Thursday, May 2, 2013

Happy Teacher's Day and Rimdro

Yesterday is was a Public Holiday in Bhutan for the 3rd King’s Birthday. It is also Teacher’s Day and my school held a Rimdro – Purification ceremony. A lot to celebrate!
Rimdro was explained to me as an annual ceremony that all schools, offices and households perform to purify the sins and misfortunes of the year and bring good luck. Monks spend the day performing prayers, chanting and rituals on behalf of staff and students. Offerings are made by all in the school and wider community of money, food and other items. I was told that some of these items are particularly unusual and hard to find: a stone and a sword that have killed a man, a human skull, some soil that comes from a place of land dispute and human skin among other items. The ceremony has a feel of being from another time, and yet it is right at place in modern Bhutan and these rituals are being passed on to the next generation to continue. Male staff of the school were busy coordinating catering for the large crowd (500++for breakfast, lunch and dinner) and women kept busy offering tea and snacks to visitors and monks. Everyone had been delegated a task and knew what to do, and for today it seemed my only task was to enjoy the hospitality and goings on with Bob and the boys - a lovely day!
Remy was so excited to finally have his own gho and head off to school like a big school boy!

The Bhutanese teachers started preparations as early as 5am this morning, and when we arrived at 8.30am things were well underway. In fact, we arrived just in time for breakfast. We’d already had some breakfast at home, but I can never refuse food so we had a bowl of rice with super hot red chilli ema-datsi and a cup of suja (butter tea). When I eat this level of chilli I find that all around my eyes perspires! It is a really energising feeling and I can see why the Bhutanese are ‘addicted’ to chilli, and I can see by the end of the year Bob and I will be so accustomed to eating this way we will go home and make Bhutanese meals as ‘comfort food’.
Our first family photo all in Bhutanese national dress.
Eating rice and chilli by hand for breakfast.

Sweet tea and biscuits were served to all the students.

Xavier has learned that the pocket in the fold of the gho is a handy place to keep his biscuits! By the end of the day Remy's pouch was gaping with biscuits, lollies, a toy car, a moon pendant and a boiled egg in the shell!

Speaking of which, having been here now three months I feel so settled and Bob just commented too on how much a part of this small community we feel. It seems like whatever event is held in Chumey we are welcomed as special guests, and at the same time, our apartment which was still a construction site when we arrived is now a comfortable, homely home with the mod-cons like hot-water, internet and white goods that make life seem not so different to home.

Students greeted me with a cheery ‘Happy Teacher’s Day’ and I received quite a few wrapped presents from students (not just those in my class) with pens, a lovely Bhutanese flag paperweight  and handmade cards. At this point it doesn’t seem like it was a crazy idea at all to leave our happy life in Australia and travel to a fairly unknown place to live for a year – while I may not have known exactly how things could turn out, I had a hope and feeling that these are the experiences we would have. It is nice to think that we are not yet half-way through our year and still have many more cultural experiences to enjoy, summer-break and of course a lot more learning time at school to bring my little year two students to a level of fluency in English – reading, speaking and writing.

I wonder if any of my readers are considering taking the great leap into the unknown and applying for a position with Bhutan Canada Foundation next year? Having read my blog you would know that the way is full of personal and professional challenges, but like any experience moving to live in another culture, that is to be expected and in a way part of the fun and the opportunity for personal growth. BCF is taking applications now at their website.Go for it, or suggest it to a friend or colleague who might be looking to expand their teaching horizons!

Here are some photos from our day:


Some of the girls came dressed in colourful kiras.

Bob all gho'd up hanging out with the 'Sirs'.

 All families made some dough and I was told put it over there body to remove illness and other problems and then sent it to be school to be mixed together and made into 'torma' statues.

We have a very long fence-line all along the national highway. The old faded prayerflags were changed for new ones, a job the students handled independently.


I was asked to help light the butterlamps which was an honour.
A table of offerings - and the best part was that at the end of the day we all got to share them!
Monks were in the hall from early in the day til late in the evening.
Feeding a crowd of over 500 for three meals needed a lot of helpers!
Yes, that is two buckets full of chilli and still going!
The fire was so hot, one of the teachers had to reach and throw the datsi cheese into the pot!
I had another lesson in making ema-datsi - a much easier recipe - throw chillies, tomotoes, onions in a pot of water and boil. Add datsi cheese and processed cheese and boil til melted. Done!
For students, this wholesome meal with rice, meat and vegetables was a real treat!
Students amused themselves outside during the long day - playing imaginary games with leaves and flowers (leaves were money I was told).
Jigme was selling imaginary bundles of doma!
Girls made bracelets and necklaces from grass and clover (I remember doing that when I was little - do little girls still do this in Australia?)
Aren't these girls beautiful in yellow!
Some of my UNESCO Club girls looked beautiful with their red rachu scarves.
Remy had a great day at school and wants to put his gho on and come back today - I think he thinks we have fun like this everyday!
The crowd made a procession down to the river-bank and the
 noise was so loud - crowd whistling, drums banging, horns blaring, as all the offerings were one by one thrown into the soon-to-be bonfire.
The day before students had all brought bags of grains, and these were all distributed to the crowd to throw on the fire with a loud yell 'Do!' in order to chase away evil! It was fun!
After all the evil was chased away we walked back to school without turning back - moving forward to a new year, purified.
When we arrived back at school the ceremonies continued for another couple of hours, with tea and rice served to keep the crowd going. All the food offerings were shared among those present, and it felt like halloween with students filling their plastic bags with sweets and chips and fruit. We were also given pieces of sweet dough to eat and some different types of blessed water - one was served from the top of a human skull! It was an amazing day!


  1. Amazing indeed! I love your family photo - a very special day.

  2. Amazed at what an experience you must be having! Coming by from Blog Chicks :)