervently hope for a clean surrounding but alas it’s hard to teach Bhutanese new tricks. Isn’t It? One student announced she had to go to the bathroom and pass stool, of course I let her go then another student whispered in my ear that they ONLY ask for the toilet in Sir Tim’s class. So their bunking is it? I wonder what little scams these scamps are running on this old barker.